Elsternwick Park Nature Reserve Masterplan 2020
Council has adopted a new masterplan to guide the historic transformation of Elsternwick Park golf course into a natural oasis on our city’s doorstep. The new Elsternwick Park Nature Reserve will bring nature back into our urban area, providing refuge and tranquillity for both wildlife and people.
Key proposed elements include a ‘chain of ponds’, expanded wetlands, grassy woodland and visitor facilities such as indigenous gathering places and a gateway feature building at the northern end of the reserve adjacent to Nepean Highway. The plan has been strongly influenced by feedback from the broader community and a panel of community and Council/government agency members.
The Masterplan document is available here.
The report to the March 2020 Council Meeting is available here under Item 10.2. The report discusses the four Reserve Priorities (water quality, environment, amenity and flood protection) and the next steps for the project. The community consultation process will be scheduled in light of the rapidly evolving COVID-19/Coronavirus outbreak.
Council is in a unique position and wants your input. It is very rare to have the opportunity to plan for the future use of such a large area of open space. We are restricted to working within the Council resolution to create a passive open space/environmentally focussed reserve, however what this actually looks like is not open for community discussion.
To begin we are seeking your ideas and priorities quite broadly. This information will be used to collate feedback to inform the project brief for the design competition for the development of the Masterplan.
We will also return to consult broadly on the draft masterplan and ensure we have heard the community and this is reflected in the design.
Due to its size (almost 14Ha) and its location, bordering two local authorities and adjacent to a major transport routes (Nepean Highway and Sandringham train lines) Elsternwick Park Nature Reserve is likely to cater for a large and diverse group of people and will qualify as a Municipal/Regional Reserve.
Municipal/Regional Reserves cater for Bayside residents, tourists and others from outside of the municipality. Visitors to Municipal/Regional Reserves will spend long periods of time (2hrs or more) at the site and are likely to travel by car or public transport. Municipal/Regional Reserves are intended to cater for a diverse range of interests of all Bayside residents. These spaces often have a wide catchment because of the unique features they offer.
The scope of a Municipal/Regional reserve is discussed in detail in the Open Space Strategy provided in the document library on this page.
In order to gain an understanding of possible environmental benefits in line with Council’s priorities a Community Panel has been established. This Panel is made up of representatives from local wildlife groups, resident groups and stakeholders such as the City of Port Phillip, Melbourne Water and Elsternwick Park Association. The Panel does not have formal decision making authority and its function is to provide advice and contribute to the development of longer term strategies for the Reserve and be a resource to test development ideas.
Elsternwick Park Nature Reserve was once part of an extensive swamp area and is part of the traditional lands of the Boon Wurrung clan of the Kulin Nation. European settlement saw the swamp drained and the creation of the Elwood Canal which now allows flow from Elster Creek directly into Port Phillip Bay. Elster Creek flows through the park and is part of an extensive catchment encompassing parts of four municipalities, the Cities of Bayside, Port Phillip, Glen Eira and Kingston. Generally, Elster Creek is a highly modified waterway, over twenty kilometres in length. For most of this length it has been altered from a natural waterway to underground or surface concrete drains.Works in the Reserve since the 1950s include a water diversion via the Head Street drain, the creation of a lake in the south of the park and a small wetland in the north of the park. Despite the modest size of this wetland, it has become popular with local wildlife.
In 2006 low levels of golf activity and limitations of the golf course prompted Council to seek commercial expressions of interests to operate the golf course. Following this process, Leisure Management Services (LMS) commenced a 20 year lease including a proposal to convert the course into a commercial golf driving range.
In 2012 Council partnered with Victorian Amateur Football Association (VAFA) and the State government to develop a Masterplan for Elsternwick Park (North) excluding the golf course.
Council later expanded the scope to include the golf course and put forth a proposal to develop the National Home of Golf and Centre of Excellence.
Following community consultation, Council decided against the Home of Golf proposal and consulted the community on future options for the site which included a golf driving range.
Council later resolved not to proceed with a golf driving range and to consult the community on other options including:
- Retaining the golf course
- Preferred location for Oval 2
- Turning the golf course into open space
- Any other viable options - eco precinct, nature based park, etc.
A Deliberative Panel of 25 community members made recommendations for the future uses of Elsternwick Park (North). The Panel was made up of 50% interested stakeholders, e.g. sports, environmental and residents groups and 50% residents randomly invited to participate.
The panel’s majority recommendation was for an environmentally focused park (Option 1A) with 58% support. Additional facilities for organised sport was the next popular at 27% (Option 2) and 11% for the continuation of golf (Option 5).
As a result, Council decided that the land can better serve the community of Bayside through the creation of an environmental park that focuses on the following priorites:
- Flood Mitigation
- Water Quality
2018-2019 Council decisions about the Nature Reserve
At the June 2019 Council Meeting, Council considered a report on the key themes and outcomes from the community engagement process and, received an update of other Masterplan-related tasks underway or completed. The report to Council is available here
At the February 2019 Council Meeting, Council endorsed a proposed community engagement approach for the Elsternwick Park Nature Reserve Masterplan. The community engagement period ran from mid-March to the end of April 2019.
In a special meeting of Council on March 28 2018, Bayside City Council resolved to discontinue golf at Elsternwick Park North and create a passive open space/environmentally focussed reserve in the area that is currently occupied by the golf course.
In line with Council’s resolution to create an area of environmentally focussed passive open space, there are a number of uses that will not be considered. These include using the nature reserve for
- sports grounds or formal sports;
- off leash dog facilities; or
- other activities that will have a negative impact, or could reduce the environmental value of the Reserve.
Elsternwick Golf Course has been re-opened as public parkland for recreational use including picnics, running, walking and other activities. Work has started on technical investigations to determine the possibilities and limitations for turning the former golf course into an environmentally-focussed park.
Following handover, all golfing infrastructure was removed, including the irrigation systems used by the golf course. The grass was mown, litter was collected from around the course and wetland areas, and all large trees were inspected by Council arborists. The tree inspection resulted in some tree removal and remedial pruning and pro-active creation of habitat by installing nest boxes and creating hollows within existing trees. Most trees on site are mature and have deep and well-established root systems.
Current ongoing maintenance at the site includes mowing pedestrian ‘desire lines’ for walking through the reserve, regular rubbish removal and monitoring for evidence of pest animal species. The trees will continue to be observed by Council staff and mulching around trees and watering will be scheduled (via tanker) if required
The park is home to many special animals that include several threatened and near threatened species including the eastern great egret and the grey headed flying fox.
The development of Elsternwick Park as a nature reserve is supported in the Bayside Biodiversity Action Plan 2018-2027 (BAP) which recommends the following:
- Investigate opportunities of areas suitable for the expansion of the conservation reserve system.
- Use data and information available to identify key bushland areas for potential conservation or rehabilitation work, and possible elevation of reservation status.
- Undertake supplementary plantings and habitat augmentation works to improve wildlife corridors on public land (e.g. parks, areas of foreshore, roadsides, and libraries).
- Utilise dense shrubby species to provide habitat for smaller birds that are outcompeted by aggressive Noisy Miners and Common Mynas.
- Install nesting boxes for bats, possums and birds. Ensure regular monitoring and maintenance to prevent occupancy by undesirable pest species.
- Provide protective habitat for smaller birds that can be driven away by territorial Noisy Miners and Common Mynas.
- Plant clusters of dense indigenous shrubs in areas where aggressive Noisy Miners and Common Mynas are outcompeting smaller native birds.
All of these actions could be achieved in Elsternwick Park Nature Reserve and increase the opportunities for improving biodiversity and habitat not only in the reserve but in Bayside.
Within this master planning process Council will consider the likely impact of dogs on the ability to achieve these goals. This will mean dogs will continue to be required to be on a leash at all times. There may be areas where dogs are not permitted.
Flood mitigation and water quality solutions need to be creative and employ the best contemporary knowledge to achieve the desired outcomes. Council is working with neighbouring authorities and industry experts to investigate what flood mitigation and water quality benefits can be achieved.