Community Panel - Day 3

Nillumbik’s Community Panel reviewing the Green Wedge Management Plan (GWMP) met for their third full day session on Saturday, 15 September.

Independent facilitators MosaicLab welcomed the 40-member Panel, and members of the community attended the panel meeting as observers.

As well as working together to advance their thinking on the issues they are considering, the Panel heard from the following five speakers whom they had requested in previous sessions:

  • Anthony Calthorpe from Nillumbik Shire Council
  • George Apted from Apted Apples
  • Mike Ruzzene from Urban Enterprise
  • Cam Beardsell on Biodiversity
  • Craig Lapsley, former Emergency Management Commissioner

MosaicLab reminded the Panel to use their critical thinking skills to draw out as much information as possible. The facilitator noted that this was the last time that the Panel would be receiving a significant volume of information ahead of moving into a more deliberative stage over the remaining panel sessions in preparing a report for Council recommending their vision, objectives and key actions to shape a new Green Wedge Management Plan.

Anthony Calthorpe addressed the Panel on township planning and the Green Wedge. Mr Calthorpe explained that “people, place and community” are at the centre of Nillumbik’s planning. He described the role of structure plans, township plans and other strategies that inform the Nillumbik planning scheme. Mr Calthorpe explained the hierarchy of the planning scheme and the importance of focussing on a best fit planning scheme, and the strategies that underpin it based on a triple bottom line approach.

George Apted spoke about the Apted family’s fifth-generation Nillumbik business. The family also operates orchards in Kinglake and vineyards in Strathewen. Mr Apted explained the challenges associated with a running an agribusiness which include the pressure of population growth, the impact of pests and feral animals, difficulties sourcing employees and pressures from government agencies around water rights. The Apted family remain committed to sustainable and state of the art farming practices. Mr Apted also spoke about agribusiness opportunities for the Nillumbik area such as cellar door operations.

Economics consultant Mike Ruzzene provided an economic profile of the Nillumbik area and noted that agriculture and tourism are not currently economic drivers in the area. Home-based industries such as professional services and construction businesses service a broader market, however these industries are not significant employers. Mr Ruzzene noted that while there are 33,000 people in Nillumbik of working age there are 11,000 jobs within the Shire. He informed the Panel that there was limited job growth in Nillumbik in the last decade and employment numbers within the Shire were the lowest of any municipality in Melbourne. Mr Ruzzene talked about economic opportunities for Nillumbik in agri-tourism, farm stays, visitor accommodation, food and wine experiences, recreational and environmental tourism, cycle tourism, events and festivals such as open farm festivals. He noted that the planning zone limits the capacity for some types of tourism activity.

Cam Beardsell spoke about the history of and his experiences with the Nillumbik Green Wedge from the early 1960s through to today. The 1970s saw a groundswell of community action around protecting the Green Wedge and that was followed by a series of community groups forming and a range of government agencies becoming involved. Cameron noted that the Kinglake National Park is a significant achievement emanating from Nillumbik’s Green Wedge. Other achievements include native vegetation and clearance controls as well as protection of the Yarra River and endangered species. Mr Beardsell believes Nillumbik is the best Council in Victoria for the work it has done in this area and commended Council officers for the extensive background report to support the review of the Green Wedge Management Plan. Mr Beardsell noted that Nillumbik has around 10 per cent of flora and fauna that is listed as rare within Victorian Rare or Threatened Species Advisory Lists.

Craig Lapsley congratulated the group for coming together to discuss subjects that are complex, difficult and emotional. Mr Lapsley noted that over its 100 days of hearings, the Royal Commission into the Black Saturday Bushfires examined every aspect of bushfire prevention from land management, building, rebuilding, fuel management, climate systems, broad research and mental health issues. Mr Lapsley noted that, in his view, Victoria now has the best fire protection policies in the world. He explained the critical importance of fire intensity, fire rating systems, fire behaviour. Mr Lapsley concluded his presentation to the Panel by discussing the importance of ‘shared responsibility’ and the fundamental importance of community discussion on these topics.

The Panel also spent time examining different perspectives on key issues, to build their understanding of why people hold these views, and discussing ideas that might have common ground. All Panel members are working hard to be prepared for more discussion on Day 4 in a month’s time.