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Adjournment: 115 Trawalla Avenue

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Samantha Ratnam
Leader of the Victorian Greens
12 May 2022

My adjournment matter tonight is for the Minister for Planning, and my ask is that he refuse the rezoning of 115 Trawalla Avenue, Thomastown, to industrial zone and keep the land in public ownership. 115 Trawalla Avenue is a section of open land along the eastern side of the Merri Creek in Thomastown. It forms part of the proposed Marran Baba Merri Creek regional parklands, which will connect existing reserves and green space along the Merri Creek from Campbellfield to Beveridge as part of the government’s suburban parks program. These parklands provide much-needed open space in our northern suburbs as well as a really important vegetation and ecosystem habitat along the Merri Creek. This green patch acts as a buffer between the waterway and the urban area surrounding it, protecting the health of the creek and acting as a natural drainage corridor.

115 Trawalla Avenue on the creek frontage is currently owned by Melbourne Water and zoned for public use. However, Melbourne Water has requested that the land be rezoned from public use zone to industrial zone, arguing that the land is now surplus to requirements. Rezoning the land will allow it to be sold to its industrial neighbour, the Bertocchi Group. Bertocchi has already partly encroached onto the public land, building a warehouse and a car park over the Melbourne Water land. The move to rezone will effectively sanction this illegal encroachment on the creek frontage land by paving the way for the land to be handed over to Bertocchi.

Rezoning the land will also have a serious impact on the health of the Merri Creek. The Victorian planning provisions state that a vegetated zone buffer should be retained for 30 metres on each side of the creek to minimise erosion and pollution run-off and maintain natural drainage corridors. Selling the land would reduce the corridor from 22 metres near the southern end to 19 metres and from 32 metres at the northern end to just 15 metres. The likelihood that the strip of land can be retained and rehabilitated as a vegetated buffer will all but vanish. The Friends of Merri Creek and other locals are rightly concerned at the potential loss of this land and have pointed out that the rezoning and sale of 115 Trawalla Avenue is contrary to both state planning policy and the planned creation of the Marran Baba Merri Creek regional parklands.

Authorising the rezoning and subsequent sale of the land sets a dangerous precedent that the government is willing to facilitate the sale of precious environmentally significant land along our waterways rather than fighting to retain it in order to protect the creek and the surrounding environment. What should be happening instead is that the plans should be negotiated on how this land can be used to increase the creek buffer, similar to what occurred at Spry Street in Coburg a few years ago. There was a similar proposal, but the council worked alongside the community and fought to stave off greater encroachment into the creek buffer, eventually purchasing the land themselves and returning it to environmental use.

We have just completed a landmark inquiry into biodiversity loss in this state. I would have thought that the government would be looking for every opportunity to halt further ecosystem decline, and here is an opportunity to do just that. I ask the minister to refuse to rezone 115 Trawalla Avenue to industrial zone and keep the land in public use.

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Samantha Ratnam
Leader of the Victorian Greens
12 May 2022
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