On the 22nd of January, Pelican headed across to Sorrento to pick up Mornington Peninsula Shire councillors and senior managers, Parks Victoria staff and people with valuable knowledge to share about the Bay environs. The day was coordinated through Parks Victoria's Bays and Maritime division to share and collaborate from the Bay's perspective, issues around caring for the coastal environment. For many councillors it is an educative trip to connect with the Bay and to understand management issues from a marine perspective. A pod of inquisitive bottle-nosed dolphins arrived early in the day to underscore the sea focus. On board, our resident Port Phillip dolphins had one of their champions on board, Jeff Weir, from the Dolphin Research Institute.
There is something so bewitching in the way dolphins eye you as they fluently keep pace with the bow of Pelican.
The day was spent zig-zagging across the Southern area of Port Phillip Bay, between Queenscliff, Rye and Sorrento, visiting some of the infrastructure (piers, jetty's, channel markers etc) that Parks Victoria maintains. The South Channel pile, pictured above, is a restored version of a 19th C channel light, that used to guide ships into Port Phillip Bay.
It may not be widely known that Parks Victoria, not only has responsibility for the Parks that they manage, but is also the Local Port and Waterway Manager for Port Phillip, Western Port and Yarra and Maribynong Rivers. This means that the organisation oversees all the commercial activities such as berths and moorings, manages more than $200 million worth of marine infrastructure, facilitates more than 80 million bay and river visits annually, coordinates 400 on water events each year and assists with emergency response on the bays and waterways.
Local Government is of course connected to all these services and many of their services supply or overlap the responsibilities of Parks. Bringing people together on the Pelican is a lively, informal and creative way to engage diverse peoples and bridge some of the perceptual boundaries that can exist between different organisations. Richard O'Byrne from the Maritime division coordinated the day, bringing rangers, councillors, scientists and other agencies together for informal discussions. Mark Rodrigue from Parks Vic was on hand to provide a detailed perspective of the Marine Parks and to give an overview of the Two Bays program. Libby Jude, who is the manager of Mornington Peninsula National Park , also shared the perspective from the terrestrial park point of view. Stuart Hugh, also from Parks, who is overseeing the National park at Pt Nepean , gave a thorough briefing of the plans for this park which are still in process after a hand over from the Federal Government. Much of the land previously was a military site. It was through strong community activism that the land remains in public ownership and will keep its environmental, cultural and historical values alive and intact for everyone to enjoy.
It is interesting that the mini talks that people give on Pelican are given greater context and liveliness by the sheer fact of being in the environment, rather than in a neutral office environs. Information becomes active, engagement is real and things are understood on a visceral level rather than just abstractly.
The councillors were given a tour of South Channel fort. The structure was built in the 1880's as part of a network of outer defences for Port Phillip Bay. The fort is an artificial island (with the claim to fame that it is Victoria's only artificial island) built up on 14,000 tonnes of bluestone boulders and concrete with sand overburden. It was actually used for storing dredging explosives until the 1980's. The interior of the fort is a series of tunnels with connecting rooms. There is a lovely story in The Age archives about the last person to live on the island here. The island is now one of three important breeding sites for the vulnerable White-faced Storm-Petrel and is surrounded by some healthy seagrass sites. It is also occasional home to the Little Penguin, Black-faced Cormorant and the Australian Fur Seal.
The day was viewed as a great success by all the participants and the proof of that will hopefully be in the increased dialogue and understandings developed between the different organisations involved in the day. This is the third year that the Bays and Maritime Division from Parks have used the Two Bays program to increase council awareness and connection to their work and gain knowledge of issues from the council perspective. The last two years we have worked in the Southern part of the Bay, connecting with councillors through the ABM (Association of Bayside Municipalities). The ABM have been keen supporters of Two Bays over the last 6 years.
All photos in this post are by Michelle Quach.