WHILE Mornington Peninsula Shire might make box office money from allowing The Briars wildlife sanctuary to be used as a stage and backdrop for a Harry Potter show, it may cost councillors at the ballot box in October.
With the Potter shows running from April to July, opponents of the shows are out for revenge and vowing to make sure the nightly shows remain fresh in voters’ memories.
The Mornington Peninsula branch of The Greens is organising for protesters to attend the council’s Tuesday 6 February public meeting at Rosebud.
The Greens also wants more information on the deal, reminding councillors of their recent and repeated commitments to “transparency”.
It is understood some councillors have been scrambling to find a way out of the contract but are hampered by fear of costly legal action.
“Due to confidentiality obligations, we are unable to discuss the financial aspects of this event at this time,” the mayor Cr Simon Brooks told The News.
Without disclosing any details of the financial deal, the shire has stated that it is “excited to have partnered with Warner Bros. Discovery Global Themed Entertainment, Fever and IMG to present Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience”. The shire’s website appears to be part of a marketing plan, providing online links to ticket sellers.
The shire’s Lobbying Policy, in part, states that its purpose is “to promote trust in the integrity of council processes and to ensure that lobbying is fair and does not undermine public confidence in impartial, open and transparent decision making”.
“The transparency of council decisions, actions and information is to be ensured.”
The shire’s claims that “the footprint of the event is roughly one per cent of the total Briars area and seven per cent of the sanctuary” may also be misleading. While the measurements might encompass the tracks to be trodden by the “audience”, no mention is made of the distance that the sounds and lights of the show will travel.
“The event will unlock significant lasting benefits, both for The Briars and the Mornington Peninsula more broadly,” the shire states on its website.
It estimates “economic benefits to the broader region … in the order of $25 – $35 million”.
“We care deeply about the peninsula’s wildlife and are committed to its welfare. That’s why we created a wildlife sanctuary at The Briars. We are confident measures we are putting in place will minimise any impact the event may have on wildlife.”
A Deakin University-based research team believes the Potter show’s lights and artificial noises “has considerable potential to cause significant impacts on powerful owls (Ninox strenua) and other wildlife”.
The team’s two years of research has found a pair of endangered powerful owls “call The Briars home” and that they are “completely reliant on habitat within The Briars park”.
“This particular territorial pair also happen to have successfully used an artificial nest box to breed the last couple of breeding seasons, which is an extremely rare circumstance”.
The powerful owls’ breeding season coincides with the Potter season and the research team says the use of a nesting box by the owls at The Briars “suggests that this pair are already under great stress from reduced critical habitat options and their use of a nest box must be treated with extra sensitivity considerations”.