COLAC Bay local Jeremy Carroll says members of the Colac Bay community are willing to take their grievance with the Southland District Council (SDC) to the Ombudsman if necessary in order to save Foreshore Rd.
“Members of the community have suggested that’s an option if they don’t get an outcome they are satisfied with – hopefully it won’t come to that,” he said.
A portion of the road has been closed since 2015 because of erosion from the sea, and Colac Bay residents say its closure and further erosion is because of the SDC’s poor planning and inaction.
“This could have been handled better and we were quite surprised council couldn’t make a decision [about what to do with the road],” Mr Carroll said.
Colac Bay resident Carole Elder said the SDC had been aware of the problem for years and had wasted money on last-minute measures to stall for more time.
Repairing the road would now be more expensive, she said.
“We are willing to give rocks from local farms, we are willing to fundraise. We don’t want it all to go on ratepayers. They [the SDC] caused it to get that bad, so they owe us a bit of responsibility for it – we should never have lost that road in the first place,” she said.
Ms Elder and Mr Carroll were among a group of people who made public submissions to the SDC at its last meeting on October 18.
A consultant’s report on the road was also presented at the meeting, stating the cost of restoring the road would be in the region of $800,000.
Mr Carroll said the price tag had been one of the factors causing the SDC to delay making a decision.
Partly in response to the submissions made by Colac Bay residents, Southland District Mayor Gary Tong and councillors Stuart Baird and Darren Frazer visited the bay last Tuesday to discuss the issue with residents.
They were accompanied by SDC services and assets group manager Ian Marshall, SDC roading asset management engineer Hartley Hare and community partnership leader Simon Moran.
Mr Tong said the council would make a decision about the road at its next meeting on November 23.
The road “needs some attention, but to what extent is unknown at this stage”, he said.
“With changing ways of doing these things there are always ways of cost saving… The community are rallying around to see how they can support the project.”
Colac Bay Erosion Committee chairwoman and former owner of Colac Bay’s The Pavilion restaurant Julie Guise said the road’s closure had a “profound effect” on her business.
“It’s just changed the whole bay. People just turn around and leave, the place looks so dead, and to have them pontificating about how we need more tourists coming to the region. I’ve worked for over 20 years in hospitality in this area, and bays like this are exactly what international tourists want to see,” she said.
Mr Tong said Colac Bay had potential for business, but disagreed the success of this was all down to the road issue because there were other ways to get into the town.
“We have just got to do the best we can with what we’ve got.”
Mr Carroll said anyone wanting to help the community should contact the Colac Bay Community FaceBook page.