Mornington’s 100-year-old cliff path in danger of closing forever
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- The Beleura Cliff Path in Mornington has been closed since October 2022 after landslips damaged parts of the walking track.
- A combination of storm events and drainage issues have led to soil saturation which has caused the landslips.
- Mornington Peninsula Shire Council said it can’t afford to repair the path without state government funding.
An idyllic, 100-year-old cliff path in Mornington could be lost to the public and local community for good after landslips created a dangerous hazard for walkers.
The Beleura Cliff Path runs for 750 metres overlooking Port Phillip Bay, between Mills Beach and Caraar Creek Lane in Mornington, and has been closed to the public for more than a year.
In October 2022, six landslip areas occurred along the walkway, two of which destroyed sections of the path, according to the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council.
Mornington local Peter Nicholson is fighting to save the 100-year-old path.Credit: Joe Armao
The council said coastal erosion, geological instability, severe weather events, climate change and drainage issues from properties above the cliff path have led to soil saturation, causing the landslips.
The path, first “cut with pick and shovel” in 1922 runs through public and private land, the former belonging to the state. The Mornington Peninsula Shire Council has been the responsible authority for the path and has maintained it since it was established.
Local resident Peter Nicholson, who lives in one of the houses above the cliff path, said the maintenance of the path had become unnecessarily difficult and that the council was “failing to act.”
“They’ve got a very beautiful and valuable path and all they have to do is maintain it,” said Nicholson.
The council said geotechnical reports from engineers and consultants have confirmed the land is not safe and that it would be some time before the path could reopen.
“Due to the complex nature of the project with different land ownership, access difficulties and contractor availability, unfortunately we expect this to be a long-term process and the path will not open in the near future,” the council wrote on its website.
The Beleura Cliff Path was first built in 1922 and has been closed for over a year because of landslips.Credit: Joe Armao
Nicholson, who is part of volunteer group Friends of the Beleura Cliff Path, said the council has ignored calls from the group to investigate the drainage issues such as overflowing pool water, blocked pipes, and sprinklers left on at some properties above the path.
“The area boomed in the late 1950s and people started building these mansions on the hill, so the average size of the homes has grown, and they all have these European-style gardens with big irrigation systems, which cause issues if they are not maintained properly,” he said.
Nicholson said the council should look at the legal interpretation of privacy issues and create a voluntary system in which homeowners can be contacted during a drain emergency, if a landslip has already started or to stop water that could potentially cause landslips.
“If they just had permission to be contacted, it could save the shire millions of dollars,” he said.
Mornington Peninsula Shire Mayor Simon Brooks said the council was aware of compliance issues with some established properties “where storm water is exiting the properties and causing issues as well.”
The council has commissioned a detailed risk assessment, including options to safely reopen the path. The report will guide the council’s next steps, including discussions with the state government about funding.
The cliff path which runs through public and private land.Credit: Joe Armao
“It’s really complex and it’s a historical pathway and the issue is partly maintenance. We are having issues with coastal erosion and degradation all over the shire,” Brooks said.
The cost of maintaining council assets has become difficult as the council faces financial constraints from cost shifting, rate capping and inflation, Brooks said.
He pointed to a recent state government decision to pull out of funding to repair landslips on the esplanade at Safety Beach as another example.
“It’s a huge amount of coastal infrastructure, and we are finding we can’t keep up. If we do keep picking up the tab, we will join some Victorian councils operating technically insolvent and we don’t want to put ourselves in that position.“
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