A FORMER Eltham man fears the owner of a property he once owned has cleared vegetation that provides habitat for a rare species of butterfly.
Winton McColl said the owner of the property in Lavender Park Rd removed remnant sweet bursaria before putting a subdivision of the block up for sale last month.
The plant is the habitat for the Eltham copper butterfly, which is listed as threatened in Victoria and considered vulnerable. Mr McColl said he visited the block in November and was upset to see the native plant had been removed.
“The bottom of the paddock has been extensively cleared,” he said. “Most of the melaleuca and sweet bursaria had been cleared out.
“It’s very distressing to see.”
Nillumbik Council spokeswoman Megan Harris last week confirmed the council began investigating the matter on December 21.
Ms Harris said the owner faced a $597 fine if found guilty of removing native vegetation, though penalties could include a mixture of fines, prosecution and rectification.
Mr McColl, who owned the property from 1983 to 2009, said council had advised him the 0.41ha block was too small to build on.
The property has since been subdivided with a portion of the land up for sale.
Friends of Nillumbik chairwoman Colleen Hackett said the “for sale” signage out in the front of the block neglected to include the line “Subject to council approval” if the land was too small for development.
The Department of Sustainability and Environment website described the sweet bursaria as “key to the butterflies’ survival”.
The Eltham copper butterfly was discovered in Eltham in 1938 and after 1956 it was thought to be extinct until a population was found again in 1986.
The owner of the property could not be contacted for comment.