Roadside Environmental Workshop
convened by VicRoads
19 July 2016
Recent learnings about aboriginal land management and cultivation practices
need to be taken into account when assessing environmental values.
Victorian Volcanic Plains grasslands are a deceptively rich and critically
endangered ecosystem. The best remnants are in public lands that have
never been farmed, mostly beside roads and rail lines and in cemeteries.
Efforts to reconstruct them on farmed land have found that they need
to get rid of the top layer of fertilised soil where the phosphate
encourages exotic rather than indigenous plants.
Diverse microclimates around stony rises nurture greater diversity.
The development cycle of nesting hollows is far beyond a human lifespan,
let alone a research thesis timeframe. Many species that rely on speciﬁc
conﬁgurations for breeding live so long that even decades without
successful reproduction may not be noticed. This makes the retention of
a strong representative supply of older trees in which hollows may form
Roadside scrub is a mixed blessing. Loss of sight lines can have adverse
effects. Scrub also provides habitat for many smaller birds, some of
whom are as happy in our dreaded blackberries as anything else.
As was shown along the beach side of the Great Ocean Road after the
Wye River ﬁre, just fencing off scrubby areas and leaving them to their
own devices does not produce good outcomes.
When the Great Ocean Road from Lorne to Cumberland River was
widened around 1970, gravel was taken from a pit dug into the cliff,
compromising the popular track from the camp to the mountain
lookout which dominates the skyline. This has never been rectiﬁed
and continues to deteriorate to the point of being almost unusable.
If we want the public to care about the roadside environment it helps to
maintain its utility to humans. Pedestrians need safe space. Buses need more
stopping places. Human-friendly roadsides facilitate passive surveillance.
The hydrological performance of roads, verges and associated drains is
as important to the environment as anything. Even without spills, run
off from surfaced roads after a ﬁrst rain event is notoriously polluted.
Litter also gets ﬂushed, or stays there.
It is important to divert drains into sedimentation and biological
treatment ponds where water quality can be improved before
consideration of storage for reuse or discharge into streams including
via storm water drains. Wetlands that are intermittent by design are
more appropriate than decorative lakes in most places. Ideally we will
design for better containment of major spills than was possible after the
recent tanker collision and rupture on the Calder at Steele Creek.
It seems we have a road design culture which only sees and imagines
the ﬂeeting view from behind a windscreen. Beyond safety and
legibility, the passing view through the windscreen is of little import.
This culture needs to be rooted out and replaced by one which
looks at the road from the perspective of adjacent open space
users, from nearby homes, businesses and community activity
centres, to people waiting for or alighting public transport.