In order to protect significant coastal vegetation and cultural heritage in this area from the impacts of rabbits, the construction of a rabbit exclusion fence in conjunction with a rabbit control program and targeted revegetation/restoration is now underway.
This project is a resident-led initiative, with the support of Surf Beach Sunderland Bay Coastcare Group, Bass Coast Shire Council, Bass Coast Landcare Network, Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation and Phillip Island Nature Parks.
The Rabbit Exclusion Fence will protect approximately 3 hectares of coastal vegetation from Surfies Point Carpark to the end of Sunderland Bay Rd steps.
Vegetation removal/pruning will be undertaken (approximately 1 metre in width ) to allow for the construction of the fence, which will incorporate features to allow movement of native wildlife. A revegetation, restoration or remediation program will follow the fence construction.
To assist the natural recovery of native ground flora and restore biodiversity values for the area. To remediate coastal erosion issues on the blow-out including restoring vegetation cover and slowing the erosion processes. This will help protect and safeguard existing infrastructure.
Vegetation removal and fence construction will be undertaken by experienced fencing contractors and be led by Phillip Island Nature Parks.
Any impacts to Aboriginal cultural heritage and vegetation will be avoided by following the conditions of a Cultural Heritage Permit issued by the Bunurong Land Council, and a Native Vegetation Removal Permit issued by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.
This project forms part of a greater initiative being led by Surf Beach Sunderland Bay Coastcare Group to support local communities to reduce the impacts of rabbits.
If you would like further information or would like to discuss the project the Surf Beach Sunderland Bay Coastcare Group together with Bass Coast Landcare Network and Nature Parks will be hosting hosting community drop-in sessions at the Surfies Point car park on Saturday, 16th July 2022 at 10am, Tuesday, 9th August 2022 at 4.45pm, and Saturday, 1st October at 10.00am
In addition to information about the fence, experts will be available to provide advice on how to protect your home from the impacts of rabbits,and how to engage with local Coastcare and Landcare groups to access support.
If you are unable to attend the information session or would like further information on this project please contact one of the following.
Wallaby & echidna access
We want native animals like echidnas and wallabies to be able to move in and out of the fenced area; their browsing keeps the vegetation more open and is beneficial for the ground flora.
Wallabies can adjust their movement patterns to move around the fence. Echidnas are robust animals and capable of adjusting their movement patterns. There are four 'echidna gates' installed along the fence, with two more being added in October. The echidna gates are specially designed for the weight and power of an echidna and are too difficult for a rabbit to push through.
The fence was set several metres off the road to further ensure space for wildlife.
Echidnas have been spotted on camera accessing the ‘echidna gates’ installed along the rabbit exclusion fence at Surf Beach.
Example echidna gate
This project aims to restore natural biodiversity. Please keep your dog on a lead and remain on formal boardwalks to help protect wildlife, vegetation, and conservation areas.
This is the first stage of the trial, and these areas will be monitored to determine animal traffic and project effectiveness. Several cameras have been set up to assist with monitoring the area. There will also be a targeted rabbit control program both inside and outside the area in conjunction with this project.
Revegetation planting has been completed and the growth of natural revegetation will be monitored over the coming months. The fence will remain unpainted and will weather naturally over time.
The overall height of the fence is 1200mm. This includes netting at 950mm and two straining wires at 1050mm and 1150mm. The straining wires are required for structural integrity.
After careful consideration and in response to community feedback, we will be removing the top two wires from Links Street to the Eastern end where the fence terminates. We will not be lowering the fence at any other sections at this stage as we monitor the progress of the project. Fence completion will re-commence in October.
The fence is approximately 600m long.
Rabbit access at openings
Fence completion occurred in October and addressed the openings; reducing access for rabbits.
This is the first stage of the trial, and these areas will be monitored to determine animal traffic and project effectiveness. There will also be a targeted rabbit control program both inside and outside the area in conjunction with this project.
Funding for this project includes contributions from Phillip Island Nature Parks, Bass Coast Landcare, Coast Care grants and Bass Coast Shire Council. The funding of up to $46,000 has been allocated, which includes cultural heritage assessment, vegetation removal, revegetation, and fence construction.
IMPACT FROM RABBITS
Rabbits have been identified as the primary cause in the decline of coastal flora in the Surf Beach Sunderland Bay Coastal Reserve. Heavy grazing by rabbits has severely depleted herbaceous groundcover across this location and other coastal areas on Phillip Island. Without improved protection we may lose this biodiversity which can possibly lead to localised extinction.
Increased protection, Rabbit Exclusion Cages, has shown that coastal ground species can respond and recover when the heavy rabbit grazing pressure is removed.
By establishing The Rabbit Exclusion Fence we can protect and enhance our remnant coastal vegetation by removing the principal threatening process, rabbits.
Intense browsing of Trigger plant rhizomes and other herbaceous species from rabbits
Exclusion sites (established November 2017) have been set up in the Esplanade Slope Zone by the local community, Surf Beach Sunderland Bay Coastcare Group. These coups are covered in wire mesh and are excluding predation from rabbits and wallabies. Long term monitoring of Rabbit Exclusion Cages by Surf Beach Sunderland Bay Coastcare Group (citizen science) and Phillip Island Nature Parks has shown remarkable improvement of the ground flora when severe grazing and digging pressures are removed.
No long-term control or elimination will be successful without rabbit proof fencing. The layout of the site produces an ideal opportunity for rabbit exclusion given that one side is the sea and one side is the road. If rabbits find harbour under houses, then the removal of rabbits on the site once they are fenced out is likely to be effective in their elimination.
This project is a joint initiative that includes the following organisations:
- Bass Coast Landcare Network
- Surf Beach Sunderland Bay Coastcare Group
- Bass Coast Shire Council
- Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation
- Phillip Island Nature Parks
BENEFITS TO NATIVE VEGETATION
Expected benefits to the native vegetation for a rabbit proof fence, is the conservation of approx. 3.2 hectares of significant coastal vegetation and cultural heritage values.
Species Significance: all local flora species on this section of coastline are considered to be significant, due to the depletion of remnant coastal vegetation on Phillip Island.
Species expected to benefit from reduced browsing include:
Grass Trigger Plant Stylidium spp.
Running postman Kennedia prostrata
Twiggy Daisy Bush Olearia ramulosa and a currently undescribed Olearia sp.
Sun Orchid Thelymitra spp
Cranberry Heath Astroloma humifusum
Showy Podolepsis Podolepsis spp
And many more!
Following the fence construction, a plan will be developed to monitor rabbit numbers in the area.
Trigger plants responding to protection from rabbits: Stylidium (left) and Kennedia sp Crimson running postman (right)
RABBIT FREE PHILLIP ISLAND
Rabbit Free Phillip Island is a local initiative driven by local volunteers in collaboration with several organisations and agencies.
Aiming to ‘inspire, engage, educate and facilitate community action’ the Surf Beach Sunderland Bay Coastcare Group together with Phillip Island Landcare has been working together to support the local community to reduce rabbit numbers.
A range of initiatives are currently being undertaken by the group and local community and will support the implementation of the rabbit proof fence plan. These actions include:
• rabbit proofing homes will be a ‘first line of defence’, offering advice and training (warren fumigation and rabbit proof fencing) to home owners, aiming to eliminate the major refuge enjoyed by rabbits.
• promoting citizen science in the form of warren mapping and understanding rabbit abundance and behaviour (use of a warren smoker and recording data using RabbitScan, following training in the application), as a step toward better control within the reserve.
• vegetation monitoring through a combination of vegetation quality mapping, photopoints, citizen science and quadrat data analysis, to help assess the effectiveness of the program.
• weed control and erosion control, seed collection and revegetation.
The Surf Beach Sunderland Bay Coastcare Group has been working with Phillip Island Landcare, as part of the Phillip Island Coastcare Blitz, funded by Coastcare Victoria. The Surf Beach Sunderland Bay Coastcare Group also holds monthly working bees with Phillip Island Nature Parks to restore land eroded by rabbits.
FOR MORE INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT
Gayle Seddon - Coordinator, Surf Beach Sunderland Bay Coastcare Group