Wallaby plan fails to win council approval

A critically endangered wallaby species could still be reintroduced to the Macedon Ranges despite a proposal for an enclosure at Black Hill Reserve failing to win support of the council.

A report recommended that councillors provide in-principle support to Mount Rothwell Biodiversity Interpretation Centre’s plan to build a 1.8-metre fence to protect a population of brush-tailed rock wallabies due to be released at the reserve.

But at their meeting last week, councillors Roger Jukes, John Letchford and John Connor warned of catastrophic scenes when, not if, another blaze tore through the fire-prone reserve and engulfed the small wallabies trapped behind its proposed fence.

Councillors instead accepted Cr Jukes’ amended motion to note the report and, should the community indicate support, encourage Mount Rothwell to investigate other areas.

‘‘We lost four black wallabies just due to farm fencing,’’ Cr Jukes said of a bushfire at the reserve earlier this year. ‘‘When we have another fire … the entire population inside that fence would be lost.’’

While Cr Jennifer Anderson warned an opportunity to protect rare native fauna could go begging, Cr Letchford said there was no evidence that brush-tailed rock wallabies had ever frequented Black Hill.

The report said the species was likely to have existed in the Macedon Ranges prior to European settlement, but the council was told no fossils had been found at Black Hill. The site was identified due to its size, rocky outcrops, water sources and vegetation.

‘‘It’s not a reintroduction project; it’s simply a large enclosure,’’ Cr Letchford said.

He angered Cr Russell Mowatt when he suggested that Hanging Rock was a more suitable location, adding that the shy, timid species might enjoy the music of concerts there.

Cr Mowatt agreed more scientific evidence was needed but said talk of other sites was inappropriate when residents had not been consulted.

Cr Jukes said the time for consultation was now.

‘‘It’s the community’s reserve … let’s go from there.’’

The council also adopted a template for signs at bushland reserves.