By Michael Doran
The State Government is moving to bring certainty to 1,000 hectares of land in Christmas Hills, owned by Melbourne Water and previously set aside for the Watsons Creek Storage Reservoir.
On 22 October, Minister for Water, Lisa Neville announced the state government’s intention to return 280 hectares of the native land back to the Crown.
This will expand the Warrandyte-Kinglake Nature Conservation Reserve and ensure the protection of the Rob Roy Hill Climb route and the Christmas Hills Hall.
‘We look forward to working with Melbourne Water and the local community to give certainty for landowners and the public about the future use of land in this area,” Ms. Neville said.
A further 313 hectares of privately owned land in Christmas Hills and Smiths Gully is subject to a Public Acquisition Overlay.
Melbourne Water is proposing this overlay be removed and thereby give certainty about future use to the existing landowners.
The balance of the land owned by Melbourne Water is currently the subject of an intensive community engagement process as part of the Christmas Hills Master Plan.
Melbourne Water is proposing the land be re-zoned and sold on the open market and local community groups are lobbying hard to have their voices heard.
Ms. Neville said she has asked Melbourne Water to undertake further engagement as part of developing the Master Plan and to ensure the use of the surplus land benefits the community.
Further consultation with Nillumbik Shire Council and investigation of further opportunities to update and consult with stakeholders and the community was urged by Ms. Neville in the announcement.
Member for Yan Yean, Danielle Green said, “We have a once in a generation opportunity to protect and enhance this important asset – so we want the Christmas Hills community to have their voices heard as part of this process.”
Melbourne Water has previously transferred 700 hectares of land for conservation purposes from its original holdings.
More information on the community consultation process can be found at www.melbournewater.com.au