ARARAT - Ararat Rural City Council is currently preparing Green Hill Lake for the upcoming summer season and included in this is a review of the future management of the lake reserve.
The Green Hill Development board have expressed an interest in taking over responsibility for the management of the Green Hill Lake Reserve, and Council, through its Asset Review process, is currently undertaking community consultation to give Council a wider understanding of the value the community places on Green Hill Lake.
A community information night was held early in September to provide the community with the background to the management issues of Green Hill Lake. The community is also being invited to participate and make comment on the different management structures that may operate at Green Hill lake to provide further community input to Council's information gathering and decision making process.
The management structure consists of several options:
Remain as is but with Council having responsibility for the management and undertaking all maintenance.
Remain as is with Council having responsibility for the management and maintain the current arrangement with the Green Hill Lake Development Board for minor maintenance.
Remain as is with Council having responsibility, and form a skills based committee to manage on behalf of Council.
Council leases the reserve to a separate party such as the Green Hill lake Development Board, who would be responsible for the day to day running of the reserve. Other types of lessee could be a private caravan park operator for part or all of the reserve.
Relinquish the management role in favour of another body where the Department of Sustainability and Environment forms a new incorporated committee to manage the reserve. This would require calling for expressions of interest for a skills based committee.
Each of these options has strengths and weaknesses and Council would like community input on what the community thinks is a better option.
Council has also been attending to the condition of the lake reserve and facilities in preparation for summer.
A number of deficiencies were identified prior to the last summer season. These included inadequate signage and the need to address parts of the Caravan Park Regulations.
Since that time Council implemented new safety signage including limiting camping areas and better information signage.
The Caravan Park Regulation, even though Green Hill Lake is not a 'caravan park' as defined under the Residential Tenancies Act, forms the basis of addressing risk and safety. Council has worked towards implementing those areas of the Caravan Park Regulations that Council believes are applicable to the safety and wellbeing of users of Green Hill Lake.
Council has also updated much of the existing signage and replaced with new signage in line with water safety messages being suggested from Council's insurers.
A significant amount of general maintenance has also been carried out, including grading of roads, installation of new spouting to the first toilet block, installation of 40 kph signs along the main access road, installation of approximately 12 new signs in relation to user rules and boating safety and repairs to the solar system on the toilet block as a result of vandalism.
Council will also undertake an audit of the condition and quality of the facilities including lake surrounds, roads, toilet facilities, barbecue areas and car parking.
The tower structure at Green Hill Lake was identified to be demolished due to deterioration of the ageing structure and Council demolished the tower in August.
The eastern beach toilets at Green Hill Lake are no longer usable with the current layout of septic effluent lines being too close to the lake edge resulting in pollution of the lake.
Council is currently costing systems which will enable the effluent lines to be installed further from the water's edge and will involve installation of a pump. Power is not supplied to this toilet block so power must be laid on for a distance of around 800 metres or a solar/battery system provided.
Council has also undertaken a survey and audit of the buoy marking system in the lake in conjunction with Transport Safety Victoria.
Council has replaced or serviced buoys where appropriate although an ongoing issue is the cutting of buoy cables or the dragging of buoys off mark by irresponsible water users.
The marine aspects of the lake have been operating under Section 15 of the Marine Act that allows Council as manager to regulate speed limits, operating zones and operating conditions. The rules set up at the creation of the lake were for an 'odds and evens' system of exclusive days for specific uses such as boating and fishing.
In 2002 Council trialled an open system that allowed multiple uses and removed the exclusive use days. Unfortunately this was not carried through on a permanent basis due to the onset of the drought and the application lapsed after 18 months.
This caused some confusion in the minds of users who have been unsure what system was in operation.
Council has now reapplied to Marine Safety Victoria to change the rules to multiple users and this will go a long way toward removing confusion.