Fossil site concerns over Beaumaris bay proposal

Beaumaris Bay. Photo by Jaydene Callaghan.
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The Beaumaris Motor Yacht Squadron’s proposal to add a permanent berthing space for up to 120 boats could endanger a significant fossil site in Port Phillip Bay. Jaydene Callaghan reports.

The Beaumaris Motor Yacht Squadron’s proposal to add a permanent berthing space for up to 120 boats could endanger a significant fossil site in Port Phillip Bay.

The Victorian State Government’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning has released the Beaumaris Motor Yacht Safe Harbour plan which would increase the reclaimed area of seabed by almost 4,000 square metres.

The club has undertaken an Environmental Effects Statement (EES) as part of the application process. Bayside residents are waiting to see what changes the club proposes and what effect it will have on the natural environment.

“At the moment people can kayak along and look at the beautiful cliffs whereas they want to make it exclusive to their 700 members even though it is public land,” says Geoffrey Goode of the Beaumaris Conservation Society.

The land is currently owned by the Government under a permissive occupancy that begun in 1960.

Mr Goode says although he is unsure of the governments thinking on the matter, he believes the government would be sufficiently responsible to reject the proposal.

Palaeontologists worldwide, including Australian Professor John Long of Flinders University Adelaide and Professor Tim Flannery chairman of the Copenhagen Climate Council have warned the Government of potential detrimental effects. These include damaging fossil deposits in the bay, already partly buried under the car park of the existing club.

Museum Victoria has also been in consultation with the Victorian government. Fossils found in the Beaumaris area are believed to be between 5 and 6 million years old and according to Mr Goode, many specimens found at the site have been collected by Museum Victoria and placed on display.

The Royal Society of Victoria has also released a statement in support of protecting the area. Research papers relating to fossils found in Beaumaris have been published in the Society’s journal.

The area is currently used recreationally by smaller boats and kayakers. The new harbour would allow for larger boats, up to 18 metres long, possibly resulting in extra fuel and general disturbance of the bay.