160 community & environment groups across Melbourne have formed a coalition to protect Melbourne's green wedges. We regard maintaining the green wedges for future generations as a yardstick for our generation's commitment to developing a sustainable city in a sustainable world.

NEW GOVERNMENT LAND GRAB TO BENEFIT DEVELOPERS, UNFETTERED URBAN SPRAWL DESTROYING MELBOURNE'S GREEN WEDGES

Author: 
Rosemary West

In the latest assault on Melbourne’s green wedges, Planning Minister Matthew Guy plans to take another 6000 ha from the green wedges to give Melbourne more urban sprawl and to concrete over more fertile farmland and environmentally significant wetlands, grasslands and woodlands. This is subject to a vote in Parliament which will bring huge unearned windfall profits to landholders, developers and their lobbyists, including Liberal party donors and fund-raisers: an estimated $500 million for one 103 ha property (see media coverage: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/political-news/liberal-donors-win-big-f... Coalition policy is for another UGB review is due in two years, about the time of the next election.

This latest Green Wedge land grab will create continuing uncertainty around the Urban Growth Boundary by proposing 14 areas to be excised from the green wedges for urban growth and recommending a further 16 areas for “possible future review.” This signals that Melbourne will go on sprawling for as long as the Coalition Government stays in office. A further 20 green wedge areas were ruled out for urban development. This latest green wedge land grab is particularly deplorable as it is not based on any demonstrated need for more development land. The Growth Areas Authority recently estimated that the Growth Corridor Plans (for the 43,600 ha of land rezoned in 2010) would provide 20 to 50 years’ land supply for the continued urban sprawl which most of us don’t want. Every representative survey conducted, from Manningham’s in 2002 to Kingston’s in 2011, finds overwhelming majorities want green wedges protected for environmental conservation, agriculture, parklands, landscape value and recreation. It appears to breach federal requirements that environmental strategies to protect endangered species including Southern Brown Bandicoot, Growling Grass Frog and Golden Sun Moth must be finalised first and that urban development plans must work around them. None of these environmental strategies have been finalised and the SBB strategy has been postponed for six months. Meanwhile land that spans a proposed bandicoot habitat corridor in Casey has been approved for excision from the green wedge. See VNPA media release. We are calling on Matthew Guy to listen to communities, abandon plans for illogical incursions and return to policies to protect the green wedges. This may disappoint the developers and property consultants, but will please everyone else.

HOW TO VOTE TO SAVE GREEN WEDGES IN THE STATE OF UNCERTAINTY

At our recent electoral forum on planning policies for Green Wedges, the ALP and Greens Planning Spokespersons Brian Tee and Greg Barber both provided strong commitments to protect Melbourne’s Green Wedges by opposing any further expansion of the Urban Growth Boundary(UGB).  The Planning Minister Matthew Guy has matched that commitment, though he declined our invitation to address our forum (which we combined with the AGM), after initially agreeing to attend. 

This marks a big improvement on the 2010 election, when Green Wedge supporters were reeling from the rezoning of 43,000 ha of Green Wedge land for urban growth in 2010 and bracing ourselves for a new round of rezonings in the Coalition Government’s election policy  This led to another 6000 ha of excisions from the Green Wedges, including some owned by Liberal Party donors and to a review of the rural zones which allowed a number of urban uses including schools and hotels into the Green Wedges. We support the protection of agriculture but making agriculture as-of-right and undermining the Native Vegetation controls will mean more clearing of which we won’t even be notified. Mr Tee says a Labor Government would again review the zones with a view to tightening controls on urban uses in the Green Wedges. 

We are now back to bipartisan support for Green Wedges, for the first time since 2008. An important milestone:  we hope the losses of the past five years have been stemmed.

The Green Wedges are however, still under threat, though we have been quieter than in the turbulent days of the "logical inclusions", "anomalies" and the rural zones review.  The threats this year are not as direct as they were before the 2010 election, but still there.

The main threat now is uncertainty.  Plan Melbourne provides for a permanent urban boundary, but the Metropolitan Planning Authority is responsible for implementation, with input from Councils. Minister Guy says this does not herald a new round of rezoning bids and we certainly hope he is right.

 

Apart from this, the main threats to the Green Wedges now consist of:

* A weakened Rural Conservation Zone as a result of the Rural Zones Review 

*  Decisions by Kingston Council to rezone or pave the way for subdivision of their Green Wedge land that could inspire developers and their friends in other Councils to do the same, unless the Minister promptly and firmly says no.  He has said he would fix these issues but has not done so. (see Defenders of the S-E Green Wedge bulletin (below)).

 

These comments may be attributed to Rosemary West, joint coordinator of the Green Wedges Coalition, 0418 554 799; For comment,  call Kahn Franke, President, GWC (Nillumbik) 0456 701 663 or for Kingston issues, Barry Ross, secretary, Defenders of the South East Green Wedge,9598 6266.

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