Introduction by candobetter.net editor: This article reflects interviews with Frankston natural scientist, Hans Brunner, who has spent decades of his life trying to save the southern brown bandicoot, as many of those who know Hans are aware. Here the ABC takes up Hans's argument about the $20m promised by the State Government to be spent protecting bandicoot habitat that was threatened by Peninsula Link was never used as promised for a fox-proof fence. "Peninsula Link dutifully spent $20 million of taxpayers' money on the underpass, and handed over $1.6 million to Parks Victoria for the fence. But Parks Victoria never built the fence. At the completion of the freeway in 2013, and with only a single bandicoot hair detected two years prior, Parks Victoria chose to direct the money intended for the fence to bandicoot programs near Cranbourne..." in an area now allocated for a projected housing development. This is totally outrageous by Parks Victoria and by the government with which it is too closely aligned. Surely the current Parks Victoria Board should be sacked. Planning documents from 2011 show wide reserves with predator-proof fencing. But a 2012 revision made them a dotted line — an option if Federal Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt required it. Mr Hunt failed to do so. His dereliction with regard to this unique creature in the world, the southern brown bandicoot, seems to be his support for by Melbourne's [over]development. A Dubai conference recently named Greg Hunt 'the best environment minister in the world' seems a reflection of extreme cynicism or a calculated insult to the Australian public. Good on the ABC for promoting this investigation. Article by Sara Phillips, first published on http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-02-28/survival-of-rare-melbourne-bandicoots-under-threat/7181580
Wildlife corridors that experts say are crucial to the survival of Melbourne's last remaining population of southern brown bandicoots may not go ahead if documents from the Victorian State Government are any guide.
- Bandicoot is listed as nationally endangered
- New housing development near bandicoots' stronghold planned
- Bandicoot wildlife corridors downgraded to "contingency project"
- Bandicoot enthusiast Hans Brunner is campaigning to save them
Revisions of state planning documents for a new housing development near the bandicoots' stronghold in the Cranbourne Botanic Gardens downgraded the wildlife corridors planned for the suburb to a "contingency project".
The Victorian Government's own bandicoot strategy said the corridors were not cost effective.
Development is yet to commence, but bandicoot lovers said the Government has all but written off the species within Melbourne city-limits.
The small brown marsupial is listed as nationally endangered. They were once abundant across Melbourne and they are found scattered throughout Victoria and South Australia in small pockets.
For bandicoot enthusiast Hans Brunner, the threat to the Cranbourne bandicoots is a case of history repeating.
Bandicoots once thrived at The Pines Flora and Fauna Reserve, a patch of bush in the back blocks of Frankston on Melbourne's urban edge, just 10 kilometres from the Cranbourne Botanic Gardens.
The Pines once housed a thriving population of southern brown bandicoots. But funds to support them were instead directed to the Cranbourne bandicoots. (ABC News: Sam Clark)
Mr Brunner campaigned to save The Pines' bandicoots as urban development, feral foxes and cats took their toll. When help finally came it was too late.
The Pines was split by a freeway in 2010. Federal environment laws aimed at protecting the bandicoot dictated that an underpass must be built for the bandicoots and a predator-proof fence installed around the 220-hectare reserve.
Peninsula Link dutifully spent $20 million of taxpayers' money on the underpass, and handed over $1.6 million to Parks Victoria for the fence.
But Parks Victoria never built the fence.
At the completion of the freeway in 2013, and with only a single bandicoot hair detected two years prior, Parks Victoria chose to direct the money intended for the fence to bandicoot programs near Cranbourne.
Chris Hardman, regional director for Melbourne for Parks Victoria said: "With so many pressures on that small parcel of land, it's really difficult to secure a species. And that's why I think the investment in [the Cranbourne area] will better secure the future of the southern brown bandicoot than we could possibly ever achieve than in such an impacted landscape as The Pines."
Mr Brunner was outraged that $20 million was wasted because of the failure to spend a fraction of that on a fence.
"$20 million of our money has been spent and now they've abandoned the bandicoot plan completely for The Pines and this money's just wasted. Public money's wasted."
But Mr Hardman said the area from the Cranbourne Botanic Gardens to Westernport Bay has a larger population of bandicoots, more space to work with and a fighting chance of securing their long-term survival.
Wildlife corridors were planned to run through the proposed Botanic Ridge housing development, aiming to allow bandicoots in the Gardens behind predator-proof fencing to breed, slip out through special bandicoot gates and spread into nearby suitable areas.
"Linking landscapes is a really important thing to do and that's one of the great opportunities with the Westernport reserves, that we are much easier able to link those landscapes with large parcels of land," Mr Hardman said.
Terry Coates, a bandicoot expert who works at the Cranbourne Gardens, agreed that corridors were key to the species' long-term survival.
"We've been very keen to see those corridors leading away from us out into the surrounding landscape, not to see our population isolated and locked up," he said.
But the corridors favoured by Mr Hardman and Dr Coates are looking increasingly unlikely, meaning the future for this endangered species is far from guaranteed.
Planning documents from 2011 show wide reserves with predator-proof fencing. But a 2012 revision made them a dotted line — an option if Federal Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt required it.
A cloud hangs over crucial wildlife corridors for the southern brown bandicoot. (Supplied: Hayley Davis)
When asked whether the Minister had required the corridors, a spokesperson for the Federal Department of Environment said Mr Hunt had "endorsed the Program of the Victorian Government for Melbourne's urban growth".
These Victorian documents from 2014 included the option of corridors but noted that the corridors were "less cost-effective than alternative conservation measures".
The Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning was unable to provide further details on the future for the corridors.
Dr Pia Lentini, a research fellow at the University of Melbourne, said governments have a responsibility to protect Australian wildlife.
"They have a mandate to protect these species and make sure they don't go extinct. And in order to do that they need to consider more carefully what's going in Australian cities and towns," she said.
Cities are surprising refuges for endangered Australian species, according to recent research from Dr Lentini.
"If you pick a random point across Australia if it's in a city you'll find about 10 threatened species and if it's outside a city you'll find about three," she said.
"At the moment there seems to be a bit of a perception that cities are a bit of a write-off for threatened species conservation — that populations in cites are too far gone or a too small.
"But our analysis really shows that if we put in a bit of effort we can make a big difference just by focusing on cities."