Good news for Tootgarook Swamp

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Keeping watch: A great egret in Tootgarook Swamp, one of 130 bird species recorded in the wetlands.

Keeping watch: A great egret in Tootgarook Swamp, one of 130 bird species recorded in the wetlands.

AFTER years of battling development in Tootgarook Swamp, defenders received good news earlier in the month when Mornington Peninsula Shire released a planning amendment designed to protect the iconic wetlands.

Save Tootgarook Swamp president Cameron Brown said Amendment C188, if approved, would create a new Environmental Significance Overlay (ESO).

“For the first time the wetlands will have a site-specific overlay specifically designed for the needs and issues of the Tootgarook Swamp,” he said.

“The ESO will acknowledge the unique characteristics and values of an area in need of protection and preservation.

“It will provide concise direction for appropriate planning and guide development decisions.”

Save Tootgarook Swamp public officer Jessica Durrant said the group was encouraging all swamp supporters to write a short submission in support of C188’s wetlands provisions.

“The community has fought hard for many years to see the swamp acknowledged for its unique values. It’s great the shire is taking steps to address past wrongs and give the swamp a chance for a future,” she said.

Ms Durrant took time off work and marched around the wetlands for 10 days in early 2013 to raise awareness of the wetlands as well as donations for Friends of Tootgarook Wetland Reserves and Save Tootgarook Swamp. She was joined by supporters, and conducted media interviews during 10-hour days where she covered 21 kilometres a day. She carried her smartphone and tweeted as well as wrote a daily blog “with photos of the beautiful swamp birds” for her supporters. The blog was posted on several websites and Facebook.

“It was worth the effort as the swamp is a lifeboat for flora and fauna with about 130 bird species recorded in the wetlands, 13 reptilian species including nine amphibious frogs, 12 mammals including five kinds of bats, and at least nine endangered plant communities.”

Part of the swamp is public land, but a quarter is privately owned and was zoned for residential and commercial development by the old Shire of Flinders, something unlikely to happen nowadays.

Mr Brown said no doubt the shire would receive submissions “from those who wish to continue the exploitation of our precious wetlands”.

“We’re hoping people write to the shire supporting approval of the item R1184-Tootgarook Wetlands ESO30, which will help protect the unique biodiversity values of Tootgarook Swamp.”

Public submissions must be in by 16 March.

Details: www.mornpen.vic.gov.au/files/f4b52aca-445e-4f8f-914b-a42e00d37de1/C188_Submission_form_Exhibition.pdf

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