Beaumaris Secondary College tree removal: Media Statement
Give us more land so we can save more trees …
That is the plea from the people of Beaumaris to the Victorian Government, which is looking to replace the former secondary college with a new school and a massive sporting precinct funded and controlled by the Melbourne Cricket Club.
The new school will be shoe-horned into a small corner of the property to provide sufficient room for two ‘monstrously’ oversized ovals, an equally oversized soccer pitch and a large MCC pavilion that will dominate the large site on the corner of Balcombe and Reserve Roads.
Given the enormous scale of the MCC requirements, a whopping 249 trees are to be felled.
The felling will occur along all four boundaries of the school, removing a much needed southern buffer for the abutting protected Long Hollow Heathland Reserve and a western wildlife corridor linking it with another protected heathland reserve to the north at Balcombe Park.
A stay of execution on the destruction of the trees was secured following a 300-strong community protest in October with a promise from the Victorian School Building Authority (VSBA) that it would conduct a two-stage community consultation process. The VSBA is responsible for building schools on behalf of the Victorian Government.
So far no genuine consultation has occurred, other than limited discussions with local environmental groups - which so far have gone nowhere - and a 2-hour information evening for the local community. Here attendees were shown site maps of the proposed development, with requests for answers from attendees refused, resulting in many leaving early and describing the event as a ‘sham’.
Beaumaris community leader and President of Beaumaris Conservation Society Inc, Greg Mier, said, “It is clear that the Education Department, through the VSB Authority - and the MCC for that matter - are ‘simply going through the motions’ and pretending to consult when in fact they have every intention of ramming through their original plans.”
To save as many trees and as much wildlife as possible, independent arborists, landscape architects, urban designers and botanists engaged by the community have recommended that small alterations be made to one or both of the MCC ovals and soccer pitch without loss of functionality to these facilities.
Other small design changes, such as the use of permeable paving, moving car spaces a matter of metres and alterations to soil cuts around trees, would do much to save even more trees.
So far the MCC - whose plans for a ‘world class’ sporting precinct is at the heart of the proposed environmental devastation at the school site – has remained in the shadows.
“That, on top of reluctance by the VSBA and Education Department to keep the Beaumaris community informed, risks alienating the very people who fought for the school. The MCC could resolve the problem in a heartbeat. Instead they stand back and let the VSBA cop the flack,” said Mr Mier.
Direct approaches to the MCC have achieved nothing more than buck-passing to the VSBA.
Mr Mier says it is important to stress that the delivery of the school is not, and has never been, in question.
“Why would it be? It is sandwiched in the far corner of the site near a busy intersection, and ironically will occupy a much smaller footprint than the original school. What is in question is the ridiculously large sporting precinct, which is NOT what the community was sold at the outset.
We asked for a community school, and instead we’re getting a school PLUS a world class sporting precinct that dwarfs it and will doubtless bring hundreds to the area, push up traffic, create parking problems and be flood-lit year-round.
Sadly locals also have the impression that they will continue to have access to these facilities for walking their dogs, jogging and other passive recreational purposes, but no-one has any detail about how this would play out. My suspicion is they won’t have the access they hope for!”
Mr Mier says the community is demanding its concerns be heard and dealt with before anything else happens on site.
“No more trees will be permitted to be cut down or vegetation removed until community concerns have been heard and acted on satisfactorily. We don’t mind the VSBA constructing the actual school (in fact it hasn't been delayed by a single day as the authority secretly went to tender the day after the October public rally) so the doors can open for Term 1, 2018 as promised.
However nothing else happens until our concerns are dealt with and to our satisfaction.”
For more media information:
Wendy Parker on 0422 694 503
Greg Mier on 0418 575 425