Section 173 Agreement between Melton Shire and Western Water
Pinkerton Forest

On Tuesday 27th April 2010 an agreement under Section 173 of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 between Melton Shire and Western Water was signed.
This S173 agreement provides protection of Pinkerton Forest in its natural state in perpetuity.

Cr Justin Mammarella (Mayor of Melton), John Wilkinson (Western Water Managing Director), Don Nardella (State MP for Melton) and Terry Larkin (Chairman of Western Water) present at signing of S173 agreement

The S173 agreement is in relation to the protection of the vegetation on site, requiring the implementation of the 10 year offset management plan and protection into perpetuity. The agreement prohibits, restricts or regulates the use of development of the land and can only be removed by mutual agreement between the two parties (Melton Shire Council and landowner). The agreement follows the landowner (land title) whom must give affect to the terms of the agreement.

  • The signing of this agreement indicates environmental awareness of the values of Pinkerton Forest at both a community, local government, corporate and state government
  • The participants to the signing ceremony indicates both the importance of the event and the interest in Pinkerton Forest by a large cross section of the community
    • John Wilkinson (Western Water Managing Director)
    • Mrs Noel Fethers (Pinkerton descendent)
        Noel Fethers planned and supervised the relocation of the family graves from Surbiton Park into Pinkerton Forest
    • Don Nardella (State MP for Melton)
    • Cr Justin Mammarella (Mayor of Melton Shire)
    • Terry Larkin (Chairman of Western Water)
    • Richard Rowe (President of Pinkerton Landcare and Environment Group)
    • Numerous representatives of local community groups
    • Local newspaper reporters and photographers

The signing of this agreement will protect both the environmental and heritage values of Pinkerton Forest.

John Wilkinson, Don Nardella and Terry Larkin

Terry Larkin (Chairman of Western Water) addressing visitors to Pinkerton Forest

Don Nardella (State MP for Melton)

Cr Justin Mammarella (Mayor of Melton Shire)

Richard Rowe (President of Pinkerton Landcare and Environment Group)

Noel Fethers (Pinkerton descendent) speaking of Pinkerton’s early history

Peter Gibbons describing the many environmental values of Pinkerton Forest

Visitors being shown around Pinkerton Forest

Environmental Values of Pinkerton Forest

Native grasslands and woodlands are fast disappearing in this region.

Just a few years ago Pinkerton Forest was described as: “overgrazed and contains few of its original species. There are no Grey Box seedlings on the site. The woodland will eventually disappear if some sections are not fenced to exclude stock” (Sites of Botanical Significance in the Western Region of Melbourne: Keith McDougall 1987).

  • Despite this dire prediction in 1987, Pinkerton Forest is now regarded as an example of how a highly degraded piece of remnant woodland has been restored to a Grassy Woodland that is home to an impressive diversity of native plants and wildlife.
  • It is hoped that the newly acquired woodland of Upper Pinkerton will also be returned to its natural Grassy Woodland state, with sound environmental management.

Pinkerton Landcare and Environment Group, (PLEG), in partnership with Western Water, is engaged in the management and protection of the natural environment of 35 hectares of remnant plains grassy woodland at Pinkerton Forest

The woodland is managed to improve the habitat for native wildlife protection by enhancement of the overall natural environment. We also take specific steps to protect targeted species:

Quarterly bird surveys by Bird Observation and Conservation Australia (BOCA) monitor the diversity of bird species (especially noting endangered species)

Over 150 bird species have been recorded by BOCA here to date

Pinkerton Forest has been found to provide refuge for many threatened woodland birds these include:

  • Diamond Firetail
  • Zebra Finch
  • Southern Whiteface
  • Jacky Winter
  • Brown Treecreeper

It has also provided a nesting site for Wedge-tailed Eagles and White-bellied Sea-eagles.

Pinkerton Forest also provides a refuge for several endangered local plants

These include:

  • Turkey Bush
  • Plains Joyweed

Pinkerton Landcare and Environment Group is actively seeking to identify several rare and endangered wildlife species suspected to exist in here, in order to ensure their effective protection.

These include:

  • Rare bullant Myrmecia species 17
  • Golden Sun Moth
  • Striped Legless Lizard

A pair of endangered White-bellied Sea-eagles was discovered nesting in the forest. This area was cordoned off to avoid human disturbance and ensured the successful raising of two juvenile sea-eagles. Sea-eagles have for several years been observed flying and fishing along the Werribee River, the adjacent Western Water sewerage treatment ponds and nearby Melton Reservoir. The sea-eagles successfully nested again the following year, and a year later, they are once again back at the nest.

Maintenance of water levels in a nearby redundant dam (originally requested to retain wetland bird habitat) ensured a constant supply of food for the eagle chicks.

White-bellied Sea-eagles are listed under International, Australian and State Government legislation and international conventions, as follows:

  • Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
  • Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988, and as Vulnerable under the Advisory List of Threatened Vertebrate Fauna in Victoria 2003.
  • Appendix II of the Convention on International in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) (CITES 2005).
  • China-Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (CAMBA) (Australian Legal Information Institute 2005).

Heritage values

Scarred tree with footholds

Pinkerton Forest is also of importance for its heritage values, focusing on protection of heritage values concerning both the original Kurunjang-balluk people who traditionally owned this land and also historical values concerning the first European settlers here:

A separate exclusion fence was placed around an ancient Aboriginal scar tree (just outside the reserve) to prevent approach and damage by cattle

  • This seemingly dead tree has lately sprouted new growth, (becoming a living reminder of the presence of the Kurunjang-balluk people rather than a dead fossil)
  • This is of high significance as a relatively rare type of site associated with food exploitation or as a look-out. The apparent age of the tree suggests Aboriginal origin. pg. 20 Surbiton Park Archaeological Survey, Gary Vines July 1992
  • Discovery of an artifact made of greenstone (quarried at Mt William near Lancefield) is evidence that goods were traded by local people from far away sources.

Pinkerton Forest also contains a large cairn that covers the graves of five of the Pinkerton family (the first European settlers of the Pinkerton Forest area).

Pinkerton graves in Pinkerton Forest

  • These graves had been moved many years earlier by Pinkerton descendents from Surbiton Park into the forest when the adjacent sewerage treatment plant was expanded
  • Pinkerton descendents retain an interest in the site where their ancestors originally settled

Original feed trough made from tree trunk