Green Point access debate continues

CALLING FOR ACCESS: Port MacDonnell residents and fisheries Rodney Virgo, Graham ploenges, Peter Durbige, Jeremy Van Den Hoogan, Callen Van Den Hoogan and Mark Hunter continue their call to have the Green Point access gate reopened.

Charlotte Varcoe

PORT MacDonnell based fisheries have pleaded with Grant District Council this week to reconsider its initial decision to delay an inquiry into developing a walkway to Green Point beach.

Located in between Browns Bay and Piccaninnie Ponds, the privately-owned beach access point was recently shut by property owners, the Feast family.

The family claim they closed the entrance gate due to ongoing safety concerns and farming stock issues.

Grant District Council recently decided to revisit a number of recommendations aimed at resolving the issue, one of which included undertaking an initial road design assessment.

Following council’s decision, local fisherman Rodney Virgo further discussed the issue at the Port MacDonnell town meeting held on Tuesday.

Mr Virgo said there remained community safety concerns surrounding the inaccessible point to the beach.

He said that he believed the public was entitled to answers regarding the closure and decision made at the previous meeting and requested council table a large number of questions at the next general meeting.

“I have previously relayed concerns to the council and I believe that the councillors have at the very least not encouraged the participation of the local community as I have not been taken up once on my offer to discuss further,” Mr Virgo said.

“Council has not encouraged and developed this initiative to improve the social and mental quality of life of the community and has not represented the interests of its wide community.

“It also did not facilitate communication between the community and council and I myself and others that have contacted the council and given presentations to councillors have not received any communication or inquiry.”

He stated that the private sector of the road should be accessible for the broader public due to concerns surrounding emergency services access and other potentially dangerous situations.

During his discussion to the broader community, Mr Virgo also claimed the access gate to the public road leading to the private entrance to the beach had barbed wire along it.

However, Jo Feast has stated the barbed wire was not in any position where it could cause injury and was only in place to prevent bulls from rubbing along the gate.

“We are not trying to block access as we have been giving the public and fisherman unlimited access to our private property for decades,” Ms Feast said.

“It is now a biosecurity hazard and there is no barb wire where you open the gate nor where you push the gate to swing it open.

“The only gate which is not able to be opened by the public is the private exit gate onto the beach.”

Ms Feast said the decision to close the private access gate was made mid-last year following a string of calls from stranded community members whose vehicles had become stuck in the loose sand.

“We constantly get calls for people to help with our tractors which then gets salt damage and if it does become a road it will be a nightmare for us as we will have cars everywhere out there and we have decided we will not help them if they become stuck,” she said.

“Browns Bay and Piccaninnie Ponds is within a five kilometre access point and we can’t understand why people would want to rip up and destroy coastal joins and potentially ruin the environment.

“The laneway is between our paddocks and is our main access point and it would be an absolute nightmare having a number of cars traveling there.”

Ms Feast said another reason why the access gate was shut was due to visitors doing the wrong thing, including driving onto the Feast family’s private property and bringing hunting dogs onto farm land.

“We are now also urging all council members to come and have a look at how easily accessible the public road is and what we are trying to relay in regards to our private sector,” she said.

Council officials said they would take on board the discussion held at the town meeting and would further discuss the questions presented.