CPRRA 50th Anniversary - read the history

2013 marked the 50th anniversary of the Cape Paterson Residents & Ratepayers Association (formerly the CP Progress Association). 

And there were big issues facing Cape people at the time of the Associations founding in May 1963, some of which echo today's issues.

Below is an extract from The Golden Coast History of the Bunurong by WR Hayes, published by the Bunurong Environment Centre, South Gippsland Conservation Society Inc.  Copies of the book can be purchased from the Bunurong Environment Centre in Inverloch.

Cape Paterson - The Progress Association and Severance

In 1954, with the commencement of the sealing of the road, the Lands Department offered some blocks of land on the Wonthaggi Road, near the intersection with the old Inverloch Road. In a bid to induce the hut-dwellers to leave, they were offered first choice ofthe blocks, which some took up, and the huts were demolished in 1956. The 23 lots fetched prices ranging from £35 to £110. A secol'ld lot of 17 blocks were offered in 1957, by which time seven houses had been built and land prices had appreciated, this parcel fetching between £80 and £220, the average £141. In November 1957, the Wonthaggi Chamber of Commerce wrote to Mr Reg Ansett asking him to develop the area.

Two other subdivisions followed, a private scheme of 24 lots on the opposite side ofthe Wonthaggi Road, and a Crown Land parcel of 23 lots to the west of the private scheme. Mr Ansett apparently was not interested in the Chamber's proposition, someone was however. In 1959, the Borough was presented with a grand plan.

Called the Golden Cape Estate, 1,006 blocks of land, 50 shops, a motel, a service station and a one and three quarter acre park were proposed. The Cape Paterson Development Company, the brainchild of Messrs Wise and Zelcer, promised to lay roads 16 feet wide, paved with 3 inches of compressed metal, and drain the area to Council specifications. At a meeting at the Town Hall on 19 December 1959, they demanded that the Wonthaggi Road be upgraded, and that electricity be connected. The council had some conditions of their own, the roads were merely tracks and the promised pipe drains earth ditches. The developers were having difficulty with their finances, and, in March 1960, asked for the bonds to be released. Most ofthe blocks sold, 400 at that time, were on time payment, so they had a problem. The bonds were released but a further bond was later demanded to cover the cost of repairing roads and drainage.

Two blows to the progress ofthe area happened in 1960. In April the Foreshore Committee was told that electricity reticulation was unlikely for several years, and to use a Government grant of£660 to build a generating plant. Also the Council was told not to reserve land for schools, as adequate buses were provided to attend Wonthaggi Schools. This was during a period ofgreat financial difficulty for the Council. The Government was apparently aware ofthis fact, and, in February 1963, instituted a Commission ofInquiry into Local Government in Victoria, to investigate the finances ofsmall municipalities. The Commission recommended that Bass Shire, Wonthaggi and Inverloch merge, the last to be severed from Woorayl Shire. The Mayor of Wonthaggi, Cr J. Longstaff, said that the recommendations would not be implemented as they were, "unpalatable to the Government and the other municipalities", as indeed they were, with both Bass and Woorayl Shires protesting the recommendations and the people ofInverloch not being too pleased either. In March, Cr McLeod said that the Borough was "slipping along the road to insolvency at a rate of£1,500 pounds per year."

He must have galvanised the citizens ofthe Cape into action. In May 1963, at a meeting in the Life Savers Hall, they formed a Progress Association. Over 100 people attended the meeting, which was convened by Mr J. Hough of Essendon. Mr Hough, who was duly elected President, was a senior executive with an oil company and a commissioner ofthe Austin Hospital. The other members ofthe committee were as follows:

R. Mason, Vice President, was a developer and movie maker
A. Balmer, Secretary, an accountant
F. Baxter, Treasurer, secretary to the Mine Manager
Of the remaining eight members, two were builders, four were shopkeepers. one a farmer and one a Deputy at the Mine.

The intention of the move was, among other things, to address the dissatisfaction of ratepayers with the inadequate share of rate moneys expended at the Cape. The Association pointed to that year's estimates allowing for £230 to be spent. They also pointed out that the Local Government Act required that at least 50% of rates paid, be spent in the ward in which they were collected. They complained about drainage, roads and the lack ofsupervision of builders. The Council replied by giving £100 towards a proposed diving tower, and announced that tenders had been accepted to carry storm water from the Safety Beach to Browns Bay, and a toilet block to be built at the Surf Beach. The Association was not impressed, most of the money was Government provided, and expressed concern at an increase in rates. The Borough, at this time embroiled in another difference of opinion with the Development Company over a planned subdivision of 54 lots, which had been rejected because of limited access for some blocks, and unsatisfactory drainage plans, ignored the Association's complaints.

Early in 1965, the Association wrote to Council requesting severance from the Borough, and seeking affiliation with the Shire of Woorayl. At the same time they petitioned the Local Government Department for permission to transfer to another municipality. Woorayl was not in favour of the move. The Council, in a conciliatory gesture, rolled and resheeted the Surf Beach Road and graded and rolled the other roads. Mr Gough was not impressed, and expressed surprise that Cape Paterson ratepayers should shoulder the cost of the Wonthaggi Road, as the Mayor suggested, a job that had been completed a decade earlier. Meanwhile the complaints continued, over inadequate supervision of builders, and a plethora of houses uncompleted. Woorayl reiterated its refusal to adopt the Cape, saying it had enough worries with the coastal communities it already had to control. A severance poll was authorised to be held in conjunction with the Council elections in August. The war of words continued, with the Council claiming that half of £9,000 of unpaid rates was owed by block-owners at the Cape.

Peter McRae, a Committee man, stood against the Mayor in the election, and, with the backing of the association, beat him soundly. The rate-payers voted 505 to 18 for severance, a definite result. The Minister for Local Government asked the Local Government Advisory Board to report on the proposal, "that Cape Paterson transfer to Woorayl Shire".

The Local Government Advisory Board held a meeting at Wonthaggi on 18 January 1966, to take evidence from ratepayers, the Borough and Woorayl Shire. The Mayor and Town Clerk presented the Borough case. There was three man Board, including the Treasurer of the Harmers Haven Progress Association, J.R. McLeod. The creation of a coastal ward was suggested as an alternative to severance. The new ward could be additional or one of three. McLeod said that Harmers Haven agreed with the arguments for severance but did not favour it, without giving evidence for either of these contradictory statements. There was five page submission from the Progress Association, which said that the area was in a mess, the allocation of rate money was unfair, building supervision was a failure, and that Woorayl was better equipped to provide for tourists. The Borough claimed that the Cape Road was a heavy burden, it paid £300 for rubbish collection, a pipe drain worth £1,000 had been constructed, and that £1,411 was being held for a caravan park, pending help from the Government. Woorayl said that they already had 28 miles of coastline to service, and were developing four towns.

Early in 1965, the Progress Association had been told that the connection of electricity would cost £34,000, and a loan to cover this amount was proposed and decided on. It was at a ceremony to mark the advent of electricity, that it was announced by L.J. Cochrane, M.L.A., that severance had been refused. James Legg's daughter, Annie Gilmour, was given the honour of switching on the power at a dance at the Life Savers' Hall on 9 April 1966.

The Local Government Advisory Board reported that they refused severance for the following reasons:
1. It was detrimental to the Borough.
2. Cape Paterson was too far from Leongatha, Woorayl's centre.
3. Cape Paterson depended on Wonthaggi for education, shops and entertainment.
4. Severance would weaken the Borough and upset its finances.
5. The Borough would still be responsible for the maintenance ofthe Cape Road.
6. It needed the Cape's rates to employ an engineer.
7. Ratepayers could apply for ward boundaries to be changed.

The Progress Association was far from pleased at the decision, saying that ratepayers contributed $22,368 ofthe Council total of $65,504 in rates and not $1,000 was spent on their behalf. Once again a Coastal Ward was suggested. The Council for its part merely noted the decision to refuse severance, and said that ward boundaries would remain the same.

It is obvious from all this that the Borough was not a viable entity without the Cape Paterson contribution. With the closure of the Mine imminent, the Council's financial worries were increased, and they considered the welfare of their permanent residents more important than that of the mostly out of town ratepayers at the Cape. The infrastructure of Wonthaggi was in a bad state and deteriorating. These reflections were of no consolation to the citizens of the Cape, who, in their frustration, threatened severance to Bass Shire, or anywhere probably, if more money was not spent in their area. The matter of fair shares of rate money was a running sore. Thus in 1974, the Council received a petition complaining that rates paid were not being spent in the town. In reply the Mayor brought up the cost ofthe Wonthaggi-Cape Road, as an excuse for Council parsimony, an excuse that must have seemed lame, even to him. The Progress Association stubbornly persisted, writing constant letters about ward boundaries and increases in rates.

Water was promised for the Cape in 1967, at an estimated cost of $192,000, the rate for each land-owner to be $30 per annum. A poll was to be taken, and seemed likely to be negated, as several hundred land-owners wanted to quit their land. There were 80 houses on the Golden Cape Estate at this time, and 29 on 75 ex-Government blocks. Half of the Council's outstanding rates were for bare blocks. The average rates were $25. Rate payers voted 309 to 36 in favour of the scheme, 205 did not vote. State Rivers, who conducted the poll, called for tenders for an 8 inch water main in September 1967.

With all this activity, the Progress Association decided it was necessary to plan for the future, and, in 1967, they put in train a Master Plan, the ostensible purpose of which was "establishing a equipping a new tourist area of great potential, without impairing the natural resources of some ofthe finest scenic beaches on the Gippsland Coast." The words are those of MJ.Harkins, Director of Tourist Development. In March of 1967 a Committee was formed with representatives from the Council, the Association and the Beach Reserve Committee. A firm of architects was co-opted, RJ. Boyd a Civil Engineer was elected President and E.R. Les Secretary. Five projects were considered desirable and necessary, to be implemented in five stages, the cost $370,000. The expenditure was to be phased in over five years 1971-75 inclusive, to cover water and power, drainage, garbage disposal, signs and plant and equipment. The Council was to provide $1,500 for a launch in Melbourne in March 1969. The Tourist Development Authority was to provide the finance, on a four to one basis over five years. The plan was treated with indifference by the Council, perhaps because of its cost. The Committee was told in October 1968 the money would not be available for the launch. Next month the Council changed its mind, and on 25 November the plan was launched with great fanfare at a venue in Albert St. Melbourne. Then it just died, the only parts left being the names ofthe camping areas. It seems to have been the right plan at the wrong time.

The Progress Association was in constant dispute with the Council at this time, and the Council had more important matters on its mind with the mine closure imminent and the town's survival problematical. The Master Plan Committee was disbanded in December 1970. The cost of the launch was $2,370, perhaps this blowout helped to ensure the Plan's demise.

The Numbers One and Two Drainage Schemes

These two drainage schemes by the Council in 1976 and 1979, caused considerable distress to the rate-payers of Cape Paterson, and since they both drained into Browns Bay, one of two safe swimming bays, were environmentally disastrous. The No. One scheme, to drain waste water from the south-west portion of the town, was primarily designed to rectifY the failure of the Development Company to provide proper drainage for the Golden Cape Estate. The Company, now called Urban Land Nominees, was under the sole control of Mr Wise. The scheme was to cost land-owners $597.37 each. It is quite fascinating that a scheme of this size can be reduced to 37 cents. One suspects that it is just to stun the recipient of the bill into acquiescence with the mass and accuracy of the figures. By January 1977, the cost had risen to $618 per allotment.

Despite objections, the Drainage Tribunal approved the scheme, and in November the Council borrowed $70,000 to finance the work. The Beach Reserve Committee and the Association queried the piping of the water into Browns Bay, but nothing phased the Council, who authorised the preparation of plans for Drainage Scheme No. Two, in April 1978. This was to drain the northern part ofthe town, and was estimated to cost $300,560 for 460 allotments, a cost per lot of $650. Fourth Schedule notices were served on ratepayers early in 1978. This stirred the Progress Association, which had been moribund since the early 1970s, into action. Rate-payers were invited to attend a meeting to be held in the Life Savers Hall on 3 December 1978. A letter sent for this purpose by A.J. Balmer, Secretary of the Association, included a summary of objections and a petition for rate-payers to sign.

Objections included:

1. excessive cost
2. it was not a drain under the act
3. the drain would discharge not only storm water, but also sullage and septic tank effluent into one ofthe only safe swimming beaches in the area
4. some blocks were already served by street and other drainage.
What was wanted was a properly constructed road-making scheme where there are drainage problems.

The No. One Drainage Scheme was cited as an example of incompetence by the Council. "The Council saw fit to place lIlawong Caravan Park in an area where it now deposits vile smelling effluent from a septic tank on the beach into the safe swimming bay". The words are those of spokesman for a deputation to the Council, in February 1979. He went on to say that the cost of the proposed scheme was considered exorbitant, and amounted to a further means of intimidation and exploitation by the Council." Strong words, which only served to raise the hackles of the councillors, who resolved to adopt the scheme without modifications, disallowing all objections. All ratepayers received Fifth Schedule notices. The Drainage Tribunal at a hearing in November 1978, dismissed objections, although, as the objections were found to be credible, no award of costs was granted. Council costs were $4,880.

Despite a petition of 500 against the scheme, the Council refused to modify it, and proceeded. By June, drainage outlets were polluting Browns Bay. By October, half of Browns Bay was polluted, and tides had taken the pollution around the rocks and into Safety Bay, next door. The water was discoloured 200 metres from the shore. A visit by Councillors left them horrified. It was suggested that the discharge be piped to Undertow Bay, at a cost of $20,000.

It is worth noting, that in February 1979, J.A. Langlands, a Cape Paterson ratepayer, sent a letter to all Councillors, suggesting that the drainage would become infiltrated by sullage and septic tank effluent, as indeed it had. Mr Langlands, a qualified Town Planner and Municipal Engineer, enclosed an extract from a report on an environmental study of Port Phillip Bay, ilIustrating the difference in pollution readings in drainage from sewered and unsewered areas. He expressed the vain hope that the drainage schemes would not be proceeded with prior to the provision of reticulated sewerage.

A conference was held to discuss the provision of a sewerage scheme for the Cape in July 1980. The cost of diverting the water to Undertow Bay was referred to the Estimates Committee, but an estimate of $48,000 for this gave the Council a fright, and the Bay remained polluted for five years. The Health Surveyor said that a considerable amount of the pollution was from wastes from showers and laundries at the Caravan Parks, which, instead of passing through septic tanks, discharged directly into the bay.

Following requests from the Association, the Council commenced pollution readings in January 1985. They were safe in that month, but in April. following heavy rains, there was a disastrously high count of E. coli, eight times higher than the maximum safe level, indicating recent contamination from septics, prompting calls for a speed-up of provision of a sewerage system. Council drains contained 500 times the recommended limits of bacteria for safe swimming.

Early in 1977, Urban Land Nominees, presented a plan to subdivide land at the west end of town. It was to be in four stages each of approximately sixty lots, the last stage to be completed by 1982. Drainage, roads and water reticulation were to be completed to Council specifications. Five percent of the land was to be set aside for recreation. The Company submitted a proposal for sewerage for their first subdivision of 54 lots, and in September 1977, the plan was sealed by the Council. In April 1978, in an action that was to haunt the Council for the next decade, two agreements for the subdivision of the 54 lots were entered into by the Council and the developers. Completion date was now to be 1983.

The Company produced a plan for a sewerage treatment plant, on a 22.5 acre site to the north of the town. There were thirty objections to the scheme which the Council typically over-ruled and disallowed, granting a permit. The Environmental Protection Authority announced that they were satisfied with the site, and in October granted a permit. There were 107 appeals against the scheme by April 1980.

The Company had, by this time, entered into an agreement to purchase the site, lodging two applications for Town Planning Permits. They were to subdivide, and establish sewage treatment works for a 207 lot subdivision. The Council received objections to each application, but granted permits nonetheless. Appeals were lodged with the Town Planning Appeals Tribunal, which decided in the appellants' favour, for two reasons. That the developer did not bother to defend the case, and that the application was invalid, and therefore, the Council permits were invalid. The respondent should have sought a permit for the whole Cape. In a discussion with the Tribunal Chairman after the hearing, the appellants said that they felt that the Council consistently ignored their views regarding the Master Plan and the First and Second Drainage Schemes. They considered that the Council deliberately abolished wards to make it more difficult for Cape residents to be elected. They were in favour of sewerage but for the whole town, and the Council should convene a conference of all interested parties. The Council favoured the developer and should not have been legally represented to oppose their appeal. The upshot of this was that the Developer was told to suspend development until the whole Cape was sewered.

In July 1986, the total area subdivided in Cape Paterson was: Crown Land, 87 lots on 7.70 hectares, averaging .0885 hectares, private land, 912 lots on 43.59 hectares, averaging .0478 hectares, totals 999 lots on 51.29 hectares. A total area of6.82 hectares had been set aside for recreation. With about fifty houses being constructed every year, long term plans were needed for the development of recreation areas. This would require consensus between the Council and the Progress Association, something that had been sadly lacking hitherto.

In August 1986. Mr. Frank Harvey, a member of the Progress Association, was elected to Council. Almost immediately, in a gesture of the consensus emphasised in the Town Clerk's Report mentioned above, a motion was put to reactivate the Coastal Reserves Advisory Board, which the Council had dissolved earlier. Mr. Keith Jones was elected to the Council in 1988, making the assertion of a dark plot to prevent Cape representatives from being elected to that body seem a trifle unfounded.

Sewerage was connected in 1987-89, after months of strife with the contractor, who alienated householders, knocking down sheds and fences, leaving trenches open and causing havoc. What was to be a $2.5 million scheme cost over $3 million. But at least it at last cleared up the pollution in the Bay.