Harry Potter event booted out of Aussie park

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A controversial Harry Potter themed lightscape experience will be relocated, following a decision by a council to re-evaluate its sensitive location.

Organisers faced global backlash and threats of a boycott for planning the Forbidden Forest Experience inside a wildlife sanctuary at the Briars on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria.

Following community pressure, Mornington Peninsula Shire today voted to relocate the experience from the fenced wildlife sanctuary to another area of the Briars.

More than 200 people tuned in to watch the special council meeting, which had only the Harry Potter Experience on its agenda. The motion to relocate to the community forest in the Briars was passed unanimously.

Council officers said the new location had species primarily listed as common and widespread, and that the risk to wildlife would be “greatly reduced”.

Mornington Peninsula Shire council CEO John Baker said the decision to relocate the experience was because of community advocacy.

“Community pressure has absolutely been a factor,” he said at the meeting.

Save Briars Sanctuary — a community group grown out of opposition to the event’s original location — spokeswoman Louise Page said it was “relieved”.

“The decision to relocate Harry Potter is a significant achievement and we are relieved that the wildlife will now be safe,” she said. “However, the seeming lack of scrutiny when approving the largest event in the history of the Mornington Peninsula is alarming.

“Especially when the location is a special and precious ecosystem. Our wildlife should never be put at risk for profit.”

The event was a hot topic at the council’s February 6 ordinary meeting at Rosebud, with over 150 Briars supporters in the public gallery.

Councillors unanimously agreed to make the minutes of the decision “non-confidential” meaning all or parts of a report used by councillors to make their vote would now be made public, pending a legal review.

Mr Baker said there were 46 questions from the public and only three or four were not about the event.

The concerns were about wildlife, carers, the Briars Sanctuary, the decision by council, contract requirements, relocation, community consultation, traditional owners and access to the ecology report — which Mr Baker said had been released onto their website that afternoon.

The due diligence fauna assessment said the lightscape experience would impact the fauna present at “varying degrees”.

It said that the historical lack of human activity at the site meant it could be assumed the animals would be impacted at a “higher level”.

“It should be noted that the sanctuary is currently exposed to minimal light, sound and overall human activity at night and therefore it can be assumed that the local fauna within the sanctuary may be impacted at a higher level due to the lack of anthropogenic stimuli that they have been exposed to previously during the night,” the report reads.

It said fauna present will be impacted by the lightscape but “to what degree and

severity is difficult to determine without a further understanding of the Lightscape design and

detailed assessment of the proposed route”.

Council today said the ecological due diligence report for the new location would be released “very shortly”.

Councillor David Gill said the local environment was under “pressure” from decisions at all levels of government including council, state and federal.

“We are at risk of losing our wildlife,” he told the meeting. “The viability of the wildlife on our peninsula is diminishing.

“I hope the community keeps putting pressure on council and governments.

“This is one part of a lot of small issues that mean in the end we lose what we love about the

Mornington Peninsula,” Cr Gill said.

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