Reserve returns to Parks

Welcome to reserve: Dean Stewart conducts a welcome to country ceremony last year on behalf of Arweet (Carolyn Briggs) for the Boon Wurrung People watched by Environment Minister Lisa Neville, Frankston MP Paul Edbrooke. Picture: Gary Sissons

A COMMUNITY committee of management announced amid much fanfare by the state government early last year has been axed as custodians of the Frankston Nature Conservation Reserve.

The state government has decided not to renew an agreement with the committee, headed by Frankston councillor Quinn McCormack, and has appointed Parks Victoria as land manager.

The decision comes amid feuding among some residential neighbours of the reserve about fencing and public access points to the reserve.

Bitter fighting about access to the reserve has been aired publicly on Facebook.

Frankston Labor MP Paul Edbrooke, who in 2016 praised “all parties who have worked towards public access” to the 90-hectare reserve at Frankston Reservoir, referred questions to the office of Lily D’Ambrosio when asked about the decision to axe the committee.

Ms D’Ambrosio is the Victorian Energy, Environment and Climate Change Minister and the Minister for Suburban Development.

“The community will have improved access to the reserve under the management of Parks Victoria,” spokesman David McNamara said in a statement.

“Parks Victoria will be appointed as the new land manager for Frankston Nature Conservation Reserve once transitional arrangements are finalised.

“The decision to appoint Parks Victoria as the land manager will ensure future management of the reserve reflects both the needs and activities of the community and the conservation values of the reserve.”

Access to the site had been restricted since 1920 before its opening up to the public last year. The reserve has six ecological vegetation classes of state significance, 215 indigenous flora species and more than 100 fauna species including the nationally threatened growling grass frog and Musk Duck.

Ms McCormack, elected as a South ward councillor in November last year, said the community “will lose” as a result of the decision to appoint Parks Victoria as land managers.

In a joint statement with forensic zoologist Hans Brunner, a Frankston resident, Ms McCormack noted volunteers had stepped up to ensure the reserve was opened up to the public “for the first time in 100 years”.

“Wildlife experts, hydrologists, conservation management specialists, friends’ groups and community members are shocked and outraged by this decision,” she said.

“The volunteer community committee of management are all local residents of Frankston who are highly qualified with expertise in diverse professional fields.

“They have given endless hours of their time, at no cost to ratepayers and, with the support of local community groups and organisations, have been highly successful and prudent in managing all operations.”

Melbourne Water passed management of the reserve to Parks Victoria in 2009 and it became the Frankston Nature Conservation Reserve in 2011 before the handover – and now take back – of the reserve’s upkeep from the community committee.

First published in the Frankston Times – 15 May 2017

CLARIFICATION: This article was amended on Tuesday 16 May to make it clear that some reserve neighbours, not committee members, have engaged in public feuding on Facebook directed at committee members. Committee members did not respond on Facebook.

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