This week, I will be focusing on a number of important issues around the management of Bells Beach. Council manages the Bells Beach Surfing Reserve, which is crown land, on behalf of state government. This means that any works done at Bells or any plans council produces for management of the reserve require state government approval.
Recently, council discussed a number of issues at Bells with the Environment and Climate Change Minister, Ryan Smith, who indicated he would work with council towards removing coaches from the Bells Beach car parks, but that coaches would be licensed to visit the reserve.
In coming weeks, council will seek ministerial approval for an amendment to the current Bells Beach Coastal Management Plan; which would allow for coaches to be redirected from the car park to dedicated coach bays to be created outside the current car park area.
Under the previous state government, council was not able to get approval for coaches to be located outside the main car park. This will be another significant milestone in council’s efforts to protect Bells over recent years.
After council completes negotiations with the Minister for Environment and Climate Change around relocating coaches from the Bells Beach car park, council will work with surfing and environmental groups, reserve users and the wider community on developing a broader long term vision for the management of Bells that will reflect community aspirations.
I look forward to writing more on Bells and this process in future editions of this column. More information about how council is working to protect Bells can be found online at www.surfcoast.vic.gov.au.
A collaborative approach
This week, council held a positive meeting with a number of local surfing, environmental group and community representatives about the future of Bells and issues that needed to be addressed.
It was encouraging to see the shared view that visitation to Bells needs to be managed and that there is no push from council or anyone else in the community to turn Bells into a “theme park” or “tourist hub” as some have claimed in the past.
There are challenges in protecting Bells. These include the need to manage increased visitation and use of the reserve – and these can only be addressed through council and the community working together.
A major priority for council is protecting the environment at Bells and this is an important part of preserving the things that make Bells important for future generations.
I commend the passion of these groups and representatives who have participated in activities such as – extensive planting and the recent cleanup day at Bells, helping to protect the reserve’s environment, participating with good faith in council consultation and through providing advice via the Bells Beach Community Advisory Committee.
Surf Lifesaving Championships a highlight in Anglesea
I was also pleased to attend the National Surf Lifesaving Championships in Anglesea recently. Local clubs again performed well, with Anglesea and Torquay finishing just behind Ocean Grove in the final standings.
The day again confirmed the strength of local surf lifesaving. It was a pleasure to meet with some of the volunteers and club members who make such a strong contribution to the community through surf lifesaving and who work selflessly to keep our local surf lifesaving clubs strong.
Community Precinct well used
It has been pleasing to see facilities at the Surf Coast Community and Civic Precinct already being well used for a variety of activities including training sessions for sporting clubs, school excursions and activities and the first competitive matches being played recently at the precinct.
Last weekend, I was pleased to see the Torquay Tigers under 16s play a match against Ocean Grove at the AFL oval, while on Sunday, Surf Coast FC played Melbourne Heart in a friendly match on the soccer pitch in a big coup for local football.
Most weeknights, the fields are being used for training while a range of community fitness activities are happening in the Grant Pavilion. It is pleasing to note these sporting facilities are already meeting an established local need.
Cr Brian McKiterick
Mayor, Surf Coast Shire