Jessie Richardson | 12 February 2014

Urban development threatening Victoria's coast: VNPA

A new report released by the Victorian National Parks Association (VPN) has detailed the impact of urban development on Victoria’s coastline.

According to the "Coast is Unclear" report, authored by marine and coastal environment consultant Chris Smyth, the urbanised coast has expanded by 15% over the last 20 years and now makes up about 17% of Victoria’s total coastline. Population growth, climate change and a "development-focussed government" are all identified in the report as sources of further degradation of Victoria’s 2000 kilometre coastline.

In the report’s key findings, Smyth writes that Victoria’s narrow strips of coastal crown land are "squeezed" between the sea and developed land, and encroaching development coupled with rising sea levels are threatening protected areas. The report also found that in addition to climate change and the urbanisation and industrialisation of the coast, other threats include pressure from visitors, introduced weeds and pests such as cats and foxes, and grazing.

The report recommends that to reverse the decline in coastal nature, coastal conservation estates should be expanded, coastal nature conservation programs should receive greater resources, and ongoing comprehensive scientific monitoring programs should be implemented to assess the health of coastal environments. Other recommendations include the provision of resourcing to community education and engagement programs, funding for weed control programs, an independent review of infrastructure in and around crown reserves and a new Coastal Private Land Conservation Program to support conservation on private land bordering conservation areas.

The report cites the development of a new breakwater, boat ramp and beach road at Bastion Point, Mallacoota as a significant example of the "dash for development" approved by successive Victorian governments. In approving the development, Smyth writes in the report, the Victorian government also approved "the burial of a significant landscape, the town’s only safe swimming beach, archaeological sites and a rare surfing break beneath tonnes of concrete, asphalt and rubble."

"The Coast is Unclear" goes on to comment that the current Victorian government is "also driving fundamental changes to the way planning works" in the state, "weakening planning zones and native vegetation management, and approving contentious development proposals in the face of community opposition."

The previous Labor government, the report notes, also approved development projects such as canal development at Lonsdale Lakes, wind turbines at Cape Bridgewater, the Wonthaggi desalination plant and a coast road at Point Gellibrand, which it claims have all impacted the coast.

The full report can be found here.

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