The Balcombe Estuary Creek is one of the Mornington Peninsula’s major waterways and a significant natural asset. The Balcombe Estuary Creek and associated reserves (the Reserves) around it contain164 indigenous plant species, some of which are bioregionally endangered. The area also provides important habitat for the nationally threatened Dwarf Galaxias fish.

In addition to environmental values, the Reserves contain formal sport and recreation facilities such as tennis courts, cricket/football ovals, pistol club and bowls club. The Reserves also have several informal recreation facilities such as picnic tables, playgrounds, walking trails and fishing platforms.

Mount Martha Preschool and Maternal and Child Health Centre are also located within the Reserves.

In 2018, when consulting on our Planning Scheme Review, you let us know that the Balcombe Estuary was an important ecological asset that needed further protection.

With increasing population, the environment and the recreational facilities of the Reserves will come under increasing pressure.

We’ve now put together a draft Balcombe Estuary Reserve Ecological and Planning Study to find a balance between preserving the ecological values of the Balcombe Estuary Reserves, while supporting appropriate sport and recreation uses of the area.

To ensure future development is compatible with the significant biodiversity values of Reserves we are recommending that:

  • a new planning control be applied to the Reserves to limit the impact of future development and vegetation removal on the environmental significance of the area, and
  • small pockets of land be rezoned where the current zoning does not match the current or future land use.

The proposed new planning control to protect the environment is called an Environmental Significance Overlay. This overlay may restrict the future development potential of certain community, sport and recreational facilities.

If the overlay is put in place, Council may need to find and buy an alternative location to accommodate any future expansion of these facilities. Otherwise, if they have to remain where they are, expansion of these facilities may need to be prioritised over protecting environmental assets in some areas of the Reserves.

What’s an Environmental Significance Overlay (ESO)?

An ESO is used to ensure that development of land does not harm identified environmental values of particular areas within the Shire. In deciding whether to approve new development on land covered by an ESO, Council will consider the potential impact of any proposed buildings and works (and any associated planned vegetation loss) on the natural environment, including sites of flora and fauna significance and the landscape values of the area.

Will this affect my land?

No, only land owned by Council or the State government is proposed to be covered by the Environmental Significance Overlay.

Why is Council doing this work?

Council undertook a review of the Mornington Peninsula Planning Scheme in 2018. The Planning Scheme contains all the planning controls that affect how land can be used and developed across the Peninsula. Recommendation 186 of the review identified that Council should investigate whether an Environmental Significance Overlay should be applied to the Balcombe Estuary Reserves to protect this special environment.

In considering the ESO, Council also considered the increasing community need for sports, recreation and community infrastructure as Mount Martha’s population continues to grow. The right balance of planning controls must be achieved to preserve the ecological values of the Balcombe Estuary Reserves, whilst continuing to support appropriate sport and recreation and community uses within the area.

Will there be changes to the facilities, sporting fields and native bushland in the area?

This project only affects planning controls in the study area. Council does not have any plans to change existing facilities, sporting fields or native vegetation at this time.

Council received an overwhelming response during public exhibition of the draft Strategy between 17 May – 28 June 2021. Over 450 submissions were received.

Community feedback on the draft Study helped Council determine whether the Study contained the right recommendations, or if there was anything that needed to be changed or added.

This feedback also helped inform the development of the proposed Environmental Significance Overlay along with confirming the proposed sites to be rezoned. Ongoing discussions were held with relevant stakeholders.

A report on the community feedback, proposed Environmental Significance Overlay, proposed Planning Scheme Amendment (including sites to be rezoned) and the Final Ecological and Planning Study was presented to the Planning Services Committee on 15 August 2022

The Planning Services Committee on Monday, 15 August 2022:

  • received and considered all submissions
  • adopted the Balcombe Estuary & associated reserves: Ecological and Planning Study (Biosis, 2022)
  • decided to zone 499 Nepean Highway, Mount Martha (referred to as site 8 on the proposed planning zones map above) for conservation purposes rather than for public park and recreation purposes as recommended by Officers, and
  • resolved to seek authorisation from the Minister for Planning to prepare proposed Mornington Peninsula Planning Scheme Amendment C241morn (C241morn).

Officers have now submitted C241morn to the Minister for Planning for a decision.

Please refer to this webpage for updates on C241morn.