Monarto woodlands need protecting, conservationists say

Murray Bridge Councillor Airlie Keen is leading a local charge to preserve remaining habitat in the area.

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There is something special about Monarto's woodlands, local conservationists say – and it urgently needs protecting.

As people have moved into the area and industries have grown, less and less room has been left for native flora and fauna.

The diamond firetail, the malleefowl and the Monarto mintbush are reminders of a wilder world that existed only 150 years ago.

But each time a piece of remnant vegetation was sold off, it contributed to what Harry Seager called a “death by 1000 cuts”.

“What happens in those areas is they take out a quarter-acre here and a little piece there ... eventually it’s destroyed and fragmented down to nothing,” he said.

Keeping larger areas was important for species such as the malleefowl, he said, which were too timid to build nests in exposed areas.

If the remaining woodlands were not protected, such species would become extinct.

“With publicly owned land that has habitat value now, we should be keeping it, not selling it off,” he said.

Of particular interest to the group was a triangle of land north of the Old Princes Highway at the top of Callington Hill.

Murray Bridge Councillor Airlie Keen believed it was at risk of being subdivided because its ownership was split between two state government departments.

It was at her suggestion the council voted last month to write to MPs, asking what would be done to protect the area.

“We need a whole-of-government approach to protecting the last remnants of habitat that remain in our district,” Cr Keen said.

“There seems to be very little left.”

The council’s plans to deal with climate change and environmental degradation would count for little if they were undermined by the state government, she said.

Many of Monarto’s woodlands were supposed to have formed a ring of parkland around Don Dunstan’s proposed satellite city in the 1970s, historian Barry Wilson said.

Some had since been incorporated into Monarto Safari Park, but other areas had remained virtually untouched ever since.

Photos of Garry Duncan, Harry Seager, Airlie Keen, Steve Coombe and Barry Wilson; and a sign at an entrance to the woodlands: Peri Strathearn. Disclosure: Steve Coombe gave the author a copy of his book, Ten Years in LAP Land.