MELBOURNE Water is tight-lipped about any future sales of land alongside the pipeline from its Eastern Treatment Plant at Bangholme to the ocean outfall at Gunnamatta.
Speculation surrounds the possible sale of many blocks of various sizes – probably for residential purposes – as the authority seeks to make money from land reserved for the pipeline.
Concerns have been raised about the “piecemeal” sale of blocks which will reduce the land now being used as public reserves for playgrounds, walking and riding trails, and open space.
Other concerns are that Melbourne Water is using “speculative land sales” as a revenue stream.
Melbourne Water said on Friday the sale of land along the pipeline route was not on its agenda, although it confirmed the proposed sale of specific lots – some previously offered to, and rejected by, Mornington Peninsula Shire Council.
Nepean MP Martin Dixon has presented a petition in Parliament opposing the proposed sale of 181-183 Jetty Road, 14 Cook Avenue, 318 Bayview Road and Herman Street Reserve, Rosebud.
The land is zoned public use but there are concerns the authority intends to rezone it to residential 1a, allowing higher density urban development.
The petitioners said the land should be used by the public for “recreational purposes; to preserve the character of the existing neighbourhood, for its environmental values and ensure open spaces for all to enjoy”.
Mr Dixon said the land had previously been offered free to community groups under the Our Space. Your Place program.
“Residents only want part, not all, of the land to be retained for public open space. They are happy for the rest to be rezoned,” Mr Dixon told Parliament.
Water Minister Lisa Neville said three hectares in Herman Street were surplus to requirements and “must be considered for its highest and best use” and would be rezoned for future residential use.
She said two and a half hectares would be retained as public open space and connected by a path on Melbourne Water land between Jetty and Bayview roads.
Dunns Creek Landcare Group had asked to lease Melbourne Water land at Moats Corner, Dromana, but was told it was to be sold within three years.
Red Hill Ward’s Cr David Gill said the shire could not afford to buy the land from Melbourne Water, so the offer was a red herring.
“In my view Melbourne Water should have a management plan stating clearly what it plans to do with these areas, rather than selling them off piecemeal to maximise their returns. They don’t appear to be interested in the community benefit,” he said.
Nepean Liberal candidate Russell Joseph said easements up to 50 metres wide along the pipeline at Herman Street and Jetty Road were being used for parkland and bike paths.
“We don’t understand why land offered to the public in late 2016 is now up for sale.
“The point they are missing is that the land was already owned by the Victorian taxpayer, so why are we being asked to buy it.”
Cr Gill said the “piecemeal” sell-off and quest for the highest prices “raises suspicions about Melbourne Water’s intentions regarding possible future sell-offs of surplus land”.
“Council has asked questions but hasn’t got any replies, Melbourne Water has huge tracts of land running through the shire; it makes us uneasy.”