Merri Creek Management Committee

Chapter 2.5 Craigieburn Road East to Mahoneys Road



There are a number of significant flora and fauna sites within the reach which have been documented through a host of studies over the last decade[166]. The significance of these sites has resulted in various moves to ensure their conservation. The initiatives taken by the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) in this regard have been outlined above in the Introduction to this Section.

On the west side of the Creek lands in this reach are largely developed, but with the remaining undeveloped parts being subdivided. On the east, much of the upper catchment of Edgars Creek is planned for subdivision for housing as part of the Aurora development. The lands of this reach are exposed to many potential impacts as Melbournes development proceeds. Impacts range from:

· the expansion of commercial, industrial and residential premises into areas of remnant vegetation;

· increased disturbance of soils; and the consequent spread of weeds such as the highly invasive and persistent Chilean Needle-grass and Serrated Tussock;

· rock removal from paddocks causing depletion of fauna habitat;

Parks Victoria has released a draft plan for a Merri Creek Park in this reach, connecting Craigieburn Grassland to Galada Tamboore along the Merri Creek. The park would be managed partly by Parks Victoria and partly by the Cities of Hume and Whittlesea and Melbourne Water.

The most significant biodiversity assets of the reach are as follows.

(i) Craigieburn Grasslands (Galgi ngarrk)

From Craigieburn East Road south to Cooper Street, the land surrounding Merri Creek and incorporating the Craigieburn Grassland comprises a biosite of National significance[167].

The Craigieburn grassland covers an area of approximately 400 hectares between Craigieburn Road East and Cooper Street, although parts of the area have little or no significance including a quarry, house and improved pasture[168]. The Craigieburn grassland has six key vegetation communities ranging from Plains Grassland to Danthonia Grassland and Stony Knoll Grassland[169]. The site has been assigned National significance for flora[170] due mainly to the presence of Carex tasmanica, Dianella amoena and Amphibromus pithogastris.

The Craigieburn habitat of Amphibromus pithogastris is likely to be critical habitat. This is also likely to be the case for Carex tasmanica[171]. There are 10 State significant plant taxa and 114 regionally significant taxa at Craigieburn[172].

The Craigieburn Grassland has also been assigned National significance for fauna due to presence of Striped Legless Lizard and Plains-wanderer[173]. It also has three State significant species (Black Falcon, Red-Chested Button-quail and Freshwater Blackfish), as well as 27 regionally significant species[174]. In relation to the Grassland Earless Dragon, while it has not been recorded at the Craigieburn site, it may occur there, as relatively large areas of apparently suitable habitat are available. These include the bases of Stony Knolls, especially near the top of the Merri Creek escarpment. Given the extent of potentially suitable habitat, the site could prove to be one of the most important sites for this species in Victoria[175].

The critically endangered Golden Sun Moth (Synemon plana) was rediscovered in Craigieburn Grasslands in December 2003.

Merri Creek provides a key element of the Craigieburn site and the riparian and escarpment vegetation are of high quality. The creek corridor forms an important habitat link with sites such as Cooper Street to the south and Bald Hill to the north and is an especially important link for ground mammals. According to Beardsell, the presence of the locally rare Common Wombat and Black Wallaby (not known from closer in along Merri Creek), suggests it acts as a faunal corridor[176]. He identified the Craigieburn Grassland as pivotal to strategic habitat links between the Merri and Plenty systems[177].

The Merri Creek through this reach contains fast-flowing riffle sections of basalt cobbles and tessellated pavement, slow-flowing open water, reedy pools and a shallow gorge with columnar basalt cliffs and boulder screes and escarpments[178]. Future management of the stream frontage will need to take account of these values.

Beardsell described the Craigieburn Grassland and OHerns Road Wetland as the most extensive, intact, rare, diverse and significant volcanic plains rocky grassland, stream and wetland flora and fauna assemblage in Greater Melbourne...No biological reserve containing both of these systems is in existence[179].

The Victorian Government purchased the bulk of the site in the late 1990s and hearings into the Craigieburn Bypass eventually led to its construction mostly to the east of the grassland. Unfortunately freeway planning failed to provide satisfactory provision for habitat linkages to the north and east, so the potential for movements along these corridors for ground dwelling animals has been severely curtailed.

Issues relating to management of the site include:

· Control of weeds especially stipoid weeds,

· Biomass reduction by grazing needs to be managed to enhance the range of grassland values, including rare plants, stony knolls and riparian verges.

The Craigieburn Grassland Interim Management Statement[180] describes the grasslands and its issues in more detail.

(ii) Cooper Street Grassland (Bababi marning) to Barry Road

This reach of the Merri Creek is a biosite of State Significance[181]. An extensive native grassland remnant occupied lands south of Cooper Street, Campbellfield on the west side of Merri Creek. The grassland extended some 1.5 kilometres south from Cooper Street and west from Merri Creek to factories along Rex and Northbourne Roads. It has Kangaroo Grass Plains grassland and a relatively intact Brown-back Wallaby-grass seasonal wetland.

Twenty-three hectares of the grassland was purchased by the Crown for a reserve in approx 1994 and is managed by Parks Victoria. To the east is a strip of Creek frontage owned by the Istrian Australian Social Club. The F2 Freeway reservation took up another linear strip along the western portion of the site, while the balance of the site was privately owned. As an outcome of the Craigieburn Bypass hearings, a land swap was negotiated with the private landowner so that an additional 15.5 ha of grassland was added to the reserve, in exchange for rights to develop the remaining 50ha of grassland including freeway reserve land. Development of the site for an industrial estate was underway as of 2007.

The Cooper Street site has been determined as having State to National significance for its flora and fauna[182] and has Plains Grassland, Escarpment Shrubland and Riparian Scrub[183]. The Woolly Tea-tree riparian scrub, along with the stand at the Craigieburn Grassland, is considered to be the most intact in North-East Melbourne[184]. The endangered Amphibromus pithogastris was also present at the site but was located in the area now under development. The rare species Agrostis aemula var. setifolia is also present.

In terms of fauna, the Cooper Street site is considered to be of State significance due to the presence of Striped Legless Lizard. Other reptile species recorded at Cooper Street include at least four species of snakes and seven species of skinks and lizards. A Common Long-necked Tortoise was also found in a creek pool in 1988[185].

A number of regionally significant bird (including Swift Parrot) species have been recorded at the site[186].

The Cooper Street site serves as an important node and link in habitat connectivity for the region, being mid-way between the Craigieburn Grasslands (Bababi marning) and the Galada Tamboore sites[187].

Parks Victoria manages the 38ha Cooper Street Grassland Reserve, although site works are mostly tendered out, some to MCMC. Works have included weed control, and ecological burning.

On the east side of the Creek opposite the Grassland, old quarry land is gradually being filled, and it is expected that a significant corridor of land will be eventually added to the Merri Creek Park. South of the quarry on the east bank, part of a golf course was severed by construction of the Craigieburn Bypass and a significant frontage from this is also expected to be added to the Merri Creek Park[188]. Significant work will be required to restore native vegetation to the Creek banks next to the quarries where overburden has been dumped over the escarpment face.

Immediately on the south side of Jessica Road south to Barry Road on the west bank of Merri Creek an area of industrial land (the former Night Soil depot) has recently been subdivided for industrial development. A reserve area along the creek frontage was created, part of which is owned by Melbourne Water and part by Hume Council.

(iii) Barry Rd south to Horne Street, including Galada Tamboore

This site covers both sides of the Creek from Barry Road south to Horne Street. It is a biosite of State Significance[189]

The City of Hume owns land on the west side of Merri Creek at the Hatty Court and Bambury Court Reserves. Apart from the Hume Freeway Reservation owned by VicRoads, the most significant parcel of land is the 93 hectare Melbourne Water retarding basin site which extends from just north of Barry Road to downstream of Horne Street and includes land on both sides of the stream. This land was purchased in the 1970s to permit retardation of flood waters. The area is now known as Galada Tamboore from the Aboriginal name meaning creek waterhole.

Perhaps the most outstanding feature of the area is its geology and geomorphology with the Barry Road or Merri Gorge having been assessed as being State significant[190]. Rosengren describes the site as having cliffs, alluvial and bedrock terraces and minor floodplains. The major geological and geomorphological feature is the 15 metre high cliff on the west bank. This cliff exposes an unconformity between the bedrock of Silurian sedimentary rocks and the Newer Volcanic basalts.

While these geological features are essential components of the visual character of the area, they have suffered impacts from inadequately planned nearby industrial development in recent years. Such a development was that associated with an industrial sub-division in the Mason Street vicinity in 1989. Open space was not allocated along the creek frontage and the result has been construction of factories perched close to the escarpment of the Barry Road Gorge. To address such inappropriately planned development, it will be desirable to maintain screening vegetation in the short term and investigate means to acquire key blocks adjacent to the escarpment over the long term.

The Gorge downstream of Barry Road and the Galada Tamboore area has regional faunal significance, and particularly for snakes, is the most diverse site remaining close to Melbourne[191].

A Marbled Gecko was also found amongst crevices in the basalt cliffs and a Lowland Copperhead has also been recorded. Beardsell remarked that the site should be considered of comparable faunal significance to the Cooper Street site to the north, while for reptiles it is more diverse. The discovery of Striped Legless Lizard would raise the faunal significance to State level[192]. Beardsell recommended that an appropriate trapping survey to locate it should be carried out[193].

The site has Woolly Tea-Tree riparian scrub and Kangaroo Grass plains grassland[194]. A significant are of Plains Grassland is associated with stony knolls to the immediate east of Merri Creek[195].

Other areas of grassland are associated with a number of remnants on the Thomastown side of the creek located either on VicRoads or partly on privately owned land. The northernmost remnant (in the area immediately south of Barry Road and along the frontage to Downs Road) has been identified as being of regional to State significance. The southern remnant is located mostly on the Freeway Reservation opposite Pandora Avenue (Carrington Boulevard to Dakota Drive). It has high local to State significance. Both of these assessments were acknowledged to be preliminary[196]. The riverine zone of the Merri Creek valley and associated escarpments were also identified as having regional to State significance[197].

Further flora survey work has also been conducted more recently by Bainbridge (1997). The report confirmed 82 indigenous species over various parcels of land on both sides of the Creek from Barry Road to the Metropolitan Ring Road.

Perhaps the most significant values of the site stem from its archaeological and geomorphological significance. At the time of Halls 1989 report the area had eleven known archaeological sites. Since then, one additional site (a scar tree) has been added[198].

A number of these sites are under constant pressure and some have been lost to subsequent development. One example is the largest of the sites in the survey conducted by Hall (1988). It was a diffuse area of approx. 8 hectares which was destroyed through construction of the Mason Street industrial estate. Further survey of the area in March 1997 found no artefacts in association with Site 7822/152 first surveyed by Hall[199]. There is concern that the site has been lost with recent earthmoving[200]. There is also concern that a site on the east side of the creek (7822/161) has almost been destroyed by constant recreational vehicle and trail bike disturbance[201].

However, these problems in no way diminish the archaeological significance of the area or its potential for use by the Wurundjeri community for cultural purposes or its cultural values for the Wurundjeri community, which are partly related to the landscape and natural values of the area.

Beardsell recommended the area between Craigieburn Road East and the Barry Road Gorge (Galada Tamboore) as a key part of the Regional Habitat Link Strategy for North East Melbourne[202].

The Melbourne Water Future Directions Plan for Galada Tamboore identified 44 actions for implementation over a period of up to ten years. The recommendations covered the areas of: waterway management; water quality management; flood management; natural resource management; cultural and historic sites; site amenity and character; and compatible community use. The Plan was developed in consultation with Hume and Whittlesea Councils, MCMC, Friends of Merri Creek and the WTLCCHC. The priority works program will be progressively implemented through a working group of representatives of the above organisations supported by Melbourne Waters Environmentally Significant Sites Program. A key initial step in the implementation of the Plan is deterrence of unauthorised vehicle access to the site. To this end a number of vehicle entry points will be blocked through cooperative works between Melbourne Water and Hume and Whittlesea Councils. This step is seen as an essential precursor to site boundary definition and protection of the core Melbourne Water owned land.

Supplementing Melbourne Waters Future Directions Plan for Galada Tamboore has been the concurrent preparation of a site concept plan for Hume Councils Hatty Court Reserve. The plan outlines future actions for development of the reserve and improvements to its vegetation cover, amenity and recreation facilities (including car park provision). The plan also proposes construction of the Merri Path between Hatty Court and Bambury Court to cater for local pedestrian and bicycle access and link these local reserves. The location of the path will be designed to avoid registered archaeological sites in the vicinity.

In 2004 VicRoads commissioned a report on the natural values of the grasslands on the east of the site in the vicinity of Barry Road[203] The report confirmed the state level significance of the vegetation at the site, and identified weeds as the major management issue.

(iv) Horne Street to Mahoneys Road

This area is bounded on the east by industrial development with severe problems of fill dumping and a generally narrow drainage reserve along the Creek. Some parts of the Creek frontage are privately owned. On the west, filled tips, or currently operating tips, predominate.

The Pipeworks Leisure Market occupies a critical position adjacent to Mahoneys Road, and a path alignment has been set aside through the Market as a planning permit requirement. The construction of the Metropolitan Ring Road, result in the construction of a new section of path from south of Mahoneys Road to north of the Ring Road (where it stops) and linking to the path east and west along the Ring Road.

The Somerset Road Main Drain enters Merri Creek within this sub-reach. It has recently been converted from an open channel for some 300 metres to a piped drain with 2 treatment ponds to remove it from the grounds of the Campbellfield Landfill Disposal Site and provide additional fill capacity.

(v) Edgars Creek Headwaters

This area is located to the north-west of Epping and is between Cooper Street in the south, Epping Road in the east and Boundary Road (a continuation of Bridge Inn Road) on the north side. It is a biosite of State significance[204]. The area supports extensive areas of volcanic plains landforms including stony rises and crests, stony plains, gilgai plains and ephemeral creek valley/floodplains. It has broad sections of relatively unmodified grassland and grassy woodland which are fine illustrations of the natural character of the landscape[205].

The Edgars Creek Headwaters has State faunal significance based upon populations of Striped Legless Lizard. It has been designated as a habitat link to the Craigieburn grasslands[206]. In identifying it as a Strategic Habitat Link, Beardsell stated it is critical in maintaining the population viability of grassland fauna at Craigieburn Grassland.[207]. Unfortunately the construction of the Craigieburn Bypass has effectively severed this site and the link except for flying animals. For these species the site links Craigieburn Grassland to the west with the Darebin and Barber Creek grassy woodlands to the north-east. Much of the site to the east of the Bypass is in the process of development for industrial and residential purposes. Isolated fragments are to be preserved as open space, but may not incorporate contiguous linkage to Edgars Creek, let alone to Darebin Creek.

Some of the notable features of the area are remnant grassland on paddock stony knolls at Hendon Park and properties fronting Harvest Home Road.

The Edgars Creek River Red Gum floodplain becomes a large swamp during wet years with a host of water birds appearing on the freshwater meadows. The site has not been comprehensively surveyed for its flora.

Edgars Creek Cooper St Mahoneys Road

Edgars Creek passes through a former waste disposal site, then the established residential areas of Lalor and Thomastown, under the Ring Road and through another industrial area to Mahoneys Road. Narrow open space reserves line the creek through the residential areas, but habitat values are poor.

Merri Creek Park

Zanon (2001) examined the accessibility of major parks across Melbourne and identified a major gap in the outer northern suburbs, and Parks Victoria (2006) proposed the creation of a new park including the Craigieburn and Cooper Street Grasslands and Galada Tamboore as well as various lands between, some of which are currently in private ownership.

Not all land to be included in the Park will need to be acquired. Where private land is included, its formal designation as park will take affect by agreement with the private landowner, or upon acquisition or transfer of land into public ownership. DSE is responsible for negotiating land transfers.

Whether land is formally acquired or an agreement is created to include private land as part of the public park, protection of habitat values and access for managing natural assets remain the critical issues. So if the private land owner refuses to create a covenant or agreement over their high habitat value land, a public acquisition overlay needs to be considered otherewise ther is no guarantee or trigger to protect important areas of privately owned land.

Parks Victoria has proposed naming the park Merri Creek Parklands. Applying this name only to the park between Mahoneys Road and Craigieburn is problematic given the popular use of the term Merri Creek Parklands to refer to the largely Council owned and run parklands south of Mahoneys Road. If it were an extension of these parklands that would make sense. A Wurundjeri representative has provided a Wurundjeri name Marran baba for the park, and use of this name would be unambiguous and reflect the fact that the grasslands within the park are a cultural landscape of the Wurundjeri. MCMC has resolved to support the use of the Wurundjeri name.

Map of proposed Merri Creek Park
Map 14 - the proposed Merri Creek Park (from Parks Victoria 2006)

Growling Grass Frog conservation

Renowden et. al. (2006) identify the following site as essential for the conservation of Growling Grass Frogs in the Merri catchment and which should be added to the Merri Creek Park:

· The block of land which contains the OHerns Road Swamp

· The privately owned former Lalor Golf Course (western side of the Craigieburn Bypass)

The study identifies the Merri Creek Parklands as the greatest single opportunity to conserve Growling Grass Frog habitat in the study area.

Major developments in this reach of the Creek (for example the Melbourne Wholesale Market development south of Cooper Street) will do significant damage to Growling Grass Frog habitat and habitat connectivity. The study identifies mitigation measures (on-site) and offset measures (off-site) to best protect the frog population.


1. The current Hume Highway is a barrier to fauna movement in a westerly direction and the Craigieburn Bypass is a barrier in an easterly direction from the Merri system, but some opportunities exist for protection and enhancement of habitat links east to adjacent waterway systems.

2. Some areas in private ownership could be effectively protected through programs promoting sympathetic management.

3. The proposed Merri Creek Park requires much planning for its management, including issues like faunal movement and population management, location of visitor facilities to avoid impacts on fragile environments and neighbouring properties, habitat restoration etc.

4. The proposed park will require acquisition of a number of Merri Creek frontage properties.

5. Parts of the creek frontage which have adjacent industrial uses (e.g. Rushwood Drive, Dunlop Olympic, the Victorian Transport Centre and the Mason Street Industrial Estate) will provide a challenge for the development of linked open space along the waterway corridor. Developer Guidelines for industrial areas are required to assist this process (see also chapter 5.1).

6. The reach is comparatively rich in Aboriginal archaeological sites and these require protection from disturbance.

7. Parts of the reach are currently being degraded by weed invasion, rubbish dumping, illegal vehicle access or inadequate management.


See objectives listed in chapters 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3.


1. The conservation of areas identified as being of National or State significance for flora, fauna, geology and geomorphology and archaeology.

2. Establishment of Merri Creek Park.

3. Protection of archaeological and Aboriginal cultural sites.

4. Provision of recreation opportunities which are compatible with, and highlight the conservation and Aboriginal cultural heritage values, of the sites within the reach.

5. Preservation of the flood retention and water quality treatment capability of the Campbellfield Retarding Basin.

6. Cooperative and sympathetic management by private landholders of stream frontages and other lands to complement protection of significant sites of the reach.

7. Protection and consolidation of an open space and access linkage between the Metropolitan Ring Road and Horne Street.

8. Provision for continuous access along the reach corridor (see further chapter 4.2)

9. Provision for an open space corridor supporting flora and fauna habitat.

10. Achievement where possible, of softening of interfaces between industrial/residential areas and waterway and open space areas (see also chapter 1.3).


See Section E page 194



[166] see for example DCE, 1990; Schulz and Webster, 1991; Frood, 1992; Ecological Horticulture, 1993; Peake et. al., 1996; Beardsell, 1997

[167] DSE, Biosites Maps and Reports Port Phillip Region 2005 Biosite 3619

[168] see map appended to Schulz and Webster, 1991

[169] Ecological Horticulture, 1993

[170] DCE, 1990; Frood, 1992; Ecological Horticulture, 1993; Ecology Australia, 1996; Beardsell, 1997

[171]Ecology Australia, 1996

[172] Ecology Australia, 1996

[173] Beardsell, 1997 & DSE pers comm 2008

[174] Ecology Australia, 1996

[175] Ecology Australia, 1996

[176] Beardsell, 1997, Vol. 2, p. 79 Print Version of CD

[177] see Beardsell, 1997, Strategic Habitat Link Network map

[178] Schulz and Webster, 1991

[179] Beardsell, 1997, p. 2, Appendix 2.1 to Vol. 2, Table of Contents Version of CD

[180] Department of Natural Resources and Environment 1998

[181] DSE, Biosites Maps and Reports Port Phillip Region 2005 Biosite 3514

[182] Ecological Horticulture, 1993

[183] see Stuwe, 1986; Cheal, 1988; DCE 1990; Frood, 1992; and Beardsell, 1997

[184] Beardsell, 1997, Vol. 2, p. 65 Print Version of CD

[185] Beardsell, 1997, Vol. 2, p. 67 Print Version of CD

[186] Beardsell, 1997, Vol. 2, p. 65-6 Print Version of CD

[187] see Beardsell, 1997, Strategic Habitat Link Network map

[188] Parks Victoria, 2006, The proposed new Merri Creek Park Draft Concept Plan February 2006, Map 4 Land Management Zone Framework.

[189] DSE, Biosites Maps and Reports Port Phillip Region 2005 Biosite 5054

[190] Rosengren, 1993, Appendix 3

[191] Beardsell, 1997 Vol. 2, p. 62 Print Version of CD

[192] Beardsell, 1997 Vol. 2, p. 61 Print Version of CD

[193] ibid, p. 62

[194] Beardsell, 1997 Vol. 2, p. 60 Print Version of CD

[195] see Galada Tamboore Future Directions Plan, Melbourne Water, November 1997

[196] Ecological Horticulture, 1993

[197] Ecological Horticulture, 1993

[198] Ellender, 1997b

[199] Ellender, 1997a

[200] Ellender, 1997b

[201] Ellender, 1997b

[202] Beardsell, 1997, Vol. 2, p. 68, Print Version of CD

[203] Walters & Frood, 2004b

[204] DSE, Biosites Maps and Reports Port Phillip Region 2005 Biosite 4857

[205] Beardsell, 1997, Vol. 2, p. 105, Print Version of CD

[206] Schulz and Webster, 1991

[207] ibid, p. 105