Bass Coast Shire

Bass Coast Shire was formed in 1994 by the amalgamation of the former Shire of Bass and Phillip Island, parts of the former Shires of Korumburra and Woorayl, and the former borough of Wonthaggi. The new shire covers an area of 865 sq km in south-west Gippsland. The administrative centre is at Wonthaggi, 130 km south-east of Melbourne.

Bass Coast is named after George Bass (1771-1803) who explored the south-east Australian coast as far west as Western Port Bay in 1797-98. See entry on Bass Shire for further detail.

The shire regained the territory of the original one, before Phillip Island gained its own council in 1928, and grew eastwards along the coast by including Wonthaggi and Inverloch. It has a coastline 180 kilometres in length, much of it within the orbit of Melbourne's retirees or builders of weekend holiday houses. Phillip Island has been the main beachfront drawcard. Coastal holiday and retiree places as recroded at the 2006 and 2011 census are:

location place population
    2006 2011
Facing Western Corinella    507 629
Port Bay Coronet Bay    644 709
  San Remo   1017 1083
Phillip Island Cowes/Ventnor   4215 4895
  Newhaven and Cape Woolamai   1662 1935
  Rhyll    504 539
  Others (4)   1441 1646
Facing Bass Strait Cape Paterson    674 718
  Inverloch   3679 4458
    14,343 16,612

These populations came to 54% of the shire's population in 2006 and 56% in 2011 (census). The shire's median age was 46 years (Australia 37 years) (2011 census).

Wonthaggi, not included in the above figures, had a population of 7279 (2011 census). Whilst Wonthaggi has a larger population than Cowes, it has fewer residential ratepayers. The paradox is shown by the census data (2011):

town population nos dwellings occupied dwellings, census night
Cowes 4310 4868 1763
Wonthaggi 7279 3420 2947

Inland from the coastal places and along the Bass Valley there have been extensive dairy holdings. Kilcunda was a nineteenth century coal mining town and Wonthaggi had the State coal mines until 1968. Wonthaggi transformed to textile, engineering and building products in the 1980s. Much of that economic activity has been overtaken by house building as Bass Coast Shire has grown by up to 3000 extra people every five years. At the 2011 census technicians and trades workers were the largest component (18%) of the shire's workforce.

In Wonthaggi that component grew with the start of the building of a water desalination plant in 2009. The plant's site is on the coast between Kilcunda and Wonthaggi and is further discussed in the entry on Wonthaggi.

The shire's proximity to Melbourne brings thousands of tourists to Phillip Island and the nightly Penguin Parade. The Australian Motorcycle Grant Prix is also held on Phillip Island. There are two racecourses in the shire's vicinity, at Woolamai near Kilcunda and at Stony Creek between Leongatha and Foster.

Some disgruntled rate payers on Phillip Island began pushing for the community to break away from Bass Coast Shire and form their own municipality in 2014.

Bass Coast Shire's census populations have been:

census date population
1996 20,062
2001 23,971
2006 26,548
2011 29,614

Further Reading

Bass Shire, Phillip Island, Wonthaggi and Inverloch entries