Habitat matters

23 October, 2021

Day 23 of Writing Nangak Tamboree.

Beyond the Nangak Tamboree creek-side revegetation area, huge fences have gone up. They’re starting work on the next tranche of sports developments.

I’m told that the new complex being purpose-built for the Matildas is re-using the former golf range on Plenty Road, abutting the cemetery. That seems like sensible recycling of land that hasn’t been public for years. It’s already flat and the old growth was cleared away years ago.

But next to it, where I stand today, even with its weeds and deposits of old junk and hills of dirt dug up elsewhere and dumped, this is a wilder place. There are many generations of trees, indigenous grasses and shrubs, and it’s home to all kinds of creatures. Right now, up on this hillock, I can hear dozens of frogs, and red-browed finches and red-rumped parrots are feeding in the long grass around me.

It might have been regenerated, like the area inside the fence. But instead it is being flattened out and turned into yet more sports fields, this time for the State Rugby Centre.

This is the area I walked through the other day with Tony, the project manager, and he explained the many careful processes that have been put in place for the redevelopment. So I know that each tree in this area has been audited by an arborist, and the plants surveyed by experts. That the clumps of endangered Matted Flax-Lily can only be dug up, propagated and replanted following a three-year approval process and careful consideration. That before any trees are knocked down, zoologists will come to relocate any creatures who live in them. That nesting hollows can be removed intact and relocated into other trees or to the Wildlife Sanctuary. That trunks are kept for habitat in waterways. That several key precious trees will be kept, and designs will revolve around them. That any trees removed will be offset either by planting elsewhere in Nangak Tamboree or on campus, or elsewhere in a formal offset program. That the traditional owners, the Wurundjeri-WoiWurrung people, have been consulted and are advising on cultural heritage and awareness. That the design will feature careful landscaping and bring people to the area to enjoy the adjoining bushland, lakes and creek even more.

I also know that many big developments don’t bother with any of that, but this project team genuinely worries about all of these issues. And that the Nangak Tamboree waterways and revegetation project is a massive reparation process.

I get all that.

And yet…

And yet…

Offsets are not habitat.

Sports precincts for elite sports are not public spaces. (But universities are.)

Consultation is not the same as rights.

Mitigating loss is never as good as preventing it in the first place.

Tube stock planted now will not be wildlife habitat for years – maybe decades.

Remnant bush, even if a bit dodgy, is rare and precious.

Footy fields are not.

(And I say that as someone from a serious sporting family.)

waterhole, grasslands, trees.

That’s all. It’s going to happen. It is already happening.

It’s not really anything to do with me, but it makes me sad.

What do you think?

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