Backward step for Trawalla Avenue land and Merri Creek
28th July 2023
By Ann McGregor
In a backward step for Merri Creek, the Victorian Minister for Planning, Hon. Sonya Kilkenny MP, has approved the rezoning from Public Use to Industrial of public land beside the Creek in Thomastown. This will enable Melbourne Water to sell the land to the adjacent owner, Bertocchi Smallgoods. The Minister exempted herself from normal requirements in the Planning & Environment Act, so that third parties (including Friends of Merri Creek) did not receive formal statutory notice of the rezoning in May. The Friends did not have the opportunity to make a submission, or be heard by an independent panel, in relation to the Planning Scheme amendment.
The land, 0.419 hectares or 1 acre in area, is off Trawalla Avenue, just upstream of the Ring Road. It is on the floodplain. Part is less than 30 metres from Merri Creek, and it has been identified as part of the marram baba Merri Creek Regional Parklands, currently being planned by the State Government’s Suburban Parks Program.
The sale sets an appalling precedent in legitimising encroachment onto public land, filling on a floodplain, unauthorised works and structures and lack of compliance with planning permit conditions requiring landscaping and site remediation.
Since 2017 the Friends of Merri Creek have strongly opposed the land sale. We put forward a proposal to a VCAT hearing that would retain the land in public ownership for eventual incorporation in the marram baba Merri Creek Regional Parklands, while allowing the current occupation to continue for the short/medium term.
Merri Creek Management Committee argued that a special planning control should be placed on the land to prevent any further industrial development, with the hope that in the longer term it could be become part of the marram baba parklands. These efforts failed. What a dismal reflection on the value placed on waterway corridors by government agencies and the State government.
Further reading: Why is Melbourne Water selling land in the Merri Creek corridor to industry? by Stephen Rowley. Dr Rowley has represented Merri Creek Management Committee on this and other planning issues.
The concrete area and part of closest shed are on the Melbourne Water land which will be sold to Bertocchi.
Trees in the foreground are next to Merri Creek, MCMC