THE Victorian National Parks Association will commission an ecological assessment of the forest corridor between Nyora and Grantville as an alliance of community groups gears up to try to keep sand miners out of remnant bushland.
A community campaign that began by trying to persuade the State Government to acquire the Holden Proving Ground has morphed into a wider campaign.
With a sale of the proving ground expected to be announced within days to Vietnamese car company VinFast, the Save the Holden Bushlands community group is refocusing its campaign.
SHB convenor Tim O’Brien said it was increasingly clear that the entire forest corridor from Nyora to Grantville was under threat from sand mining.
The council will collate existing scientific, environmental and Aboriginal cultural heritage information for the Holden Proving Ground and nearby environmentally significant sites, such as the Gippsland grass tree forest.
The influential National Trust of Australia (Victoria) this week also threw its weight behind the campaign for public ownership and long-term protection of the Holden Proving Ground because of its natural and cultural heritage values.
Bass MP Jordan Crugnale has undertaken to bring together representatives of the Bunurong Land Council, Bass Coast Shire Council and Save the Holden Bushlands to meet VinFast and discuss potential working partnerships to preserve its natural values.
Mr O’Brien said SHB will continue to push for public acquisition of the back two-thirds of the proving grounds (the most valuable remnant bush). If public acquisition is not possible, the group will ask VinFast to put a Trust for Nature covenant on the 877-hectare property to protect the natural values in perpetuity.
The priority is to ensure any reserves are gazetted and to protect the forest corridor whether it's in private or public hands.
SHB will press for inclusion of the forest corridor from the HPG to Grantville within the Bass Coast Declared Area (under the Distinctive Areas and Landscapes program) and inclusion in the Statement of Planning Policy.
Mr O’Brien said camera trapping is being carried out in conservation reserves and forests along the corridor to detect the presence of threatened and endangered species, which may include the southern brown bandicoot, the spot-tailed quoll and the long-nosed potoroo.
“SHB will investigate the legal status of mining work orders in the conservation areas to determine whether there are grounds to challenge them in view of new information about threatened species.
As Victoria’s premier heritage and conservation organisation, the National Trust has an interest in ensuring that the wide range of natural, cultural, social and Indigenous heritage values are protected and respected, contributing to strong, vibrant and prosperous communities.
We strongly support the advocacy of Save The Holden Bushlands in seeking public ownership and long-term protection of the Holden Proving Ground site. The 877-hectare site forms an important biodiversity corridor that extends from Lang Lang to Western Port, and contains remnant coastal vegetation and endangered fauna species.
The site has cultural heritage value as a significant landscape and we are in strong support of its inclusion within the Statement of Planning Policy currently being prepared as part of the Distinctive Areas and Landscapes project.
As noted by Pat Macwhirther in Harewood, Western Port: Stardust To Us (2016, Hilaka Press), the site also has the potential to provide significant information on Aboriginal-Settler relations, Aboriginal astronomy, and long-term human history in relation to movement and flooding of the Bass Strait. We encourage consultation with Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation and the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council on this matter.
“We won’t rest until that whole corridor of native forest and wildlife habitat is protected.”
The campaign is supported by national and local groups including the National Trust’s Bass Coast branch, Victorian National Parks Association, Bass Coast Shire Council, Phillip Island Conservation Society, South Gippsland Conservation Society. Westernport Biosphere, Westernport and Peninsula Protection Council, the Healesville to Phillip Island Nature Link, Bass Coast Landcare Network, Westernport Swamp Landcare Group, Bass Coast Climate Action and the Cardinia Environment Coalition.
Catherine Watson is a member of Save the Holden Bushlands.