IN THE seaside suburb of Mordialloc the name Jack Pompei looms large.
The renowned timber boat builder and fisherman - who rescued hundreds of people from the unpredictable waters of Port Phillip Bay despite being unable to swim - is a local legend.
His name has been bequeathed to a bridge, a statue and Pompei's Landing, a strip of land next to Mordialloc Creek where his son Leon still runs a boat business.
But Kingston Council is now reconsidering the use of this land, which was leased to Jack Pompei, and then to his wife Gwen after Jack's death, on a $100-a-year peppercorn lease, in recognition of their contribution to the community.
Gwen Pompei died this year, and this week councillors debated whether the council should call for ''expressions of interest'' for other uses of the land.
A report noted there had been money spent on jetties along the creek and the council might identify an occupant that was ''able to provide council with a return on its recent investment''.
Leon Pompei wants the lease to remain in the Pompei name, and said changing it would make his marine business - based at the family's premises on the Nepean Highway and from Pompei's Landing - unviable.
Mr Pompei questioned if the council was paying proper tribute to his father: ''How can you not have a Pompei at Pompei's Landing?'' he said.
''My dad was so well respected he was known as Mr Mordialloc and I think it would be a big loss to the community and the feel of town as we know it.''
But Kingston mayor John Ronke said when Gwen Pompei died the licences became invalid and it was good governance to look at all the possible uses for the land.
''Jack and Gwen were responsible for the great things done in Mordialloc, so we have to assess whether Leon is capable of carrying on that legacy,'' said Cr Ronke.
He said the creek was a ''huge'' asset for Mordialloc and Melbourne, and there were likely to be several other high-profile users of it who would like to be considered for other operations.
The council has deferred its decision on the matter until next year.
Jack Pompei lobbied tirelessly to protect the health of Mordialloc Creek and once told a local journalist the creek had been so clean that ''fish would swim up the creek with tears in their eyes''.
About 600 people were rescued from the bay by Mr Pompei over the years, and when the water police was formed in the 1970s he was made an honorary member. In 1987 he was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for his services to marine search and rescue.
In a letter, the Boating Industry Association of Victoria has expressed its support for a transfer of leases to Leon Pompei, writing that the Pompei brand was ''world renowned'' in the traditional boatbuilding and shipwright trades.