The EDO recently acted in a case about a proposed new development near the Edithvale-Seaford Wetlands. We represented the Friends of Seaford-Edithvale Wetlands Inc, an important and long-standing protector of the wetlands.
The Edithvale-Seaford Wetlands is found in south-east Melbourne, and is an internationally recognised wetland: in 2001, it was declared a wetlands of international significance under the Ramsar Convention. The wetland is home to a huge number of birds of local, State, national and international significance. Even among internationally recognised wetlands, it is fairly unique: it is the only wetlands in Victoria that is entirely within an urban setting, and is completely surrounded by residential development.
The hearing, which was a hearing by a Planning Panel appointed by the Minister for Planning, considered whether a patch of land next to the wetlands should be rezoned to allow residential development. We argued that it should not: it formed one of the last remaining buffers between the wetlands and its urban surroundings. The site in question was also on a floodplain – another reason, we stated, why it should be left alone, rather than being rezoned for more urban development.
As part of its proposal, the developer offered to gift half of the site to Melbourne Water. We argued that while this was a great gesture, it was not enough to outweigh the impacts of developing the other part of the site.
The hearing raised important questions about the role of the environment in planning. When planning our suburbs, how much do we value our important environmental features? Should we develop land wherever it is possible, or should we save some bits to protect what is environmentally important?
These are some of the questions the Planning Panel will be considering in the coming months.