The Flinders Community Association has made a submission to the Green Wedge Management Plan Review being undertaken by the Mornington Peninsula Shire. Below is the FCA’s detailed contribution to this important consultative process:
Green Wedge Management Plan Review 2018
The Flinders Community Association commends Council for undertaking this review and supports the policy directions outlined in the 2012 Draft. Clearly changes have since occurred to planning policies and administration, particularly at State Government level, and thus the current process to up-date the draft plan is timely.
The FCA has reviewed the various further background papers and has contributed to the joint assessment of these papers by the Red Hill Ward Consultative Group. The following briefly responds to the papers as part of community consultation by Council.
The long-term conservation of the Green Wedge landscapes is seen as essential by the Flinders community. It should be a matter of vital concern for the residents of metropolitan Melbourne for whom the Mornington Peninsula and its varied landscapes provide a major source of primary production and recreation. The Green Wedge Management plan therefore should establish expectations for the management of the landscape, and in consequence place obligations on the planning process and the members of our community both urban and rural. Current Green Wedge policies and provisions can be seen to have evolved during the past 40 years of planning on the Mornington Peninsula. However, although the pressures on the Green Wedge have increased, the need to ensure its conservation remains undiminished. A number of key Green Wedge objectives provide the framework for the Association’s response below:
Providing opportunity for agriculture
Agriculture in the Mornington Peninsula Green Wedge is a vital resource. It produces 15% of Victoria’s agricultural production from less than 4% of the state’s farmland. Action is required to overcome the effect of past small lot subdivision and to resist the further fragmentation of rural holdings. It must be made clear that the Green Wedge is not a “Rural living” zone. Future residential increases should be accommodated inside the urban growth boundary in existing townships.
Recognising that there is a high proportion of the Green Wedge held in smaller allotments there is a need to encourage their use for productive purposes. Part-time farming makes a significant contribution to the rural economy; this use of productive agricultural land ensures in consequence the conservation of the important landscapes of the Green Wedge. New “lifestyle” farmers are often prepared to invest capital at a level that would be questionable in terms of conventional farm economics. They may undertake sustainable farming activities and environmental improvements without necessarily seeking profitable income. Such activity generally provides more work opportunities and thereby benefits the local economy.
The maintenance of an environment for sustainable agriculture, both full time and hobby farming, needs to be supported by clear mandatory planning scheme requirements, an
effective enforcement/compliance regime and innovation by way of rating incentives and penalties; as well as assistance and advice from a Council team with agricultural qualifications and experience. This team should also be capable of monitoring and assessing the performance of those property owners in the Green Wedge who are deemed to qualify for incentive payments or rate and tax relief. The team may also negotiate and facilitate cooperation between owners to access the farming potential of a number of neighbouring properties.
The promotion of farm gate sales and farmers markets is strongly supported. However unless carefully monitored, farm sales activities may morph into out-of-centre retail outlets. Similarly the “in conjunction with” requirement for on-farm businesses such as vineyard restaurants should be strictly enforced.
Preserving rural and scenic landscapes
The landscape of the Peninsula can be seen as a “cultural landscape” which is the result of interaction of human activity within the natural environment over time. Spatial relationships and patterns of use are determined by management practices and involve economic, social and ecological considerations. It must be accepted therefore that the landscape is by nature dynamic and cannot be “preserved” in a static state. However change can be modified to resist harmful activities while desired qualities are encouraged and enhanced. It is acknowledged that landscape assessment is subjective and not easy, but rigorous character assessment criteria are necessary as a basis for decisions about landscape impact and the siting of structures in the landscape.
Green Wedge policies of Council relating to replacement dwellings usually require demolition of the former dwelling and replanting and rehabilitation of the site. The conditions should be strictly enforced to limit the incremental build-up of structures in areas of scenic landscape value. Similarly the siting of large sheds and agricultural buildings need to be justified by management requirements and be carefully sited in the landscape. The continued use of Section 173 Agreements is supported to ensure that future purchasers of property are aware of their obligations.
One of the purposes of the Green Wedge Zone should be the conservation of the cultural settings of heritage places and planning decisions need to ensure that these settings are recognised and protected. Landscapes of the Peninsula contain a number of historic properties and homesteads that should be protected and appreciated in the context of their unique historical settings. The Green Wedge Management Plan should stipulate that heritage places in the Green Wedge are to be assessed in the current Heritage Review process. The landscape setting of villages at the urban-rural interface of the Green Wedge and Urban Growth Boundary also need to be addressed. This is particularly necessary in the landscape approaches to villages along the Western Port coastline where careful attention to the siting of agricultural buildings and housing is essential.
Preserving conservation areas close to where people live
The draft Green Wedge Management Plan notes the importance of biodiversity and natural systems on the Peninsula and the value of access to resources such as national parks and reserves. These areas are under increasing pressure from recreation. In addition to requiring management resources to cope with use, conservation areas need to be linked via habitat corridors. The coordination of “bio-links” to extend the viability and resilience of conservation areas is strongly supported. Given that there are significant remnant bushland areas outside the parks and reserves, additional Council support for landowners engaging in conservation activities including land care groups is commended. It is noted that the background papers advocate the application of conservation covenants through the Trust for Nature. There is however, concern about the capability and resourcing of the Trust to adequately protect areas of private land subject to such covenant agreements.
Preserving renewable and non-renewable resources and catchments
The importance of the soils of the Mornington Peninsula for agricultural production are well recognised and their conservation for the long term sustainable use is imperative. Similarly there is need to ensure access to stone resources and appropriate siting and screening of extraction sites so as to minimise the impacts on the landscape of the Peninsula. Because of the significant potential for nutrients in runoff from agricultural activities to adversely affect riparian and bushland areas of significance, catchment management and particularly water quality in streams must be addressed in the Green Wedge management plan.
Significant infrastructure networks exist across the Peninsula including communications, power supply, water supply and service reservoirs, drainage channels and waste water treatment plants. The Peninsula is also traversed by the Metropolitan outfall sewer to Boags Rock. This latter facility represents a source of Class A water, currently utilised by some 11 vegetable growers in the Boneo area. The Boneo recycling scheme should be expanded and appropriately funded to supply areas like Main Ridge that also have high capability soils. This investment would increase water security and promote a greater diversity of cultivation and primary production. The principles espoused in the Shire’s Smart Water Plan are strongly supported.
The ongoing maintenance of services is essential. However the coordination of activities of various bodies, such as those involved in the clearance of vegetation along powerlines and roadsides requires greater attention. While such clearing is intended to safeguard electricity supply and fire hazard reduction, roadside vegetation and landscapes particularly along important tourist routes may be significantly impacted. As noted in the discussion papers, greater attention should also be given to the maintaining open view lines, particularly along major tourist routes, at key points identified in the Significant Landscape Overlay (Schedule 5).
Enabling the development of open space networks
The Mornington Peninsula is fortunate in having its National Park network covering a diversity of coastal and hinterland environments. The linking areas of remnant habitat and bushland on roadsides and land in private ownership, are important “bio-links”. These areas should not be seen as areas where further recreation activity can be accommodated and encouraged. Open Space, particularly active sporting activities serving the urban community, should be located in township and village areas within the Urban Growth Boundary.
Providing opportunities for recreation and tourism.
Unfortunately too much recent tourism based recreation-related business involves major investments in infrastructure, commercial buildings, provision of car parking, facilities for customers or guests including service of food and sales of goods not produced locally. The FCA strongly supports the statements in the background paper, namely that “the recreational role of the Peninsula is one which supports the rural character of the Peninsula for access, understanding and enjoyment of a rural area – rather than encouraging development of urban recreational facilities or tourism based development”. Recent examples of tourism development, which ignore this important principle, demonstrate the long term threat to the significant landscapes of the Mornington Peninsula.