Barry William Leslie Ross
Banker, surfer, conservationist
BARRY Ross played a major role in the protection of green wedges in Melbourne’s southeast including Frankston and the Mornington Peninsula for almost two decades. He was a conservationist for more than 40 years.
As long-time secretary of Defenders of the South East Green Wedge, part of the Green Wedges Coalition, Mr Ross was the bane of many a developer.
Mr Ross, who died in his sleep on Saturday 7 December aged 76 after a long battle with oesophageal cancer, provided a sharp edge to the Defenders in the state’s planning tribunal, VCAT.
He challenged dozens of cases in the tribunal, many successfully, as he fought to keep green wedges free of housing estates, industrial buildings and depots, and waste transfer stations.
Barry Ross was born in Richmond in 1943, the eldest son of Hugh and Alys Ross. Hugh, a salesman, served in the military during the World War II, and Alys worked in retail as well as raising Barry and younger brother Hugh Jnr, who died in his teens.
After the war the family moved to Edithvale where Mr Ross acquired a lifelong love of the beach and bush, later becoming a keen surfer. He attended Mordialloc High before joining ES&A bank, forerunner of ANZ, where he worked for 39 years, retiring in 1998.
His first conservation activity was opposing subdivision of Rossdale golf course at Aspendale in 1976. He joined Port Phillip Conservation Council and Friends of Edithvale Wetlands. Later he helped the wetlands gain a Ramsar listing to protect migratory bird habitat.
By day he was an unassuming banker, by night and at weekends he was a conservation warrior.
The Defenders was founded in 2001 as more and more developers eyed off the green wedges in Greater Dandenong, Kingston and Frankston municipalities.
The state government passed laws to establish the urban growth boundary and set green wedge zones in December 2003 but there were exceptions for certain industries including waste storage as well as grey areas in special use zones
Mr Ross’s first-ever VCAT appearance was to oppose a service station on Frankston–Dandenong Road at Bangholme, rejected by the tribunal in April 2002.
Between 2001 and 2015 he fought 28 cases in the VCAT and won 11. He was made a life member of the Defenders in 2011.
Mr Ross’s wife Christine said Barry worked hard even when he was very ill. “He would sit in his armchair with his laptop and crack hardy [put on a brave face]. He went to fewer meetings in recent times, but his productivity was undiminished.”
The couple was married for 38 years, first living at Seaford before moving to Hampton in 2012. Both Christine and son Sean helped Mr Ross with his projects, which they called his “green matters”.
Last week, colleagues and friends praised Mr Ross and his work. Rosemary West, a Kingston councillor and Green Wedges Coalition coordinator, wrote online: “We pay tribute to his courage, tenacity, integrity, decency and ability to fathom complex legal and bureaucratic matters.”
Fellow Defender Alan Hood said: “He was always calm under fire; I’d be emotional and letting fly at developers; he’d be calm, organised and deadly.”
Green wedge advocate and former Mornington Peninsula Shire councillor Leigh Eustace said: “Barry could dissect a planning application and find its weaknesses. He helped people and groups opposing green wedge incursions on the Mornington Peninsula. He helped write the shire’s first green wedge management plan in 2006.”
Mr Ross is survived by his wife Christine, their son Sean and grandson Arlo, and son Stewart from his first marriage.
First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 18 December 2019