“Outrageous”: council puts government on notice over Moonee Ponds Creek

“Outrageous”: council puts government on notice over Moonee Ponds Creek
Sean Car

City of Melbourne councillors have lashed the state government for its lack of progress in revitalising the city section of the Moonee Ponds Creek and have again called for answers as to when the trail in Docklands will be reopened to the public.

Councillors unanimously endorsed a new advocacy plan for improvement projects at the Future Melbourne Committee meeting on March 19, which namely demanded the “immediate release” of the Moonee Ponds Creek Implementation Plan.

That plan, endorsed by councillors back in 2019, has remained on the shelf for the past five years and Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece described the delay in releasing it for public exhibition as “unacceptable”.

As part of its own advocacy efforts, the council has launched a new interactive map on its website, which highlights all the projects earmarked as part of the Moonee Ponds Implementation Plan.

The council has also requested the appointment of a lead government department or agency to coordinate governance of the creek corridor, and for the Lord Mayor to write to the Minister for Planning in relation to the “extensive delays” in releasing the implementation plan, and the exhibition of planning controls for Macauley.

In addition to two new active transport crossings in Macauley, the council has also sought a renewed commitment from the government as to when the Moonee Ponds Creek trail in Docklands will be reinstated after it was closed in 2020.

Development Victoria (DV) temporarily closed the Docklands section of the trail to allow for the expansion of Docklands Studios, however, despite that project having been completed, DV is still yet to provide a timeline for when the trail will reopen.

Cr Rohan Leppert described the government’s behaviour as “outrageous”.

“The biggest problem we’ve got at the moment is that the state government is not working cohesively with the council on the range of projects that are needed to unlock public access to the Moonee Ponds Creek. Not only that, they’re removing public access,” he said.

 

The Docklands Trail was closed in November 2020, and to this day there is no plan from the state government as to when that trail will be reinstated. That is outrageous.

 

“[There are] tens of thousands of new residents [to come] and rather than helping to expand the open space in accordance with government policy – state and local – public access to the Moonee Ponds Creek bed is being removed. We must overcome this problem.”

The Lord Mayor will also write to Treasurer Tim Pallas in relation to West Gate Tunnel Project contractors not implementing the state government’s own commitment to replace removed trees within the municipality at a rate of five to one – an issue which was highlighted by the Friends of Moonee Ponds Creek.

Cr Reece said he hoped the council’s efforts could help drive the revitalisation needed along the creek corridor to unlock the area’s true potential, and undo generations of neglect.

“The Moonee Ponds Creek is one of the most significant waterways in metropolitan Melbourne, but unfortunately it is also one of the most neglected. I would go so far as to say it’s the most abused waterway in all of Melbourne,” the Deputy Lord Mayor said.

“When John Batman arrived in Melbourne, he actually described thousands of birds flying from the west, coming from a large water mass which was the legendary Blue Lagoon, which extended out across where West Melbourne currently is.”

“It was a place that was home to thousands of swans, ducks, geese, frogs and fish. And over the last 200 years, we have degraded and degraded and degraded that area, turning what was a fruitful paradise into a poisoned dump scape.”

“It really is very beautiful through the southern reaches of the Moonee Ponds Creek but through decisions made over generations it’s now an awful example of urban blight and a spaghetti bowl of elevated roadways. It’s simply unacceptable.”

Docklands resident Cr Jamal Hakim also referenced recent calls from the community to transform the Costco site into a new secondary school to highlight opportunities for future students to connect with the creek environment.

“It occurs to me that there’s a lot of discussion around a high school in Docklands right now, which is very close to part of the creek. How awesome would it be to connect the conservation work and training as part of that high school?” Cr Hakim said. Perhaps at the soon to be vacant Costco site? I think that would be a really awesome alignment of the stars.” •

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