Belfast Coastal Reserve management plan could change, Minister says

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio.
Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio.

A management plan for the Belfast Coastal Reserve could change to “get the balance right”, the state Environment Minister says.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio emphasised the plan remained in the draft stage while on a visit to Portland on Wednesday.

“I will be considering very, very seriously all the submissions that come in and my commitment is to make sure that where there have been issues that have been raised with this process that deserve some changes... to the draft plan that they are made,” she said.

The plan has been welcomed by the horse racing industry, but environmental groups and some local residents have expressed concerns.

“I’m very keen to see what all of the feedback is and then my aim to make sure we make the right decisions and ensure we have all of the necessary protections to protect our environmental values, our recreational values and, of course, there are economic values as well in terms of the activity that happens on that coastline,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“What’s important here is that the paper is out for consultation and that is something that we’re absolutely committed to. I want to make sure that at the end of this process that… we end up with true community consultation to get the balance right.

“I’m really keen to hear from local communities. What they think is good in that discussion paper, what they can see in terms of improvement.”

Submissions on the draft management plan close on March 16. Visit engage.vic.gov.au/belfast to view the plan and make a submission.

‘Open House’ sessions on draft management plan

Three upcoming “open house” sessions will help the community learn more about the draft management plan for the Belfast Coastal Reserve. 

Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) Barwon South West Community and Partnerships Programs regional manager Jason Borg said the three sessions would be held before submissions closed on March 16.

“The draft plan proposes the establishment of two zones within the reserve to strike a balance between protecting its unique cultural and environmental values, while also providing for recreation and enjoyment,” he said.

“A ‘Conservation & Recreation Zone’ is proposed for each end of the reserve to allow for a wide range of recreational activities, including fishing, dog-walking and licensed horse activity.”

“At the same time, a ‘Conservation Zone’, covering a central part of the reserve, would protect Aboriginal cultural heritage sites, flora and fauna – such as threatened shorebirds – from the impact of dogs and unlicensed horses.

“The draft plan seeks to balance environmental, cultural and recreational aspects of the reserve, and the many different community views about its current and future management.”

“To ensure these views can be properly collected for consideration, people should read the draft plan then make a submission before 16 March.” 

Upcoming community sessions are:

  • Warrnambool: Saturday, February 17 at the La Bella Room, Pavilion Café from 10am-1pm.
  • Port Fairy: Thursday, February 22 at the Port Fairy Community Services Centre from 4.30pm-7.30pm.
  • Koroit: Saturday, February 24 at the Koroit Theatre from 10an-1pm.

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