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By Andrew and Sue Lees, Friends of Yarra Flats Parks
In a win for the Yarra, Birrarung and all those who love and care for her, a four-year battle over the proposed treetop Adventure Park in Heidelberg has been abandoned by Banyule Council. Local groups led by the Friends of Yarra Flats, and supported by the Yarra Riverkeeper Association held grave concerns about the impact of the proposed development on the local environment, particularly Banksia Billabong, as well as the negative impacts on a site of cultural significance for the Wurundjeri woi-wurrung people.
The proposed development had several ecological issues including the the disturbance of the wetland habitat area, the impact on river red gums, (several of which are hundreds of years old) from the development’s infrastructure, the unknown consequences of the impact on migratory bird species, and the impacts on the fragile Banksia Billabong itself.
In the proposal put forward by Ecoline, the community’s values and local knowledge were also overlooked, despite 192 submissions against the proposal. The lack of assessment of any Traditional Owner issues was also noted, given the area’s history of being frequented by the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung up until the 1840s, and its proximity to Bolin Bolin Billabong.
This development is yet another example of authorities not paying enough attention to communities. With proper consultation with local knowledge holders and Traditional Owners, this development could have been stopped much earlier and saved the developers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The Yarra, Birrarung has protections in the form of the Yarra Protection Act (Wilip-gin Birrarung Murron), as well as the Yarra River Planning Controls. Plus, we have the Yarra Strategic Plan (Burndap Birrarung burndap umarkoo). Areas like these should be protected.
We all must listen to what the Traditional Owners have asked us to do in protecting the river and her parklands.
Communities and Traditional Owners are unfortunately under-resourced and always on the back foot when it comes to developments. In addition, they have little expert, independent environmental knowledge to access. We expect more of our governments and authorities and ask that they listen to more of our voices and act in the best interests of the Yarra,
Birrarung, for ‘what’s good for the Yarra is good for all /Burndap Birrarung burndap umarkoo’.