Napthine invites fresh penguin project funding

PREMIER Denis Napthine has opened the door for Warrnambool City Council to apply for funding to support the Middle Island penguin protection program.

Dr Napthine said he would welcome a submission from the council on the issue.

His comments came during a visit to Warrnambool on Thursday to announce $450,000 for production of a movie based on how Maremma dogs were used to prevent the penguin population from being wiped out.

Only a week ago mayor Michael Neoh and tourism services manager Peter Abbott said there had been minimal government assistance for the program, which had cost the council about $200,000 since 2006.

They said the movie, Oddball, would bring enormous benefits for Victoria and the government should take more financial responsibility for protecting the native birds.

Dr Napthine, the South West Coast MP, said the government had been involved since day one of the protection program through its wildlife department.

“We have been involved with Deakin University and Warrnambool City Council and provided ongoing support,” he said.

Cr Neoh said he was pleasantly surprised by Dr Napthine’s indication further support may be considered.

“I’ll take him up on the offer and we’ll make a formal submission,” Cr Neoh said.

City chief executive Bruce Anson recalled it had been a brave decision by the council to launch the project.

“We went with a very radical plan and it turned out to be a winner,” he said.

Mr Anson said the movie would bring numerous publicity spin-offs, including breakfast television telecasts while film crews were in Warrnambool, travel shows and other cross-promotions.

“It won’t be just the movie, part of the story will be the making of the film,” he said.

“We are not just some fictitious town in a fictitious story.”

Mortlake poultry farmer Allan ‘Swampy’ Marsh, who instigated the trial in 2006 by suggesting his Maremmas could stop foxes slaughtering the penguins, shared jokes with Dr Napthine as they patted the dogs.

Mr Marsh will be played by Shane Jacobson, who met the affable chook farmer a week ago in Warrnambool.

“The overalls I gave him were the same size as the ones he used in the Kenny film,” Mr Marsh said.

“He’ll have to adjust his weight. I’ll probably be just a face in the crowd somewhere in the movie — a bit like Santa Claus with the beard, the belly and the boot.”

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