Submissions on a controversial management plan for the Belfast Coastal Reserve close this week.
The state government released the plan in January to manage the reserve, which covers beaches from Port Fairy to Warrnambool.
It proposes two zones – a “conservation zone” from the Killarney boat ramp to Big Baldy, near Warrnambool; and a “conservation and recreation zone” at either end.
The conservation zone would ban dogs and recreational horse riders in an effort to protect vulnerable flora and fauna, including the hooded plover.
The reserve is also home to sites of significant Aboriginal cultural heritage.
The conservation zone plan has angered some local residents who fear it would effectively lock them out of their local beaches. An online petition against the plan has gathered just over 3000 signatures.
The draft plan also allows for commercial horse training at Golfies near Port Fairy, a five-kilometre stretch west from Levys Point, and a small number at Rutledge’s Cutting and Killarney Beach.
When the plan was released, the Belfast Coastal Reserve Action Group labelled it a “Trojan horse” that would allow for “industrial-scale racehorse training”.
The racing industry, meanwhile, has largely welcomed the plan.
Consultation sessions have stirred up community debate on the issue, and Minister for Environment Lily D’Ambrosio said the plan could change following public submissions.
Submissions close on Friday, March 16. Visit engage.vic.gov.au/belfast