Save the Dandenongs League History

The League began in 1950 when residents and non-residents of the Ranges were drawn together by the efforts of Miss May Moon, John Turner and Cr Eric Leane of Ferntree Gully to express their united concern about sub-division and unplanned urban development across the Dandenong Ranges as well as unregulated activities of public and semi-public bodies such as the State Electricity Commission and the Country Roads Board. The League has met regularly since then and been active in engaging the Federal, State and local spheres of government to ensure that policy that affects the Dandenongs furthers the objectives of the League.

 

A Short History

by Betty Marsden OAM

- May 2018

Save the Dandenongs League was formed in October 1950, following a public meeting at Olinda Hall attended by about 200 people.  The meeting was called by Miss May Moon, a retired Kindergarten Teacher, who lived at Kalorama, who was concerned about a number of conservation issues, including a threatened small lot subdivision at the Five Ways at Kalorama.  Prof. John Turner, a Professor of Botany at Melbourne University, who brought some of his pupils to the Dandenongs, joined forces with Miss Moon, and added his prestige and knowledge to the cause.  They were at some stage joined by Cr. Eric Leane of Ferntree Gully Shire, who had advocated for a Preservation Trust for the Dandenongs Ranges since the 1940s.  Following this meeting the League was formed to work for the protection, preservation and orderly development of the Ranges in the interest of residents and visitors alike.

A committee was formed and the President was Mr. Alan Dodd and Miss Moon became Secretary, a position she held for 27 years until her death in 1977.  A few years after formation Prof. Turner became president when he held for 23 years.  One of the first tasks was to lobby for a Planning Authority to assist Local Government to administer the Ranges as a single entity.  The two Shires of Lilydale and Sherbrooke (Ferntree Gully was replaced by Sherbrooke in 1965)  It took more than 20 years to establish a Regional Planning Authority (UYV & DRA) in 1977, when the State Government recognised the need for special planning protection for both the Dandenong Ranges and the Yarra Valley because of the threat of urbanisation over-running them. There was much discussion in the community and some opposition to the setting up of the Regional Planning Authority in the 1970s, however it was eventually proclaimed by an Act of Parliament in 1976.  It operated for almost 20 years.

Another initiative of SDL was the "buy-back" of small allotments on the West Face of the Dandenongs for both fire safety and landscape reasons.  This was also accomplished in about 20 years.

SDL was involved in battles over quarry sites in the hills.  In the late 1950s, the Jeeves' family wished to sell their original farm-land approx. 30 acres (12 ha) below the Five Ways at Kalorama.  Because of its steepness and landscape values, the SDL started a public appeal to buy the land.  This was later taken up by the Herald Newspaper and eventually the money was raised during the 1960s and after lengthy negotiation was purchased for a public park.  The State Government contributed and bought additional adjoining land, making the total area just over 50 acres (20 ha).  After installation of picnic shelters, BBQs and other amenities, the Park was opened in 1972.  It has remnant forest, some significant exotic trees and garden, and spectacular views across Silvan Dam.

At the other end of the Dandenongs, Sherbrooke Council was being lobbied by community groups (including S.D.L.) to buy for public recreation the substantial Bird's Farm at Belgrave Heights - the approx 70 ha. property lies in the Monbulk Creek Valley between Upwey and Belgrave Heights.  The Monbulk Creek flows through this picturesque property which includes Remnant Bushland with substantial habitat trees and some land cleared for cattle grazing.  It also included an old "inappropriate subdivision" which could have produced more than 30 houses if developed.  After Council negotiations with the Bird family, the Council decided to purchase the property in 1981/82 (at the time, a controversial decision).  Unfortunately because of fires which occurred on the property in February, 1983 (suspected arson), the property did not open to the public until 1984.  It adjoins the Monbulk Creek Retarding Basin and is now a much loved and enjoyed place for picnics and passive recreation as well as being home to the Southern Dandenongs Community Nursery and the Birdsland Environmental Education Centre. 

During the 1980s, the Friends of Sherbrooke Forest initiated with the State Government the idea of proclaiming the Dandenong Ranges a National Park, as being the main way of protecting the remnant forest which was once threatened by the timber getters and now by increasing urbanisation.  The League supported this and fortunately the State Government acted and the Dandenong Ranges National Park was proclaimed in 1987.

For the past 30 years, the League has been an advocate for the preservation of the Dandenongs and together with support from members and friends, will continue to do so well into the foreseeable future.