IF YOU live on the Cowes or Silverleaves foreshore and your ears were burning on Wednesday night, you might want to check your boundary pegs.
Bass Coast councillors, particularly those from Phillip Island, were scathing about landowners who have been encroaching on adjoining foreshore reserves.
At Wednesday’s council meeting, Cr Stephen Fullarton said he was disgusted by the practice.
Cr Michael Whelan said he’d like to see the council introduce substantial fines to make landowners think twice. “Get your dirty hands off public land,” he said.
The council is responsible for just over 40 kilometres of Crown Land foreshore reserve at Ventnor, Red Rocks, Cowes, Silverleaves, Rhyll, Newhaven, Cape Woolamai (Safety Beach), Grantville, Tenby Point, Coronet Bay, Kilcunda, Cape Paterson and Inverloch.
In the past, large billboards have been erected to block views created by the removal of trees on public land. However, the council has largely adopted a softly, softly approach, asking landowners to remove private property from public land and inviting them to assist in revegetation works.
Under the new policy the council will develop and maintain a register of all known encroachment sites on its foreshore and bushland reserves and invite the community to report cases of encroachment.
Clare le Serve said a lot of communities would welcome the new policy. “It’s a travesty that people think they can just keep mowing down the view.”
The practice of encroaching on public land, particularly foreshore reserves, occurs right across the coastal areas of the shire but is most prevalent on Phillip Island.
Cr Fullarton said encroachment was not just theft but the greatest threat to the foreshore, leading to erosion and loss of sand. “My pet hate is the wanton removal of vegetation on the foreshore. The last couple of months we’ve had high tides. There are areas where the foreshore reserve was approximately 20 metres and is now about two metres.”
He said there were several “blatant, horrible” examples of encroachment in Cowes and Silverleaves. “There are a couple of houses where I saw to my horror the vegetation is clear 80-100 metres back from the foreshore. There is no right to have a sea view.”
Cr Fullarton said that in the past adjoining landowners had been given the benefit of the doubt when there was no conclusive proof of who had cleared land. “But when there is only one dwelling benefitting from it, we need to have some form of owner onus.”
Cr Geoff Ellis said encroachment on the foreshore was an act of selfishness. “Everyone needs to help council police and protect our foreshores.”
Cr Whelan said cutting down mature tees had a massive impact on biodiversity. “It takes decades to replace them.”
Beachside owners are using public land for sheds, caravans, fire pits and play equipment. “They’ve got no right to be there.”
The council currently allocates $10,000 to enforcing laws to protect foreshore reserves. Cr Whelan said he would like to see extra resources allocated to the task. “If advocacy doesn’t work, we’ll have to look at prosecution. I’d go for $100,000. That would make people think twice.
“Once the revegetation occurs, we need to check that people keep their dirty hands off this public land.
Gallery of shame: Send us your photos of foreshore encroachment.