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Brilliant Green Wedges letter from Rosalie Counsell to Casey Planning Manager

"While Melbourne’s green wedges are generally considered to be a legacy of the 1972 – 1981 Rupert (Dick) Hamer State Government, they were established as part of the 1968 – 1971 Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works planning process. They were protected by what was then called the Landscape Interest A zone, with a minimum lot size of twenty acres (eight hectares). For some thirty years, this zoning worked admirably. Then Melbourne started to experience growth pressure and the speculators moved in with their propensity to buy influence. The visionary Melbourne 2030 blue print for Melbourne and its rural fringe came under siege and has been slowly but relentlessly eroded by both sides of Government ever since." [...] "It is the role of councils and State Governments to provide sound, thoroughly researched, enforceable planning policies that support the big picture for the long-term future. It is absolutely critical to halt this tsunami of South Eastern suburban sprawl with its lack of supporting infrastructure, and to provide certainty to all stakeholders. Without such resolve, speculation will run rampant and uncontrolled ad hoc development will be the order of the day. Traffic to and from the area is already appalling well beyond the normally accepted peak hours. What are you thinking, putting exponentially more cars on these road networks that are not designed to take them? Casey is heading down a vortex of engineered chaos."

Letter to Manager of Planning, City of Casey

Manager of Planning
City of Casey
P.O. Box 1000
Narre Warren VIC 3805

Response to City of Casey Draft Western Port Green Wedge Management Plan (GWMP)

I am writing in my capacity as the Southern Ranges delegate on the Green Wedges Coalition.

This draft plan is a disappointing betrayal and another nail in the coffin of all that has been achieved over the past forty or more years to accommodate the wider community’s repeatedly
expressed vision for the future of Melbourne’s peri-urban areas to retain, protect and enhance the countryside now defined as the green wedges.

These are undisputedly precious and irreplaceable resources, and the City of Casey has responsibility for significant sections of not one, but two of the most valuable and valued – the
Southern Ranges and the Westernport green wedges.

With this plan, Council seems to be on the cusp of abrogating its responsibility to our current and future generations. While paying lip service to the importance of the agricultural, environmental
and amenity values of its southern sector, the recommendations make a mockery of these, reflecting rather the successful lobbying of powerful vested interests.

Like the foothills to the Dandenong Ranges, the Western Port rural region is shared between the City of Casey and the Shire of Cardinia. A joint GWMP with a unified approach was only
common sense. Why then did our councillors:

require Casey’s strategic planning department to amend the 2015 Casey-Cardinia draft plan,
causing Cardinia Shire which opposed these pro-development changes to split and go it alone,
leaving this important area with fragmented, contradictory policies and a degraded vision for the future?

Casey has already lost huge swathes of productive farmland to urban development. In this era of climate change and food miles relevance, it makes no sense to compromise what is left by splitting it into Precincts 1 (intensive horticulture and food production) & 3 (Rural Living and agriculture).

The narrow shaft of genuine agricultural land making up Precinct 1 seems now to be jammed between the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB), the Cranbourne Botanic Gardens, lower density
residential and the environmentally sensitive coastal strip. This does not bode well for its future sustainability.

Moreover, the 4-hectare lot size proposed for Precinct 3 because of historic precedent flies in the face of the research carried out by the Port Phillip & Western Port Catchment Management
Authority. This established that areas with properties of around 10 acres (4 hectares) resulted in the worst environmental outcomes. They are “neither fish nor fowl” – too small for effective land
management using agricultural equipment and cross-grazing, and too big to control weeds and pests with domestic scale measures.

Other undesirable outcomes of switching from 8 to 4 hectares include:

It increases human development and intrusion by a factor of at least two;
It potentially doubles the amount of infrastructure – houses, driveways, sheds, tennis courts, swimming pools etc.;
To make space for these, vegetation will inevitably be removed;
It doubles the potential number of pets and thus predation on local fauna;
It more than doubles the number of vehicles, given that most people who move into the area
will be car dependent;
It increases pressure on smaller roads that were designed for lower traffic volumes and that
currently have a more tranquil, rural feel;
It will lead to a flow on effect, with all properties moving towards the minimum lot size.
Properties between 12 and potentially be split into not two, but three lots.
The trend will be reinforced by rising land values with the “price per hectare increasing sharply below 6 – 8 hectares as a result of demand based on factors independent of agricultural
merit”. (“Impacts of Urban Growth & Related Development on Agriculture in the Western Port region Phillips Agribusiness May 1993)

One of the major benefits of the longstanding 8-hectare minimum lot size in the peri-urban areas is the visual and physical relief it provides. People living in ever-increasingly condensed suburbia
need ready access to these open areas. Deprive them of this outlet and you deprive them of the all important health-giving amenity of contact with the natural world.

During the process of fine-tuning the parameters for green wedge zoning, state planners established that anything under 8 hectares should be deemed residential, regardless of zone titles
such as Rural Living or Rural Lifestyle. Hence creating a Precinct 2 that allows one-hectare lot sizes under a Green Wedge A zone is a smoke screen. It is in fact a proposal to rezone from rural to residential.

This is inconsistent with the GWMP vision for a permanent green and rural area within the precinct. Given the bi-partisan support for a fixed UGB, the proposal is unconscionable.

While Melbourne’s green wedges are generally considered to be a legacy of the 1972 – 1981 Rupert (Dick) Hamer State Government, they were established as part of the 1968 – 1971
Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works planning process. They were protected by what was then called the Landscape Interest A zone, with a minimum lot size of twenty acres (eight hectares).

For some thirty years, this zoning worked admirably. Then Melbourne started to experience growth pressure and the speculators moved in with their propensity to buy influence. The visionary
Melbourne 2030 blue print for Melbourne and its rural fringe came under siege and has been slowly but relentlessly eroded by both sides of Government ever since. [Emphasis added by candobetter.net editor.]

The dismay of the community is given voice in the following letter to The Age from the late Lady April Hamer from October 2013.

Keep wedge faith

COULD I add a few words to the current controversy over Melbourne's green wedges.
My arguments are not about money, so perhaps they have little weight today, and of course I am
attached to the ideas of my late husband, Dick Hamer.
I believe that his ideas were firmly based on a system of city planning that emphasises restraint,
for the purpose of allowing families a better choice for themselves and for the environment - which
is now all the more important.
We should also bear in mind that any encroachment into our green spaces is irreversible.
Speculators, of course, will disagree, but remaining faithful to the original intention of the green
wedges would give us all a more disciplined, sustainable and welcoming city for future
generations.

Lady April Hamer, Alphington”

I also draw your attention to the last paragraph an old article from the business journal “Rydges” entitled “Profits and losses from re-zoning”. It is enlightening:

“Trying to achieve a re-zoning, or prevent a use down-grading can be a profitable exercise and
one in which you should be prepared to put substantial time and effort because the pay-off is there.”

Of course urban fringe property owners are going to push for zoning changes that bring them unearned windfall profits. And of course, some councillors are going to take up their cause,
whether due to naivety or to personal vested interest. They should, however, be cognisant of the need to stand firm for the sake of the greater good. They have been elected to represent the silent majority, not to pander to a vocal self-interested minority.

As the population in and around them increases, the retention of these open areas becomes ever more important. There is little enough non-urban land left in the City of Casey. What remains
should be treated as sacrosanct. It should be protected and enhanced at all costs. Moreover, the longer firm protective policies are in place and adhered to, the easier it is to safeguard them in the future.

It is the role of councils and State Governments to provide sound, thoroughly researched, enforceable planning policies that support the big picture for the long-term future. It is absolutely
critical to halt this tsunami of South Eastern suburban sprawl with its lack of supporting infrastructure, and to provide certainty to all stakeholders. Without such resolve, speculation will
run rampant and uncontrolled ad hoc development will be the order of the day.

Traffic to and from the area is already appalling well beyond the normally accepted peak hours. What are you thinking, putting exponentially more cars on these road networks that are not
designed to take them? Casey is heading down a vortex of engineered chaos.

The more you eat into open space amenity, the less useful it becomes and the less willing people are to work to protect and/or enhance it. There is no excuse for allowing our precious green wedge open spaces to gradually disappear. There is no shortage of alternative sites for residential development and there is no shortage of contra-indications.

If you don’t revisit this draft scheme and remove those parts that compromise and/or weaken the aims and protective policies of the green wedge zones, you might as well rename it the Casey
Western Port Redevelopment Management Plan, and be honest about it.

Rosalie Counsell
Southern Ranges Green Wedge Delegate, Green Wedges Coalition
[Address edited out by candobetter.net editor]
Phone: 9796 8568 Mobile: 0429 955 421
Email: rbcounsell@gmail.com

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