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Posted on 23/04/2019 by Phillip Island Nature Parks

The Phillip Island Nature Parks Board met on Thursday 29 March to discuss a range of important issues and opportunities and the highlights of this meeting are outlined below.

Board meeting On Country
As part of our commitment to recognition of and reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, the Board enjoyed their second meeting outdoors on Country. The gathering was held at Swan Lake with invited guests from the Nature Parks Reconciliation Advisory Committee and Uncle Shane Clarke from the Bunurong Land Council. Uncle Shane gave a moving Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony and shared his feelings about his connection to Country with the Board. The group then walked to Swan Lake where Fiona Newson from the Land Council highlighted the shell middens around the boardwalks which are recognised cultural sites. Nature Parks’ Conservation Manager, Jessica McKelson, spoke of recent Cultural Heritage Training for her team to ensure we are compliant with the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 and Aboriginal Heritage Regulations 2018. The Board thanked the Committee for the achievements for reconciliation over the past year including the new Reconciliation Action Plan 2019-2022 and a Memorandum of Understanding with the Bunurong Land Council, both of which will be officially launched during National Reconciliation Week in May.

Penguin Research Update
The Board received an update from veteran penguin researcher Dr Peter Dann about developing new research programs to address emerging threats to the Little penguin colony. This is part of the Board’s ongoing role in reviewing organisational risks. Dr Dann noted that key threats to the penguin colony are found both on land and at sea and that risks on land are well managed notably the eradication of foxes. Research focus is now largely on potential marine threats such as predation by New Zealand Long-nosed fur seals and levels of organic pollutants in the oceans.

Community Open Day launch of 30-Year Conservation Vision
The Board was delighted to acknowledge the success of the Nature Parks’ annual Community Open Day. Over 2,000 local community members attended throughout the day to enjoy free entry to the Nature Parks’ attractions and activities with rangers, researchers and volunteers. Feedback about the day was very positive with the event receiving strong support on social media. The Board congratulated the team on the launch of the 30 Year Conservation Vision - Beyond the Horizon as part of the day’s activities. This document marks a conservation milestone for the Nature Parks and the Board thanked the Nature Parks team, community members and stakeholder groups for their ongoing support in its development.

New Penguin Parade visitor centre progresses
The Board received an update on the Penguin Parade Visitor Centre Development project. Significant progress in being made daily with the building expected to be complete in late July. With the structure almost complete, works are now focussing on landscaping to create an additional 6.5 hectares of penguin habitat along with the building fitout including interpretive displays. A Welcome to Country sculpture to be located at the front of the centre has been commissioned by Aboriginal artist, Adam Magennis. As works progress over the coming months, the team is looking forward to relocating to new offices located in Cowes which are currently being fitted out by a local contractor.

Penguin Parade boardwalk project
The Board received an update on the project to develop a penguin viewing boardwalk experience to complement the new Penguin Parade visitor centre. To date the project has involved workshops with managers and key stakeholders to consider all factors for the design including market research, Aboriginal cultural heritage, vegetation, wildlife, visitor flow and predicted changes in the coastal landscape – all with a focus on providing an improved visitor experience. The Board learnt that the consultants will be presenting a final concept design for consideration over the coming months.