MEDIA RELEASE 16 September 2021 |

Concerns over sand mining threats fuel calls for state government purchase of iconic Holden Proving Ground and greater protection for Western Port Woodlands.

Vietnamese motoring giant VinFast has put the former Holden Proving Ground back on the market, less than a year after purchasing it, as they announced they were closing their Australian operations.

At 855 hectares, the former Holden Proving Ground is the largest and most intact piece of bushland in a corridor of native vegetation on the Bass Coast from Lang Lang to Grantville – known as the Western Port Woodlands.

It is the subject of a new report commissioned by the Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA) and Save Western Port Woodlands group.

The Western Port Woodlands: Sand Pit or Wildlife Corridor? report released this week shows the corridor is critical habitat for a raft of threatened and endangered species.

VNPA Nature Campaigner Jordan Crook said: “In one of the most cleared regions in the most cleared state in Australia, the Western Port Woodlands corridor is an oasis of bushland. This makes it vital to a diverse range of native plants and animals that call the area home.”

The corridor is a string of conservation reserves and private land that stretches from Adams Creek Nature Conservation Reserve in the north to the Grantville Nature Conservation Reserve to the south.

The report finds that this wildlife corridor is under threat from sand mining spurred on by Victoria’s Big Build.

“Poor planning could lead to this connected corridor being severed and result in localised extinctions of iconic species such as the Southern Brown Bandicoot and the Powerful Owl,” Mr Crook said.

This is also one of the only places in the world that the critically endangered Tea-tree Fingers, the only state-listed fungus species can be found.

The planning of extensive sand mining operations over the top of rare coastal environment is also fuelling conflict between sand miners and the local community.

Around 150 people gathered in Corinella at a meeting organised by Save Western Port Woodlands before the COVID lockdowns.

More than 3000 people have signed petitions to the Victorian Parliament calling for a moratorium on sand mining in the remnant woodlands.

Bass Coast Shire Council has written to the Planning Minister Richard Wynne expressing their concerns about expanding sand mining operations along the Bass Coast.

Save Western Port Woodlands is calling on the council to rezone the former Holden Proving Ground site for conservation, and to seek funding for its purchase under the State Government’s $156 million Regional Jobs and Infrastructure Fund.

“We ask respectfully that Council and councillors get on the front foot to make the most of this opportunity for the benefit of the Bass Coast community and its tourism economy, and for the benefit of that precious endangered coastal forest,” SWPW spokesman Tim O’Brien said.

“While our views of the forest ecology and its value are known, we argue that the Proving Ground, with the building infrastructure it offers on the highway, provides an unparalleled opportunity for a ‘Gateway to Bass Coast’ Tourism Centre of benefit to the whole of the region.”

The Victorian National Parks Association and Save Western Port Woodlands virtually launched the report Western Port Woodlands: Sand Pit or Wildlife Corridor? on 15 September 2021.