Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Paving paradise - Coomoora Reserve falls to the bulldozers for Dingley arterial road


Coomoora Woodland Flora and Fauna Reserve was a small oasis of biodiversity in an urban environment. Located in the City of Greater Dandenong in outer Melbourne, it was listed by the National Trust for it's local and regional environmental and heritage significance and provided an environmental refuge for remnant native bushland and wildlife. It was a place of tranquillity where people could reconnect with the natural environment, where school groups could study biology and ecology. But it's listing by the National Trust could not prevent it's destruction by Vicroads and the State Government to make way for the Dingley Arterial.


The bulldozers moved in and obliterated the reserve in January 2011. Neither the previous Labor Government or the new Liberal Government acted to preserve this environmentally significant reserve although viable alternative routes mapped out by Vicroads were available. Adjoining the reserve are Aboriginal cultural heritage places and a small wetland which will incur serious and irreversible damage due to the road construction.

Coomoora Woodland Flora and Fauna Reserve was classified by the National Trust of Australia in 1984, due to its "regional/metropolitan significance" and "important scientific, recreational and educational values". The reserve contained 13 threatened fauna species including the Swift Parrot, Growling Grass frog and the Glossy Grass Skink. But Justin Madden, the Labor Planning Minister declared that "no Environmental Effects Statement is required" in September 2010. Now this precious oasis has been bulldozed.

The campaign to preserve this reserve was initiated in September 2009 with the formation of the Save Coomoora Reserve Coalition, a broad-based network of residents from Keysborough and surrounding areas and members of community and environmental groups. The group joined up with other groups from neighboring areas like Save the Pines to hold rallies to stop the Dingley arterial and the Peninsula Link freeway expansion in Melbourne's south east. Save Our Bush rallies were held in February 2010 and June 2010 to no avail. Save the Pines protestors were arrested as bulldozers moved in at Westerfields in September 2010 during a community picket to save the Pines Flora and Fauna Reserve from construction of the Peninsula Link freeway.

And after a year or two these roads will become clogged with traffic. Despite an active campaign by local residents and environmentalists, the reserve will become another bitumen moving parking lot, another sacrifice to the private automobile at the expense of developing public transport and preserving the remnants of the natural environment.

Damon Anderson in a last post made in March 2011 on the Save Coomoora Reserve Coalition website described the destruction:

"In a clinical display of technical efficiency and sheer brute force, heavy machinery moved into Coomoora on 12 January 2011, reducing much of the woodland to woodchip and flattening its most ecologically significant vegetation community in the process. Contrary to prior undertakings by the former State Labor Government and VicRoads, the footprint of bypass construction is no smaller than originally proposed and no habitat offsets have been identified for translocating rare flora species.

"Driven by corporate greed, political myopia and bureaucratic deceit, the juggernaut of economic growth has again trampled over community and nature.

"The saga of Coomoora is another tragic episode in the unfolding environmental crisis that overshadows our future. Only collaborative, concerted and democratic activism can counter the narrow self-interest of ruling elites and forestall the fate that otherwise awaits us all. May the loss of Coomoora not be in vain."

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