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Tuesday, 14 June 2011
Page: 5943


Mr HUNT (Flinders) (22:10): This evening I want to address the health and care of the coastal community of Portsea. Portsea is famous around Australia for its coastal beauty, for its scenery, for Point Nepean and for its history. But at this moment Portsea is facing a series of challenges. I was fortunate to visit this beautiful town only last week and I did so in the process of visiting Point Nepean to look at a proposal to move the gun emplacement, which is a static display, and return it to its original site overlooking the entrance to Port Phillip Bay, where the first shot of World War I was fired. I think it is an important project and one which I support. It is one which we would like to put in place by the date of the 100th anniversary of World War I. However, right now there are some immediate challenges facing this town.

First and foremost, the beach has been destroyed. There are differing theories as to the destruction of the beach, but every local with whom I have spoken who has spent time in the town and understands the movements of the tides and the beach over the decades is absolutely categorical that the erosion, which is catastrophic by local standards, and the destruction of the Portsea front beach have coincided and followed the channel deepening process. Most signifi-cantly, there were warnings and predictions beforehand and there was a consequence in the period following the channel deepening. The then Labor government ignored those warnings, dismissed the predictions and denied the cause.

My personal view is that it is inconceivable that this scale of damage in such a short period of time immediately following the channel deepening would be unconnected to it. In that situation, I believe that the Port of Melbourne authority has a duty to make good with the people of Portsea and help fund the replenishment of this beach. Under successive governments, the state has so far picked up the cost of bunding the beach wall to at least prevent any further destruction. But it is time right now for the Port of Melbourne authority to accept its responsibility to contribute financially to make sure that the beach is maintained and made whole, and that the subsea causes are addressed in the area off the shore. That, of course, cannot involve anything to do with undoing the channel deepening—what is done is done. But there are many maritime experts who have suggested that there may be activities which could be taken in the area 300 to 500 metres offshore to help mitigate the damage.

The second element of what I want to present tonight on the three-point Portsea recovery plan concerns ensuring that the Point Nepean National Centre For Coasts and Climate project is completed. This proposal was put on the table and $50 million was supplied by the previous federal government. That proposal was put in mothballs and nothing of substance has been done to ensure that there is a long-term future for Point Nepean. It should be the site of a national centre for coasts and climate. I have been in conversation with and have been working with the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne. They remain committed to the project. In my view, this is the site for the next 100 years for a small, modest national centre for coasts and climate that makes appropriate use of the marine reserve and facilities and of the buildings, in addition to other public uses for those buildings.

The final element that I put on the table is that a number of the historic cypress trees which rim the entrance to the town have been cut down and destroyed by the council. I respect the council greatly but I believe that we should be trimming, not destroying, the remaining trees. These are historic trees that should be preserved and protected. They should not be destroyed. The town needs a future. (Time expired)