Tree Protection Controls on Private Land in Whitehorse – Municipal Wide Significant Landscape Overlay (Amendment C191)
It’s been a long time coming (the process was initiated in late 2015), but we finally have tree protection controls for residential properties for the greater part of Whitehorse. Thanks to Council, local community groups and individuals for their perseverance and persistence in making this important initiative a reality.
The relevant document, Amendment C191, applies a citywide Significant Landscape Overlay to all residential land in Whitehorse not currently included in a Significant Landscape Overlay. The new overlay is in place, on an interim basis, from 8 February until 31 December 2018. The amendment is designed to prevent the unauthorized removal of large, established trees and provide more protection for the landscape character of Whitehorse.
However, the tree society has a number of concerns that need to be addressed as a matter of urgency (apart from answering the obvious question as to why it took so long for the State Government Planning Minister to ratify and gazette the Amendment):
1. The tree controls are interim only until end-December 2018. Why is this interim requirement necessary and is this enough time to decide whether the tree controls are having any effect?
2. Has Council budgeted for the increase in personnel, time and resources necessary to administer the tree control for this interim period? We hope the amendment has not been set up to fail!
3. Why are the permit triggers for tree removal via this amendment much more lax than for the existing Significant Landscape Overlay areas (e.g. SLO1 and 2)? The new controls require a permit to remove a tree that has a single trunk circumference greater than 1.0 metre at a height of one metre above ground level, whereas for SLO1 and SLO2 areas the permit trigger is a circumference greater than 0.5 metres. One can argue that the accelerated loss of trees/tree canopy and the common practice of ‘moonscaping’ in the non-protected Whitehorse suburbs requires at least the same protection as for those suburbs that have enjoyed tree controls for many years. By way of example, a large site in an SLO2 area, currently subject to a VCAT hearing, has 24 trees on or adjacent to the site that are greater than 0.5 metres in trunk circumference and thus require a council permit for their removal. If the same property was located in the new tree control area only 15 of the trees would require a permit prior to their removal – an almost 40% reduction. This won’t help to address the massive tree losses in the city at large.
4. Tree controls must be extended to provide urgent protection for younger and smaller growing trees; otherwise tree density, tree canopy cover and mature tree ‘succession’ is compromised on private land. It is farcical that Council can require a homeowner to plant more trees following the removal of large specimens, but then provide only limited protection for the youngsters to grow to maturity so that they can replace the mature trees in time.
5. How will Council measure the effectiveness of the new tree controls? The tree society urges Council to adopt a municipal tree canopy assessment tool to provide an objective measurement of the city’s tree canopy over time. Such a tool already exists and is discussed in a report: Benchmarking Australia’s Tree Canopy: An i-Tree Assessment, 2014, authored by the Institute of Sustainable Futures, University of Technology, Sydney.
The new controls via Amendment C191 apply to most of the residential land in Whitehorse, and more specifically all residential land in the Neighbourhood Residential Zone, General Residential Zone, Residential Growth Zone and Low Density Residential Zone that is not already covered by an overlay. Please note that these interim controls do not change the zoning of any land in Whitehorse. Council has recently notified relevant landowners by letter of their obligations under Amendment C191 regarding these new tree controls. Owners unsure as to which residential zone and/or overlay applies to their neighbourhood can refer to the following link for details: http://www.whitehorse.vic.gov.au/Whitehorse-Maps.html.
In essence Amendment C191 means that a Council permit is now required to remove, destroy or lop a tree on private property. This does not apply to:
• A tree less than 5m in height and having a single trunk circumference of 1.0 metre or less at a height of one metre above ground level (NB: 1 metre circumference = ~ 32 centimetres diameter or around two hand-spans, or
• The pruning of a tree for regeneration or ornamental shaping; or
• A tree which is dead or dying or has become dangerous to the satisfaction of the responsible authority;
• A tree outside the Minimum Street Setback in the Residential Growth Zone. This means that any tree that has a trunk circumference of greater than 1.0m at 1.0m from the ground and/or a height of 5 metres or more requires a planning permit before it can be removed. A permit is not required to remove a dead, dying or dangerous tree to the satisfaction of Council. Further information can be obtained on Council’s website or by contacting Council’s Planning and Building department on 9262 6303.
North East Link and Potential Impacts on Whitehorse
In February 2018 the society applied for membership of the North East Link (NEL) Community Liaison Group. We need a seat at the table as we:
• Have a keen interest in the natural landscape from Greensborough to Bulleen including the Watsonia Army Barracks site and the Yarra River Valley/Banyule Flats and
• Are vitally concerned about the impacts of the construction works on the Eastern Freeway from Bulleen Road to the Ringwood tunnels, and on adjacent parklands and open space in Mont Albert North, Box Hill North, Blackburn North, Nunawading and Mitcham.
We also fear that the main north-south roads in Whitehorse will require major widening works to cope with the projected increase in traffic volumes. These roads include Elgar Road, Station Street (where new on- and off-ramps will probably need to be built), Middleborough Road, Surrey/Blackburn Road and Springvale Road.
The following vehicles are prohibited from being driven through the EastLink tunnels:
• Vehicles exceeding 4.65m in height will be automatically detected and stopped from entering the tunnel by boom gates
• Vehicles required to display a placard must never use a tunnel and will be stopped if detected, and
• Vehicles considered to be Over Dimensional by VicRoads must use OD1 to by-pass the tunnels.
Therefore, following construction of the North East Link, it is anticipated that the substantial increase in trucks turning east from the NEL onto the Eastern Freeway will be travelling along Springvale Road, Maroondah Highway and Burwood Highway to bypass the tunnels i.e. through the eastern part of Whitehorse.
The tree society is vitally interested in the mitigation of construction impacts on the natural landscape of these areas and the enhancement of parklands and open spaces adjoining the Eastern Freeway and associated major north-south feeder roads. Should our application be successful, we will provide community input, advocacy and regular feedback on the planning and construction of the North East Link.
A community workshop, attended by David Berry, was held at the Veneto Club in Bulleen on Tuesday 27 February. David attended the ‘Our Environment’ conversation stream with thirty other people who were similarly concerned about the environmental impacts of the freeway construction.
We’ll keep you posted as to the success or otherwise for our application for membership of the NEL Community Liaison Group.
Pending VCAT hearings for Contentious Development Proposals in Blackburn
• 199 Canterbury Road – Childcare Development Proposal
A VCAT-convened Compulsory Conference, held on 13th February, was attended by all parties to discuss and decide whether the VCAT hearing scheduled for 9-11 April will go ahead. After a lengthy 5-hour session the conference was adjourned until 6 March, to give the developer time to prepare amended plans that would decrease the building footprint, separate the retained trees from the play spaces, make provision for five more large canopy trees and allow VicRoads to complete and circulate a traffic report.
Apparently, according to Council and the VCAT Member, the glut of childcare centres in Blackburn/Forest Hill (with more being built) and client parking in Lagoona Street and on Canterbury Road, are not considered major impediments to the granting of the development proposal. A cursory examination of the amended plans received on Wednesday 28 February has not persuaded the tree society (or BVRG or the local residents’ group) to settle the case at the reconvened conference on Tuesday 6 March. In fact the plans are worse than the originals, the amended Landscape Planting Plan is unfinished and no VicRoads traffic report had been circulated by the weekend of 3 and 4 March.
• 20-24 Masons Road – Impact of construction works on neighbour’s significant tree at 18 Masons Road
Earlier in 2017 the owner at 20-24 Masons Road excavated within 2 metres (and into the root zone) of a mature, significant, protected Eucalyptus melliodora (Yellow Box) to construct a shed without obtaining a planning permit. He then obtained an arborist report that concluded the tree was unsafe due to root damage. Apparently, the owner of 20-24 Masons Road now contends that the tree is safe and can be retained along with the illegally constructed shed. The matter is now going to a VCAT Hearing in May and the tree society will make a presentation.
• 10 Eustace Street – Large garage construction with significant loss of trees
A planning application for the construction of a huge shed and associated access driveway requiring the removal of ten trees has now gone to VCAT with a Hearing date yet to be announced. The tree society has put in a Statement of Grounds to VCAT, opposing the development application, and will make a presentation at the Hearing.
How Can We Increase the Tree Canopy in Whitehorse in One Easy Step?
Answer: Plant at least one street tree in the nature-strip for every residential frontage throughout the City.
Case Study: Branksome Grove (Melway 61 H-1) in Blackburn South is 400 metres long with 40 residences having a front or side boundary onto the street and a small neighbourhood park halfway along on the western side. A recent walk through assessment of the street trees showed a deficiency in the streetscape of twenty or more street trees. About half of the properties in Branksome Grove have street trees on their front or side boundaries; many of those properties do have small trees or shrubs, but they do little for the canopy cover of the area. This is not good enough and requires urgent action by Council. Branksome Grove is not an isolated tree-deficient streetscape; many streets in Blackburn South and other Whitehorse suburbs have similar streetscape deficits. So come on Whitehorse Council – let’s have a 5-year plan to make it happen; a street tree outside every house in the city by the end of 2022. And while we’re at it let’s provide incentives for residents to plant two or more trees in their nature-strips and/or convert their nature-strips into native gardens, community vegie patches or herb gardens!
Masons Road Reserve Blackburn – Park activity 9.30-11.30 am, Saturday 17 March 2018 Local residents are invited to the second major park activity for Mason Road Reserve to be held on Saturday 17 March from 9.30-11.30 am. We will be weeding the three ponds and their environ,s and checking out the other plants that were planted in Spring 2017 by Melbourne Water and the community. If the weather breaks beforehand we may even be planting again in and around the ponds. Please meet near the ‘Lagoona’ Pond at the end of Masons Road at 9.30 am and bring gloves, a kneeling mat, small gardening fork or weed digger, water and sunscreen. A couple of smaller working bees have been held this year to remove the weeds (mainly Kikuyu) that are running rampant in the ‘Lagoona’ Pond. We need to start up a dedicated local ‘Friends’ group to provide stewardship for the ponds and reserve in general. Nathan Mattinson, the Waterways and Land Officer at Melbourne Water, will be attending the activity and we will ask him about Friends groups for other Melbourne Water assets in the Melbourne metropolitan area. Hope to see Tree Society members at the activity on the 17th March. We will be asking the Blackburn & District Environment Protection Fund and Council to provide funding or indigenous plants for winter planting activities in the park.
25 Holland Road Blackburn South – Planting in Residential Gardens Because the developer tore down around 25 mature trees from this site, for no reason, last year, local residents and the tree society decided to initiate a re-planting project to plant trees and shrubs in residential gardens abutting the now bare site at 25 Holland Road, in order to replace this lost canopy. The Blackburn and District Environment Protection Fund has pledged $500 to purchase indigenous plants from Bungalook community nursery to achieve this outcome.
Project Update: The tree society has completed six site inspections and developed planting plans for the properties. Over one hundred plants have been ordered for planting in the gardens of four of these properties in autumn/winter of this year. The plants for two of the properties were planted in late spring last year. The largest impact will be produced by the planting of fifty indigenous and native plants, including fourteen trees, in the southern garden border of the Chinese Church, which shares a long boundary with 25 Holland Road.
Recognition for Local Environmental Advocates
David Inglis – Whitehorse Citizen of the Year 2018
David has been a member of the Wandinong Sanctuary Advisory Committee since 1974 and was the committee’s long-term treasurer until 2017. David attends monthly working bees and provides special attention to the plants in summer. David is also a long-serving member of the tree society. He has been a volunteer driver for the Eastern Transport Register and has also been involved in Neighbourhood Watch for more than 30 years. Congratulations David on being the Whitehorse Citizen of the Year for 2018.
Cecily Falkingham – Whitehorse Community Achievement Award for 2018
Cecily’s expertise as a naturalist has resulted in her playing important roles as advocate and teacher in environmental sustainability and protection for many years. She has been co-opted on to many environmental group committees and has worked closely with all tiers of government on environmental projects. Cecily leads nature walks of the Mullum Mullum Valley and continues to provide her expertise to land managers on conservation issues. Congratulations, Cecily, on your Whitehorse Community Achievement Award for 2018.
Anne, currently the tree society secretary, is something of a community superstar in Whitehorse. She was Whitehorse Citizen of the Year in 2016 and has recently been featured in the March 2018 edition of the Whitehorse News. Anne is actively involved at Blackburn Lake Sanctuary as Chairman of the Advisory Committee and Visitor Centre, visitor centre volunteer coordinator and sanctuary education program volunteer. She is also an active volunteer for the Blackburn branch of the Red Cross and the Uniting Care East Burwood Centre. If this isn’t enough, Anne, along with Mary Crouch (see next article) and Amanda Simpson regularly work in McCubbin Park, Blackburn and the ‘Espe’ in Mitcham to preserve and enhance the bush remnants and keep the weeds at bay. Phew – no time to rest for Anne!
Friends and colleagues of tree society committee member and Treasurer Mary Crouch ‘ambushed’ her in the Creeklands during a working-bee a few weeks ago, on the occasion of her birthday. A surprise morning-tea was held to honour Mary – a tireless worker and advocate for the betterment of our local environment. Mary is so ecologically important that she lends herself to botanical description: Mary Crouch: A Rare Species
Description: Passionate advocate for the natural environment; decisive & task oriented; hard working and a great compadre
Size: None of your business!
Habitat: Dry & Valley Sclerophyll Forest
Form: Upright with grey-green foliage and indistinct flowers
Requirements: Loves remnant areas, but also thrives in weedy patches; tolerates soils drying out in summer and boggy in winter; a great companion for indigenous plants
Propagation: ‘One of a kind’, but early cloning trials are promising
Localities: Largely confined to the eastern suburbs of Melbourne (Blackburn, Mitcham and Nunawading), however, occasional sightings in Geelong and Jolimont, mainly in the winter months (subject takes on a bluish-white hue)
Distribution: Victoria only
ULE (Useful Life Expectancy): 100+ years
The Blackburn & District Environment Protection Fund
The tree society urges all members to dig deep and make regular donations to the Blackburn & District Environment Protection Fund. The Fund supports on-ground conservation activities and children’s environmental education programs in Whitehorse.
So far, in the 2017-2018 financial year, three environmental grants have been made available for planting indigenous plants, at Orchard Grove Primary School (Blackburn South), Masons Road Reserve (Blackburn) and in residential gardens surrounding 25 Holland Road in Blackburn South. Funding has also been pledged to support Council’s Gardens for Wildlife program for 2018.
Donations can be made by:
o Completing and sending a cheque to the fund at the following address: BDEPF, PO Box 210, Blackburn, VIC 3130
o Making an on-line donation at http://www.givenow.com.au/cause1518 The fund’s web-site address is http://blackburnenviro.wordpress.com/ The Blackburn & District Tree Preservation Society sponsors the Fund.
Western Highway Duplication near Ararat: Massive Tree and Habitat Loss planned by VicRoads and opposed by the Local and Wider Community
VicRoads is duplicating sections of the highway between Ballarat and Ararat. Local community environmental advocates argue that the chosen route from Buangor to Ararat will cause massive damage to the environment, an assertion supported by professional reports, including those from Ecology Australia, and from VicRoads’ own consultant, Biosis. Locals are proposing an alternative route, the ‘Northern Option’, that will result in much less environmental damage.
The VicRoads preferred route means:
• An estimated extra million cubic metres of earth disturbed during construction
• An extra flyover bridge
• More off-ramps, with traffic pushed onto quiet roads bordered by threatened ecological communities and vegetation, including significant trees
• 3.5 kilometres of exposed cutting high along a ridge-side, visible for fifty kilometres
• The loss of ninety-four Large Old Trees, four times more than on the community’s preferred route, and including one with a spectacular hollow.
• Greater loss of protected habitats (31.1 hectares), plant communities and remnant vegetation
• The creation of fragmented ‘islands’ of remnant vegetation
• The destruction of significant, heritage trees of local aboriginal cultural significance.
Despite professional evidence and public opposition, VicRoads is determined to proceed on the chosen route. Locals have already taken VicRoads to court, and at the eleventh hour the state Planning Minister stepped in to exempt the case from democratic process, under Section 20(4) of the Planning and Environment Act.
The local environmental advocacy group has a website at: https://www.fixfreewayfiasco.org
The group is seeking donations, asking people to sign their petition and suggesting that the issue be publicized widely. The group hopes that VicRoads and the State Government will see the error of their ways and choose to use their ‘Northern Option’, thereby saving many large old trees and protected habitat.
Are you able to help them?
New Guidelines for the Removal, Destruction or Lopping of Native Vegetation
The State Government gazetted a planning amendment in December 2017 that adds a new reference document to local planning schemes.
One of the important inclusions in the new guidelines is that offset plantings (to compensate for native vegetation losses in any development) are required to be more local, which the tree society fully endorses. To quote from the guidelines:
‘Vicinity – The offset must be located within the same Catchment Management Authority boundary or municipal district as the native vegetation to be removed. This maintains a link between the location of the offset and the site of the native vegetation to be removed.’
Thanks to David Morrison, tree society member and BVRG Secretary, for referring this article to the committee.
Reforming the Victorian Planning Provisions – Tree Society Survey Response
The society completed a comprehensive on-line survey on the review and discussion paper for this initiative in November last year.
The society agrees that the Victorian Planning Provisions (VPP) documentation is lengthy, unwieldy and not user friendly in its current iteration. However any structural review that streamlines and simplifies the assessment pathways must not dilute the powers of Councils to preserve and enhance the unique neighbourhood and natural landscape character within their domains for the benefit of their residents.
This applies specifically in relation to provisions concerning the natural environment and landscape character.
The society considers that the VPP is pro-development and construction-driven, with scant regard for the preservation and enhancement of the natural landscape that form the interstices between built structures. We are losing our trees and canopy cover, vegetation and open spaces to the human-dominated built-form. This is already compromising quality of life issues for people living in urban areas and shows no signs of abatement. Any major review of the VPP must include tree and vegetation planning, preservation and enhancement provisions, including a meaningful requirement for the provision of adequate open spaces for passive recreational pursuits on private property and the provision of low-stress, high connectivity links for walkers and cyclists on land in the public domain. The tree society committee fears that the VPP reform initiative has a barely concealed objective of providing open slather to all types of inappropriate development in urban precincts.
The tree society is particularly concerned with the development and application of secondary dwelling and small lot standards and how they will impact on residential amenity and local landscape character. Tree canopy maintenance and enhancement is a crucial consideration here – trees need sufficient space to thrive.
The tree society is opposed to any review of the existing residential zones that dilute the current permit requirements for lot size permit triggers for the Schedules for Neighbourhood Residential Zones (NRZ1, NRZ2, NRZ3 and NRZ4) in the current Whitehorse Planning Scheme. Likewise the society opposes the dilution of the intent and function of the specific overlay provisions and Schedules with particular reference to Significant Landscape Overlays, Environmental Significance Overlays, Vegetation Protection Overlays and Heritage & Built Form Overlays.
Feedback Requested on the Victorian Local Government Bill Exposure Draft
The release of the Exposure Draft of the Victorian Local Government Bill marks the final stage of public consultation on the Local Government Act Review before the Bill enters the Parliament. The Draft Bill seeks to:
• Provide a better understanding of the role of Councils as democratically elected bodies
• Encourage Victorians to participate more as candidates, voters and citizens in council activities and contributing to Council strategic visions and plans
• Drive more autonomous and outcome focused Councils
• Encourage Councils to embrace innovative and collaborative arrangements that increase organisational efficiency and deliver public value for residents
• Provide a sound framework for the sector to become more efficient and enterprising in local governance.
The closing date for submissions has been extended to Friday 16 March at 5pm.
The tree society is in the process of developing a submission on behalf of the tree society. Councils, peak bodies and all other interested stakeholders are encouraged to make a submission and all submissions will inform the final drafting of the Bill.
There are three ways to make a submission
1. Online by uploading submissions to the http://www.yourcouncilyourcommunity.vic.gov.au website
2. Emailing submissions to email@example.com(External link)
3. Posting submissions to: Local Government Act Review Secretariat C/o Local Government Victoria, PO Box 500, Melbourne VIC 3002
2018 Mullum Mullum Festival
The 2018 Mullum Mullum Festival will be held on the week-ends of 28-29 April and 5-6 May. The first event, on the evening of 28th April will be a spotlighting walk led by Ray Gibson. This will be followed, on 29th April, by the official opening with Aboriginal workshops, music and displays at Yarran Dheran Reserve. There will also be nature walks with leaders who speak Mandarin and Arabic. Copies of the full program will be available in libraries and other public spaces in the near future.
The death of Life Member, Eileen McKee, took place in the first week of March, at the age of 95. Eileen will be remembered for her involvement in many enviromental activities over many years. A major involvement was as a staff member of the Victorian National Parks Association.
Future Cities: Planning for our Growing Population (Infrastructure Australia)
This paper, released in February 2018, is the fifth paper in Infrastructure Australia’s Reform Series. It provides advice to governments on improving the productivity and liveability of the largest cities including Melbourne and Sydney into the future. The paper compares the performance of three hypothetical scenarios for Melbourne by modelling their respective impacts on the performance of the city’s infrastructure. It provides evidence of the trade-offs that face Australia’s largest cities over the next 30 years, and presents an urban reform agenda for Australian governments.
See the full report plus interactive maps and downloads at: http://infrastructureaustralia.gov.au/policy-publications/publications/future-cities.aspx
A recent article in The Age provides an excellent introduction to the report’s findings and recommendations. Refer to ‘Melbourne’s Liveability Choice: Soar like Manhattan or Sprawl like LA’ at the following link: https://www.theage.com.au/politics/victoria/melbourne-s-liveability-choice-soar-like-manhattan-or-sprawl-like-la-20180222-p4z1b5.html
The report’s Interactive Maps are especially informative, with predictions made on the impacts in five critical areas for three scenarios compared with the current (as of 2016) situation. The areas are:
• Changing demographics of Melbourne
• Performance of the transport network
• Access to jobs
• Access to and demand for social infrastructure
• Access to and demand for green space
The three 2046 hypothetical scenarios are:
1. Expanded Low Density (Expanded 2046)
• 40% greenfield / 60% infill development, with a focus on minimising growth in existing areas.
• Current economic geography of the city is maintained.
• Transport networks are expanded to better connect population in outer suburbs.
2. Centralised High Density (Centralised 2046)
• 20% greenfield / 80% infill development, with a focus on higher density in inner areas.
• Expanded CBD to take in inner suburbs.
• Better use of existing transport infrastructure by developing around existing nodes and tram lines in inner and middle suburbs.
3. Rebalanced Medium Density (Rebalanced 2046)
•30% greenfield / 70% infill development, with a focus on medium density in the west of the city.
• Growth of employment centres in the west.
• New transport infrastructure to support rebalancing to the west.
Each of the three scenarios differs, based on the following assumptions:
• The location of an additional 2.8 million people living in Melbourne, and the density and type of housing they live in.
• The location of the additional 1.6 million jobs.
• The structure of the transport network required to support each scenario’s different land-use patterns.
It is disturbing to note that for two important parameters concerning the tree society, i.e. Access to Green Space and Demand for Green Space, Whitehorse doesn’t fair well now compared to our neighbouring municipalities (with the exception of Monash). And it’s only going to get worse no matter which hypothetical scenario becomes the reality over the next thirty years. Whitehorse Council needs to become more proactive to preserve and enhance the green spaces in Whitehorse for the benefit of future generations.
Fighting for the Trees: The Story of the Blackburn & District Tree Preservation Society Inc. (1959-2016)
The story of the Blackburn & District Tree Preservation Society is available at $25 per copy for tree society members and $30 for non-members. Please contact David Berry on 0413 457 184 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to secure your copy. An extra charge of $10 for postage is required.
Tree Society Meeting Times
The tree society committee meets every 2nd Wednesday of the month from 2-4 p.m. in February, March, May, July, September and November. General meetings are scheduled for June and October. The AGM is held (as always) in November. The location is Bungalook Nursery in Fulton Road, Blackburn South. Tree society members and the general public are most welcome to attend tree society meetings.
Tree Society Website and Email Address
Website: refer to http://www.bdtps.wordpress.com for information on tree society activities.
Email: Contact the tree society on mailto:email@example.com for all tree-related matters.
COMMITTEE Secretary Ann Clayton 9878 6585 Treasurer Mary Crouch 9894 3025 Members Anne Payne 9878 1152 David Berry 9890 7915 Les Smith 9874 2641