By Matt Male
NINE animals were killed on two Phillip Island roads just days after the Bass Coast Shire Council confiscated signs on those roads asking drivers to “slow down” and “reduce the wildlife toll”.
The carnage occurred in 12 hours last Friday on the AFL Grand Final Eve public holiday.
The council took the signs and planned to fine Wildlife Rescue Phillip Island but has since waived the fee for the return of the signs.
Shire officers are expected to meet with representatives from Wildlife Rescue Phillip Island this week to discuss the issue.
In a letter last week, the council told the organisation that they confiscated 19 roadside signs.
It would cost $130 per “advertising sign” to get them back. That’s almost $2500 for the lot.
Failure to pay the fine, the council warned, would result in the disposal of the signs.
It caused outrage amongst the Phillip Island community.
But it wasn’t until a petition, a social media campaign and press coverage around the issue that the council withdrew the fine.
In damage control, the council’s CEO Paul Buckley was soon on the radio downplaying the story.
He agreed with ABC’s Jon Faine on Tuesday that the move was a bit “heavy handed”.
“A couple of, I guess, over-exuberant staff moving straight to removing the signs rather than communicating with the group and talking to them about what could be possible,” he said.
“Since finding out about this in the last little while, we’re certainly withdrawing any fines or charges against the group and we will work with the group over the next 24 to 48 hours to try and find an appropriate location.
“The majority of the signs were on VicRoads’ roads so there were some safety issues, etc. associated with those.
“Clearly, we support the work of the group, they’re a great volunteer organisation like many others here in Bass Coast.
“We will liaise with VicRoads and others to see if we can find a solution.”
In a statement to the Sentinel-Times on Monday afternoon, Mr Buckley said the organisation’s intentions are commendable, but the approach was not ideal.
“Signage plays an important role in both road safety and visual impact. The signs were on roadside reserves on VicRoads’ roads, non-compliant and a safety concern for drivers.
“We respect and acknowledge the passion and commitment from this group, and we look forward to working with them to find ways we can effectively and safely spread their important message to slow down and reduce the wildlife road toll.
“The school holidays bring increased traffic to Phillip Island and we often see the impacts of this in the wildlife road toll, such as on Friday night.
“I think we can certainly do more to educate and inform our visitors as well as our residents on how we can lessen this impact.”
The signs were placed alongside popular roadways before the long weekend, including on Phillip Island Road, Ventnor Road, Rhyll
Newhaven Road and Cowes-Rhyll Road.