THE likelihood of development is again looming over a former water reservoir in Kunyung Road, Mount Eliza, six years after it was decommissioned by South East Water and referred to the state government as “surplus” land.
At that time there was a community backlash against proposals to sell the land for housing and the matter was stalled.
A government spokesperson confirmed the Department of Treasury and Finance was now considering the land for alternate use and sale options.
However, other government entities would have first right of refusal before any public sale process.
Mornington Peninsula Shire Council can also express its interest to buy the site “for a community use”.
The spokesperson said that as standard practice any proposed rezoning, if needed, would go through the Department of Environment Land Water and Planning.
The 2.8-hectare site ceased operating as a water reservoir in 1999, and at one stage there were rumours that the buyer of the neighbouring Moondah estate in Kunyung Rd – Ryman Healthcare – was interested in acquiring it.
Mount Eliza residents say they are ready to fight for the land to be preserved for either community or environmental use and argue that open space is even more relevant to community wellbeing than ever.
South East Water managing director Lara Olsen last week said it was a matter for the state government which had determined that most of the site, except for a small pump station, should be made available for an alternative use.
“We always appreciate the input from the community on areas that concern them or our services and assets,” she said. “We know that the use of this land has been raised by the community for several years.
“We encourage the community to take part in any consultation, so their views are heard and understood.”
South Eastern Centre for Sustainability president Steve Karakitsos, who led the fight to protect the land in 2015, said the community would not be silent and was ready to fight again to ensure the land was preserved for its environmental importance and its community value.
Mount Eliza resident and mental health advocate Mary Ellen Smith said communities were looking for more opportunities to connect with the natural world, after three years of COVID the effects of climate change, and there was a realisation that natural surroundings need to be accessible to people in order to provide emotional and physical sustenance when needed.
She said the “spectacular natural environment” of 57 Kunyung Road could be lost forever if development was allowed, and that it was a significant source of learning for local school children.
“We need to protect these green areas both for nature’s sake, and for the sake of the community, so that people can visit and savour the beauty it has to offer,” Ms Smith said.
Ms Smith suggested it could become part of a larger national park incorporating 60-70 Kunyung Road, which is owned by Ryman Healthcare, whose proposal to build a large aged care centre was rejected at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal last year.
The land at 57 Kunyung Road is currently subject to a vegetation protection overlay, which recognises it as an important area of habitat and habitat corridors, assisting soil stability, reducing the intensity of stormwater runoff and limiting the erosion and siltation of streamlines.
Mornington Peninsula Shire Council was contacted for comment.