Group throws shade on light’s enviro credentials

December 16, 2022 BY

Home and away: Get the Lake Lights Right says the Australasian bittern lives at Lake Wendouree. The City of Ballarat says it does not. Photo: FILE

ANTI-Lake Wendouree Lighting project group, Get the Lake Lights Right, has claimed the City of Ballarat failed to seek Federal Government approval for works that are currently underway.

The group said the project, which will eventually see 225 lamp posts installed along Moneghetti Track around Lake Wendouree should have been “referred to the Federal Government under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.”

Chief among the group’s new claims is the municipality failed to undertake “studies into the ecological and entomological impact of the lights” and that “legal protocols” weren’t followed “given the existence of a threatened species at Lake Wendouree.”

The group said the lake is home to the Australasian bittern, listed as ‘vulnerable’ or at risk of extinction in the wild by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

“Quite clearly, the Ballarat council has neglected a key environmental responsibility by failing to alert the Federal minister to the project knowing Lake Wendouree is home to a threatened species,” said Amie Jessop, spokesperson for Get the Lake Lights Right.

“This project needs to stop immediately, clearly the right processes and protocols have not been met.

“The Lake Lighting Group will not stop, but this project should.”

However, municipal director of infrastructure and environment, Bridget Wetherall, dismissed the claims, saying the project didn’t need approval from the Federal Environment Minister under the act.

“Under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, a referral is only required where actions are found to have a ‘significant impact’ on matters of national environment significance, which is not the case in this instance,” she said.

A statement from the City also questioned suggestions the Australasian bittern lived at the lake, with one record of the bird within the Ballarat area in three years according to the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas.

In responding to Ms Jessop’s claims, the statement cited an independent biodiversity impact assessment undertaken on behalf of the City as part of lighting project planning.

“Australian painted snipe, Australasian bittern, eastern curlew and curlew sandpiper are all water bird species which could potentially occur within Lake Wendouree on occasion, but none of these species are regular or resident within the area,” the report said.

“These species are not likely to be impacted by the lighting project.”

Lighting around the lake was an election commitment from both major parties in 2018.

Since then the current State Government set aside $2.5 million for the project, with the works and subsequent funding falling on the municipality at a total cost of $3.17 million.

Get the Lake Lights Right has been strident in their opposition to the project, often creating potential roadblocks to its completion.

A statement from the City of Ballarat said the project was on track for completion in the first half of next year.