Jan Heald and Maryland Wilson of the Australian Wildlife Protection Council
Rights of Wildlife
A lot of people at the July 14 demonstration against Madden's proposed land grab in the Green Wedges were there to campaign for the rights of wildlife. Among them were three members of the Australian Wildlife Protection Council (AWPC), President Maryland Wilson, Secretary Jan Heald, and winner of an AWPC award for outstanding service, Rod "Roos" Stoner.
"We appreciate this opportunity to be a VOICE for our native animals," said Maryland Wilson. "It is a privilege to be standing with Julianne Bell of Protectors of Public Lands, who speaks for all those affected by the Government's outrageous planning laws, which run roughshod over ecosystems and biodiversity."
She was, of course, referring to Planning Minister Madden's shocking proposed expansion of Melbourne's Urban Growth Boundary, involving rezoning up to 46,000 hectares for residential development, new roads and a freeway.
Addressing a large and angry crowd of people who had gathered to protest at the destruction of the wedges and draconian taxes on landholders, President Wilson expressed her sympathy for those who stood to suffer from the taxes, but she said, "Someone here also has to speak up for the kangaroos and other wildlife who cannot vote or speak up themselves. If these plans go ahead millions of living creatures will suffer and die, and our world will be poorer for their loss and we as human beings will be poorer for our loss of decency towards them."
Victoria the leading state in environmental destruction
In an interview, President Wilson told me, "In 2006 the AWPC wrote to Madden, asking that any development should have an environmental impact statement (EIS) before proceeding. Not only has he ignored that reasonable and modest request, but he has proceeded to create policies which destroy native wildlife habitat at an alarming rate, so much so that Victoria is now the leading state in environmental destruction. The Victorian government and Mr Madden's planners run roughshod over wildlife habitat, seemingly without giving a thought to the ramifications of what it means in extinction of species."
When asked what she felt might still be done, President Wilson said, "Obviously Mr Madden is not going to listen to the pleas for help to preserve what wildlife remains. Therefore the only alternative is for a change of government."
She said that the situation is growing so serious for species, especially kangaroos, that she cannot keep up with the calls she receives for help and her volunteers are stretched to the limits on the frontiers of encroaching suburbia, dealing with a sort of 'animal apocalypse'.
Tragic and avoidable situation of the Somerton kangaroos near Thomastown
"For instance", she said, "Several years ago we made an award to one of our 'wildlife warriors' - Rod Stoner - for his incredible efforts to draw public attention to and get help for the plight of a small mob of kangaroos trapped by industrial, commercial and housing development in Somerton. The animals were literally being built around as they foraged for grass in fields that had been enclosed after they had entered it. Some died while trying to make it across the highway. A road was paved down the center of the area; rock crushers made noise and dust on one side; delivery trucks entered and left on another, bulldozers worked on another, and everywhere there was rubbish piled up and strewn around. The animals were being treated like so much rubbish themselves."
"A number of people from different organisations were so shocked that, there and then, we formed the Coalition for Wildlife Corridors. We have published surveys and drawn maps and studied the problem of Victorian wildlife in the particular and the general and we have, most importantly designed easy to follow plans for wildlife corridors in particular areas."
"Rod Stoner has been monitoring these poor kangaroos for several years now,and we have tried everything but stand on our head to gain effective action from VicRoads, DSE, and the Hume City Council. All have made reassuring noises when pressed, but no-one has taken any real responsibility. We who care so much see that those who have power in planning and development have no real concern for the suffering of other creatures and no real respect or understanding for the natural world. Because of this callousness and apathy, this poor little mob of kangaroo refugees will eventually die out. Our wildlife deserves ... So ... Much ... better, " she said, drawing the words out.
"On a bigger scale", she added, "It is obvious that a population explosion in Melbourne, with the accompanying demands for housing is responsible for the Somerton and other tragedies to date, but, with the latest figures showing that Melbourne is increasing by 2000 people a week, it will not be long before we see all our wildlife die out in Victoria, the most cleared state with the worst species extinction in Australia."
"If we cannot refrain from continuing this completely avoidable rate of population growth in addition to climate change and the reduction of indigenous habitat and wildlife access to water and food, our wildlife are doomed."
"Is this really what we want for Victoria?" she asked.
Australian Society of Kangaroos thanks the organisers of the rally
Nikki Sutterby, the Coordinator of the Australian Society for Kangaroos said she sent a big thank you to the people who organised the demonstrations and marched today to save our environment in Victoria, and its green wedges.
"As an organisation that is fighting for the rights of kangaroos, we are well aware of the suffering and displacement that occurs when natural areas are destroyed for development", she said.
"We are currently fighting to save a mob of kangaroos at Mill Park who are land locked by development, and another at Bendigo."
But that is only a teardrop in an ocean of infinite sadness ...
"These animals represent millions of animals that lose their homes every year to the expansion of human development and may we say that we are fully supportive of what you are doing to save our environment and increase the publics awareness regarding it."
Ms Sutterby regretted that she was unable to personally attend the protest, due to circumstances beyond her control, but she offered to give her organisation's ongoing support to the campaign.