Anxiety over vegetation removal at Mount Macedon Memorial Cross

(Macedon Ranges council)

Elsie Lange

Environmentalists and a residents’ group are concerned about the proposed removal of up to 2.3 hectares of vegetation in Macedon Regional Park, in a push to restore views to and from the Mount Macedon Memorial Cross.

The Macedon Ranges Residents Association (MRRA) has put out a ‘red alert’ for objections from residents to Macedon Ranges council against a Parks Victoria planning application to remove the vegetation, which includes areas of rare snow gum growth.

In its application, Parks Victoria said the project would reinstate view lines to and from the cross built in 1935, which had been “lost over the past few decades” due to the regrowth of surrounding vegetation since 2007.

“This has limited the views to and from the c ross that were once appreciated by both the Macedon Ranges community and visitors to the region,” the report said.

There is a heritage covenant over the Macedon Cross Reserve which Parks Victoria said “outlines the expectation that views can be enjoyed from Melbourne and looking out from the cross”.

In a submission urging council to reject the application, the Victorian National Parks Association (VPNA) said it saw the proposal as “unnecessary and disproportionate” and would involve clearing “unique and important habitat”.

VNPA nature campaigner and Macedon Ranges local Ben Gill said the organisation was objecting to a “lack of community consultation”, a failure to recognise the importance of snow gums to the area.

“The big part of our dispute is it contravenes what has been set out in the Macedon Ranges Planning Policy, which outlines their intent to protect the Macedon Ranges as an area of distinct landscapes,” he said.

Macedon Ranges was the first region to be declared a distinctive area and landscape under landmark legislation introduced in 2018 to safeguard Victoria’s most precious environments – funding for the project was secured through the government’s Distinctive Areas and Landscapes grants program.

The MRRA said it was concerned the implications of the vegetation removal would be “widespread”.

“If the ‘protection’ provided isn’t working, it’s not just Mount Macedon in jeopardy, the shire’s environment and towns aren’t protected either,” MRRA said.

However, members of the veteran community are supportive of the Parks Victoria application – Mount Macedon Memorial Cross Committee of Management chairperson David Mann said the vegetation removal would be a reintroduction of past maintenance.

“We have the full support of the veteran community to conduct this viewscape … one of the most significant services that takes place at the cross is the dawn service … this viewscape clearing will enhance that experience.”

Parks Victoria area chief ranger Siobhan Rogan said thorough environmental, heritage and cultural assessments would be completed prior to any removal of vegetation, with disturbance kept to a minimum and indigenous shrubs and grasses retained where possible.