Protecting our green wedges
by JEFF CRANSTON
8th March 2021
SOMETIMES I THINK of Melbourne as a vast living organism, growing ever larger, slowly spreading across the surrounding countryside and devouring everything in its path.
No one can stop Melbourne growing, and the best that governments can do is to control its growth and try to ensure that it is sustainable.
Melbourne’s 12 green wedges, including the Manningham and Nillumbik Green Wedges, are a good case in point.
These are non-urban areas lying outside Melbourne’s Urban Growth Boundary that have been designated for the protection of natural and rural values.
They contain a mix of low-density uses including farms, parks, water catchments, cultural heritage sites, and residential land on large allotments.
The policy of protecting green wedges from inappropriate development is set out in all planning schemes covering metropolitan Melbourne.
Green wedges are a product of the great foresight of people like Rupert Hamer, Minister for Local Government in the late 1960s and later Premier of Victoria.
According to Hamer, in planning for the growth of Melbourne:
“Nobody could happily contemplate a future metropolis of seemingly endless suburbia spreading out to infinity.”
“The future planning of Melbourne should take account of the surrounding countryside as a vital part of the metropolitan environment.”
Hamer’s vision for containing Melbourne’s urban sprawl was reflected in the 1971 report entitled Planning Policies for the Melbourne Metropolitan Region, which supported the establishment of urban growth corridors separated by “green wedges of open country protected from urban development”.
Fast forward to 2021, and the need for green wedges is stronger than ever in the face of climate change and rising average temperatures.
Green wedges, along with increased greening of areas within the Urban Growth Boundary, serve to absorb carbon and to mitigate the urban heat island effect.
Moreover, as the Minister for Planning, Richard Wynne, has noted, the importance of these areas will only increase in the future as climate change impacts where crops are grown and the green wedge and peri-urban areas are relied upon more to grow food.
Green wedges also provide vital recreational resources for Melbourne’s population and greatly contribute to our quality of life — a refuge from the concrete, asphalt and traffic of suburbia.
It is not surprising, however, that over the decades since they were established, Melbourne’s green wedges have faced significant threats from those eager to open up these areas for development.
In recent years, the Manningham Green Wedge faced such a threat by way of the Manningham Council’s proposed amendment to the Manningham Planning Scheme known as Amendment C117.
That proposal involved (among other things) changes to the Scheme that would have allowed more commercial and tourist development in the Rural Conservation Zone (RCZ), which covers most privately-owned land within the Manningham Green Wedge.
However, an independent panel appointed by the State Government recommended against those changes and instead put forward its own version of Amendment C117 aimed at preserving the status quo.
As the Diary reported in February 2019, the Panel concluded that “the broader policy position to support more tourism in the Green Wedge is contrary to sound planning and runs counter to the purposes of the RCZ.”
In September that year, the Planning Minister decided to accept the panel’s recommendations and adopt its version of the amendment rather than Council’s.
The State Government is currently undertaking a project aimed at deciding how it can best protect Melbourne’s green wedges.
At this stage, it is considering submissions received from stakeholders and community members, and is due to provide a report about this in mid-2021.
WarrandyteCAN strongly supports the protection and preservation of our green wedges, especially as they represent an important part of our response to climate change and are vital for Melbourne’s sustainable future.