COMMUNITY leaders gathered to celebrate the success of the fight to protect the Spring Creek Valley last weekend, a month after the state government confirmed its new planning policy statement would ban the development of the region.
Thumbs and fists were held in acknowledgment of the years of campaigning that finally forced Victorian Planning Minister Richard Wynne to conclude that the western boundary of Torquay will be Duffields Road.
“We are absolutely delighted to have won the battle,” said Greater Torquay Alliance spokesman Darren Noyes-Brown, adding that he remained cautious of further attempts to encroach on the territory.
“We are a little disappointed that the permanent advisory committee is still advising to develop the valley, but we are absolutely delighted that Dan Andrews has opposed this decision.
Appointed by Mr Wynne, the Standing Advisory Committee for Distinctive Areas and Landscapes (DAL) has provided advice to the government as it develops new policy for the development of the surf coast.
“This is the third time the community has been laminated by Planning Panels Victoria, against the wishes of the council,” Mr Noyes-Brown said.
“The Minister of Planning changed his mind during this process; he saved the day, really, after earlier advising greater housing density in the Spring Creek Valley.
“The community needs to be vigilant about what is happening here…the planning policy statement has yet to be written into the development plan and the standing advisory committee has not recommended any zoning to the west of Duffields, so this process has yet to take place.”
A key step in protecting the region’s future will be to record its ecology and biodiversity, said Pete Crowcroft of Friends of the Eastern Otways.
He is spearheading a citizen science campaign in which people can take pictures of animals and plants in the valley and upload them in real time to the shared science data platform known as iNaturalist, a collaboration with the Atlas of Live Australian and CSIRO.
“We know there are important species out there like the yellow bellarine gum, but we haven’t studied it enough, especially moths, insects, invertebrates…I predict hundreds of species of moths that we didn’t know existed there,” he said. said.
“It will give us a more complete picture and history of the area…to broaden our perspectives on the life we share these spaces with and value its intrinsic value to the space instead of just what it provides to humans.”
Graeme Stockton of the Surf Coast Environment Group – a key figure in the campaign to protect Spring Creek – sent a video message to the event after he was unable to attend in person.