The long-debated fourth Rye boat ramp almost came to a conclusion at last Monday’s (13 Feb) council meeting but swerved hard to starboard at the last minute, ran aground and was deferred.

Councillors voted to write to Luke Donnellan, Minister for Roads, Road Safety and Ports, effectively asking can we please keep the money allocated to the works if councillors ultimately reject the ramp, to spend on other “priority projects” at the site.

Bandicoot will not be laying generous odds on his reply.

The pro-ramp argument is that it and associated works – a new jetty and repairs, alterations  and improvements to existing facilities – will ease congestion and get boats into and out of the water more efficiently.

rye marmarisAnti-rampers who crammed the council chamber included eloquent and well researched cases describing the dangers posed for rare local dolphins and sea horses by some of the less responsible jet ski riders who infest the area, trespassing into no-go marine zones.

Bandicoot is no fan of jet skis on Port Phillip Bay at swimming beaches. He prefers boats propelled by sails. Jet skis are noisy, smelly, polluting and dangerous in the hands of moronic show-offs, who seem attracted to them. They are not adequately policed. They certainly don’t belong anywhere near dolphins, sea horses and swimmers.  Picture – a jet ski frolicking at Marmaris, Turkey – a great spot for it!

Seventy-plus jet skis can be seen at Rye on a fine summer day, cavorting spectacularly out to the horizon, pedal to the metal, with not a police patrol boat in sight but then, unfortunately, turning round and coming back. Then they assemble along the beach, gun’l to gun’l: crikey – wasn’t that fun!

Bandicoot awaits the inevitable pained letter from the Victorian Jet Ski Association.

rye - dolphinsThe state government, demonstrating the infinite wisdom with which so many governments are afflicted, nominated Rye and Safety Beach as peninsula recreational boating precincts. Bandicoot wonders exactly what sort of thought process came up with Rye. The splendid freeway system? The rare wildlife? The absence of beachgoers?  

Picture – Local dolphins.

The counter-argument to nominating these two precincts was made extinct by this, in Bandicoot’s view, silly bureaucratic decision. To have nominated, say, half a dozen smaller precincts placed intelligently at lower-use beaches might have been a good option. But that horse has bolted.

Rye Beach Community Action Inc invited people to respond to the shire’s draft Rye foreshore landscape plan. It got 258 responses; not an overwhelming number and possibly (as with most such surveys) mainly local devotees.

“It is apparent from this excellent response that Rye residents really do care about what happens to our foreshore and beautiful beaches,” the site says. 

Less than 10% (26 respondents) wanted installation of an extra boat/jet ski launching ramp. Just 8.43% (22) favoured the shire plan to redesign the boat/jet ski car park and reversing lanes. Even less (6.51%, 17 respondents) ticked “Reconfiguring the non trailer car parks” as an action priority. Picture – couta boats, by Bryce Courtney.

rye - couta-boats-sorrentoWhat respondents wanted were:

Regular maintenance of the foreshore bush, garden areas and physical facilities (73.95%, 193 respondents);

Clean swimming water; storm water drains fitted with fine & gross anti-pollution traps (68.58%, 179); 

Landscaped recreational areas, including the provision of shade (52.49%, 137);

Picnic and barbecue facilities, increased, upgraded and maintained (47.51%, 124);

Pathways that are safe, logical, well maintained and wide enough for shared access (45.59%, 119);

Lighting in popular foreshore places (35.63%, 93);

Sand control of dunes and on pathways 34.87%, 91);

Safe pedestrian access to and from the foreshore- across Point Nepean Rd. to the retail strip (32.95%, 86);

Disability access through the installation of appropriate picnic furniture and paths (31.80%, 83);

Beach access paths made safe and identified by bollards 28.74%, (75);

Improved traffic management at peak times on Point Nepean Rd. and at the boat/jet ski trailer car park (27.20%, 71);

Camping areas: reviewing the current size and configuration (16.86%, 44).

“The survey confirms what members of the community have been saying for many years,” RBCA concludes. “It is hoped that this time the Council will take notice of these and other views of the community and incorporate them in the foreshore plan.”

Communities frequently knee-jerk to the standard “not in my back yard” position when responding to surveys such as this.

Jetskis at rye

Jet skis at Rye. They can gather by the dozen at the water’s edge. 

These respondents, however, implicitly accept the fact that they must share their foreshore with visitors, including boaties and jet skiers, and have very sensibly prioritised the importance of tidiness, safety and catering for the disabled. Good on them!

Nepean ward councillors Hugh Fraser and Bryan Payne split on the issue. Cr Payne, perhaps persuaded by the submitters, voted to write to Mr Donnellan, against his usual cast-iron pro-development proclivity.

Cr Fraser argued, to a chorus of muted dissent from the gallery, that the merits of the proposal had been debated, the community copiously consulted and tonight was simply the night to vote yes or no.

In fact he was right, but eight of the councillors were facing the issue for the first time and the submitters were certainly persuasive.

The tyro councillors will learn, sometimes painfully, over the next four years, that unpopular but correct decisions must be made in the face of howled insults from the back of the chamber.

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