By Mitchell Clarke
The closure of Mount Cannibal Flora and Fauna Reserve amid the threat of Covid-19 hasn’t been enough to deter some people from breaking through clearly marked ‘closed’ gates.
The popular attraction – which was closed by Cardinia Shire Council from Friday 3 July – was again busy over the weekend, according to onlookers.
One local resident, who wishes to remain anonymous, said she was forced to call the police after witnessing “people everywhere” on Sunday 5 July.
“There needs to be signs stating there will be fines as it only says it’s closed due to social distancing,” she said.
“The message isn’t getting through … why am I not surprised.
“We don’t know where these people are coming from … that’s the scary part. We were a hotspot too, and so this should’ve been automatically closed.”
The popular trail first closed at the beginning of April before it reopened, only to close again for carpark works in mid-June.
During both closures, the resident claims she witnessed people flouting the rules by breaking into the reserve.
“People were doing this when it first closed and I’m sure people will continue to break in,” she said.
“You’re still going to have the ignorant people and I think they should get the $1600 fine because they’re just being selfish… outright selfish.”
Cardinia Shire Council’s pandemic and emergency response team spokesperson Kristen Jackson said it was “unfortunate” to have to close a much-loved outdoor location.
“With the health and safety of our community front of mind, we have made the difficult decision to close the site to discourage breaches and support government Covid-19 restrictions,” Ms Jackson said.
“We remind our community, even when exercising outdoors, to follow the public health guidelines outlined by the DHHS.”
The mountain – which is believed to have been advertised through the popular social media platform, TikTok – has seen a huge increase in visitor numbers over the past few months.
The Friends of Mount Cannibal group said the reserve was not beyond the reach of the Covid crisis.
“Due to limited space and increasing popularity with visitors, the reserve is simply unable to accommodate safe social distancing, therefore Cardinia Shire Council has made the difficult decision to put safety first and help stamp out this easily communicable virus,” the group said in a statement.
Mount Cannibal will remain closed until further notice and no access by car or foot is allowed into the park.