Bellarine: Cop takes on Police Minister

The Bellarine District sits southwest of Melbourne, occupying most of the peninsula which shares its name. It’s well known for fine wines, good local footy, choice waves and a rockin’ blues train. The rough geographical heart of the district sits about 55km from Melbourne’s CBD. The electorate is separated from its neighbours in the East at Coppards Rd, Blackrock/Staceys Rd and the Barwon River, but otherwise it is encompassed by the waters of Port Phillip Bay, Corio Bay and Bass Strait.

The main towns in the electorate are:

  • Barwon Heads
  • Clifton Springs
  • Drysdale
  • Indented Head
  • Leopold
  • Moolap
  • Ocean Grove
  • Point Lonsdale
  • Portarlington
  • Queenscliff
  • St Leonards

Other more sparsely populated areas include:

  • Connewarre
  • Curlewis
  • Mannerim
  • Marcus Hill
  • Swan Bay
  • Swan Island
  • Wallington

Lisa Neville MP (ALP) has held the seat since first winning it in 2002.

This seat was first created before the 1967 election, but didn’t last long before being replaced by the South Barwon and Geelong East electorates in 1976. It was re-established for the 1985 election, at the same time that Geelong East was scrapped and population growth meant that South Barwon shifted further West.

While Bellarine has remained with Lisa Neville and Labor since 2002, the seat has always been a marginal one, recording significant swings both for and against its incumbent MPs since 1992. Since 1985 Bellarine has changed hands from Labor, to Liberal, and back again.

At the last state election in 2014, Neville retained Bellarine with a big swing towards her.

First preference:

43.56% Lisa Neville ALP

40.61% Ron Nelson Liberal

9.42% Brenton Peake Greens

Results after redistribution of preferences

54.84% Lisa Neville ALP

45.16% Ron Nelson Liberal

Labor Margin = 4.8%       Swing = +7.3 towards Labor

The win was a significant one, coming despite concerns over electoral boundary redistributions prior to this election that cut out areas which were traditionally strong Labor. There were 42,541 enrolled voters in this election.

The 2010 election was won by Neville and Labor, but only after the allocation of preference voting. Liberal Candidate Kurt Reiter won 43.1% of the primary count, resulting in a -7.5% swing against Labor. Independent Stephen Juhasz also polled 1.3% of the primary vote in his campaign to stop the fluoridation of local water supplies.

Reiter would go on to receive a three month jail term in 2017 for posing as a lawyer before dealing with proceeds of crime, and obtaining documents and financial advantage through deception.

With Neville being Labor’s Police Minister and her main opponent in this election being veteran police officer Brian McKitterick, crime is set to be a prominent issue in the Bellarine electorate. A community push to extend the operational hours of police stations across the peninsula was loudest in 2015 and, in 2017, Crime Statistics Agency figures showed there had been in increase in criminal offences in Drysdale, Leopold and Barwon Heads. But the same statistics also showed there had been a drop in the number of offences committed in other areas on the peninsula such as in Curlewis, Clifton Springs, Portarlington, Indented Head, Ocean Grove, Moolap and St Leonards.

The other hot issue is development. With the greater Geelong area experiencing a boom in housing, brought on by factors such as high property prices in Melbourne and government agencies such as TAC and WorkSafe moving their headquarters to Geelong, the development sprawl has spread to the Bellarine Peninsula. Early strategy planning to cater for the population growth shows that fast-growing Bellarine suburbs such as Ocean Grove and Curlewis will continue to see more housing development, and smaller coastal townships, such as Portarlington and St Leonards, will shift from being holiday spots to residential hubs. Many residents, and lobby groups such as the Bellarine Community Council, have raised fears the peninsula is losing its distinctive character and becoming a suburban sprawl.