‘Disappointment’ in conservation consultation

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FRANKSTON Environmental Friends Network say they are “disappointed” at the consultation process surrounding the construction of a non-powered watercraft launch at the Frankston Nature Conservation Reserve.

The group’s chair David Cross said his organisation were one of many interested stakeholders that were left out invitations to the consultation process.

A notice sent out by Parks Victoria signalling plans to “provide a non-powered watercraft launch facility for the 10-hectare reservoir” stated that “75% of respondents were supportive of kayaking and canoeing on the reservoir.”

While 75% of those that responded to the Parks Victoria signalled support for kayaking and canoeing, a large number of those invited to participate in the community survey did not respond at all. It is understood that of the 108 email invitations sent asking for submissions, only 28 responded with submissions to Parks Victoria.

“When you look at the number of responses Parks Victoria got, it is definitely not a fair representation of the people who would be interested if we knew about it,” FEFN chair David Cross said.

“We are very disappointment that Parks Victoria are going down this track.”

Mr Cross himself was included in the process, but he said that he was not able to forward on the survey to other interested parties. He said the process was set up as if to “try to avoid consulting with the key stakeholders.” He expressed disappointment that the Frankston Nature Conservation Reserve Guardians, the Friend of Upper Sweetwater Creek, and the Action Sweetwater Creek group were also not invited to provide feedback.

“Earlier this year we invited Parks Victoria to one of our network meetings. We expressed our disappointment that some of the key stakeholders had not been consulted at all on the survey that was run late last year. Their claims were that they had sent out information to what they thought was a range of stakeholders,” Mr Cross said.

“I received a phone call from Parks Victoria who sent me an email the day before the survey closed. It couldn’t be forwarded and I couldn’t send it on.”

Mr Cross raised numerous concerns about the proposed plans for a non-powered watercraft launch facility and the impact it may have on the reserve.

“It’s only a fairly small body of water, we don’t think it’s going to be particularly interesting to kayakers. It is also a very deep body of water, and they don’t have ranger on duty at the site, therefore it’s a public safety risk. The primary reason is that it’s a nature conservation reserve, not a recreation reserve, it should be used for conservation. There are several bird species that are endangered that live on the water. In the early days when there’s a bit of interest those birds will take off to reside somewhere else, and once they’re gone they’re gone,” he said.

Management of the Frankston Nature Conservation Reserve was taken over by the state government, after an independent committee that had been running it were relieved of their duties in 2017. (“Reserve returns to Parks”, The Times, 15/5/2017)

The initial plan outlined for the reserve by Parks Victoria stated “that on water access for non-powered vessels such as kayaks will be explored as a recreational activity in the future – as seen at nearby Devilbend Natural Features Reserve.”

Parks Victoria did not respond to questions from The Times before publication deadline.

First published in the Frankston Times – 11 December 2018

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