THE Barkers Rd closure saga may have come to an end but such is the nature of epic tales that it may well have a stanza or two to run.
The story so far: a vacant block at 2 Barkers Rd, Main Ridge, was bought by Ms Antoinette Noronho for $425,000 at a mortgagee’s auction in early 2013 after the previous owner had failed to get permission for an access road to his “landlocked” 16-hectare property. Previous sale price: nearly $1 million.
Ms Noronho seeks access to her land via a track through a Parks Victoria reserve, the Main Ridge Nature Conservation Reserve, which abounds, according to 12 neighbourhood objectors, with flora including “a rare native orchid”. This destruction is a great pity, they say.
But access she will get, since all landowners have a legal right to this, which was made clear at the 9 June council meeting. The access road sought will do far less damage than a possible alternative, which would require expensive roadworks that would destroy a fern gully down the slope of Manton Creek, the meeting was told.
The nature reserve will gain about 5700 square metres as a result of closing Barkers Rd. The reserve will gain a further 7000 square metres of land from Ms Noronho. She will pay for the new compacted crushed rock access road along a six-metre wide road reserve. The unused section will be left to return to its natural state.
At the council meeting it was, to simplify the arguments, lawyers (for access) versus their opponents. Cr David Gibb, staunch green wedge defender, was joined by Cr Antonella Celi. Against them was barrister Cr Hugh Fraser and retired County Court judge Cr Tim Wood.
Shire road safety officer Nicola Belcher’s responses follow councillors’ questions:
Cr Gibb asked why Ms Noronho wanted access. Ms Belcher: To clear weeds and do fire management work. That is on hold for lack of access.
Cr Celi: Can’t the road access wait until a [house] planning permit is sought? Yes, but they need access now for the other work.
Cr Wood: Are not all property owners entitled to lawful access to their land? Yes. Cr Wood: Parks Victoria supports the access application? Yes. Cr Wood: The sacrifice of vegetation is less by this access route than would be the case if Barkers Rd were to continue and a bridge was built over Manton Creek, in which case unique flora and fauna would be lost? Yes.
Cr Fraser: Am I right in recalling that Barkers Rd ends in a fern gully, that the road is only formalised for a very short way [past the access point sought], becoming a track? Yes.
Cr Gibb: Effectively the block is landlocked and an application to bridge Manton Creek would be refused because it would run foul of flora and fauna laws? That is outside my area of expertise.
Cr Gibb: Is it not the case that you’re asking us to unlock their land, which is technically landlocked without access to Barkers Rd, and arguably you’re unlikely to get permission to build a bridge over Manton Creek and they shouldn’t be trespassing on the flora and fauna reserve? They have a right to legal access to their property.
Cr Fraser: Every owner of land that is landlocked has the right to apply to the Supreme Court to have a right of access granted? Yes.
The motion, moved Cr Wood, seconded Cr Fraser, was carried. Like all good sagas, we can await a strange or unusual twist in the tale.