FoMC submission to White Paper on Land and Biodiversity
The Friends of Merri Creek made a submission to the Government White Paper: Land and biodiversity at a time of climate change requesting that the matters below be addressed:
Protecting biodiversity values in the metropolitan region:
It is most important to protect threatened sites of critical importance (endangered flora and fauna – eg: native grasslands) NOW. Delays mean the permanent loss of these sites and values, which are irreplaceable. We must not allow any further species to become extinct!
Priority for land purchase and protection should be based on protecting the most endangered areas that are at most risk (eg: native grasslands and grassy woodlands within urban growth corridors). (The biodiversity values of these areas was highlighted by Dr. Sarah Bekessy, from RMIT, who found that there are more threatened species in the Werribee development corridor than in Kakadu National Park!)
Native vegetation planning controls need to be maintained and enforced.
We must stop the impacts of urban growth on significant sites for flora and fauna.
A conservation reserve network for the metropolitan region should be planned ahead of urban development and before land speculation makes land values prohibitive for public acquisition. Many sites around Melbourne’s periphery are significant at State or national level, and current planning procedures do not protect them. Public Acquisition Overlays are a necessary tool in designating and creating the network. The conservation reserve network should protect all our waterways.
Waterways and vegetated areas need to be protected by adequate buffer areas of vegetated open space (of hundreds of metres in width, rather than tens). A vegetated buffer of at least 600 metres is recommended to allow enough habitat so that other native birds could avoid the more aggressive Noisy Miners, which prefer to inhabit the edges of vegetation.
We need to ensure cross links between protected areas, especially in the face of climate change.
The obstacles to reintroduction of rare fauna to appropriate habitats should be reviewed and removed.
Green Wedges should not be diluted and the loopholes, which allow some inappropriate development, should be closed. Green Wedges Management Plans need to be coordinated by the State Government instead of Councils. (It should be recognised that Green Wedges were based on density of canopy from aerial photographs and so missed our most threatened ecosystems like grasslands and woodlands.)
Protecting other biodiversity values:
All logging in old growth forests must immediately cease.
MUCH more funding is required for land acquisition for nature conservation reserves in Victoria. (Compare the current miniscule annual budget allocation for this purpose with roads funding, e.g. $150 million for the Tullamarine-Calder freeway interchange.)
Parks Victoria needs more funding to protect and manage the biodiversity assets and conservation values in parks and reserves.
There should be more widespread use of water sensitive urban design and improved stormwater treatment, especially to remove heavy metals.
There should be funding for local catchment management strategies (eg: Merri Creek & Environs Strategy) and a link to Regional Catchment Strategies for implementation funding purposes.
There needs to be funding and better support for environmental stewardship by private landowners, especially farmers in Green Wedges, who are currently exempted from various support programs.
Priority for management of land, with vegetation that is not threatened with extinction, should be based on the quality of the vegetation – from highest to lowest. (Threatened vegetation is invariably highly degraded and needs to be given a higher priority to prevent further decline and promote recovery.)
Wetlands need to be restored and new ones created as flood retention, stormwater treatment and habitat.
Fire management needs to be well-informed by research into ecological needs and impacts. Fuel reduction regimes and fire control strategies should have an ecological basis rather than simply being based on saving built assets.
Public awareness and environmental education
We need to increase public awareness of Victoria’s natural heritage and biodiversity, particularly among the many residents of Melbourne who rarely or never experience a natural environment. Our native grasslands and grassy woodlands on Melbourne’s doorstep are largely unknown and unappreciated. Merri Creek Management Committee and the Friends group have undertaken a variety of community awareness and education projects over the past 18 years. The most recent example is a multi-cultural tour guides program which trained people from various ethnic backgrounds as guides of natural areas.
Employment in environmental restoration
Merri Creek Management Committee provides a good model for community engagement, employment and training in environmental restoration. (See www.mcmc.org.au) This model could be replicated in many other parts of Victoria.
There should be an analysis of environmental flows for all our waterways, but it is particularly needed on Merri Creek.
DSE would be better able to monitor biodiversity achievements if the forest management part of its operations went to another department, as this function conflicts with the aim of increasing biodiversity.
Problem with the publication that called for submissions:
We also disputed statements made in the paper that called for submissions about the “trade-offs” between water supplies and a healthy environment (on page 11). We consider them to be misleading and inaccurate. In particular, the stated benefits have omitted that revegetation reduces soil erosion and that forests bring rain. Concern about runoff reduction would be better aimed at logging of forests (which reduces rainfall) and at farm dams which would reduce much more runoff than revegetation.