Calls to speed up grassland protection

Grassy Plains Network facilitator Adrian Marshall. (Damjan Janevski) 301638_05

A Western Metro MP has called on the state government to explain how it is accelerating its protection of the Western Grassland Reserve, and while the government said it has made progress, one environment group has called it a “failure”.

The Western Grasslands Reserve is being set up as a part of the Melbourne Strategic Assessment (MSA) program to offset clearing of native vegetation and animal habitat impacted by urban development that will take place in Melbourne’s growth areas.

Announced in 2010, the MSA promised to protect 15,000 hectares of grassland in Melton and Wyndham that contains multiple endangered animal species and rare plants.

In 14 years the government has acquired about 21 per cent of the land required.

In parliament on February 20 Western Metro MP David Ettershank asked what the government is doing to accelerate the timely acquisition of Western Grassland Reserve land.

“We must move quicker to protect our critically endangered grasslands and the threatened species that inhabit them,” he said.

A state government spokesperson said approximately 3,205 hectares of land had been acquired.

“This was funded by the MSA levy which is paid by developers and therefore proceeds in line with the rate of development in the growth areas,” they said.

The government also indicated that it is in negotiations to acquire more land this year, and that it believes the current rate is adequate to offset the current rate of development in Melbourne’s growth areas.

Grassy Plains Network facilitator Adrian Marshall called the MSA as a whole a “rotten deal”.

“It was rushed, poorly thought through, appallingly implemented, and has so far failed to conserve the grasslands, woodlands, plants and beasties it was designed to protect,” he said.

“Land bankers, developers and many farmers who owned that land just gave up looking after it, because the government was going to buy it regardless of the condition it was in.

“The longer the land sits there in private ownership, the more it declines, the more the weeds take over, the more we lose our priceless heritage… At the current rate it will take another 30 years to buy.

“Grasslands should be celebrated. Well-managed public grasslands are not just a conservation asset. They provide a spirit of place. landscapes. We need to celebrate what is uniquely ours.”