My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, and the action I seek is for her to meet with residents in my electorate who are concerned about the plan to ban dog walking and recreational horseriding from some local beaches. Minister, as you would be aware, the Belfast Coastal Reserve draft management plan has been developed following concerns about the use of beaches for commercial horse training in the area between Warrnambool and Port Fairy known as the Belfast Coastal Reserve. The draft plan proposes sectioning the reserve into two areas: a recreation and conservation zone, and a conservation zone. Much of the coast will be included in the conservation zone, which will ban dogs and recreational horseriding in an effort to protect the hooded plover.
Last week I joined the shadow minister for environment to meet with residents who live in the area, and they are rightly concerned that their existing uses of the beaches have been completely ignored in the drafting of this plan. In fact they were not even consulted when it was drafted. These are people who use the beach every single day to walk their dogs for exercise and for their own health and wellbeing. They call themselves partners in the environment. They care for their beach and they look after it because it is their backyard. They notice if something is not right, they notice if somebody is doing the wrong thing and they report it, and they pick up the rubbish and plastic.
If the beach is locked up, who is going to perform this monitoring task? Will Parks Victoria have the resources? Will the dunes become overgrown with marram grass, weeds, feral cats and foxes, which will present more of a threat to the shorebirds than a dog on a leash or a horse being walked on the hard sand at the water’s edge away from the nesting sites? There is a real opportunity to embrace the locals and effectively work with them to ensure positive outcomes for all. If this plan is endorsed in its current format, it could have impacts across the entire state, and every member of this and the other place representing areas with coastline should be concerned.
Another anomaly in the plan is the stupidity of banning windsurfing in the area called Belfast Loch while allowing jet skis and 20-foot-long catamarans, and no-one has been able to identify any environmental challenges that these cause. It is a shame that the minister, while she was in the South-West Coast electorate recently, accompanied by a member for Western Victoria Region in the other place who has been making a big deal about this in the local media, failed to meet with these concerned residents and others who hold deep concerns about the plan. I ask that the minister meet with these concerned residents as a matter of priority.