Illegally occupied site to be rezoned?

26th April 2022

Illegally occupied site to be rezoned? Although works occurred without a permit on what is Merri Creek frontage land at 115 Trawalla Ave, Thomastown, the land is proposed to be rezoned to Industrial Zone, enabling it to be sold to the adjoining property owner. Currently it is public land owned by Melbourne Water and within the study area for the Upper Merri Parklands.

In the 1980s, Terrazzo Tiles did some extensive filling and created a dam on the adjoining Melbourne Water Drainage and Sewerage Reserve (known as 115 Trawalla Ave). Some of the fill and the dam were removed in the early 1990s, but the MMBW then leased this land back to Terrazzo Tiles

Terrazzo Tiles sold their land and it is now occupied by Bertocchi smallgoods, who in 2015 built a large warehouse, without planning or building permits, partly on the leased land at 115 Trawalla Ave. The rest of the leased land has since been sealed as a car park, with another building at the northern end of the property, built without a permit. A number of permits were issued retrospectively by the City of Whittlesea to cover these works.

n July 2018, VCAT approved removal of the reserve status from the land despite opposition by Friends of Merri Creek, represented by planning consultant Dr Stephen Rowley. The current rezoning proposal is the next step in the process of allocating public creek frontage land for private use.

Friends of Merri Creek and MCMC recognise that the fill and structures on the land are difficult to remove, in the short term, but do not concede that this portion of the floodplain should be subdivided off and sold to the adjacent landowner, Bertocchi. A resolution that was proposed in discussion with Melbourne Water and at VCAT was that the lease arrangement continue, but with a sunset clause (maybe 10-15 years hence) that would allow a reasonable planning horizon for the business, and with a requirement that once expired, the fill be removed and the land rehabilitated and revegetated– as part of the Upper Merri Parklands. This option was not taken up.

MCMChas commissioned Dr Stephen Rowley, to help with a submission to the Government Land Standing Advisory Committee Hearing scheduled for 14 June. If you are able to make a submission by 5pm, Tuesday 27 April, please do so online.

Note: the Amendment’s draft Explanatory Report states (p. 5): “the amendment has been prepared in consultation with the local council and important community groups, including the Merri Creek Management Committee.” However, this is not true!

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