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Possums’ habitat in poor health

Conservationists have taken aim at the WA Country Health Service’s handling of the Busselton Health Campus’ revegetation plan and are calling for the habitat behind the building to be restored.

They say the efforts — guided by the Busselton Health Campus Revegetation Management Plan, released in August, 2013 — have fallen flat, with trees dying, no understorey, and minimal habitat for the critically endangered western ringtail possum.

Conservation advocate Lisa Massey, who is qualified in botany and zoology, said the department had “dropped the ball”.

“They planted lots of trees, but the first lot died, then they planted more exactly the same way,” she said.

“They were also meant to create understorey through there … but it just hasn’t happened.”

Possum specialist Uta Wicke said the area was meant to be monitored for 10 years under the plan, and if the survival rate was less than 90 per cent, an infill planting program would be undertaken.

“As we are still in the monitoring time frame and survival is clearly far lower than 90 per cent, I wonder when this infill planting or any other contingency measures agreed upon if survival targets were not achieved will happen,” she said.

The revegetation site was created to replace possum habitat cleared to build the hospital.

Busselton-Dunsborough Environment Centre acting convenor Alison Cassanet said she was “extremely disappointed at the degraded situation at the site”.

“There is little or no understorey and most of the planted peppies have died and not been replaced and maintained as required by the management plan,” she said.

A WACHS spokeswoman said the department continued to work with local agencies, including the Department of Fire and Emergency Services, to protect and restore the area.

Her view of the situation was more optimistic.

“The organisation regularly audits and monitors the area in line with the Western Ringtail Possum (WRP) Management Plan 2013 and is currently considering options to help limit the impact of erosion, wind damage and vandalism,” she said.

“The WA Country Health Service is pleased to report that there are a number of new peppermint trees currently sprouting and that the population of Western Ringtail Possums has increased since the organisation commenced the rejuvenation plan.”

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