Split council narrowly adopts a flawed GWMP 

The following article was written by our colleagues at Friends of Nillumbik.

 

Split council narrowly adopts a flawed GWMP 

Council has voted 4/3 to adopt a new Green Wedge Management Plan which will disappoint all who want to see our natural environment properly protected.  

While improvements have been made, council still refuses to consider using all means at its disposal to protect our natural landscape and habitat values. 

The councillors who voted for this disappointment were, Crs Egan, Ashton, Clarke and Ranken.  No doubt this will be an election issue next October.

If you wish to read the full GWMP the actual copy of the Council’s latest GWMP is a huge document (59Meg) and can be found as an attachment to November 26th Agenda

https://www.nillumbik.vic.gov.au/Council/Minutes-and-agendas

OCM.171/19 Attachments 1-2 – Green Wedge Management Plan November 2019(PDF, 59MB)

Take note: The Plan has a lot of introductory commentary, but it’s only what’s in, or omitted from, the “Key actions” that really matters.

The new GWMP fails to provide appropriate protections for the environment. Council has listened, only to the extent that Buffer Zones seem to have been dropped, but for most of the issues the Council’s final version is still a huge disappointment. 

Some of the problems that were not changed in-spite-of the 600 submissions wanting change and the Save the Green Wedge petition of 1,100 were: 

–          The focus of the GWMP which is supposed to be about the natural environment, still focuses on the attitudes of a few influential people. Put bluntly: It is still a GWMP designed to delight a very small rural pressure group.  The council majority is out of touch with its community.

–          The document still emphasises the vision of the Nillumbik Council Plan dominated by economic considerations, not the Green Wedge natural environment.

–          Specifically, the Council has ignored the recommendations of their own Community Panel and the process that they spent $300,000 running, so the previous GWMP is not now referenced, just dumped. 

–          Cr Brooker made the point in debate that the world renowned ‘Precautionary Principle’ for Climate Change has been reworded for Nillumbik. This seems to be to look after a few rural ‘landowners’ who want to do what they like without community consideration. 

–          While far more submissions were concerned with the environmental impact of horses on bush blocks than support for the ‘equine community’, the only action item is, Changing the draft to prepare a Nillumbik Equine Industry and Activity Plan.”

–          With the upper reaches and tributaries of the Diamond Creek often now dry in summer, this Council GWMP still aims for balance for “private use of water flows through extraction and diversion.” 

–          No mention of discouraging development on Green Wedge Small Lots as per the last GWMP – with all discouragement being taken out of this latest version. Do we really want new housing in our fire prone Green Wedge?

–          There are no references to scientific papers as sources for this GWMP version. It seems whoever wrote this version knows it all or thinks anecdotal examples are far more important. 

 

Were government guidelines followed?  (refer to Practice Note 31)

The community is more divided than ever as a result of the way council conducted the consultation process. There was no opportunity for consensus building.  

The management of the community panel did not allow for the resolution of differences, and there was no project steering group or working group with representation from all stakeholders.  This was a major failure. 

Council’s handling of the community panel’s recommendations lacked transparency, with obvious bias toward a so-called ‘minority report’ which breached agreed panel procedures.

The Plan does not include regulatory implementation tools under the Planning Scheme to protect identified values and assets.  Planning Scheme amendments have been excluded from consideration.

 

What action can be taken now?

The State Government must take an interest in the future of our Green Wedge.  The Minister for Planning should know about the flaws in this new GWMP, particularly the way it doesn’t meet the expectations of Practice Note 31.

If you are disappointed by how Council has produced its new GWMP, you can email:

The Hon Richard Wynne, Minister for Planning [email protected]

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