An Open Letter to the Minister
The Hon Lily D’Ambrosio
Future of the Holden Proving Ground at Lang Lang
You would be aware that the former Holden Proving Ground (HPG) at Lang Lang, used by General Motors Australia in its vehicle manufacturing program since 1957, is on the market. Apart from the development of vehicle testing infrastructure, the 871-ha site has remained largely undisturbed for decades and now represents the largest tract of remnant riparian coastal forest in the region. The site is currently zoned for farming and with no protective vegetation, landscape or heritage overlays in place, is at risk of development by the future owner.
The Biosphere understands that the Bass Coast Shire Council is keen to discuss options for protecting the site with the State Government, and has called for the introduction of a planning scheme amendment to prevent environmental damage to the land. This is important as much of the site has been identified as an Extractive Industry Interest Area, which the State Government is proposing to protect with new legislation.
We are also aware that the DELWP Gippsland Regional Director has recently written to members of the Save the Holden Bushlands group advising that it will work with Parks Victoria and Bass Coast Shire Council to discuss options and investigate possible acquisition and protection measures. This group, along with members of the local and wider community, is particularly concerned that the site could be opened up for sand mining under the new legislation and the Strategic Extractive Resource Areas Pilot Project.
Between 2012-17, the Western Port Biosphere Reserve Foundation conducted the federally funded Growing Connections project and committed both cash and in-kind support to works throughout the region. This included 132 ha of remnant vegetation protection on the HPG site by the Bass Coast Landcare Network in 2014-15. This resulted in improved habitat links for various marsupial species and endangered fauna such as the endangered Swamp Skink (Lissolepis coventryi). Conservationists believe that the area supports other endangered species including the Southern Brown Bandicoot, the Swift Parrot, the Long-Nosed Potoroo, the White-footed Dunnart plus native grasses and other flora.
The Western Port Catchment Landcare Network has spent many years re-establishing indigenous vegetation on private and public land adjacent to the area and there is ready potential for linking this area with the Gurdies and the Grantville and Lang Lang Nature Conservation Reserves. When considered along with the Healesville Phillip Island Nature Link, there is great potential to provide tourism infrastructure to boost employment and regional economic activity in the area.
A further unique attribute of the HPV site is as a legacy of its recent past. It has significant cultural history as an element of the post-war car industry in Victoria. It is well within the imagination of a quite different demographic to conservationists should the site include a visitor centre to interpret the history of the car industry. Being located as it is en route to the motor sports centre on Phillip Island, this is a highly possible prospect.
The Biosphere has a clear preference for the Government to purchase the site to be held in public ownership and for the biodiversity benefits of its unique vegetation and animal communities to be recognised and preserved. However, the Biosphere understands the commercial realities and the need for local jobs and economic development. If the site is sold and appropriate development occurs, the important vegetation communities should be protected by strict planning controls that recognise and preserve this last example of once extensive West Gippsland and Western Port vegetation.
Chair, Mornington Peninsula and Western Port Biosphere Reserve Foundation