The State Government released plans last week, which show a draft expanded Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) around new growth areas. These plans pose the most serious threat to the green wedges since the Bracks Government introduced an UGB to protect them in 2002 and possibly since the green wedges were introduced by the Hamer Government in 1971.
The green wedges are, as successive premiers and planning ministers have said, the lungs of Melbourne. "They safeguard agricultural uses and preserve rural and scenic landscapes, non-renewable resources and natural areas including water catchments" (DPCD website). 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.
Once known as brown wedges, the work of ecologists has shown that the biodiversity of our western plains grasslands rivals Kakadu. Native grasslands, Victoria’s prairies, once stretched from the western edge of Melbourne nearly to the South Australian border, but now only a tiny percentage 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 continuous area extending westwards from Werribee nearly to the YouYangs, and a substantial block are also located on the eastern slopes of Mt Cotterell. However many of the high quality remnants lie scattered close to or within the urban areas of Werribee, Laverton, Deer Park and Caroline Springs.
The proposed extensions to the western growth corridors will potentially destroy over 3000 ha of the environmentally significant grasslands. This destruction is unnecessary as an analysis by Jenni Bundy of the Green Wedge Protection Group 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 and the destruction of our precious remnant grasslands
We need to call on the government to call off this plan for gross unnecessary destruction of the environment.