Enjoyment for generations to come
By Karin Orpen OAM, JP
The article in the Gully News June edition regarding the effective advocacy by the Residents Action Group in the ‘90s brought back memories of the ongoing challenges to create this wonderful space for the community long after the quarry ceased extraction.
Rehabilitation of the site took many years and concurrently Knox Council had begun extensive community consultation to enshrine protection of the Dandenong Foothills into the Knox and State Planning schemes – a process which took almost six years and was legislated in 2006.
In the early 2000s, as the Ward Councillor, I was alerted by an officer at Council to the possible subdivision contained in the legal agreement signed off by CSR Quarry, Knox Council and the former Shire of Sherbrooke. The total site was subsequently the responsibility of Knox following the 1994 Council amalgamations. This subdivision had extensive housing lots along Railway Road which would have severed public access to the ‘flatter’ area and impacted the breathtaking vistas we now enjoy.
Council officer Angelo and I arranged a meeting with CSR, who flew down a representative from Sydney. I was impressed with his willingness to consider our work to date on the Foothills protections and take back to the Board our suggestion for a housing development which could incorporate a more appropriate subdivision that retained established trees and offered the opportunity to create magnificent public open space. We knew full well that CSR could have dug their heels in and stuck to the Concept Plan ‘generally in accordance with the Agreement’, but I pointed out that CSR had an opportunity to create something quite unique to be ‘enjoyed for generations to come’. Fortunately he and CSR agreed.
I then arranged a public meeting in 2003 which was attended by more than 100 interested residents. The new subdivision, subsequently named Peregrine Heights Estate, went on public display mid-2004 and
covered approximately one third of the former quarry site, with the remainder to be public open space.
The retention of the ‘flatter’ area along Railway Road for public open space rather than housing was key. This is the space now containing the lawn areas and playground. This area in the middle was owned by the Crown and was to be transferred to CSR for a price to be determined. My motto has always been ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get,’ and I approached Anne Eckstein, who was the State Member for Ferntree Gully at the time, and explained why this section of the former quarry was critical to the overall benefit of the public park. Anne successfully convinced her parliamentary colleagues to transfer the land to Knox Council at no cost.
As Ward Councillor I ensured that public consultation on the parks development following rehabilitation was delayed until most residents had moved into the Estate so that they also could have a say. A few spirited meetings were held with residents from the Ferntree Gully end and the Upper Ferntree Gully end, and a favoured concept agreed upon. In my 20+ years on council, after the heroic efforts by the community to cease quarry operations, I cannot recall dealing with better corporate citizens than CSR in their willingness to adapt their development plans to fit more appropriately with the only public reserve in Knox that connects to the National Park.
Karin Orpen is Secretary of Knox Historical Society Inc.
She was Dobson Ward Councillor 1990-1994, 1997-2008, 2012-2016.