Living in Woodland

Mount Eliza Woodland – or just “Woodland” is the area bounded by the Nepean Hwy, Canadian Bay Rd, the Moorooduc Hwy and Humphries Rd.  While technically still inside the boundary of Greater Melbourne, our treed slopes form the entry to the Mornington Peninsula and its more relaxed lifestyle.

Mount Eliza Woodland is unique within the Melbourne metropolitan boundary and for that reason alone is worthy of preservation.  It has a special character – a bushland character – that is still largely intact, despite some of the effects of development.  With the residents’ cooperation, the Design and Development Overlay 18 allows its maintenance and enhancement as older and smaller dwellings throughout Woodland are inevitably redeveloped.

Mount Eliza Woodland has changed significantly since the area first began to be developed in the early 1970s.  Winding sandy tracks have been replaced by sealed roads and the sewerage system has replaced septic tanks.  Residents all have letterboxes at their gates – they are no longer dotted along the perimeter roads.  But while change is inevitable, we need to decide as a community what we allow to change and what we want to preserve.  For that reason, our dialogue as a community must be ongoing.

Living with Trees

Trees define our landscape.  They assist with lowering summer temperatures, help to soak up excessive rainfall when it occurs, contribute to wildlife corridors and provide homes for our native fauna.  When our trees are under threat, as we know they are, everything that defines Mount Eliza Woodland is under threat.

Trees, like people, pass through different life stages - juvenile, immature, mature, adult and senescent.  Its easy to think that trees live forever but senescing trees are those that are over mature and at the stage of decline. To ensure there are plenty of trees around for future generations to enjoy it's important that tree populations be managed properly.  Of course, old trees are the only ones likely to contain the hollows needed for nesting sites.  They need to remain part of our landscape.

The Vegetation Protection Overlay 1 (VPO1) sets out the Mornington Peninsula Shire’s requirements for vegetation management for Woodland and it sets out permit requirements for tree removal–particularly indigenous tree removal.  Make sure that you visit the Mornington Peninsula Shire website – www.mornpen.vic.gov.au before you undertake any tree removal and call Customer Service on 1300 850 600 for any further clarification needed.  Remember, fines can be imposed for failure to comply with the Shire’s requirements.

Unfortunately, at this point the regulations focus on tree removal and provide no tree planting information.  A visit to the Mornington Peninsula Shire’s plant nursery at the Briars will help you with advice on indigenous plantings – and, while you’re there take at least one of their walks to gain an insight into how this area looked, felt and smelt only a short time ago.

To assist you further, the segment - What should I plant? directs residents to the resources available to help select the trees and plants that are appropriate for Woodland and that will help your garden support our native fauna.

Are you bushfire ready?

There are more than 1700 blocks in Woodland making up about one third of Mount Eliza.  Its topography is essentially an escarpment on an east-west axis with the northern face running to Port Phillip Bay interspersed with valleys and creeks.  Because they can act as funnels for fire, its those valleys and creeks not just the trees alone that make a significant contribution to Woodland’s designation as “bushfire prone” under State Government regulations.

This means, that as well as special building requirements, the 10/30 or 10/50 Rule applies to vegetation clearing.  However, in some cases, a reduction in tree cover can actually result in the entire area becoming drier without the wind breaks that had been provided by the trees.  Its likely to be hotter as well, with more grasses and ground fuels available (including homeowners’ plantings) because of the greater sun exposure and more space available for individual plants.  As with many decisions the homeowner has to make, the way forward is not always clear cut.

Enter 10/30 or 10/50 Rule into your search engine to find all the necessary information.  Read it carefully and call the Mornington Peninsula Shire Customer Service Officers on 1300 850 600 and ask for advice on tree clearing requirements before proceeding if you are at all uncertain about how these regulations apply to your property.

To help you become better informed about sensible living within a bushfire prone area you should check out the CFA website which discusses how to “Prepare and maintain your property”.  Go to http://www.cfa.vic.gov.au/plan-prepare/prepare-and-maintain-your-property/Its an interactive website that will provide you with your responsibilities as a homeowner and the actions you need to carry out to help you prepare your property to better withstand bushfire.

The website http://www.cfa.vic.gov.au/plan-prepare/cfa-local/ allows you to enter your postcode and suburb and everything for the area comes up – including Fire Danger Ratings, Warnings, Community Meetings etc.

It is far better to have a plan for an emergency event that never occurs, than it is to have to start deciding what to do with the emergency right on your doorstep or your fenceline.

Planning Regulations

Since June 2014 Mount Eliza Woodland has had its own Design and Development Overlay – the DDO18 setting out the local planning laws.  Most people are aware that they are likely to require a building permit to construct a new house.  However, the DDO18 also sets out other requirements.

For example - fences make a big difference to streetscapes so, as we strive to maintain our streetscapes, it is possible that you will need a permit to build a new front fence if it is not going to meet the stated requirements.  We recommend that you consult the DDO18 to find out what’s allowed.  Don’t assume that you can do what your neighbours have done – their fence could well have been constructed before the change in regulations.

Living with Possums

Our main source of information is the Department of Environment, Land Water and Planning website (www.delwp.vic.gov.au).  This department has recently undergone a change of name so that the easiest way to access information is go to their home page and type possums into their search facility.

The website states: Like all other native animals, possums are protected under the Wildlife Act 1975. They must not be harmed in any way or kept without an authority from DEPI.  It is illegal to handle or interfere with possums except when they are in your roof, or other building.  A possum in your roof or eating your flowers can be very frustrating, but people and possums can live together successfully.

They go on to say - Many substances have been used in the hope that they will stop possums eating garden plants. DEPI is not aware of any definitively successful, universal repellent that will consistently deter possums from eating plants.

Interestingly, they note that substances that smell bad (to a possum) work better than those that taste bad.

Remembering that it is against the law to harm possums, it is possible to get advice on physical barriers for possums at Victoria’s hardware chains.

Feeding our wildlife

This is a vexed issue.  Because many Woodland residents enjoy the opportunity our environment provides for contact with our wildlife, they feed them to encourage them to come closer.

However, we all know that there are many reasons why we should not do this – most obviously because:

  1. It encourages dependence on humans for food
  2. It's seldom the best sort of food for them and
  3. It decreases fear of humans, encouraging them to come closer where they might be in danger of being attacked - for example, by dogs.

 There are other problems too – numbers are increased beyond those that would naturally be supported by the environment and some kinds of diseases can be transferred to pets and humans. We also need to think about how our actions encourage the presence of non-native, destructive wildlife – like foxes.