THE fourth and final growth area that was announced by the Victorian Government in 2008 as part of plans to extend Melbourne's growth boundary in order to accommodate the city's growing population has been approved for urban development by the Australian Government.
The approval in the south-eastern growth corridor, which covers part of the Casey and Cardinia local government areas, follows Australian Government approval in 2013 for urban development in the western growth corridor (Melton – Wyndham), the north western growth corridor (Sunbury – Diggers Rest) and the northern corridor (Hume – Whittlesea – Mitchell).
Announcing the approval last week, Federal Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment Minister, Simon Birmingham, said strict conditions have been put in place to protect matters of national environmental significance, such as the vulnerable growling grass frog and the endangered southern brown bandicoot.
"In considering this approval, I have taken particular note of scientific and community concerns around the well being of the southern brown bandicoot and measures to protect this species have been a high priority," Senator Birmingham said.
"Before granting this approval I asked Victoria to strengthen their bandicoot management strategy which will control major threats such as feral foxes, and provide for voluntary incentive programs to restore bandicoot habitat through a $30 million compensation trust fund."
Senator Birmingham said that in response to this request, Victoria developed a habitat connectivity supplement to the bandicoot strategy, which provides new movement corridors between the Royal Botanic Gardens, Cranbourne, and other bandicoot habitat outside of the south-eastern growth corridor.
"These measures provide a practical framework for the long term sustainable protection, conservation and management of southern brown bandicoots and other threatened species in the region," he said.
The expansion of Melbourne's urban growth boundary was proposed in the Victorian Government's 2008 document, 'Melbourne @ 5 million'. The document was prepared in response to projections showing Melbourne's population was growing faster than expected, with 600,000 new dwellings needed over 20 years.
In 2009, the Australian Government signed an agreement with the Victorian Government to undertake a strategic assessment under national environment law of the proposed expansion of Melbourne's urban growth boundary.
"Assessing the program under a streamlined strategic assessment provided a unique opportunity to secure landscape-scale protection for key ecological communities and species potentially threatened by Melbourne's expansion," Senator Birmingham said.
"Using strategic assessments can reduce regulatory costs by avoiding the need for individual project approvals and delivering upfront certainty on both development and conservation outcomes."
More information is available from the Department of the Environment website at <http://www.environment.gov.au/protection/assessments/strategic/melbournes-urban-growth-boundary>.