Thursday, 19 November 2015

Protecting the character of Macedon Ranges

In the run up to the last State election, a promise was made to provide better protection for the Macedon Ranges. Just what does that mean and how can such protection be provided?

Wednesday 18th November, the Planning Minister Richard Wynne and local member Mary-Anne Thomas fronted an audience of residents to speak to this. The Minister announced that he will appoint an Expert Panel, to hear community opinions and make recommendations to him, which he promises to act on in this term of government. 

To get the ball rolling, we had community members up the front giving their take on what is needed (from Woodend Primary School, MR Sustainability Group, MR Residents' Association and Landcare Woodend), alongside the Director of Planning and Development, MRSC, who copped criticism for poor communication of planning processes to community members, like the current change to the Riddells Creek Structure Plan, and the review of the provisions for the Rural Living Zone. 

Highlights for me were the pointed questions from the floor (many wise heads with much experience in the room), and the presentation from Christine Pruneau from the Macedon Ranges Residents' Association. Christine laid out 14 recommendations for protecting the character of the Macedon Ranges, based on opinion from the Association's members. Here are those 14 points:

1. Emphasise why protection is needed, and re-align government thinking and decisionmaking with a ‘protection’ culture (by which they mean having protection as the primary focus of planning decisions, rather than facilitation of decelopment)

2. Recognise that Macedon Ranges Shire has its own identity, strengths, constraints and needs, and is different to Melbourne, Sunbury and neighbouring areas.

3. Recognise the services a well-protected Macedon Ranges provides to Melbourne’s population: proximity, breathing spaces and recreation places.

4. Recognise that the contrast between our natural environment and Melbourne is what
drives tourism.

5. Provide an enduring legacy of strong legislation and State policy settings that take
Statement of Planning Policy No. 8 forward.

6. Protect the entire Shire as the “surrounds” of the Macedon Ranges.

7. Make protection of natural resources, environment, landscapes and rural character THE
priority for all decisions.

8. Provide certainty about what can and cannot be done, and how it will be done, in this area, including “must” and “must not” planning controls.

9. Regulate and cap population growth. Towns spilling into rural land, urbanisation of rural areas and intensifying rural living signal a failure to understand and protect non-renewable resources.

10. Identify our towns as integral to the ‘bigger picture’, stop their suburbanisation and make existing town boundaries permanent.

11. Defend water catchments and rural areas with tenement controls and development
restrictions, and by requiring parliamentary approval to reduce subdivision sizes.

12. Build on existing rural strengths by promoting nature-based tourism and recreation, local produce, and reduced food miles.

13. Recognise the inter-generational benefits and sustainability of protecting natural resources.

14. Re-empower this community by making it an equal partner in all decision-making.

In their view, the Council is going in a different direction, and it's up to the community with the State Government to set up strong, permanent protection.

The Expert Panel will start hearing from residents in face-to-face meetings in the New Year, so look out for that.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

What Pope Francis said

At the opening of the Threatened Species of Riddells Exhibition, I quoted Pope Francis from his recent encyclical Laudato Si.In this, he says why we're destroying the earth, and what we need to do. Here is the piece I read:

" ...a sober look at our world shows that the degree of human intervention, often in the service of business interests and consumerism, is actually making our earth less rich and beautiful, ever more limited and grey, even as technological advances and consumer goods continue to abound limitlessly. We seem to think that we can substitute an irreplaceable and irretrievable beauty with something which we have created ourselves.

"Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost forever. The great majority become extinct for reasons related to human activity. Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right."

There's a lot more besides - find it online.

Ross Colliver, President, Riddells Creek Landcare 

Monday, 2 November 2015

Exhibition of Threatened Species of Riddells Creek

We officially opened Riddells Creek Landcare's exhibition of Threatened Species Sunday 1st October, at Seasons Bistro. These fourteen species are part of the ecological communities of Riddells Creek and all are threatened. The principal threats are continued clearing of native vegetation for agriculture and urban settlement, the spread of weeds and pest animals like foxes and cats, and for grasslands species, the lack of regular burning.

All these species are all listed on the Advisory List of Rare or Threatened Species in Victoria, 2005. The Purple Diuris Orchid (Diuris punctata var punctata) is listed as threatened under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988, the Victorian legislation for the conservation of threatened species and communities. Matted Flax Lily (Dianella ameona) is listed as threatened under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), the Australian Government's key piece of environmental legislation.

The idea for an exhibition came for the RCL Committee of Manageement, as part of our Rail Reserve project.The Reserves along the railway lines across Victoria are an important refuge for native vegetation. In the approaches to Riddells Creek Station, the remnants of the original grasslands are home to four plants on the Rare or Threatened Species List: Purple Diuris Orchid; Matted Flax Lilly; Large-flower Crane’s-bill (Geranium sp. 1); and Branching Groundsel (Senecio cunninghamii var. cunninghamii).

Riddells Creek Landcare is organising removal of weeds that threaten these species. These are weeds that you'll see in many places - blackberry, english broom, gorse, spear thistle, serrated tussock, briar rose, pine seedlings, fennel, mirror bush, cotoneaster, prunis and phalaris. In the Rail Reserve these weeds are crowding out native species, and need to be controlled.

With funding through a Community Grant from the Port Philip and Westernport Catchment Management Authority, we are able to employ a contractor (Indigwedo) to spray these weeds. The endangered species have all been mapped, and the contractor knows how to remove the weeds without damaging native vegetation.

Thanks to, we had access to high resolution photographs of all 14 species, and Lyn Hovey has had these printed to canvas, mounted and then hung them at Seasons Bistro. Take the opportunity to drop in and see these delights, and take one home for what it cost us to make them up.

RCL Members and guests at the opening of the Threatened Species Exhibition