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Romsey residents worried for wildlife

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By Steph McNicol

SPEED limits of up to 100km per hour on rural roads are a concern for a Romsey resident who says Macedon council ‘has failed in its duty of care for wildlife’.

Patrick Francis said Macedon Ranges Shire Council should be lobbying the State Government to change VicRoads regulations which allow drivers to travel at speeds up to 100km per hour on roads surrounded by wildlife.

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Mr Francis’ concern comes after The Free Press published a story last week about council’s submission to a Parliamentary inquiry into the decline of the state’s ecosystem.

“The irony is the ecosystems improvements are being made by many landholders in the shire through programs like Landcare, Land for Wildlife, Melbourne Water riparian restoration etc. Why council did not mention them is surprising,” he said.

“I also sent a submission to the Inquiry into Ecosystem Decline in Victoria and in my opinion council has failed in its duty of care for wildlife by not undertaking vigorous lobbying of the state government to change VicRoads regulations, which allow drivers on minor rural roads and lanes to travel at up to 100km per hour – the same speed as on most of our highways.”

Mr Francis said he had been trying to get the message across to councillors for years, but his concerns were falling on deaf ears.

“In my view the major predator of our medium to large native animals such as kangaroos, wombats, and koalas is vehicles being driven too fast,” he said.

“I have been lobbying council for changes to the speed limit for three years and always hit a brick wall with managers saying vehicle speed limits on rural roads is not their jurisdiction – it’s a VicRoads issue.

“But council, if serious about protecting wildlife from one of the major predators – they should be lobbying for change.”

Council director of assets and operations Shane Walden said council was exercising its duty of care by continuing to discuss with VicRoads for appropriate management of unsealed and minor country roads.

“All drivers have a duty of care for themselves, their passengers and other drivers to drive appropriately for the conditions, including the presence of wildlife,” Mr Walden said.

“The absence of speed signs means there is no perceived invitation for drivers to drive at a posted speed and drivers need to drive appropriately.”

Mr Francis was not alone in his concern, as fellow Romsey resident Robert Collier expressed his worry for the lack of support from council in protecting wildlife.

Mr Collier owns approximately 200 acres, 100 of which is forested land filled with wildlife, including koals, kangaroos, wombats, possums and sugar gliders.

While Mr Collier agreed high speed limits on roads were a major issue, he also felt as if council were deferring the issue onto other government bodies.

“There are foxes and cats on my property killing the wildlife, and every time I go out, there are bones and feathers,” he said.

“I’m not licenced to set out traps. The council want people to look after the flora and fauna, I ask if they’ve got a wildlife officer to help me, and they tell me to get onto another government body.

“They said ‘you could get a private pest controller’, but I’m not talking rats and mice, I mean foxes and cats. They didn’t give me information, or even send an officer out. All I want is advice.”

Macedon Ranges Shire Council director for planning and environment Angela Hughes said managing invasive species was the responsibility of all land managers.

“The Victorian Government provides limited funds for weed and pest animal control which is generally channelled through Landcare or Catchment Management Authorities,” she said.

“In recent years council has delivered a variety of workshops about how to control rabbits, foxes and high threat weed species.”

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