Proposed sale of Sanctuary raises doubts about Wirrimbirra's future

Last-ditch attempt: Wirrimbirra Sanctuary volunteers including Lynn Leighton (pictured at the sanctuary) are uniting to stop the sanctuary being sold to the Wildlife Preservation Society. Picture: Jonathan Ng
Last-ditch attempt: Wirrimbirra Sanctuary volunteers including Lynn Leighton (pictured at the sanctuary) are uniting to stop the sanctuary being sold to the Wildlife Preservation Society. Picture: Jonathan Ng

BARGO'S Wirrimbirra Sanctuary would not lose out if a deal to sell the sanctuary to the Wildlife Preservation Society for $1.3 million was sealed, National Trust chief executive Brian Scarsbrick believes.

The Wirrimbirra Sanctuary in Bargo, which was gifted to the National Trust in 1965 from the David G Stead Memorial Wild Life Research Foundation of Australia, is being sold to the wildlife society because the trust is under financial strain.

In a letter to its members, Mr Scarsbrick said: "The trust has not been able to invest in the facility to a level that would ensure its long term future".

But the Stead Foundation's board is uniting to oppose the sale and say the trust was never meant to financially benefit from the Stead Foundation's gift of Wirrimbirra.

The foundation fears the sanctuary could be sold on, subdivided or leased to another organisation if the sale goes through.

Mr Scarsbrick said the sanctuary could not continue to rely on donations. "We're under financial strain," he said.

"It's a no-brainer . . . it (the sanctuary) is under-capitalised enormously and the facilities need to be upgraded."

He said the sanctuary would be better off in the hands of the Wildlife Preservation Society because it could be brought back to what it was originally intended for.

Mr Scarsbrick said the Wildlife Preservation Society's secretary Patrick Medway had made it clear the sanctuary volunteers would continue to manage the sanctuary.

"They are not going to lose out in my view," he said.

Mr Medway wrote to the sanctuary saying the wildlife society was keen to renew the focus on environmental education and research into wildlife conservation.

But foundation secretary and volunteer Kerry Timms said the trust had betrayed the wishes of Thistle Stead who left the sanctuary to the trust. "They will have total control," she said. "We'll have no control when the Wildlife Preservation Society buys it." The board has accepted the $1.3 million offer in principle but has not yet finalised the deal.

Wollondilly councillor Michael Banasik called on the council to write to the National Trust and Wollondilly MP Jai Rowell, expressing its concern about the sale. He said he wanted to ensure the area continued to be used as a wildlife sanctuary.

"It's a sad day," he said of the sale.

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