Sunday, August 31, 2008

victorian transport plan

Last week I attended Transport Forum in Doncaster held by Minister for Roads, Tim Pallas. It was the seventh of eight forums being held around Victoria. The forum was well attended by public transport advocates and many from the local government sector. I was joined by representatives of the Eastern Transport Coalition who loudly stated their case for more public transport in the outer east.

The Minister made mention many times of roads and freight but the forum was far more interested in public transport and discussion came back to this time and time again. The forum argued a strong case for improvements to public transport infrastructure across Melbourne.

There was a call for an Eddington like study across the whole Melbourne region and of concern to me was the Minister’s answer “that’s what we’re doing at the moment”. A well managed, heavily facilitated set of forums is a long way from the in depth study that Sir Rod Eddington undertook.

The Victorian Transport Forum was a good opportunity to demonstrate to Minister Pallas the desperate need for more public transport, in particular rail and buses in the outer east.

I took the opportunity to highlight to the Minister that while the lack of public transport affected people including the unemployed, students and pensioners, people living in areas of the Yarra Ranges including the Dandenongs and along the Warburton Highway also suffered from poor public transport access. Residents in these locations have no other choice than to travel by car, and are spending a greater proportion of their income on vehicle costs.

The impact of peak oil and climate change will only exacerbate pressures on residents in the outer east struggling to get by on already tight household budgets, and it is imperative their public transport needs are taken into account when developing a transport plan.

The Public Transport message has been delivered again to the State Government and I look forward to seeing public transport being a key focus of the outcomes later this year.

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climate torch in yarra ranges

This week sees the Get Up Climate Torch make its way through the Shire.

On Tuesday 2nd September the torch will start at midday at the Cement Creek Road Bridge (East Warburton) in an event hosted by The Wilderness Society and make its way to Warburton where it will be handed over to the local community (2pm). After that a forum on environmental issues will be held at the Wild Thyme Café where I will be speaking about the role forests have to play in storing carbon as part of the climate change solution (drawing heavily from the Green Carbon report recently released by the ANU).

On Wednesday 3rd September the torch will be in Sassafras where students from Sherbrooke Community School will relay the torch from their school to arrive at the village green (corner Mountain Highway and Mt Dandy Tourist Road) at 1:00pm in Sassafras where it will be handed to me to say a few words.

Native Forests, one of the answers to climate change, a ready made carbon store or carbon bank.

On Thursday 4th September the torch will be in Healesville. The Torch will start its journey on top of Mount St. Leonard, the highest point in the region, passing down Myers Creek Road (this section by vehicle, not runners) then along Maroondah Highway to the Healesville Railway Station, where there will be a celebratory event where I will be speaking.

If you can, please try and make one of these events, it’s important that the climate torch receives the support it deserves, we need to show our leaders that we want action on climate change now.

For more info visit:

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weedbusting at birdsland

Tomorrow marks the start of Weedbusters Week, a national awareness program aimed at the community to achieve sustainable land and water management, primarily through increased public involvement in weed management and education projects.

Weedbusters Week started nationally in 1997 and it is auspiced by the DPI in Victoria. This year the Shire has organised a swap your weeds for native plants program, as part of the ‘Grow Me Instead’ campaign. The weed swap kicked off this morning at the Southern Dandenongs Community Nursery at Birdsland in Belgrave Heights.

It took me only a couple of minutes to get my weed samples together, and all the usual suspects were there, ivy, pittosporum, angled onion, dandelion.

Katie Jacobsen (Landcare Officer with the Shire), Me and Garrique Pergl (President of the SDCN) exchanging weeds for a fine selection of native plants.

Gavin and Katie from the shire were kept very busy with a steady stream of residents bearing their sample weeds (in one case a trailer load of agapanthus – that’s what I call enthusiastic!) and receiving their native plants in exchange.

Residents can go along to the Southern Dandenongs Community Nursery at Birdsland (and a number of other sites in the Shire – check and swap 2 sample weeds for up to a maximum of 6 native plants.

It’s a great initiative - I encourage you to go along to Birdsland next Sunday 7th September when the weed swap is on again between 9:00am and 12:00pm.

The collection of weeds so far, and this doesn't include the trailer load of agapanthus. Residents keenly took to the task of bringing in samples of weeds to exchange for native plants.

The Southern Dandenongs Community Nursery does a great job and is open every Sunday and Tuesday between 9 and 12. They have a great mix of indigenous plants and cover the full spectrum from groundcovers, understorey plants right up to Mountain Ash and Mountain Grey Gums. It’s well worth a visit to source all your native plantings.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

report from the round table – 26th Aug

Another busy night at council with public submitters and questions from the public as well. Submitters covered diverse issues, one talking about the use of 1080, an appalling poison, still used in this country to kill animals, the impact on wildlife is devastating and I can’t understand why our government still permits its use.

Another submitter was seeking some additional fixtures on the Lilydale Skate Park to enable local skaters to do more ‘street’ tricks. It was great to see someone young addressing council, I hope we see more of it.

The gallery was packed with residents of Walmsley Friendship Village seeking a rate reduction, so there was much activity on the night.

But the issue I’m going to report back on was an item about GP services in the Shire. This is an issue I’m very concerned about, the statistics are shocking. In the Hills region of the shire the ratio of people to GPs is 1350:1. This is the seventh highest in Australia and is certainly the highest in a metropolitan area.

Back in June I wrote to the Eastern Ranges GP Association and the Knox Division of General Practice offering my assistance to help with any advocacy efforts to increase GP numbers in the region. I went on to assure both organisations that the Shire will continue to work in partnership in support of GP services across the Shire.

The models in place at the moment are letting our community down and it’s a tragedy that people are being forced off the mountain to see a GP or end up at casualty at The Angliss Hospital.

I’m very concerned about the lack of Doctors and prior to the council meeting I amended a motion to put before council that looked specifically at the issues in the Dandenongs. The motion sought to write to the Federal Government and local politicians to advocate for a range of things including ways to address the critical shortage of Doctors in the area. Although the Mayor did not give me the opportunity to move my motion, I certainly seconded it and it did get the full support of council.

We are at crisis level, 1350:1 is not an acceptable ratio and we need to take every opportunity to highlight the plight of our community. Our community shouldn’t have to roll the dice every time they want to see a GP. This is a telling example of where one size does not fit all, and the metropolitan rating of the Dandenongs is completely inappropriate in spite of our close location to the Angliss Hospital.

I hope that if enough people put pressure on government we will see some positive change and our community gets appropriate access to GPs across the Hills.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

50kph - a case by case?

Earlier this year I took up the challenge to try and get the speed limits in our townships reduced to 50km/h. I decided to tackle this issue after significant ongoing community concern about speed limits, crashes and pedestrian safety in Selby and Kallista. When I investigated the issue further it seemed that a number of townships throughout the shire have the same issues.

All advocacy attempts with VicRoads have been unsuccessful so after a resolution through council in April, moved by me, the Council wrote to Minister Pallas about the issue detailing my concerns.

“Increased traffic volumes and associated speeds present significant risks to children and adults crossing roads to access bus stops, shops and community facilities, particularly in township areas.......We have had no success in the past gaining 50 km/h speed limits in these townships by approaching VicRoads. It seems that Vic Roads have based their decisions on traffic flow rather than pedestrian safety.”

In July Minister Pallas wrote backOuter metropolitan townships that qualify for a 50 km/h speed zone under VicRoads’ guidelines are those where continuous retail development is present on both sides of the road for at least 200 metres, and where there is significant pedestrian movement and a history of casualty crashes involving pedestrians……I am advised that Belgrave South, Coldstream, Kallista, Montrose, Millgrove, Mt Evelyn, Mt Dandenong, Sassafras, Selby, Tecoma, Wandin North, Wesburn, Woori Yallock and Yarra Glen do not currently qualify for a 50 km/h speed limit under the guidelines.”

"A typical day on the Belgrave Gembrook Road, in Selby. Buses, cars, trucks, parked cars, pedestrians, general store, doctors, mechanics, community house, tennis courts, reserves, preschool, church - all negotiating their way on a very constrained rural road at a 60 km/h speed limit - a recipe for disaster."

The Minister went on to say I understand that VicRoads, in response to the Shire’s request, has agreed to review these towns on a case-by-case basis to determine the need to reduce the speed limit to 50 km/h.”

Let’s hope that VicRoads looks beyond it guidelines and takes into account local concerns. I will continue to fight for 50 km/h in our townships, this issue is raised with me time and time again, it’s something our community wants, it’s something they should have.

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

lightening your footprint at selby community house

Selby Community House is holding what sounds to be a very interesting and useful public forum.

Karl Williams from the house says “Hey, I heard this guy recently and he’s really impressive”.

Andrew Cooper, author of the sustainability classic
The Little Things is going to lead a discussion entitled
From Little Things, Big Things Grow.

If you’re overwhelmed by the enormity of our environmental impact come and wondering what you can do, come and hear Andrew share his tips on how to leave a lighter footprint by putting into practice a myriad of simple household hints.

"What a great place to hold a sustainability forum. Selby Community House plays an important role in raising awareness in the local community. I support the work the House does and I'm pleased that this year they received an additional $16,700 to complete work on the multipurpose shed."

Where: Selby Community House, Wombalana Rd, Selby
When: Thursday September 4th at 7 pm.
Cost: Gold coin donation, light refreshments supplied

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

display not so flash

This week I met with a concerned resident from Tecoma about an application for a liquor licence at 1571 Burwood Highway, Tecoma, the old site of Flash Car Care.
Although the resident was concerned about the merits of the application, of equal concern was the display of the application notice.

View from the footpath, the notice is set back too far to read or observe from the path.

The guidelines are clear and Liquor Licensing Commission states “The notice must be displayed in a manner that invites public attention to the application on its main street frontage of the site or premises in a visible position and at eye level.

Naturestrip in the foreground, a very challenging site, but residents have a right to know what's happening.

In this instance I accept that the location for the sign placement may be due to site constraints, however, the site has poles located near the footpath as well as fences/walls on each of the boundaries and permission could have been sought to display notice of application there rather than on the front window which is set back quite some distance from the footpath.

It is my view that the community are not even aware of this application and they do have the right to be informed and aware.

I have written to the Director of the Liquor Licensing Commission expressing my concern and asking for an extension of time for submissions by residents and have asked if the applicant can explore alternative opportunities to display the notice of application.

It is important that all application notices (whether it be for liquor licensing, planning applications or anything else for that matter) are well within the public view. This may seem trivial but the community has a right to know what is planned for its town and it has a right to respond.

How it should be done, prominent position, fluoro colour so people 'notice the notice'

(the current application for the Belgrave Public Toilets).

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

celebrating 100 years of the vote

Today I had a spot on the “Shire Show”, a regular show on Yarra Valley FM (99.1). As a councillor I’ve done many things, but this was the first time I’ve taken part in a guest spot on community radio.

I was there promoting a fantastic upcoming event that myself and the other Yarra Ranges women councillors, Jeanette McRae and Monika Keane, are hosting.

Come and celebrate

100 YEARS of women’s right

to vote in Victoria

When: Saturday 20th September, 2008, 7pm till late
Where: Coldstream Community Centre, Kelso Street, Coldstream (Melways Ref: 281 B10).
Tix: $70 / $50 concession – includes dinner, live music and entertainment East Timorese style, drinks at bar prices.

Bookings Essential: Contact Kelly 9294 6106

The night features the Tracey Roberts Trio, Ego Lemos (one of East Timor’s leading musicians), Art display and sales as well as a silent auction. All proceeds from the night will go to ETWA’s (East Timor Women Australia) Gimme Shelter Campaign.

Gimme Shelter aims to raise funds for weaving centres for women in remote communities in East Timor.

The women live in difficult environments far from hospitals, supermarkets, public transport and all the services we take for granted. Life is often hard and it’s really difficult for most women to live healthy lives but even more difficult for the two in five women who lost their husbands during the 24 year Indonesian occupation.

While women lack material wealth, they have amazing weaving skills. By utilising these skills, they have opportunities to earn the cash needed to pay for simple things like a bus ride to a hospital and school fees for their children’s education. Recently, women in three remote villages in the south-east of the island mobilised and together they weave traditional cloth for international markets. They’re hopeful and confident but they need help to create sustainable work environments.

Gimme Shelter is about helping women in these groups. Gimme Shelter will raise funds for solar panels to light up the women’s lives, buildings to protect them from the wind, sun and rain, equipment to make life easier and training to help them develop sustainable enterprises.

Working collectively is also important for East Timorese women. Solar panels will enable the groups to weave in the evening. A space to work together will help them support each other. Equipment will simplify the weaving process and training will help them manage their cooperatives more effectively and sustainably.

Gimme Shelter is helping East Timorese women weave a positive and sustainable future for their families and communities.

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

mountain ash = carbon stash

The most astounding report hit my desk a couple of weeks ago, I was so amazed by the contents of the study that I spoke about them at last week’s council meeting. Green Carbon, the role of natural forest in carbon storage has just been released by the Australian National University.

The study, conducted by Brendan Mackey, Heather Keith, Sandra Berry and David Lindenmayer, reveals some remarkable facts about the capacity of Eucalyptus Regnans (Mountain Ash) to store carbon. The scientists have found that Mountain Ash have the capacity to store 10 times more carbon than other native forests in Australia.

In studying Australia’s forests it was found that the highest biomass carbon stocks are in the mountain ash forests of the Central Highlands of Victoria and in Tasmania. These forests store an average of more than 1200 tonnes biomass carbon, and a maximum of over 2000 tonnes of biomass carbon per hectare of forest. This is exactly the forest that is currently reserved for Melbourne’s water catchments and is still being logged to supply the woodchip industry (85% of logged Mountain Ash forest goes to pulp).

ANU scientists have calculated that the average amount of carbon stored in unlogged natural eucalypt forests is about 640 tonnes per hectare. According to the leading worldwide climate change scientific body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the average carbon stock in temperate forests is only 217 tonnes of carbon per hectare.

The research found that around 9.3 billion tonnes of carbon can be stored in the 14.5 million hectares of natural eucalypt forests in south-east Australia if they are left undisturbed. The carbon currently stored in these forests is equivalent to “avoided emissions” of 460 million tonnes of CO2 per year for the next 100 years.

If you’d like to read more visit:

This only reinforces the stance of Yarra Ranges Council to oppose logging of Melbourne’s water catchments. Back in November 2007, I moved a motion to oppose logging which received unanimous support from councillors. At that time my argument was based on the threat to water supplies, which is still very real, but compound that with what has been revealed about carbon in native forests it is even more imperative that logging our forests stops now.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

report from the roundtable 12th August

The Burrinja Application.

Although there were many agenda items at last night's council meeting this edition of report from the roundtable will focus solely on the Burrinja application.

The application was for the Use and Development of a 400 Seat Auditorium; in plain English, a performing arts centre space on the Burrinja site in Upwey.


The development includes the construction of a 400 seat auditorium, backstage facilities including dressing rooms, toilets and green room to accommodate up to 200 performers, improved foyer and staff amenities.

I seconded the motion to support the application. There is no doubt that over the years the possibility of this project has waxed and waned. There has been considerable angst about the sell off of the site, securing council funding, securing state funding, securing, losing then re-securing federal funding. All very significant hurdles our community has had to negotiate in order to see their aspirations delivered.

In speaking to the motion I said “It is a key cultural facility much beloved by our community. No one in the Shire of Sherbrooke was happy about the amalgamations and at the time the sale of this community asset was not negotiable. It has been a long battle to keep the site, but not only just to keep it, but use it to link community and the arts.


There is a very stringent list of conditions attached to the permit which will ensure responsible management of the site......

We must remember that Burrinja reaches out to the disadvantaged in our community, to those on the fringe and connects community through the arts.

I don’t want our kids to travel off the mountain to go to cultural events, I don’t want our Mums and Dads to travel off the mountain to go to cultural events. It’s a vibrant arts centre that supports local artists and arts in the local community. I urge councillors to support this motion.”


Resolved on the motion of Crs Cliff and Dunn
A Division was called.
For: Cllrs Cliff, Heenan, Warren, Smith, Dunn, Keane and McRae
The vote in favour was unanimous.


These images are a reflection of the broad community use of Burrinja. From art exhibitions, to public meetings, citizenship ceremonies to theatre, young songwriter performance to public art, already Burrinja is a thriving and vibrant community cultural centre.

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

pipeline not popular


This recent poll shows that many in the community share my view, the view of the Yarra Ranges Council, the view of The Greens and countless others; that the North South pipeline is a pipe dream. There are far more effective ways to augment Melbourne's water supplies, when will Mr Brumby listen to the electorate, we do not want a North South Pipeline. What we want is a secure water future which could be achieved by:
Water Tanks
Recycled Water
Infrastructure Efficiencies for industy, agriculture and domestic use
Stopping logging of Melbourne's water catchments

A wholistic approach must be taken to secure our water future.
Thanks to PlugthePipe for the poll graphic.

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celebrating strong women of the hills

What a great day I spent with some wonderful women of the hills. As part of the Centenary of Women’s Suffrage celebrations the Dandenong Ranges Music Council (DRMC) organised a history forum acknowledging the achievements of strong women of the hills. We heard some amazing stories about life back in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. To survive in the Dandenongs then you really did need great strength and tenacity.

After the forum the floor was opened to participants to talk about their family experiences. One highlight was Mrs Doyle, a 91 year old from the Patch, who regaled with stories about her father and in particular one visit to the Lillydale Shire Hall to see Dame Nellie Melba on a very wet night, where Melba said “the angels are weeping because I’m going away from you”. To that Mrs Doyle pulled out a note to her father from Melba that she’d kept all this time.

A lady from the Ebbels family of Olinda spoke about life on the farm and how the girls of the family thought they were lucky because when they travelled to Box Hill Technical School they got home too late to milk the cows. I can only imagine the difficulties of getting to Box Hill from Olinda in those times.

It was a terrific learning experience and gave participants an insight into life in the hills at that time. The DRMC's program of events to celebrate the Centenary of Women’s Suffrage culminates in a grand finale at Burrinja on Saturday 8th November which will provide a musical and visual feast of local talent and prominent women of the region. If you’d like to know more contact the DRMC on 9754 6566.

Bev McAllister, me, Gwen De Lacy and Yvonne De Lacy. These ladies were the driving force behind the project and did a great job bringing our history to life. Bev is holding her copy of The Little Black Princess written by Mrs Aeneas (Jeannie) Gunn who was a significant woman in the region and worked tirelessly to support the servicemen of Monbulk who she referred to as 'my boys'.

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clean up for blacksmith's way rescheduled

A new date has been struck for the clean up of Blacksmiths Way, the clean up will take place in October - watch this space for more info as it comes to hand.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

clean up day for blacksmith’s way

The Belgrave Trader’s Association are planning a clean up for Blacksmith’s Way, the lane that runs behind the shops on Belgrave’s ‘low side’.

For a long time Blacksmith’s Way has been an eyesore and far from an inviting gateway for commuters to Belgrave.

Its great to see the traders taking on this initiative and bringing some pride and ownership to the town.

Why don’t you come along, bring your gloves and scrubbing brush and give a helping hand, its on Sunday 31st August, I’m sure all offers of help are gratefully accepted.

I’ll be down there ready, willing and able.


If you’d like more information contact the Belgrave Trader’s Association on or call 9754 1027

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Monday, August 04, 2008

commissioner for environmental sustainability talks state of vic's environment

Last Thursday I had the opportunity to attend a presentation by Dr Ian McPhail, Victoria’s Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability. The Commissioner is an environmental guardian for Victoria – an independent voice that advocates, audits and reports on environmental sustainability, supported by legislation. The Commissioner is raising the profile of environmental sustainability in Victoria by:
~Reporting on matters relating the natural environment of Victoria
~Encouraging decision making that facilitates ecologically sustainable development

~Enhancing knowledge and understanding of ecologically sustainable development and the environment
~Encouraging sound environmental practices and procedures to be adopted by the Government of Victoria and local governments as a basis for ecologically sustainable development.
The Commissioner has been charged with the task of producing a State of Environment report for Victoria. Time and time again the message was “it is cheaper to protect than restore our environment”. The Commissioner highlighted that sufficient actions have not been put in place to address climate change and that political will was not yet in place to effect change. Dr McPhail was concerned that no contingency plans were in place should technologies like clean coal and carbon capture and storage failed and we don’t have time to lose.

The emphasis was that we continue to place no value on our environment, whether it be the endangered grasslands of Melbourne’s growth corridors or remnant vegetation in rural areas. Until we integrate environmental costs into our economic system we will continue to ignore the value of our natural systems and the services they provide (air, water, food). Natural systems are the basis of social and economic resilience and without them we are compromised.

The Commissioner ended with “the future cannot be and extension of the past”. I hope that politicians of all persuasions heed the message of the Commissioner. Victoria is in a critical state, our environment is under great stress and it is time to act now.

Yarra Ranges completed its very first State of the Environment report earlier this year. The report will provide detailed information so we can measure how our environment is fairing on an annual basis. The development of the State of Environment Report was a key environmental priority of Council. The report aims to outline the features of the Yarra Ranges environment, the current condition of natural assets and processes that threaten their health and the impact of human activities through everyday resource consumption and waste generation.

It was very rewarding to be one of the councillors on the working group, I put in many hours to ensure we had a document we could be proud of. My commitment to the SoE report (and Environment Strategy) ensures that Yarra Ranges continues to be at the forefront of environmental stewardship.

If you’d like to read more about Yarra Range’s State of the Environment Report click here:

If you’d like to find out more about Victoria’s Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability click here:

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