BY PAT CALLANAN
Braeside residents are concerned native trees and wildlife are being threatened in Braeside Park by the construction of the Mordialloc Freeway in Melbourne's south east.
A three-kilometre section of the freeway is currently being built next to the 310 hectare park.
Friends of Braeside Park Secretary Margaret Hunter expressed concern at the proximity of the freeway to Braeside Park and its habitats.
“The original plan for the freeway was going through the Park Office, but we successfully argued for it to be moved 30 metres away…[though] we would prefer if the freeway was 100 metres away,” Ms Hunter said.
The freeway will now run along the entire western border of the park, creating a border between its wetlands and the neighbouring Woodlands Industrial Estate wetlands.
Ms Hunter argued the original proposal of the freeway route in the 1960s does not reflect the native wildlife habitats, which now exist in the park and its surrounding area.
“The original route was planned when the area was an undrained swamp and a sewerage plant,” she said.
In a submission to the Victorian Joint Inquiry and Advisory Committee in March last year, Friends of Braeside Park argued construction of the freeway would threaten the park’s biodiversity and lead to a loss of wetland habitat.
“Eels may have to be relocated and birdlife may lose trees and natural habitat,” Ms Hunter said.
Friends of Braeside Park have identified native migratory birds including the Australasian Bittern as being particularly under threat.
According to the Mordialloc Freeway Environmental Effects Statement commissioned by the Victorian Government, there is a high risk for loss of native trees and ecological systems.
Major Road Projects Victoria spokesperson Luke Minton said a framework had been developed to manage the freeway’s environmental impacts.
“A plan that we developed under this includes relocation measures if an Australasian Bittern is found within the project area. To date, none have been observed,” Mr Minton said.
Mr Minton did not specify the planned relocation measures for any native animals found within the project area.
Scheduled for completion in 2021, the 9km freeway will link the Mornington Peninsula Freeway and Dingley Bypass.
Major Road Projects Victoria has predicted the freeway will save 10 minutes travel time and remove 13,000 trucks from local roads.