Glenfern Green Wedge VCAT Hearing April 2013

Report of VCAT Hearing April 2013       

 -  Johanna  Selleck (President, Friends of the Glenfern Green Wedge)


The VCAT hearing to decide the fate of the Glenfern Green Wedge Cattle run took place between 22 - 24 April. For the members of the Friends of the Glenfern Green Wedge, it confirmed our worst fears about this proposal to subdivide the property into 5 residential lots incorporating hobby farms. Nothing has been included in the draft permit conditions (Section 173 Agreement) to prevent further subdivision of the property. This fact, in combination with the state government's proposed zone reforms, could result in petrol stations, schools, boarding houses and other highly-intensive activities on the property. The extreme size of the building envelopes was a subject of concern in the previous application and received many objections from individuals and groups within the community (including from the Shire of Yarra Ranges). Yet, in the current plans, the envelopes are up to 50% or more larger (up to an acre in size), and this still allows building outside the envelopes with a council permit.


A survey of flora and fauna of the site has not been conducted on the site despite extensive evidence that rare flora and fauna are located on or utilise the property. Repeated calls for a survey to be done have been ignored. The expert witness for the developer claimed that by visiting the 31 hectare site in winter he could predict what flora would appear in summer. On this basis he concluded that there were no flowers or herbs present on the property. We felt that the testimony delivered by the  expert witnesses for the developer was generally inconsistent and disturbing in the picture it painted for the future of the area: hobby farms and a land management system that will be impossible for council to monitor and enforce in the long term.


No information has been provided in the current application regarding  on-site waste management, despite lengthy debate about this issue at the previous VCAT hearing, which showed the proposed onsite-waste system to be flawed. Finally, in the draft permit conditions, the developer has attempted to water down or remove even the basic protections that we had previously been assured would apply, including those affecting approximately 200 Yellow Box trees on the property.


Overall, we feel we made a strong presentation to VCAT. We consulted with two experts in planning, two ecologists who testified on bird life, and an expert on the impact of urban land use on conservation and agriculture. We also presented a letter from the Wurundjeri Council testifying to the cultural significance of this land. If we are successful in saving any of this land, we hope to work closely with the Wurundjeri people in future.


We believe that if this subdivision goes ahead it will damage an important ecological buffer zone and wildlife corridor. At the hearing we attempted to explain the overall impact of such 'incremental incursions' into green corridors such as this. Furthermore, it will pave the way for development in the rest of the Lysterfield Valley, destroying the environmental aesthetic of a major gateway to the Dandenong Ranges, thereby impacting on the tourist dollar and local businesses that depend on this.  Knox Council and VCAT have concluded on three occasions that this subdivision is contrary to planning regulations and we are hopeful, for the sake of the long-term good of the community and the environment, that this current VCAT hearing will uphold the previous three decisions.