Posted 13/7/09


Green Wedges Coalition

– a vision for Melbourne



16 June 2009


See also Age article 16 June 2009



  - Environmental and green wedge groups want green wedge land grab stopped  


State Government plans released last week for a green wedge land grab of 41, 663 ha will take nearly twice as much land as expected. Last December, in a report increasing Melbourne’s population target from 4 million to 5 million, Government said 22,833 ha of green wedge land was needed for development, but they now propose to hand  26,093 ha to property developers. A further 15,570 ha is described as unsuitable for development but it is unclear whether any of this is to be protected for its environmental significance.


The plans will expand the Urban Growth Boundary around new growth areas and a freeway reservation which include:

The 15,000 ha of grassland reserves to be provided over 10 years as a trade-off is of poorer quality than the kangaroo (themeda) grasslands to be destroyed . There are also concerns whether - as State Government has not in the past implemented its own clearing controls to protect grasslands - it can be trusted to protect the proposed reserves, which may degrade and be forgotten before Government has to acquire them. 


The 22,000 ha of remnant grasslands currently in the green wedges is about 30 % of the five per cent left of the western plains basalt grasslands that once stretched from Portland to the Melbourne. The Government plans to destroy 10% and to protect 20% in developer-funded reserves, exposing the hollowness of its Net Gain policy. This is an appalling way to protect an endangered vegetation community.


The green wedges are, as successive premiers and planning ministers have said, the lungs of Melbourne. With a city already gasping for breath, Melbourne's lungs are about to be choked with urban sprawl. This government land grab will be a cancer, not just in the proposed new growth corridors but in surrounding areas, where developers are expected to buy up environmentally and agriculturally significant grasslands.


The Bracks Government was elected three times on a pledge to protect and provide certainty for Green Wedges.  The Brumby Government has broken that pledge. The Green Wedges Coalition calls on the government to call off this plan for gross unnecessary destruction of the environment and of fertile farmland which provides food close to Melbourne. 


We call on the Opposition parties to vote down the green wedge land grab in the Legislative Council.  


This destruction is unnecessary: please see the attached analysis by Jenni Bundy of the Green Wedge Protection Group which demonstrates that the Government has miscalculated its land supply figures and that there is enough land within the current UGB to last until 2030. Increasing the development density in urban growth areas would also make housing more affordable.  Instead, the Government is prepared to hand green wedge land that makes Melbourne a liveable city to developers for McMansions and suburban sprawl.


The development of this land could also put many hundreds of new houses at risk of bushfire: see attached photos showing timber framed houses under construction in the forest at Eynesbury, near Melton.  


This release may be attributed to Rosemary West, 9772 7124 or  0418 554 799 Joint Coordinator, Green Wedges Coalition (incorporated as the Green Wedges Guardians Alliance). 


Please see following for local contacts and descriptions of the local areas threatened by this land grab.





The Government has ignored the Green Wedges Coalition’s call to rethink this disastrous plan and to:


Hold the line on the Urban Growth Boundary, or if as we expected, Government proceeds without considering the consequences, at least to


Protect from urban development:

Provide further protection to environmentally significant grasslands and grassy woodlands in the investigation areas by:

Restore the 2005 developer levy. However the Minister’s statements indicate that they will:




1. Western Plains Green Wedges 


A. Once known as brown wedges, the work of ecologists including Sarah Bekessy and Ascelin Gordon of RMIT has shown that the biodiversity of the western basalt plains grasslands rivals Kakadu.


Native grasslands, Victoria’s prairies, once stretched from Melbourne to Portland, but now only five per cent remains.  They were ablaze with wildflowers in spring and supported many different species of marsupials and reptiles including Striped Legless Lizard and Fat-tailed Dunnart.  The Werribee and Melton Plains support the largest remaining areas of Victoria’s Basalt Plains Grasslands and are one of Australia’s 15 Biodiversity Hotspots.


Grassland remnants are scattered across the plains, with the largest contiguous area extending westwards from Werribee nearly to the YouYangs, and a substantial block are also located on the eastern slopes of Mt Cotterell, much of which will be protected in planned reserves.  However many of the higher quality remnants around the urban areas of Werribee, Laverton, Deer Park and Caroline Springs will be destroyed.


The proposed extensions to the western growth corridors will destroy over 6.900 ha of the environmentally significant grasslands.



















(Pic, Western plains grasslands)



The Western Plains North Green Wedge Group is calling on State Government to protect environmentally significant grass-lands in reserves and to protect all remnant grasslands and fertile farmland by keeping it in the green wedge and by implementing stricter measures to protect remnant grasslands from illegal clearing.


Contact: Frances Overmars, coordinator, Western Plains North Green Wedge Group 9748 1294  Available tomorrow (Wed) from lunchtime on.  Giorgio De Nola  Western Plains North Green Wedge Group, 9626 8405; 0404 085 517;



B. The Eynesbury Subdivision approval in 2002 by the then State Planning Director, under delegation was the last residential development approved in the green wedge before the State Government green wedge protection package prohibited subdivision in  2002.


It was the last straw that convinced the Bracks Government of the need for green wedge protection measures. Originally, the forest was to have been buffered by a golf course, but the developer wanted 800 more houses and in 2006 Melton Council and VCAT amended their plans to allow houses edging into the forest, despite the evident bushfire risk. Department of Sustainability and Environment objections were over-ridden by the planning authorities and environmentalist third parties were prevented from being heard by a Development Protection Overlay approved by the State Planning Department. 


Attached/available on request: pics of houses now under construction in environmentally significant grey-box woodland at Eynesbury. 

Contact Harry van Moorst, coordinator, Western Region Environment Centre: 9731 0288 or 0431 121 218.



2  Sunbury Maribyrnong Valley Green Wedge


After repeated assurances by three planning ministers (including Minister Madden in mid-November) that the Urban Growth Boundary around Sunbury would remain intact, the Sunbury Maribyrnong Valley Green Wedge Defenders were shocked to find that Sunbury would double in size as a result of the proposed green wedge land grab. This is also a substantial contradiction to Melbourne 2030, which stated that urban growth should occur only in growth corridors and which did not designate Calder Highway as a growth corridor. 


Please see attached submission and statement from Arnie Azaris to Minister Madden expressing local shock and disappointment.  Arnie also points out that substantial parts of the investigation area are covered by a Airports Overlay and that residential development there would probably lead to calls for an airport curfew.


SMVGWD’s requests to the Minister to protect the following environmental and heritage sites near Sunbury   in State reserves were also ignored:


Contact:  Arnie Azaris, coordinator, SMVGW Defenders on  0419 547 807           Trevor Dance, spokesman for Sunbury Conservation Society; 0413 822 214  



3  Whittlesea Merri Creek Green Wedge


The Merri Creek is a crucial life-line for native flora and fauna, extending into the northern suburbs of Melbourne. Along its length lies a chain of state and nationally significant grasslands, two of which have been reserved at Craigieburn and Campbellfield, whilst others remain on private land in the green wedge.


A further 35 per cent of the Merri Creek catchment has been included in the proposed urban growth area, hence development will threaten its priceless biodiversity, including several populations of  endangered Growling Grass Frogs.


The Friends of Merri Creek, like the Western Plains North, Sunbury Maribyrnong Valley and Western Port Green Wedge groups report that profitable grazing activities can fit well with the conservation of grasslands and grassy woodlands. Many Landcare group members in the Merri Creek valley are aware that retaining native pastures and regenerating woodland trees improves their farm production values as well as biodiversity (A photograph on the property of a Merriang and District Landcare member is available on request in the Friends of Merri Creek submission).


The Friends of Merri Creek called on State Government to secure a Merri Creek Biodiversity Network to extend from the upper catchment south into Melbourne’s northern suburbs, including:

Some of these high biodiversity value areas have been identified as unsuitable for development, but with no explicit commitment to protect these areas in conservation reserves.


Melbourne’s northern plains, extending westwards from Plenty Valley to Merri Creek and Mt Ridley, contain fine examples of Victoria’s endangered Red Gum Woodlands . This ecosystem once extended across much of the western plains, but now only a tiny percentage remains. The majestic Red-gum trees are often up to 400 years old or more, and form a park-like landscape over native grasses and herbs.  They provide many hollows and important habitat for a suite of woodland birds such as the endangered Barking Owl and rare parrots and many species of bats. Grey Kangaroos loaf in their shadows during the day.


Important stands of Red Gum woodland habitat survive near Mt Ridley to the west of Craigieburn, in the Merri catchment, and scattered across the Whittlesea green wedge, extending into some of the new suburbs. Some traditional grazing properties have kept both their Red Gum trees and the native grass layer into the present day through generations of sensitive grazing practices.


Unfortunately the urban growth areas cut deeply into the Red Gum woodlands of the Whittlesea green wedge. This threatens centuries-old trees, with many hollows and fallen branches for fauna habitat, and patches of native grasses and wildflowers such as Milky Beauty Heads and the nationally endangered Matted Flax-lily. Suburban development threatens to clear many of these woodlands, or retain the trees as isolated museum pieces in pocket parks and roundabouts – as seen already  in new suburbs at South Morang and Epping North.


Contact: Friends of Merri Creek, Ray Radford  0422 989 166



 (views of Mt Ridley Red-gum grassy woodlands)



 4  South Eastern Investigation Area (WesternPort green wedge)


The south-eastern investigation area was once part of the vast Kooweerup Swamp and has some of the most fertile agricultural land in the state.   This land is very important in supplying fresh vegetables to Melburnians.  The heaths and woodlands of this landscape, including Cranbourne Botanic Gardens and remnants on private land, support the largest surviving population of Southern Brown Bandicoot near the City. 


The new urban investigation areas, together with growth corridor land added in 2005, now threaten to remove large areas of prime farmland and to encircle Cranbourne Botanic Gardens with suburbs.  They also threaten the health of Westernport Bay and its remaining seagrass.  It is now acknowledged that siltation resulting from the construction of Cardinia dam caused the death of much WesternPort seagrass. The current UGB was designed to follow the ridge-lines to avoid more siltation damage, but the proposed UGB pushes down into the Westernport Catchment and will increase pressure on the health of the ecology of WesternPort Bay.


Casey Council has opposed the extension of the Urban Growth Boundary in this area as its strategic planning supports the preservation of this highly productive farmland.


Environment and Landcare Groups want: 

Contact:  Kelly Brooks-Macmillan,   0428 427 005;  



Analysis of serious flaws in UGB expansion plans

by Jenni Bundy


The Melbourne @ 5 Million documents and consequent plan to expand the UGB to provide further green-field residential land from Green Wedges, announced in June 2009, are based on incorrect and deeply flawed land supply estimates.  These invalid figures are the basis upon which the Government has deemed it necessary to move the UGB.


The full lot yield analysis in the UDP 2007 Report (which is the basis for the land supply estimates) is based on projections of a reduced lot yield per hectare over time in the existing Growth Areas, down to 8-10 in some areas.


These figures should be recalculated to yield a minimum of 15 dwellings per hectare (gross), with a target of 20 dwellings per hectare from 2010. At a yield of 15 lots per gross hectare, there would be enough development land within the UGB to last for nearly 19 years .  With a density of 20 lots/ha  there would be enough for 25 years  


This would be enough to make this latest green wedge land grab unnecessary and would keep new houses safely inside the UGB, instead of allowing them to sprawl over a fire-prone urban fringe.   The Brumby Government has totally missed the point of (Melbourne) 2030, to contain outward growth instead of pandering to it.


(More details in the analysis by Jenni Bundy, is available on request.   The Green Wedges Coalition mourns the loss of Jenni Bundy who died in the Black Saturday fire at St Andrews).