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Lara's Serendip Wildlife Sanctuary under threat from urban sprawl

A proposed 380 lot subdivision opposite the Serendip Sanctuary in Lara, Victoria, will have devastating consequences on the area by destroying the natural habit, risking the welfare of animal and bird life, increase the chances of flooding and put added pressure on local infrastructure already at breaking point.

Lara's Serendip Sanctuary is under threat from developers


A proposed 380 lot subdivision opposite the Serendip Sanctuary in Lara, Victoria , will have devastating consequences on the area by destroying the natural habit and risking the well-being of animal and bird life, increase the chances of flooding and put added pressure on local infrastructure already at breaking point.

To be known as Sanctuary Views, the 38ha development area bounded by Caddys Lane, Windemere Rd, Serendip Creek and Flinders Ave, has been earmarked in a City of Greater Geelong plan for rezoning from Rural Living to Residential 1 to make way for the development proposed by L. Bisinella Developments.

Melbourne's malignant urban sprawl is threatening the wildlife sanctuary and the disease of bitumen and concrete to further land speculation profits for developers. The collusion between our State Labor government and land developers has never been so mutually fruitful and so destructive.

Flood area

Serendip Creek links into Hovells Creek that flows into the RAMSAR listed Limeburners Bay.  Urban pollution and increased storm water from this development could also increase the likelihood of downstream flooding to the township of Lara and St Laurence Park.
Former Shire of Corio councillor Brian Faithfull has witnessed flooding first-hand on a number of occasions.
Serendip Creek Reserve Lara 2004 Flood Photos YouTube


Serendip Wildlife Sanctuary – history and achievements

This sanctuary supports 171 recorded bird species, with many listed as vulnerable or near-vulnerable. Specially designed bird hides enable you to see some of the 150 species of birds which breed at or visit Serendip Sanctuary. The 227 hectare sanctuary, an excellent example of the open grassy woodlands and wetlands of the volcanic Western Plains, is the perfect place to learn about and experience birdlife and wetlands ecology.

In 1856 the property of Lara, which included the area now occupied by Serendip, was sold by the Crown at auction. Since then, the property has been re-sold numerous times and used for everything from farming and sheep studs to a health resort for alcoholics (from 1907 to 1930). It was utilised as a research station for waterfowl and other native animals by the then Fisheries and Wildlife Department. A bird banding program for ducks conducted by Fisheries and Wildlife was so successful that, in 1959, the State repurchased the property with a view to further developing the site as a Wildlife Research Station.

In 1987, the government decided to re-develop the property into a wetlands education centre, with the aim of bringing the wetlands and wildlife of the Western Plains to the people.

The re-developments included the construction of an information centre, re-furbishment of existing buildings and the display pond, creation of walking trails, building of bird hides and covered walkways, marshland construction and installation of displays and educational material.

(Photo: red neck wallaby - wikimedia commons).

Serendip also provides habitat for a variety of mammal species including Eastern Grey Kangaroos, Red-necked Wallabies, Swamp Wallabies, Echidnas, a limited number of Koala and the Pademelon , now extinct in the wild in Victoria.

(Photo: swamp wallaby - wikimedia commons).

A captive breeding program at Serendip Sanctuary near Geelong from the 1960s to the early 1990s resulted in the successful reintroduction of hundreds of birds to south-western Victoria, and large flocks of spotted magpie geese have been seen in parts of this region, such as near Port Fairy.

(Photo: Pandemelon - wikimedia commons).

Serendip Sanctuary, opened to the public in 1991, is now managed by Parks Victoria and receives support from The Alcoa Landcare Project and Friends groups. Through their cultural traditions, Aboriginal people maintain their connection to their ancestral lands and waters.

Since 1959 Serendip has re-created a range of habitats which has seen the number of animal species increase from 40 (with few breeding) to over 150 today (with over 60 breeding). The Sanctuary has also demonstrated the compatibility of farming and wildlife.
(Photo:Australian Bustard - wikimedia commons).

Australian Bustards and Bush Thick-knees are two rare Victorian birds which were once common on the Western Plains and now find a protected home at Serendip. Brolgas (Grus rubicundus) and Australian Bustards (Ardeotis australis) were chosen for the captive breeding program at Serendip, designed to rehabilitate species that have become rare or extinct on the Western Plains. The success of the captive breeding program has received international recognition.

(Photo: Bush thick-knees - wikimedia commons).

Serendip has many different wetland types, each with their own characteristics.

(Photo:Brolgas - wikimedia commons).


TLC web page

Residents fear a proposed development at Caddy's Rd, Lara, will endanger animals and the environmental integrity of the sanctuary if it goes ahead.

The group fears that Mr Bisinella’s subdivision would create a dangerous precedent of inappropriate urban sprawl and destroy the town’s rural character.

The 380-lot subdivision of over 38ha is adjacent to Serendip Sanctuary, and this means threats of increased traffic, noises, pollution, dogs, and dangers for kangaroos and other wildlife crossing over to graze. The development will impact on the peace and security of this former farmland that has been lovingly restored close to the pristine condition it would have been before European settlement. 

The recreated wetlands may be one of the few that survive as a safe place for our waterbirds, considering their numbers are so low and that shooters are still allowed to kill them for entertainment!

Melbourne's green "lungs" of grasslands, natural vegetation, trees and wildlife are already being threatened by brick and concrete developments, so readily approved by our (Respect Agenda?) planning minister.

Edge effect

Edge effect is used to describe the negative impacts of things like wind, fire, cattle grazing and even insect damage, on vegetation growing at the edges of forests.

Edges – their effect on vegetation and wildlife Land for Wildlife

Graphical models show that habitat islands of different size have shape-specific ratios of perimeter to area. The high diversity of plants and animals associated with edges (compared to interiors) of remnant vegetation became the edge effect principle, a basic concept of wildlife management ecology (Yahner, 1988), (Angelstam, 1992), although the nature and level of impacts of interactions causing such edge effects were not fully understood.

Habitat fragmentation is a major focus for conservation in Australia due primarily to the increasingly fragmented nature of the landscape. An important aspect of fragmentation is induced or anthropogenic edge effects, which are known to influence ecological function heavily in many systems.

Habitat fragmentation is regarded as one of the greatest threats to biodiversity globally. In the last 200 years the Australian landscape has been altered at exponential rates, and in some regions, less than 10% of original native vegetation cover remains and, generally, these remnants are heavily fragmented (Bennett 2003).

Bird species are likely to be killed while looking for seeds or carrion. Reptiles using the roads for basking cannot be excluded by fences. Other animals are likely to be killed during natural movement patterns.

Many wildlife species rely on the seclusion of undisturbed habitat in order to breed successfully. For example, the Wedge-tailed Eagle has been known to abandon its nest due to disturbance

Human-induced habitat edges have been linked with a number of changes in ecosystem structure, with the most obvious relating to the decline of native species, but often less obvious abiotic changes such as increased daytime temperatures and evaporation rates, increased nutrient loads, greater wind velocities and altered fire regimes.

Fragmented & the edge effect is a big management problem in the Remnant native vegetation in the Port Phillip & Westernport CMA region (VEAC, 2009). Could also cause weed spread. Weed seeds are spread by wind, water, animals, people, vehicles, soil, livestock and in agricultural products.

Edges are prone to many disturbances such as chemical and fertiliser drift from adjacent farmland, trampling and grazing by stock, fire escaping into habitat areas, recreational disturbance and littering.

Ecological Assessment Guidelines:(Brisbane City Council)
Toohey Forest in Brisbane - “an island in Suburbia” example of edge effect

Toohey Forest in Brisbane, described as ‘An Island in Suburbia’ by Carla Catterall (1987), is a perfect example of how edge effects, due to human induced disturbances, have altered the vegetation, fauna and microclimatic regime of this community. It has been found that species diversity and numbers of individuals in Toohey Forest has steadily declined due to urban encroachment.

Solar radiation, humidity, air temperature, wind speed and soil temperature may all be altered along edges. This can have a dramatic impact on the vegetation and, ultimately, the wildlife. Many birds, such as parrots and cockatoos, will use edges for perching and nesting. Kangaroos and wallabies feed and move out along edges. Because edges are a meeting place between adjacent habitats, they are often rich in species (eg mixing of forest species, edge species and farmland species). Also, edges, especially where there is a scattered open ‘buffer’ type area, are often good places to see and experience wildlife.

This will make them vulnerable from public interference, introduced animals and traffic. Pest animals such as foxes, cats and dogs tend to move and harbour along roads, tracks and cleared areas adjacent to or in bush areas.

Edge effects and other indirect impacts of development on ecological features and processes within or adjacent to the site should be identified, avoided or mitigated by best practice planning and design measures. Acceptable measures include, but are not limited, to:

  • retaining bushland habitat areas in a compact form, eg. roughly circular or rectangular, to minimise perimeter to area ratios.
  • creating or retaining a buffer or separation area incorporating ecologically compatible activities adjacent to the habitat area, eg. gardens, parkland, sporting fields or low density housing (large blocks with native vegetation)
  • 40 metres from the maximum water level of a freshwater wetland
  • a distance from bushland habitat areas which is equal to the distance to which edge effects are known or likely to penetrate ( a large buffer zone preserved)
  • adequately managing and treating stormwater runoff from the development site to control nutrient and sediment loads and outlet velocities
  • setting back residential, industrial, commercial or special purpose centre development at least 40 metres from the maximum water level of a freshwater wetland
  • seeking cooperative management/covenants with adjacent landowners to minimise threats or disturbances.

    Human impacts- animal cruelty and vandalism

    In 2007, kangaroos were starving and “culled” because they had become trapped in the sanctuary by surrounding residential properties. Proper wildlife corridors could and should be established from the sanctuary so that kangaroos can range between the park and the You Yangs.

    Rangers, in June 2009, were being forced to conduct dawn death patrols around Lara's Serendip Sanctuary to clear dead kangaroos from the road. A zoology student believes the deaths can be blamed on inadequate fences at the Parks Victoria sanctuary, but Parks Victoria said increased traffic posed the greatest danger to the animals. Former Lara resident Caroline Ellis, an honours student at Melbourne University, told the Geelong Advertiser that the Department of Sustainability and Environment had guidelines for fencing wildlife. Ms Ellis, said she had recently witnessed an early-morning road kill patrol on the roads around the park and believed it was inevitable a fatal accident would be recorded in the area.

    Park rangers labelled as disgraceful the brazen theft of an
    endangered chick
    from Lara's Serendip Sanctuary. (November 2007) The six-week-old bush thick-knee was snatched  by a visitor to the sanctuary. Ranger Mick Smith arrived on Saturday morning to find the bird missing and its twin clutch-mate wandering by itself. What would prevent more vandalism and stealing of wildlife?

    Four kangaroos were killed
    after shots were fired through Serendip Sanctuary's fence on Friday night in June 2007. One of the animals was shot in the rear and another in the neck, meaning that they would have suffered before dying.

    Mr Helman, Serendip Sanctuary team leader, said the shots were fired through the fence from the road which was foolish because for all the person firing the shots knew, there could have been a sanctuary worker in the firing line on the other side.

    Bannockburn locals were left horrified in April 2007 when three kangaroos were found bashed to death.
    It's believed the kangaroos had been repeatedly bashed in the head. Two joeys were found alive in two of the marsupials' pouches.

    How can our protected wildlife be safe with more people in the area, and more potential intruders and sadistic attacks?

    Road Kill

    The new proposed subdivision of of the land opposite will only increase the road kill. The roos cross into the Serendip Creek Reserve to feed and also feed in the adjoining paddocks. So more road kills should be expected, and more congestion at the Lara Primary School thanks to Bisenslla Developments.

    How is our wildlife supposed to cope with the extra traffic?

    Ecological and wildlife costs of population growth

    This rezoning from rural to residential land opposite the “sanctuary” is simply madness and will negatively impact on the integrity of the sanctuary and the safety of the wildlife - and drivers. It seems that wildlife losses and fatalities, and ecological systems to preserve them, are simply collateral costs of population growth and urban sprawl.

    It is absolutely absurd to subdivide the land opposite Serendip. So much work has been invested in restoring and creating habitats and ecosystems, and so much could be compromised and the integrity of the place destroyed. The area is not suitable for many reasons. Lara was once a rural town, but all council think about is incoming rates and nothing more! It is all about growth for growth's sake, and revenue collection, not about the land's integrity, protecting of even threatened species, or social cohesion and opinion.

    Contacts to raise your objections:
    Department of Sustainability and Environment

    City of Greater Geelong Mayor Cr John Mitchell
    online form
    The City of Greater Geelong's postal address is:
    PO Box 104, Geelong, Vic 3220

    Planning Minister Mr Justin Madden

    Bennett, A.F., 2003. Habitat fragmentation. In Ecology:
    An Australian Perspective, P. Attiwill & B. Wilson, eds, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 444–456.

    R.H. Yahner. "Changes in wildlife communities near edges". Conservation Biology, 2(4):333-339, 1988

    P. Angelstam. "Conservation of communities - the importance of edges, surroundings and landscape mosaic structure". L. Hansson, editor. Ecological Principles of Nature Conservation Elsevier Applied Science, London and New York, pp. 9-70, 1992.

    Victorian Environmental Assessment Council (VEAC) Remnant Native Vegetation Investigation, May 2009

    EDGES – THEIR EFFECT ON VEGETATION AND WILDLIFE, Land for Wildlife Note No. 4 November1999, Author: Lyndall Rowley, Robyn Edwards, Paul Kelly
    Adapted by: Kaye Cavanagh for the Land for Wildlife program South-east Queensland

    An Island in suburbia : the natural and social history of Toohey Forest / edited by C.P. Catterall and C.J. Wallace, 1987

  • Comments

    A State government panel, driven by Justin Madden, Planning Minister, has given approval for the land opposite Serendip to be developed! Despite long and hard campaigning by the TLC community group and wildlife activists, the developers can't be said "no" to. In their concerns for profits and for pushing for population growth at all costs, they decide FOR the bulldozers to come in and threatened the integrity of the sanctuary and the safety of the wildlife and habitat. The native birds and animals will be in danger from roads, noise, speeding traffic, dogs and cats, human interference, trespassers and crime. This will be a disaster for the sanctuary, and in total contradiction with all the conservation and preservation efforts done.
    Even the DSE support the development, despite ostensibly being responsible for our wildlife!
    The Council - Geelong - have the final say. Let's hope they have enough courage to stand up for democracy, public opinion, and the welfare of local human and non-human inhabitants.

    Despite 8 years of strong campaigning and great opposition by residents, this development was approved.
    Their impressive efforts included:
    • 2410 signatures presented at the Legislative Assembly of Victoria,
    • 670 submissions to Council
    • 2 public meetings with hundreds of residents present
    • Public Rally "Walk for Serendip"..over 400 residents present.
    • Facebook site. Save Serendip..No Rezone over 1100 members.

    To rezone this land sets a dangerous precedent for open slather development that places the very SURVIVAL of our wildlife at risk. Consequently, Serendip will become "an urban park in an urban matrix" instead of the sanctuary which is internationally recognised for successfully breeding captive species such as Brolga ,Musk and Freckled Duck and now the EASTERN BARRED BANDICOOT which is on the brink of EXTINCTION.

    Numerous free ranging wildlife like the Cape Barren ,Magpie Geese and Eastern Grey kangaroos breed here and spill over on to the rural land surrounding the Sanctuary that is also only 2 km from You Yangs Regional Park. This is an important wildlife corridor. High density housing opposite the Sanctuary also brings increased numbers of cats and dogs and an increase in fox population due to urbanization.

    The Wood Report, (an independent report organized by Parks Vic and not referenced to at either of the Independent Panel hearings by D.S.E) forecast this outlook if high density housing was approved
    on the land opposite Serendip Sanctuary. How is this to impact on endangered species and regenerated ecosystems?

    It is very clear that the City of Greater Geelong Council will develop land ANYWHERE irrespective of natural assets such as Serendip Sanctuary and You Yangs Regional Park not to mention the Ramsar listed Limeburners Bay and Avalon that directly link these wildlife corridors.

    We must "accept our share of developments" said one councillor! Our population growth problem will not be solved while growth continues, and we keep accommodating it! It's not inevitable but a politically-driven decision done in consultation with business groups.

    The City of Greater Geelong Council will also allow development regardless of MAJOR flood and fire threat as experienced in the past and present. Already population growth has outstripped infrastructure, but this does not seem to faze this Council.

    Why is Council neglecting their Duty of Care and placing Lara residents at further risk from floods and fire?

    To the west of Lara close to 30 years lot supply is available for Lara’s future development needs. Lara residents say appropriate development is needed in appropriate regions. It's politically correct to not be "against appropriate developments", but population growth is grinding us into more poverty, environmental stresses, higher costs at a time of declining manufacturing in the West, and Victoria wide. Population growth is outstripping welfare too. It's driving land clearing, loss of farming land, climate change and our native species further into extinctions.

    Our natural assets must always be protected for us all and for our children's future and the very existence of our wildlife. Serendip is an internationally recognised sanctuary and so it their success in protecting and breeding endangered species. This hardly gets a mention in Geelong city planning!

    This case sets a democratic precedent. If this inappropriate and toxic development goes ahead despite the wrong location and impacts on wildlife, then anything goes in Victoria!

    TLC Lara Group

    Mobile: 0418 327 403

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