Green Wedge plan ‘ineffective’

Anne Parisianne

Environmentalists are concerned the state government’s latest plan to protect green wedge areas on Melbourne’s fringe is “ineffective” and won’t stop urban creep.

Last week, the state government released its Green Wedge and Agricultural Land Action Plan which seeks to ensure the city’s expansion accommodates the growing need for housing without sacrificing productive agricultural land and access to nature.

The government announced planning reforms will be introduced to provide better permanent protection for the green wedge areas from over-development and inappropriate use through controls for agricultural land.

The government claims that the plan, which also encompasses cultural heritage sites, water catchments, conservation areas and quarries, will protect areas responsible for supplying 41 per cent of metropolitan Melbourne’s food needs, including 80 per cent of its vegetables.

Green Wedges Coalition coordinator Rosemary West said the action plan shows the government’s good intentions but said, “we are concerned that the action plan fails to address the perennial problem of urban uses encroaching into the green wedges”.

She said they fear that green wedge protection will still largely be left to local residents, environment and green wedge groups

“It has no actions to limit the spread of urban uses, like schools, places of worship or secondary dwellings, in the green wedges.”

The plan also indicates more flexibility for farmgate sales, which means “agricultural land will continue to be lost to urban uses, and the green wedges will still be threatened by death from a thousand cuts,” Ms West said.

“We are disappointed that the very moderate proposals in the 2020 options paper––which require schools and places of worship to be located adjacent to the UGB [urban growth boundary] on a main road with access to public transport and not in a Bushfire Management Overlay––have been dropped.

“Since the main purposes of the green wedges are to protect the natural biodiversity, agricultural land and rural open landscapes, we are surprised there is no action proposed to protect the environment, which is left to councils to look after via their green wedge management plans.

Hume residents David and Gwen Chandler said the plan is ineffective in protecting the green wedge.

“I think it’s missed the point to some extent,” Mr Chandler said. “The key issue… Green wedges has, is more and more industrial blocks occurring around the outer edge,” he said.

“[The plan] is doing very little to protect… the rural landscape and the environment,” Mrs Chandler adds.

Planning Minister Kilkenny said from the iconic wine regions to market gardens, the green wedges contribute not only to the economy but make Melbourne one of the best cities in the world.

“More housing doesn’t have to come at the expense of our green wedges,” she said.

“That’s why we’re providing better permanent protection for these areas against over-development.“