Completion of the Plenty River trail with 17km of new paths, and seven cycling trails totalling 11.34km in the Northern Trails Network are being funded by the Victorian Government.
It’s been nearly three years since Premier Dan Andrews promised in November 2018 a major expansion of middle suburban and outer suburban parklands and trails. At last we see some progress on this with an announcement by Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio on 30 April 2021.
A package of $230 million has been allocated for New regional parks and trails in outer growth areas and local parks, dog parks and revitalised parks in established suburbs.
Plenty River Trail
This project promises to complete the Plenty River Trail’s 21 kilometre missing link between University Hill in Bundoora and Doreen to the north. It includes 17 kilometres of new walking and cycling trails to connect to existing trails.
It will link Mernda and Hawkstowe railway stations and make it easier for the community to access the Plenty River and Plenty Gorge Park.
Northern Metropolitan Trails
Walking and cycle trails in the northern suburbs will receive $10 million of funding for 7 projects totalling 11.34km of new path. The Northern Trails Network Strategy was completed in 2016. It brings together 120 existing off-road trails and 96 proposed new trails. In total, the network will span 780 kilometres throughout seven municipalities (300 km existing path network, 480km new paths). It estimated $162 million would be required to complete the trail network.
The strategy integrates off-road bike and walking paths through Banyule, Whittlesea, Darebin, Yarra, Hume, Moreland and Nillumbik.
The following are the projects presently being funded:
|FUNDING RECIPIENT||PROJECT NAME||Distance||Funding $|
|Darebin City Council||Polaris Link Trail||0.14km||$232,000|
|Hume City Council||Merri Creek Trail – Section 1.4 (Campbellfield)||1.7km||$893,000|
|La Trobe University||La Trobe University Shared Path||1.9km||$1,395,000|
|Nillumbik Shire Council||Diamond Creek Extension – Stage 2||3.2km||$5.1 million|
|Whittlesea City Council||Edgars Creek Trail – Stage 1||0.4km||$180,000|
|Whittlesea City Council||Hendersons Creek Trail – Stages 2 – 4||2.3km||$1 million|
|Whittlesea City Council||Yan Yean Pipe Trail||1.7km||$1 million|
According to the Northern Region Bicycle Trail Network strategy (2016)(1) (Interactive Map) it would cost $162 million to develop and construct 480 kilometres of new bike paths in the northern region of Melbourne. For a 3 metre path the estimate is a benefit-cost ratio of 9.9 for the 30 year period. See our article: What would it take to build the Northern Region Trail Strategy? (July 22, 2019)
“The Northern Metropolitan Trails Program seeks to provide targeted investment of $10 million into new cycling and walking trails in Melbourne’s north. DELWP is working closely with the municipalities of Banyule, Darebin, Hume, Moreland, Nillumbik and Whittlesea to construct the seven new trail projects to be delivered as part of this program.”
“Funding for the $5.1 million Diamond Creek Trail Extension – Stage 2 was announced on 9 September 2020. Funding of $4.7 million for the other six trails was announced on 30 April 2021.”
While it is positive funding has been allocated to start building the network, the pace is a little underwhelming.
Note that none of the above trails are actually in Moreland. The extension of the Upfield Bike Path from Box Forest Road to the Western Ring Road path was funded in the 2018 State budget – it is 3 years later and work is still to commence. See Extension of path to Western Ring Road stymied by Metro Trains, VicTrack (November 9, 2019)
It has taken 3 years to develop this election promise. One hopes that the pace of trail construction picks up considerably or some of us will be dead before the Northern Trails Network is anywhere complete, and our children will likely be in aged care homes to old to enjoy the network.
Large areas of the northern suburbs has poor public transport, according to Infrastructure Victoria(2), which encourages high car dependency. This effects long term health outcomes for fitness, obesity and preventable chronic
Health statistics show that 63 per cent of Australian adults and 25 per cent of kids are overweight or obese. Cycling, walking and running are just some of the keys to a healthier lifestyle.
Building more bicycle paths and trails will increase take up of active transport for recreational and commuter use, that will improve health outcomes and reduce obesity in outer urban communities of Melbourne’s north.(3)
Northern Suburbs Parklands
For the Northern suburbs region the parklands expenditure will focus on Upper Merri Creek Parklands, Quarry Hills Parklands and investigating a potential regional park for Wallan:
Upper Merri Creek Parklands
The Upper Merri Creek Parklands is planned to be from Campbellfield to Beveridge. The project team is working with land owners and managers to link up land across an area of just over 2500 hectares to protect new areas for biodiversity and connect trails and open spaces. A park plan will be prepared and some park assets to improve community access will be built. Some of the parks that will be linked are:
- Craigieburn Grasslands
- Cooper St Grasslands
- Barry Road Grasslands
- Donnybrook Reserve
- Galada Tamboore
A potential regional park in Wallan
A study will conduct a corridor-wide assessment with the aim of providing increased open space within the northern growth corridor of Melbourne. The assessment will consider the location, opportunities and challenges for creating a regional park. It will also consider potential linkages with the proposed Upper Merri Creek Parklands.
The study will include:
- assessment of strategic need
- identification of available and suitable
Quarry Hills Parklands
Quarry Hills Parklands already offers beautiful natural landscapes and great city views. It’s set to get even better, more than doubling in size, reaching into Mernda and Wollert and bringing parts of Darebin Creek within its boundaries. It will also connect with the Darebin Creek Trail. The study area for the park is approximately 1,000 hectares. The project builds on the great work already done by the City of Whittlesea. Some park assets to improve community access will be built.
Pocket Parks for Moreland
Moreland gets very little from this package. Just contributions to develop two pocket parks:
Moreland City Council – Frith Street Pocket Park, Brunswick $1,300,000
Moreland City Council – Cardinal Road Pocket Park, Glenroy $1,300,000
Open Space Strategy for Melbourne
The Victorian Government also released its Open Space for Everyone Strategy, an Open Space Strategy for Metropolitan Melbourne 2021.
Update: Merri Creek Trail Section 1.4
I wondered where this new section of the Merri Creek Trail was, and was supplied feedback: “Regarding Merri Creek Trail Section 1.4, that is only the 800m section along Merri Concourse. I think *of itself* there isn’t much benefit to it but hopefully it will be extended to Cooper St. And there’s still the gap to the Ring Road, which is, undoubtedly, of more concern to Moreland riders.”
Yes, a vital gap indeed. Hume Council requested two and a half years ago that Major Roads Victoria, as part of the M80 Ring Road upgrade between Edgars Road and Sydney Road off-ramps, construct a 300 metre concrete path along the road easement from where the current Merri Creek Trail ends to the local Council Road. Council would then construct a path north to meet the Bolinda Road Reserve Merri Creek Trail. Major Roads Victoria rejected this, even though it is part of their mandate to include cycling projects with all major transport projects when it is needed to enhance the cycling network, under the Transport Integration Act 2010 and related DoT policies.
Instead cyclists (and others) got to choose the colour of the upgraded Blaxland Avenue overpass bridge. How good is greenwashing when an extension to the Merri Creek Trail would have been so much more beneficial?
(1) Northern Region Trails Strategy (2016) https://www.nillumbik.vic.gov.au/files/assets/public/council/council-publications/strategies-etc/northern-regional-trails-strategy.pdf
(2) Infrastructure Victoria, April 2019 – SGS – Economic, social and environmental profile Northern Metro Region – April 2019 http://www.infrastructurevictoria.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SGS-Economic-social-and-environmental-profile-Northern-Metro-Region-April-2019.pdf
(3) Obesity-related health impacts of active transport policies in Australia – a policy review and health impact modelling study, Brown, Vicki, Moodie, Marj, Cobiac, Linda, Mantilla, Herrera and Carter, Robert 2017, Obesity-related health impacts of active transport policies in Australia – a policy review and health impact modelling study, Australian and New Zealand journal of public health, vol. 41, no. 6, pp. 611-616, doi: 10.1111/1753-6405.12726.