After Moreland Council's success in negotiating the purchase of VicRoads' land at McBryde St Fawkner, we are hopeful that VicRoads land at nearby Leonard St in Fawkner will also become permanent open space. This land is an integral part of the Merri Creek habitat and parkland corridor. If it is not acquired by Council for open space, it will be sold off for residential development. Merri Creek Management Committee congratulates Moreland Council on its decision to pursue acquisition of this land. We share Council's frustration that it has to use ratepayer’s funds to purchase land from another level of government.
The reasons MCMC supports retention of this land as public open space are:
1. Protection of Ecological values
Remarkably, Native Grassland is still present at the site on a number of the lots, close to the existing Emma Street Native Grassland area (see map below). Although the ecological values on the south side of Leonard Street appear to have declined somewhat over the last two decades, the 0.16ha covered by Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra) still qualifies as Native Grassland under state and federal requirements and has enormous potential to be improved through active management. The management of the Leonard Street grassland could be combined with the management of the Emma Street grassland (this grassland is actively managed by MCMC under agreement with Moreland Council), an action that would help improve the values of the two grasslands by increasing the size of the patch.
Other Ecological Values
Since 1992, with funding from Moreland Council and other sources, MCMC has undertaken significant revegetation in and around the Leonard Street lots (see photos and map). This has established valuable habitat and visual amenity on and in the vicinity of the land to be sold. The start to the process was to clean up the enormous amount of dumped rubbish on the site. The east end of the Leonard Street road reserve, if constructed as a road, would impact heavily on some of this landscaping, as would the provision of stormwater infrastructure and the development of a number of the lots.
2. Protection of amenity and recreation values
The development of the VicRoads lots and Leonard St would have a dramatic amenity impact on the adjacent parkland, particularly on its peaceful, relaxing quality and its visual beauty. It would also cause further fragmentation of the areas of parkland. Full construction of Leonard Street, in the current road reserve would also sever the Merri Creek Shared Path (see map).
3. Potential for a quality entrance to the Merri Creek Parklands in Fawkner
This site provides the only opportunity to create a welcoming entry to the Merri Creek Parklands along the whole length of McBryde Street in Fawkner. Most of the other entries are single blocks with little opportunity for parking, and are easily missed even by long term residents of Fawkner. There are a number of entrances from side roads to the Merri Creek Parklands, but these entries are not particularly visible or welcoming, nor are they well signposted, and are certainly not well-known to residents of Fawkner, let alone residents from elsewhere in Moreland and beyond.
Most of the extensive open space along the Merri Creek in Fawkner is hidden by urban development – often a single row of houses or industrial warehouses on McBryde Street. The VicRoads lots on McBryde Street, the major north-south road in Fawkner, could provide a welcoming entry to the Merri Creek parklands, with room to establish car parking, playground and other appropriate visitor facilities. This site also presents the opportunity for construction of a key connection from McBryde St to the Merri Creek Shared Trail.
4. Potential for recreation and education facilities
Because much of the Merri Creek Parkland in Fawkner is hidden behind houses, and has had problems with vandalism in the past, this site provides the opportunity to provide visitor facilities such as a playground and picnic area which would visible from local streets, and less likely therefore to be vandalised. Also, being relatively flat and safe, it could provide an opportunity for a nature play, Bush Kinder, and other early childhood encounters with local biodiversity of all kinds.
MCMC has used the Leonard Street/Emma Street grasslands several times for school education excursions for year 11 students from Darul Ulum College for field studies of ecological processes and fieldwork methods.
5. A once-only opportunity
This is a once-only opportunity to retain land for public open space. We strongly support Council in its endeavour to persuade the State Government to gift the land. If this is not forthcoming we strongly support provision of this land at a heavily discounted price, given its critical ecological, amenity and recreation values and the cost incurred by Council and MCMC in managing and improving the area.
We've told Council that we would be pleased to join them in advocacy to the State Government on this matter. Our thanks to everyone who submitted to Council in support of retaining this land as public open space, part of the Merri Creek Parklands.