Fears for grasslands

Solomon Heights grass lands, Sunshine North. Photo by Damjan Janevski. 252415_01

Tara Murray

Supporters of the Solomon Heights grasslands fear the construction of the Melbourne Airport Rail Link will impact on the area’s flora and fauna.

The rail link will be built to the north-west of the existing rail line, which is next to the grasslands.

While the route for the airport rail link is still in the consultation stage, Grassy Plains Network facilitator Adrian Marshall said the group believed it would be constructed off-site on land next to where the rail link would meet the escapement of Solomon Heights.

He said there were seven or eight grasslands that would be affected by the construction of the airport rail link.

Mr Marshall said a number of burial sites had been found along the Maribyrnong River, adding that there’s an assumption the entire Solomon Heights escapement is culturally significant.’

The scope of the building works is going to be huge,” he said.

“There could be temporary impacts on Kangaroos not going to the area for a couple of years.

“There will be light and sound pollution which will disrupt the fauna.”

The land at Solomon Heights has been vacant since it was created as a residential subdivision in 1920s and rezoned to industrial in the 1940s.

Victoria University honorary research fellow in ecology, Megan O’Shea said the grasslands were home to a number of species of national environmental significance.

She said the grasslands are home to 29.5 hectares of Natural Temperate Grassland of the Victorian Volcanic Plain, which is critically endangered; 436 critically endangered Spiny Rice-flower plants; endangered striped legless lizards; and are a habitat of the Golden Sun Moth.

She said it was important that the environment of those animals wasn’t disturbed.

“It is really good quality grassland and it’s near the top tier of grasslands,” she said.

“We need to look after them and keep them in that high quality category as they’re becoming increasingly rare.

“It’s also the only place in Sunshine you can see eastern grey kangaroos, it’s part of an important corridor.”

Rail Projects Victoria Project has met with a number of local groups about the project, including those concerned about Solomon Heights to assess the entire project area and potential impacts.

Rail Projects Victoria Project director Ben Ryan said, “A long-awaited rail link to Melbourne Airport will transform the way people travel for the better, providing direct rail trips to and from the CBD in around 30 minutes.”

“There is a significant amount of work already being done to plan for potential construction impacts, including identifying areas of environmental, cultural and heritage significance.”