Three North West Alliance members put questions to the April Council meeting of the City of Grewater Geelong and received the following responses.
Submitter – Lachie Chomley
Renowned physicist and ecologist, Dr Vandana Shiva, holds that ‘Cultivating and conserving diversity is no luxury in our times: it is a survival imperative.’ How we manage our landscapes is of critical importance to all earth communities in these times. The NW growth areas are a great opportunity to bring abundant life back to Geelong’s North-West, by cultivating and conserving biodiversity. However, the current EPBC Plan does not mention restoration. Despite giving insufficient consideration to preserving the remaining biodiversity of the growth areas, the plan does not reflect any attempts to reverse the declining conservation values of this landscape.
Question 1: The targets for biodiversity included in the Greater Geelong Biodiversity Strategy (p 15) include ‘an application of net gain concept to areas undergoing redevelopment’. How does the absence of restoration in the current EPBC plan align with the stated biodiversity target?
Question 2: The Biodiversity Strategy (p 14) also reflects a commitment to lead ‘by example in the protection and enhancement of biodiversity’. What steps will the Geelong council take to ensure regeneration of biodiversity is prioritized in the planning and delivery of the NW growth zones? Response (City Planning & Economy) Thank you for your questions, Lachie.
Response Question 1: The draft Plan, strategic assessment report and supporting documentation have not been released. These documents will be subject to a decision by Council before being released for formal consultation. Public consultation is part of the process to prepare the Plan and we’d welcome your feedback on the commitments and measures in the plan when it is released. The strategic assessment report must address how impacts to biodiversity will be avoided, mitigated, and offset, to ensure long-term protections are consistent with state and council objectives for biodiversity. Restoration of biodiversity within the strategic conservation sections of the growth areas is a key priority of the strategy.
Response Question 2: The City is leading a strategic assessment for the growth areas that will consider the impacts of the growth areas on biodiversity, rather than the ad hoc consideration of impacts by proponents for individual development applications. This has never been done before by a local government.
Submitter – Vanessa Whittem
We understand the need for sustainable urban design based on sound planning principles. Strategic assessments are, at least on paper, a good idea, taking a whole-of-landscape approach to the conservation of natural values. An EPBC Plan is being prepared as part of the documentation for the Geelong Growth Areas Strategic Assessment Report, which is intended to demonstrate impacts on and conservation measures for Matters of National Environmental Significance under the EPBC Act. However, the draft provided to the community currently lacks important detail and neglects to mark for preservation particular areas of known federally listed biodiversity, as well as riparian cultural and conservation buffers.
Question 1: In the Terms of Reference For The Geelong Growth Areas Strategic Assessment Report the map of the Strategic Assessment Area includes the entirety of Cowies Creek to Corio Bay, the entirety of Heales Road and the Western Bank of the Moorabool River where it adjoins the Western Geelong Growth Area. Why have these areas been omitted from the Existing Ecological Condition Report prepared by Ecology & Heritage Partners?
Question 2: Under the Terms of Reference, the Report must include at a minimum a description of indigenous land-use and values (3.1.b). The Northern and Western Growth areas also include areas of cultural heritage sensitivity along the Moorabool River and Cowies Creek. Has any or will any indigenous Cultural Heritage Assessment be prepared? Response (City Planning & Economy) Thank you for your questions, Vanessa.
Response Question 1: The draft Plan, strategic assessment report and supporting documentation have not been released. These documents will be subject to a decision by Council before being released for formal consultation. Officers preparing the documentation have shared information with targeted stakeholder groups in the preparation of the draft documents. The map in the terms of reference identifies two area types relevant to this question. The strategic assessment area and the key development areas. The development area is the land where urban development is proposed to occur, and this is the focus of the survey effort. The inclusion of the broader strategic assessment area also enables a more holistic consideration of potential impacts from the growth areas to be included in the Plan. It enables steps to be included in the Plan to ensure that impacts from development outside the primary development area, such as connecting to existing stormwater infrastructure, are considered in the preparation of the strategic assessment report, EBPC Plan and resulting commitments and measures.
Response Question 2: Yes. The preparation of the strategic assessment considers the Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation ‘Paleert Tjaara Dja – let’s make Country good together 2020 – 2030 – Wadawurrung Country Plan’. In addition, a cultural values assessment is prepared for each precinct as part of the planning of the growth area. A cultural values assessment has been prepared in partnership with Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Corporation for the Cowies Creek area and Elcho Road area in the northern growth area.
Submitter – Stuart McCallum
Question 1: NWGA Question for COGG Riparian Biodiversity Opportunity. During the formation of the Riverstone housing project on the west bank of the Moorabool River, strong, well informed, community action eventually protected more of the riparian zone than had been intended by the developers and Golden Plains Shire. With the NWGGA development, will CoGG move with the times and insist on a 200 m buffer strip on the east side of the river to serve as a biolink, ensure there are no choke points and complement the habitat of the west side?
Question 2: To follow on from my first question on the NWGA: The protection, and where needed, revegetation to augment existing habitat and remove choke points would be an excellent long-term benefit to the new communities of people, flora and fauna. It would send a message that CoGG cares about biodiversity and would reinforce the work of its visionary Biolinks team. What impediments do CoGG consider would prevent the formation of this 200m riparian buffer strip along the beautiful Moorabool River?
Response Question 1: Protection of the river corridor, creating public access and managing the floodplain are all key objectives of the framework plan adopted by Council. The corridor along the Moorabool is proposed as a strategic conservation area as part of the Biodiversity Conservation Strategy being developed for the growth areas. The state government waterway guidelines do not require a 200m buffer and this has not been delivered on the west side of the river. The extensive floodplain on the east side of the river will necessitate a river corridor greater than 200m in many locations along the east side of the river, as shown in the framework plan. The final river buffer will be established through the preparation of the Moorabool River masterplan as part of the Batesford North precinct structure plan. This will take into consideration the extent of the flood plain, community expectations about community infrastructure, the views of state agencies and landowners, as well as available funding for delivery of the project.
Response Question 2: The ultimate buffer distance will be determined through a scientific and design-based process. Key barriers to implementation of public land along river corridors includes: funding to purchase private land when land is not part of a development; funding for maintenance and management; and funding for infrastructure that meets community expectations, while also manages the impacts of public access to the natural environment.