Wildlife pathways at risk

Development at Hanging Rock will disturb wildlife pathways that stretch well beyond the Rock Reserve and East Paddock, says Macedon Ranges Wildlife Network volunteer, Brigittee Kny.

The Rock sites form part of a large and delicate eco structure in which native wildlife have routine pathways. For many wildlife, the Rock sites are also part of their broad habitat area which can be up to about 200 acres for powerful owls and 50 acres for koalas, Brigittee says.

Brigittee fears the wildlife that form part of Hanging Rock's tourism drawcard will surely depart if faced with the development and activity endorsed by council. The development includes accommodation at the East Paddock and a nature adventure area at the Rock Reserve.

"The council proposed that it is a nature experience. I think nature, as in wildlife, will just turn around and go away when there's all these people and development. It can't be a nature experience, it's impossible with buildings and interference like that," she says.

A graphic in a council document explaining the proposal by correlating a koala with a dollar sign demonstrates council's misunderstanding about wildlife habits, Brigittee says.

"These animals are wild animals, they won't tolerate anything like this development and activity," she says.

The Australian Koala Foundation has mapped koala habitat in and around Hanging Rock. It shows parts of Hanging Rock land are secondary koala habitat, while land bordering the site is both primary and secondary habitat.

The area, encompassing the Rock, surrounding parts of Newham, Cobaw and Mt Macedon, is also well-used as a koala crossing, where animals move from one prime habitat to another.

"Koalas really love secondary habitat, they eat all the greens. It is equally important to primary habitat because koalas like to eat a variety of trees," Brigittee says.

Brigittee says light and noise pollution will have a serious impact on koalas and the many other nocturnal creatures in the area.

"Native animals are creatures of habit. They are very sensitive to noise levels and lights."

Increased human activity causes wildlife to disperse. If koalas disperse into another koala's habitat they will fight over territory. Dispersing also increases koalas' risk of dog and fox attacks, and road fatalities, and interrupts breeding patterns.

"To assume a development like this would be of benefit to any animal, I don't think (the council has) done any environmental impact study," Brigittee says.

Brigittee was among those representing wildlife at the 'Picnic at Hanging Rock' demonstration event on Sunday.

About 100 people gathered in a display against the development, while more than 4,500 people have signed a petition opposing it.

"I'm pretty certain there are low-key alternatives like having just a few small cottages there which are entirely environmentally friendly," Brigittee says."This should not just be for people who have got the money to stay there in this white big elephant. We should not deprive community groups of the natural beauty there."

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