Beaumaris Rotary Club Report

When I was invited to speak to the Beaumaris Rotary Club about the activities of the Mordialloc Beaumaris Conservation League it was, in a sense, as if the group had returned home because in 1969, a portion of City of Beaumaris, from Cromer Road to Charman Road, was part of the City of Mordialloc and this environment group came into existence when, in 1969, a smooth operator was found plotting to construct a marina in Beaumaris Bay. Fortunately residents, who lived in Beaumaris at that time, decided that the red fossil cliffs and sea ledges were too important to be buried under concrete so letters were written to Sir Rupert Hamer, Member for Local Government, seeking his help, and as a result the marina didn’t eventuate.

It was then decided to form an environment group to protect the foreshore from Charman Road, Mentone to Mordialloc Creek. The first Mordialloc Beaumaris Conservation League (MBCL)president was Jack Iggulden, a feisty Beaumaris businessman, a glider pilot, an author and a dedicated environmentalist. His wife, Helen, was an efficient and supportive secretary of MBCL. The aims of the group were protection of the local environment, particularly the fragile foreshore reserve, native coastal vegetation and habitat, to preserve the natural aspects of the coastal environment and encourage the restoration of wetlands to improve the water quality entering the Bay from Mordialloc Creek.

In 1970 Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works (MMBW) planned to grade the badly eroding Mentone white clay cliffs. The MBCL committee would have preferred an environmentally sensitive method of preserving the cliffs but after lengthy and terse correspondence between MMBW and MBCL 1971 the steep cliffs were graded and planted with stabilising vegetation. The white cliffs may now be viewed in the National Gallery of Victoria in a painting by Tom Roberts, one of the Heidelberg school of painters who camped and painted at Mentone in 1887 with Arthur Streeton, Walter Withers and others. The white cliffs are also featured in Sandringham painter ,Clarice Beckett’s painting,’ Cliff Path 1929′ and also Mentone Cliffs (Beaumaris Landscape ) 1931. Beckett also painted waves washing over and destroying bathing boxes during the severe storm of 1934 when much of Mordialloc was flooded.

In 1972 young councillors, Michael Buxton, now a professor of Planning and Environment at RMIT, and Peter Scullin, originally members of MBCL, were able to introduce a Council revegetation policy for the foreshore, from Charman Road, Mentone to Mordialloc Creek, using locally indigenous species.. Trees indigenous to the area are Banksias, Casuarinas and Coast Wattle. Tea-tree are not indigenous but grow well in sometimes harsh coastal conditions. This vegetation is critical in stabilising the narrow cliff tops and sand dunes to prevent further erosion as climate change becomes more pronounced. A section of foreshore between the Mentone Lifesaving Club and the Edgewater Hotel contains some significant indigenous vegetation which it is hoped will survive the building of a back-of- kerb bike path along Beach Road which incidentally MBCL has for many years supported.

The next tussle occurred in 1972 when the American oil company, Esso, decided to route a pipeline from Hastings to Altona across Port Phillip Bay. There was anxiety about this project because, although the pipeline was to carry ethane gas to Altona, it was feared that a precedent may be set for future pipelines to carry oil. This would be far more hazardous and there had already been an application for an oil pipeline to cross the Bay from Brighton to Altona. This didn’t go ahead because of opposition from 18 Bayside councils. (red flyer) The oil pipeline now goes right round the Bay to Altona. In July 1972, 3000 people protested about the pipeline in front of Mordialloc (poster) Lifesaving Club with our president speaking from the balcony.When construction began attempts were made to block work on the trench through the Scullin Reserve resulting in Jack Iggulden and others being (photos) briefly arrested. The beach was fenced off for many weeks and patrolled by guards and dogs.(photo of Geoff Goode) In 2009 the anchor of a vessel moored during a storm in Port Phillip Bay, ruptured the ethane pipe line – fortunately it was not an oil pipeline.

Mordialloc Creek in 1975 was one of the most polluted of the 300 creeks flowing into Port Phillip Bay. Dandenong Sewerage works were located on the bank of Dandenong Creek and leaked sewerage into Dandenong Creek which then flowed into Mordialloc Creek and Port Phillip Bay. MBCL and the local community campaigned for 20 years until the sewerage works was finally closed in 1994. (photo of Mark Birrell) On file there are a number of photos of politicians before each State election standing on the bank of Mordialloc Creek pointing a finger at the mud and saying “We are going to clean up this creek.”

Large drains on the north side of Mordialloc Creek which were formerly little streams, flowing into the Carrum Carrum wetlands before European settlement. These drains now unfortunately flow through (45) forty-five putresible and hard rubbish tips between centre Road Bentleigh and Lower Dandenong Road, Kingston. Most of the tips are now filled but all tips leach we are told despite the fact that they may have a metre thick clay lining as well as a plastic lining prior to filling.

In 1979 the Dandenong Valley Authority , responsible for drainage in the Dandenong and Mordialloc Creek Catchments, had a policy of concrete lining creeks flowing into the Bay and decided to concrete line Mordialloc Creek . MBCL president, a young scientist, Dr Len Warren, secretary, Mara Hayler and Port Phillip Conservation Council were successful in persuading Mordialloc Council and the DVA to forego their plan to concrete line the creek. Instead the Metropolitan Board of Works landscaped the area and allowed the creek to meander between Wells Road bridge and the railway bridge. Today both sides of the Creek provide a pleasant walking trail with 42 species of bird life to enjoy. The salt water wetland you see as you cross over Wells Road Bridge is MelbourneWater’s flood water retarding basin. A former Kingston councillor, Johanna van Klaveren, MBCL member, thought this derelict land could be put to better use so, with approval of Melbourne Water and working with Kingston Council and enthusiastic volunteers, planting around the flood basin with salt tolerant vegetation was commenced. Now both birds and plants are flourishing and further plans are underway to add more features to attract vistors to the unique area. Nina Earl, MBCL member and volunteer, working on this project researched Aboriginal occupation of the land and the name – Yammerbook.

MBCL members take an active interest in issues affecting Port Phillip Bay. For example, Judith Fields, concerned about the threat to the Beaumaris Fossil Cliffs and Sea Ledges with the possible expansion of Beaumaris Motor Yacht Squadron, has prepared a submission requesting that the internationally renowned fossil cliffs and sea ledges be re-placed on the National Heritage Register. Judy contacted, and has had the support of Professor Tim Flannery, the curator of fossils at the Museum of Victoria and other professionals in this field. A Sandringham group have also forwarded a comprehensive submission to the relevant authorities. The good news is that the application to have the fossil cliffs re-placed on the National Heritage list has been favourably received.

MBCL supports the Sandbelt Open Space Strategy in Kingston’s section of the Green Wedge with plans now under way for walking trails and sports grounds in the northern section linking up with Karkarook Park. In the southern section of the green wedge there is strong community support for retention of arable land for market gardens and agriculture as a means of providing food security close to city markets. Cr Rosemary West understands the importance of Hon( now Sir) Rupert Hamer’s vision for retaining green wedges around Melbourne when he claimed in Parliament that nobody could happily contemplate a future metropolis of seemingly endless suburbia spreading out to infinity”.

MBCL has had a long term involvement with the Round the Bay Bicycle Trail, 19842016. Kingston planners have completed a plan for the bike track to Mordialloc Creek back-of-kerb, similar to the successful Bayside bike track .Our concern throughout this process has been to achieve a safe off-road bike path, back-of-kerb, but most importantly we wanted the preservation of as much foreshore vegetation as possible along the route. 2017 has been a busy but successful year for our group with Kingston Council approving the plans for the bike path at last and third edition of the Coast and Creek booklet available for the public. The impact of climate change on the foreshore should be of concern to all of us who live in a Bayside suburb on the eastern side of Port Phillip Bay defined as the most vulnerable to storm surges of all the Port Phillip Bay beaches. Vegetation is essential in stabilising the cliffs and sand dunes which will come under extreme pressure as storm surges increase in violence and frequency due to climate change.

Thank you for the invitation to visit you and explain what many small environment groups are doing to protect the environment for the enjoyment of future generations.

Mary Rimington
Secretary MBCL

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