Mountain Journal has previously reported on a plan to clear 1.8 hectares of Sub-alpine Woodland just adjacent to the Dinner Plain village to create an ‘Elite Training Facility’ (now called the ‘Village Green’).
The current proposal is to create a ‘large flat open grassed area approximately 90 m wide and 150 m long’. An access road and car parking along two sides of the grassed area are proposed, as well as public toilet facilities. A report prepared for Council describes it ‘as a community space (which) is large enough to facilitate sporting events such as polo, horse riding, and high altitude elite athlete training.’
Alpine Shire Council has committed to the delivery of $1,500,000 worth of capital works projects within Dinner Plain by 2027; and says that this will be funded by the Dinner Plain reserve (currently approximately $1,000,000) and additional funds as allocated by Council.
It now needs to decide whether to proceed with the proposal.
In April 2016, Council asked Dinner Plain ratepayers about projects they would like to see developed to improve their community. According to the council, the highest rating response from 46% of respondents was for a ‘village green or oval open space area’. This was followed by 18% of respondents preferring ‘new and improved mountain bike trails’. Council has subsequently progressed planning and design for both of these projects.
Council has undertaken work to determine the optimum size and location for a Village Green, as well as to investigate the feasibility of this proposal. Council says ‘while the approximately $1.25 million development of a Village Green will provide benefits to the community, there are risks to the project, as well as visual, ecological and cultural heritage impacts that also need to be considered before proceeding’.
IMAGE: Part of the area that would be cleared.
The proposal will have a significant impact on the character of the village. It involves the construction of a sports field and car parking, installation of services, drainage work, and improving access along Tower Road from Big Muster Drive. The area subject to this investigation currently ‘supports remnant Sub-alpine Woodland with low level disturbance caused by recreational trails and infrastructure. All this vegetation will be destroyed by the project’. Apart from providing habitat, it acts as a visual buffer between the north end of the village and the Great Alpine Road, ‘softening’ its visual impact from the road. It also helps create a sense of the road into the village being a gateway and hence the village being a destination. Having a large cleared area along the highway with a sports field will create a diminished sense of Dinner Plain being a ‘village in the forest’. Instead it will look more like any other urban development.
As we asked previously, when will the community say ‘enough is enough’, and focus on smarter use of the existing footprint of the village if we want to expand business activity? Infill, as happened at Castran Corner, or new business activity within existing infrastructure (for instance the Blizzard microbrewery) are smart ways to increase the number of beds and economic activity without clearing additional areas of native vegetation.
Council believes there will be a net benefit from the project:
- Improved community health as a result of additional exercise,
- The increased value add associated with a greater level of retail expenditure within the community,
- Increased amenity for residents, and
- Increased visitor welfare resulting from an additional recreation option.
We would now like to share our findings with you and get your feedback on whether we should advance the Village Green to the next stage. To find out more about the project, view the attached Village Green Information Booklet or visit the Alpine Shire Council website via the following link:
Flora and fauna impacts
People who have visited Dinner Plain will know that it is surrounded by largely intact native vegetation. This is a significant part of its appeal, with building requirements that have seen a large number of mature snow gums retained among the housing and commercial development. While Council does not enforce the requirement that only local indigenous species be planted at Dinner Plain, the remaining forest canopy is still overwhelmingly composed of mature snow gums. Creating a large cleared space on the north edge of the village will remove one side of the continuous indigenous vegetation that surrounds Dinner Plain and impact on the character of the village.
Key ecological values identified within the study area are as follows:
- it is composed of 1.848 hectares of Sub-alpine Woodland vegetation
- it has a high density of large old trees
- it provides habitat for the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 listed species: Alpine Bog Skink
- it provides ‘modelled’ habitat for 27 species, 12 of which require specific offsets if their habitat is to be destroyed in a development.
IMAGES: The current condition of the area, and an artists impression of the site after clearing, looking in the same direction.
Under state law, the loss of native vegetation will require the provision of offsets. Offsets are the conservation of native vegetation with the same biodiversity value elsewhere. This does not create new habitat, rather it simply means another area is protected, incurring overall loss of vegetation. This will incur establishment costs and maintenance costs for a 10 year period. A number of sites are being considered for the offset, including another parcel of land at Dinner Plain immediately to the south of the village.
A planning permit is required, for this to proceed, which will include permission to ‘remove, destroy or lop native vegetation’. The permit application needs to address provisions of the Alpine Planning Scheme.
The permit application will be referred to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) because of its role as a recommending referral authority due to the extent of the proposed clearing.
HAVE YOUR SAY
Council would like to know what you think about this project, and more importantly, whether you think we should invest in and continue with this project.
If you are a Dinner Plain ratepayer and wish to have your say on the project, take the online survey here
or complete the attached questionnaire and either email your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org or post it to PO Box 139, Bright, VIC, 3741.
If you are not a ratepayer but visit the area, you are still entitled to express an opinion, and can do so via both the options listed above.