Endangered Waves: Bastion Point, Victoria
Overview provided by Surfrider Foundation Australia
Bastion Point is a remote right hand point break near the border of New South Wales in the Far East corner of Victoria’s wilderness coastline. The point is surrounded by the expansive Croajingolong National Park and lies in the heart of the sleepy coastal town of Mallacoota.
Bastion Point is listed as one of Surfrider Foundation Australia’s Endangered Waves as part of their national campaign. All nine waves that are listed have been nominated by Surfrider branches or supporters and are selected based on a environmental criteria that includes threats from coastal development, visual amenity, accessibility or overcrowding, pollution, ecosystem impacts and climate change.
When a big southern swell hits, Bastion Point comes to life. The break offers long wally rides from the outside corner of Broken Boards. There are also sketchy hollow sections to be found over the bommies at the point and long sandy bottom walls all the way to the beach; making for an all-round sensational break. Bastion Point is a very forgiving wave and has offered up sections for all kinds and experience-levels of surfers for many years.
Why is the wave endangered?
For over a generation now there has been an ongoing local community led campaign to stop the development of an upgraded boat ramp infrastructure at the point – an upgrade that will include an expanded car park, a road on the beach, a new double boat ramp and 130 meter rock wall through the middle of the surfbreak (known as Option 3b). The development proposal is the local council’s idea, East Gippsland Shire Council and has the support and planning approval of the Victorian Government.
Is there a solution?
This issue is not black and white – there are some community members that support the proposal, similar to any coastal development project that usually tends to divide communities. But over 85% of people who have responded to public consultation opportunities (and there has been many) have opposed the proposal.
There is an existing boat ramp used by the local Abalone fisherman and recreational fishers, but it is often covered in sand and often requires tractors to unload and retrieve bigger boats. This situation is less than ideal, so everyone on both sides of the argument agree there needs to be an upgrade to boating access at Bastion Point.
The argument comes down to safety. The council’s position is that to facilitate safer open water access at Bastion Point you need to build Option 3b (East Gippsland Shire Council – Mallacoota Ocean Access)
The Save Bastion Point Campaign and Surfrider’s position is that you can have safer open water access at Bastion Point without destroying the surfbreak and wilderness and cultural values of the point. There is detailed and engineered designed and costed alternative that has been proposed.
To add further complexity to this 20 year issue, the new Coalition Victorian Government, as an election commitment, also reviewed the development proposal comparing the Council’s Option 3b to the campaigns alternative. The outcome was a new option or options under the label of H2. Whilst these new options are not ideal, the campaign opponents would have been willing to compromise and accept smallest version of the H2 designs because of the smaller footprint and cost. Also importantly the wave would have largely been unaffected.
The current situation
Without going into great detail, because it would take a novel and this issue has more twists and turns than a Gold Coast theme park roller coaster, the Council decided not to take onboard the Government’s alternative H2 recommendation and push ahead with their preferred option 3b – a road on the beach and giant breakwall.
Final planning approval was granted earlier in the year and the development is funded by the State Government to the tune of $6.2 million dollars. The tender has been awarded to a Sydney based marine construction company and construction is due to commence in September.
The campaign to stop this overdevelopment continues and today in The Age newspaper there was an advertisement and call to action on the front page.
This issue strikes to the heart of coastal development and coastal protection and planning laws throughout Australia. It also highlights that unlike endangered wildlife there are no surfbreak protection laws in Australia. Nor are the impacts on surfbreaks considered in planning and infrastructure developments.
Surfing is here to stay, but our surfbreaks may not be.
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