By Jessica Anstice
A group of enthusiastic community members have come together, formed a committee, and launched a campaign regarding the future of the former Holden Proving Ground site in Lang Lang.
Located off the Bass Highway between Kooweerup and Phillip Island, the 877 hectare parcel of land is currently on the market for more than $20 million, according to a leaked document obtained by realestate.com.
This comes after General Motors pulled the pin on iconic Australian car brand Holden in February.
A committee, called Save the Holden Bushlands, made up of 10 determined Cardinia Shire and Bass Coast residents was established last week.
Save the Holden Bushlands have brainstormed a number of different prospects for the future usage of the site.
Some of the suggestions included a support research centre for wildlife or a breeding ground for animals affected by bushfires, a university campus, a multi-use site for mountain bike riding and bush walking, as well as a ‘wonder’ gateway for a region famous for its natural attraction.
“Should it be purchased by the State Government, what a magnificent gateway to the Bass Coast Region it could be,” committee member Tim O’Brien said.
“It would be good to use the site for the type of things that tourists are interested in doing and happy to spend money on.
“This region is a centre for nature research, and internationally famous for its wildlife tourism.”
The committee’s main focus at the moment is pressing the Bass Coast Shire Council to implement overlays onto the site, in order to preserve the native bushland.
As the site is currently zoned as farmland, Mr O’Brien said it has been left “very unprotected”.
“It is unprotected, and we risk losing it,” he said.
There are three different protective overlays the committee is pushing for: a vegetation overlay, a landscape overlay and a heritage overlay.
“That site is right for all three because so much of the site is covered by preserved bush,” he explained.
“We would like the council to begin the process of putting overlays on the site – it can take up to 12 months.”
The block of land is in fact the largest single stand of coastal forest remaining across the whole of Western Port and is home to a number of endangered animals and plants.
“It is ideal for preservation for the environment and as habitat for the endangered flora and the wildlife which once ranged this region,” he added.
Mr O’Brien said the site is in “grave danger” of being lost to an international buyer or developer, or to sand mining.
As stated in the realestate.com article, the former proving ground was listed for sale via major commercial property firm CBRE.
However, the new Save the Holden Bushlands committee is doing everything it can to put the brakes on buyers considering purchasing the land.
“We know it’s for sale through CBRE, which would suggest they’ve got their eyes on international buyers,” he said.
“If the site was purchased, it would certainly complicate the battle to preserve it as habitat, but it would not stop the battle.
“It doesn’t matter who buys it we will not stop. Hell will freeze over before we stop fighting for this one.”
The committee reached out to Member for Bass, Jordan Crugnale, in hopes that she can convince the State Government to purchase the land.
“We’re hopeful that the Victorian Government might see value in it – this is a site that must come into public ownership,” Mr O’Brien said.
“It is not such a large purchase by the State Government to frighten the treasurer – even under Covid-19 budget challenges.
“We think it is a battle that can be won.”
Ms Crugnale said she has received a number of emails and phone calls from residents across the Bass electorate who want to see the significant land asset preserved and protected.
“I’ve made representations to the relevant ministers on their behalf,” she said.
“The size and existing vegetation on this property present undeniable ecological and biodiversity benefits for our region, and there is also potential opportunities for regional tourism, jobs, economic activity and recreation, trails and walks.
“I am proud to speak on behalf of these fiercely active citizens, applaud the work they are doing, and recognise the role they are playing as stewards for our local environment.”
The committee is urging the local community to get involved and to voice concerns for the future of the land.