Vast swathes of agricultural land nearby Melbourne’s urban fringe have been earmarked as potentially critical areas which could be protected from overdevelopment as the government in Victoria moves to permanently protect important farm land from residential encroachment.

The Department of Land, Water and Planning (DEWLP) has called for public submissions about which areas within Melbourne’s green wedge and peri-urban region should be considered to be strategic agricultural land and how these areas should be protected.

According to a map published by the Department, areas which could be considered for protection include:

  • Significant parts of the Mornington Peninsula, including areas ranging from Moorooduc to Hastings and Somerville and down as far as Flinders and Cape Schanck.
  • Large swathes of the outer south-east, ranging from Baxter through to Koo Wee Rup and stretching as far as Drouin and Warragul in the east and down toward Phillip Island in the south.
  • Large sections of the Yarra Valley in the east ranging from Healesville and Yarra Glen through to Warburton and down past Gembrook and toward Pakenham.
  • Significant areas surrounding Whittlesea in the north.
  • Large areas in Melbourne’s north in and around Kilmore, Lancefield, Romsey, Woodend, Kyneton and Gisborne.
  • Significant areas both south and north of Bacchus Marsh in Melbourne’s west.

The Department has also published a draft set of criteria against which land being considered for strategic agricultural status should be assessed.

These include the land being naturally fertile and capable of supporting intensive, soil-based agriculture; enjoying adequate access to secure water supply; being resilient against potential climate change impacts and being currently used for intensive agriculture.

Areas of land will not be considered if they are too small to support sustainable agricultural production, are too remote or offer poor access or are already set aside for other purposes.

As Victoria’s population grows, concerns about agricultural land being gobbled up by residential development have been increasing.

In 2015, land situated within 100 kilometres of Melbourne provided ten percent of Victoria’s agricultural production and 59 percent of its vegetables

In response, the government plans to recognise and protect strategic farm land within the state’s planning system.

Victorian Planning Minister Richard Wynne said the need to protect areas around Melbourne’s green wedges should not be underestimated.

“Once these areas are gone, they’re gone forever,” Wynne said

“It’s important we carefully assess these areas and preserve them for future generations.”