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Divided Council passes the draft Green Wedge Management Plan.

Despite over 700 community submissions largely pointing out the egregious shortcomings of the draft Green Wedge Management Plan it was passed by four Councillors at the November Ordinary Meeting of Council. Councillors Ashton, Egan, Ranken and Clarke voted for the flawed Plan amidst protests from a packed gallery.

The following article is a report by one of the Green Wedge Management Plan Panellists who is disturbed by the deeply flawed Process by which this Council conducted their rewriting of the GWMP. This farcical and divisive process which they Nillumbik Council claimed would bring the community together has resulted in disquiet and distress in our community especially amongst those who thought a green wedge management plan should address environmental concerns about the well documented loss of biodiversity in our shire.


Green Wedge Management Plan Process Deeply Flawed


Favourable treatment given to ONE community group

A randomly selected community Panel was appointed by Council to make recommendations on the future management of the green wedge. Submissions to the Panel from the community were not called for; that was not part of the process, but a lengthy, complex submission from the Pro-active Landowners (PALS) group arrived and, to the consternation of many panellists, it was made available by Council for the consideration of the Panel. Other community groups were not given the opportunity to put submissions before the panel.

It is impossible to characterise this as an inclusive or equitable approach; nor does it accord with principles of natural justice that underpin good governance.

Minority Report debacle – poor governance prevails

At the end of the Panel process a minority report, prepared outside the agreed rules of the Panel process was handed to the Mayor. It contained views aligned to Pro-active Landowners positions and unsubstantiated accusations of bullying by ‘some panellists’. Council published this, unabridged, on their website! A furore ensued, the document was taken off the website, and denied minority report status through a Council motion. One or more of the authors went to the Ombudsman’s office and its minority report status was subsequently reinstated. No matter what one thinks about the informal advice proffered by the Ombudsman, the Panel process was bookended by two documents associated with the PALs lobby group, and neither arrived according to the process rules agreed by all panellists at the outset. Onlookers drew their own conclusions. I doubt many thought they had witnessed good governance.

Expert Speakers – an early partisan decision

Panellists had the opportunity to ask for expert speakers to present to the group. One speaker, Scott Pape, was invited to speak on the economics of running a business in the green wedge. He was unable to attend. Council took a decision, without consulting the panel, to replace him with a key PALs spokesperson, Max Parsons. Max spoke mostly about his opposition to current planning controls and his beliefs about landowners’ rights to develop their land and businesses . Not surprisingly, the decision by council to introduce Max into the process was seen by the majority of panellists as inappropriate, and partisan.

Council Consultant promotes Council preferred minority view

Council also provided expert speakers from within the organisation. Geoff Lawler gave a presentation on planning. Looking back on that presentation is a telling exercise. He spoke about a number of things he thought were important, after having met with various groups and individuals around the shire. A number of Panellists took notes. Despite having had a meeting with Nillumbik Environmental Action Group (NEAG), which I attended, and other groups who emphasised the importance of environmental and biodiversity protection, he chose not to highlight the community’s widespread desire for better planning results in this area.

He did discuss a ‘need’ for more jobs in green wedge areas, although unemployment is 3.1% lower in the green wedge than in greater Melbourne (3.7% vs 6.8%. GWMP Background Report for Community Panel. p.39), and the way in which the introduction of “buffer zones” could help solve “land management problems” on rural land abutting the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB). He also spoke of “our hoped-for tourism economy” and the “great opportunities” associated with our active arts culture. In answer to a question about the ‘in conjunction clause’ which requires tourism developments to be ‘in conjunction’ with an agricultural use, he said that it was “an impediment to business innovation in the green wedge”, and that exemptions for particular sites requiredscheme amendments which took too long to obtain.

Mr Lawler spoke about the ageing population and ‘ageing in place’, the need for improved bushfire and hazard planning in any new GWMP, and suggested that empowering and engaging the community through organisations such as the CFA and Landcare groups would induce cooperation that would lessen the need for planning regulation. He said that ‘Leadership’ was an important part of the answer to future management of the green wedge and should be central to a new GWMP. I well remember wondering as Mr Lawler was speaking, whether he was actually sketching out council’s (or his own) view of what a new GWMP should look like.

The result confirms our worst fears, ignores majority community feedback

The draft Green Wedge Management Plan is poorly organised and difficult to read, but if one perseveres and keeps a list of Mr Lawler’s key points handy, it becomes clear that the issues he raised are the foundation on which the draft plan is built. It does not pay much regard to the Panel’s majority recommendations nor does it pay much respect to the responses from the wider community, especially their primary concern, the ongoing protection and care of the environment. If good governance processes are employed, people are more likely to accept government decisions even when they don’t agree with them. They are able to have confidence that their government is trying to do the ‘right’ thing in the community’s overall interest, and not simply ‘looking after their mates’. People don't expect, or want, to be consulted on everything. However, when communities are consulted, and people give their time and energy, hoping to contribute to the common good, they expect their representatives to take heed. Poor governance and faux consultation are likely to inspire people to reject rather than accept an outcome.

Further result – divisive process leads to a community divided

I have given enough examples of poor governance (throughout the entire process). From my point of view, after twenty two years in Nillumbik, the proof is in the pudding. I think the community is more polarised than I have ever seen it, and this distresses me. The GWMP review has made things worse, I think, but there are other forces at work. We live in a difficult political environment where impressing one’s social media allies is more important than talking to your neighbour. There was talk at the beginning of this process about bringing people closer together as I recall. That was always going to be difficult, given the deep divisions which were already present. Council would have had to run an excellent, inclusive and courageous process for which it took full responsibility. Handing the task to a community panel, at arm’s length, and not supporting their conclusions was never going to do the trick. Much time and money has been wasted. The Lawler plan could have been written months ago, without the invention of a Panel.

Green Wedge Conversations Program?

The one thing in the draft plan which sparked something in me was mention of a Green Wedge Conversations Program. If such a program was very well run and resourced it might stand a chance, but this council would not be trusted to influence it. Large sections of the community have too little faith in this administration, but the idea has merit, and should be explored. We need to find something.

Peter Yates, Sept 2019




Biodiversity and the Green Wedge Management Plan

Home to nearly 1,400 indigenous plant and animal species, Nillumbik is incredibly rich in biodiversity. Nillumbik identifies itself as "The Green Wedge Shire" and is the most intact of our city’s 12 green wedges, which together form "The Lungs of Melbourne". Nillumbik was established in 1994 as a conservation shire, with its Green Wedge as the strategic focus.

Key points

• Biodiversity – the web of all life - is in decline everywhere, including Nillumbik
• Arresting the decline of biodiversity is possible, and essential for our survival
• Biodiversity and bushfire mitigation do not necessarily require conflicting approaches
• Restoring Australia’s biodiverse systems requires a sensitive approach when living and thriving in a land shaped by fire
• GWMPs make an important contribution to safe guarding and restoring biodiversity
• The way we think and therefore speak about our connection to our environment shapes our decisions and actions. The GWMP is important to shaping Nillumbik’s future.

The importance of biodiversity

‘Life forms that make up biodiversity have intrinsic value and warrant our respect’, State Government Victoria1
Biodiversity collectively describes the vast array of approximately 9 million unique living organisms (including Homo sapiens) that inhabit the earth, together with the interactions amongst them. The concept includes every species of bacteria, virus, plant, fungi, and animal, as well as the diversity of genetic material within each species. It also encompasses the diverse ecosystems the species make up and the ongoing evolutionary processes that keep them functioning and adapting.
All of us need to breathe, drink and eat. These are all benefits that are fundamentally provided by biodiversity. Without these organisms, ecosystems and ecological processes, human societies could not exist. They supply us with oxygen and clean water. They cycle carbon and fix nutrients. They enable plants to grow and therefore to feed us, keep pest species and diseases in check and help protect against flooding and regulate the climate.2

Biodiversity is in decline everywhere including Nillumbik

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is the international body which assesses the state of biodiversity and the innumerable benefits it provides. Launching the most recent report at the IPBES meeting in April/May this year, Chair, Sir Robert Watson summarised the findings:
“The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”
1 DEWLP Biodiversity 2037 https://www.environment.vic.gov.au/biodiversity/biodiversity-plan accessed 12.6.19
2 Adapted from an article in The Conversation www.theconversation.com/explainer-what-is-biodiversity-and-why-does-it-m... accessed 12.6.19
The 2018 State of the Environment report for Victoria 3 identified that 26% of Biodiversity indicators are in poor condition and will remain so without intervention. These included the prevalence of invasive terrestrial plants, distribution and abundance of frogs, distribution and abundance of fish, and net gain in extent and condition of native vegetation. Today, between one quarter and one third of all of Victoria’s terrestrial plants, birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals, along with numerous invertebrates and ecological communities, are considered THREATENED WITH EXTINCTION. 4

Nillumbik is not immune to this effect. Recent correspondence with Associate Professor Randall Robinson – Deputy Director of the Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities, Victoria University Research, Victoria University Melbourne confirms that biodiversity is “in decline in Nillumbik with a wide range of evidence that cannot be ignored”. He points to:
• out of control proliferation of noxious weeds such as Chilean Needle Grass, Serrated Tussock, Boneseed, Bridal Creeper and Sweet Pittosporum
• prevalence of introduced pests, including weeds, directly impacting on many of our native species.
• Decline of native insect species
• The decline in nectar-producing plants in the Shire, leading to a decline in small, nectar-feeding birds
• Decline in stream flows and creek biota because of upstream water harvesting into legal and illegal dams;
• The general drying of the climate which has led to shifts in most plant and animal communities throughout Australia, including in Nillumbik, with sharp declines in some notable groups of species including Orchids.

These concerns are reflected in Nillumbik’s 2014 State of the Environment Report, which states that the pressure of incremental loss of vegetation is significant, and that Council’s reserves are under constant threat from a range of processes such as weed invasion, predation by and competition with pest animals, pressure from residential development, altered fire regimes and habitat destruction.
At the launch of the IBPES report Sir Robert Watson also stated that “it is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now at every level from local to global”. What we do everywhere at every level has never been more important. The direction provided in the next Nillumbik Green Wedge Management plan needs to make a significant and positive contribution to the international effort to arrest the decline of biodiversity.

Biodiversity and fire

We all need to accept that fire is crucial to maintaining Australia’s biodiversity. Plants and animals have long evolved in conjunction with fire. Protection of human life and assets from the risks posed by bushfire is commonly identified as a reason for increasing land clearing and to justify the consequent destruction of flora and habitat. However, the Bushfire Royal Commission [BRC] recommended that development does not occur in areas in which either the bushfire risk or the environmental cost of making people safe is too high.
3 Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability Victoria https://www.ces.vic.gov.au/reports/state-environment-2018 accessed 12.6.19
4 DEWLP Biodiversity 2037 https://www.environment.vic.gov.au/biodiversity/biodiversity-plan accessed 12.6.19

The report describes the need for ongoing review of local government approaches to ensuring development does not occur in inappropriate areas, and states that more prescriptive controls will need to be introduced should this fail.

The uncontrollable and intense fires we experience in Australia today devastate and change our communities as well as biodiversity. Maintaining strong vegetation cover has the potential to contribute to a reduction in fire risk through cooling the land and increasing local rainfall. University of Queensland research has identified that: ‘The “bulldozer solution” of clearing large tracts of bush to reduce the risk of bushfires will only compound the problem – by clearing the land, you get a hotter land surface, so bushfires will be more severe,’ Rather, we need to restore and actively manage native forests and woodlands for the multiple ecosystem services they can provide.’ Dr Clive McALpine5
A Green Wedge Management Plan that promotes vegetation protection and enhancement is not at odds with bushfire risk mitigation.

GWMPs make an important contribution to biodiversity protection 

Since their inception in the late 1960s Green Wedges have been an integral part of Melbourne’s urban planning. They are described as the non-urban areas of metropolitan Melbourne that lie outside the Urban Growth Boundary. They are a crucial limitation on uncontrolled urban sprawl. In 1971 the Government stated that the basic attributes and resources contained within the areas shall be preserved to a maximum degree, and that environment management policies shall be specifically oriented towards this objective. They are a vital part of keeping Melbourne liveable.6

Across Melbourne there are 12 Green Wedges, located within 17 Local Government Areas. Local Councils are required by the Victorian Government to develop a management plan for their Green Wedge area.

Nillumbik Council is currently in the process of reviewing and updating the Nillumbik Green Wedge Management plan. The new draft plan will be released for community consultation at the end of June, and submissions from the public can be made from 1st July -11th August. This website will give you relevant details and you can sign up to receive important updates.


In coming weeks you will receive further information and concise key points that may support your submission writing. In the meantime, the references listed in this document may help deepen our understanding.

5 Linking land clearing to drought and climate change, Travis Taylor, 2009
6 Warrandyte Community Association 2018 How Come We Have a Nillumbik Green Wedge and why should you care? www.greenwedge.warrandyte.org.au/resources accessed 12.6.19

“Doomed plan for nature”, "The Age" of Saturday 9th June, page 5, reports on Australia’s depressingly familiar record on species extinction:
One in every ten native mammals have become extinct, along with 37 plant species.  Already worse than in any other country, we now have 41 new species of animals and plants officially announced as edging towards extinction (The Age)
Our unique Green Wedge biodiversity includes over 1,381 species of indigenous plants and animals including 14 nationally threatened species and 120 listed as rare or threatened in Victoria. (Nillumbik Biodiversity Strategy, 2011) We have a precious but vulnerable heritage.
With development pressures threatening natural landscapes, open space and bushland habitat, these are compelling reasons to get involved in Council’s management plan (GWMP) for 91% of Nillumbik - its Green Wedge.
We know the Plan is about much more than plants, animals, landscape, bushland and habitat.  But all these things are threatened, don’t have a voice, and need protection, even in circumstances where 79% of green wedge land is privately owned.  Planning laws are clear on this.

In view of this dismal news we urge all those who value the environment, biodiversity and sustainability to have a say! https://participate.nillumbik.vic.gov.au/gwmp

If you receive an invitation to be part of the Panel that will help to write the new Green Wedge Management Plan, please accept.



Friends of Nillumbik Inc.

Bulletin for June/July, 2018                                                                                                                                                                  


Dear supporters and associate members,                                                                

Our two previous bulletins have discussed a key council project: the GWMP review, currently underway.  Despite misgivings and concerns about aspects of council’s approach we have encouraged FoN supporters to actively participate in this important project. A few days-ago we received a letter from council with significant news:

After thanking us for encouraging participation in the GWMP review – which included nominating and voting on preferred panel speakers, the letter explained that council has, “received concerns from residents about the transparency and fairness of the process, and experienced technical problems”. (No further explanation is given)

  As a result, the process has been changed: Experts will be selected, not by popular vote, but by the consultants, with the panel also choosing speakers if they wish.  FoN supporters can continue to nominate additional speakers until July 8th.  

If you have any questions, please contact us at gwmp@nillumbik.vic.gov.au or call 9433 3134. And don’t forget that the surveys and other wider engagement activities close Friday 13 July! https://participate.nillumbik.vic.gov.au/gwmp

Melissa Morganti | Project Support Officer


Please take note of the following ways you can make a difference over the next week and a half:

ACTION 1 – Most urgent

Council is reviewing Nillumbik’s Green Wedge Management Plan. It is important that our natural environment is properly protected, and that you (and all Nillumbik residents) tell Council how you feel about the Green Wedge via the following options and links.

Ø Complete a survey

Ø Share your stories about your experience of the Green Wedge

Ø Share a photo of what you love about the Green Wedge

Please be inspired by any of the suggestions hereunder.

We have until 13th July. Please tell your friends and family to do likewise.


Ø Read about the GWMP Review and please complete a survey and under the survey headings think about:

·         Social - The importance of having green spaces for improved mental health, families, the strong community spirit garnered through working together. We love where we live because of the trees. Our treed urban areas such as Eltham are our extension of the Green Wedge, and indigenous vegetation should be protected all over Nillumbik. Excellent environmental outcomes are also positively linked to improved human health and well-being, community, cultural heritage, recreation, tourism, business development.

·         Economic - The value of our unique environment, of our beautiful landscapes, of such rich biodiversity – eg in attracting people for their health and well being, recreational pursuits, to markets, festivals, orienteering, musical and other artistic events, carbon emission offsets. Reject the opening of the region to major commerce. We prefer to shop locally, and to support locally made and distributed food and products. The Green Wedge currently attracts huge biodiversity grants - we need to retain these. The continuation of healthy productive agriculture relies on a vigorous, bio-diverse environment which delivers healthy soils, clean water and a stable climate.

·         Environment - Protect what we love about living here. We are "The Green Wedge Shire" and "The Lungs of Melbourne". We are a conservation shire with protection of the Green Wedge and biodiversity as our primary strategic focus. We need to IMPROVE and build on what we've got. Once it’s gone, it’s gone for ever. Stop the nibbling. Stop unnecessary vegetation clearing. Stop the urban sprawl. Stop the urbanisation, degradation and fragmentation of our natural environment. Arrest population growth and traffic congestion. Let's protect the Green Wedge, biodiversity, habitat for wildlife, our beautiful environment and landscapes. Improve our waterways. Biodiversity is but a dream unless we actually have a GWMP that stops its destruction. Let's learn to look after our environment better. Let's build environmentally sustainable communities. Let's create opportunities to teach our kids & grandkids to appreciate and protect our beautiful natural environment. Let's learn from the ancient aboriginal ways of managing the land to promote food production for all of biodiversity, and of reducing the fire risk. Let's lead the way in Nillumbik. Let's pass on a healthy environment to our kids, rather than a degraded one.

·         Regulatory - Strengthen environmental protection. Protect the voiceless (animals). Protect against the threat of individuals working without environmental guidance. Let's not just talk about these;  its important to take effective action. Protect against the issuing of retrospective permits which enable owners to flout existing rules. Change the existing planning schemes to enable enhancement and expansion of significant landscapes and animal corridors. Supporting our Green Wedge is supporting the Lungs of Melbourne. Improve our waste management. Require new developments to be ecologically sustainable; and promote environmental sustainability in whatever we do. Rather than slash and burn, encourage an environmentally sensitive approach to managing our bushfire risk. Landownership involves rights as well as responsibilities. The Green Wedge is our collective responsibility - for all of Melbourne, for the future of our kids, and their kids, and theirs.

Ø Share your stories about your experience of the Green Wedge.

·         Spiritually & inspirationally, mentally, physically, economically, socially, culturally. Eg. your experience of natural phenomena; or about encounters with the local wildlife.

·         Volunteering stories about all the effort and community spirit around protecting what we have.

·         Stories of community spirit that have made us happy or helped us through the tough times.

·         Emphasise community or collective responsibility as opposed to individual landowners’ rights.

Ø Share a photo of what you love about the Green Wedge, or follow link https://participate.nillumbik.vic.gov.au/gwmp?tool=story_telling_tool#tool_tab. Type in a title for your photo. That opens up a dialogue box with editing symbols at the top. Select the mountains picture [Insert Image] and go from there. The image should be no bigger than 1MB.

·         Photos/FaceBook screen shots/etc

o   Of our beautiful landscapes.

o   Of our unique flora.

o   Of our beautiful wildlife (alive and dead – eg. to show the destruction to habitat loss that increased traffic causes).

Emphasise the importance of regulation to keep them safe.

o   Before and after pictures of areas that have already been lost.

·         Art work/ music/creativity inspired by our unique environment.

 Please take action - for our Green Wedge - for our natural environment and for the sake of future generations.


 A new Facebook page has been established to support the like-minded groups and individuals in the Nillumbik Network.  (NB: Friends of Nillumbik Inc is part of this Network)

 Nillumbik Environmental and Sustainability Hub [NEASH] aims to raise awareness of the importance of our natural environment and other relevant issues, in particular the Nillumbik Green Wedge. 

 Please feel free to post items to this FB page or share our posts with your own page.

 Please see the link below:

Log in to Facebook | Facebook

Thank you for helping to protect the Green Wedge and everything else that is so great about Nillumbik.

 Greg Johnson

President, Friends of Nillumbik

      Friends of Nillumbik Inc.
                                                                         P.O. Box 258 Eltham 3095

Submission on draft Council Plan 2017-2021
31st May, 2017

General comments:
As is the case with all Council Plans which set out strategic objectives for the shire, there is much in the “Living in the Landscape” document which will clearly benefit our community. However, in one crucial area the draft Plan takes us backwards from all previous plans.  Below we have commented on strategies and priority actions which are of concern.  
Strategic Objective 1:
1.6.1:  What is the intention behind, “review council’s role in direct service provision….etc”?  Is it intended to reduce council’s involvement?  Is this flagging reduced services levels?  More detail needed.
Strategic Objective 2:
2.2.8:  We are very concerned about a possible take-over of most of Eltham Lower Park, by mini-railway infrastructure.  The park is a valuable environmental and recreational asset which must be carefully managed to ensure no one activity interferes with other users and doesn’t degrade environmental values.  We are not convinced the Masterplan needs to be reviewed.
Strategic Objective 3:
3.1: What is the meaning of “holistic approach to strategic planning”?  Nillumbik’s planning scheme has as its central concern the health and sustainability of its Green Wedge, and that’s how it should be.  The intention here needs to be clearly spelled out.  It suggests more than just making it “easier and clearer”.
3.1.2:  This item grossly underplays the significance of the Green Wedge Management Plan, and distorts the emphasis from, how to sustainably manage a natural resource of considerable importance, to, how to change it to suit the demands of a pressure group.  It downgrades the importance of the Green Wedge.
3.1.4:  Does a “shire-wide housing strategy” include areas outside the Urban Growth Boundary?  If it does then councillors need to be reminded that the RCZ3 zone in the Green Wedge discourages residential use and that needs to be respected.
3.3.3:  Housing for retirement living must be confined to within township boundaries in order to retain the purpose of green wedge areas.
3.6:  This strategy is commendable, however, none of the associated priority actions (3.6.1; 3.6.2; 3.6.3; 3.6.4) will effectively achieve the strategy’s goal. There needed to be a separate Strategy concerning implementing the Green Wedge Management Plan.
3.10.1:  This should have words added: “but not through Nillumbik!”
3.10.4:  A train station in this location would be likely to lead to a new residential sub-division on green wedge land between Allandale Road and Diamond Creek, including a shift in the Urban Growth Boundary.  These consequences should be avoided.
Strategic Objective 4:
4.1.4:  “planning outcomes that are positive and customer-centric”?  What does this mean?  There are always winners and losers in planning outcomes; how can it be otherwise?  This should be removed.
4.2.1:  New tourism accommodation should also be consistent with the Green Wedge Management Plan.
4.3:  Development trends in activity centres (particularly Eltham’s) are already creating angst among nearby residents.  Do we really want to accelerate development pressure further?  This item should be removed.
4.4:  A visionary plan for Precincts 3&4 must include extensive community consultation because of the sensitive nature of the former Shire Office site.  Its use will be carefully scrutinised.  Current site also has existing community use.
Strategic Objective 5:
5.4:  This needs some rational argument consistent with the needs of the municipality and the rates structure of the shire.  It’s well known that Nillumbik has structural issues related to having a small rate base.  This is unavoidable.  Should be removed.
5.4.2:  This needs further explanation.  To what end?
5.5.1:  Accelerated program of debt reduction – needs rational justification.  Why “accelerated”?
5.6.2:  Selling assets at the scale proposed is unsustainable and unnecessary.  Rating according to the rate cap is realistic and responsible.  This should be removed.
5.7.1:  The “Organisational Culture and Capability Strategy” needs explanation. This lacks transparency.
5.9.2:  This action will lead to unnecessary speculation about the viability of the existing shire boundaries.  It is destabilising and damaging.  What is the purpose?  Needed much more explanation.  This should be removed.
Strategic Resource Plan:   There is much that is both ideological and political in this section.  The key assumptions come from an acceptance that an anti-rates prejudice among some in the community ought to be pandered to, rather than countered.  Some in the community need better information about Nillumbik’s structural problems which are well known in local government circles, including the MAV.  This section lacks rational justification.
Backwards steps from previous council plans:
On pages 8-11 there’s a familiar introductory profile of the Shire of Nillumbik.  It says that we are (known as) the Green Wedge Shire with a community which:
 “….values and wants to protect the Green Wedge with its bushland environment, open spaces…etc”, (with) “..large areas of native vegetation on public and private land and sites of national, state and regional significance for their fauna”.  
But extraordinarily, that’s where any further mention of the Green Wedge ends!  In the all-important body of the draft Plan where there are 186 strategic indicators, strategies and priority actions, there is not one further mention of the Green Wedge despite it making up 91% of the shire’s area!  The subject of dozens of mentions in our planning scheme’s Municipal Strategic Statement, local policy and state policy, references to the Green Wedge have been removed from council’s most important 4 year, strategic document!
Natural environment inaction:
The introductory comments refer to the community’s desire to protect bushland and open spaces and there is a strategy (3.6) which includes biodiversity and natural resources protection; but the accompanying priority actions about an invasive species plan, a water management plan, sewerage advocacy and sustainability advice to landowners, while helpful, do not offer a broad or systematic program of actions to tackle habitat decline and threatened species, urgent problems identified in council’s Biodiversity Strategy. Despite mention of “our iconic environment” in the heading for Objective 3, the only mention of landscape we could find is in the Plan’s title, “Living in the Landscape” which implies that our iconic environment doesn’t need protecting because it’s to be used for “living-in” i.e. for rural residential purposes, contradicting the rural conservation zone which discourages this use.  Under this draft Plan the shire’s natural environment, no doubt, will continue to decline.

Green Wedge Management Plan:
In the draft council Plan the Green Wedge Management Plan receives scant attention (see priority actions 3.1.2) Here, it’s regarded merely as a potential problem for landowners.  This dismissive treatment fails to recognise its significance.
Nillumbik’s Green Wedge Management Plan (2010-2011) derives from State Government planning policies and strategies:  
“Its preparation is guided by the Department of Sustainability and Environment practice note: ‘Preparing a Green Wedge Management Plan’, August 2005.  The concept of green wedges as rural landscapes and natural areas separating corridors of urban development is a long standing metropolitan planning commitment.  This commitment has been endorsed and promoted by the Victorian State Government policy document ‘Melbourne 2030’ and, subsequently, by ‘Melbourne @ 5million’ which confirms these policy directions.  In this context the Nillumbik Green Wedge is a resource to be protected and managed on behalf of the whole metropolitan community because of its environment, and its recreational, agricultural, economic and social values”. (page 11, GWMP volume 1)  
In 2007 an Audit Expert Group made the following recommendation in respect of green wedges:
“the state government gives higher priority to enhancing the contribution of green wedges to the sustainability and liveability of Melbourne.  Mean by which this can be achieved include:
•    Implementing the green wedge management plans, ensure that controls on the land recognise the inherent differences in the nature and capability of land within each green wedge”.  (page 13, GWMP volume 1)
The Nillumbik Green Wedge Management Plan 2010-2011 contains 29 strategies covering infrastructure, recreation, settlement, agriculture, tourism, business development, cultural heritage, transport, biodiversity, strengthening communities and landscape.  It has 109 recommended actions including 50 high priority actions.  It is not, by any means, a radical “green” document: For example, it calls for economic development in townships; increased business opportunities and tourism-related accommodation in the Green Wedge; the growth of locally based food production; an Active Ageing Strategy, among many others.  The failure to make this landmark strategic plan a central part of council’s draft Plan is very worrying and must be rectified.
The importance of the Green Wedge Management Plan is based on Nillumbik’s Planning Scheme:  “The main council planning document applying to the Nillumbik Green Wedge is the Nillumbik Planning Scheme which incorporates the Municipal Strategic Statement (MSS).  The MSS sets out the broad strategy for the Nillumbik Green Wedge and Nillumbik as a whole.  The Nillumbik MSS states that:  ‘…in defining the boundaries of the shire, the Local Government Board recognised the strong rural and conservation focus shared by the communities of interest in this particular region of Melbourne’.  In keeping with this statement the Nillumbik Planning Scheme states that the shire has a role as metropolitan cultural, nature conservation and recreation resource that will continue to be recognised throughout the state:
All future land use and development will enhance the aesthetic qualities of the urban and rural environment responding in particular to the character defined by landform, landscapes and vegetation cover.  The energies of the Nillumbik Shire Council will be directed to enhancing the environmental conditions that enrich the area and promoting development which meets present needs without compromising the future wellbeing of the shire. In this way, the Shire of Nillumbik will achieve an environmentally, socially and economically sustainable future (MSS, Planning Scheme, and page 14, GWMP volume 1)
To realise these well-established goals from Nillumbik’s Municipal Strategic Statement it’s necessary to implement the Green Wedge Management Plan.  Instead the draft council Plan has effectively shelved it.  It must be re-included into the Plan.

Greg Johnson (on behalf of Friends of Nillumbik Inc.)


Friends of Nillumbik Inc.
Bulletin for May, 2016

Dear supporters,
                                         Green Wedge protection still hangs in the balance.
On Tuesday 26th April, before a capacity gallery noisily disrupted by an organised group of objectors,  council narrowly voted to send Amendment C101 (mapping for habitat protection) to a panel hearing, rejecting their previous decision of 13th April, to abandon it. (see “shock decision” bulletin, April). Crs Young and Coleman this time joined Hattam and Van Hulsen making the vote 4/3 for a panel.    Crs King, Perkins and Klein stuck with abandonment.  
What next?
We now know that Cr Klein will seek to have this decision rescinded at the council meeting of 24th May, no doubt in favour of abandonment once again.
Landscape protection:
The 24th May meeting will also decide the future of Amendment C81 which protects rural landscapes.  C81 has been endorsed by an independent panel (with changes) but councillors still need to hear community opinions about the panel findings and these will be heard at the Tuesday 10th May Policy & Services meeting (7.00pm tomorrow) Supporters of landscape protection will be needed in the gallery.  Please also register to speak (council web site or phone)
So the ordinary meeting of council on 24th May will be of great significance for the future of Nillumbik’s Green Wedge.
Facts, allegations and misinformation about C101:
The only fair way to resolve contentious issues with a planning scheme amendment is with a panel hearing (like what has just happened for C81).  It doesn’t favour either side of the debate and gives objectors, submitters and the council another chance to put their case and have viewpoints rationally and independently assessed.
Council has already provided clarification through the officers’ report in the Policy & Services meeting agenda of 13th April and their web site link: “Find out the facts about C101” – but there’s been a lot of ill-founded scuttlebutt and rumour doing the rounds.
The link describes all the most common complaints which were made by objectors to C101, and officer responses suggest that the points raised are either groundless, based on misinformation, or have been remedied.   Objectors who remain unconvinced have access to an independent panel.
It’s clear that some are deliberately peddling misinformation about C101 for what can only be assumed, are political reasons – after all, there’ll be local council elections later this year.  
Once again, it’s a case of: “don’t let the facts get in the way of a good (anti-council) story” – and the usual suspects are involved.  They hope to gain from more council meeting disruption/intimidation.
For Nillumbik, this is nothing new. There’s no substitute for checking the facts oneself.  All the documents are readily available.

Why should C101 be supported?
1.       Planning law says our planning scheme must provide for the “maintenance of ecological processes and genetic diversity.” (Sec 4(1) Planning and Environment Act, 1987)  This is what C101 does!

2.       Most rural land in Nillumbik is in the Rural Conservation Zone.  The purpose of this zone includes: “To protect the natural environment and natural processes for their faunal habitat…..values, and the biodiversity of the area”, and, “To provide for agricultural use consistent with the conservation of environmental and landscape values of the area” (35.06, Planning Scheme).  C101 matches the purpose of the land where it will apply!

3.       The Bushfire Royal Commission wanted biodiversity conservation to be given “due consideration” (Recommendation 39); and it recommended setting limits to the removal of native vegetation (Recommendation 41); and it called for biodiversity mapping throughout Victoria (Recommendation 43)  Biodiversity mapping is what C101 is doing!

4.       Council’s Biodiversity Strategy (2011) points out: Australia has one of the worst records in the world for the loss of animal and plant life:  In Victoria 44% of native plants and more than 30% of animal species are already either extinct or threatened with extinction.  So if biodiversity management is to be effective then it should become a core function of local government.  This is what C101 will do!

It’s clear to see why council is pursuing Amendment C101. It’s in the public interest.

Co-operation or conflict?
Private owners of rural land play an essential role in conserving our Green Wedge for the future.  Good land management practices maintain sensitive habitat areas in accordance with the land’s zoning and help local flora and fauna survive.  It seems clear that owners who are already doing this will not be affected by the requirements of C101.
We hope misinformation about the amendment has not damaged the spirit of co-operation which is important for habitat protection on private land.

While we’re talking about biodiversity:
Have your say on the State Government’s draft, “Protecting Victoria’s Environment – Biodiversity 2036”.  Submissions are due this month.  Log onto Dept. Environment, Land, Water and Planning web site.

Greg Johnson (President)

We thank you for your continuing support and for taking the time to read this bulletin.  Your feedback is valued so let us know what you would like to see in your FoN bulletins.  Email us at mail@friendsofnillumbik.org
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Friends of Nillumbik Inc.
P.O. Box 258 Eltham 3095

Strategic and Economic Planning,                        
Nillumbik Shire Council,
Civic Centre,

18th Jan. 2016

Submission on proposed Amendment C101 (ESO’s)

To Whom it May Concern

Friends of Nillumbik Inc. supports council’s proposed Amendment C101 which will introduce new ESO overlays into the Planning Scheme (ESO1, 2, 3 and 4).

We recognise there was a compelling case for reviewing the accuracy and application of the current ESO’s which were based on the 17 year old NEROC report.  While that key study  played a significant role in protecting the shire’s habitats, we accept that some habitat values have been lost to urbanisation in the intervening years (as predicted by NEROC) and planning decisions based on ESO compliance need credibility at VCAT when tested – also (among other things) some state and regional policies have changed in the interim.

We understand the need to define the various types of habitat (Core, Buffer and Urban) accurately as to their varying biodiversity significance so that the overlay reflects reality.  In the words of the consultants, this will achieve greater transparency in the delineation of ESO’s.

As reported, while 2,308 hectares of land will be removed from ESO1, an additional 6,610 hectares will be included, which adds up to a significant net increase of protected habitat across our rural areas.  The new Waterway ESO4 will also bring a very significant net increase in the number of properties where waterway habitat will be protected.

We are concerned about the removal of protection for the vegetation on low density land abutting the south side of the Diamond Creek Road “Windy Mile” on the Urban Growth Boundary.  While its habitat value may be questionable, its value in the landscape is important and it should at least have SLO protection.

It was reassuring to have the detailed reports from Ecology Australia and Abzeco available for examination, ensuring transparency of process.  
We congratulate council officers for the thorough work which went into the amendment.

Yours etc,

Friends of Nillumbik


At our AGM on 19th March 2014, the Friends of Nillumbik Inc. members voted for a special resolution which gives us a new statement of purposes. This resolution (see below) was carried unanimously.


That Friends of Nillumbik Inc. (i) adopt the Model Rules for an Incorporated Association set out in the Associations Incorporation Reform Regulations 2012, Part 3, and (ii) replace the current statement of purposes with a new statement of purposes as follows:
Friends of Nillumbik Inc will work to support and promote the environmental and landscape values, neighbourhood character, orderly planning and good governance of the Shire of Nillumbik. In pursuit of the above and where resources allow, we:

1. Support at our discretion, council candidates at local elections who will further the values, character, planning and governance of the Shire in accordance with our statement of purposes.

2. Consider the appropriateness of planning applications including support for residents seeking to protect neighborhood character.

3. Promote the importance of sustainable development, energy efficiency and renewable energy use, as appropriate responses to the problem of climate change.
4. Participate in VCAT hearings.

5. Make public interest submissions at the local and state level on strategic planning including Melbourne –wide planning, Nillumbik township planning, and Green Wedge planning.

6. Support appropriate management of public land.

7. Support recreation and tourism facilities appropriate for Nillumbik’s special urban and rural character.

8. Participate in Nillumbik festivals.

9. Provide regular bulletins to our supporters.

10.Lobby other levels of government.

11. Monitor our local council including submitting on the council plan and budget where appropriate”.

-  carried unanimously

The Planning Minister, Matthew Guy, has signed off on Amendment C60. This ensures that the Hurstbridge Township Strategy is now incorporated into the Nillumbik Planning Scheme. Policies and controls are now in place to help protect the unique character of Hurstbridge's built environment along the Main Street. We consider that a recent decision by VCAT to refuse a proposed development at 780 Main Road, Hurstbridge is an early indicator that the Hurstbridge Township Strategy will be referred to in future VCAT considerations.