Parks Victoria has released the Belfast Coastal Reserve Draft Management Plan for community feedback.  

The draft plan covers 2260-hectare area of public land along a 20km stretch of coast in southwest Victoria between Port Fairy and Warrnambool.  The area is one of the most significant sites for Hooded Plovers in Australia, with less than 600 individuals left in Victoria, and has been identified as one of five priority sites in Victoria for the Critically Endangered Orange-Bellied Parrot. 

The government's draft management plan will allow commercial racehorse training within a designated conservation zone although the plan states this activity as an "extreme" threat to Hooded Plovers and their habitat. 

You can read the complete draft management plan, or the summary document

You can have your say by completing a short survey, about 8-10 minutes.  The survey asks some questions about you, then introduces you to the vision, the five management themes and strategies, and invites your feedback. 

Key management themes 2 and 3 most affect Hooded Plovers, Orange-bellied Parrots,  and other threatened beach-nesting and migratory bird species.  If you have limited time focus on themes 2 and 3, you can use the following suggested comments to guide your responses.  Personalised responses always have more impact, you could simply add a few sentences to the suggestions below.

Key Management Theme #2: Healthy Country

  • I strongly support a Conservation Zone and believe it should be required and prohibit dogs, horses and vehicles. The reserve is home to over 50 species listed as threatened and has been identified as a Key Biodiversity Area. A conservation zone will reduce the impact of dogs and horses on Hooded Plover and key migratory shorebird sites. 

  • I strongly support the strategy to “protect Hooded Plover nests and chicks from trampling through erection of temporary fencing and signage around individual breeding sites across the Reserve (following best practice protocols)” and to “undertake targeted Hooded Plover nest monitoring…use monitoring results to inform/adapt management of visitor activity”. 

  • I strongly support the goals and strategies to maintain and enhance habitats, reduce the impact of pest species and visitors, better manage marine, lake and swamp habitats, and to build resilience to climate change. 

  • This chapter reveals the draft plan’s underlying contradictions regarding commercial racehorse training. On page 29, the draft plan admits that the extreme risk to coastal habitats, cultural heritage and resident and migratory wildlife from commercial racehorse training will remain so even following management action. This fundamental contradiction in the draft plan will undermine the achievement of the goals and strategies in this chapter.  

Key Management Theme #3: Recreation and Use

  • I strongly support many of the goals and strategies that relate to the recreational use of the Belfast Coastal Reserve including increased enforcement, better management of vehicular use, dog walking and recreational horse riding, bans on dune boarding, hunting and off-road vehicles, reducing risks and improving safety, improving information, interpretation and education, and developing tourism partnerships, marketing and promotion. But without the removal of commercial racehorse training, these goals will not be achieved. 

Licensed Horse Training

  • I do not support access for commercial racehorse training. 

  • The draft plan recommends strict controls on where and how recreational uses are to be managed in the future, whereas commercial racehorse training will be expanded. This does not make sense. Table 6.1 Summary of activities proposes that commercial horse training will be allowed within the CONSERVATION ZONE at Rutledges Cutting. This is inexcusable and contradicts the vision for the Reserve and the EXTREME assessment of risk that this activity poses to key values of the Reserve.  

  • I do not support and strongly condemn permits for horse training at Golfies, Rutledges Cutting or Hoon Hill/Levys beach. 

  • I support the statement “close the beach to horse training and riding groups when Hooded Plover nests extend onto narrow sections of beach…or when climatic conditions or tidal conditions make access unsuitable”. 

Dog Walking

  • I strongly support prohibition of dogs in the proposed CONSERVATION ZONE as this will also allow for greater fox control to occur within this area, as currently baiting cannot occur adjacent to any walking tracks where dogs may be walked on-leash. 

  • I strongly support the plan's identification of a designated 'off-leash dog beach' on page 49.  Providing locals and visitors with a designated beach to enjoy with their dogs provides an alternative to the high value CONSERVATION ZONE where dogs will directly negatively impact the breeding of multiple species of beach-nesting birds, and disturb large flocks of roosting and foraging migratory shorebirds.  

  • I also strongly advocate for the creation of a more inviting dog walker experience and facilities for dog walkers through the old vehicle track that runs between the Golf course access and the Killarney campground. If a circuit walk for dog walkers was created here, with a walk that included on-leash time on the beach and then a walk that returned via the old track on the dune, it would take pressure off the CONSERVATION ZONE, and would provide dog walkers with a more attractive alternative. 

If you want to say more

There are 5 key management themes that you can provide feedback for.  BirdLife Australia has provided a guide with suggestions for use in the feedback survey to ensure birds, including Hooded Plovers and Orange-Bellied Parrots, are genuinely protected.