Cull cancelled but questions remain
AFTER A HUGE community outcry, the Heritage Golf and Country Club has decided not to proceed with a planned cull of kangaroos on its two courses, instead installing fencing to lock the roos out of the fairways. The Club put out a press release in July announcing that they had listened to community concerns and decided to cancel the “Council approved cull”. Local Councils came out swinging as Heritage Golf Club attempted to implicate them in approval of the now aborted kangaroo cull at the club. In a strongly worded statement, both Yarra Ranges and Nillumbik Councils refute the claim in their press release that the cull was “Council approved”.
Yarra Ranges statement said:“Council wishes to advise it was not involved in any decision to approve the culling of kangaroos at the Heritage Golf and Country Club. The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) not Council, is responsible for managing wildlife in Victoria. Council understands the management of kangaroos is a sensitive topic that is of great concern to our community. We will be contacting Heritage Golf and Country Club to ask them to correct their media release.”
Nillumbik Shire Council also issued a statement to “correct unequivocally for the record, inaccuracies contained in this statement”.
The land owned by the proprietors of the Heritage Golf and Country Club encompasses three separate Local Government Areas — Nillumbik Shire Council, as well as Yarra Ranges and Manningham. Councils, however, do not have the authority to make decisions on the culling of native wildlife. Permission to do so can only be sought and obtained through the appropriate State Government agencies – the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) or the Game Management Authority. A key consideration in this matter is that the area in which the club is situated is a significant protective corridor for native wildlife and any use of the land must therefore take this status into account. Our community places a high value on the protection of native wildlife and the environment in which they live, and Council makes it a priority to act in the community’s interests on this issue. At its Planning and Consultation Committee Meeting on 8 June 2021, Council resolved, unanimously, to express its concern over initial reports of a planned kangaroo cull and subsequently wrote to the club to inform it of this resolution. Council also requested that the club consider alternative (nonlethal) approaches to managing the kangaroo population, should there be an absolute need to control the numbers on its property. In light of recent developments, Nillumbik Shire Council also wishes to express its deep concern at reports from the community — including from animal rescue service Wildlife Victoria — of the killing of kangaroos in the area.”
Heritage’s Press Release went on to say there was a meeting on May 6 where interested parties including Wildlife Victoria, Club management and residents met and discussed plans to cull kangaroos at the Heritage Golf and Country Club property. Club management claim their plans to cull the kangaroos was due to a “tripling of the population in 12 months due to a breeding surge during the drought and the advantages of easy access to a carpet of grass on golfing fairways”.
However, Wildlife Victoria CEO Lisa Palma said a tripling of a kangaroo population in 12 months is “simply biologically impossible and absolutely ludicrous”.
“Female kangaroos commonly have one young annually, with the mortality rate in the wild for joeys typically at 70 per cent in the first year of life,” she said.
New club Managing Director Dr Cher Coad has blamed Parks Victoria for not managing the population in neighbouring Warrandyte State Park.
“If the Victorian State government was doing its job, in terms of managing the land bordering the Heritage Golf and Country Club, then we wouldn’t have this problem,” she said.
She says the lack of golfers during the recent COVID lockdown has provided kangaroos with unlimited access to the Heritage Golf and Country Club and they are reluctant to move, with management raising fears of the bigger male kangaroos becoming aggressive towards people.
“While the risk of this happening is quite small, the responsibility of the HGCC is to club members, visiting golfers, residents and their families and young children,” said Dr Coad.
“We have excessive numbers of kangaroos on our fairways and grounds, and they are powerful and potentially dangerous.
“The last thing we want is for a large grey kangaroo to cause harm to a golfer or children visiting their grandparents,” she said.
Ms Palma said she absolutely refuted the notion that the kangaroo population is dangerous with Wildlife Victoria receiving no reports kangaroo aggression towards people at the site.
“Some of the larger male kangaroos are known by the locals to be peaceful creatures, who enjoy the natural habitat of the local landscape.
“Indeed, the big fellow known as Scar Face is beloved by many in the community,” said Ms Palma.
“In direct contrast to Heritage’s statement, Wildlife Victoria has received an inordinate number of calls from concerned members of the public, residents, golfers and staff who are terribly worried for the safety and wellbeing of the kangaroo population on site.
Dr Coad said while the treatment of kangaroos is fraught with regulatory and ethical difficulties, the Heritage Golf and Country Club recognises the need for golfers and kangaroos to co-exist. Growing evidence leans towards the idea that the kangaroo population must be managed via more humane means. Ms Palma said that since the meeting of May 6, no further discussion had taken place between those parties.
“Instead, we have witnessed the result of stealthy cruel and violent attacks on the kangaroo population night after night at the site — this has been ongoing for months now!”
The recent spate of kangaroo deaths at the Club is currently subject to a multi-agency investigation. Ms Palma said to date, Wildlife Victoria has seen a significant number of cases of kangaroos that have been savaged by dogs, shot, dismembered and driven over by vehicles.
“We have taken many calls and received letters from members of the public who are too afraid to walk on or near the grounds for fear of the dogs turning on the locals,” Ms Palma said. DELWP issued a statement, saying the Conservation Regulator is “continuing its investigation into alleged fatal and harmful dog attacks on kangaroos at Heritage Golf and Country Club in Chirnside Park”. The statement said Victoria Police and local councils are assisting the Conservation Regulator with the investigation and Conservation Regulator Authorised Officers are conducting patrols in the area. Dr Coad said the task to oversee the management and protection of kangaroos lies with the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP). She said the “kangaroos will be relocated back into the Warrandyte State Forrest [sic] and the property will be fenced”. Ms Palma said it is outrageous, unacceptable and illegal for the Heritage Golf and Country Club to relocate the kangaroos without the required authorisation from the Department of Environment Land Water and Planning. Despite this, Ms Palma said Wildlife Victoria remains hopeful that Heritage Management will consult with the group to achieve a positive outcome for the remaining kangaroos on the site.
Anyone with information about the alleged dog attacks or other cases of wildlife crime should contact Crime Stoppers Victoria on 1800 333 000.
The Diary will continue to follow this story over the coming months and hopes to speak further with Club management and Wildlife Victoria in time for the September edition.
(UPDATE) This story was originally in the July Bulletin and has been updated for the August Diary.