A COALITION of environmental and citizen groups is calling for urgent action by the council and government to protect the rare coastal woodlands of the Holden Proving Ground.
The clock is ticking with a national commercial real estate company last week privately circulating a sales brochure for the 877-hectare site between Lang Lang and The Gurdies.
The brochure, which was leaked to a Commodore fan’s Facebook page, gives no indication of price for the iconic site. The sales process appears to be by invitation only with no listing on CBRE’s own site or any of the national commercial real estate sites.
The Post queried GM Holden on the price range and interest but received a one-sentence response: “The GM Holden proving ground at Lang Lang is for sale and is currently the subject of a competitive and private sale process.”
Last month, Bass Coast councillors unanimously supported a motion to ask the State Government to buy the site for the preservation and recognition of its “environmental, cultural and coastal habitat values”. The council is awaiting a response from the Government.
The Victorian National Parks Association is also seeking government support to preserve the site as part of a wider Western Port biolink or national park.
Established by Holden in 1957, the proving ground is surrounded by a high fence and woodlands in an effort to keep the latest model secret from the prying eyes of motoring journalists and rival car companies.
The need for secrecy produced an unexpected result: most of the site is remnant coastal forest, now rare in West Gippsland. In recent years, Holden worked with Bass Coast Landcare to manage and monitor the forest, which is home to several rare and endangered native species.
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April 3, 2020 - The GMH Proving Ground would make a fitting entrance to Bass Coast and a new national park, writes Meryl Brown Tobin
Holden’s last hurrah
March 20, 2020 - GM-Detroit owes Australia, writes Tim O’Brien, and the Holden proving ground is the perfect parting gift.
The coalition seeking protection includes representatives of the Victorian National Parks Association, Bass Coast Landcare, National Trust Bass Coast Branch, the Phillip Island Conservation Society, South Gippsland Conservation Society, Bass Coast Climate Action, the Healesville to Phillip Island Nature Link, Coronet Bay Ratepayers & Residents Association, the Tenby Point Ratepayers & Residents Association, the Westernport Swamp Landcare Group and the Cardinia Environment Coalition.
A local member of the group, Meryl Tobin, says time is running out. The Gurdies resident urges concerned Bass Coast residents and others to contact Bass MP Jordan Crugnale, Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio and Premier Daniel Andrews asking them to act urgently to protect the site.
Group member Tim O’Brien says this is the last remaining significant pocket of preserved coastal forest in the whole of the Western Port Region.
He wants the council to begin the process of rezoning the site or adding environmental, heritage and landscape overlays on it. Although it’s a long process, he says beginning it would send a signal to prospective buyers.
The CBRE brochure from lists 18kms of perimeter fencing, 44kms of vehicle testing tracks, lab and proving ground infrastructure, potential depreciation benefits and vacant possession from July 2020.
GM-Detroit announced earlier this year that it was pulling out of the Australian market and would sell its Australian assets, including the proving ground, which was used to test generations of Holden cars in Australian conditions.
Holden enthusiasts are also floating the idea of crowd funding to buy the site as a museum of the much loved Aussie car.
On June 5 Which Car reported that an expected sale to Linfox, the transport firm owned by Lindsay Fox, seems to have fallen through. Linfox already owns the Phillip Island race track and the 1141-hectare Anglesea vehicle testing ground.
Another prospective buyer is VinFast, a Vietnamese automotive company that has been recruiting Australian engineers following the demise of this country’s automotive manufacturing industry.