The future of the CSIRO site was discussed in Canberra in August 2011 between the Special Minister of State for the Public Service and Integrity, the Honourable Gary Gray, and Bayside Mayor, Cr Alex del Porto, and Council Chief Executive Officer, Adrian Robb. Council believes that the future development of the site has the potential to provide better linkages through Highett, provide additional housing, conserve significant Grassy Woodlands vegetation and provide passive recreation open space opportunities. The Mayor is quoted: “It is Council’s view that three to four hectares of the site can be protected and restored along with providing open space for passive recreation.”
The Trust, together with Friends of Highett Grassy Woodland, is advocating the preservation of an environmentally and historically significant area of land, known as the Highett Grassy Woodland, for the benefit of the community and the environment.
The Highett Grassy Woodland is a 3 hectare section of a 9.3 hectare CSIRO site in Highett, Victoria. The entire CSIRO site is in the process of being sold through a Federal Government process. After the sale, the land will ultimately fall under the jurisdiction of Victorian state and local planning controls, and will ultimately be threatened by medium-to-high density housing development.
Amazingly, the Highett Grassy Woodland has survived in Melbourne, despite 150 years of grazing, market gardens, tree felling, and building in the surrounding area.
In 2004, a flora and fauna assessment conducted by the CSIRO and Bayside City Council found the site to have:
- Local and regional biodiversity significance, including regionally rare Yellow Box eucalypts — an unusual occurrence of the species in grassy woodland in southern Victoria, where all grassy woodland is endangered
- The presence of large and significant River Red Gum trees around the site
- The presence of seven recorded flora species that are rare within the Gippsland Plain bioregion and therefore of regional significance.
- The presence of several native flora and fauna species that are rare within the Highett area and therefore of local significance for biodiversity.
What is known as the Highett Grassy Woodland, at the southern end of the CSIRO site, has the last remnant mature stand of Yellow Box (Eucalyptus melliodora) remaining in the Gippsland Plain bioregion west of Sale, and 200-plus-year-old River Red Gum trees along with an understorey of wildflowers and indigenous grasses. Its soils also remain a valuable seed bank of indigenous species. Grassy woodland is generally endangered but the Highett Grassy Woodland is probably unique as the last surviving Sandbelt grassy woodland with Yellow Box trees.
Also, in 2004, the Friends of the Highett Grassy Woodland lobbied for the protection of this unique woodland area, and with the support of other groups, succeeded in gaining amongst other concessions:
- Recognition of the vegetation as a State Government Biosite
- An official assessment by Biosis Research Pty Ltd
- Support by the Federal Environment Minister (2004) David Kemp
- Commitment by the Federal Government to do some restoration and protect some of the woodland “in the longer term”
- Rejection of a ‘concept’ of the site being covered with housing
- Changes to Highett Structure Plan and the Bayside Planning Scheme to recognise the value of the Highett Grassy Woodland.
Bayside City Council has a clear, united position to advocate for the preservation of “in the order of 3 or 4 hectares” of the CSIRO site for the woodland to survive “as naturally as possible” and provide open space for passive recreation. This position is supported by the neighbouring Kingston City Council.
Preservation of this area, known as the Highett Grassy Woodland, is even more important these days, considering the increasing wave of high density development occurring in suburban Melbourne. A unique opportunity exists to conserve some vital elements of our natural heritage and provide precious open space for passive recreational use.
For more information, visit the Highett Grassy Woodland website at http://www.highettgrassywoodland.com/