Environmental Infrastructure for Growing Populations….our response

Thank you for the opportunity to provide a response to the Environmental Infrastructure for Growing Populations. September 2020.

This response is from Croydon Conservation Society (CCS).

The CCS was formed in 1964 to actively conserve the best of Croydon’s local environment for all to share. Croydon is part of the Maroondah LGA, which was formed from the amalgamation of the Ringwood and Croydon City Councils in 1994. We retained Croydon in our name because, although Croydon makes up more than half of Maroondah, Ringwood was always seen as the business hub of our region, while Croydon was determined to keep the Village Main St feel and was very progressive in terms of recognising the value of our wonderful environment and extensive tree canopy.

See attached photos of 2 of the Community Guides from before amalgamation, as well as the book titled Turning a new leaf, which was a master Environmental plan for Croydon, published in 1994 right before Council amalgamations.

After amalgamation in 1994, residents of Croydon were very concerned that what we had prized so highly with our local bushland reserves, would be lost in the bigger system of Maroondah. However we have since 1994 worked collaboratively with Maroondah Council in forming an Environment Consultative Committee, which has allowed for input to Maroondah’s places for vegetation reviews, recreation and wildlife corridors as well as wetlands.

While Maroondah has a considerable number of parks, recreational spaces like Ringwood Lake, and playing fields for sport, there are more bushland reserves located in Croydon. Traversing Ringwood but also across Croydon is the highly valued Mullum Mullum linear reserve, which is a creek line and is used substantially for walking and bike riding. Heathmont also has native bushland of high quality in places like Uambi, which is adjacent to Dandenong creek reserve, which has recently been daylighted and is now a magnificent recreational corridor. Government funds were required for this work, which has so far been hugely successful with community groups including CCS contributing to the costs of planting and actually participating in that work also.

See attached photo of the green spaces in Maroondah

Croydon still has about twenty-one separate parks and reserves. Even if a park has a designated sport specific oval or a trotting track, there is generally medium to high quality adjacent native bushland, which by and large is left to regenerate with little negative effect, if not trampled, or otherwise cleared. A great example of this is Cheong park which is used for cricket and football also has a Friends group, who are very active in regenerating the surrounding bushland around about a half of the oval.

Our biggest challenges have become apparent during Covid, where some of our bushland reserves have been commandeered by parents of cooped up children using bushland with delicate wildflowers and other indigenous species, some of which are on the Threatened Species list, as BMX tracks. This unexpected damage has been very taken very seriously, with Council having to fence off areas, bulldoze the land flat again after jumps and hollows were created, and use signage to inform the residents that this land is not suited to their purpose. What this has also shown is the need for more recreational spaces for BMX riding, which is a relatively unstructured activity, as opposed to organised sport. Grassed areas, where loss of biodiversity is not an issue, could be used, however these pocket parks generally have play equipment and are used by small children, so there is a deficit of suitable areas for trail bike riding, or BMX that is not on concrete or bitumen made bike paths. In June 2020 Maroondah Council has begun investigating the need and possible locations for this unstructured bike riding across the municipality.

What this demonstrates is that as population density increases our Environment is under considerable threat, not just through misuse, or as yet unrecognised needs, but through removal of mature trees by landholders ensuring their property is unencumbered by vegetation controls so that they can achieve higher prices from developers. The new concept of Activity Centres used in the Planning scheme is apparently designed to help alleviate this problem, but with tree removal so continuous, these activity centres are likely to become heat sinks, creating a greater environmental -problem, unless creative designs with rooftop gardens, balconies and green walls are incorporated into the design as well as Water Sensitive Urban Design application.

See attached photo of canopy loss across the region 2011 to 2016 this has worsened since 2016.

The major ridgeline through the municipality is the Wicklow ridgeline, which runs through Croydon, as does one of two minor ridges, the Ruskin park ridgeline.  The other is in Ringwood, at Loughnan’s ridge. Housing on these slopes has always been on large size blocks with minimum percentage site cover and so the trees across these ridges are some of the best and most mature in the region. Maroondah, through its planning scheme, is doing the best it can with the tools available to it to continue to leave these areas open to land and water availability through minimum hardstanding on these large lots. This will have the added benefit of assisting with tree health not only on the ridges themselves but also as the water is absorbed to ground a trickledown effect to the flat areas will assist in tree understory and vegetation health, further afield.

As density increases in Ringwood and the new activity centres are developed across Maroondah, fragmentation of natural habitat is becoming increasingly obvious. The fragmentation effectively disconnects populations of plants and animals. This puts even more pressure on Natural Bushland Reserves. We are now working on the Habitat corridor strategy and it is clear that to maintain what we have we will need to rely on landholders either entering a Trust for Nature scheme, or a Gardens for Wildlife scheme.  Both of these schemes will be vital to us keeping our canopy cover while Council will replant in street verges and in and around parklands. Street trees as habitat is not the best choice as road kill eliminates some small mammals and lizards. The illumination of streets also plays havoc with species getting enough cover to avoid night predation. It would be an additional benefit for species survival if land owners were encouraged to create gardens better suited to our native flora and fauna.

Croydon Conservation Society is working alongside Council to help disseminate information through various social media, to assist in closing a gap that exists between children learning about biodiversity at school in theory and the apparent ignorance that seems to be the issue with their parents.  If Maroondah had the support and resources to regularly hold community events that promote local biodiversity and encourage participation through recruitment of younger volunteers we would be in a better position to ensure success and longevity of our highly valued natural environment.

The daylighting of the Tarralla Creek in Croydon is a project made possible through Government funding; it is a significant opportunity to create a place for passive recreation usable by a wide variety of our population. People of all abilities will be able to travel along the creek verges on suitable paths, with opportunities to get close to the water. There is also an opportunity to link in via an app to listen to information regarding the William Turner Artist trail which runs through this part of Maroondah, another bonus for us! There are already statues of the Spotted Marsh Frog, as public art, near the vicinity which are engaging for youngsters and others alike. There will be a specific friends-group of the Tarralla Creek which will be in addition to the many existing Friends groups across our municipality.

CCS also supports the community in fighting to maintain as many of our existing trees as possible but with the death of many of our local red stringy bark trees from persistent drought and the occasional forceful wind events that blow over healthy trees. We also require Statutory Authority support for creation and maintenance of our own Urban Forest, in the private and public realm. We need larger fines for illegal tree removal, to a cost that make it unviable for a developer to factor in the fine to the building cost, passing this own to the eventual purchasers. This is an unintended consequence of the fine set by State Government, but it is a regular occurrence in Maroondah, and source of great angst from neighbouring land owners who bear the brunt of moon-scaping.

We have considerable space in Croydon along the old Healesville freeway reserve land that traverses our corner of Croydon, the land there could be used for many purposes. Currently the large area between Bayswater Rd and Dorset Rd is predominantly weedy grass that requires occasional slashing, adding nothing to people who live in close proximity. There is the opportunity currently with a visionary person, Dr Sonia Nuttman, who is also a member of the Maroondah Environment Consultative committee. She has the links and energy to move on this, she just needs to liaise with people in authority who can facilitate it coming to fruition. Revegetation, recreational spaces like a BMX area, as well as a community garden and large areas to increase biodiversity, are just a few uses that come to mind. This is a Governmental multi layered project with Vic Roads being the current authority. A great project here would need the backing of State Government to free up the land for use, without losing the authority over it.  

After Covid, we can only hope to Build Back Better and hope the State Government can offer projects that the community can participate in and, maybe be both employed and empowered for a period of time to replant an urban forest. Projects in these locations would be most welcome and help offset increased residential development and would provide better open spaces for recreation both structured and unstructured.

One other facility that has been a huge social success, before Covid, is a specific fenced off-leash dog park on Eastfield Rd reserve, in a space that was not readily used, close to street parking and in a location that has other facilities, such as play equipment close by and public toilets. It is generally very well used and enables interaction between dog owners in the area and as such is of enormous community wellbeing and healthy interaction.

Once again, thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the important Environmental Infrastructure  for Growing Populations.

September 26, 2020 · Liz Sanzaro · No Comments
Posted in: General

Leave a Reply