Posted 13/7/09 



Environment Victoria












Map of Melbourne's native vegetation (pink hashed areas are the expanded urban growth boundary)


expansion of melbourne ugb map showing new ugb areas


This e-bulletin informs concerned groups and individuals about State Government's draft proposals for expanding the urban growth boundary and new freeways, and the threat posed to Melbourne's natural environment.  It follows on from a meeting of green wedge and city-based environment groups held in January this year where we discussed the need to protect green wedges and promote a vision for a conservation reserve network around the edge of Melbourne.


Take action


If you haven't done so already, if possible it is very worthwhile to make a submission (however brief) to the draft urban growth boundary - submissions due this coming Friday, 17 July (see details below). 


We also need many letters / emails to the Federal Environment Minister and State Planning Minister requesting adequate ecological assessment and community consultation about the UGB proposals, and calling for sustainable alternatives to the Frankston bypass (see below for details). 


This Tuesday (tomorrow) a protest rally will be held outside a luncheon of the Planning Minister and developers (11.30 am at southeast corner of Williams and Collins St, in the City - see attached notice).


State-of-play and impacts of UGB expansion and new freeways


State Government has released draft plans for expanding the urban growth boundary, and constructing an Outer Metropolitan Ring freeway, which follow on from the Melbourne@5million announcement made in December last year. The plans require strategic assessment and approval by the Federal Environment Minister, under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.  State Government is also poised to commence construction of the environmentally destructive Frankston bypass - yet this also has still to obtain Federal EPBC approval.
Environment groups including the Green Wedges Coalition are expressing their concern about the loss of green wedge landscapes close to Melbourne, and that State Government has effectively abandoned Melbourne 2030 principles of a more consolidated, sustainable city. (The UGB expansion is not needed for new affordable housing.) Proposals for substantial new grassland reserves on the Melton and Werribee plains are welcome and will be of national significance, however highly significant, irreplaceable remnants of endangered grasslands and grassy woodlands, and habitat of endangered species occur inside the expanded UGB.  It is of great concern, the new grassland parks will be funded by clearing offsets, at the expense of about 6900 ha of endangered Plains Grasslands, and 900 ha of Plains Grassy Woodland, including high conservation value sites. The plans could also set a worrying precedent of environmental trade-offs instead of implementing the avoid and minimise principles of the Native Vegetation Framework.  


Visionary urban-fringe conservation network for Melbourne


Notwithstanding the above concerns, the proposed UGB expansion and new freeways put the spot light on the unique and diverse habitats and endangered species that we have on Melbourne's doorstep.  We still have the opportunity to establish a visionary conservation network at Melbourne's urban fringe and in the adjacent green wedges.  If sufficient people express their concern we still can turn around unsustainable plans for business-as-usual urban sprawl to achieve smart, more compact urban planning which incorporates nature on our doorstep.  Other processes occurring this year, including the development of Green Wedge Management Plans and the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council investigation into Melbourne's crown land also provide opportunities in this regard.


Environment group campaign response


The Victorian National Parks Association and green wedge environment groups are arguing for an effective urban fringe conservation network to both State and Federal Governments, highlighting important grasslands and other habitats which are under threat (see VNPA's website)   VNPA is calling for flora and fauna surveys of the urban investigation areas this spring before any decision is made, and for additional community consultation. 


The Green Wedges Coalition, together with other Melbourne community organisations and some green wedge landholders  (Taxed Out Inc.) are campaigning against the urban growth boundary expansion.  (State Opposition Parties have moved for an Upper House Select Committee enquiry into the UGB expansion proposals.)  Frankston environment groups and "The Connies" are campaigning for sustainable alternatives to the Frankston bypass, whilst Environment Victoria is advocating for sustainable transport solutions Melbourne-wide.

Further information


See below for an outline of:


At the end of the e-bulletin is a guide for making submissions to the draft urban growth boundary and EPBC strategic assessment reports, and for writing to the Federal Environment Minister and State Planning Minister.


Attached to this e-bulletin are:

Apologies for the lateness of this e-bulletin, and for any cross postings




Andrew Booth
(native vegetation volunteer, Env Vic, VNPA and other groups)






Proposals for unsustainable urban sprawl

State Government is proposing a massive expansion of the urban growth boundary between Werribee, Caroline Springs and Melton, and extending across much of the Upper Merri creek catchment in the north.  The UGB is also proposed to be expanded around Sunbury and Epping North, and eastwards from Cranbourne into the fertile farmlands of the former Kooweerup Swamp.  Environment groups are concerned that higher quality habitats close to Melbourne will be cleared, and which have their own unique values which cannot be traded-off for grassland parks further out in the green wedge - we need both.  Examples of sites under threat include rare diverse Kangaroo Grass grasslands in the Caroline Springs - Mt Cotterell area, DSE Biosites of state and national significance - Camoola Swamp and Bald Hill grasslands - in the Upper Merri catchment, and a rail reserve with endangered Plains Grassy Woodland and Southern Brown Bandicoot in the southeast . The fascinating if scruffy volcanic plains landscape beyond the industrial back-blocks of the west, and north of Craigieburn and Epping, will be covered by sprawling new residential and industrial estates.  Under threat is a network of grassland, grassy woodland and wetland habitats, with important linkages along waterways and dry stone walls.  In Melbourne's southeast valuable market gardens and some habitat links for endangered Southern Brown Bandicoot will be lost under new housing estates.   The assessment of the ecological impacts of the UGB expansion has been very inadequate to date - we won't know many of the impacts until it's too late.


As featured in The Age and on ABC Stateline, the proposed UGB expansion not only removes high conservation value green wedge land and habitats, but it also undermines Melbourne 2030 and sustainable, consolidated urban development.  Currently Melbourne is one of the most sprawling cities in the world, and the UGB expansion is likely to continue the trend of car-dependency and high greenhouse emissions.  It risks creating disadvantaged outer-suburbs remote from services and jobs. Even if Melbourne's population does increase to 5 million by 2030 (which is questionable), existing growth corridors have 19 years of land supply if Government implements its own low lot density target (15 lots / ha gross), and 25 years of land supply with 20 lots /ha (which is modest even compared with some US cities) .  Well planned infill development along train lines and near activity centres is a much cheaper and more sustainable way to provide most new dwellings instead of outer-urban sprawl.

New grassland parks and proposed "non-urban" areas

State Government is proposing substantial new grassland parks, about 13 000 ha across the Werribee Plains and about 2000 ha about Mt Cotterell.  These will protect the largest contiguous remnants of Plains Grassland which have survived on the volcanic plains.  They can provide large viable areas of grassland habitat for species such as Striped Legless Lizard and Plains Wanderer (and possibly Earless Dragon), and they support small areas of species rich grassland, lignum swamps and other rare habitats.  However much of the proposed park area is degraded and species poor, and will be a substantial exercise in grassland restoration.  The arrangements for securing and managing the new grassland parks have not yet been worked out, however it is intended that they will be publicly acquired over a long 10 year time period using offsets from clearing inside the expanded UGB.  As such there is a risk that the parks may not fully eventuate, especially through subsequent changes in Government. 


Inside the expanded UGB some substantial "non-urban" areas are proposed, typically 1 - 5 km across, which will include a small proportion of affected native vegetation - about 1000 ha of Plains Grassland and 600 ha of Plains Grassy Woodland.  These incorporate some important remnants including species rich grassland west of Caroline Springs, state significant grassland and grassy woodland Biosites east of Merri Creek and near Mt Ridley, and remnant heathy woodland habitat associated with sand quarries near Cranbourne. Whilst some of these non-urban areas are designated for conservation, for most of them the future landuse and zoning has still to be worked out, and as such they offer no security for biodiversity values.  Many of them include quarries and quarry buffer zones, which involve at least some clearing and may be partially developed once the quarry ceases operation.  As a worst case example Boral's quarry west of Deer Park will clear about 200 - 300 ha of highly significant grassland.  Buffers are proposed along the main waterways such as Merri and Kororoit Creeks, which will help protect their habitat corridor function, but in some sections these are too narrow. 


More detailed planning of open space and urban conservation reserves, and on-site flora and fauna surveys are proposed to occur when urban precinct plans are developed for the new growth areas.  However the proposed environmental prescriptions for precinct plans tend to promote an offsetting approach, allowing Plains Grassland and habitat for more widespread EPBC listed species to be cleared in the precinct if similar habitat is protected in the green wedge, especially the proposed grassland reserves.  Plains Grassy Woodland and habitat for very rare EPBC listed species (if found) may be protected under the precinct plans.

Federal environmental assessment

A "strategic" assessment of the impact of the proposed UGB expansion on nationally listed species and vegetation communities is being undertaken by the Federal Government under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act - a draft EPBC impact assessment report has been released for public comment.  It is intended that Minister Garrett will issue one approval for the UGB expansion under the Act, subject to environmental conditions such as arrangements for securing and managing new conservation reserves, and biodiversity prescriptions for urban precinct plans. After this individual developments within the expanded UGB will no longer require assessment under the Act.   Unfortunately the EPBC assessment to date has been far from adequate to examine the full extent of impacts.  Detailed on-ground mapping of native vegetation has been limited mostly to the Werribee Plains grassland, and even then many properties could not be accessed, and there have been no systematic surveys for threatened species.  There has been very little analysis of the significance of particular sites for conserving EPBC listed species, let alone for state or regionally significant species.  Environment groups are arguing that the environmental assessment and comment period must be expanded, to incorporate at the very least more extensive native vegetation mapping and flora and fauna surveys this spring.




As featured on TV ads, State Government through the Southern and Eastern Integrated Transport Authority (SEITA) is poised to start construction on the Frankston Bypass freeway, or "Peninsula Link", that extends Eastlink around the eastern side of Frankston through to the Mornington Peninsula Freeway.  The bypass will cut through state significant Pines Flora and Fauna Reserve, threatening extinction of an important population of endangered Southern Brown Bandicoot, and it will destroy a corridor of high quality habitats extending north and south of the Pines. The latter includes two of the best remaining sites of FFG listed Herb-rich Plains Grassy Wetland and endangered Grassy Woodland. 


The bypass impacts are especially unjustified given that it will take much needed funding away from public transport, and there are much smaller scale, lower impact solutions to solve Frankston's traffic congestion. Up-grades of a small section of Moorooduc Highway near the end of Frankston Freeway and the intersection with Cranbourne Road offer a solution, yet these have not been properly investigated by SEITA. There is also substantial opposition from the local community.


The Victorian Planning Minister has recently approved this project, following an EES report and panel hearing, see:


There is still some hope that this environmentally destructive project can be overturned, as it still needs approval from the Federal Environment Minister under the EPBC Act.


In addition to the Frankston bypass, the Outer Metropolitan Ring (OMR) freeway is proposed to cut through green wedge land and valuable grassland and woodland remnants in an orbital route between Werribee and Donnybrook, north of Craigieburn. It is then proposed (as the E6) to cut through the Red-gum woodlands of Whittlesea green wedge to connect with Greensborough bypass. This will be a very wide freeway incorporating a rail corridor in the middle.  Whilst the OMR is not proposed to be built in the short term, its route is being assessed and decided on as part of the Federal Government's assessment of the UGB expansion under the EPBC Act..  As with the UGB expansion, the ecological assessment to date has been very inadequate - most of the route has been assessed using desktop information only, with detailed on-ground flora and fauna surveys.


Given increasing oil prices and the urgency for reducing greenhouse emissions means that now is the time to be planning for sustainable alternatives for orbital freight and passenger transport - especially rail - instead of pouring large amounts of public funding into more environmentally destructive freeways.  






State Government needs to hear concern from many people about the loss of green wedge landscapes and remnant habitats on Melbourne's doorstep.


Key points that are helpful to make in submissions include:


Draft proposals for expanding Melbourne's urban growth boundary are now available for download and comment, until 17 July (this Friday), at the website of the Department of Planning and Community Development: 


However the flora and fauna assessments for each of the urban investigation areas, and other technical reports (e.g. for drainage and landscape impacts) are only available on DVD if you call 1800 090 789 - delays have been experienced in receiving the DVD.  The EPBC strategic assessment can be downloaded from the website of the Dept of Sustainability and Environment: 


Maps are showing the UGB proposals relative to

You can post your submission to Growth Areas Authority, PO Box 1166, Carlton VIC 3053, or hand deliver to GAA at Level 6, 35 Spring St, Melbourne.  The Dept of Planning website above also has a link for making submissions on-line.


Write to / email the Federal Environment Minister and State Planning Minister

Write to the Federal Environment Minister urging him to work with the Victorian Government to pursue sustainable alternatives to the Frankston bypass, or at the very least to require a tunnel underneath the Pines Flora and Fauna Reserve to protect the endangered Southern Brown Bandicoot (see below for information about the bypass and other freeway proposals).


Write to both the Federal Environment Minister and State Planning Minister requesting an extension of time for the strategic assessment of the UGB expansion under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.  This is essential both to allow for spring flora and fauna surveys and meaningful community consultation (see below for more information and also the VNPA website:


Write to / email:

The Hon Peter Garrett, AM, MP

PO Box 6022, Parliament House, Canberra, ACT 2600. email:


The Hon Justin Madden MP, Minister for Planning,

Level 17, 8 Nicholson St, Melbourne 3000.  email: