Monday, March 30, 2009

public passenger transport hearing

Today I attended the hearing in Melbourne for the Senate Inquiry into the investment of Commonwealth and State funds in public passenger transport infrastructure and services. The inquiry, the first ever Senate inquiry into public transport, was initiated by Senator Scott Ludlam, Greens Senator in WA.

I heard from a number of groups and academics from across Melbourne, including the Public Transport Users Association, Professor Graham Currie, John Stone from GAMUT, Jan Scheurer from AHURI , Paul Mees, operators Veolia & Connex and the Melbourne Transport Forum.

Most of the people who spoke painted a picture of poor public transport services across Melbourne, dogged by delays, lacking in connectivity with poor frequency of services. It was interesting, but no surprise, that it paralleled what the Yarra Ranges community says of its own local public transport services.

Senators were very interested in why the federal government should invest in public transport and if so what sort of accountability measures should be put in place if they did fund public transport.

Key messages from today’s hearings were:
· The public transport system should be coordinated by a central body (much the same way roads are via VicRoads) so issues around connectivity could be addressed and allow different modes to work together.
· There should be space set aside on our roads for public transport (be that trams or buses) as these modes of transport offer much greater efficiencies and assist in reducing congestion.
· There is a skew between the amounts spent on road infrastructure versus public transport with a great need for this to be redressed through significant spending on infrastructure and coordination of services.
· The planning around roads is done competently and efficiently, however the model of professional planning that is dedicated to roads is not mirrored in the state’s approach to public transport.
· There is a good business case to spend on public transport, despite the difficulty with using public transport there is still keenness by the community to take up public transport.
· The public transport system must be open, transparent and accountable. At the moment there are significant difficulties in gaining information and there is a lack of coordination of knowledge management.
· Public versus private operation is a distraction from the main aim of a well coordinated public transport system, the fundamental issue is the amount of money invested in public transport.
· Two thirds of Melbourne is covered by buses (rather than trains & trams), the average time for these services across Melbourne is a bus every 40 minutes between 7am and 7pm, this service average drops to 20% on Sundays.
· Public transport has been chronically underinvested in for decades.
· There is not enough focus on orbital linkages, rail efficiencies or growth corridors.
· There many gaps in services, particularly with no rail to Doncaster or Rowville, there are also gaps in growth suburbs and outer suburbs of Melbourne with no focus on orbital services.
· We have to catch up on 20 years of under investing.

From the operators:
· Policy makers have put too much focus on motor vehicles.
· Tax system doesn’t encourage sustainable transport options
· The states don’t have the capacity to fund infrastructure on their own. The Commonwealth should support the ‘right’ projects.
· There must be increased population densities to support sustainable transport.
· The Commonwealth should put funding into the tunnel and need to focus capacity on the inner areas before the outer areas.

It was interesting to note that no Senators from Victoria attended the hearing today.

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

community jobs forum

On Friday I attended a Jobs Forum hosted by Jason Wood, federal member for Latrobe. Jason invited Malcolm Turnbull (Leader of the Opposition) along to listen to the concerns of local business people.

The discussion was far ranging and covered a variety of topics of key concern to small business. Compliance and cost of the regulatory burden was high on the agenda, but support of the apprenticeship system, the impact of skills shortages and the role of traineeships and secondary education got a good mention too.

Of the shire's 13,515 businesses, 97% of them are small businesses (employing less than 20 people), I have always been a great supporter of local business. It's even more important than ever to support our local businesses in these tough economic times.

After the forum I took the opportunity to speak directly to Malcolm about some of the key issues affecting local economic development in Yarra Ranges. There are a number of areas of concern including skills shortages, particularly in the manufacturing, horticulture and hospitality industries.

Water for agriculture is also another key concern in Yarra Ranges, with reduced water flows impacting greatly on future development for our agricultural sector.

Other issues include lack of recognition as a rural area (denying access to many funding opportunities available in other rural areas), poor broadband connection, lack of public transport services, lack of natural gas supply and lack of industrially zoned land.

I had a copy of the Shire’s
Submission to the Outer Suburban/Interface Service and Development Committee of Parliament Inquiry into Local Economic Development in Outer Suburban Areas which I handed him along with our recently published Live and Work in the best of all worlds, a great publication highlighting the benefits of making your home and work in Yarra Ranges. I hope Malcolm takes the time to read about our issues in the Shire of Yarra Ranges.

Just to give you a bit of a snapshot of our local economic output in Yarra Ranges:
Our Gross Industry Output from all 17 sectors was just over $9 billion in 2007, an increase of 21.7% or $1.6 billion since 2001. Seventy percent of Output was from just five sectors:
Manufacturing 33.7%
Construction 10.7%
Property and Business Services 10.1%
Wholesale Trade 8.4%
Retail Trade 8.1%

It was a great opportunity to highlight key concerns of our Shire to the federal Liberal Party, who are currently seeking information from across the country to inform policy development for small business.

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

on the buses

Last week saw the first round of the Yarra Ranges Bus Services Review workshops conclude. With three workshops across the shire it was a busy time to get to all of them. I’ve already reported on the Yarra Junction workshop (see blog).

After Yarra Junction the next workshop was held in Upwey and very well attended, with representatives from across the community as well as the three secondary schools in the region.

Discussions were far ranging and there was some dissent about the statistics presented to the group as they were averages across the three municipalities of Yarra Ranges, Knox and Maroondah. For those living beyond the Urban Growth Boundary in Yarra Ranges the statistics presented were not a true or accurate representation of the services available.

There was a great consistency in the range of problems highlighted by the group covering issues such as:
Information about timetables, routes and cost of tickets
Poor connections with other services and rail
Coverage of services
Funding of public transport
Frequency of bus services
Span of hours of operation
Links to key centres including Belgrave and Knox City
Fares and the lack of one way or ‘short trip’ ticketing
Lack of services on the weekend
Lack of DDA compliant bus stops
More direct and frequent services to Knox City, Monash and Swinburne
More buses throughout the hills including a service to connect Olinda and Monbulk

The lack of timetable information at bus stops
The use of smaller buses
The use of more environmentally friendly buses
Telebuses for Belgrave
Footpaths to bus stops
The lack of route information for tourists
Bike storage on buses and at train stations
Improved safety
Eftpos availability on buses
Lack of parking at railway stations
Allowing pets on board
Better services to cover schools

With all the information collated and recorded results of the key issues were presented to the group, top 5 came in as:
34% Frequency of services
17% Network linkages
15% Span of hours of operation
10% Coverage of bus services
8% Connections to other bus and rail services

The Healesville workshop was not as well attended with a very small number of community members there, I think this is a reflection of the recent bushfire turmoil in the town as Healesville is generally a very active and involved community.

The discussions here were very similar with top five issues coming out as:
35% Frequency of services
27% Span of hours of operation
23% Connections to other bus and rail services
13% Footpath/bus stop infrastructure
2% Real time travel information

The consistency of responses across the shire is not surprising, time and time again frequency, span and coverage issues are raised with me. I will continue to advocate for improvements for our community, the benefits of a fast, frequent well connected public transport system are immense.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

report from the roundtable – 24 mar

There were a couple of key issues up for discussion at this week’s council meeting.

The first, Carbon Management Program – Forward Plan was about the where to from here with council’s Climate Change Commitment. Back in March 2007 (see
blog) council ratified a program of actions as a response to climate change. The actions put Yarra Ranges at the forefront of local government action on climate change and saw Yarra Ranges achieve carbon neutrality from 2007/08 onwards.

From my perspective I was greatly disappointed to see that the report before council was recommending an option (2) that would see the end of carbon neutrality for Yarra Ranges. Even more disappointing was the change back to consumption of coal fired, dirty power, rather than investment in the renewable, clean energy sector.

The report contained references to the lack of action on the part of the Shire in relation to reducing energy consumption across the organisation and using offsetting by the purchase of renewable energy certificates with the original Climate Change Commitment.

However if energy reduction activities did not happen it is a failure of the organisation to fulfil the Climate Change Commitment in totality. It was always the intent of the Climate Change Commitment to address the reduction of energy consumption with one of the key goals being “Maintaining carbon neutrality through progressively reducing consumption and reducing our reliance on offsetting emissions”.

The report went on to blame regulation by state and federal government as a reason to justify the turnaround in relation to carbon neutrality, but on the same hand considered the planting of 60,000 plants okay even though that doesn’t meet auditing protocols for offsetting.

Unfortunately I cannot reconcile the term “sustainable carbon management” used in the report with the purchase of coal fired power, this seems at odds to me.

I am more than happy for the organisation to focus on cost effective opportunities to reduce energy consumption, however with the majority of council supporting option 2 we have turned our back on achieving all of our Climate Change Commitments, a commitment we were all very proud of back in 2007.

I tried very hard to advocate for Option 3 which would mean council met all of its Climate Change Commitments, but to no avail.

It is very clear that the cost of inaction is far greater that the costs to adapt to and mitigate climate change. This message has been repeated to us time and time again by eminent people across the world.

What do we say to our children and their children when they ask what we did about climate change? This decision is not one to be proud of, we turned our back on renewable energy and we turned our back on real action on climate change.

Resolved on the motion of Crs Avery and Cliff
1. The proposal to allocate the annual Climate Change Commitment budget of
$790,000 in part to the annual Ribbons of Green program (for planting 60,000 plants per annum) with the balance directed to funding energy reduction measures to meet Council’s target of reducing corporate greenhouse gas emission levels by 30% on 2000 levels by 2010 be endorsed.
2. The proposal to return the cost saving associated with the energy reduction measures to fund additional energy reduction measures be endorsed in principle.
3. An annual status report be prepared for Council consideration on the implementation of the above program.
A division was called:
For: Crs Cliff, McRae, Templer, Avery, Higgins, Warren, Heenan and Cox
Against: Cr Dunn

On a brighter note, the item covering Public Place Recycling was far more positive.

The Shire has been undertaking a pilot program to ascertain the quantity of recyclable materials in bins in public parks, reserves and streets. This is something I have certainly pushed for throughout public places in my ward. Initial results indicated that there was a substantial amount of recyclable material available in the bins. The pilot program revealed that of 88 tonnes of waste material collected over 10 weeks 50% of it was able to be recovered for recycling.

From now on all recyclables put into the Shire's public bins will be recycled. This PET bottle was once destined for landfill, from now on it will be recycled, a great outcome for the environment.

The challenge will be educating the community that the recyclables they throw into our public bins will be recycled because under this system separate rubbish bins will not be required. In the past this recyclable material had gone to landfill but now it will be recycled.

I was very pleased to move the motion to support the shire wide implementation of a program to recover recyclable materials from all of our public bins. The environmental benefits are huge and will assist in minimising waste of reusable products, diverting products from landfill so they can be reused and recycled, minimising the need for raw materials (as there’s more recyclables in the system) and moving toward a zero waste society (per the intent of the State Government’s 2005 strategy “Towards Zero Waste”).

Resolved on the motion of Crs Dunn and Heenan
1. The proposal for implementation of a Shirewide Public Place Recycling Program with the existing infrastructure and collection arrangements to be endorsed.
2. Formal quotations for a three year contract for the sorting of material be obtained.
3. The sum of $5,000 for ongoing maintenance and management associated with the implementation of the Public Place Recycling Program be referred for inclusion in the 2009-10 budget.

note: this motion was unanimously supported by councillors

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Earth Hour 28 March


8:30PM local time, wherever you live on planet earth. This Saturday night 28 March 2009

This year, Earth Hour has been transformed into the world’s first global election, between Earth and global warming.

For the first time in history, people of all ages, nationalities, race and background have the opportunity to use their light switch as their vote – Switching off your lights is a vote for Earth, or leaving them on is a vote for global warming. WWF are urging the world to VOTE EARTH and reach the target of 1 billion votes, which will be presented to world leaders at the Global Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen 2009.

This meeting will determine official government policies to take action against global warming, which will replace the Kyoto Protocol. It is the chance for the people of the world to make their voice heard.

Earth Hour began in Sydney in 2007, when 2.2 million homes and businesses switched off their lights for one hour. In 2008 the message had grown into a global sustainability movement, with 50 million people switching off their lights.

In 2009, Earth Hour is being taken to the next level, with the goal of 1 billion people switching off their lights as part of a global vote. Unlike any election in history, it is not about what country you’re from, but instead, what planet you’re from. VOTE EARTH is a global call to action for every individual, every business, and every community. A call to stand up and take control over the future of our planet. Over 74 countries and territories have pledged their support to VOTE EARTH during Earth Hour 2009, and this number is growing everyday.

We all have a vote, and every single vote counts. Together we can take control of the future of our planet, for future generations.

VOTE EARTH by simply switching off your lights for one hour, and join the world for Earth Hour.


Monday, March 23, 2009

help shape the future for our children

Tonight I had the great pleasure of being part of the launch of the Yarra Ranges Early Childhood Community Profile. The launch is part of a program to highlight issues around the early years and start conversations and input into the Shire’s Municipal Early Years Plan. I am the councillor representative on the plan and have a long standing, keen interest in the early years. It is my firm belief that if you get it right in the early years you get it right for life.

It was great to have a presentation from the Outcomes and Evaluation Division of the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development that focused specifically on Yarra Ranges and also provided comparative data against the Metro and Rural stats.

Me, celebrating the Kids Go For Your Life Award with the Len Jeffrey Preschoolers in Belgrave South. I have always been a strong advocate for children and the importance of the early years.

The room was full of a whole range of people involved in the early years, from Maternal Child Health, through to Preschools, Childcare, Chaplaincy Services, Primary Schools, Emergency Relief Services and interested community members.

If you are interested in inputting to the Shire’s Municipal Early Years Plan visit this
link for more information. Help shape the future for our children and make Yarra Ranges a great place for children to live.

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bus review in yarra junction

Today I attended the Bus Review workshop in Yarra Junction. The workshop was well attended with a good mix of community members along the Warburton Highway corridor, many who are direct users of public transport as their only means of getting around.

The workshop went through a process of highlighting some of the key data around bus services in Yarra Ranges, Knox and Maroondah (this bus review covers off on all three municipalities). After that participants were asked to consider ‘things that work well’ with the bus services, next up was a focus on identifying problems with the bus services. Lastly participants were able to highlight their answers to bus service issues in the area.

Me, getting on board at the Belgrave Bus interchange, this bus is one of US Busline's new Euro 4 buses, more fuel efficient and less emissions intense and well fitted out to cater for all abilities access.

The list generated on the table I was sitting on was long and extensive and covered many different elements of bus travel including:
Storage of bikes on buses
Duplication of the Lilydale rail line
Coordinating bus services with school time tabling
Frequency and span of operation of bus route 683
Tourism, providing an adequate service to visitors to the area
Extension of Nightrider services
Better coordination with rail connections
New services, orbital (north/south) and express services
Improving bus stop infrastructure
Improving frequency of services across the board
Providing more funding for public transport services
Providing better early bird early bus services
Better promotion of how to use bus services
Abolition of the country fare
Use of fuel efficient vehicles

Results of the issues were presented to the group and the following came in as the top 5:
18% Network coverage including missing links and access for those located off the Warburton Highway
15% Span of hours of bus services
13% Abolition of the Country fare
11% Access for all abilities
8% Poor frequency of bus services

It was a very interesting session and it was no surprise to me that issues around frequency, span of hours and abolition of the country fare were high on people’s priorities. I look forward to attending the other two Bus Review sessions in Yarra Ranges this week, in Upwey (Tuesday 24/3) and Healesville (Thursday 26/3), and I’m certain that frequency and span of hours will be key issues in these regions too.

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belgrave heights christian school thriving

Today I went to the official opening of the Belgrave Heights Christian School Student Discovery Centre, VCE Centre and Computer lab. It is an impressive new building, made possible with Federal Government funding, but even more notable was the commitment of families and teachers and the great sense of community that flows throughout the school.

Part of the official ceremony was a step back in time to hear the history of the school told by those at the forefront of seeing it happen. It was terrific to hear stories from Lyn Thompson, one of the parents 26 years ago who had a vision to start a school in the local area that taught children her values. Joining Lyn to tell the story was her mother Isabel Bell, who was instrumental in starting a Christian School in Sunshine and provided key support and assistance to Lyn in her endeavours.

We then went on to hear Lyn’s daughter Adi contribute her part to the story. The Thompson family went on to give a stirring rendition of the Finn Bros song ‘Wont Give in’. It was quite magical hearing the family sing together.

From humble beginnings the school has grown into a wonderful place for students to embrace learning. In 1989 there were 36 students enrolled, at its lowest point in 1996 the school only had 7 students, but due to the hard work of local families and school councillors enrolments have slowly built up and the school finds itself in the position of offering prep through to Year 12 with 322 students under its wing.

It was terrific to talk to students about their experiences, they clearly love their school and all it offers and have a passion for learning that will hold them in good stead for the future.

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

fetes, thankyous and music aplenty

Yesterday saw Belgrave South Primary School run its annual Staxafun Fete, the school was packed to the rafters with locals enjoying the plethora of activities on offer. One of my personal favourites is rummaging through the trash and treasure, whilst my son was very happy to check out the lucky jars, show bags and pre-loved toys. It’s a great community event, well supported by local community organisations and the kid’s karaoke provided an entertaining backdrop to the day’s festivities.

School fetes are not only a mechanism to provide fundraising for schools, they provide an important opportunity for the broader community to come together and have fun and celebrate the good things about being a close knit local community.

From Staxafun to the Shire’s Thank You to our Environmental Volunteers.
The Shire of Yarra Ranges held a Thank You function in Olinda to recognise the outstanding efforts of our Friends Of and Landcare groups. Around 70 people from environmental volunteer groups around the region came together to celebrate their achievements.

Our environmental volunteers do an amazing job, whether it be weeding, removing rubbish, revegetating or raising awareness, their efforts are magnificent. Our environment would be far worse off if it were not for the endless passion and support we receive from our environmental volunteers.

Me with Vicki Boyle, madly passionate local environmentalist. Vicki can often been seen with her faithful black Labrador weeding endlessly near the Trestle Bridge in Selby.

From ThankYous to Oxfam’s World Music.
Oxfam held its World Music Café as part of The Basin Music Festival to promote it’s new campaign Sisters on the Planet - Women tackling climate change. The campaign highlights that climate change affects women the most, particularly those living in developing countries. But these women are fighting back, often leading the response to the climate crisis in their communities.

One of the Indian dancers performing for the Oxfam event.

The Oxfam Dandenong Ranges branch organised a terrific line up of entertainment including music and dance from India, The Kaaren Singers from Burma and Vox Congo, rhythms of Africa. It was great to experience such diversity of culture under one roof and the Hindu food provided by The Basin Hindu Temple caterers was delicious.

Judy Wolff, Dandenong Ranges Oxfam member and one of the organisers of the World Music Cafe.

From world music to local music
I finished off yesterday by going to see Claptonesque perform at
Burrinja. What a thriving local community arts venue. With a wedding downstairs and a live performance upstairs the joint was jumping. The fight to save Burrinja has been long and sometimes arduous, but with VCAT giving the go ahead in December last year, its all systems go to build an outstanding performing arts centre for our local community with finishing touches now being put on the detailed design plan for the centre.

Dave McFarlane, lead guitarist and passionate Eric Clapton aficionado, performing at Burrinja.

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

gawler program coming to the dandenongs

For the first time, people dealing with cancer in the Dandenong Ranges have access to The Gawler Foundation’s 12 week Cancer, Healing and Wellbeing Program.

Robyn Jones, Program Faciliator and I at the launch of the Gawler Foundation program in Belgrave.

Earlier this month I launched the program along with Gawler Foundation facilitator Robyn Jones. I was happy to lend my support to the new program, which would directly benefit people dealing with cancer in the Dandenong Ranges.

The Gawler Foundation has helped countless people deal with cancer over the past 28 years. Their approach will allow those with cancer to make informed, effective choices to better manage their journey.

It is a terrific initiative to bring the program to Belgrave to enable those affected by cancer to participate locally. The Belgrave program will commence on Wednesday 25 March and is part of The Gawler Foundation’s continuing efforts to bring its world leading lifestyle-based programs to those who need it most.

Since 1983, The Gawler Foundation’s programs have been offering up to date information on a range of cancer related topics and strategies.

The Belgrave program will be facilitated by Robyn Jones, a member of The Gawler Foundation’s therapy team. Robyn has worked in health and education for many years, with experience in counselling, leading groups and training others. Her work at the Foundation includes running educational programs, teaching meditation, counselling, palliative support and leadership training.

When: Wednesday 25 March and runs to Wednesday 10 June.
Where: Belgrave Library, Reynolds Lane Belgrave (Melways Ref: 75 F10.)
Time: 10am - 12.30am.
Cost: $ 430 per participant for 12 weeks and $215 for support people. Partners or a family representative are also encouraged to attend to better understand the principles of this lifestyle approach and offer the most effective support. Bursaries may be available on application for those needing financial support to participate in the program.

For course details and to reserve your place, please call The Gawler Foundation on 5967 1730 or visit

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Friday, March 20, 2009

libraries lend a hand

At the last meeting of the Eastern Regional Libraries Board, where I was elected Chairperson, it was decided that one week's worth of overdue charges would be donated to the local CFA Brigades. Collection tins were also placed at all the libraries in the region (at 16 different locations) to collect funds to go towards the cause.

Over $3000 was raised in the collection tins, in addition overdue charges paid between Monday 23 March and Sunday 29 March, will be added to this amount.

Community members in fire affected areas around Healesville, Yarra Junction and Upwey, all make use of Eastern Regional Libraries and the money raised will help support local their local CFA Brigades.

"The ERL Board thought it was really important to recognise the outstanding efforts of the CFA Brigades and decided to donate funds raised through the libraries to our local brigades. Their efforts remind us of the immense contribution they and all volunteers make, in helping our communities through difficult and traumatic times."

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

community grants – apply now

Applications for the annual Shire of Yarra Ranges Grants For Community Program are now open and close on Thursday, 16 April 2009.

The three categories within the Program are:
* Community Development
* Cultural Development
* Festivals & Events

The Annual Grants for Community Program has been designed to strengthen communities in Yarra Ranges by fostering active participation in local projects and activities.

One-off funding is provided to support communities to achieve their goals, resulting in tangible outcomes for their communities.

Me at the Belgrave Lantern Festival last year, BCAP, festival organisers, are past recipients of a festival and event community grant.

The Shire of Yarra Ranges Grants support initiatives which aim to:
- Meet local needs
- Generate outcomes aligned with Vision 2020 (the community's values, aspirations and priorities)
- Encourages the formation of partnerships
- Implement solutions to identified issues

To read more about the guidelines or application forms for any of the above, please click on this
link which will take you to the Grants For Community website.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

tackling binge drinking off the radar

It was with great disappointment that I learnt about the failure of the federal government’s proposed “Alcopop” Legislation. The Greens had negotiated for a more comprehensive plan to tackle binge drinking with $50 million from the package committed for a range of health measures to address alcohol related harm.

As Chairperson of the Shire’s Alcohol and Drug Working Group a clear message from local agencies working in the sector is that there is an urgent need to address the issue of alcohol misuse.

The Alcohol and Drug Working Group has been working on a plan which focuses on three key areas:
- Young people and the impacts of alcohol use
- Early intervention, education and health promotion and
- Access to services and enhanced service coordination and collaboration.

The group is made up of representatives from Eastern Drug & Alcohol Service, AGEnDAS Anglicare, Yarra Valley Community Health, New Life Program, Eastern Access Community Health, Bendigo Bank – Upwey, The Basin Centre, Victoria Police, DHS, Whitehorse Community Health and the Shire of Yarra Ranges.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

a childcare dream realised

Today I had the great pleasure of attending Sherbrooke Children’s Centre (SCC) to hear Maxine Morand, Minister for Children and Early Childhood Development, announce funding towards the construction of an integrated Children’s Services Hub on the SCC site in Upwey.

The State Government have allocated $500,000 towards the project and at the same time Minister Morand confirmed federal funding of $1.6 million. This has been a community dream realised.

Me, on site at Sherbrooke Children's Centre. Currently the centre has 297 on the waiting list, expanding the centre from 39 places to 110 places will go a long way to addressing the need for good quality community based childcare across the Dandenong Ranges.

For many years the community has campaigned to save Long Day Care at SCC, back in 2004 the council of the day wanted to close Sherbrooke Children’s Centre and 2009 was the year the centre was going to shut forever.

The news of this rippled through the community and a dedicated group of parents worked very hard to galvanise the community in an effort to save SCC. I was one of those parents and can remember weekly meetings around various kitchen tables in houses across the hills where we developed our community’s dream for children’s services in the Dandenong Ranges. We always maintained the vision of an integrated service incorporating a range of family services and worked hard articulating this vision to council.

Five years down the track with two council elections under my belt, a huge step closer to achieving a Children’s Services Hub for the Dandenongs, today has been a great day for children in the Shire. The building of the Children’s Services Hub will see the recommitment to children and the early years by the Shire of Yarra Ranges council.

Today’s announcement follows on the footstep of a very positive community meeting I attended last night to discuss the plans for the site. Community members embraced the concepts and plans before them, with one community member summing up the vision well “we want it to be magical for children”.

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

hills cfa fundraiser – 29 march

I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of assistance to help those affected by the recent bushfires. Offers have come from all quarters with all manner of support.

I cannot speak highly enough of the efforts of all of our emergency services workers, the volunteers who support them, the staff at the Shire and community members who have taken on significant roles assisting the community through this tragic time.

I am very thankful for all their hard work, their compassion and their dedication to helping fellow members of the community, it is very much appreciated.

The latest local fundraiser is being held by Earthly Pleasures Organic Café in Belgrave. I think it will be a great afternoon out, very family friendly and funds raised will be donated to our local CFA brigades.

‘Music on the Lawn’ features:
Jed Rowe
River Crombie
Hilary Blackshaw and Joel Bloom
Wildwood and
Skaidra & Essjee.

BYO Chair or rug

When: Sunday 29th March from 12pm
Cost: $10 entry at the gate
Where: 1627 Burwood Highway, Belgrave

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50kph for kallista

Pedestrians in Kallista should find it a little easier to negotiate crossing Monbulk Road with the new 50kph zone now in place. For some time I have lobbied VicRoads for changes to speed zones throughout our townships. It has been quite a struggle but well worth the effort.

It's great news that Kallista’s new speed limits have been approved, however there are still other towns in my ward who would like lower speed limits. I will continue to advocate for lower speed limits in Selby, Belgrave South and Tecoma as I did with Kallista. This issue is raised with me time and time again.

Many of our townships have small rural roads and challenging sight lines, others an enormous amount of through traffic. We need to make our townships more accessible to pedestrians, our community shouldn’t have to run the gauntlet every time they want to cross a road.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

oxfam world music café on again

For the second year Oxfam Australia (Dandenong Ranges Group) is presenting World Music Café to support Oxfam's ongoing campaigning and aid program.

World Music Café is being held in conjuction with The Basin Music Festival next Saturday 21st March,2009 between 4:30pm and 7:30pm.

The performance is local, inexpensive, a family-friendly timeslot and truly multicultural entertainment.

The group is again partnering with both the Festival and The Basin's Hindu temple for both performance and supper catering. As well as Hindu dancers and the fabulous Vox Congo, there will be singers from Burma, Che Pena a capella group and Charmaine Schmidt's Welcome Singers.

Click poster for more details.

Phone Charmaine on 9762 2104 for tickets or just turn up at St Bernadettes hall on the day.

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Friday, March 13, 2009

report from the round table – mar 10

Report from the round table is my regular report back from the council meeting, this week:

Shower opens at Mission Impossible
It was great to report back to council that I had the very great pleasure of officially opening a shower at Mission Impossible on Tuesday night. I had funded the installation of the shower from my ward fund (see
blog entry) as a way to assist homeless and disadvantaged people in the Dandenong Ranges.

I saw it as a practical on the ground way to help people in need with a very basic but critical need. Mission Impossible were delighted with the installation (and the hot water service!) and the ribbon was cut to the cheer and applause of those who came along to celebrate the occasion.

The Tecoma Supermarket Application
At this meeting council were considering the application for the development of a supermarket in Tecoma. Although the application is before VCAT council still has to determine a position on the application to present to VCAT.

Shire planners had recommended a refusal of the application, I was very supportive of their recommendation and moved a motion to refuse the application. In summing up I started by telling my fellow councillors about the character of Tecoma. It is a town that has great hills character, it’s built form is low scale and one of it’s hallmarks is its canopy of trees and open space.

Tecoma is a town of around 2,000 people, it has little capacity for growth, something reconfirmed in the Shire’s housing strategy consultations.

Even though it is council’s role to determine the application on planning grounds I thought it was important to highlight the groundswell of community objection to the application. Council had received 531 objections and 16 petitions against the supermarket in comparison to 4 letters of support.

The application was to build a monolithic monstrosity, a building 11 metres high with minimal setbacks, the tiniest of landscaping and 3 storeys high at the rear. Its interface with the neighbours is atrocious. I referred councillors to attachment 9 of our council papers which shows how much the direct neighbour on Sandells Road would be overshadowed by this giant of a building. Not only the direct neighbours would be affected, but the majority of the Tecoma community would be looking at the back of an ugly 3 storey concrete block.

Traffic is a key concern. Burwood Highway carries much more than just local traffic, if you are coming or going from Emerald, Monbulk or Belgrave you will be using Burwood Highway and it is important to bear in mind it is a single lane road already very busy servicing the local Tecoma Primary School, PreSchool, Pathology Centre, Church and Strip Shopping Centre.

Traffic engineers for the applicant had calculated that the supermarket would add 3,348 additional traffic movements a day, given the difficulties traversing Burwood Highway now, an extra 3,348 cars would be a nightmare.

The application requires 211 parking spaces, even though the report refers to changes to the provisions, these changes are only proposed, not current law so the application must be measured against the current planning scheme. The application only provides for 130 car parking spaces, the applicant is asking for a car parking dispensation of 81 spaces, this will lead to parking chaos in Tecoma.

It is an overdevelopment of the site, it’s a building that provides a three storey blank concrete wall to the majority of the population of Tecoma. It has significant amenity issues; traffic, noise and visual bulk to name a few.

We want the hills to stay the hills and with that I urged councillors to support my motion to refuse the application.

I am very pleased to report that council voted unanimously to refuse the application.

The application will now be heard at VCAT who will make the final decision on the supermarket. So far a date for the VCAT hearing hasn’t been set, but watch this space for more information.


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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

tecoma supermarket application refused


At last night's council meeting (10 Mar), council voted unanimously to refuse the application to develop a supermarket in Tecoma.

The application is now before VCAT however a hearing date has not been set as yet.

More details to follow in my regular blog entry - report from the roundtable...

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Monday, March 09, 2009

rescheduled bus review dates for yarra ranges

Yarra Ranges Bus Service Review


In an earlier blog entry I highlighted the upcoming bus service reviews for our community. Due to the recent bushfires, three of the workshops had to be postponed.

I’m pleased to say that dates have been rescheduled, details are:

Date: Monday 23rd March
Time: 1pm – 4pm
Suburb: Yarra Junction Community Hub

Date: Tuesday 24th March
Time: 1pm – 4pm
Suburb: Upwey Community Hall

Date: Thursday 26th March
Time: 1pm – 4pm
Suburb: Healesville Memorial Hall

The objective of the Bus Service Reviews 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.

If you can’t make it to one of the workshops but you’d like to have your say you can forward a written submission to the review. Send your submission to:
Knox/Maroondah/Yarra Ranges Bus Service Review
PO Box 2797
Melbourne VIC 3001

The closing date for written submissions is Friday 3rd April 2009.

If you want to see improvements to bus services in the Shire now is the time to have your say.


Friday, March 06, 2009

earth tremor in selby

What a surprise, sitting down relaxing for the evening, when a distant rumble could be heard, the house started shaking and I thought for all intents and purpose it was thunder. When the house continued to shake I realised that it was an earth tremor. It’s an eerie feeling, not one we’re very used to in Australia.

I loathe earthquakes, I first experienced one in California in 1980, I didn’t like it then and I still don’t like them. The feeling of loss of control is one I find difficult to reconcile. I hope all is well out there in Melbourne, we’ve had enough to contend with of late.

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yes – we are open for business

The recent tragic bushfires in Yarra Ranges have been devastating and their effect will be long felt in our community. However there is a very real economic threat here and now for our local businesses and the locals they employ due to the major bushfire disruption in the area.

Many businesses in Yarra Ranges rely on the tourist trade, the Yarra Valley has been a prime tourist destination for visitors near and afar. The response from the Australian public to help those in bushfire areas has been overwhelming and generous, now is the time to contribute some of that generosity locally and come back to Yarra Ranges for a visit to help support our local economies.

Now is the time to come back, we welcome visitors to the Dandenong Ranges, the Yarra Valley, Healesville and the Warburton Valley.

Even in the Dandenong Ranges, another key tourist destination, visitors and locals have been missing, concerns about bushfires the key factor. On my local shopping trips traders have reported to me they are struggling, the streets are quiet and usually flourishing townships are like ghost towns. I hope that now the threat of bushfire has subsided locals will return to the Dandenongs, Healesville and the Warburton Valley and help support local traders who are really starting to feel the pinch.

I understand that visitors want to keep their distance, be respectful and don’t want to been seen as rubber neckers, but now is the time to come back to the Yarra Valley, the Dandenongs, the Warburton Valley and Healesville – we need your business and we welcome all visitors back to our wonderful region.

YES - we are open for business!

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

relief centre update

The Shire's Recovery Centre at Yarra Glen Memorial Hall, Cnr Anzac Ave and Bell St Yarra Glen MEL REF 274 K1, will remain active until further notice.

Yarra Glen Recovery Centre opening hours:
Monday - Friday: 10.00am to 5.00pm
Saturday: 10.00am - 2.00pm

Staff will be available to help support and assist residents with claims to access emergency assistance grants and other personal support.

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

tecoma supermarket application, coming up 10 march

The Tecoma Supermarket application will be considered by council at its next meeting on Tuesday 10th March, 2009. Due to the ongoing emergency situation in the shire this council meeting will be held at the Mooroolbark Community Centre (Brice Avenue, Mooroolbark) instead of Lilydale.

The Council Chambers in Lilydale are currently being utilised as the Municipal Emergency Communications Centre (MECC) to deal with the ongoing fire emergency in the Shire.

At the meeting submissions in relation to the Tecoma Supermarket application are allowed (and will be invited via the Mayor), however only one representative will be able to speak on behalf of objectors and one representative to speak on behalf of the applicant.


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Monday, March 02, 2009

relief centre information for 2nd march

Residents are advised that given the extreme weather warning issued for 2-4 March the Shire of Yarra Ranges has opened a Relief Centre at the Lilydale Showgrounds, Chapel Street, Lilydale (Mel Ref 38 E4) from 6.00pm on Monday 2 March.

Provision has also been made to house livestock and domestic animals at the centre. The shire has also made arrangements to house horses at the Lilydale Recreation Reserve, entry from Maroondah Highway Lilydale.

Short term accommodation is available at the Relief Centre, however a more comfortable option may be for people to arrange to stay with friends and family.

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CANCELLED - celebrate international women’s day with fernanda borges in belgrave

Due to extreme fire danger weather conditions forecast for Tuesday 3rd March this event has been cancelled.

Sorry for any inconvenience.

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Sunday, March 01, 2009

torchlight a highlight

Last night the family and I went to the Knox Festival in Ferntree Gully. It’s an event we have been going to for more years than I can remember. This year’s festival was special as it included a Torchlight Parade by members of the CFA. The torchlight parade is based on tradition and sees CFA members from different brigades march through the streets with kerosene lamps.

It gave festival goers a chance to give thanks to the brigades, the parade route, starting at the Ferntree Gully CFA and finishing at the festival, was lined with people clapping and cheering the brigades as they marched past.

It was great to see some of our local brigades marching as well and I couldn’t help but give a bit of a bigger cheer for Selby, Belgrave and Belgrave Heights & South CFA brigades.

In speaking to CFA members after the parade, their commitment to helping Victorians was overwhelming, they have sacrificed much personal time and work time (and wages) to continue fighting the fires still burning across the Yarra Ranges. I cannot speak highly enough of their efforts (and all the emergency services, shire staff and volunteers) in assisting our community through this terrible time.

Summer is over, but the danger of fire still looms large, this Tuesday (3rd March) please make sure you activate your fire plan and make sure you’re realistic about your plan too. For more info visit the CFA’s
Leave or Stay?

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our land through our lenses

Yesterday I visited Karwarra Gardens in Kalorama to see the exhibition "Our Land Through Our Lenses", it’s a photography exhibition by members of the Knox Photographic Society.

It is well worth a visit and includes many spectacular shots of our natural landscape both close up and afar.

I encourage you to go along and have a look for yourself. At the same time have a wander through Karwarra Gardens. It is a impressive native garden with over 2000 native plants and 1300 different species, but like all gardens at the moment, in need of rain.

Exhibition details:

February 28 February - 15 March 2009

from 10.00am - 4.00pm
Closed Mondays except Labour Day,
also closed on days of Total Fire Ban.

Framed and unframed works and photographic cards for sale. Lectures and demonstrations at 11.00am each Saturday and Sunday.

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