Suburban developments, assuming they are necessary, can occur in many places. Endangered species and ecological communities do not have that luxury. It’s time to protect all the remaining grasslands.
An edited and updated version of this essay has been published at Green Left Weekly
Although about 99% of Victoria’s volcanic plains grasslands have been destroyed by development, some outstanding remnants of this unique ecosystem persist, especially on the plains just west of Melbourne (see for eg Smith 2015). This ecological community was Federally listed in 2008 as critically endangered (DEWPC 2011). Yet at the same time, the the then Labor government of Victoria was initiating an expansion of Melbourne’s Urban Growth Boundary that would severely impact the exact same areas. (DPCD 2008).
The government nominated two areas totalling 15,000 hectares to the west of the new growth boundary, called the Western Grassland Reserves (WGR). (DPCD, 2010). Developers are to purchase offsets within these areas in exchange for grassland destroyed by new developments (DEPI, 2013). Sadly these bold sounding deals are falling into disarray, with little conservation to show for it as development goes ahead even at the expense of endangered species (Arup 2015).