Thursday, January 29, 2009

tecoma supermarket update

As a follow on from an earlier blog update (24 Jan 09), SaveTecoma contacted me with some questions about the VCAT process.

What does it mean to the 400+ people who have objected if it (the application) is going straight to VCAT, do our objections get looked at?

For the objectors concerns to be thoroughly considered by VCAT, the objector would be required to lodge their full objection with VCAT and become a party to the hearing. Council only provides a brief summary of concerns raised as part of our submission.

The process to be a party to the appeal is that the applicant for the permit must send a copy of their application for review (appeal to VCAT) to Council and the objectors. Once the objector receives a copy of the application for review (including supporting documents telling the objector how to lodge their concerns with VCAT) they then need to lodge their objection with VCAT within 14 days and send a CC to the applicant and Council.

The objection to VCAT can simply be a copy of the one already sent to Council.

Do residents get to be involved in the process??

Yes if they choose to be a party and send a copy of their objection to VCAT as detailed earlier on.

Do VCAT make a decision without the VIC Roads traffic report?

This is not likely but they can if Vic Roads hasn’t responded in a reasonable time before the hearing.

When is it being heard by VCAT?

No date has been determined yet but at this stage dates are being set around May 2009.

If you want to be sure that your objection counts at the hearing you must make sure VCAT receives an objection from you, remember this can be a copy of your original objection to council.

VCAT have advised SaveTecoma that council won’t be making a decision. Whilst VCAT is now running the process, Council must still make their decision and put forward their position in a formal report which is then presented in person at the VCAT hearing.

With this particular application there was always a good chance it would end up in VCAT if not via the applicant, the objectors most likely would have lodged an appeal. As it turns out in this case the applicant lodged an appeal.

I welcome your call or email to talk through the process and can be contacted on 9752 6869 or

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

report from the roundtable – 27 Jan

Report from the Roundtable is a regular blog entry where I report back events from council meetings. There were the usual planning applications but one was quite significant as it proposed the removal of a feature tree in the Shire.

The application, from Vic Roads, was to remove a tree so traffic lights can be installed at the intersection of the Melba and Maroondah Highways in Coldstream. The tree proposed to be removed was a magnificent gum tree, a Southern Mahogany 23 metres high.

Initially a motion was moved to support the removal of the tree however the vote was locked at 4 for, 4 against, forcing the Deputy Mayor (who was chairing the meeting) to use her casting vote which saw the motion lost.

I then moved a motion to refuse the application to remove the tree.


Those councillors who initially supported its removal came up with a full range of emotive arguments as to why the tree should go:
The safety of people is at risk
One tree isn’t more important than safety
In two weeks time we don’t want to have to answer why more people have been injured or killed
The tree is a traffic obstacle and it shouldn’t be left behind

At no time has Vic Roads ever considered the tree to be a risk to traffic, the issue of whether the tree has posed a risk to drivers has never been in question. Emotive arguments fail the test of logic. The tree was required to be removed to construct a second lane on the Maroondah Highway, I believe this is an unnecessary construction and there are many other engineering solutions possible to ensure the safety of drivers.

This tree is not any old tree, it is a landmark in a significant gateway to the Yarra Valley, it is a tree that says to all visitors who pass it ‘you’re in the Yarra Ranges now where we value our vegetation’. There is no doubt it is a feature tree and visually significant. There must be a time where we look at other ways to achieve safety on our roads, mowing down trees next to roadsides is not the only answer,


slower speed limits, better engineering solutions are answers and must be explored.

Vic Roads already have an alternate engineering solution to widen the southern side of Maroondah Highway, it is a design that is a win win, that achieves a good outcome without removing a very significant tree from our landscape.

The motion to refuse the application was carried, 4 for and 4 against, once again as the vote was locked the Deputy Mayor had to exercise her casting vote to see the motion supported.

Councillors for the motion:
Cr Samantha Dunn, Cr Noel Cliff, Cr Jeanette McRae and Cr Terry Avery

Councillors against the motion:

Cr Tim Heenan, Cr Graham Warren, Cr Richard Higgins and Cr Chris Templer

Absent: Cr Len Cox

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Monday, January 26, 2009

a day of celebration

All over the country people were celebrating Australia Day in a whole range of different ways. I started the day at the Shire’s Citizenship Ceremony in Lilydale and then moved on to Survival Day in Belgrave.

Citizenship Ceremonies are always a wonderful celebration, but they are particularly special on Australia Day. I had the great privilege of welcoming our newest group of citizens to the Shire of Yarra Ranges.

It was wonderful to see Polly Ashburner, Librarian at the Belgrave Library taking up citizenship today.

“As a Shire of Yarra Ranges Councillor I can honestly say that we value and appreciate the diversity of views and backgrounds of our citizens. For it is only when we all truly understand diversity and difference that we can accept and embrace all people regardless of their ethnic or religious backgrounds……You have chosen a wonderful part of the world to live, rich in natural assets……they all provide a stunning backdrop for our community which is our greatest asset of all.”

It was the second running of Survival Day in Belgrave. The day is about raising awareness of indigenous issues and celebrating indigenous culture and heritage. It is an event I am very proud to support and we are fortunate that our community has committed and passionate people willing to put in the time and effort to organise Survival Day. Thank you, you all did a great job.

Me and Aunty Dot Peters at Survival Day. Aunty Dot, an Elder of the Healesville community, did the welcome ceremony for Survival Day. It was great to see her back again. She is renowned for her traditional method of basket weaving which she learnt from her grandmother, one of the last people to live at Healesville’s historical Coranderrk Aboriginal Reserve (1863-1924).
... .
I had the honour of speaking at Survival Day, “Survival Day is a very appropriate phrase. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are a strong and proud people, it is that strength that has seen them survive some terrible and atrocious acts. It is that strength that continues to see the survival of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to this day and gives all of us the opportunity to celebrate indigenous culture in Belgrave today……Survival Day is a great way to acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders locally. The sharing of knowledge, culture and history is important in understanding diversity and difference. It is through understanding that we can truly accept and embrace all cultures.”

Nigel Wilkes and the Healesville Indigenous Dance Troupe treated Survival Day participants to a fantastic performance of traditional dance.
While the day was upbeat with live music from Lee 'Sonnyboy' Morgan and Band there was a serious side when Uncle Henry Atkinson (a Yorta Yorta Elder now living in Knox) spoke about the history of indigenous people and their struggle to survive. Uncle Henry brought home the reality of living as an indigenous person in Australia and the struggle for true self determination.
It was great to see Oxfam at Survival Day. Kathy Tyler from the Dandenong Ranges Branch of Oxfam spoke about the close the gap campaign, which aims to reduce the 17 year gap in life expectancy between indigenous and non indigenous people.
The boys of the Healesville Indigenous Dance Troupe showing me a few moves. At one stage the Troupe had half the audience up in a group traditional dance, it was a great sight to see.

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

tecoma supermarket update

Earlier this week I was updated on the application for the Tecoma Supermarket by our planning department.

I am able to confirm that the applicant has taken the matter to VCAT for what’s known as a ‘Failure to Determine’. This is not an uncommon practice for large and complex applications.

There is a statutory time frame of 60 days for council to decide on a planning application. If an application isn’t decided in this time applicants can go to VCAT for a decision. A large and complicated application will often take longer than the statutory 60 day period to determine.

Me at the site of the proposed supermarket in Tecoma.

As part of the assessment process council must refer the application to various ‘referral authorities’, for example: Melbourne Water, CFA, Vic Roads, etc. To date council has not received a response from Vic Roads on this application, this is causing the application to be held up and not proceed to council.

As soon as council receives the referral from Vic Roads a report will come to council so a decision can be made on the application. Watch this space or for more information as it comes to hand.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

safety for selby?

The issue of pedestrian safety in Selby has come up again after the matter was raised by a local community advocate.

In late 2007 $69,000 grey spot funding was provided for Vic Roads to build a concrete median and splitter island. This was to improve road safety.

The completed works on the Belgrave Gembrook Road on the Eastern side of Selby.

I am told the works are now complete and there is no sign of splitter islands, all we have is some road widening with additional line marking.

Back in December 2007 it was with great delight I received the news about funding for Selby via a media release from James Merlino, Member for Monbulk.

The realisation that this is not happening is a bitter disappointment to me and to the community of Selby.

This photo was taken at 11:24am today, during school holidays, a relatively quiet time on the roads locally and there's still plenty of traffic about.

I fail to understand how some additional lines on the road make it safer for people to cross the road.

I fail to understand how some additional lines on the road will slow down traffic.

I fail to understand how some additional lines on the road have improved any of the intersections in Selby.

The traffic is not slowing, the pedestrians are still risking life and limb to cross the road, and there have been no improvements for the community of Selby.

This issue is not going to go away. Our community is very concerned about the safety of pedestrians and the speed of vehicles through the township. The continued reluctance by Vic Roads to change the speed limit to 50kph in Selby adds to their frustration and concern.

There are many facilities residents have to cross the road for, the Pre School, the General Store, Selby Park, the Community House, the Primary School, the very busy GP clinic, the Mechanics, the Church, the Tennis Courts, the bus stops just to name a few.

Safety of pedestrians is an issue that is continually raised with me and I will continue to advocate for improvements not only for Selby but for townships throughout the Shire.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

melbourne marches for gaza

Today I went, along with thousands of Melburnians, to a march in the city to support the end of violence in Gaza.

Even though the ceasefire has been called thousands came out to highlight the human tragedy occurring in Gaza.

Greens Senator, Sarah Hanson-Young spoke at the beginning of the march and said "No child should ever be used as a weapon of war, nor should they be subjected to violence and forced to flee their homes in fear." She went on to talk about one young teenage girl who had literally died from fear in Gaza.

We have all seen the horror on our television screens, violence and aggression is never a solution to any problem and I condemn the violence on both sides.

We are very fortunate that we live in a peaceful country.

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selby park gets a group

I was really pleased to hear that a ‘Friends of Selby Park’ group has been started. Selby Park (wedged between Lyons Drive and Belgrave Gembrook Road) is a great little park and is one of the only flat areas in Selby to play a bit of cricket or footy. It also is home to a playground and Selby PreSchool as well as some very good bushland areas.

The Friends of Selby Park group has been established to:
- preserve remnant bushland
- revegetate degraded areas of the reserve
- ensure community access and facilities are safe and well maintained.

Pictured from left to right: Terrie, Vicki, Kaitlyn, Meg, Bianca, Me, Gaye and Jackie inspecting the area planted up by the Selby CFA last National Tree Planting Day (see blog).

I was keen to meet Meg MacDonald, the driving force behind the group and went along to the first meeting this Saturday. The day included a walk around the park to discuss what needed to be done, talk about the environmental values of the park and what community facilities need improving.

The group were keen to get weeding straight away. The target this time was Montpellier Broom, a declared Noxious Weed in Victoria.

If you would like to know more or get involved you can contact Meg at

‘Friends’ groups throughout the Shire play a key role in enhancing our environment, they are a committed bunch who dedicate many volunteer hours weeding and revegetating a whole range of different regions. Our environment is far better for their contribution.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

selby cfa prepares residents

I went along to one of the information sessions on bushfire preparation being held by my local CFA Brigade, Selby. They are useful sessions to attend and provide timely advice about what to do in the case of a bushfire.

If you are interested in attending a session in Yarra Ranges click
here to find out if there’s one locally, but make sure you’re quick as most sessions are currently well underway.

Graham Crichton from the Ferntree Gully CFA provided lots of useful advice and a had great deal of knowledge about fire behaviour. Graham suggested that residents make the incident report from the CFA
website their home page at the office (and home) during bushfire season as a way to ensure you have up to date knowledge on any fire activity in your area.

Graham handed out these CFA reusable bags, I'll be using mine to keep my firefighting clothing in so its readily at hand in the case of bushfire.

He also handed out the Victorian Bushfire Information Line number, 1800 240 667. Anyone wanting up to date information on bushfires in their area can call this number, which is particularly useful if you are out on the road or away from a computer.

The most important thing you need to do is decide whether you are going to leave early or stay and defend. A really useful site to visit to ensure you are fire ready is
Fireready, it contains all the information you need to develop a survival plan and is well worth a visit.

I congratulate all the local CFA brigades for their ongoing support of our local communities, their dedication is outstanding.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

off with their heads!

You might have noticed the agapanthus are in full bloom at the moment. This is the ideal time to give them a good beheading!

Agapanthus are another weed nasty in the Dandenongs. Agapanthus loves the growing conditions the Dandenongs provide. Eventually it will take over and displace native grasses and groundcovers, it also provides a haven for slugs and snails.

It is possible to remove agapanthus by digging them up, but this is only practical for small plants. The finger like, fleshy clumping roots of the agapanthus make it one of the more difficult weeds to hand remove. If you are not prepared to dig up your agapanthus the only alternative to rid your property of them is to spray with an appropriate herbicide.

My long term plan is to get rid of all the agapanthus on my property but at the very least to prevent infestations I cut off the heads of the agapanthus while they’re in flower to prevent the plants from seeding and spreading further.

Agapanthus is currently found at 40% of shire sites and is the number 5 weed on the top 20 list of most prolific weeds in the Shire.

Did you know the Shire has produced a Weed Action Calendar for 2009. The calendar contains all sorts of practical advice and includes information about what to plant and what to weed out. It is available at the Monbulk and Upwey Community Links for only $2 a copy. If you purchase the Sustainable Gardening Booklet as well (a great read and usually $4 a copy) you can get both for $5.

The calendar is a terrific source of useful information and very attractive too, with some beautiful images of native plants. I thoroughly recommend it.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

picnic time for rosellas

It’s been nice to have a bit of a break over Christmas and enjoy the local sights and scenes of the Dandenong Ranges National Park (DRNP). Over the weekend the family decided to walk to Sherbrooke Falls (in Sherbrooke Forest), the journey starting at the Sherbrooke Picnic Ground.

When we arrived I was astounded to see groups of visitors hand feeding rosellas at the site, the ground was littered with seeds, rosellas were perched across the shoulders, arms and heads of visitors and clearly this has been going on for some time. Even though Parks Victoria have numerous signs up explaining why visitors shouldn’t feed the wildlife people blithely ignored these and kept feeding the rosellas.

I guess it’s going to be hard to explain to visitors why they CAN feed birds at Grants Picnic Ground (only a kilometre or so down the road) but they CAN’T feed birds at Sherbrooke Picnic Ground.

In the case of Grants Picnic Ground there is a lease in place between Parks Victoria and the Sherbrooke Kiosk and Tearooms, the terms of the lease include that the lessee is permitted to provide approved feed to visitors at this location (section 7.1)*. *
source DRNP Management Plan

The National Parks (Park) Regulations 2003 clearly state it is against the law to feed animals within a National Park (see excerpt below).

Excerpt: SECT 9 Interfering with animals
9. Interfering with animals
1) A person must not, in a park, disturb, harass, remove, hunt, capture, take, kill or injure or otherwise destroy or interfere with any fauna or other animal or destroy, disturb or interfere with the nest, bower, display mound, lair or burrow of any fauna or other animal.
Penalty: 20 penalty units.
2) A person must not, in a park-
a) feed, offer food or offer any object as food to any fauna or other animal, where the animal is not lawfully brought into the park; or
b) permit or allow food to be taken from the possession of the person by any fauna or other animal.
Penalty: 10 penalty units.

Parks Victoria have a real challenge on their hands, allowing feeding of wildlife in the DRNP at Grants Picnic Ground is creating issues in other areas in the Park, apart from the fact that feeding wildlife is prohibited in every other Victorian national park.

Feeding wildlife has many detrimental effects, even the DRNP Management Plan states:

The most significant risk of bird feeding in these situations is that diseases carried by the birds can be transferred to humans. Birds such as rosellas can carry a disease known as psittacosis or parrot fever which is easily transferred to people. It is a severe infectious disease characterised by high fever and pneumonia. Many cases have been recorded around the world. These diseases may also be transferred to other bird species, for example lyrebirds, and present a threat to those populations.

Other negative aspects of bird feeding are that prolonged artificial feeding with unsuitable food may harm the health of the birds, and that widespread artificial feeding may lead to artificially high numbers of some species to the detriment of other species in the locality.

I did notice a number of visitors were from overseas and did not speak English as a first language, perhaps Parks Victoria should, as a bare minimum, put up some signage in languages other than English to cater for those visitors. I will be raising this with the Ranger in Charge at the DRNP.

The DRNP offers some beautiful walks and stunning scenery and we were fortunate to see an echidna go about getting its feed for the day. There is a stunning array of birdlife and given the proximity to Melbourne it is no wonder the park enjoys 950,000 visitors per year.

The walk to Sherbrooke Falls is quite an easy one, I would recommend it to locals and visitors alike, we are very lucky to live on the doorstep of Sherbrooke Forest.

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Thursday, January 08, 2009

yarra ranges bus service review – your turn to say what you think


The Department of Transport has engaged Booz & Company to undertake a review of bus services in the City of Knox, City of Maroondah and Shire of Yarra Ranges.

The objective of the review is to prepare a comprehensive improvement plan for local bus services that best meets the needs of local communities. The review will involve the evaluation of current bus services and consideration of local needs and service planning issues.

As part of an extensive consultation process, the review team is seeking input and feedback from you.
Now is your chance to have your say about what needs to happen to make our bus services better.

Two rounds of workshops are proposed, the first one will concentrate on Local Issues, Needs and Opportunities.

Details of sessions across Yarra Ranges are:

Date: Monday 9th February
Time: 1pm – 4pm
Where: Yarra Junction Community Hub

Date: Monday 9th February
Time: 6.30pm – 9.30pm
Where: Mooroolbark CommunityCentre

Date: Wednesday 11th February
Time: 1pm – 4pm
Where: Upwey Community Hall

Date: Thursday 12th February
Time: 1pm – 4pm
Where: Healesville Memorial Hall

If you are interested in attending contact Sharon Rutherford (Booz & Company) on 03 9221 1952 or, by close of business Thursday 5th February 2009.

If you can’t attend a workshop but you’d like to highlight any particular needs or improvements for local bus services you can send a written submission.

Submissions should be sent to Yarra Ranges Bus Service Review, PO Box 2797, Melbourne VIC 3001. The closing date for submissions is 27 February 2009.

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

montbretia out in force

You may have noticed a strappy leaf plant in your garden now sporting an attractive orange flower – beware – it could be Montbretia, a terrible weed in the Dandenongs.

It is very good at invading gardens, bushland and, roadside areas. Eventually it will take over and displace native grasses and groundcovers.

Now is a good time to remove Montbretia as it’s easy to identify when in flower. It grows and spreads by bulb underground to produce new plants, it also produces large amounts of seeds from the flower heads.

As my yard only has a small amount of Montbretia, I remove it by hand, but you have to make sure you remove ALL the bulbs or you’ll be in for more of the same next summer. I also make sure I remove it all whilst it is flowering (now) and don’t give it a chance to turn to seed.

You can also dig out patches of Montbretia as the bulbs often form in linked chains, but once again make sure you get all the bulbs. Don’t ever put soil from dug up Montbretia on other parts of your garden as you could inadvertently be spreading Montbretia by tiny bulbs hidden in the soil.

Even the most prudent gardener has weeds (and probably Montbretia) and I like a lot of hills residents have my fair share. Don’t get despondent when weed nasties reappear, their removal is a long term plan.

Did you know that you can put all weeds (including nasties like blackberry, ivy and agapanthus), grass clippings, small branches, garden prunings (including rose clippings), flowers and leaves into the Shire's Green Waste bin?

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Sunday, January 04, 2009

alex’s memory lives on

Today was a very special occasion for the Webb family of Monbulk.

Last year Leo and Karen lost their twelve year old son Alex in a tragic accident at the local BMX track. In Alex’s memory family and friends celebrated his thirteenth birthday today at Baynes Park Reserve in Monbulk.

Alex was a talented soccer player and Baynes Park was Alex’s favourite reserve. In honour of his memory the family were keen to have a seat and a small garden put in place at Baynes Park. I was humbled to work with the family to see their vision realised and to be part of their celebration of Alex today.

Over one hundred family and friends of Alex Webb gathered at Baynes Park to remember him. Balloons with birthday wishes and goodwill messages were released.

The garden and seat provide a place of contemplation and is an enduring reminder of Alex in a beautiful setting.

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Saturday, January 03, 2009

celebrities surf for desal wipeout

Today the Bass Coast Board Riders Club hosted a Celebrity Surf Challenge to highlight to Victorian’s the section of Victoria’s coast under threat from the construction of a Desalination Plant.

I was one of around 1000 people who went down to Inverloch to watch the celebrities take a wave to support their efforts and the local community.

The Celebrity Surf Challenge was a lot of fun and it was a great way to raise awareness about the impact the desalination plant will have on the environment, the climate, the economy and the local community.

This is Richmond Football player Matthew Richardson doing his bit to help the campaign.

This pipeline prostester came out to support the efforts of the Bass Coast Board Riders Club and the Victorian Water Forum.

The Victorian Water Forum, a coalition of Watershed Victoria, Plug the Pipe and Clean Oceans Foundation were there distributing information.

The group are calling for storm water harvesting, recycling and better aquifer management to manage Melbourne’s future water supply.

They are advocating for:
An upgrade of the Eastern Treatment Plant to produce over 100gigalitres of recycled and/or purified water
Harvesting of at least 75gigalitres of stormwater
Fast tracking the installation of water tanks to 8% of houses per year to yield 25gigalitres
Encouraging strong water conservation targets in the community
Underground management of water (aquifers), with top ups from recycling and storm water.

I’d add to that stop logging of Melbourne’s water catchments, the longer logging continues in our catchments the more water we lose.

The Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability Victoria’s recently released
State of the Environment report includes as the very first recommendation under section 3.2 Water Resources (WR1) The Victorian Government should assess the merit of removing logging from Melbourne’s water supply catchments, to maximise catchment yield and water quality.

All along the highway were properties with anti-desalination signs.

The finale of the day was to spell out 'DESAL WIPEOUT' on the beach.

The site of the desalination plant near Wonthaggi. Its construction will cost taxpayers at least $4 billion (and rising), create as much carbon pollution as 270,000 vehicles every year, dump 50,000 tonnes of toxic waste every year, more than double what Melburnians pay for water and secure big profits for overseas companies - why would we want it?

What we want from government is sensible water policy to secure Melbourne’s future water supply.

No pipeline, no desal plant, no logging our catchments.

Recycling, upgrading aging infrastructure, mandatory water sensitive design, water efficiencies/conservation, stormwater capture and water tanks are our water future.

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