Some of Australia's most endangered plants and animals live on Melbourne's doorstep, yet conservation plans finalised just before the federal election could lead to local extinctions of the Growling Grass Frog, Striped Legless Lizard and Australian Grayling.
For the past four years both federal and Victorian governments have been assessing future environmental impacts of urban development in our north, west and southeast growth corridors.
The work is part of a joint state and federal government assessment to develop a biodiversity strategy covering Melbourne's growth areas.
Plans for the north, west and Sunbury/Diggers Rest areas were signed-off on the day before the federal election.
Australia's new environment minister, Greg Hunt, is yet to sign-off on a strategy for the southeast growth corridors, as well as plans aimed at protecting the Southern Brown Bandicoot.
The VNPA is one of a number of conservation groups that provided detailed comment on the Biodiversity Conservation Strategy, advising that it does not ensure adequate protection for all species listed under federal national environmental laws.
Chief among our concerns are that:
- There was a 42% reduction in prime Growling Grass Frog habitat between the draft plan and final approved strategy.
- Critically endangered ecological communities Natural Temperate Grassland of the Victorian Volcanic Plain, Grassy Eucalypt Woodland of the Victorian Volcanic Plain and Seasonal Herbaceous Wetlands (freshwater) of the Temperate Lowland Plains are not adequately protected. For example, conservation areas retained within the urban growth area have been reduced by an estimated 35% between the draft plan and the final Biodiversity Conservation Strategy.
- The current strategy would see the majority of grasslands and seasonal herbacious wetlands within Melbourne's growth areas cleared and 'offset' through the protection of 15,000ha of grasslands to the west of Tarneit and south of Melton, called the Western Grassland Reserves.
This offset comprises mainly very poor quality grassland, while other patches of high-quality grassland and key wetlands will be cleared.
An estimated 48% of the proposed grassland reserves do not contain native grasslands and will need extensive restoration, if this is at all achievable.