The Balcombe Estuary is one of the Mornington Peninsula’s major waterways and a significant natural asset. The Estuary and reserves around it contain164 indigenous plant species, including Swamp Scrub and Grassy Woodland which are bioregionally endangered. The area also provides important habitat for threatened or near threatened fish and bird species such as the Dwarf Galaxias fish, Royal Spoonbill and Pacific Gull.

In addition to environmental values, the Balcombe Estuary Reserves contain formal sport and recreation facilities such as tennis courts, cricket/football ovals, pistol club and bowls club. The Reserves also have several nformal 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.

How will my feedback be used?

The draft Balcombe Estuary Reserve Ecological and Planning Study has been developed by ecological experts (Biosis Consultants) in partnership with Council. The Study contains recommendations for how we can best protect the natural environment of the Balcombe Estuary Reserves while highlighting conflicting interests and potential threats. We are now looking to the community for further input and guidance.

Community feedback on the draft Study will help Council determine whether the Study contains the right recommendations, or if there’s anything we need to change or add.

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 must also consider 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 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.

How can I stay up to date with the project?

To receive updates about the Plans, click on the 'Follow' button at the top of this page.

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

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

The Ecological and Planning Study will also be finalised.

A report on the community feedback, proposed Environmental Significance Overlay, proposed sites to be rezoned and the Final Ecological and Planning Study will be presented to Council in November 2021.