Rotamah Observatory in the News

To: birds <>
Subject: Rotamah Observatory in the News
From: Laurie & Leanne Knight <>
Date: Wed, 28 Nov 2001 18:59:02 +1000
Since the Victorian members of this list haven't seen fit to post this
item from Monday's age, here it is for those of you with an interest in
the fate of the Rotamah Observatory ...
Bottom-line concerns shroud haven for birds and watchers

Monday 26 November 2001

Paradise is only a six-kilometre boat ride from Paynesville. Rotamah
Island, tucked behind the dunes of Ninety Mile Beach, is an unspoilt
haven for wildlife and humans. But not even this slice of heaven on
Earth is immune from the bottom line.
Rotamah, a former farm owned by Parks Victoria and leased to Birds
Australia as an observatory, is in danger of falling victim to a
bureaucratic cost squeeze. Parks Victoria wants to raise the rent 500per
cent while Birds Australia is looking for budget cuts. Caught in the
middle is the local committee of management, which fears Rotamah will be
left to the birds.
Committee secretary Keith Murray said the community had looked after the
island on behalf of Birds Australia and Parks Victoria for 20 years.
With income from visitors staying in the historic 1904 homestead, the
committee cares for the buildings and employs two wardens who run
education programs and fend off threats such as fire, pets and
The island is a popular destination for school camps, scientists, nature
lovers and the city weary. About 220 bird species have been recorded and
50,000 bird surveys conducted. 
Mr Murray said Rotamah had been self-sufficient, but rising costs and a
couple of one-off expenses in the past three years had put it $38,000 in
the red. The 20-year lease is due and Parks Victoria has proposed
raising the rent from $100 to $5000 a year. 

Birds Australia's chief executive officer Jim Downey said Rotamah would
be let go for financial reasons. He said the island needed upgrading and
marketing, but Birds Australia did not have the funds, given its other
priorities such as endangered bird recovery programs.
"I have no argument with the management committee that Rotamah fulfils a
very good function," he said. "It is highly educational and we would
like to keep it going but we can't ... Unless a sponsor or a donor comes
forward, we don't have the capital to upgrade the facilities as needed."
A spokesman for Environment and Conservation Minister Sherryl Garbutt
said there was a safety issue with asbestos in the homestead, which he
said had to be demolished or fixed. Parks Victoria was talking to Birds
Australia about what had to be done and who would pay for it. If Birds
Australia walked away, Parks Victoria would take over Rotamah's
Mr Murray believed Parks Victoria would use the asbestos as an excuse to
demolish the buildings when only a few walls were made of the safely
inert sheets found in many houses.
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