By Cam Lucadou-Wells
A key issue in the hotly contested Keysborough South ward is the Green Wedge – the wide agricultural expanse where most voters don’t live.
The 3741 hectare region also divides the three main candidates – Greens candidate Rhonda Garad and non-endorsed ALP candidates Ramy El-Sukkari and Stephen Fanous.
In the past, the wedge has been aggressively targeted for rezoning by developers and owners. At stake are millions of dollars of windfall profits if rezoning takes place.
Mr Fanous did not rule out supporting further development – including housing and sub-divisions.
“There would be definitely areas for housing estates.
“Again we have to be careful about overdeveloping. That balance should be maintained.”
A vision on the role and purpose of the Green Wedge had to be derived from the community and consistent with the State Government, he said.
“The Green Wedge is important to the liveability of Melbourne and it provides some significant open space.
“I believe that the Green Wedge could be better utilised for our community with new parks other than just the current run-down land that is there.
“I would also like to see more activation in the Keysborough end of the green wedge with a winery or other use like we have in Bangholme.”
Ms Garad was strongly in favour of protecting the Green Wedge from development.
She said further housing would exacerbate traffic congestion and a lack of infrastructure in the ward.
“The Green Wedge has a very important function. It was proposed to be the lungs of the area in a decision made a very long time ago by the State Government.
“People in the Keysborough South ward moved there largely for the beautiful environment that surrounds them.
“They value not only the parks and gardens around them but the Green Wedge.”
She warned that there could be a renewed push by developers if the ward’s councillor was pro-development.
Mr El-Sukkari said he fully supported the Green Wedge, though its future was open for review after 2030.
“We should first focus on building appropriate infrastructure and service to serve the current residential area.
“That’s going to take a long time before we look at redeveloping the Green Wedge.”
The South East Environment Group president said the proposed waste-to-energy plant in Dandenong South was a more immediate concern.
After this story was first posted, Mr El-Sukkari later added: “We are fortunate to have a unique green space in our area like the Green Wedge.
“There are lots of rumours that some interested people are pushing to re-zone Green Wedge for development. And God forbid if Keysborough South ends up with a pro-development councillor.
“If elected, keeping the Green Wedge ever greener and keeping it open space will be my top priority.”
In 2016, landowners unsuccessfully pushed to rezone more than 1000 hectares of the Green Wedge for a Chinese theme park, housing and industrial estates.
It included an ill-fated push by developer Intrapac to rezone Keysborough Golf Course fairways for homes.
More recently, Greater Dandenong Council approved Intrapac’s proposed Bangholme produce market warehouse.
The proposal was called in and rejected by Planning Minister Richard Wynne in 2018.