Overworked volunteers threaten to abandon popular lakeside beach

HUNDREDS of people who use a popular recreational lake at Camperdown will soon be faced with filthy toilets, overflowing rubbish bins and long grass.

The volunteers who maintain Lake Bullen Merri’s South Beach will resign en masse next month unless the state government steps in to relieve the pressure.  Management committee members are fed up with having to deal with issues including illegal camping, vandalism and lack of funding, saying their responsibility should only go so far.

They made the decision to resign at a committee meeting this week. The action will take effect at their next meeting on February 12, with members agreeing to stay on for the busy Australia Day weekend but not for the Easter period.

Secretary Peter Place said committee numbers had dropped to only seven.

“We can’t do it any more,” Mr Place said.

“It’s got to a point where I believe all the infrastructure is done, it’s just the constant security and maintenance. That’s the problem.”

He said a survey from the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) showed volunteers working on reserves spent up to eight hours a month helping with public land management but one of their committee members spent up to 40 hours a month alone mowing at South Beach.

Corangamite Shire works and services director Alex Green said if the committee resigned, the council would also withdraw its services from the government-owned reserve. “There will be no mowing, no toilet cleaning and no rubbish collections. The commitment the committee has to put in to maintain the area is just overwhelming.”

Mr Green said the growing numbers of people camping illegally at the reserve was a major problem. “The committee of management is struggling to have the authority to stop it,” Mr Green said. 

He said the bore water supply at South Beach recently ran out because of the number of campers staying overnight one weekend so the shire was called in to supply two tanker loads at $1000 each.

Mr Green estimated the council would need $80,000 to $100,000 a year to maintain the area to a satisfactory standard, but no government funding was forthcoming.

He said a meeting between the DSE, the council and the committee would be held next week to discuss the issues.

“We’re very supportive of the committee and we’re more than happy to help be part of the solution.”

Cr Ruth Gstrein, who attended Tuesday night’s committee meeting, said the volunteers were frustrated.

“It’s got to the point where the expectations on the committee are getting so high. There are issues with illegal camping and they’ve just had enough. Volunteers shouldn’t have to move people on and cop the flak. They’ve just had enough.”

Cr Gstrein said the committee had no opportunities to raise income so had no money to pay for a caretaker.

“It really needs to have a professional land manager in place. Council can do it if the DSE compensates us. We can’t expect ratepayers to fund it.”

Cr Gstrein said Lake Bullen Merri had “very complex layers of management”.

She said the shire had offered $50,000 to fund a study into the blue-green algae problem two years ago, which fell through when the state government failed to come up with a matching amount. 

A spokesman for DSE was unavailable for comment yesterday.

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