Eastgrove resident Kay Horner always knew the large block near her home would be developed one day
But she wasn't quite prepared for the sight of kangaroos furiously looking for a passage through their once familiar route to Goulburn wetlands.
A large sloping block on the corner of May and Chiswick Street, below Rocky Hill, has been half-cleared of native vegetation, leaving a visible scar in the bushland area.
A developer is planning a 28-lot Torrens title residential subdivision with blocks ranging from 729 to 1412 square metres. There is also a reserve block. Plans show Ada Street's extension along its eastern edge and an access off Chiswick Street.
"It's disappointing but I don't think anyone could have stopped it. That's progress," Mrs Horner, a May Street resident of 40 years, said.
"It was seeing the animals that upset me. When they (the developers) put the hessian up around the site the roos went crazy. They were running up and down the back fence because they couldn't get over."
Clearing started several months ago on about half of the seven-hectare block. The council's environment and planning director Scott Martin said the development application was approved in 2008.
"It was approved at a time when state government policies on vegetation clearing were very different," he said.
"Given the DA had commenced, it left the door open for indefinite approval...We can't (legally) stand in the way...Compared to today's standards it doesn't look great but it has legitimate approval."
Mr Martin said the extent of vegetation clearing was no greater than that originally proposed in the DA. In addition, there had been regrowth. But if current rules had applied, the developer would likely not have achieved the same lot yield and would have had to offset biodiversity loss with a land purchase elsewhere.
The clearing attracted "one or two formal complaints" but more enquiries.
The Post has sought comment from the developer.
The land has sold several times since 2008, when it was owned by the late Ange Zantis.
Friends of Goulburn Swamplands (FROGS) president Heather West fully appreciated the project had prior approval but lamented the loss of a well used wildlife corridor.
"It's disappointing there will be housing up there," she said.
"The wildlife would come from Mount Gray, Charles Valley and Rocky Hill. The roos especially moved freely and would come to the river for water."
A mob of roos moved through the now cleared land daily to the May Street wetlands and golf course opposite where they fed and rested until the late afternoon.
FROGS treasurer Bill Wilkes suspected the mob of about 25 roos had taken up permanent residency at the wetlands as a result.
Together with environmental expert and former local science teacher, Rod Falconer, he stopped vegetation clearing on the same site in 2015.
At the time, another owner felled almost a half-hectare of trees before the council stopped work because a construction certificate had not been granted. It did not issue a penalty.
Instead, general manager Warwick Bennett said this was not warranted as the party had immediately stopped work when requested, only six "insignificant trees" had been felled and some of the work stemmed from an earlier council order to clear vegetation for fire safety.
But Mr Falconer, who completed an ecological review of the area, said it was "among the best quality native wildlife reserves" in Goulburn.
"There is Yellow Box, red stringy barks, wattle and grevillea arenaria, which is a significant shrub. Goulburn has one of the largest populations of this species on the planet, covering Rocky Hill and Mount Gray," he said in 2015.
"It is a dense bushy plant flowering most of the year, allowing honeyeaters to migrate here to safely nest and feed."
Mr Falconer sat on the council's environment committee when the original subdivision was approved. He told The Post six years ago that members felt they couldn't change the situation due to prior agreements.
"Those agreements show the former council put 1940s notions of progress and private profit above amenity and the environmental quality of the town," he said.
Mr Wilkes believed the land should have been zoned scenic protection.
"There will be a small area left for scenic protection but it is mostly pines," he said.
Cr Margaret O'Neill, who was a councillor when the DA was approved, told The Post Mr Zantis had initially tried to clear trees from the block but the council refused.
"I believe in progress and if the trees are replaced I have no problem with it. I feel for the people who couldn't do it," she said.
But Mrs West was disappointed to see the tree canopy loss. She also feared housing on the block would change the water table dynamics and create more runoff.
Homes are however constructed opposite the subdivision on the northern side of Chiswick Street.
The developer is giving bark chip to the wetlands to assist planting.
Mrs Horner said the developer had been "very kind and helpful" and addressed her concerns about drainage. A drainage reserve will be included.
Meantime, Mr Martin told The Post the fact that people had raised concerns about the clearing was a sign of how far environmental conservation views had shifted.
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