Save the MESC Bushland

 

Mount Eliza Association for Environmental Care (MEAFEC)

Update 20 September 2014


 

 

 

The Mount Eliza community was shocked by the unannounced weekend clearing of the native vegetation at Mount Eliza Secondary College on 25–26 May 2013 by the Mount Eliza soccer club for soccer fields.  There are already soccer fields on the school grounds and new soccer facilities are to be built at Emil Madsen Reserve in Mount Eliza by the Shire in the near future.  The site was central to an environmental education program within the school at the time, and the clearing caused much upset amongst teachers, students and the local community.  The site was known for its large orchid colonies.  In addition, there has been a drastic loss of landscape quality on Mount Eliza Way in central Mount Eliza.

MESC is apparently continuing with the plan for five soccer fields to be built by the Mt Eliza soccer club on the school grounds.  MEAFEC is opposed to the clearing of native vegetation for the two western soccer fields as we believe the clearing is:

·      illegal under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act

·      environmentally rapacious

·      destructive of a valuable and irreplaceable educational asset.

The bushland was originally open Manna Gum grassy woodland but had become overgrown with Coast Tea-tree due to years of neglect, although many of the original species were and still are there.  MEAFEC has been encouraging the school for over
10 years to restore the site to its open structure, where it would present no student behaviour problems as it would be open again with high visibility.  The environment teacher we were liaising with has been placed in excess since the clearing.

The disturbed area is regenerating and continues to support flora protected under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (FFG Act) such as Tree Everlasting and Black Wattle. 
A protected flora permit is therefore required for any clearing that would need to take place again for the two soccer fields.  There are native fauna there as well, including an active native Swamp Rat colony within the footprint of the proposed soccer fields.  The site is now ideal for teaching environmental science and restoration to the school students.

MESC is on public land making it subject to the FFG Act.  Protected flora removal requires a permit from the Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI).  MESC cleared the land in error after having been informed of its illegality under the FFG Act.  Following advice from DEPI, MESC has recently accepted that the school is subject to the FFG Act.

We also believe that a permit may be required from the Mornington Peninsula Shire under the Planning and Environment Act 1987 in relation to Vegetation Protection Overlay (VPO1) in the Mornington Peninsula Planning Scheme.

If and when the FFG permit application goes to DEPI as it should under due process, there will be an opportunity for this agency to consider the significant values of the land.

MEAFEC is currently pursuing the matter with the education, planning, and environment ministers.

We have tried to communicate all this to the school community via the School Council.  Our current understanding is that our letter to the Council was not read out as we requested, being ‘tabled’ with other documents and that nobody read it at the meeting.  Having exhausted other options, we are now communicating with the school community and the Mount Eliza community directly.

MEAFEC hopes the school will not proceed with plans for the two western soccer fields.  We wish to help the school by assisting with full restoration of the site.

Will you help save the MESC Bushland?
Please contact the school and let them know your opinion!
Please write to the school
info@mesc.vic.edu.au
the Minister for Environment
ryan.smith@parliament.vic.gov.au
and the Minister for Education
martin.dixon@parliament.vic.gov.au

Abundant regeneration, MESC Bushland, September 2014 regeneration