Merri Creek open space is again under threat from a government authority declaring creek-side land 'surplus' to its requirements. In this latest case, VicRoads is preparing to sell land in Fawkner, zoned Public Park & Recreation Zone (PPRZ), for residential development. A sub-standard creek corridor reserve is part of the proposal. The lack of leadership and vision at the State-level for our waterway corridors is deeply worrying, especially when it concerns a creek of Merri Creek's significance.
The VicRoads land is located at the rear of an industrial area at 106 McBryde St, Fawkner, and extends to Merri Creek. As a precursor to the sale, VicRoads has applied to divide the land into two parcels; one parcel, a 35m wide strip of land next to Merri Creek, is for transfer to Moreland Council. In exchange, Moreland City Council has agreed to sell VicRoads a parcel of nearby Council-owned land at the end of Hood St Fawkner, also near Merri Creek. The Hood St land will provide a second point for road access to the VicRoads land - a necessary requirement if residential development of the land is to proceed (right above: VicRoads Concept Plan for the site).
There are multiple problems with the proposal. The 35m-wide creek corridor falls well short of the minimum 50m-wide creek corridor that is an objective in Moreland Council's own planning scheme. Council's agreement to the land swap, made back in Dec 2015, occurred without specific community consultation about the future of the area. And the decision was made in the absence of any strategic analysis of future open space needs in the area, either recreational or ecological. The experience of Merri Creek further downstream shows that community demand for this type of open space is continuing apace, especially as urban consolidation proceeds. The fact that the land swap was opposed by Council's own open space unit is telling. For more detail, read MCMC's objection to the subdivision application.
Council's decision about the subdivision of the land into two parcels is now imminent. If approved, the land exchange is expected to proceed unless Council and VicRoads can be convinced to change their decisions.