Australia’s Great South Coast Penguins to be conserved

A PROPOSAL to allow guided tours to the the penguin colony at London Bridge, between Peterborough and Port Campbell, has alarmed local wildlife conservationists.

They claim the beach is too dangerous and further interference with the birds could harm their sustainability.

Parks Victoria will outline the plan to invited stakeholders at a meeting in Colac on January 12.

The meeting was called to discuss environmental risks associated with the coastal area.

Peterborough wildlife carer Annie Fraser has snubbed the invitation and will boycott the meeting that she descibed as offensive and insulting.

“It is dishonest and unfair that other people of the local area are not given an opportunity to speak up,” the long-time wildlife shelter volunteer said in a letter to Parks Victoria .

“I want no part of your so-called workshop which has obviously been conjured up to appease a few locals at a venue completely unrelated and at a time completely impossible for most persons to attend.

“The fact that this is an area of ‘special protection’ points to the complete disregard of Parks Victoria for anything we may hold dear as Victorians.”

According to the meeting agenda the main aims are to identify environmental hazards, priority risks for management and incorporate the views of stakeholders.

Another local conservationist said the proposed beach tours were not necessary because the evening penguin procession could be seen adequately from a clifftop viewing platform about 50 metres from the colony of fairy penguins at London Bridge.

The idea for guided tours down the steep steps was put forward about five years ago by Bridgewater eco-tours operator Joe Austin.

Mr Austin told The Standard yesterday he had not been invited to the meeting and expected that if Parks Victoria approved the concept it would be put out to public tender.

“This has been dragging on and on,” he said.

“We had a meeting on the beach with Parks Victoria two or three years ago and we met department chiefs in Melbourne in late 2008.”

Mr Austin said his proposal was to have the steps upgraded and have a lockable trapdoor built for access to the beach.

“A qualified guide would accompany a small group of people down to the beach, who would sit quietly on the beach to watch the penguins waddle past back to their burrows at night,” he said.

“Availability would be seasonal, depending on the ocean conditions,” he told The Standard.

“Guided penguin tours would encourage more tourists to stay overnight in the area.”

Mr Austin said it used to be quite common several decades ago for local residents and tourists to climb down to the beach and watch the evening penguin procession.

“The only reason why they stopped it was because of foxes and silly idiots who used to poke sticks down the burrows,” he said.

Mr Austin holds qualifications in eco-tourism and has been running his Seals by the Sea tour business at Cape Bridgewater for 12 years.

Mrs Fraser said the London Bridge beach was dangerous and had unpredictable tides.

“Where is the public consultation,” Mrs Fraser asked yesterday.

“Why is there not a public meeting?”

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