Robe foreshore fence debate explodes

Fierce debate surrounded Robe's contentious foreshore fence at this week's council meeting.

With one councillor describing the issue as “stupidity and a fiscal and financial disaster”, the council debated whether a recently erected fence along the foreshore should remain, be altered or removed altogether.

Heritage advisor Richard Woods will be invited to attend Robe’s July elected member forum where the debate will continue.

When the issue was raised at Tuesday night’s council meeting, councillors were reminded that some members of the community felt the fence should be removed and, if required, replaced with a less obvious post and wire fence.

They also heard that the Austroad requirement that the top rail be smooth precluded the placement of a post and wire fence.  

The deputy mayor, Cr Harvey Nolan (who was filling in for mayor Peter Riseley) said: “I could do with a little bit of direction on this one, I would prefer to see it lay on the table.”

Cr Lawrence Polomka left no one in any doubt about his frustration about the fence discussion.

“I will preface this by saying I will not be voting for any of this under any circumstances,” he said.

“We have been out to a consultant….and the consultant has come back to tell us that if the path wasn't there we wouldn't have a need for a fence.

“Now I was against the path, most people that have registered on this petition can give you the same message. Why are we trying to interfere with the ambiance of this beautiful place by putting this crap right in front of our eye line? If we had any balls we would rip the path up, that would fix the problem, or would at least take it away from the wall where there is an issue with somebody going over the edge.

“Or Ms Rivaz’s idea, and incidentally we haven't consulted on this at all, has got the idea that you can get the bloody bikes off there if that’s the issue. This is ridiculous. 

“I want to know the path’s cost, what the fence cost, what the report cost for the (consultants), the total cost to the community, not to mention the ongoing maintenance. We’ve got a path there that didn't even conform, that fell apart and the contractor was never brought to task over it.

“It’s stupidity and a fiscal and financial disaster and I apologise for the community, I can’t speak for the council but I can speak for myself.”

Cr David Loxton: “Certainly the fence does look good to me and yet our heritage advisor said that is not appropriate. I have considered lowering the rail, I’ve considered a number of things.

“I’ve also considered the amount of people that wrote in and objected on the way it was put up. They weren’t consulted so therefore there is some work to do on it, if we get it wrong well it wouldn't be for the lack of trying.

Cr Rino Dell'Antonio: “I think we need to talk this through. Discrepancies have been pointed out, there is a recommended height for a fence which we are not complying with, there is also the need for us to have an area that needs to be fenced to make it safe.

“I understand that there are two sides to it and I would like to discuss that at the next elected members forum.”

Deputy mayor Cr Nolan responded: “I think we need more time to discuss it with a full council. I’m quite satisfied with the current fence in front of the hotel, and I’m not keen to see that particular fence go any further.

“I think if we have to put a fence there maybe we’ve got to look seriously at moving the path, the only way I can see to move the path is to actually make the pathway that is on the other side of the road from the institute to the post office for the hotel, make that the official path and cross over and join up the foreshore path where the fence finishes now.”

Councillors were reminded that the council has a duty of care to manage the safety of the public who use the coastal shared path in accordance with good practice risk management processes, and therefore must fence the foreshore adjacent the shared path.

The Local Government Mutual Liability Scheme and the council’s insurer engaged Tonkin Consulting to prepare a report on the existing fence and foreshore area concentrating on the two matters:

  • The requirement to fence the foreshore adjacent the shared walking and cycle path.
  • The design and construction of any such fence, if indeed it is required. 

Detailed below are extracts of the report prepared by Tonkin Consulting:

“The installation of the path is intended to provide a continuous formalised trail from Long Beach through to Lake Butler Marina. The path ‘attracts or invites’ users to this location and proximity to the top of the rock sea wall.

“It is expected that at times the path will be used by recreational cyclists.

“Whilst Austroads does not provide guidance on the need for barrier fencing on pedestrian paths it does for bike and shared paths for various offsets to hazards, vertical drops and batter slopes.

“The proximity of the path to the sea wall and the foreseeable possibility of someone falling due to distraction/tripping that could result in significant injury, it is our view that some form of barrier is recommended. 

“It is our recommendation that a suitable barrier fence should be installed between the path and the top of the sea wall to protect path users against the fall hazard onto the rocks.

“We also recommend that a barrier fence be extended across the entire foreshore reserve as part of the final installation.

“An alternative strategy to consider would be to relocate the path to a distance of at least 5m from the edge of the rock sea wall.

“This would provide adequate separation to negate the need for the barrier fence.”