15 November 2022
A section of Mount Martha North beach poses a significant safety risk and has been temporarily closed.
Ongoing erosion caused by high tides and rainfall has destabilised the cliff at the back of the beach, making it vulnerable to collapse.
A recent assessment has found the cliff poses an unacceptable safety risk. This week’s intense rainfall is likely to have further increased the risk that the cliff may collapse.
As the committee of management for the beach, the Shire has temporarily closed the section of beach nearest the unstable cliff until further notice.
The area has been cordoned off and warning signs installed. The cordoned off area includes 49 beach boxes directly in front of the cliff (beach box numbers 92 to 151 inclusive).
We are in the process of contacting all affected beach box owners and will work with them to retrieve any personal items they would like to take from their beach box once the weather has improved.
Owners are asked not to use their beach box as it is not safe to do so. The area in front of the beach boxes will remain open for recreational use.
We have commissioned an updated risk assessment of the beach, which should be ready by Christmas and will inform next steps. This will give us more information about the impact of recent rain events.
The State Government has ultimate responsibility for all foreshore Crown land, and we will continue to work closely with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) to explore options for the longer-term future of Mount Martha North beach.
Why is the beach being closed?
Erosion caused by high tides and rainfall has been destabilising the cliff at the back of the beach for many years, making it vulnerable to collapse.
A recent engineering assessment found the cliff now poses an unacceptable risk to human safety. Recent intense rain events have likely made the cliff even more unstable.
As manager of this stretch of foreshore, the Shire has a duty to put the safety of our community first. We have therefore temporarily closed the section of beach nearest the unstable cliff. This includes 49 beach boxes located directly in front of the section of cliff concerned.
When is the beach being closed?
Recent intense rainfall has increased concerns about the stability of the cliff and prompted the Shire to move immediately to cordon off the high-risk area. Access will be restricted from now until further notice.
How long will it be closed for?
At this stage we do not know how long that section of beach will be closed for. We are still assessing the work required to make this area of the beach safe, but we do not anticipate access over the upcoming summer.
How are you restricting access to the beach?
The area in front of the relevant section of cliff – including 49 beach boxes – has been cordoned off and warning signs erected.
Will the whole of Mount Martha North beach be closed?
No. The area of sand in front of the beach boxes will remain accessible for recreational use. Access to parts of the beach away from the unstable cliff area will remain unchanged.
Will every beach box at Mount Martha North beach be included in the restricted area?
49 beach boxes located near to the relevant section of cliff are unsafe to use. These are beach box numbers 92 to 151 inclusive. We are in the process of contacting those owners directly.
All other beach boxes in the area are safe to use.
I own a beach box - will I be compensated for being unable to use it this summer?
Owners of beach boxes along Port Phillip’s coastline assume the risks associated with owning a structure located on Crown land.
As manager of the leasehold of your site, our primary concern is your safety.
What about my personal belongings?
We will contact you once the weather has improved to arrange a time for you to retrieve any personal items you would like to take from your beach box.
Please ensure we have your current email and mobile phone number. Send any updated contact details to email@example.com
What is the Shire doing to fix this?
The State Government has ultimate responsibility for all foreshore land, and we are working closely with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) on options for the longer-term future of the beach.
In the meantime, we have commissioned an updated risk assessment of the beach, which should be ready by Christmas. This will give us more information about the impact of recent rain events. We will keep beach box owners and the wider community fully informed about this and any further updates.
Can the cliff be made safe?
Coastal areas are by their nature dynamic and often unstable. We are still working with DELWP and geotechnical experts to determine what the options are for the future of the beach. Erosion due to a changing climate and shifting wave patterns is an issue right around the bay, and there are no easy answers.
What happens if I use my beach box anyway?
Please do not go to your beach box, it is unsafe to do so. The cliff is unstable and poses a significant safety risk.
What happens next?
We have commissioned an updated risk assessment of the beach, which should be ready by Christmas. This will give us more information about the impact of recent rain events. We will let beach box owners and the wider community know the outcome of this, once it is complete.
Who is to blame for the fragile state of the cliff?
Erosion of the sandstone cliff due to the action of tides and the weather is a natural process. The impacts of climate change, including increased storm surge and intense rainfall events, are contributing to this issue.
What has been done to address the cliff stability so far?
DELWP as Crown landowner has been working with the Shire to manage Mt Martha North beach to ensure public safety and protection of built and natural assets.
In 2018 DELWP constructed a temporary rock revetment at the base of the cliff, extending 140m south from the existing revetment. The rock revetment was constructed to address safety concerns after the toe of the cliff started to significantly erode leading to the collapse of sections of overhanging cliff face.
In 2019 DELWP engaged geotechnical consultant Senversa to:
- Undertake 8 periodic inspections to monitor the cliff movements, using installed inclinometers (ground sensors). Two inspections were carried out in September/ October 2021 with one of them post the September earthquake events.
- Conduct a cliff stability/landslide risk assessment to ascertain the potential land slip risks and associated hazards, along with interim risk management actions.
What did the current monitoring and risk assessment studies find?
Senversa assessed the landslip risk based on the consequence for different coastal uses. Several coastal uses are considered to have a risk greater than the risk management standards (e.g. not tolerable or acceptable).
Who can I contact for more information?
For questions about beach box licence fees contact the Shire: firstname.lastname@example.org or 03 5950 1382.