It has been a long time since there has been an update, that is because for the last few years there has been nothing to report on the Healesville Freeway Reserve (HFR).
Now there is good and bad news, so I will start with the not so good stuff to get that over with.
- In September 2020, DELWP approached Council seeking interest in Council becoming the Committee of Management (COM) for the HFR corridor.
- On 28th June’21 Whitehorse Council passed a resolution - Moved by Cr Lane, Seconded by Cr Carr.
- Considers the Department Environment Land Water Planning (DELWP) proposal (dated 21 September 2020) to become Committee of Management of the Crown Land formerly known as the Healesville Freeway Reserve and determines not to accept the Department Environment Land Water Planning (DELWP) offer.
- Authorises the Chief Executive Officer to write to the Deputy Secretary Corporate Services at Department Environment Land Water Planning (DELWP) advising of Council’s decision not to accept the Department Environment Land Water Planning (DELWP) Committee of Management offer.
- When writing to the Deputy Secretary of the Department Environment Land Water Planning (DELWP) present Council’s counter offer which includes the following key points:
- That the Crown Land be converted to freehold land and transferred to Council for a nominal consideration.
- That the total funds currently held in trust by the Department of Transport be transferred to Council at the time the freehold title/s are transferred to Council.
- That Council is committed to establishing and maintaining the former Healesville Freeway Reserve, once the freehold land is transferred to Council, in accordance with the principles established by the current Crown Land Reservation; these being, “Conservation, Recreation and Leisure” purposes.
This is bad news because –
- The matter was sent for Council response in September 2020 but was discussed at Council only in late June 2021 – a 9 month delay. A month later it was not known if this resolution had been communicated to DELWP, 10 months of time lost!
- The council officer report used as information mentions a bridge over Bellbird Dell, something that has never been put to community consultation. It’s construction will have a devastating impact on the most sensitive and biodiverse section of the Bellbird Dell and the cost will swallow up a huge amount of the limited funds available for the creation of the park, to the detriment of other more widely used public facilities in the park. It is unacceptable from both an environmental and maximum community benefit perspective, instead as early as 2015 Friends of the Healesville Freeway Reserve (FoHFR) worked with the cyclist lobby group and agreed on an alignment that was acceptable to all, it followed existing paths through the Dell.
- Transferring the land to the Crown was a measure to address one of the key concerns of the community - for long term protection of the land. It was the community that wanted the land to be protected by that mechanism, the council motion above (in bold) is contrary to that community expectation.
- The FoHFR have long believed that the best outcome for the park and the residents of Whitehorse is for council to take over as Committee of Management (COM), according to the resolution above council is willing to do that if the land is gifted to council, something that has no chance of happening. While the land has not been gifted, it has been made available at no cost to council and the Whitehorse rate payers, besides council is already the COM for three parcels on this corridor and has been for decades.
- If there is a bona fide intention on the part of council to negotiate the COM matter, then asking for the crown status to be reversed (something that is not easy to do and has to be passed as an act of Parliament, which was why it was considered the most safe option), the land converted to free hold ownership and transferred to council at nominal cost, does not seem a genuine way of going about it, besides it is just kicking the can down the road leading to further delays, when the community has been crying out for the park roll out to be implemented for years.
- The grave concern is that Parks Vic will be named COM and then it will be too late. The Whitehorse Community will be the losers long into the future and this resolution will be the reason why.
Now for the good news –
- Planning Amendments – even though the whole corridor has transferred to Crown, several parcels of land within the HFR corridor still carry Residential zoning (GRZ5 zoning), being a legacy from their previous ownership by the Roads Corporation. DELWP is currently finalising a planning amendment to rezone those parcel to Parks and Passive Recreation (PPRZ). While this was not a concern as the land was safe as Crown land, it is good that the zoning will now also reflect that.
- Naming of HFR – The naming of the park has been held up for some years as there was a dispute between the Wurundjeri and the Bunurong land Councils over land boundaries. We are happy to report that the matter has been resolved.
On 1 July 2021, the Victoria Aboriginal Heritage Council formally announced new agreed Traditional Owner boundaries for the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation (WWWCHAC) and the Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation (BLCAC). The agreed boundaries confirm the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung as the recognised Traditional Owners of the land on which the HFR is situated.
Accordingly in July 2021, DELWP formally engaged the WWWCHAC to determine an Aboriginal name for HFR in line with the resounding community response to the 2018 Have Your Say. Aunty Doreen of the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung is a language expert and is managing this name project for the WWWCHAC.
That is all for now, hope to have some better news on the land manager issue, it is up to the community to make your voice heard and express your view.