The local community is being encouraged to submit feedback on a draft management plan for Belfast Coastal Reserve, before submissions close on Friday 16 March.

Following a series of well-attended Open House sessions this month, Parks Victoria and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning are now encouraging people to formally submit their views on the 15-year plan.

Regional Manager Community and Partnership Programs, Jason Borg said, “At both formal and informal public sessions through January and February, we’ve heard lots of feedback and provided lots of information about the proposals to protect and manage the Belfast Coastal Reserve.

“The range of views from individuals, neighbours, Traditional Owners, community groups and local businesses underscore the importance of the reserve, and the need for a balanced plan to manage its future.

“We’d like to thank those people and groups that attended for coming along and sharing their views,” Mr Borg said.

The draft plan proposes the establishment of two zones within the reserve to strike a balance between protecting its unique cultural and environmental values, while also providing for recreation and enjoyment.

A ‘Conservation & Recreation Zone’ is proposed for each end of the reserve to allow for a wide range of recreational activities, including dog-walking and licensed horse activity. At the same time, a ‘Conservation Zone’, covering a central part of the reserve, would protect Aboriginal cultural heritage sites, flora and fauna – such as threatened shorebirds – from the impact of dogs and horses.

There would be uninterrupted access for people swimming, fishing, boating, picnicking or simply walking the long sandy beaches of the spectacular coastline.

The draft plan was developed during 2017 after initial consultations with community, stakeholders and traditional owners. Following its release on 17 January, it has been discussed at three informal Listening Post events and three Open House sessions in Warrnambool, Port Fairy, Koroit and Killarney.

People with an interest in the future protection and public use of the Belfast Coastal Reserve are now encouraged to make a submission on the draft plan before 16 March. Submissions can be made online at engage.vic.gov.au/belfast

“With just over two weeks until submissions close, I encourage anyone interested in the future of the reserve to read the draft plan – or the summary brochure – and make a submission before 16 March,” Mr Borg said.

A final management plan, which will take into account all feedback from community and stakeholders, will be submitted to the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change in mid-2018.

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