PARK WATCH June 2020 |

A vision from the past becomes a new plan, writes Meryl Brown Tobin.

Then

In 1996, 1,139 Bass Coast Shire locals and visitors signed a petition for a new national park fronting Westernport Bay.

They wanted to ensure lasting protection for the biggest remnant stand of native trees left on the eastern side of the bay. Proponents believed it would become a major new tourist attraction.

The vision for the park was to be developed progressively from a core of several existing reserves – the Hurdy Gurdy, The Gurdies, Colbert Creek and Grantville reserves – and other Crown land in the Grantville district. The first stage would see all native vegetation preserved south of Lang Lang to south-east of Grantville to the Corinella turnoff, and also the coastal strip from Bass Landing at the mouth of the Bass River back to the mouth of the Lang Lang River.

The Gurdies and Grantville Nature Conservation Reserves are home to grass trees, tree ferns and 54 different species of orchids. Wildlife includes the Powerful Owl, Lace Monitor and marsupials such as the Common Wombat, Black Swamp Wallaby, Eastern Grey Kangaroo and the Bobuck (thought to be locally extinct but rediscovered in 2005).

The petition, organised by the Bass Valley & District Branch of the South Gippsland Conservation Society (SGCS) and Coronet Bay Ratepayers and Residents Association, was presented to Gippsland West MP Alan Brown, with a request for him to present it to Parliament. Brown was a strong advocate of eco-tourism in the region and had supported previous efforts by the SGCS, including the George Bass Walking Trail and the rail trail between Anderson and Wonthaggi, but he had two concerns: the park’s relatively small size and the extent of private ownership.

It was pointed out at the time that there were precedents for small national parks, all of which are viable and loved by millions of Victorians and tourists. However, unfortunately the vision for the new national park did not progress.

Now

Moving forward to 2020, there is now another chance to reintroduce the plan for a new national park for Westernport.

Out of loss, a great opportunity has emerged within the Bass Coast Shire – in the Holden proving ground site.

Holden opened the proving ground in Lang Lang in 1957 and used it  to test every one of their vehicles since. Much of the bushland has remained in good condition due to sustained work by Holden and Landcare to control environmental weeds species. With the General Motors company deciding to end its Holden car brand in Australia, the chance to acquire the proving ground in Lang Lang has arisen.

It would add 877 hectares (2152 acres) of predominately native bushland to the conservation estate and secure the future of threatened species found on the site such as the Strzelecki Gum and the Long Nosed and Southern Brown bandicoots, as well as threatened vegetation types unique to the Bass Coast.

All this while also allowing recreational pursuits, compatible with the protection of flora and fauna, in the Bass Coast Shire.

Using this land could alleviate past concerns about the small size of a proposed new park.

There has been a great local groundswell of support to protect the proving ground’s woodlands, and a working group has formed.

On May 20 the Bass Coast Shire Council voted unanimously to write to the state government to request the purchase of the proving ground site at Lang Lang for the preservation and recognition of the site’s environmental, cultural and coastal habitat values.

With a community and political effort, many hope the local’s vision can finally become reality!

Anyone interested is invited to email [email protected] to be part of the working group or to be kept up to date. 


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