Wellington Shire Council to vote on its support for all Ombudsman's recommendations into 90 Mile Beach subdivisions

Dozens of beach block owners have been in limbo for decades, unable to build on their blocks. Now Victorias Ombudsman has recommended a way forward.
Dozens of beach block owners have been in limbo for decades, unable to build on their blocks. Now Victorias Ombudsman has recommended a way forward.

UPDATE: Wellington Shire Council voted in favour for supporting all the recommendations of the Victorian Ombudsman's report.

WELLINGTON Shire Council is set to support all of the Victorian Ombudsman's recommendations into its handling of 90 Mile Beach subdivisions.

Council will today vote on the implementation of the recommendations, including the repaying of rates gathered for undevelopable land.

After receiving 67 complaints from original landowners, or their relatives, Ombudsman Deborah Glass investigated whether council had acted fairly and reasonably in levying rates and waste charges against the land, acquiring land from landowners at no or little cost, and planning to sell it on the open market.

"In my view the 90 Mile Beach subdivisions that cannot ever be developed should not be subject to rates and charges - but ultimately, should be returned to public ownership for the benefit of all," Ms Glass reported.

Ms Glass' findings were released in August, acknowledging council's actions had been lawful and competently handled, but recognising communication processes could be improved.

A council officer has recommended councillors support the Ombudsman's first recommendation, to remove the general rate and stop charging a waste infrastructure charge on all undevelopable land in the 90 Mile Beach subdivisions from July 1, 2019.

As a gesture of goodwill, council will refund, on the request of current landowners or previous landowners who can provide evidence of payment, rates paid since 2006 and waste infrastructure charges since 2011.

This could cost council about $300,000.

Council has already begun implementing the second and third recommendations by actively facilitating the sale of single allotments between landowners in the urban nodes without council acquiring land itself, and updating council's website to assist communication of relevant information to affected landowners.

The state Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning has confirmed to council it will take responsibility for implementing the fourth recommendation, to facilitate the compulsory acquisition of privately-owned undevelopable land, after council's voluntary assistance and transfer scheme finish in 2021.

The 90 Mile Beach subdivision is a 25 kilometre strip of land between Bass Strait and Lakes Reeve, extending from The Honeysuckles to Paradise Beach.

The land was subdivided into about 11,800 small lots from 1955 to 1969 before the introduction of planning controls.

Lots were sold by developers using vigorous marketing campaigns targeting thousands of people, including many migrants.

Much of the area is now inappropriate for development, because of issues such as flooding and lack of services.

Today's council meeting will begin at 3pm in the Wellington Centre at the Port of Sale.

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