June 2018 Newsletter

Tree Protection Controls on Private Land in Whitehorse via Significant Landscape Overlay No. 9 (Amendment C191)

Whitehorse Council, via Amendment C191, has recently established tree controls for most of the Whitehorse residential area apart from those neighbourhoods that are already covered by Significant Landscape Overlays.

An article on this topic appeared in the March 2018 edition of the tree society newsletter. This is an important and long-awaited initiative by Council backed by the tree society and the wider community.

HOWEVER – these municipal tree controls are only interim and require review and ratification in December this year subject to further information gathering and liaison with the State Government.

The tree society is requesting that you email all Whitehorse Councillors and show your support for permanent tree controls for the City of Whitehorse.

The Councillors’ email addresses are:

Cr Bill Bennett bill.bennett@whitehorse.vic.gov.au
Cr Raylene Carr raylene.carr@whitehorse.vic.gov.au
Cr Prue Cutts prue.cutts@whitehorse.vic.gov.au
Cr Andrew Davenport andrew.davenport@whitehorse.vic.gov.au
Cr Sharon Ellis sharon.ellis@whitehorse.vic.gov.au
Cr Tina Liu tina.liu@whitehorse.vic.gov.au
Cr Denise Massoud denise.massoud@whitehorse.vic.gov.au
Cr Andrew Munroe andrew.munroe@whitehorse.vic.gov.au
Cr Ben Stennett ben.stennett@whitehorse.vic.gov.au
Cr Blair Barker blair.barker@whitehorse.vic.gov.au

Some of the reasons you may cite for supporting permanent tree controls include:

  1. Trees (and all types of vegetation, indigenous or otherwise) have long been appreciated for their aesthetic, environmental and habitat values in Whitehorse.
  2. Trees provide shading, decrease cooling costs, protect infrastructure (e.g. buildings, roads and paths), absorb carbon dioxide, produce oxygen and store carbon so they play an important role in helping address global warming.
  3. There has been a rapid decline of canopy trees in non-Significant Landscape Overlay (SLO) areas (and also within SLO precincts) of Whitehorse over the past decade in the name of residential infill and commercial development.
  4. The now common practice of moonscaping residential sites prior to re-development will continue unabated if citywide tree controls are not kept in place permanently
  5. A bleak future is guaranteed if global warming continues as predicted with trees and vegetation crucial in mitigating climate change.
  6. We need more trees and an increase in the tree canopy in Whitehorse and not the decline currently experienced.

North East Link and Potential Impacts on Whitehorse

The society was unsuccessful in its application for membership of the North East Link (NEL) Community Liaison Group (CLG).

This means that there is no community organization officially represented on the NEL CLG to advocate for the preservation of the natural values in the Whitehorse municipality, in the face of their possible destruction by the NEL works.

Issues of particular concern include:

  • The NEL construction works will negatively impact the Eastern Freeway from Bulleen Road to the Ringwood tunnels. For example, according to the NEL authority’s ‘design schematic’ drawings, the section of the Eastern Freeway between Station Street and Middleborough Road will increase from the current 8 lanes (4 each way) to 16 or more lanes with the proposed modified on- and off-roads included. This means that the trees and associated vegetation in the freeway reserve will make way for bitumen surfaces.

But it gets worse!

  • Doubling the freeway width will require the destruction of adjacent parklands and open space on both sides of the freeway from Bulleen Road through Mont Albert North, Box Hill North, Blackburn North, Nunawading and Mitcham.

Parks adjacent to the freeway now under threat include Koonung Reserve, Koonung Creek Reserve, Manningham Park Reserve, Koonung Creek Linear Park (incorporating Koonung Creek Trail), Stanton Street Reserve, Elgar Park, Frank Sedgman Reserve, Eram Park, Boronia Grove Reserve, Nunawading Parklands, Eastern Freeway Linear Reserve, Slater Reserve and Oxford Street Reserve

  • The lovely Koonung Creek waterway will likely become a barrel drain and the associated wetlands will be destroyed
  • 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, Middleborough Road, Surrey/Blackburn Road and Springvale Road.

The tree society will continue to advocate for the preservation of these natural assets on the northern border of Whitehorse and actively lobby to minimize through traffic chaos on our major north-south roads.

Please join us by taking the following actions now:

Contact the North East Link Authority to voice your concerns:

   Email them at community@northeastlink.vic.gov.au or telephone 1800 105 105.

Or on social media:  Facebook        Twitter           Instagram

Recent VCAT hearings for Contentious Development Proposals in Blackburn

  • A Win for the Community – VCAT knocks back the childcare development proposal for 199 Canterbury Road

Whitehorse Council, the ‘SLOG’ residents’ collective ably led by Dianne Tribe, BVRG and the tree society made presentations opposing this development proposal at a VCAT hearing in mid-April.

The panel members released their findings in mid-May and affirmed support for council’s decision to not grant a permit for the childcare centre.

In the VCAT report the panel members emphasized Blackburn’s distinctive landscape character, its ‘bush environment’ and the mature indigenous trees dominating the neighbourhood.

The members accepted that a childcare centre was not an inappropriate development for the site and that the current development proposal’s design was an improvement on the previous application.

However the panel concluded that the proposal could not provide a suitable landscape outcome because the scale of the building and play areas: ‘… does not provide for sufficient space for appropriate tree retention and planting of new canopy trees in a manner that respects the area’s character and its distinctive landscape attributes …’

This decision vindicates all of the work done by council and the community in fighting to protect the landscape character of Significant Landscape Overlay areas within Whitehorse. But the community must remain vigilant, as more medium-density development proposals will be placed before council for 199 Canterbury Road as well as the neighbouring properties at 201 and 203 Canterbury Road in the near future.

These sites will be developed (and need to be re-planted with canopy trees as they have been slowly denuded of their vegetation over time) but if the proposals don’t meet the spirit and practice of the relevant clauses of the Whitehorse Planning Scheme (i.e. Neighbourhood Residential Zone and Significant Landscape Overlay) they will be actively opposed by the tree society.

  • 20-24 Masons Road – Impact of construction works on neighbour’s significant tree at 18 Masons Road

The VCAT Hearing for this issue was held in mid-May.

Council, the tree society, BVRG and local resident and tree society member Dianne Tribe made presentations. The VCAT determination is scheduled for late June.

Hopefully the tree remains minimally damaged by the construction works and can be retained for the rest of its useful life of 25-50 years.

  • 10 Eustace Street – Large garage construction with significant loss of trees

The applicant withdrew from the planned VCAT Hearing with the hearing being cancelled as a consequence.

Bouquets and Brickbats to Council in the 2018-19 Whitehorse City Council Draft Budget

  • Bouquets
    • $80,000 has been allocated to purchase a tree canopy assessment software tool so that the city’s tree canopy can be measured to assess canopy gain or loss and also to benchmark against neigbouring councils.
    • Council’s Tree Education Officer position will become permanent.
    • Council’s ‘Garden for Wildlife’ program is proving very popular with Whitehorse residents and will be continued through the 2018-19 year.
    • Congratulations to council for committing to spend ~ $1.7M on strategic land acquisitions in the city with funding sourced from the Whitehorse Public Open Space Reserve.
  • Brickbats
    • At the moment Whitehorse has less tree canopy cover compared with Manningham, Boroondara and Maroondah councils – so we’re not as ‘green and leafy’ after all!
    • Council has budgeted $300,000 for the city’s street tree planting program for 2018-19 – an amount that is the same as that allocated in the 2006-07 year. There has been no real increase in funding for over thirteen years, not even an allowance made for inflation! And it’s not as if we have a surfeit in street trees in Whitehorse, as many streets are tree-deficient as evidenced in the March newsletter article on this issue. We need more money and resources put into the street tree program to enhance the city’s tree canopy cover.
  • Council forecasts an amount in excess of $40,000,000 in the Public Open Space Reserve Fund for the 2018-19 Budget year (with $64,000,000 forecast for 2021-22). A significant surge in fund deposits is predicted over the next few years due to the increased developer contributions resulting from the burgeoning medium and high density infill developments within Whitehorse (including the massive high-rise building construction in the Box Hill Municipal Activity Centre).

This amount is substantial but council is slow in using the money to purchase much-needed strategic parcels of land to create open spaces and parklands for the residents of Whitehorse.

The most neglected areas for open space are in the Box Hill area.

A couple of suggestions:

  • Convert the council-owned Box Hill Bowling Club site into a small park or large plaza to benefit Box Hill’s high-rise dwellers
  • Purchase the historic Box Hill Brickworks site, clean it up and develop the land as a municipal park and recreation centre by amalgamating the park with Surrey Dive, Surrey Park and Aqualink Box Hill. 

Masons Road Reserve Blackburn – Report on the May Planting Activity

Fifteen local residents attended a planting activity in Mason Road Reserve on Saturday morning 19th May 2018.

Over 140 indigenous plants suited to boggy conditions were planted in the pond near Lagoona Court and Masons Road (now known as the ‘Lagoona Pond’).

The plants were sourced from WCIPP Bungalook nursery via an environmental grant from the Blackburn and District Environment Protection Fund.

David Berry and Mary Crouch provided the planting tools and Mary Crouch and Dianne Tribe provided morning-tea.

Another activity is planned for Saturday 30 June from 9.30-11.30 am with weeding and we’ll be planting in and around the two ponds within the retarding basin.

In addition Nathan Mattinson from Melbourne Water has been contacted regarding the possible replacement of the 100 or so plants lost over summer from the original 550 plants planted around the bowl of the retarding basin. Nathan will be organizing the replacement of these plants and removal of some of the plant guards that are restricting plant growth.

Update on the re-planting of residential gardens around 25 Holland Road Blackburn South

Local residents and the tree society have undertaken a re-planting project in residential gardens surrounding 25 Holland Road to replace twenty-five trees maliciously cut down by the owner-developer in 2017.

The Blackburn and District Environment Protection Fund has awarded a $500 environmental grant to purchase indigenous plants from Bungalook community nursery. So far upwards of sixty small trees and shrubs have been planted in five properties surrounding 25 Holland Road, with another fifty plants to be planted in the neighbouring Chinese Church grounds within the next few weeks.

Tree and Vegetation Removal at 21 Laurel Grove North, Blackburn

In early March over a dozen significant trees were cut down at 21 Laurel Grove, North Blackburn, which, along with a general clearing of understory shrubs, resulted in a near moonscaping of the block to the detriment of the neighbourhood’s natural landscape values.

This property should have been afforded the highest priority for its bushland landscape character as entrenched in the Whitehorse Planning Scheme via its location in a Neighbourhood Residential Zone (No. 1, ‘Bush Environment’) with the added protection of Significant Landscape Overlay No. 1.

In addition, the property is located in one of Blackburn’s National Trust-classified streets.

With little in the way of residents’ consultation or works notification from council and a community perception that the tree and vegetation removal process was ‘fast-tracked’, the resultant community anger was widespread, immediate and totally justified. A storm of letters and emails to councillors and senior council officers over the past three months has done little to allay community concerns.

The tree society views this specific act as unjustified and the planning process lacking in transparency. There is also a concern that this case will set a precedent for further destruction of trees and vegetation within these precious bushland neighbourhoods in the future.

The tree society fully supports the local community in their endeavours to arrest the canopy loss in the Bellbird area of Blackburn.

The society has voiced its concerns to council since mid-March 2018. Our most recent correspondence was forwarded to council on 1 May and so far we haven’t received any acknowledgement or response to the letter.

The society will continue to seek clarification of this issue from council.

The Blackburn & District Environment Protection Fund

The Fund, sponsored by the tree society, supports on-ground conservation activities and environmental education programs in Whitehorse.

Current environmental grants are supporting planting activities at 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:

  • Completing and sending a cheque to the fund at the following address: BDEPF, PO Box 210, Blackburn, VIC 3130

The fund’s web-site address is http://blackburnenviro.wordpress.com/

The Blackburn & District Tree Preservation Society sponsors the Fund.

Can You Help?

We’ve nearly run out of copies of the tree society history book that was released last year. The society is asking for funding support from Members and Friends to print another fifty copies of Fighting for the Trees so that we can provide free copies to schools, libraries, local environmental organizations, community groups and bushland park advisory committees.

Targeted tax-deductible donations can be made to the Blackburn & District Environment Protection Fund by stating that donations are specifically for ‘Tree Society Book Printing’ purposes.

The society needs $1,000 so a $20 donation will print one book (or even better a $100 donation will print five books).

For details regarding donations to the Fund please refer to the previous newsletter article.

We still have a few copies of the history book left:

Fighting for the Trees – 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 bdtpsociety@gmail.com for orders. An extra charge of $10 for postage is required.

Planting in Nunawading Parklands

Nunawading Parklands (Melway 48 F/6) is an eleven-hectare open space in Nunawading.

In 2016 the Level Crossing Removal Authority (LXRA) pledged an offset planting project to plant 24,000 indigenous plants in the Junction Road/Nunawading Parklands. This was compensation for the destruction of hundreds of mature trees and shrubs, many of them indigenous species, resulting from the railway level crossing removal works at Blackburn and Heatherdale Roads.

Mary Crouch and David Berry met with LXRA officials in late March 2018.

Notable meeting outcomes included:

  • 18,000 indigenous trees, shrubs, grasses and forbs have been propagated and will be planted this year
  • The tree society and the Friends of Nunawading Parklands have been allocated one of the seven planting sites on the land for community planting activities. The bed is close to the western end of Spencer Street Nunawading and 1,400 plants have been allocated for the site. We will inform members of planting activity dates when the beds have been prepared – probably in July-August this year
  • Tenders have been sought from commercial operators to plant the remaining 16,600 plants in the park.

Victorian Local Government Bill Exposure Draft

In mid-March 2018 the tree society made a formal submission in response to the release of the Exposure Draft of the Victorian Local Government Bill. The submission was developed in partnership with the Blackburn Village Residents Group (BVRG Inc.) and Whitehorse Active Transport Action Group (WATAG Inc.).

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 contribute 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 combined submission stressed that the Act in its current iteration is ambiguous and inconsistent, unnecessarily prescriptive, unwieldy, not particularly user-friendly and in some cases redundant and requires substantial reform to produce a contemporary, accessible Act written in plain English.

The submission endorses the provision for a new governance framework, a key feature of the Bill, that will more clearly define council outcomes and help reverse the widening disconnect between local government and its constituents as observed by many community groups and individuals interacting with local government.

We believe that the Bill will direct local governments in Victoria to be more transparent, collaborative, responsive, professional and with a much-improved governance for their constituents into the future. The Bill will also more closely connect councils with their communities by actively facilitating community and individual participation in the council decision-making process.

The society, along with BVRG and WATAG anticipates that the new local Government Act will be enthusiastically embraced by Whitehorse Council and calls for diligent State government oversight to make sure that the spirit and practice of the proposed reforms in the new Bill will be fully actioned by all Victorian councils in a timely manner.

Western Highway Duplication near Ararat

An article on the environmental effects of these proposed road works was published in the tree society’s March 2018 newsletter. The article provided information on the negative environmental effects of the proposed route through farmland and the proponents’ advocacy for a ‘Northern Option’ for the highway duplication between Buangor and Ararat.

Refer to the March newsletter for the full article.

In the intervening period another environmental advocacy group opposed to the ‘Northern Option’ has contacted the society.

Please note that both groups are opposed to any roadworks that destroy significant remnant bushland, including large, old, significant Eucalypts.

The question however remains – if the road duplication is a fait accompli, which route will minimize environmental degradation, whether it be on public or private land?

In the interests of fairness and balance the tree society committee has published an alternative view of the proposed road works’ route authored by the Western Highway Conservation Group as follows:

‘… The Western Highway Duplication near Ararat: why residents’ “Northern Option” doesn’t make ecological sense.

An article on the Western Highway Duplication in the March 2018 Tree Society Newsletter contains a number of inaccuracies. Local residents in the Mt Langi Ghiran area who are experiencing property severance have mounted a vigorous and spirited campaign to defend their land. This is understandable. However, their proposal of a “Northern Option” is unfortunately as bad if not worse, ecologically speaking, than the route which is on the cusp of being built.

 Residents propose using a narrow powerline easement adjacent to the current highway. This area is home to unique and diverse remnant vegetation. The poor soil quality there has generated a correspondingly species-rich heathy woodland community which is uncommon compared with the rest of the nearby Mt Langi Ghiran vegetation. Rather, it is similar to some woodlands found in the distant West Wimmera. It is home to an unnamed species of Melaleuca, a rare Grevillia and significant populations of the rare Emerald-lip Greenhood. It also shares a large, healthy population of sugar gliders with those on the other side of the highway. Further roadworks in the area, which the residents propose, would decimate the population.

 The residents’ solution would see the loss of exquisitely vegetated roadsides adjacent to the powerline in the vicinity of Mt Langi Ghiran. These roadsides are of Very High Conservation status, are continuous and are an extension of the vegetation from the mountain, which is essential for maintaining a vibrant habitat. While some of the farmland in question has some good remnants, they are in patches only and less well connected to the core of Mt Langi Ghiran. The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) recognised this too: hence the approval of the alignment through residents’ farmland which is further away; sad though it is for the latter.

 David Leviston

Western Highway Conservation Group

26 March 2018 …’

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:bdtpsociety@gmail.com for all tree-related matters.

 

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