Shire of Denmark votes to take bird sanctuary at Prawn Rock Channel to next stage

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The bird sanctuary proposal to protect migratory shorebirds at Prawn Rock Channel will be taken to public notice. Pictured is a sharp-tailed sandpiper.
Camera IconThe bird sanctuary proposal to protect migratory shorebirds at Prawn Rock Channel will be taken to public notice. Pictured is a sharp-tailed sandpiper. Credit: John Anderson

A proposal for a migratory shorebirds sanctuary at Prawn Rock Channel will be put out for public comment after securing unanimous support from the Shire of Denmark council on Tuesday.

The proposed sanctuary aims to protect shorebirds by limiting interactions between birds, dogs and other users and would sit alongside a no-dogs zone and dog exercise area on Wilson Inlet sand flats.

More than 50 species of shorebirds, seabirds and waterbirds have been recorded at Wilson Inlet from the sandbar up to Poddyshot Bay, with three of those species listed as critically endangered and two as endangered.

At a council meeting on May 19, 2021 the council adopted the ocean to channel upgrades concept plan which endorsed the consultation plan for the proposed bird sanctuary.

The officer’s recommendations include a permanent and removable fencing around Prawn Rock Island, a bird observation hide, educational signage and improved access for dog walkers from Ocean Beach lookout in future years.

The sanctuary would prohibit unauthorised members of the public from accessing the protected land and would require them to use the designated paths around the area.

During public question time at Tuesday’s ordinary council meeting, Denmark resident Neil Riddlle shared his concerns about the necessity of the bird sanctuary at Prawn Rock Channel.

“Clearly the Wilson Inlet is a precious and priceless resting and nesting place for thousands and thousands of migratory birds who should be valued and protected at all costs,” he said.

“Prawn Rock Channel, on the other hand, has a couple of birds some years and none in other years.”

Mr Riddlle said the migratory shore birds had other “much better and quieter” nesting places along the south coast.

“I’m afraid I think any time and energy protecting these precious birds could well be spent elsewhere,” he said.

“Let the one third of Denmark residents who are dog owners, especially elderly residents who can’t access other beaches, enjoy being able to use the beach.

“Dog owners are not against a bird sanctuary, we just don’t want it to take up the whole area.”

Cr Nathan Devenport asked whether the council would consider allowing people to walk their dogs on leads on a path around the bird sanctuary.

Deputy chief executive David King said changes to dog access at Prawn Rock Channel and around the bird sanctuary would require the council to amend the dog policy.

“The issue with the dog policy is that if we were to allow dogs on leads around the bird sanctuary we would have to amend the dog policy,” he said.

Any future implications caused by the bird sanctuary can be heard at the dog policy biennial review meeting set to take place before July 2023.

Cr Devenport also questioned whether a physical fence around parts of the sanctuary would be necessary and raised concerns about the impact of extra signage on the visual amenity of the area.

Shire president Ceinwen Gearon also cleared confusion around boat access by clarifying that water vessels would still be allowed to pass through the channel.

The councillors unanimously voted to request the chief executive officer to give notice of its intent to make a determination to develop a bird sanctuary at Prawn Rock Channel by prohibiting the use of land by unauthorised people except for on paths provided for that purpose.

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