Merri Creek Management Committee

Introduction

Within the urbanised reaches of the corridors of Merri Creek and its tributaries, the ownership and nature of lands adjacent to the waterway varies significantly. The land abutting the waterway is predominantly in public ownership, with a small but significant number of private freehold titles extending to the edge of the watercourse. Much of this land is available for multiple recreation purposes and with some exceptions, this land can be broadly considered as open space. Provided they are adequately connected, and have habitat, these lands form an open space and flora and fauna habitat corridor.

There are numerous benefits which can accrue to people and the streams ecosystem from an appropriately vegetated waterway open space corridor. Continuity of indigenous vegetation provides shade, food and nutrients, and a passage and home for wildlife. Native vegetation supplements the physical habitat of the corridor with its rocky escarpments, stream pool and run formations and grassy plains. A well-vegetated and maintained open space corridor also provides a source of recreation in a comparatively natural and often tranquil setting.

The function of various parcels of land varies with ownership but also based on zoning, overlays, the existence of easements, and design. For instance, some lands along the creek have a primary purpose for flood protection and may be zoned or be subject to overlay controls accordingly. Other lands located well away from the floodplain, are used as sporting fields and can be zoned Public Park and Recreation. In addition, easements over lands along the waterway have also been created (e.g. in favour of power companies such as GPU PowerNet).

Planning for the corridor needs to work within the constraints of multiple ownership and planning controls. A focus on achieving a consolidation of the open space and waterway corridor, known as the Merri Creek Parklands is required.

Some land parcels may be subject to review for disposal or transfer when they are no longer required for core activities of agencies. A thorough review of conservation and open space needs should accompany a rationalisation of land holdings affecting the corridor.

Background

In times prior to European settlement, Aboriginal communities appear to have been protective of the creek environment and its associated lands. The twentieth century though, has seen a host of different notions emerge about treatment of the creek corridor below Mahoneys Road. Few have been particularly favourable to preservation of the stream, its floodplain and lands, though some were no doubt well-intentioned.

In the early years of Melbournes settlement, noxious industries were attracted to areas close to waterways in order that they might conveniently discharge their wastes to the streams. Their occupation of the lands near the creek set an unfortunate precedent for treatment of the stream corridor.

While effluent was poured into Merri Creek for many years as European settlement expanded north to areas such as Preston, some visionaries of the time persisted with ideas of using the creek as a municipal show-piece. One idea to emerge in the early years of the First World War, was the construction of a small lake at Northcotes gateway - presumably as a means to create some identity for this new municipality (Lemon, 1983). Though it was condemned at the time as a menace to the health of the district, the lake idea persisted until times following the sewering of the inner suburbs and the alleviation of many concerns about the creeks threat to public health.

The re-emergence of the lake concept came with the release of the Metropolitan Town Planning Commissions (MPTC) landmark report of 1929. This suggested boulevard roads along Melbournes arterial waterways and the use of creek corridors to produce a system of radial parks for Melbourne. In the case of Merri Creek there was to be a lake north of Arthurton Road, extending for nearly the whole distance between Beavers Road and Bell Street. (MTPC in Lemon, 1983, p. 210). The plan, incidentally, also showed a major area of open space on Merri Creek above Mahoneys Road.

While this grand metropolitan plan never came to fruition, due to its expense (over one million pounds), and then the onset of the Great Depression and the Second World War, a smaller lake on Merri Creek was finally constructed with the development of the Coburg Lake during the Depression years.

While the early and middle decades of the twentieth century was clearly a time of isolated garden-esque treatments of the creek corridor, the last three decades has seen a concerted effort to consolidate an open space corridor and to replicate and rehabilitate the valleys original vegetation cover.

Confirmation of this came with the coining of the term Merri Creek Parklands by the Merri Creek Bicentennial Committee in 1987. The phrase was thought necessary to provide an identity for the waterways diverse and, even then, still disparate open space. Its adoption was thought desirable to assist with efforts to achieve recognition of the emerging value to the community of the creeks open space and to encourage its protection. The adoption of the term was also an outcome of the MMBWs new-found commitment to waterway open space management. This became one of the MMBWs responsibilities in the mid 1980s. It ceased to be their responsibility in 1993 with the formation of Melbourne Parks and Waterways (now Parks Victoria).

However, there can be little doubt that the efforts to consolidate and extend the creeks open space have produced significant results. Two sections of F2 freeway reservation (south of Bell Street and later Mahoneys Road to Bell Street) have been deleted. Much of this land, especially south of Bell Street, has resumed an open space status. Councils have also gradually acquired parcels of land where opportunities arose or where lack of connection between open space areas made acquisition an imperative.

The Central Creek grasslands in Reservoir is one significant area that has now been reserved, although not without a substantial trade-off to nearby residential development.

In addition, increased amounts of land owned by public authorities have become available, through a variety of means, for recreational use. These lands sometimes have a primary purpose for flood mitigation. More notable examples in this regard are the former MMBW store yard at Winifred Street Northcote and land in the Strettle Reserve/Anderson Road area of Thornbury.

However, perhaps the most significant change to the lands of the creek corridor over the last decade has been the vast improvement in its vegetation cover. This has been brought about by many years of revegetation works, primarily through the Merri Creek Management Committees works capacity and Council efforts supported by the former MMBW and now Melbourne Water. Control of prolific weed species like Fennel has also been a noticeable change. Areas which were inaccessible and weed-infested wastelands as recently as the early 1980s (e.g. between High Street and Rushall Station, as well as many others) have become a frequently-used natural resource for the community.

Impetus for Council investment in the open space of the creek corridor - a trend which gained momentum from the late 1970s - was in part a result of their recognition of the relative open space deprivation of inner urban areas (see Ministry for Planning and Environment, 1988). Especially in the old municipalities of Fitzroy and Brunswick, the creek corridor provided one of the few opportunities for an effective increase in the open space provision of those municipalities. An even smaller proportion of the open space of these areas was available for passive recreation pursuits. As municipal recreation and other studies (e.g. Morris, 1976) of the 1970s and 80s demonstrated, traditional municipal open space usage patterns tended to persist with a strong bias towards provision of playing fields and active recreation facilities.

Opening up of the creek corridor through the provision of bicycle and walking paths, weed control and extensive revegetation have transformed many areas into popular open space with a primarily passive recreation focus.

Management Planning Priorities

(i) Primary Node Plans

Node plans are important mechanisms for planning the future development and management of sectors of the creeks open space. They ensure priority issues are addressed and resources allocated on a strategic basis.

Node plans are of greater importance in areas where past land development has reduced available open space. Where the land is used for residential purposes resumption of the land for open space is expensive and so unlikely. There will never be a uniform and adequate open space corridor along the waterways, especially in established urban areas. Links should be retained or created between nodal areas of significant open space, and the open space designed and developed accordingly.

Where most parkland development work has already been done, node plans will be more oriented towards ongoing management. Where the node has received little previous attention they should focus on parkland development.

In their preparation, Node Plans will derive guidance from suggested broad treatments of reaches of waterway open space recommended in revisions being undertaken by Merri Creek Management Committee to the Merri Creek Plan (1987), which aims to provide for continuous habitat along one side or other of the Creek.

Ideally, nodal plans should cover an area spanning both sides of the creek and/or include some key open space reserves. This will create a larger planning and development impact,

provide some possible economies of scale and permit Councils to work cooperatively to plan and resource development of open space on both sides of the stream. A list of sites recommended for development of Primary Node Plans is contained in the action tables.

Completed node plans are shown in Table 7. Other relevant plans for directing site management are listed in Table 8.

Many of these plans are dated, and the momentum of preparing and revising plans seems to have been lost.

Table 7 - Node plans south of Mahoneys Road
(implementation may be complete or underway or not yet started)

Node

Plan

Date

Merri Creek

Central Creek Grassland (Ngarri-djarrang)

Ecology Australia, Central Creek Project Grassland EMP 2000;

2000

Also Bush, Miles & Bainbridge, Central Creek 5 year works Plan. MCMC 2003

2003

Moomba Park

Taylor and Cullity Landscape Architects Pty. Ltd. (1997) Moomba Park Concept Plan

1997

Jukes Road Grasslands (Bababi djinanang)

Mueck, S. (1997) Vegetation Survey and Management Plan for Remnant Native Grassland at Jukes Road Fawkner

1997

Carr St to Queens Parade Coburg

Merri Creek improvement Plan: Carr St to Queens Parade Melbourne Water/ Thompson Berrill Pty Ltd

In prep
(draft Nov 2006)

Coburg Lake

Bainbridge & Bush (1999) Lake Reserve Coburg Aquatic Vegetation Management Plan;

1998,

Collie Landscape Design Pty Ltd (1998) Coburg Lake Management Plan

1999

Northcote Golf Course

Melbourne Water (200?) Northcote Golf Course Riparian Zone Management Plan.

200?

City of Darebin Northcote Golf Course Masterplan

(in prep)

Allard/Jones Parks & Roberts Res.

Urban Initiatives Jones Park/North East Park Landscape Master Plan

1994

CERES

CERES Site Management Plan

?

Arthurton Road to St Georges Road

Thompson Berrill Landscape Architects (2005?) Arthurton Rd to St Georges Road Landscape Plan for Melbourne Water Corp

2005?

Land Systems EBC 1991

1991

Merri Park (Northcote)

Thompson Berrill Landscape Design Pty Ltd (2005) Merri Park Management and Masterplan

2005

Normanby Ave to St Georges Rd Northcote

Melbourne Water Merri Creek Improvement Plan: Normanby Ave to St Georges Rd

2004-5

Groves Land (St Georges Rd to railway bridge)

Groves Park Concept Plan, Northcote City Council, MCMC& Melbourne Water

1992

Heidelberg Road to Eastern Freeway

Murphy Design Group and Jan Bruce and Associates, 2002.

2002

Yarra Bend Park

Yarra Bend Park Strategy Plan,
Yarra Bend Park Environmental Action Plan,
Draft Cultural significance and Conservation Plan,
Yarra Bend Park Trails Strategy Master Plan
.

1999
2000
1998
2001

Edgars Creek

Edwardes Lake Park and Edgars Creek Wetlands

Edwardes Lake Concept Masterplan Rush/Wright Associates August 2000

2000

(ii) Linking Site Prescriptions

Urban land use and/or ownership has on occasions constrained the amount of open space available along Merri Creek. In these cases linking sites provide a linking function between larger nodal points.

Within these linking sites, open space management efforts should concentrate on establishing or maintaining a satisfactory path link and undertaking revegetation to provide a habitat corridor, but with little other recreational facilities.

(iii) Secondary Sites - Node Planning

Table 8 - Other plans relevant to site management south of Mahoneys Road

Report

Date published

Merri Creek Waterway Activity Plan Draft Melbourne Water

2003

Vegetation Management Plan for the Merri Creek and Tributaries (in the City of Darebin), Darebin City Council

1999

After the completion of all Primary Node Plans, there will still be many kilometres of land adjacent to the creek requiring rehabilitation.

As Primary Node Plans are completed, sites from the secondary list should be investigated for the development of Node Plans. The absence of a node plan does not preclude secondary sites from works if responsible agencies choose to direct resources to a certain location or unanticipated funding or other opportunities arise.

 

The secondary sites are listed in the action tables. Emphasis has again been placed upon identifying significant tracts of open space spanning both sides of the stream.

Management Principles

As important as site planning in securing a cooperative and unified approach to treatment of the Merri Creek Parklands will be commitment by Councils and other agencies to the following management principles:

· Before embarking on any project along the Merri Creek or its tributaries, to properly consult with MCMC and relevant agencies;

· To conserve cultural heritage, biodiversity and geodiversity;

· To ensure that remnant vegetation is not damaged;

· To only plant indigenous vegetation of the local provenance;

· To avoid spreading weed seed by ensuring proper hygiene practices for vehicles and equipment;

· To control environmental weeds

· To control rabbits, foxes and other pest animals

· To ensuring recreational or infrastructure development is sympathetic to the existing and potential natural heritage of the parkland.

In terms of planting or revegetation or restoration design, reference should be made to the Management Guidelines for the Native Grasslands of the Merri Creek[208], Merri Creek Aquatic and Semi-Aquatic Planting Guide[209], and other guides as they are prepared.

Consolidation of the Linear Corridor

It is crucial that lands along the linear corridor be acquired to fill gaps in nodes or links whenever possible. Lands zoned Public Park and Recreation Zone (PPRZ), Urban Floodway Zone (UFZ) and Public Conservation and Resource Zone (PCRZ) are considered relatively secure where they are owned by Council.

Land zoned PUZ 1 Service and Utility is usually managed by Melbourne Water for flood protection purposes or for sewerage or water supply. It is possible that Melbourne Water would find these lands in excess, but not likely. A notable example of this is Merri Merri Park in Northcote, where the land is used for flood protection, with a levee between the houses and Merri Creek, and a retention basin. As well as these service purposes the land is used and managed as parkland.

Land zoned PUZ2 Education is used for schools. The only example of this is below Lakeside Secondary College. As the land below the college is flood prone, acquisition for parkland would be more appropriate.

Land zoned PUZ4 Transport zoned land in the vicinity of the Edgars Creek confluence, owned by VicRoads is in the process of disposal in 2009. Its retention as open space is important to linkage along Edgars Creek as well as to the value of the node at the confluence.

Land zoned PUZ7: This is a remnant of the old F2 freeway reserve adjacent to McBryde St Fawkner. It is owned by the Crown and includes land contaminated by dioxins from the Agent Orange production plant during WW2.

Industrial lands in the vicinity of Newlands Road Coburg North are in many places zoned industrial right to the Merri Creeks bank, and despite recent transfers to Council of reserves at the rear of 3A and 3B, are still in some cases privately owned right to the Creek. Reserves through these properties must be a high priority for acquisition and rezoning. Some additional open space adjacent to Edgars Creek should be excised from the redevelopment of the old Kodak land which is currently underway.

Land at 168 Arthurton Road and at 177 Beavers Road Northcote is still privately owned to the Merri Creek bank. This must be a high priority for rezoning with acquisition and/or a land management agreement attached to the title via a Section 173 agreement or covenant.

Residential zoned lands impinge in many places on the Creek, however, the highest priorities for acquisition would probably be at Elizabeth Street Northcote, the VicRoads land at Golf Road Coburg, and upstream of Derby St Fawkner. Inappropriately close subdivisions in Reservoir are probably irreversible.

Urban Floodway Zoned land in private ownership should be acquired by Melbourne Water for floodway management purposes.

Screening

There are a number of stretches from Mahoneys Road to Coburg Lake where the valley is deeply incised and adjacent residential and factory development tend to be perched over the valley. Some are on fill pushed to the limits of the natural valley form immediately adjacent to the break of slope. It may be decades before the industrial lands are rezoned to residential, and it is unlikely that the existing developed residential land will ever be acquired, so the establishment of screen planting is a priority.

While there have been some success stories where owners have faithfully implemented conditions of permits and screening vegetation is established on slopes below factories, a number of areas are still poorly screened.

Such problems are particularly evident at:

· Brex Court, Reservoir;

· Edwardes Street, Reservoir.

· Newlands Road, North Coburg; and

· Acheson Place, North Coburg.

Biodiversity Preservation

Most native vegetation in this reach was removed by the 1980s. Nonetheless, Merri creek from Mahoneys Road to Coburg Lake supports occasional remnant trees, shrubs and ground flora. There are also two small remnant native grasslands areas of significance. The Central Creek Grasslands Reserve (Ngarri-djarrang) in Reservoir is of State significance[210]. Darebin Council is responsible for its management.

The second grassland site is at the end of Jukes Road in Fawkner (Bababi djinanang) and is owned by Parks Victoria. A survey and site management report revealed that the grassland contains one plant species (Dianella amoena) considered to have national significance for conservation[211]. Overall the Jukes Road site is thought to have State to National significance[212].

Flora and fauna survey work was undertaken in 1993[213] and 1997[214]. Merri Creek from Mahoneys Road to Marlborough Street including Central Creek Grasslands is a biosite of State significance. From Normanby Ave to Heidelberg Road is a biosite of Regional significance, and downstream of Heidelberg Road part of the Yarra Bend Park Biosite of State significance.

Edwardes Lake on Edgars Creek is a biosite of Regional significance [215] .

Revegetation

Perhaps the most remarkable feature of this urban reach has been the vast improvements to the extent and nature of open space over the last 20-25 years. Revegetation programs have without doubt made significant improvements to the habitat values of the Creeks. This program should be continued, and form a high priority as part of Moreland, Darebin and Yarras revegetation strategies.

Fire

An identified hazard for this section of the Creek is a wildfire burning from the north, or starting within the section and burning south on a hot northerly wind day. This is discussed further in Chapter 4.4.


Key References

Bainbridge, B.J. & Bush, J.M. (1999). Lake Reserve Coburg Aquatic Vegetation Management Plan. Report prepared for Moreland City Council. Merri Creek Management Committee, Melbourne.

Bush, J. Miles, B. & Bainbridge, B. (2003b) Central Creek 5 year Works Plan. MCMC for Moreland Council.

Collie Landscape and Design Pty Ltd, (1998). Coburg Lake Reserve Management Plan, report for Moreland City Council. Collie Landscape and Design Pty Ltd, South Melbourne.

Ecology Australia Ply. Ltd., Context Pty. Ltd. and the Management Plan Steering Committee, (1999). Vegetation Management Plan for the Merri Creek and Tributaries, Report prepared for Darebin Parks, Darebin City Council, Preston.

Ecology Australia (2000) Central Creek Project Grassland Environmental Management Plan.

Land Systems EBC (1991 ). Merri Creek Parklands Concept Plan, Report for Merri Creek Management Committee, City of Brunswick, Department of Planning and Housing and City of Northcote, Melbourne.

Mueck, S. (1997) Vegetation Survey and Management Plan for Remnant Native Grassland at Jukes Road Fawkner. Report prepared for Moreland City Council, Biosis Research, Port Melbourne.

Murphy Design Group and Jan Bruce & Associates (2002) Merri Parklands Landscape Master Plan. Report to City of Yarra on the section of the west bank of Merri Creek between Heidelberg Road and the Eastern Freeway.

Northcote City Council (1992) Groves Park Concept Plan. A plan prepared by Northcote City Council with input from MCMC and Melbourne Water.

Parks Victoria (1998b) Yarra Bend Park Draft Cultural Significance and Conservation Plan

Parks Victoria (1999) Yarra Bend Park Strategy Plan.

Parks Victoria (2000) Yarra Bend Park Environmental Action Plan

Parks Victoria (2001) Yarra Bend Park Trails Strategy Masterplan

Taylor and Cullity Landscape Architects Pty. Ltd. (1997). Moomba Park Concept Plan, Final Report for Moreland City Council, Melbourne.

Thompson Berrill Landscape Design Pty Ltd (2005) Merri Park Management Plan. Report prepared for the City of Darebin. (includes Merri Park Masterplan, a map)

Urban Initiatives (1994) North East Park Masterplan. Report for Moreland City Council.

Walters, B, & Frood, D. (2004) Assessment of the natural values at the Barry Road Grasslands. Report prepared for VicRoads by Ecoplan Australia Pty Ltd and Pathways Bushland and Environment.

Issues

1. An open space corridor with a sustainable and linked indigenous vegetation cover and multiple habitat opportunities is required in order to provide benefit to the community and to the waterway ecosystem.

2. Urban and industrial development has on occasions encroached into the stream valley making the provision of an open space corridor difficult.

3. While much has been achieved during the last 20 years, there are still many decades of work to be done to control weed problems, revegetate areas and protect and extend the small remnants of indigenous vegetation within the Merri Creek Parklands. Agreement about priorities is an essential part of planning future development of open space.

4. Mechanisms need to be introduced to ensure that open space lands and floodplains are protected in the long term from the effects of changing responsibilities of state agencies which own those lands.

5. Where there are areas of private ownership of creek frontage it may often be necessary to negotiate improved management of those frontages.

 

Objectives

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

 

Targets

1. Continuous open space corridors along Merri Creek and the main tributaries of the reach (Central Creek, Edgars Creek and Merlynston Creek) where opportunities permit.

2. Consolidation of open space by:

· using statutory planning mechanisms;

· negotiating agreements with landowners for sympathetic management of private frontages to the stream, lease of land for open space purposes or other arrangements which facilitate public access to private land forming stream frontages;

· purchase or re-zoning, transferring or otherwise incorporating strategic parcels of government and private land into the Merri Creek Parklands.

3. Adequate, strategically located open space appropriately zoned and treated in Planning Schemes (e.g. as Urban Floodway or Land Subject to Inundation, Public Park and Recreation, or similar).

4. Where subdivisions and re-developments adjoin waterway open space, and the open space is inadequate for linear parkland connectivity (either for recreational or habitat corridor purposes), open space contributions of land are required. Where open space is adequate, cash contributions may be levied

5. Sympathetic public works, private development and private land-use adjacent to the creek which aids the development of an open space corridor.

Actions

See Section E page 196.

 


[208] Bush & Faithfull 1997

[209] Bainbridge, 1999

[210] Robinson and Duggan, 1994; Robinson and Morgan, 1997

[211] Mueck, 1997

[212] G. Carr, pers. comm.

[213] Ecological Horticulture Pty Ltd, 1993

[214] Beardsell, 1997

[215] DSE, Biosites Maps and Reports Port Phillip Region 2005 Biosites 7137, 5051, 3558 and 4967 respectively

 

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