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With friends like DSE and Parks Victoria, who needs wildlife enemies in the Pines (Victoria)?

Through incompetence and neglect 110 ha which was recently added to the Pines Flora and Fauna reserve was mismanaged by Parks Victoria and Department of Sustainability Victoria to the point where nearly all the species it contained have become extinct. Now this land is due to be separated by a huge tollway from the rest of the reserve, despite many bitter protests and submissions from residents and other concerned people, whose hearts are nearly broken. See also related articles

The death of the DARA land.

110 ha of land once belonging to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, known now as 'the DARA land" was recently added to the Pines Flora and Fauna reserve. Through incompetence and neglect it has been mismanaged by Parks Victoria and Department of Sustainability Victoria to the point where nearly all the species it contained have become extinct. Now, in a crowning act of environmental vandalism,[1] this land is due to be separated by a huge tollway from the rest of the reserve. This is to go ahead, despite many bitter protests and submissions from residents and other concerned people who do not want it.

Here Hans Brunner describes the process by which the species became extinct and pleads for the area to be rehabilitated. It is the least that the State government and SEITA (now renamed the Linking Melbourne Authority) can do. This time there should be transparent aims to increase the fauna species representation to its optimum and reproducible methods to test the success of the operation, so that the public may monitor the effectiveness of it.

Hans Brunner sends a plea to Department of Sustainability and Environment and to Parks Victoria to bring the Dara land back to life again. It can and must be done.

The future of the DARA land can be so much brighter than its past

The Dara land is the 110 ha that has been added to the Pines Flora and Fauna Reserve. It borders on Ballarto Rd and McClelland Drive and joins on to the golf course, North-East of the original Pines. The proposed Bypass will separate the two parcels of land.

Some twenty years ago the Dara land, then occupied by the Dept. of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, was teaming with wildlife. There were large colonies of Swamp Rats, lots of Bandicoot diggings everywhere, there were Wallabies, Ringtail- and Brush-tail Possums, Echidnas, an occasional Koala and Sugar Glider and only a very small number of Rabbits. This was the result of regular poisoning of foxes and rabbits and the total absence of dogs. Boundary fences were inspected weekly and repaired immediately.

After a large wildfire, it took about two to three years for these animals to recover to their original numbers, but they did so with the help of ongoing fox and rabbit control and the absence of dogs.

After Dept of Agriculture left, Parks Vic and DSE allowed ferals to run amuck

After the Dept, of Agriculture vacated the Dara land Parks Victoria was appointed to manage this land. Immediately fox and rabbit poisoning stopped, a number of gates were erected to allow people with their dogs to enter as well as foxes and cats. The bandicoots were the first to suffer. It took only about twelve months for them to totally disappear from the whole of the Dara land. Where there were once large colonies of Swamp Rats one could find only the mounds of soil where they used to be. Rabbit numbers increased and fox and dog foot prints became prevalent not only along the walking tracks but also throughout the bush land off the tracks.

20 yrs ago foxes' and domestic dogs' scats revealed diet of endangered fauna

During my many visits, I collected scats of foxes, cats and dogs containing hairs and identified them in order to determine the prey species.

Since we know already too well what foxes prey on I concentrated on dog scats with hairs of prey species. It is well known that some people encourage their dogs to hunt for rabbits in the Reserve and the dogs will than go for anything that moves including native animals. Bandicoots are especially vulnerable to predation as they have to dig deep holes to get to their food and then can easy be ambushed while doing so. They also have not got large ears like the rabbits have to hear predators approaching. Subsequently I established what the contents were of twenty four dog scats. Of these, 8 had Rabbit, 4 had Wallaby, 4 had Bandicoot, 3 had Brush-tail Possum, 3 had Ring-tail Possum and 2 had Swamp Rat. Fox scats had a higher proportion of Rabbits but preyed on all the other animals as well and included some Sugar Gliders and lots of lizards.

Now the same scats show diet of mostly rabbits

Fox and dog scats now contain manly rabbit and a few ring-tail possums as all the other small native animals have almost totally disappeared.

This was not helped when Parks Victoria control burnt a large area of prime bandicoot habitat and before this area could recover an adjacent area was also burnt. This resulted in the absence of all the animals that used to live there and consisted of about fifty percent of the whole Dara bush land.

Active fox dens are now distributed throughout the whole area and there is no hope for the native animals to become re-established again.

The ultimate blame lies with DSE and PV

The ultimate blame lies with DSE (Department of Sustainability and Environment)[2] and PV (Parks Victoria)[3]. They both were unwilling to protect the nationally endangered bandicoots and with it all the other native mammals, birds, lizards and frogs. How can they completely neglect and mismanage this prime habitat for not only this rare bandicoot but also for Koalas, Sugar Gliders, Swamp Rats, Echidnas, Brush- and Ring-tail Possums and all the other native wildlife! We have to urgently go back to the way the Dara land was managed by the Agriculture Dept.

In the absence of dogs, the control of foxes, cats and rabbits could than be carried out completely un-restricted and efficiently.

I plead with the DSE and PV to bring the Dara land back to life again. It can and must be done. If I had time, exactly the same story could be told about the Western half of the Pines where beside the predators and rabbits motorbike riders cause havoc to Wallabies, birds and other wildlife.

Hans Brunner

[1] Works undertaken by the Linking Melbourne Authority (once called SEITA) with the support of the Brumby government and your taxes.

[2] The Department of Sustainability and Environment has almost no staff devoted to actively protecting and sustaining healthy biodiverse fauna populations. DSE seems to be far more interested in pushing human population growth by stimulating high immigration, providing land to developers and pushing through infrastructure programs to the detriment of our indigenous fauna and the loss of green spaces. DSE is dominated by agriculturalists and property development oriented planners and technicians.

[3] Parks Victoria is a public authority (akin to a government department), funded from three major sources; payments from the State Government Budget (your taxes), an annual charge based on a property rate levied on all metropolitan properties, and user fees.
It is managed by a board with the following members:
Rob Gerrand, BA, FAMI, FAICD
Lois Appleby
Clarice Ballenden, BA (Hons) M.Ed.
Damien Bell
Rod Gowans, PSM.
Ken King, Dip. For., B.Sc (Hons)
Noel Harvey, OAM, MAICD
Jennifer Labourne, B.Bus, FCPA
Jan Mahoney BA, PhD, FAICD

What are these people doing with our money?