Call for preservation: Community group wants Bellarine protected from over-development
THE Bellarine Distinctive Areas and Landscapes (DAL) discussion paper offers the best and perhaps last chance to preserve the special nature of the peninsula’s unique characteristics, heritage and culture.
This is the view of the Portarlington Community Association (PCA), whose submission, along with other Bellarine Peninsula community groups, highlights the many critical challenges requiring urgent action to protect the area from over-development.
PCA president Geoff Fary said while there was much to like about the paper, some of the key concerns from his perspective included locking-in town settlement boundaries, and ensuring the sustainability of our multi-million dollar agriculture and tourism industries.
“There’s lots to like about the paper, but also apprehension about the lack of a precise commitment to the fixing of settlement boundaries.
“It’s now not a case of when, but if. We hope that may change in the subsequent process.’’
The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) discussion paper came about following concerns made to political parties over many years from residents and community groups about rapid growth on the peninsula, which was gazetted as a DAL by the Andrews Government in October 2019 after being a key election pledge in 2018.
The detailed 33-page discussion paper says the declaration “is the first step in the government’s commitment to protecting the Bellarine Peninsula’s distinctive attributes and values’.’
“The declaration triggers the development of a statement of planning policy (SPP) which is a framework for the future use of land in the declared area to ensure its landscape and township characters and other distinctive attributes and values are protected and enhanced.’’
Regarding settlement boundaries, it says:
“The declaration of the DAL creates the opportunity to consider the currency of these existing boundaries and whether the SPP should protect some or all of them.’’
Mr Fary said existing development nibbling at townships on the north Bellarine, including Portarlington, was a bit like watching a steam-roller barrelling down a hill.
“We have three options – to stand in the way and get run over, to step out of the way, or to jump on board and take control.
“We have one of the few places in Australia with north-facing beaches, historic buildings and wide streets with heritage facades. With the arrival of the fast ferry service to Melbourne, it would be foolish to think the town would not become a desirable place to live.
“Our challenge is to manage growth. It’s inevitable and desirable, but we must oversee that in such a way so we preserve the special characteristics of the town.’’
The public consultation process on the SPP is well advanced and a final statement is expected later this year.
In the meantime Mr Fary said he soon hoped the PCA and other Bellarine community groups would meet with state and local government to work through key issues and sticking points
“All of the groups formed a combined association which meets regularly. We will put our views to City Hall and Spring Street to push for what we want.
“We have high expectations for the outcome.’’
The discussion paper is available to view at engage.vic.gov.au,