by Luke Voogt
Plans to “revitalise” the You Yangs could threaten local wildlife, including Australia’s most-famous non-captive koala, according to a local tour operator.
Janine Duffy, a long-time koala researcher, feared Parks Victoria’s proposed master plan could lead to overdevelopment and increased traffic.
“Which is a terrible, terrible threat to local wildlife,” she said.
“We’re concerned that this is a way of making money, which we just don’t think is conducive to the wildlife living in that area.”
Ms Duffy’s concerns arose from a Parks Victoria survey, which suggested options for the You Yangs and Serendip Sanctuary including camping, accommodation and children’s areas.
“We think there are better places for that to happen,” she said.
“There seems to be a leaning towards turning these spaces into urban recreation. But (Parks Victoria) are currently not even able to handle the car park or the road system.”
Ms Duffy believed the plans could lead to increased people and pets visiting the area, threatening local habitats.
“Why destroy that to create another urban recreation space,” she said.
“There’s a couple of things in the survey that we’re very nervous about.”
Road traffic was one of the largest threats to You Yangs koalas including Koala Clancy, who has more than 44,000 social media followers, Ms Duffy said.
She also raised concerns the proposed master plan could open the door for housing developments in the area.
“Already developers are looking at Serendip and want to surround it with houses,” she said.
“If the You Yangs goes the same way the developers will win but that’s not what locals want.”
Ms Duffy had seen no advertising for the proposed master plan outside of Parks Victoria’s webpage, she said.
“What worries me is that they’re trying to hide this from the public.”
Parks Victoria district manager Paul Wallace declined to detail if the authority had advertised the master plan outside its website or how it would mitigate Ms Duffy’s concerns.
But he said Parks Victoria was committed to protecting habitats while exploring ways to “revitalise” the sites to improve visitors’ experiences and contribute “more to the local community”.
“We are currently only generating and exploring ideas.”
Mr Wallace invited locals to have their say online at the Engage Victoria website, where he said “more than 800 people have already shared their thoughts”.
Parks Victoria held a drop in session at Mechanic’s Institute Hall at Little River last night and will hold another at Lara Hall on Saturday, from 10:30am to 12:30pm.