ADJOURNMENT DEBATE ON MIDDLE ISLAND MAREMMA PROJECT

My adjournment contribution tonight is directed to the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change. It is actually a good-news story.

In 2017 foxes virtually wiped out Warrnambool’s beloved little penguins on Middle Island, just off the coast of Warrnambool. A recent Warrnambool City Council report has shown that the estimated arriving penguin population will be 63, up from 14 in 2018.

How has this happened? Well, it is not through lethal poisonous fox baits, I am pleased to report. A dedicated group of volunteers comprising the Middle Island project working group, the Warrnambool Coastcare Landcare Network and Deakin University, supported by Warrnambool City Council officers, have achieved this magnificent outcome.

The Middle Island project has celebrated 10 years of the 'Warrnambool method’ for the conservation of the little penguins. They have done so with the help of the incredible maremma dogs, who act as wildlife guardians and ward off the penguins’ predators. The project engages the community and is also a significant tourist attraction which facilitates interaction with these wonderful dogs.

Some may have seen the 2015 film Oddball and the Penguins, based on the story and partly filmed in Warrnambool. Sadly, a beautiful maremma dog was recently lost to a lethal fox bait laid by Parks Victoria in the Killarney beach area. This wonderful project depends on community contribution and city council support, but it is short of funds for the new puppies being trained and managed and for the monitoring of the health of the penguin colony.

The action I seek is for the minister to financially support this safe environmental initiative, which is obviously better than lethal fox bait programs with the consequential non-target species deaths that have occurred, including of maremma dogs.

7 March 2019