Our Green Wedge: “The Lungs Of Point Cook”


Point Cook's Green Wedge

At 8 degrees Celsius, it was a freezing winter’s morning at the Point Cook Town Centre. Even when the rain started, it did not deter our concerned residents and environmentalists from supporting the “Save Point Cook’s Green Wedge Protest Meeting” rally. There were approximately 30 people in attendance, including speakers Paul Harder, (the main organiser of the rally), The Hon Colleen Hartland (The Australian Greens Party), Cr Glenn Goodfellow (Deputy Mayor, Wyndham City Council) and Harry van Moorst (Director of the Western Region Environmental Centre).

Above image taken from: Logical Inclusions Advisory Committee, Report No 4: West Growth Area, November 2011

What Is A Green Wedge?

There are twelve Green Wedges (non urban areas of Metropolitan Melbourne) that essentially form a ring around the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB). Point Cook’s Green Wedge is 443 hectares of open land bordered by Point Cook Rd, Aviation Rd, Hacketts Rd and several housing estates (including Lincoln Heath, Alamanda and Featherbrook).

Sir Rupert Hamer, former Liberal Premier of Victoria, protected Melbourne’s Green Wedges in Legislation in 1971. He proclaimed these wedges to be ‘the lungs of Melbourne’, ensuring open space in our ever growing urban sprawl. Sir Hamer was clearly a man of great foresight! More information on the history of Melbourne’s green wedges can be found here.

Rezoning Point Cook’s Green Wedge

On June 13th 2012, the Victorian State Government announced changes for Melbourne’s urban growth. It was a double edged sword for Point Cook. We heard the fantastic news that the Point Cook West Precinct would not be going ahead in its current form, and the devastating news that our Green Wedge had been rezoned to ‘farming’. Ms Hartland stated this rezoning and further reduction of green wedge land was a serious attack on all of Point Cook’s population.

The rezoning of this land is not a recent proposal: Wyndham City Council (WCC) has reportedly highlighted Point Cook’s Green Wedge as a candidate for inclusion in the UGB since 1999. In August 2011, WCC highlighted Point Cook’s green wedge as a ‘logical inclusion’ to the UGB and submitted their request for inclusion to the State Government. Despite community protest, the State Government recommended to the Growth Areas Authority (GAA) to rezone the land in September 2011.

What Was Said At The Rally?

The rezoning of this privately owned land from Green Wedge to farming does not mean it is immediately available for housing development. During his speech, Cr Goodfellow expressed his concern that residents believe WCC is the enemy and stressed that we need to work together as a community. He maintained that it will take time for further rezoning to an urban growth zone or a residential zone. WCC has not approved any development of this land, and any proposals would be done so with public consultation.

However, Mr van Moorst believes that although “…Council and council officers were well-intentioned when they decided to nominate the Point Cook green wedge for development (as a “logical inclusion”) … they were very naïve. [Whilst] the area was zoned as green wedge there were legal protections that disappeared the moment that it was rezoned … to farm land”. Rezoning the land has “placed the development of the area more firmly under the control of the developer and the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), or the Minister”; WCC has effectively lost any real power to protect the land.

A document handed out by Cr Goodfellow at the rally (Point Cook Logical Inclusions – Statement from WCC) stated that: “When Council, in August last year, resolved to support this logical inclusion it did so with reference to a very broad conceptual plan that included:

  • Buffers between farming and housing in the order of 200 to 300 metres, with a range of possible uses including a golf course;
  • The retention and rehabilitation of between 80 and 120 hectares of wetlands;
  • Around 30 hectares of public open space;
  • Around 3000 dwellings;
  • A primary school.”

Mr van Moorst maintains that “Point Cook residents need the green wedge land as open space, recreational space (such as a nature reserve) and NOT 3,000 more houses and the thousands of extra cars on its roads”. In addition, Paul Harder pointed out that Sanctuary Lakes already has a great golf course which is struggling, so the viability of yet another golf course just down the road is questionable.

Why Should Point Cook Residents Care?

Point Cook residents have plenty to be upset about with the rezoning and inevitable development of this land: the environmental impact; the addition to the existing glut of available housing developments; more cars on our gridlocked roads; more kids in our overcrowded schools; further pressure on our local primary care medical system; and so on. My family lives on the edge of the wedge. We purposely purchased land in this area under the guidance that it was protected and would not be developed for at least 30 years. Whatever it is that you personally oppose, we all need to speak now or forever hold our peace.

You Can Help!

In response to the community’s concern about the rezoning of this land, a public meeting will be held with Wyndham City Council on Tuesday July 31st. The details will be announced closer to the time. I urge residents to attend this meeting. We need to continue to demonstrate to the State Government that we are a united community, working along side our Council to produce the best outcomes for our suburb. By standing together, we can still save a large part of our green wedge.

In addition to attending the community meeting, you can also help by writing letters to the following authorities expressing your concern about this rezoning and future development of Point Cook’s Green Wedge and related infrastructure:

  • The Hon Ted Baillieu, Premier of Victoria – ted.baillieu@parliament.vic.gov.au
  • The Hon Matthew Guy, Minister for Planning – matthew.guy@partliament.vic.gov.au
  • The Hon Terry Mulder, Minister for Transport and Roads – terrance.mulder@parliament.vic.gov.au
  • The Hon Jill Hennessy, Member for Altona – jill.hennessy@partliament.vic.gov.au
  • Colleen Hartland MP, Western Metropolitan Region, Australian Greens Party – colleen.hartland@parliament.vic.gov.au
  • Cr Glenn Goodfellow, Deputy Mayor, Wyndham City Council – glenn.goodfellow@wyndham.vic.gov.au

What do you think would be the best use for this land? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

Comments

  1. After reading all the documentation, it is clear to me that the key question is:

    What is the best means to make an effective and durable buffer between Point Cook residential areas and agricultural land uses within the Werribee South Irrigation District?

    Most people are in agreement that an effective and durable buffer is needed.

    Obviously, if you argue to protect Green Wedges because they include valuable farming land and we need to secure our local food sources, then you’d have to support effective and durable buffering between residential areas and farming areas.

    At present the buffer between Point Cook and agricultural land uses within the Werribee South Irrigation District is not effective.

    The dryland farming area cannot be effectively farmed, so without grants from government or other charitable sources the landholders cannot invest in any measures that would make the buffer effective.

    Wyndham City Council appears to be acting on advice that there is a land use which would enable effective buffering. The land use suggested to Council is a golf course.

    It is said that using some of the area as a golf course would be physically attractive and reinforce the buffer with vegetation. That’s because a golf course would have to plant and maintain trees and other vegetation.

    Perhaps one could argue a golf course is not the best means to make an effective and durable buffer, but then one needs to recommend a better land use that will be viable and create a sustainable buffer.

    It’s been suggested that sporting reserves or schools are other options. Perhaps sporting reserves would work on some of the land, and perhaps a school on another small part of it (but consider the need to have the school at a distance from the farming with its noises, smells, etc).

    So challenge No.1 for the objectors to Council’s actions on this issue is: Formulate a better alternative buffering land use than can be funded sustainably and not via rates increases or otherwise taking from the public purse.

    If in the end a golf course is the best buffering land use, then the issue is: How to encourage investment in a golf course that does do the things needed to make it an effective buffer and restore the remnant wetlands?

    The documents on this issue show that Council has been advised that a residential development component is the way to secure investment in the golf course that could be an effective and durable buffer.

    So now it’s worth testing that assumption: Would anyone invest in building just the golf course without the residential component?

    If you can find an entity that will have or obtain the money to buy the land and develop a golf course then wait for a few hundred years to make the money back, then its problem solved.

    What kind of entity might do that? A government?

    Now what do we need our governments to invest in most?

    A golf course or other buffering land use between Point Cook and farms in the Werribee South Irrigation District … or improving transport infrastructure, particularly bicycle and public transport infrastructure that reduces GHG emissions?

    I’m for the latter.

  2. Correction:

    So challenge No.1 for the objectors to Council’s actions on this issue is: Formulate a better alternative buffering land use *that* can be funded sustainably and not funded via rates increases or otherwise taking from the public purse.

  3. Loren Bartley says:

    My recommendation would be to see if a Private School would be interested in investing in the area. They would definitely have the catchment for the students and to make it more attractive for the school and residents, the council could build sporting grounds and a community leisure facility within this area also alongside the school. Surely the residents that have bought in this area would feel better with the thought that they are going to look over the manicured lawns of a private school rather than high density housing. Another option is a hospital. Werribee hospital is overflowing and is only going to get worse as Wyndham expands further west. Building another hospital would be good planning for the future.

    • Guess what Loren … unless the zoning is changed (or the GWZ itself is amended) neither a school nor a hospital could be built in that 450ha of land now designated as a Dryland Farming Buffer.

  4. The Wyndham Planning Scheme can be accessed online here: http://planningschemes.dpcd.vic.gov.au/wyndham/home.html

    Select section 35.04 to see what can and cannot be done in a Green Wedge Zone (GWZ).

    Select section 35.05 to see the same for a Green Wedge A Zone (GWAZ) …which applies to the parcels of land west of Point Cook Rd and north of Point Cook Homestead Rd.

  5. If the land were to remain GWZ perhaps there is an opportunity to rehabilitate Cunningham Swamp and create eco-tourism around bird watching (an idea put by Colleen Miller of the Western Melbourne Catchments Network here: http://www.wyndhamweekly.com.au/news/local/news/general/swamp-protected-breeding-ground-for-migratory-birds/2328664.aspx ).

    It’s an attractive vision…but the next step must be demonstrating how the wetlands rehabitation and ongoing maintenance would be funded.

    The action to take now would be to develop the business case, which would be used to convince the community, council and Victorian Government of the viability of the eco-tourism option.

    At present there is a basic $25 per person fee to visit Kakadu National Park in NT. Participating in a 1 day tour will cost you over $200.

    What reasonable fee would people pay to visit a rehabilitated Cunningham Swamp?

  6. Correction:

    It’s an attractive vision…but the next step must be demonstrating how the wetlands *rehabilitation* and ongoing maintenance would be funded.