Friends of the Cerberus logo
a "National Heritage Place"
Cerberus Newsletter No. 196
31 October 2017

A Small Victory

On Monday I received a phone call from Steven Avery, the Executive Officer of Heritage Victoria. Steven said that he was replying to my email expressing concern about Bayside's permit application to fill Cerberus with concrete and our lack of involvement in the permit application process. Steven said that he had sought legal advice and, given the high public interest in the case of Cerberus, as evidenced by the number of emails that he had received. The outcome is that Heritage Victoria would be inviting community groups such as ours and the National Trust to make submissions as part of the permit process.

Steven assured me that Bayside would be asked for quite a lot of additional information as to what alternatives they had investigated and presumably the effects of adding 2,400 tonnes of concrete to Cerberus.

I expressed our gratitude to Steven for allowing for our involvement. Heritage Victoria is to be commended for varying the very restrictive shipwreck permit application pross which is quite different to the building permit application process. In light of this, we ask our supporters to hold off on writing emails to both the Minister and Steven Avery until we see the outcome of the permit application.

9News Item

As well as an interview on ABC Radio (774) we also received exposure on 9News. Two and a half minutes in the first quarter hour of the news on Sunday night was fantastic exposure. 9News have asked to be kept updated as to progress.

We are desperately trying to upload a copy of the news item to our Videos webpage. When we are successful it will be at the top of the page. In the meantime, the news item can be viewed at 9NOW. The Cerberus news item is 12 minutes and 30 seconds in.

On the day that the interview was recorded I was asked for a photo of myself at the beach. Having just moved house I was not able to locate my childhood photos but had previously uploaded the photo below of myself and other boy scouts attacking Cerberus when I was aged 16.

Scouts Attacking Cerberus

On visiting my sister on the Sunday afternoon, she dragged out a photo of us at Half Moon Bay (below) when we were aged 2 and 5. I emailed it to the reporter at 4.27 pm on Sunday only to have it included in the 6.00 pm news broadcast just one and a half hours later.

Your Future President Clearly Concerned for the Fate of the Ship Over His Left Shoulder
Photo courtesy of Dad & his Box Brownie Camera.

The Ship over His Left Shoulder & Breakwater Extension on it's Left.

For those wondering what a "Beauie [Bowie] Boy" referred to in the news clip is, it is a boy who grew up in Beaumaris.

The City of Bayside

Although we did not ask our supporters to write to Bayside, it seems that some still did. Chris Roche, one of our UK members, wrote to Bayside's Councillors expressing his displeasure at their action. I believe that Chris congratulated Councillor James Long for his genuine concern for the fate of Cerberus.

Chris then sent us a copy of Bayside's response to him where they claimed that "Council is fully aware of the heritage significance that Cerberus retains". The letter also incorrectly stated that Bayside had "worked closely with the Friends of Cerberus". Bayside's reply then emphasised Bayside's safety concerns.

I was very impressed with Chris' reply which is reprinted below with his permission.

Thank you for your courteous reply to my letter.

While I appreciate the concerns you make and of course being a long way away. I have been a long time member of the group trying to preserve Cerberus so know well what they have been and are fighting for. It is to be hoped that the Heritage association [Heritage Victoria] will see through what you are proposing that they pay for and refuse your application, there are many other things that may be done not the least awareness of the dangers that surround all manner of wreck sites along your coast which are little different to those we have here in the UK.

It would appear to me that the council have no understanding of what marine heritage is. You are not the only ones to act in such a suggestively destructive manner, the easy option is sought by far too many who ought to know better in all parts of the world, we in the maritime who support heritage have a continual fight on our hands to educate better ways.

Note: Any criticism that we make of Bayside is not directed at the Council officers who have the job of writing replies, but rather at those who formulate policy and instruct the officers on what direction to take.

World's Worst Heritage Practice

When we investigated the relocation of the Cerberus gun turrets to HMAS Cerberus, the then Executive Director of Heritage Victoria explained that any relocation of the turrets would have to involve World's Best Heritage Practice. Tim Smith then explained that this would be a very expensive exercise. Hopefully Bayside will not be able to treat Cerberus with World's Worst Heritage Practice.

Friends of the Cerberus logo
a "National Heritage Place"
Cerberus Newsletter No. 195
26 October 2017


At the Bayside Council meeting on October the 24th, Bayside Council shamefully passed a motion, six votes to one, to apply to Heritage Victoria for a permit to fill Cerberus with 2,400 tonnes of concrete.

Bayside has lodged their permit application already. Although we have a far superior solution, we and the National Trust cannot make a submission or appeal the decision. Action members can take is at the bottom of this newsletter.

Apart from Councillor James Long, Councillors rejected our concerns about concrete and also rejected our alternative proposal to pump Tank Foam into Cerberus.

This course of action constitutes the most serious threat to Cerberus that we have seen to date. An ill informed Council with minimal concern for heritage is taking an action that will destroy Cerberus.

Heritage Vandalism.

Additional Weight - Adding 2,400 tonnes of concrete to a ship weighing 1,900 tonnes with the same footprint will have an effect. Cerberus will, at best, simply settle. This would change the visual appearance and would be an unwelcome heritage outcome. However, as Cerberus currently leans to starboard, there is a possibility that she will topple over in that direction. What modeling has been done to understand what happens when the weight of Cerberus doubles you may ask. NONE. Why you may ask. THEY DON'T CARE. Bayside currently cares about one thing, and one thing only, limiting their legal liability. As the 2014 sand proposal showed, it didn't even matter whether the proposal worked. It just matters that Bayside is seen to be doing something in order to limit their liability. Heritage outcomes are irrelevant in their decision making.

No Support for the Turrets - As with the discredited sand fill proposal, the latest proposal likewise does not provide enough support to return the guns to the ship. Given that the turrets weigh 108 tonnes and the guns only 36 tonnes extra, it is extremely unlikely that the load bearing capacity of the concrete fill has been calculated so accurately that is known that the concrete will support 108 tonnes but not 144 tonnes. The obvious conclusion is that the turrets will not be supported by the concrete. Given that the 2011 grant variation's main aim, and hence the 2012 BMT investigation, was to investigate methods to support the turrets, it is incredible that both Bayside's attempts to use the NHII grant do not address this aim. Maybe this is not so surprising when it is obvious that heritage is not Bayside's concern.

Irreversible - As Councillor Long pointed out, and is clear to all concerned, concrete cannot be removed from Cerberus once it has been pumped in. This constitutes a terrible heritage outcome and Friends of the Cerberus would prefer that nothing was done rather than that the ship was destroyed by this irresponsible action.

Tank Foam to the Rescue.

Tank Foam is a far preferable solution to Concrete. Indeed it is not only a solution to our heritage concerns but also to Bayside's legitimate legal liability concerns.

Tank Foam, as the data sheet states, is an Aminoplast Polymeric Foam. It has light weight with good comparable strength, displaces liquids (hydrophobic) during installation, can be applied under water (behind sea walls, etc.), is environmentally neutral, inert, solvent free, non-toxic, non-flammable (classified as “self-extinguishing”), vermin proof and resistant to ageing & rotting even under extreme climatological conditions. It can be disposed of in landfill, and is easy to remove.

Applications include filling disused underground storage tanks, void filling below or above ground, sewer & drain abandonment, pressure pipeline filling for abandonment, sea wall repair, annulus filling for pipe & drain reconstruction, disused vent shaft & abandoned mine filling and filling unused subway tunnels.

Additional Weight - Although, due to the short period of time that we have been investigating this, we are not yet able to estimate the weight of 1,700 cubic metres of tank foam under water. Suffice it to say that it is substantially less than concrete, if indeed the foam does actually add any weight to the ship. The use of Tank Foam will therefore create a much less, if any, chance of Cerberus settling or toppling over.

Support for the Turrets - With compressive strength of 5 psi, the tank foam under an eight metre diameter turret will support approximately 320 tonnes. Each turret and its guns weigh less than half of this. Not only will Tank Foam support the turrets thereby preventing them from collapsing but will also allow all four guns to be returned to the ship.

Reversible - Unlike with concrete, it is possible to remove Tank Foam from Cerberus in the future, should this be desired.

A Subway Tunnel being filled with Tank Foam.

Why Our Apparent Last Minute Action.

Why, you may ask, did we not present the Tank Foam solution long ago. After the June Council Meeting we were advised by a member of the public of his experiences in the 1960s of using a foam product to extend the life of obsolete barges. It took quite a lot of searching and dead ends to finally find a company that could supply and install such a product. After meeting with their representative and establishing that foam filling of Cerberus was possible, we handed their contact details to Bayside for them to pass on to their Maritime Archeologist, Geoff Hewitt. This was on the 14th of September. Although we were disappointed that Geoff did not contact us, we assumed that he was investigating our information.

We were invited to meet with Geoff Hewitt and Malcolm Venturoni at Half Moon Bay on the 18th of October, just six days before the Council's decision on the methodology to be included in the permit application. My first question to Geoff was what he thought of the use of foam to fill Cerberus. I was amazed when he said that he did not know what I was talking about. The contact details and methodology (sent over a month previously) had not been forwarded to Geoff. In addition, although Geoff told me about the proposed use of Cemented Sand to fill Cerberus, five minutes later when Malcolm Venturoni arrived, Malcolm pointed out that Cemented Sand had been discarded and that concrete fill was now the proposed method. That Geoff was not aware of this change of material indicated to me that the material choice was not being investigated by and decided on by a Maritime Archaeologist but rather by a Professional Diving Service Company. It seemed that the aim was simply to justify the use of concrete rather than to investigate all options.

The next day we contacted the foam installation company which indicated that their only contact from Bayside was a brief phone call. Over the next few days we investigated the use of Tank Foam and were pleased at its characteristics and afford ability. By the day of the decisive Council Meeting we had enough information to email a proposal to Councillors only to be accused of acting at the last minute as usual. I am not aware of any other occasion when we have acted so late in the day. On the contrary, since 2012 this has been Bayside's Modus Operandi with regard to us. Indeed our late submission to Councillors was a result of our not being advised of our information not being passed on to the Maritime Archeologist.

Penny Wise Pound Foolish.

Perhaps the most ludicrous aspect of Bayside's decision was the urging by the Mayor, Councillor del Porto, that a decision needed to be made at that Council Meeting as the Heritage Victoria permit fee was rising from $1,300 to $20,000 on the first of November. Council therefore voted to proceed with the $720,000 plus 10% contingency option instead of the under $500,000 plus 10% contingency to lock in the lower fee. As the NHII grant now totals $585,000, Council therefore opted to spend upwards of $135,000 to save $18,700. Councillor Long pointed out that the interest on the loan would soon whittle away the higher Heritage Victoria fee.

Councillor del Porto also stated that future grants could reimburse Council for the cost to ratepayers. It is my experience that grants are never given for works that have been completed or already under way.

National Trust

As long serving members would know, we have a good and continuous history of co-operation with the National Trust, starting with David Moloney back in 2000, followed by Paul Roser and now Felicity Watson. We successfully co-nominated Cerberus with the National Trust for inclusion on the National Heritage List. The NHII grant that we applied for is currently held on our behalf by the National Trust. This co-operation is not surprising as we both feel passionately that Cerberus should be saved for future generations.

Not only have we not been consulted by Bayside since 2013, but Bayside no longer consults with the National Trust either.

After we advised the National Trust of Bayside's pending decision, they wrote a letter to all Bayside Councillors expressing their concern at the use of concrete, the lack of supporting documentation regarding its potential heritage impacts and their not being consulted. One Councillor dismissed this letter from "some heritage woman", as he put it, by his doubting whether Felicty Watson (National Trust Advocacy Manager) was authorised to speak on behalf of the National Trust. When I pointed out her title, that the letter was on National Trust letterhead and written after consultation with their CEO, the Councillor replied that the CEO may have been spoken to about different issues. He then said that he would ask Bayside's officers whether Felicity Watson represented the National Trust. Presumably these were the same officers who had failed to consult with the National Trust and had probably not even heard of Felicity Watson. A case study in how to deal with an inconvenient truth.

Failure to consult with community groups such as us and the National Trust is what leads to disastrous heritage decisions such as the current proposal to destroy Cerberus with concrete.

Web cast of Bayside Council Meeting

Those wishing to view the web cast of Council's deliberations on filling Cerberus with concrete can do so Bayside's website. Simply click This Link. The Cerberus section starts 2 hours, 8 minutes and 54 seconds in. Be prepared to hear Cerberus described as a "rust bucket" and a "tin can". Be prepared to see a vote cast on the assumption that if it's foam it must kill sea life, without asking a question and be assured that Tank Foam is environmentally neutral, inert, solvent free and non-toxic. Also be prepared to hear Councillor James Long give a well thought through and impassioned speech against taking irreversible action.

Tuesday night's Council Meeting
Click to download.

Action Supporters can Take

As Bayside has already lodged their application for a permit to fill Cerberus with concrete, time is of the essence. Mayor & Councillor del Porto stated that "the concrete infill is supported by both the Federal [Heritage] Department and Heritage Victoria" and appears to believe that it is certain to be approved. Being classed as a shipwreck, the permit application process has no scope for submissions other than from Bayside. Likewise appeals against the final outcome can only be made by the City of Bayside. We really have our backs to the wall here. We have already been interviewed on ABC radio and have an interview with Channel 9 lined up but it is essential that supporters make their views known.

Our request is that members email the Minister for Planning (Richard Wynne) and Heritage Victoria's Executive Officer (Steven Avery) and state politely why filling Cerberus is a bad idea and how Tank Foam filling is preferable. Clicking on the links below will open a pre addressed email in which you can either write your own email or simply copy our pro-form letter below.

Email the Minister of Planning via

Email Heritage Victoria Executive Office (Steven Avery) via

Form Letter
Being interested in preserving Victoria's heritage, I am appalled at Bayside Council's application to fill HMVS Cerberus with concrete. I am also surprised that, as stated by Mayor del Porto, Heritage Victoria supports the filling of Cerberus with concrete. I would have hoped that Heritage Victoria would have acted to judge all applications on their merits and give support to the least invasive and reversible methods rather than giving support to a destructive method thereby discouraging the investigation of far superior and non-destructive methods. Finally, Bayside's Maritime Archeologist should have been made aware of the much cheaper and heritage sound method of the Tank Foam solution.

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John Rogers
Fleet Engineer (Victorian Navy)
website, research & Friends of the Cerberus President.