IT IS an unfortunate and increasingly deadly fact that the koala breeding season coincides with the busiest times on Mornington Peninsula roads.
Since last August 17 koalas have been killed on peninsula roads – half of those in January – although the number is almost certainly higher as not all such collisions are officially reported.
Campaigns to protect koalas by the Mornington Peninsula Koala Conservation (MPKC) group are credited with reducing the number of road kills, although roadside warning signs were not installed until December, three months later than normal.
“Our campaign is in its third season, and we have seen a significant reduction in koala road kill on roads with our signage,” the group’s president Dirk Jansen said.
“A particular success has been Frankston-Flinders Road between Balnarring and Flinders, where three sets of signs are installed each year and we have only recorded one koala hit by a car in the last three years.”
Before the signs were installed there used to be “at least” three koalas killed there each holiday season.
Jansen said there had been “similar successes on other roads”.
“Seven koalas were hit and killed in January, one was a female with joey which increases the number of lives lost to eight – this is a new record for koala roadkill in a four-week period,” he said.
“The season is not finished, and we can expect more incidents until Easter.”
Despite the success of its sign program, Jansen said the koala group “urgently needs to consider additional methods to reduce the wildlife carnage and risk to drivers on our roads during the holiday season”.
“The numbers of kangaroos and wallabies hit is also very significant during this time, and I believe a more strategic approach is required between all local and state decision makers to reduce roadkill and reduce risk of wildlife accidents for drivers.
“The steady increase in road traffic and continued population growth on the Mornington Peninsula means we will need to work harder to protect what is left of our beautiful wildlife.”
Jansen proposed a meeting between members of the Mornington Peninsula Koala Conservation group, municipal councils (including the City of Casey), VicRoads and the Transport Accident Commission.
“Politicians rarely speak up about road speeds or wildlife so publicity is very important in actioning long term protections for our fast disappearing much loved and iconic local native species,” Mornington Peninsula Shire Cr David Gill said.
Jansen listed “problematic roads” as being Bayview Road, Hastings (no signs, significant truck traffic – two koala deaths: Western Port Highway, Somerville and Tyabb (no signs, three incidents, including two fatalities); Robinsons Road, Langwarrin (two koala deaths despite signs); Balnarring Road (one koala killed despite signs); Cranbourne Road near Kelvin Grove; Peninsula Freeway at Langwarrin, Mount Martha and McCrae (no signs); Mornington Tyabb Road near Olivers Creek Bushland reserve; Forest Drive, Mount Martha and South Beach Road, Somers.
Jansen’s call is being made at the same time that Merricks Beach Association has asked Roads and Road Safety Minister Melissa Horne to “direct the Department of Transport and Planning to review the posted speed limit of the Frankston-Flinders Road between Balnarring and Merricks”.
The association said the speed limit should be reduced from 100kph to 80kph, which would be appropriate following the “collective experience of the poor safety record of this section of road” of its members.
“The advice provided to us is that, in fact, the speed limit in this section of road does not align with the [Victorian Speed Zoning Technical] Guidelines and recommends that 80 kph is the appropriate speed limit given the medium-high risk of crashes,” association president Peter Cash said in a letter to Horne.
“Furthermore, the crash history of this road confirms residents’ observations that the current speed limit is unsafe.”