THE wonders of the natural world were the focus at Flinders last week when environmentalist Sir David Attenborough stepped in to bat for Victoria’s marine emblem: the weedy sea dragon.
The legendary eco-warrior joined members of the Flinders Community Association in their quest to save the threatened 180-metre section of the old timber pier whose demolition, the locals fear, will threaten the endangered creature’s survival (“Heritage pier faces partial demolition” The News 23/3/21).
Reportedly more than 15,000 people have signed an online petition urging the state government to repair the Western Port pier’s damaged piles, with the support of a high profile campaigner like Sir David adding clout to their campaign.
He has written to the association saying he is “sorry to hear about the threat to the habitat” of the “most wonderful creature” and that he would be happy to “draw attention to the challenges that threaten its survival”.
Association committee member Ranald Macdonald said Parks Victoria should repair or replace the damaged piles as a matter of urgency.
“When the concrete pier was constructed  there was never any suggestion that the old pier would be demolished,” he said.
“Only 10 piles need fixing and it is the government’s responsibility to fix them.”
Mr Macdonald said Sir David was a “legend”.
He said dredging at The Heads in Port Phillip Bay in 2009 may have presaged the disappearance of weedy sea dragons there. “That’s why it is even more important that we preserve what we have here,” he said.
“The sea dragons are a symbol of Victoria’s maritime diversity.”
The association’s Charles Reiss said last week that members wanted to meet with Parks Victoria to ask what it would take to save and restore the pier, rather than simply demolish the timber section. He said the Flinders community would rise to the occasion to save the pier.
Parks Victoria regional director marine and maritime, Jo Richards, said: “Parks Victoria has commissioned the Flinders Jetty Marine Ecology Survey and Jetty Removal Impact Assessment to examine any impacts the old jetty’s removal will have on marine life and assist in identifying mitigation strategies.
“We know locals and visitors alike treasure the many incredible marine species below Flinders jetty, and we’re committed to working with the local community, council and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.”
Parks Victoria said the assessments would inform the approvals process for the removal, such as planning permission from Mornington Peninsula Shire and Marine and Coastal consent from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.
“We will continue to engage with the local community as we move into the planning phase of this project,” a statement said.