Population explosion threat to Melbourne's Green Wedges

Published on 22 June 2018

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Emeritus Professor, Environment and Planning, RMIT University, Michael Buxton today issued a warning that some of Victoria's most important environmental assets in the Green Wedge zones around Melbourne will face increasing development pressures.

Professor Buxton, one of Australia's most respected planning commentators will speak at the Mornington Peninsula Green Wedge Summit today, said "Greater Melbourne's population explosion highlighted the strategic value of the decisions taken in the 1960s to create the Green Wedges and also the importance of bipartisan support for strengthening long term planning controls.

 "The Mornington Peninsula Green Wedge has a total area of 51,204 hectares (512 km2), comprising approximately 70% of the Mornington Peninsula Shire and is of State and National significance.  

"Although Green Wedges are set aside as non-urban land through the Planning Scheme, Green Wedges are subject to intense pressures for urban development and change.

"These competing pressures can range from urban development, hobby farms, tourism, intensive agriculture, and infrastructure as Green Wedge areas through design are close to the metropolitan areas of Melbourne.

"The Green Wedge zones are increasingly being recognised as vital areas for their major contribution to community health and wellbeing as development pressures dramatically increase living densities in residential areas by abolishing local planning laws.

"In the case of Greater Melbourne and Victoria, the Mornington Peninsula Green Wedge is a major health, agriculture, tourism and employment asset."

Professor Buxton said last year the Victorian Government without any notice, changed the planning regulations in the Mornington Peninsula Shire to allow 24,000 housing sites (25% of housing within the Mornington Peninsula Shire) the automatic right to build new or renovate existing homes into three storey McMansion style homes throughout low scale developed townships and coastal villages.

The high use of General Residential zone in the urban areas, at 76%, will increasingly lead to multi-unit development with even greater impact on vegetation, road congestion and lowering of existing residential amenity and environment - the very reason people had made the location their home.

"This is a repeat of the same current Victorian Government Ministry of Planning height strategy in suburban Melbourne that has led to a major surge in large oversized housing taking up all of the housing allotment and dwarfing the neighbours.

"This ultimately sees the disappearance of trees in urban areas and loss of neighbourhood environment and amenity.

"In Mornington Peninsula Shire, the imposition of three storey homes in traditionally small scale residential areas could lead to major urbanisation on the boundaries of the Green Wedge through the historic Mornington Peninsula coastal villages and townships.

Villages and townships in the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council impacted by the Government's change of local planning laws include Capel Sound, Rosebud, Dromana, Mount Martha, Mornington, Baxter, Somerville, Tyabb, Hastings and Bittern."

Professor Buxton said all Councils with Green Wedge areas should be prepared for extra development pressure in the future and it is vital to have strong local community support to ensure the environmental integrity for future generations.  

"With planning and population management one of the hot issues impacting on the community across Victoria, all political parties should release their Green Wedge and planning policies to re-affirm the protection of these important areas before the State election in November."

View the Video of the Drone Flight of the Green Wedge HERE.