Covenant to protect threatened species

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ANOTHER piece of the Mornington Peninsula wetland and wildlife habitat in Boneo will be permanently protected after the state government reached a voluntary agreement with the owners to ensure the protection of threatened species.

The land, comprising 5.74 hectares of coastal wetland scrub abutting Tootgarook Swamp, is now protected under a Trust for Nature covenant.

Land owner Rob McNaught, who also owns the neighbouring 320-hectare Boneo Park Equestrian Centre, donated more than 180 hectares of that property in 2013 for similar protection to offset vegetation cleared during the building of Peninsula Link, making it the biggest conservation covenant in greater Melbourne.

He said the addition of another 5.74 hectares on a separate allotment that includes the McNaught family home, was a great way to protect the land “for perpetuity”.

He said it was important to protect the area as there were “a whole lot of people who want to put a freeway through it”.

Trust for Nature is a not-for-profit organisation established under the Victorian Conservation Trust Act 1972 to allow people to contribute to nature conservation by donating land or money.

Cameron Brown of Save the Tootgarook Swamp said the latest protective covenant was a “win-win” for everyone involved in protecting the natural areas of the peninsula. “This is a great example of how land owners can work with the environment.”

Mr McNaught said Trust for Nature was the best level of protection, as it would take an Act of Parliament to remove the protection order.

The adjoining 300-hectare Tootgarook Swamp wetland is home to rare species of flora and fauna, but much of the land is in private hands and supporters have been fighting for decades to protect it from development.

Energy, Environment and Climate Change Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the government was working with Trust for Nature so that important habitats in private ownership could be better protected and rehabilitated through removing barriers and creating incentives for land owners to participate.

The covenant covering the McNaught’s coastal wetland scrub gives protection for the swamp skink and white-bellied sea-eagle.

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 1 November 2016

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