Recent land acquisitions for marram baba Merri Creek Regional Parklands

27th April 2023
By Ann McGregor

Critical parcels of land

The State Government has acquired two critical parcels of private land for addition to the marram baba Merri Creek Parklands. Both areas are being protected because of their biodiversity conservation values and because they are also recognised as having Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung cultural value. They were designated as Conservation Areas under the Melbourne Strategic Assessment (EPBC Act) as part of planning for Melbourne’s northern growth corridor.

  • 605 O’Herns Road, Epping
    A 40 hectare block which is immediately south of galgi ngarrk Nature Conservation Reserve (formerly Craigieburn Grassland) and includes the confluence of Curly Sedge Creek and Merri Creek. It contains Growling Grass Frogs and significant native vegetation. It fills a ‘missing link’ in public ownership of the Merri Creek habitat corridor on the eastern side of the creek.
  • 490 Craigieburn Road, Wollert
    A 112 hectare block of the Craigieburn East grasslands. This area is immediately north of Craigieburn Road East and consists of Natural Temperate Grassland, a population of endangered Curly Sedge, and habitat for various other plants and animals of national and state significance. It encompasses a significant reach of Curly Sedge Creek. The Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation is to take on management of this area.  

Land area whittled down

This second parcel and the broader Craigieburn East grasslands illustrate the ‘death by a thousand cuts’ that has occurred to our native grasslands, and how processes that were supposed to protect them has led to their destruction. The Natural Temperate Grasslands of the Victorian Volcanic Plains have been reduced to less than 1% of the vegetation community’s former extent, and is still being diminished. The Craigieburn East grasslands were recognised as highly significant for flora, fauna and habitat linkage in the 1990s. In 2000, the Friends of Merri Creek & Victorian National Parks Association produced a ‘Proposal for a Merri State Park’ which included the Craigieburn East grasslands.

As part of the planning processes for a major expansion of Melbourne’s urban footprint 10–15 years ago, a Biodiversity Conservation Strategy for Melbourne’s Growth Corridors (2013) was prepared. This was to fulfil requirements of the federal Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act, as the Melbourne Strategic Assessment. This Strategy designated a number of Conservation Areas to protect matters of national environmental significance. The extent of Conservation Area 32, which covers part of the Craigieburn East grasslands, was substantially reduced between the draft and final Biodiversity Conservation Strategies. It went from 264 hectares in the draft, to 154.6 hectares in the final Strategy.  This process of whittling down the area continued and was facilitated by DELWP, who sought landowners’ submissions on areas that could be excised from the reserves.

Now we have less than half the proposed original area protected

FoMC made a written submission and a verbal presentation to the Planning Panel for the Wollert Precinct Structure Plan in 2015. FoMC opposes further reduction in the conservation area, and sought protection of Stony Knoll Shrubland and Creekline Tussock Grassland.  31 hectares was subsequently removed from the conservation area, with approval by the Commonwealth Minister - even more than the 22 hectares requested by the landowner to be excised.  Now, we have the final size of the protected area: 112 hectares, less than half the area originally proposed. As well, it is safe to assume that the vegetation communities have degraded and become weed-invaded, as there has been no active management of the land for at least 15–20 years, since it was ‘land banked’ in anticipation of urban development.

Failing to deliver grassland and woody grassland conservation

No wonder a damning report from the Victorian Auditor General into the Melbourne Strategic Assessment severely criticised the Department of Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) for failing to deliver grassland and grassy woodland conservation.  As FoMC President, Prof Nick Williams, told The Age in their exposé of the problem: “The Melbourne Strategic Assessment is an abject failure.”

Adequate resources needed

There is still hope for Conservation Areas, like those at Wollert, but only if adequate resources are provided by DEECA.

[Thanks to Luisa Macmillan, MCMC Manager for the marram baba Parklands update to the MCMC Committee of Management in February.]


Inkedclose up Inked marram baba context map
Detail from Context of the marram baba Merri Creek Regional Parklands, DEECA, Future Directions Plan, p.3
The 2 purchased blocks are outlined above in green. Upper block is 490 Craigieburn Rd, Wollert, lower block is 605 O'Herns Rd, Epping.


490 Craigieburn Road, or Conservation Area 32 with boundary in red.
Craigieburn Road runs along the southern boundary. Curly Sedge Creek (a Merri tributary) meanders across the site from the northeastern corner to southern edge.
Densely-packed new housing in Wollert to southeast. 
Aerial image courtesy of Nearmap.


Native grassland on a Stony Knoll adjacent to Craigieburn Rd Wollert, excised from Conservation Area 32 and now destroyed for housing,
December 2015, N. Williams.


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