Coomoora Woodland Flora and Fauna Reserve at serious risk - please take action

Coomoora Woodland Flora and Fauna Reserve is in serious peril as the Minister for Planning, Justin Madden, has just decided that no Environmental Effects Statement is required before VicRoads bulldozes the nature reserve for the Dingley Bypass! Draft letter available here for easy action.

This runs directly counter to environmental and community interests (see the background paper below).

It may spell the end for Coomoora unless we take action now!

1) Please read the headline story in The Journal and Vote "Yes" in the Poll:
http://www.thejournal.com.au/news/local/news/general/arterial-snub-green...

2) Have your say: "Madden rejects Coomoora Reserve plea for study":

http://springvale-dandenong-leader.whereilive.com.au/news/story/reserve-...

3) Email politicians now (and over Xmas and New Year):

The Hon. John Brumby, MLA
Premier of Victoria
Ph: (03) 951 5000
Email: john.brumby@parliament.vic.gov.au

The Hon. Justin Madden, MLC
Minister for Planning
Ph: (03) 9637 8114
Email: justin.madden@parliament.vic.gov.au


See below for a draft letter. Ideally you would put it in your own words.

4) Please circulate this email and attachments to as many people as possible.

Thanks for your support!

Damon Anderson
Spokesperson
Save Coomoora Reserve Coalition
Mob: 0425 784 983

Further information can be found here.





suggested text for a letter

Name
Address
Date

Dear [Minister/Member of Parliament]

Need for an Environmental Effects Statement for Dingley Bypass

I wish to express my serious concern and dismay about the recent decision of the Minister for Planning, that no Environmental Effects Statement (EES) is required for the Dingley Arterial Project (Bypass).

If the Dingley Bypass proceeds according to current VicRoads plans, it will destroy most of Coomoora Woodland Flora and Fauna Reserve in Keysborough; one of the few nature reserves in the City of Greater Dandenong, and one of the last remaining areas of remnant native bushland in the south-eastern metropolitan region of Melbourne.

Coomoora Woodland Flora and Fauna Reserve should be preserved in its current form, because it is:

* classified by the National Trust for its environment and heritage value;
* an indigenous eco-system of regional and metropolitan environmental significance;
* contains "threatened" and "endangered" habitat and ecological vegetation communities; and
* is inhabited by many rare native flora and fauna species protected under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act.

This precious nature reserve is used for educational purposes by local schools and passive recreation by the local community and visitors to the area, including bushwalking, bird-watching and other nature appreciation activities.

As one of the few remaining green spaces in the region, Coomoora nature reserve counterbalances the adverse health effects of pollution, overdevelopment and natural degradation, and enhances the quality of air, water and life in general for local and surrounding communities.

As the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen has highlighted, the loss and fragmentation of native habitat is one of the primary causes of global warming and environmental degradation. As a green oasis and tranquil retreat in a highly urbanised and industrialised area, Coomoora Woodland Flora and Fauna Reserve makes a small, but significant, contribution to reducing our carbon footprint and helps to address the serious problems arising from climate change.

It is extremely difficult, therefore, to understand the reasons for the Minister’s decision as it not only runs directly counter to environmental and community interests, but also conflicts with the Victorian Government’s environmental and sustainable development policies and priorities.

It is even more difficult to understand why the option of running the bypass through the nature reserve was even considered in the first place, given that there are viable alternative routes.

I trust that you will convey my concerns to the Minister for Planning and persuade him of the need for an EES to protect this valuable community and environmental asset from needless destruction.

Yours sincerely

Your name

Your address

 

See below for further background information.

Save Coomoora Reserve Coalition
MEDIA RELEASE Save Coomoora Reserve Coalition
12 December 2009

State Government gives green light to bypass environmental protection

A devastating blow has just been dealt to Coomoora Woodland Flora & Fauna Reserve and environmental conservation in metropolitan Melbourne by the State Government. The Minister responsible for administering the Environmental Effects Act 1978, Justin Madden has decided that no Environmental Effects Statement (EES) is required for the Dingley Arterial Project. The Minister’s decision gives VicRoads the green light to proceed with its plans to remove a substantial area of native vegetation in Coomoora Woodland Flora and Fauna Reserve in Keysborough; one of the few nature reserves in the City of Greater Dandenong, and one of the last remaining areas of native bushland in the south-eastern metropolitan region of Melbourne.

The Dingley Arterial Project (“Dingley Bypass”) involves the construction of a four-lane, 3.5km dualcarriage extension of the existing Westall Road extension, from Springvale Road to the Dandenong Bypass. The Dingley bypass comprises two sections: a short 1.3 kilometre section between Springvale and Cheltenham/Perry Roads in Keysborough; and a longer 2.2 kilometre section between Cheltenham/Perry Roads and the Dandenong Bypass. The shorter section of the proposed bypass runs directly through the Coomoora Woodland Flora and Fauna Reserve (Melway 88, K6) and the adjoining strip of open grassland that includes Aboriginal cultural heritage sites and a wetland.

“The Minister’s decision runs counter to environmental and community interests”, according to Damon Anderson, spokesperson for the Save Coomoora Reserve Coalition (SCRC). Formed in September 2009, the SCRC is a coalition of residents from Keysborough and surrounding areas and members of community and environmental groups concerned about the negative impact of the shorter section of the Dingley Bypass on the environmental and cultural heritage values of Coomoora nature reserve and nearby Aboriginal cultural heritage places. The SCRC made a detailed submission to the Minister in mid-October to highlight the need for an EES. It argued that pushing the Dingley Bypass through Coomoora nature reserve would contravene the objectives of the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (FFG Act), and that a comprehensive flora and fauna assessment is therefore required.

One of the main reasons the Minister gives for his decision is that the “project is unlikely to have significant effects on biodiversity values”. Damon Anderson says, “The Minister has clearly been illadvised.

The VicRoads EES Referral and recommendation to the Minister, that no EES is required, was based on a seriously flawed, flora and fauna assessment conducted at a single point-in-time when most of the rare plant and bird species that inhabit Coomoora were dormant or absent. Had the survey been conducted in spring, the findings would have been vastly different. In the past few weeks, four rare native orchids have been in full bloom, but only one of them was recorded during the VicRoads’ flora and fauna survey in winter. All four of these superb rare orchids grow only in the section of the nature reserve VicRoads plans to bulldoze”.

Like other plant families in the reserve, all four orchid species are protected under the FFG Act: Acianthus pusillus (Mosquito orchid); Chiloglottis trapeziformis (Dainty Bird orchid); Dipodium roseum (Hyacinth orchid); and Pterostylus nutans (Nodding Greenhood orchid).

Under legislative guidelines for deciding whether an EES is required, the Minister must take into account “the potential for significant adverse effects on individual environmental assets”. Damon Anderson says, “Coomoora nature reserve is a native landscape and indigenous ecosystem of regional and metropolitan significance, as confirmed by several independent experts. Construction of the Dingley Bypass will destroy up to one half of this precious nature reserve, thereby decimating or endangering already threatened ecological communities and rare flora and fauna species. All of this was documented in our submission to the Minister, but he appears to have ignored or dismissed the evidence in favour of VicRoads’ misleading and self-serving advice”.

Coomoora Woodland was classified by the National Trust in 1984, due to its “regional and metropolitan significance” and “important scientific, recreational and educational values”. The National Trust noted that “in terms of botanical significance, diversity etc. the Coomoora woodland is of particular value (as) few areas of natural woodland remain throughout Melbourne”. The National Trust recommended that because “this area contributes to the heritage of Australia … its preservation should be encouraged”.

As a result of the National Trust classification, Coomoora nature reserve was saved from residential development in the mid 1980s. Damon Anderson says, “Rapid encroachment of urban development and the resulting loss and fragmentation of nature reserves in the region over the past two and half decades have markedly increased the value of this small, but significant, metropolitan nature reserve”.

Coomoora Woodland Flora and Fauna Reserve contains three Habitat Zones of “High” to “Very High” conservation significance, including two Ecological Vegetation Communities (Damp Sands Herb-rich Woodland and Plains Grassy Woodland) officially listed as “vulnerable” and “endangered” respectively in the Gippsland Plain Bioregion. These habitat zones and their fragile EVCs are located in the direct path of the Dingley Bypass between Springvale and Cheltenham/Perry Roads. The City of Greater Dandenong’s Management Plan for Coomoora Woodland Reserve, prepared in early 2009 by environmental consultants, states that: “The area within the VicRoads freeway reserve … supports some of the most intact and diverse native vegetation in the reserve”.

Among the 13 threatened fauna species that definitely or potentially occur in the area are: the Swift Parrot, which is listed as “endangered” at both national and state level; the Growling Grass Frog, which is listed as “endangered” in Victoria and “vulnerable” nationally; the Glossy Grass Skink, which is listed as “near threatened” in Victoria; and the Grey-headed Flying-fox, which is listed as “vulnerable” nationally under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, and in Victoria where it is protected under the FFG Act.

Under the EES guidelines, the Minister is also required to consider “the range and complexity of potential adverse effects”. Damon Anderson says, “This key criterion has been overlooked by the Minister. Even VicRoads conceded in its EES Referral to the Minister that there would be habitat loss and fragmentation; damage to trees and understorey vegetation; weed and pathogen invasion; erosion of soil and ground conditions, and increased dust. Other adverse environmental impacts with complex effects, such as changes to hydrological conditions in the nature reserve, were ignored by VicRoads”.

Another reason the Minister gives for his decision is that the “reservation for this section of the Dingley Arterial Project has been long established”. The State Government set aside a tract of land for road construction about 40 years ago. Damon Anderson says, “This is true, but the native vegetation was there 400 years and more ago when the Bunurong people owned and cared for this land. Community attitudes and priorities have also changed since the 1960s. Back then we used leaded petrol and built roads regardless of their environmental impact. Climate change makes such practices unacceptable now. We must not continue repeating the mistakes of the past. We have to plan for the future and
protect our children’s inheritance. Let’s ask them if they want a nature reserve or another road.”

The Minister states in his decision that “there is no realistic alternative alignment available for the Dingley Arterial that would warrant investigation”. Damon Anderson says, “This is simply not so.

VicRoads has identified three alternatives, including tunnelling under Coomoora reserve, shifting the road southwards through existing factories, and enhancing existing roads to avoid the nature reserve.

Each of these options is as viable and cost-effective as laying 1.3 kilometres of asphalt through the nature reserve at a cost of around $74.6 million. Yet the Minister is prepared to sacrifice a unique and irreplaceable metropolitan nature reserve simply because a road was planned there forty years ago.”

VicRoads claims that the Dingley bypass is a key link in the region’s transport infrastructure, and that any change to the proposed route would compromise its supposed benefits. Damon Anderson disputes these claims: “In fact, there would be no net gain or improvement in traffic flow from building the shorter section of the bypass; as there would be no reduction in the number of signalised intersections in the section between Springvale and Cheltenham/Perry Roads. Moreover, the bypass will only allow traffic to travel at 80 kilometres per hour, which is no faster than the existing speed limits along Springvale and Cheltenham Roads. In other words, the VicRoads bypass offers nothing more than what already exists, but will sacrifice a valuable nature reserve and cultural heritage sites for the sake of laying a 1.3 kilometre section of asphalt.”

 

Save Coomoora Reserve Coalition

Save Coomoora Reserve Coalition (SCRC) is a broad-based network of residents from Keysborough and surrounding areas and members of community and environmental groups who are concerned about the negative impact of the Dingley Arterial Project on the environmental and cultural heritage values of the Coomoora Woodland Flora and Fauna Reserve and nearby Aboriginal cultural heritage places.

We are an independent and diverse group of concerned citizens. The Coalition is not affiliated with any political parties or groups, and welcomes support and assistance from people and organisations sympathetic to our cause.

Formed in September 2009, the SCRC has received expressions of support and assistance from:

• Casey-Cardinia-Dandenong Greens
• Country Greens Victoria Network
• Defenders of the South-East Green Wedge
• Dingley Village Community Association
• Environmental Defenders Office
• Green Wedge Coalition
• Friends of Braeside Park (City of Kingston)
• Friends of Edithvale-Seaford Wetlands Inc.
• Friends of Fotheringham Reserve (City of Greater Dandenong)
• Friends of Rowan Woodland Flora and Fauna Reserve (City of Kingston)
• Friends of the Earth
• Greater Dandenong Environment Group
• Living Links Consultation Group
• Monash Student Association Environmental & Social Justice Collective
• Mordialloc Beaumaris Conservation League Inc.
• Save the Pines movement
• State Greens MPs
• Victorian National Parks Association

Our immediate aim is to protect Coomoora Woodland Flora and Fauna Reserve and nearby Aboriginal cultural heritage places from the serious and irreversible damage they would incur due to construction of one section of the Dingley Bypass.

Our longer term goal is to enhance the quality, integrity and sustainability of the nature reserve and cultural heritage sites in terms of their environmental, historical, educational, recreational and scientific significance.

Further information can be obtained via web searches for “Save Coomoora Reserve Coalition”
and from:
Damon Anderson
Spokesperson
Mob: 0425 784 983
Email: savecoomoora@hotmail.com