Coomoora Nature Reserve facing imminent threat of destruction
As the threat posed by the VicRoads Dingley Arterial Project to the Coomoora Woodland Flora & Fauna Reserve looms large and ever closer, Keysborough residents and concerned citizens have formed a coalition to protect the local community, environmental and cultural heritage values of the affected area.
The VicRoads Dingley Arterial Project involves the construction of a four-lane, 3.5km dual-carriage extension of the existing Westall Road extension, from Springvale Road to the Dandenong Bypass.
The Dingley Bypass extension will run directly through the Coomoora Woodland Flora and Fauna Reserve, destroying a Habitat Zone of “Very High” conservation value, at least one registered Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Place (scarred tree), one third of all native trees with “High” conservation value, and endangering many threatened species of flora and fauna of local and potential national and state significance.
As spokesperson, Damon Anderson, said, “Coomoora nature reserve is a natural oasis and tranquil retreat in a rapidly developing area. It’s used by local school groups for educational purposes and by local residents and bushwalkers for recreation. It’s one of only five nature reserves in the City of Greater Dandenong, the only one in Keysborough, and one of the few remaining green spaces in the south-eastern metropolitan region. We cannot allow this valuable community asset to be bulldozed for more cars and trucks“.
VicRoads reportedly plans to sign contracts before Christmas for construction work to commence in 2010.
As Damon Anderson said, “VicRoads is pushing the Dingley Bypass through with undue haste and inadequate consultation with the local community and the wider public. Local residents were only informed about the actual route of the bypass through the nature reserve in early July.”
Damon Anderson attended the first VicRoads Information Session about the Dingley Bypass in August to express his concerns. He said “VicRoads officers presented the bypass as a fait accompli, and said that public land had been set aside for it 40 years ago. But people’s attitudes and priorities have changed since then. Forty years ago we used leaded petrol and building roads symbolised progress. But not anymore! We cannot look to the past any longer, we have to look to the future, and the future is what we leave behind for our children. Let’s ask them if they want a nature reserve or another road.”
A more creative and far-sighted approach to planning is needed, said Damon. “There are viable alternatives. The bypass could run from Westall Road onto a widened Springvale Road, with a left-hand slip lane into Cheltenham Road from Springvale Road. This is a much cheaper and equally effective option. It would also mean we could create an integrated environmental and cultural heritage park, incorporating Coomoora nature reserve and the Aboriginal heritage sites. It would be a real magnet bringing tourists and bushwalkers to the Greater Dandenong region, with far more long-term economic value than yet another bypass.”
For now, the Save Coomoora Reserve Coalition is asking VicRoads to suspend negotiation of contracts and finalisation of plans for the Dingley Bypass to allow time for a comprehensive Environmental Effects Statement (EES) and Complex Cultural Heritage Assessment of the affected area, as recommended by a VicRoads commissioned study. Damon Anderson said that “VicRoads and government must also consult in good faith with the local community and wider public, and they must be prepared to consider alternative options, including re-routing of the bypass away from the Coomoora Reserve and the creation of an integrated park. In short, we’re calling on VicRoads and the State Government to put community and our children’s future before cars, and to protect the interests of residents and their nature reserve before roads.”
The Save Coomoora Reserve Coalition encourages residents to attend the VicRoads Information Session next Tuesday 6 October at Springers Leisure Centre, 400 Cheltenham Road, Keysborough from 5.30 to 7.30pm. A “Walk through Coomoora” event is also being planned soon for people to come and see what is under threat. Damon Anderson said “unless we make our voices heard and take urgent steps to protect our valuable nature reserve and cultural heritage, it will be lost forever.”
For media inquiries, please contact:
Damon Anderson on 0425 784 983 or firstname.lastname@example.org