Planning for biodiversity in Glen Eira

The following unedited posting has been submitted by one of our members.  Given the widely recognized significance of biodiversity and the importance of maintaining it,  GERA supports our member’s view that Glen Eira Council should be proactively maintaining biodiversity in the public open spaces.

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What is biodiversity? Why is it so important? Why is it so disregarded?

Biodiversity is crucial to human survival. Diverse kinds of humans have adapted to diverse habitats over evolutionary time. Our individual selves are biodiverse, consisting of numerous living things and bits of bacteria that we have accumulated along the way, although we don’t like to think of ourselves in this way. We could not survive without our gut flora, or without the scraps of genetic material from other species incorporated into our bodies. This is an ongoing process.

Our diverse natural flora and fauna provide the food we eat, the oxygen in the atmosphere we breathe, and water we drink.

Australia and Victoria, like the rest of the world is in a state of rapid species decline and extinction. At the local government level species declines and extinctions are generally not quantified, but there is good reason to believe that declines and extinctions continue.

According to a recent table published by the Port Phillip and Westernport Catchment Management Authority, Glen Eira has by far the least native vegetation of any municipality in the greater Melbourne area.*   This is striking, because in their earliest days the suburbs that now constitute Glen Eira were liberally endowed with open space, much of it containing native vegetation and wildlife. The largest early Crown reserve in Glen Eira was of 340 acres (138ha.), embracing what is now Caulfield Park, East Caulfield Park and Caulfield Racecourse and the land between.

Glen Eira Council, rather than address the issue by protecting and creating more open space and using the extra land to plant more native local vegetation, is reducing open space by putting more buildings, roads, and car parks into existing open space. Nor does council use planning laws to require and enforce adequate private open space and permeable areas for private developments.

A created wetland with native vegetation in Oakleigh’s Talbot Park

A created wetland with native vegetation in Oakleigh’s Talbot Park

Remedies that could be adopted by Glen Eira Council, and other councils, include adopting a Triple Bottom Line (TBL) accounting approach, and modifying council spending accordingly. This would require in the first instance an assessment of indigenous biodiversity in Glen Eira and how much it was functional. A survey of remnant native species would be necessary. Council could also create incentives for protection and restoration of native vegetation of local provenance on private land, and apply for State/Federal/corporate grants for remnant indigenous vegetation protection and restoration projects on public land.

Maintaining indigenous biodiversity (e.g. remnant flora, remnant fauna) where it exists is the cheapest most effective method. Functional targets could be set for public open space and indigenous vegetation (e.g. 3ha open space per 1000 residents minimum, with one third of it allocated to indigenous vegetation). Council could also restore areas of native vegetation of local provenance as street plantings. Council could use street plantings and indigenous vegetation in public open space to create links between native vegetation in those public open spaces (as recommended in Glen Eira Council’s Long Term Open Space Strategy 1998).

Streams make the best habitat corridors because they are natural corridors for migration of species, and even in urban environments can provide unrestricted pathways. There is a good case for restoring creeks to open channels as a prime means of re-establishing native habitat. Elster Creek and Murrumbeena Creek could be restored to some degree. Similarly, ponds and wetlands could be recreated with local native plants, as has been done already throughout Melbourne suburbs. Fish, and most aquatic species cannot live in concrete drains. They need open channels planted with indigenous species which provide the vegetation and insect fauna that they eat. These actions would also improve stream water quality and provide the natural food carried into Port Phillip Bay to feed the fish we eat.

* Port Phillip and Western Port Catchment Management Authority Draft Strategy 2013

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