Farmland set to become Geelong’s newest growth areas is home to threatened animals like Striped Legless Lizards and Golden Sun Moth, and grassland communities that are close to extinction. Development will push up against important waterways like the Moorabool River and Cowies Creek, degrading water quality and putting pressure on endangered Growling Grass Frogs and native fish. The Geelong Strategic Assessment is supposed to set out how nature will be protected in the
development of Northern and Western Geelong Growth Areas (NWGGA). The NWGGA covers over 7000 ha and is proposed to house 110,000 people. Over 900 pages of documents have just been released, with public comment open until 25 September.
Some of the land will be protected for conservation, but most is set to be bulldozed. The NGGWA claims to be sustainable development. There’s nothing sustainable about clearing the habitat of endangered plants and animals. We need sustainable development that supports nature together with long-term housing solutions.
The North West Alliance is a coalition of organisations and local community members with serious concerns that environmental values are not being given their due importance in the development of the Northern and Western Geelong Growth Areas.
10 actions to make the GSA better for nature and to create more sustainable development
- Set stronger conservation targets. We don’t want populations of Striped Legless Lizard or Growling Grass Frog to just “persist”, we want them to thrive not hang-on by a thread. The GSA is clearing habitat, so we need to make what remains the best we can.
- Protect all Striped Legless Lizard populations now, don’t leave them as “Opportunity Areas”. Three out of the four populations aren’t ensured protection under this plan. That is a failure to avoid impacts to a Matter of National Environmental Significance. The federal Threatened Species Scientific Committee considers all populations of SLL important for the species recovery.
- Widen the Strategic Conservation Area along Cowies Creek. The proposed ‘on average’ 100m setback means choke points limit its effectiveness as a biolink for the Growling Grass Frogs. Nature needs space to move.
- Expand the Strategic Conservation Area along the Moorabool River to include its floodplain, as shown in the Draft Moorabool and Barwon Masterplan (Draft Kitjarra-dja-bul Bullarto langi-ut masterplan). The proposed paltry 50m buffer is incapable of achieving protections for the River and instream species. This is starkly illustrated by recognised poor development decisions on the Western bank including manifestly inadequate stormwater infrastructure.
- Focus on restoration, not just offsetting. No Plains Grassland is protected in the Western Geelong Growth Area, which is a glaring omission. In the Northern Growth Area, expand the Plains Grassland area of Golden Sun Moth and Striped Legless Lizard habitat to be protected. Have some ambition.
- Make biolinks into the landscape beyond the NWGGA. No evidence is provided for what linkages could be important. We want to see smart biolinks that work for all of Geelong.
- Commit to transparency: No commitments are made to making publicly available all the development and conservation management plans, ecological surveys, offsetting calculations and other matters likely to be required in the implementation of the GSA. The community has a right to know.
- Ensure offsets are local, strategic and coordinated by Geelong. Offsets should meet two of the following: be large; in a conservation corridor; next to a conservation area; within 25km. The best policy to protect nature is for all offsets to be selected by Geelong, not left up to developers to choose.
- Protect future conservation areas with interim management now. Provide strong incentives so that private land holders will protect the biodiversity on their land and minimise impacts on waterways. Without interim management there could be no biodiversity left to protect by the time the City obtains the land.
- Broaden what the Levy can achieve. It should pay for the education and community engagement programs needed to make the conservation areas a real success. It should also pay for enough City staff to ensure proper oversight of the NWGGA.
For further information
Adrian Marshall: 0413 757 173