I PADDLE my SUP (stand-up paddleboat) around nearly all of Phillip Island. The whole way you can see swathes of timber cut out. If you haven’t got a SUP, I recommend you get a boat and go round slowly and you’ll be astonished at the amount of foreshore clearing simply to obtain a view. It’s all around. The damage is almost beyond repair.
There are a couple of areas in Cowes, there’s one at the start of Lovers Walk, where literally hundreds of square metres of trees have been removed. It began with a channel being cut through – from which you could see only one house. The whole area is now cleared. You can see every house behind it.
One of the landowners approached me during the week and said he was disgusted that council aren’t doing something about fixing the sudden erosion! He nominated it as being due to council mismanagement.
Vegetation removal is one of the most important issues on our foreshores. If we look around our foreshores, vegetation removal is leading directly to the foreshore erosion. It’s not the big developers, it’s the person who’s buying the foreshore property. I’ve heard the comment: “I didn’t pay this much not to have a view.”
I was alarmed to see the house where the sign was erected at Silverleaves. They cut a four-metre wide channel straight to the foreshore in a due northerly direction. Once the sign was erected there, I was alarmed to see a channel cut from the same house in a due north-west direction. They can now see the Peninsula.
Bass Coast Council has investigated more than 150 cases of foreshore and bushland vegetation damage since 2000 but not one has resulted in a fine or prosecution due to the difficulty of obtaining evidence admissible in a court of law.
The council is currently monitoring 17 incidents of vegetation damage in foreshore reserves that have occurred since the start of 2018.
At their meeting last week, councillors unanimously supported a motion that will result in more signs being erected to replace vegetation that has been illegally removed to enhance a view or access.
The council will also advocate to the State Government for an increase in penalties Council staff can currently issue fines of up to $805 for a person or $1611 for a company. Larger penalties can be imposed by the courts but it is difficult to prove guilt “beyond reasonable doubt”.
Something’s got to give. We as a community have to address this. In future I’ll be pressing to have signage erected immediately to replace vegetation that’s been illegally cleared. It’s difficult to fine the person who’s done it but replacing the vegetation with a sign or screen will go a long way towards stopping it.
This is an edited version of Cr Stephen Fullarton’s address in support of tougher action against people who illegally remove vegetation on public land.