In February the potential sale of the Holden Proving Ground galvanized members of the community into action.
From a small nucleus of concerned Bass Coast Shire residents and others, Save the Holden Bushlands group evolved. Currently over 90 groups and individuals support the SHB, led by Tim O’Brien and Catherine Watson.
For months the group and its members have lobbied state and local governments to buy the HPG for the community or to at least put overlays on it to protect its environmental and cultural heritage.
At the livestreamed August Council meeting Cr Geoff Ellis proposed, in partnership with other stakeholders, to take positive actions. These were to protect the Holden Proving Ground site and other distinctive areas of significant environmental value such as the Grantville Grass Tree forest.
Cr Geoff Ellis said: “We listened to the community and state government and want to form a partnership.”
He also welcomed the news that the Victorian National Park Association had received funding to prepare an ecological assessment of the Nyora-Grantville area.
Cr Clare Le Serve said: “It’s a very important issue for future generations and for the integrity of the natural environment.”
Cr Bruce Kent said: “It is rare to have a community group so strongly passionate. We should at least negotiate and at least listen. I hope for a fantastic outcome.”
Cr Julian Brown said: “It’s pretty remarkable the bushland’s survived as it has [despite agriculture, land clearing and growing food]. The vegetation has developed for tens of thousands of years and longer. And the Grantville Grass Tree forest is pretty amazing. Some trees are 400-500 years old––more than 10 times my age in a single tree! We need to protect areas like that. We need people to get out and connect with nature.”
Cr Michael Whelan congratulated Geoff on his efforts saying: “At times it was like herding cats.”
He also congratulated the community and called it [the Save the Bushlands group] ‘a potent group’. He also acknowledged the Bunurong traditional owners and pointed out one had said it was hard to talk to country when you have no land. Cr Whelan added he would like to see the two back blocks of the HPG site put back in the hands of the traditional owners.
Cr Len Larke queried whether or not council should broaden the wording to allow negotiation for more than just the two back blocks. Cr Ellis thought the wording as it was would allow that.
Cr Stephen Fullarton commended the community for its activity. It is strong and should be respected. He also remarked on the stunning photos he had seen of the HPG site.
“It [the site] is incredibly valuable and I look forward to its protection,” he said.
Council passed Cr Ellis’s motion unanimously.
Congrats to the Bass Coast Shire Council for listening to the SHB and for their efforts to protect the environmental values of the Holden Proving Ground and other distinctive areas in the Shire.
Meryl and Hartley Tobin, Grantville.