Loss at VCAT for Merri Creek land           

          
After the recent good news of land purchased by Moreland Council, we report a loss at VCAT.
In July 2018 the Friends of Merri Creek appeared at VCAT, strongly represented by their planning consultant for the case, Dr Stephen Rowley. Melbourne Water is planning to sell off Merri Creek land, land designated part of the Merri Creek Marran Baba Parklands.

This ‘surplus’ land, at the rear of an industrial property in Trawalla Ave, Thomastown, is part of an original floodplain reserve owned by Melbourne Water. Over a number of years it was improperly occupied, filled and built on by the adjacent landowners, previous and current. Whittlesea City Council had decided in favour of issuing a permit to the adjoining landowners and so the FoMC applied for a VCAT review of the case.
Despite its modified condition there is no reason it can’t be ecologically restored, as has been achieved for many formerly degraded areas along Merri Creek.

They argued that the removal of land from the Merri Creek corridor for industrial purposes is fundamentally at odds with planning policy and compromises the planned future enhancement of this stretch of the creek. Unfortunately this appeal was unsucessful.

Since then the FoMC and MCMC have written to the Minister for Planning urging that an alternative solution to the rezoning and sale of the land be sought, such as the compromise to lease the land for a fixed period before it is rehabilitated and returned to the public realm. The land needs to be rezoned to industrial zone before it can be sold.

Failing this, both organisations have asked that the anticipated rezoning of the ‘surplus’ land be subject to a public planning scheme amendment and public hearing, rather than being fast-tracked by the Minister. If the latter occurs there’ll be no opportunity for public input on the rezoning. The original decision to declare the land ‘surplus’ was not a public process and Melbourne Water has not convincingly demonstrated why the land is ‘surplus’.

You can read the VCAT decision here.

Image: Galada Tamboore, part of the Marran Baba Parklands. MCMC