Merri Creek campaigns
The Friends of Merri Creek, from their inception, have worked for the protection and enhancement of the Merri Creek, its valley and tributaries. We continue to monitor and advocate regarding inappropriate development proposals and campaign to retain or establish public land frontage and a continuous pathway along the creek. FoMC make submissions to government inquiries, strategies and consultation processes.
If you’d like to get involved in any of our campaign activities or have planning expertise you would be able to share - we’d love to hear from you. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Urban expansion - the northern growth corridor - Greater Wallan-Merri Regional Park
Protecting the lower Merri
(Re)moving a freeway
Building on these concepts, a proposal is currently being promoted for a Greater Wallan-Merri State/Regional Park, extending northwards from Craigieburn East Road to Wallan. Friends of Merri Creek, Merri Creek Management Committee and Wallan Environment Group have joined forces to campaign for a major park to conserve nature in the metropolis and create a green spine linking Wallan to inner Melbourne.
The Friends have been active in writing letters, making submissions on draft plans, identifying areas for protection, attending meetings with state and federal government, and working with other organisations including the Victorian National Parks Association and the Green Wedges Coalition in an effort to promote nature conservation and the protection of endangered plant and animal species in the northern two-thirds of the Merri catchment, now designated for urban development.
The restoration of Herne and Hanna Swamps is a key feature of these plans. The October 2020 Planning Panel Panel Report for the Beveridge North West Precinct Structure Plan (PSP) has recognised the importance of Hanna Swamp. Hanna Swamp straddles two large areas proposed for urban development (PSPs). It is part of the Strathaird/Taylors Creek system, a north-west tributary of Merri Creek near Wallan.
Although the future of Hanna Swamp as a restored wetland is not secured, support from the Panel is a helpful step forward to realising this vision. This reasoning is explored in more detail in a recent Nature Glenelg Trust blog. A crucial factor in gaining the Panel's support for Hanna Swamp was a presentation made by Mark Bachmann of the Nature Glenelg Trust on behalf of Friends of Merri Creek. The Friends also successfully argued that biodiversity and regional park planning should be acknowledged in the PSP.
Map showing proposed Greater Wallan-Merri State-Regional Park; Aerial view, Hanna Swamp.
As well as pressure on land to provide greenfield site developments, the inner urban councils of Moreland, Darebin and Yarra are being pressed to approve residential development at greater density. State and local government planning schemes, including environmental overlays and precinct structure plans provide the operating framework for many of these activities. Objections to development proposals are heard at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).
The Friends oppose redevelopment proposals that would intrude into or overshadow the Creek valley and its narrow bushland corridor of public open space. Here are a couple of recent examples:
Rezoning, 1-9 Moreland Rd Coburg
A large site with a frontage of over 200m to the Merri Creek parklands, the rezoning proposal included 5 and 6 storey apartment blocks. The Friends called for a 4 storey height limit, greater setbacks and more planting for screening. The independent Panel reviewing the rezoning found that five storey buildings as proposed would have an unacceptable visual impact on the Merri Creek corridor, which is recognised as a significant environmental, recreational and heritage corridor. Moreland City Council then resolved on a minimum set back of 50 metres from Merri Creek or 12 metres from the eastern property boundary, whichever is greater. In addition, prior to any submission of planning permit applications an agreement is to be reached in writing between the proponent, Merri Creek Management Committee and The Friends of Merri Creek about future planting along the eastern boundary of the site.
Multi-unit development, 2 Spry Street Coburg North
A proposal to build 21 townhouses of 3 or 4 storeys each, on a steep site in a bend of Merri Creek, was defeated at VCAT in 2017. Lined up against the proposal at VCAT were Friends of Merri Creek, Council, many local residents, Merri Creek Management Committee and Melbourne Water. Many of the townhouses would have been less than 20 metres from the top of the creek bank, with rooves towering 10-12m above the Merri Path. Some of the balconies were less than 3m from the Creekside open space.
Disposal of public land
Along the Merri there are a number of parcels of land owned by State government agencies. Most of these have been de facto part of the Merri open space corridor for decades. If a site is declared surplus to requirements by the agency, then its disposal comes under the Victorian Government Land Transactions Policy and Guidelines. Land is valued by the Valuer General – factoring in the real estate market. Before being listed for public sale, surplus land is offered through a ‘first right of refusal’ process to other Victorian Government departments and agencies, local government and the Commonwealth Government.
Merri Creek frontage, former Lakeside Secondary College Radford Rd, Reservoir
There was a strong campaign by the Friends and Darebin residents to prevent the sale of 1.8 hectares beside the Merri for industrial development. The land had been part of a school site but has been managed by Darebin Council since the 1980s as open space. After letters, submissions, meetings and lobbying, Darebin City Council bought the land from the Education Department in 2016.
104b McBryde Street Fawkner
VicRoads has declared this 1.8 hectare property adjoining the Merri as surplus to their requirements. It is zoned Public Park & Recreation and is actively used by the community and wildlife. Nevertheless, VicRoads proposed a rezoning and sale for medium-density housing development. The Fawkner Residents Association in partnership with FoMC campaigned to have the land retained under its current zoning and held in public hands. Moreland Council successfully made an offer to the state government to purchase the land for open space.
From the 1960s, a proposed main road (freeway) reservation ran down the Merri Creek valley from Fawkner to Clifton Hill. The reservation was deleted in 2 phases of community campaigning: in the 1970s the section south of Bell Street was scrapped, and in the nineties, the section between Bell Street and the Ring Road was scrapped after a long campaign by Friends of Merri Creek with support from the Merri Creek Management Committee.
If this freeway had been constructed, the Merri Creek would have been concrete-lined like Moonee Ponds Creek beside the Tullamarine Freeway/Citylink. Opportunities for revegetation and recreation use would have been severely limited. North of the Ring Road, our biggest-ever campaign was ultimately successful in moving the proposed alignment of the Craigieburn Bypass out of the Merri valley and away from heritage-listed native grasslands. Instead of six creek crossings, the Bypass now crosses once.
The Friends and other organisations fought this campaign from the mid-1990s to 2003. It involved letter-writing, submissions and appearances at public hearings, meetings with Ministers, freedom-of-information requests, community mobilisation including a public meeting with over 300 people at Coburg Town Hall, stalls, protests, fundraising and publicity activities, and legal challenges in the Federal Court.
The Friends’ campaign against this “Merri Creek Freeway” gained huge support across the northern suburbs. It achieved a higher level of State Government commitment to a regional park along the Merri Creek north of the ring road, and innovative stormwater treatment measures as part of the freeway construction.
Merri Creek supporters protesting the proposed route of the F2 Freeway, now called the Craigieburn Bypass./ No Merri Creek freeway!
The Friends have always promoted their vision to protect the natural assets of the Creek and establish a major park along the valley. A Natural Refuge for th eNorthern Suburbs: Creating a Metropolitan Park at Campbellfield (1989) put the case for protection of endangered native grassland communities adjoining the Merri Creek. In the early 90's Merri Creek Management Committee and Friends of Merri Creek lobbied for the reservation of Jukes Road Grassland and Central Creek Grassland as open space to protect their significant conservation values. A proposal for a Merri State Park between the Ring Road and Bald Hill north of Donnybrook, was produced in 2000 by FoMC and the Victorian National Parks Association.
Save Central Creek Grassland.