Esplanade and Foreshore
Few matters have generated more controversy over the last four years than the foreshore and Esplanade development. There are any number of competing opinions, and interests, and keeping everyone even half happy will be a delicate balancing act – one the current council has been conspicuously poor at.
We need a balance: providing parks and sea views, but preserving our beaches and a diversity of foreshore.
The first thing you do is save the beach
Let’s set out a few guiding principles.
First, it is paramount that our beaches be preserved. The beaches are fundamental to our lifestyle, and our tourism. So all of our work with sea views and parks needs to be carried out with that imperative foremost.
And it is well known that rock walls are the last resort. Beaches erode in front of them and either you end up with no beach, or you keep spending a fortune on replenishment.
I am opposed to the Foreshore plan so far as it proposes to install rock walls along the whole of the foreshore.
One suspects that the council accepts that its policies will cause major erosion, and have decided to adopt plans to counter the erosion, rather than to abandon the policies that are causing the problem in the first place.
We must limit further building on the foreshore to existing leases only. We cannot have coffee shops every 100 metres if the end result is no beaches. I see no justification for any additional commercial leases in what is public space.
Rock walls or similar should only be used in very limited areas and as a last resort.
Secondly, diversity adds to interest. It is good, indeed essential, that we have parks and places where people can relax, picnic, and just lie around. But not all of the foreshore needs to be like this – not every blade of grass needs to be combed. The trees are a magical part of our foreshore, and define Hervey Bay. In fact they are the very part of our foreshore that so entranced Susan and I when we first came here, that determined us to accept the job I was offered all those years ago.
And habitat matters. Birds, possums, sugar gliders are an enchanting part of our community, and they need somewhere to live.
The outgoing council has elevated all other interests above tree preservation. They have removed vegetation even from places where views were not an issue. Some additional grassed areas may have been justified, but we now need to maintain the balance, not clear more trees. Indeed we should look for opportunities to re-establish habitat where we can.
Thirdly, trees are protection. When the push came to remove trees from the Esplanade, the new guard tended to rubbish the idea that the trees protected the Esplanade from problems like sand blows. When the sand blows started again, they were full of excuses rather than admit they may have been wrong. Now the recent storms have reinforced another rule of nature which the current council have been happy to ignore: if you remove lots of trees, those remaining are more vulnerable to strong winds. The Scarness Caravan Park experience has exposed the risks of thinning the trees. Leaving aside the tragic loss of a man’s life – which granted can happen in a variety of circumstances – the result is a caravan park that now looks more like desert than park. Nearby, the reasonably well vegetated section of foreshore fared much better. Should we ever have a cyclone or similar, the parts of the Esplanade that enjoy the protection of good vegetation will be the ones that survive.
Fourthly, funds are limited. We need to manage in ways that don’t keep adding to the ever increasing rates burden.
In my submission on the Esplanade Master Plan I put forward further ideas on some of these issues. I will deal with these and others briefly.
- Torquay tennis court. I argued that there was no good reason to relocate the tennis court, at a cost of $150,00. Perhaps this advocacy has already had results. It appears that the council has abandoned its relocation plan, as it now proposes to spent $50,000 refurbishing it in situ. Good decision, but what kept them?
- Torquay car park. This park is heavily used, and is necessary for businesses in the precinct, and in particular for less able people accessing medical and pharmaceutical facilities nearby. Let’s keep it.
- Extension of Nielsen Park. The plan says this will cost $500,000. We don’t need to extend this lovely park. It already caters to its demand, and extending it will cost a lot of trees as well as a lot of money. And makes the erosion risk even more serious. What is the point?
- Scarness rotunda. The proposal to relocate it will cost $50,000 plus the cost of whatever will replace it, council’s estimate $100,000. Let’s leave it and work around it – and save some ratepayers’ money.
- A new proposal: moorings and jetty access for visiting boats. Nothing quite improves a sea view more than a few yachts moored off the beach. Scarness, and to a lesser extent Torquay, attract visiting yachts which can anchor off our beaches. Some mooring facilities and jetty access can encourage boats to stop here and stay for a while. This will be great for local businesses, as well as making the sea view even more attractive.
One comment though on the new walkway at Torquay, Cooper’s Walk. I was concerned that if this was built too close to the beach it would pose an erosion issue. I am pleased to see it has been set back, and it works well. It wasn’t cheap (reportedly $600,000) and cost some trees, but for something so close to the street, it provides a lovely and different experience. And importantly, it will give people an insight into the value of the treed section in the Torquay – Scarness area.