BUSINESS owners have called on the state government to quickly end uncertainty over a planned memorial park in Kingston’s Green Wedge so they can get on with investing in future business plans.
Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust has approached Kingston Council and the Labor state government outlining its plans to build a “Kingston Memorial Park” in Heatherton. The Trust intends to buy about 130 hectares of green wedge land north of Old Dandenong Rd to develop land for a cemetery and memorial park (‘Cemetery plot for Green Wedge’, The News 16/9/15).
The Trust has the power to compulsorily acquire land and a cemetery is a permitted use of green wedge land.
Landscapelink Nursery owner Kevin Gerraty says businesses within the area earmarked for the memorial park have not been consulted by the Trust, Kingston Council or the state government about its proposal.
“No-one informed us as to what was actually going on,” he said.
Mr Gerraty fears the loss of market gardens in the area could have a detrimental knock-on effect on neighbouring businesses.
“It’s like the car industry. Once you take one away – a few hundred acres – then it makes it unprofitable for the rest of them.
“They’ve all built their businesses around large acreages and if any get taken away it jeopardises the whole lot of them.”
The plants and trees nursery, which employs eleven staff, has been a success for more than two decades and Mr Gerraty says the family-owned operation would not want to move “because it’s such a good site”.
He says uncertainty over the memorial park plan is a hindrance for businesses in the area.
“When you don’t have a future everything just gets put on hold and you’re not going to construct anything until you have some certainty.”
Deakin University planning and food policy expert Dr Rachel Carey is concerned about the loss of any agricultural land around Melbourne.
“Almost half of Victoria’s fresh vegetables are still grown in market gardens around the city fringe and market gardens are an important part of Melbourne’s food bowl scattered around the city,” she said.
Dr Carey said remaining market gardens are vital and will be needed to feed Melbourne’s growing population into the future.
“As Melbourne’s population grows to about 7 million people by 2050, we’re going to need more places to grow vegetables to feed the city’s population so it’s really important we keep the existing [market garden] areas.
“Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.”
The Heatherton and Clayton market gardens are ideal for highly perishable vegetables “that don’t have to travel very far” to Melbourne, according to Dr Carey.
The university research fellow believes Melbourne’s food bowl is not as publicly recognised or appreciated due to food production areas such as Adelaide’s Barossa Valley or Sydney’s Hunter Valley since Melbourne’s “is in many smaller areas scattered around the city”.
The decision to allow Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust to buy land in Kingston’s Green Wedge will be made by the state government.
A spokeswoman for Health Minister Jill Hennessy told The News last month “no decision is expected any time soon”.