Residents fear Green Wedge at risk in Nillumbik’s draft plan
by Sean Wales
6th June 2017
DURING a community consultation session held at Eltham’s Edendale Farm on May 17, local Nillumbik residents voiced their concerns at Nillumbik Council’s draft 2017–2021 Plan.
In the plan, the Council has chosen to focus on five key “strategic” objectives:
• Engaged, connected communities.
• Active and creative people.
• Safe and healthy environments.
• A prosperous economy.
• Responsible leadership.
Members of the community were concerned about a lack of balance in the plan between protecting the environment and other issues, such as generating income and infrastructure projects.
North Warrandyte local Ian Penrose has made a written submission to Nillumbik Council, criticising the language used in the plan.
“[The Green Wedge] is fundamental to the shire’s identity and its responsibility,” he said.
Mr Penrose is also concerned about the plan’s lack of focus on maintaining and improving the environment in the Green Wedge.
“The language used by the Council is an indicator of its perspective, and that is worrying,” he said.
Other locals voiced similar concerns to Mr Penrose during the community consultation, particularly surrounding property development around the Shire.
There were strong opinions about what the Council should do with some vacant blocks of land.
While the Council could sell the land to fund other community-based projects, Nillumbik residents were nervous about the potential for further development in busy townships such as Eltham and Diamond Creek.
One woman argued there was “intrinsic value in vacant land” and “odd pockets of trees and land add to the natural streetscape of the Shire”.
Others were troubled about a potential “population increase” as well as criticising the Council for seeing vacant lots as a “development opportunity”.
These are the latest development worries for Nillumbik residents, with the Warrandyte Diary reporting concerns surrounding a potential property development on Pigeon Bank Road in North Warrandyte (see page 9).
Spokesperson for the Nillumbik Pro Active Landowners (PALs), Max Parsons said, “Nillumbik PALs supports the Council’s focus on the importance of proper representation of, and advocacy for, its ratepayers.”
The Nillumbik PALs believe the Green Wedge Management Plan is due for review and supports the Council’s focus on building the Shire’s economic possibilities.
“Like all relevant sections of any Planning Scheme, the Green Wedge Management Plan should be subject to review and updating, as it is long overdue,” Mr Parsons said.
The Nillumbik PALs support “the establishment of a strong financial position, which includes an emphasis on the economy, tourism and employment,” Mr Parsons said.
Focus on the economy and tourism was also on the agenda at the community consultation meeting.
Nillumbik Mayor Peter Clarke proposed the construction of a “Civic Hub” for Eltham.
While no concrete plans are in place, the Mayor encouraged the community to join the conversation about potentially building a hotel or even a small hospital in Eltham.
Mr Penrose feels as if the emphasis on jobs, economy and tourism in the Council’s plan will put the natural landscape of the Green Wedge at risk.
“[The draft Council Plan] conveys the message that the Council is ignoring its fundamental responsibility to care for the Nillumbik Green Wedge,” he said.
“I urge the Council to correct this glaring and critical shortcoming in its plan.”
In response, Mayor Peter Clarke said during the consultation that language specific to the Green Wedge was not used in the strategic objectives because it was seen as “too broad”. He pointed out that other councils also see themselves as a Green Wedge municipality.
That is unlikely to ease the concerns of North Warrandyte residents such as Mr Penrose who want to ensure the natural landscape of Nillumbik Council and the surrounding areas are preserved and improved well into the future.
The public consultation period for the 2017-2021 Plan officially closed on June 2.