Keeping our ‘livable city’ tag - a world class park system for Melbourne

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IMAGE: Mt Torbreck - part of the proposed Great Forest National Park. Photo: Justin Cally

Melbourne will soon pass Sydney as Australia’s most populous city. The urban sprawl that is happening to accommodate this growth is putting enormous pressure on transport, public services, and other infrastructure, and making congestion worse.We need big ideas to solve a big - and growing - problem. Here are 3 ideas.

AN ACCESSIBLE CITY

A big part of ensuring our city continues to be livable in coming decades will be the need to build a world class public transport system that is adequate to the needs of a city larger than 5 million people. Infrastructure Victoria has recently warned that, without government intervention, Melbourne will have an extra five hours of peak traffic by 2030.

Check our Get on Board transport plan, available here for our top order priorities for fixing our transport infrastructure.

A COMPACT CITY

Urban sprawl needs to be reined in. We need to ensure there is increased population density around transport corridors, but in a way that meets community needs and expectations, not just the profit imperative of developers.

WORLD CLASS PARKS

This sprawl poses a major threat to remaining open space around the fringes of Melbourne. We are running out of time to protect these landscapes.

In an election year, we need political parties to commit to a world class park system that will protect our city against future sprawl and provide breathing space for the community and protection for key habitats.  

Future Cities: Planning for our growing population is the fifth paper in Infrastructure Australia's Reform Series. It provides advice to Australian governments on improving the productivity and livability of our largest cities as they grow over the next 30 years. It notes that as our largest cities ‘grow and densify’, green and public space will play an increasingly important role in maintaining livability.

The report says:

‘The quality, flexibility and utility of green infrastructure (such as parks, sporting fields and walking tracks) and public spaces (such as squares and footpaths) contribute significantly to the livability of a city. Population growth poses a challenge to the future of these spaces in Australian cities. Across all scenarios (of expected growth in coming years), the demand for existing green space increases dramatically, as more people are wanting to access parks and sporting fields across both Melbourne and Sydney. At the same time, access to green space reduces across all scenarios, particularly in outer areas where greenfield development occurs away from established green and public spaces. These results highlight the need to prioritise the sequencing of local and accessible green and public space alongside development as our cities grow, in both outer and infill areas'.

Recommendation 15 says: ‘Australian governments should focus on maintaining and enhancing green infrastructure and the public realm to ensure (cities) remain livable’.

The Andrews government has invested heavily in public transport infrastructure such as the Metro Tunnel. The benefit of this project will be felt for decades.

Now it needs to act to protect open space and provide recreation and breathing space for future generations.

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Daniel Andrews can future proof Melbourne by creating a world class network of parks.

From the western grasslands reserve to the Great Forest National Park, this new network will provide our city with green space for generations to come. It will be a major legacy for this government.

The Victorian National Parks Association has developed a vision for a comprehensive parks network which will help fill the remaining gaps in the reserve system.

These include:

  • the Great Forest National Park

  • the western grasslands reserve Native grasslands are the most threatened ecosystem in the state. While much of the funds required for this will come from land developers, the state government needs to commit funds to get buy up of land happening now. There is potential for a 15,000 ha park on Melbourne’s western and northern fringe. This reserve is being funded by offsets from good quality grassland remnants elsewhere which are being destroyed for housing. Immediate establishment of this reserve is the absolute minimum the government must announce in 2018.

  • the Point Nepean marine national park (to be integrated with Point Nepean National Park)

  • the Moolap Park (near Point Henry)

  • Port Phillip wetland parks, including an extension of the Point Cook Coastal Park

  • the Northern Westernport Park (near Tooradin)

  • the ‘Natural Melbourne’ Plan (which would add smaller high-conservation areas to the metropolitan parks network, in addition to the areas identified in the Melbourne Strategic Assessment. The focus should be on areas of state and regional significance that can be integrated with waterways, flood management, bike paths and formal recreation areas in an urban conservation network of new and improved regional parks)

  • protecting open space along the Merri Creek in Fawkner

  • investigating options for additional park creation in growth corridors along all urban river systems including the Maribyrnong, Moonee Ponds, Darebin and Plenty catchments. An extension of park protection in the Plenty Gorge should be a priority, with opportunities to purchase private land adjacent to the park providing significant opportunities in an area rapidly being closed in by urban growth

  • It is essential that new infrastructure projects, especially roads, don't damage existing parks and open space.

Extra parks funding is essential. The Andrews government has been increasing funding for our parks system – which is great. But we need commitments for additional funds to properly manage new and existing parks. A minimum of $50m should be included in the next state budget, with an additional $15m extra in subsequent budgets.

These new parks will all provide opportunities for a range of recreational activities, room for some job creation (eg long distance walking trails, bike paths, park management, construction of infrastructure, fire and weed management, etc) and would help to increase social equality – most communities in Melbourne will benefit from this combined package in terms of access to new parks and open space.

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Los Angeles is responding – so can Melbourne

Los Angeles is faced with the same problem – rapid urban growth threatens remaining wild areas and open space around the city. Last year law makers in California introduced the Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act. This will preserve access to open spaces. As one Senator said “as more and more land is lost to urban areas, saving natural places near to large cities is becoming increasingly important”. The Andrews government should show the same leadership.

Last year, Rep. Schiff introduced this bill with Senator Barbara Boxer. The legislation Would Add 191,000 Acres to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

"The Rim of the Valley is the critical bridge between the urban city centers, suburbs in the Los Angeles basin and the spectacular wilderness beyond – our bill would help protect these lands for generations to come," said Rep. Schiff. "As more of this area is developed and open space diminishes, the wildlife it supports is increasingly at risk. Congress must preserve the Rim of the Valley for generations to come, but we must act quickly on a bipartisan basis, or this once in a century opportunity will be gone."

“Preserving access to open spaces is essential for quality of life in the Los Angeles basin,” said Senator Feinstein. “As more and more land is lost to urban areas, saving natural places like the Rim of the Valley Corridor is becoming increasingly important. Working closely with the local communities to develop legislation, our bill enjoys broad public support because it ensures Southern Californians will have continued access to public lands for recreation and protects critical areas for wildlife habit while respecting private property and local land use authorities.”

A bipartisan approach to creating these new parks in Melbourne would be widely supported in the community, provide a great legacy for the government, and help us retain our status as one of the most livable cities on the planet.

Please support our vision

Please sign this petition, which calls for:

  • The creation of the Great Forest National Park and

  • The Emerald Link reserve system in East Gippsland, and

  • A transition plan for the taxpayer funded native forest logging industry - to diversify local economies and get it out of native forests and into plantations and non timber sources of fibre.

Send a clear message to party leaders that you share our vision for Victoria –  including the parks described above >> SIGN ON HERE

Can you chip in with a donation to help us keep up the pressure? >> CONTRIBUTE HERE

To see the full detail on our election priorities, please check here.

 

[Some of these images come from the Great Forests National Park website. Thanks to Justin Cally]