Monday, August 31, 2009

an unintended consequence for the dandenongs

Today the Premier announced the introduction of new planning provisions for the clearing of native vegetation for bushfire protection. The Shire of Yarra Ranges is one of the municipalities affected by the proposed changes, which are yet to be enacted.

The measures include:
- The introduction of the 10/30 right. This will enable residents to clear all vegetation within 10 metres of a building used for accommodation for bushfire protection and any vegetation (except for trees) to be cleared within an additional 20 metres.
- Changes to fence line clearing provisions. This will enable residents to clear all vegetation along boundary fence lines of their property to a maximum combined width of 4 metres.

But will the 10/30 right protect our communities against bushfire?

By reacting to Black Saturday bushfires and pre-empting the Royal Commission’s recommendations in relation to vegetation the Premier puts at risk people in the Dandenongs with the unintended consequence of landslip. Much of the land in the Dandenongs is classified as a land slip zone (erosion management overlay), the shire’s practice
notes are explicit in the importance of retaining natural vegetation wherever possible to avoid landslip.

The CFA recommends that a protective shield of trees be planted around the house to slow the wind, cut down radiant heat and catch flying embers.

In some parts of the Dandenongs where the allotments are relatively small (1/2 acre), if residents took up this option, there would not be one scrap of vegetation left. This could have serious consequences in managing landslip and erosion, let alone erode the natural assets and values we all enjoy as residents in this unique environment.

The CFA is explicit in its definition of
fire fuels: dead undergrowth, fallen branches, woodpiles, leaves in gutters, long dry grass, fallen leaves and twigs, Anything smaller in diameter than your little finger is a fine fuel and it is these that you need to clean up around your property to protect against bushfire attack. I can understand residents nervousness as we approach this fire season but we must concentrate on clearing our properties of fire fuels and not accept a blanket, indiscriminate approach to vegetation removal.

In notes released to support 10/30 rights the government makes reference to landslip and recommends that residents consider pruning their trees rather than remove them, however if the government was genuine about addressing the risk of landslip, vegetation in landslip areas should not be part of the 10/30 right.

The government is under pressure to act but it must make sure that community safety is paramount. The question I have is will the 10/30 right achieve this?

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bushfire forum in belgrave

Yesterday I spoke to a group of community members at a forum on bushfires. I told residents about the Shire's losses in the Black Saturday bushfires, the operation of the MECC (Municipal Emergency Coordination Centre), relief centres and the recovery effort still underway and expected to continue for at least another 12 months.

Around 30 people came to the forum to hear updates on bushfire preparedness.

I talked about the Shire's fire prevention program which last year saw 54,000 properties inspected for fire danger, of those 2000 landowners received clean up notices with only 200 not completing the work. In these cases the shire completed the clearance works with charges forwarded to the landowners for reimbursement.

I went on to talk about the Shire's role in response to the Royal Commission recommendations.

The Royal Commission's recommendation 6.4 deals with the "appropriate provision for relocation during bushfires". The Shire of Yarra Ranges has reviewed the operation of relief centres from the last fire season and is in the process of developing a policy which will include Standard Operating Procedures for relief centres among other things, such as location and provision of amenities.

With regard recommendation 8.7 - Neighbourhood Safer Places (NSP), the shire has a responsibility for recording the locations and inclusion within relevant plans and provide information to residents and tourists. This is something we will certainly be including in our plans and developing a communication strategy for alerting residents and visitors alike to the location of NSPs. I look forward to getting detail of the criteria for NSPs as once these are available the Shire will be able to see what sites may fit the criteria and recommend them for consideration by the CFA.

Since the Black Saturday fires the Shire has been developing and reviewing our Bushfire Season Action Plan 2009/10. The Plan covers a range of issues including the formation of an Integrated Fire Management Planning Committee, land management of roadsides, reserves and private land, community fire education, municipal emergency management planning, preparedness and response and council's own response to high fire risk days and fire events.

I made the point that I hoped all towns no matter how big or small were included in the development of Township Protection Plans, an issue that was clarified later by Colin Brown (CFA Fire Operations Manager for the Dandenong Ranges).

I urged residents to clean up the fire fuels around their properties and spoke about council's decision to allow residents free tipping for four weeks from the 11th October. I also encouraged the community to use their green waste bins in the fire season and burning off now to assist with fire fuel reduction.

I talked about the work of the Olinda community in preparing the community house there for consideration as an NSP and that council had resolved to refer the site to the CFA for their consideration.

Ultimately anything we do for fire preparedness must be about protecting our communities and it must be evidence based. There is no point implementing measures that do not prove to be effective in protecting communities and we must use the protection of communities as the basis for our decisions about how we prepare for the fire season.

I also promoted the Community Emergency Services and Safety Day at Lillydale Lake on the 7th November. The day will be about promoting emergency services, safety and fire preparedness to residents across the Shire.

Colin Brown, Fire Operations Manager for the Dandenong Ranges, spoke about his role in developing Township Protection Plans (TPPs) and the NSP project. Due to Colin's experience and knowledge of Queensland's Local Action Plans he has been tasked with assisting with the development of TPPs. Colin expects TPPs to be released this week and they will be in three parts. Part 1 will consist of a map, containing a legend, with information for what community needs to know to prepare for bushfire. Part 2 is the Action document which deals with the organisation of emergency management once a fire starts. Part 3 contains information about fire prevention and includes the broader information such as the municipal emergency plan, DSE and Parks Victoria fire operations plans.

Colin reported that criteria for NSPs was expected to be released on Monday or Tuesday this week and once available individuals, community groups and councils would be able to nominate areas for consideration as NSPs.

Colin explained the Dandenongs had been split in to 5 distinct regions for the development of TPPs based on an assessment of local hazards and detailed discussions with local brigades. Once NSPs have been confirmed their location will be included in the relevant TPP, along with location of relief centres.

I look forward to seeing more detail on NSPs and TPPs so the shire can start thinking about sites that may fit the NSP criteria. I am also very relieved that all townships in the Dandenongs, big and small, are included in the 5 TPPs across the ranges region.

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

rod quantock does oxfam in the dandenongs

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john cummins memorial fundraiser

Click on the image for the full story.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

ranges dreaming

Today I had the very great pleasure of officially opening "Ranges Dreaming", a performance by the Ranges Young Strings at Burrinja. Student musicians of the Ranges Young Strings have been involved in workshops with Karen Kyriakou, a wonderful music educator, composer and conductor to compose a piece called Air Earth Water Fire. Part of their workshop included a session with Ron Murray who exposed the students to indigenous music.

The Ranges Young Strings performing their own composition Air Earth Water Fire, conducted by Karen Kyriakou.

Ranges Dreaming was assisted by the Shire of Yarra Ranges through a community cultural development grant. It was wonderful to hear the performance of the Ranges Young Strings (RYS) and see the shire's grant in action. The day also included performances by the Burnt Bridge Senior Orchestra and the Tarella String Quartet, all former RYS members.

The Ranges Young Strings with me, Karen Kyriakou and Dindy Vaughan (musical director and conductor) centre.

A highlight of the day was Sun Arise and Earthbeat, played by the Burnt Bridge Orchestra and the RYS, accompanied by the Tecoma Primary School Choir.

The shire is very fortunate to have a dedicated group of volunteers at the DRMC to bring music to our young people, it continues the fine tradition of culture, music and art in the Dandenong Ranges. Children from as far away as Millgrove and Warburton play with the RYS and their composition and performance of Air Earth Water Fire was compelling and beautiful.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

community talks cockies

Earlier this week I attended a community meeting in Kallista to talk about the ongoing problem with cockatoos. Around 60 community members were there, along with representatives of Parks Victoria, DSE and James Merlino MP. Council was represented by me and Cr Cliff.

The Panel from left to right: Cr Noel Cliff, James Merlino MP, Scott Lawrence DSE, Cr Samantha Dunn, Matt Hoogland Parks Victoria and Craig Bray Parks Victoria.

We heard many stories of cockatoo damage, residents frustrated by the continuing damage to their property.

ABC News were there to film the story - click on this image for the story.

John Lloyd, ex ranger of Sherbrooke Forest, spoke about the history of Grants Picnic Ground and how the kiosk came to feed birds in the national park. John went on to speak about the cockatoos taking over hollows from other species in the forest, the impact the cockatoos had on a local pair of Wedge Tailed Eagles (now no longer in the forest) and the impact on the natural environment.

James Merlino MP told community members that aside from bushfire, cockatoo damage was the number one local issue.

This damage is atrocious and I have had it confirmed to me that it is directly related to the cockatoos who feed at Grant's Picnic Ground.

James Merlino committed to investigating the lease with the cafe at Grant's Picnic Ground and told the crowd "any contract can be varied....however the operators will be resistant to change and their claim may be extreme....the government has to weigh up the cost to government and is it worth it".

Community members told of their experiences with the DSE in seeking advice about how to deal with cockatoos, their frustration apparent. Residents have been told to "shoo away" the cockatoos, apply for a license to trap or shoot the birds, employ pest controllers at their cost or apply for legal aid.

Here is a family at Grant's Picnic Ground, they've brought their own bird seed in, they are not feeding in the designated area and no one is stopping them. Maybe if tourists knew the damage feeding cockatoos caused they wouldn't feed the birds.

Health issues were discussed, cockatoos carry many diseases (psittacosis was cited) and could constitute a health risk to visitors of Grants.

I am a strong believer that education must play a key role to tackle backyard feeding, but some community members said education is not the answer in every case. I have been working closely with the DSE to develop materials to help educate people about the implications of feeding cockatoos, however I did point out to residents that the issue of feeding at Grant's Picnic Ground will continue to be an issue.

The issue of tourists bringing birdseed into Grants came up, I know myself I have seen tourists with huge bags of seed for the cockatoos. Residents have seen tourists dump the unused seed on the ground creating even bigger problems for Parks Victoria.

Residents were angry that they were bearing the cost and damage of tourists wanting to come and feed cockatoos.

From my perspective there are two issues at play, one the backyard feeders, the other feeding in our national park.

I have committed to bringing forward a motion at the next council meeting to investigate the nuisance provisions of the Health Act to see if this provides a local legislative approach for residents who refuse to stop feeding cockatoos. I have also committed to investigating a local bylaw to ban the feeding of cockatoos in the Shire of Yarra Ranges.

It must be recognised that these measures will only deal with part of the problem. Whilst the state sanctions feeding in Sherbrooke Forest at Grant's Picnic Ground, local Kallista residents will continue to bear the brunt of this activity.

It is time for the state government to look at the regulations under the Wildlife Act and make it illegal to feed cockatoos, no longer can we turn a blind eye, the consequences for residents are extreme and no longer should they be enduring the cost and frustration.

Maybe it is time for Gavin Jennings, Minister for the Environment, to come and visit Kallista so he can see first hand the cockatoo damage to both public and private property, maybe then we will see some teeth in the Wildlife Act.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

no teens allowed

report from the roundtable - 25 Aug
At it’s meeting this week, Council considered whether the shire should continue to hire out halls for teenage parties. Officers recommended that we no longer accept bookings for teenage birthday parties. I'm saddened to say that the majority of councillors supported the recommendation and by doing so have turned there back on teenagers and the real issues affecting them.

In arguing against the motion I talked about the Shire's Action and Policy Plan for Young People that was endorsed by council back in 2007. The plan is based on the principles that council:
will work in partnership with young people
will support young people to be connected to their communities
recognises and values the important growth period of adolescence
will continue to provide a diverse range of accessible services, encouraging ownership, responsibility and participation to young people
A move to ban teenage birthday parties defies these principles and turns our back on teenagers throughout the shire.

When the Action and Policy Plan for Young People was being developed in 2007, young people across the shire came up with the following Youth Charter:
Our community is a place of natural beauty, culture and history.
A place where we live and belong.
Young People in the Shire of Yarra Ranges are passionate, diverse, active and proud.
We respect and celebrate our similarities and differences.
We are people who dream, participate, learn and create.
We are here, we are involved and we have a say for today and the future.
We embrace community spirit.
Valuing our families, friends and the environment.
Everyone working together.

I wonder how many young people we consulted when we came up with a policy to ban teenage parties, I suspect we didn’t ask any of them. I have to wonder how committed we are to working together with our young people.

Our young people are more likely to leave school earlier, disengage from work or education, be involved in at risk behaviors, demonstrate self harm behaviours, exhibit depressive symptoms and be at risk of homelessness. They are already disenfranchised, to shut our community hall doors to them will disenfranchise them even more. I would even go so far to say that banning teenage parties from our halls contravenes their human rights.

Council's Action and Policy Plan for Young People is underpinned by the principles of participation, leadership, equity, respect, accessibility, advocacy and partnership. A move to close our halls to teenagers undermines these principles and makes a mockery of the plan.

Back when the Action and Policy Plan for Young People was endorsed by council, the Mayor of the day, Cr Heenan, talked about council being "committed to working with young people". Council's vision for young people is "Young People are an integral part of the rich diversity that makes up the population of the Shire of Yarra Ranges. The Shire is a place that welcomes supports and encourages young people to be involved in and contribute to all aspects of community life".

How much are we supporting and encouraging young people by shutting the door on them?

In the last year our halls were used on 3,147 occasions, only twice was there a problem, to consider banning teenagers is a complete overreaction to the issue of hall damage.

The Shire's Drug and Alcohol Working Group, of which I'm chairperson, recognises that the real way to change behaviour is through early intervention, education and health promotion. Closing our halls to teenagers will do nothing to address the problem real problems behind hall damage and underage alcohol use.

Closing our halls to teenage parties will not stop underage drinking, it won’t stop vandalism fueled by alcohol. We should be putting measures in place to address the problem, not turning our back on the entire population of teenagers with a blanket ban on use of our community halls.

Where will this end? Will we stop all adults using footy/cricket clubs (shire facilities) as a few drunk young adults make their way home and take it out on local letterboxes, fences, rubbish bins and whatever else gets in their way? I don't think so, this is aimed fairly and squarely at young people and rather than being proactive to solve the problem, council has chosen a shut door policy and turned its back on shire teenagers.
Councillors who voted to ban teenagers from our halls: Cr Len Cox, Cr Chris Templer, Cr Terry Avery, Cr Richard Higgins, Cr Graham Warren and Cr Tim Heenan.
Councillors who voted against the ban: Cr Samantha Dunn, Cr Jeanette McRae and Cr Noel Cliff.

PostScript: Since this motion was resolved at council on Tuesday night I have learnt that the two incidences in the past year referred to in the council officer’s report were not teenage parties. So it seems we have a report to council alluding to troublesome teenage parties and the fact of the matter is the two occasions referred to happened to be a 21st birthday party and a hiring under the category 'other'. This is a dark day for the shire indeed.

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olinda community house - a neighbourhood safe place?

report from the roundtable - 25 Aug
At this week's council meeting I seconded a motion to support the work of the Olinda community to prepare the Olinda Community House and the parking area as a Neighbourhood Safe Place (NSP). Council agreed to refer the Olinda Community House for urgent assessment by the CFA as a NSP and also to seek the State's urgent assessment and identification of other suitable areas in the Shire as NSPs.

It is important to remember that NSPs are a PLACE OF LAST RESORT. We must make sure that the community understands that NSPs are last on the list of options in your fire plan, it is definitely not the first option. It is easy to get caught out by bushfire, my own experiences earlier this year with the Birdsland fire just over the hill from my own property was a telling example of just how easy it is to be caught by surprise.

I hope by referring the Olinda Community House to the CFA as a NSP will provide further urgency for the CFA to start developing criteria about what constitutes a NSP. I also hope that once the CFA start developing Township Protection Plans that ALL townships, no matter how big or small, are included as part of the Dandenong Ranges. With a population of some 40,000 people in the Dandenongs it is important that every town has a Township Protection Plan.

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free tipping for fire fuel coming soon

report from the roundtable - 25 Aug

On Tuesday night I moved a motion to improve green waste disposal in the shire to facilitate broader and easier disposal of fire fuel. The review of the Shire's green waste services came about from a motion I moved back in February, 2009. Last summer residents in the fire danger areas had to cope with massive amounts of fire fuel with few options to get the fuel off their properties. As a result of Tuesday night's motion residents will be able to take up the option of free tipping for green waste for one month. The free tipping will coincide with the government's cleanup week, starting on the 11th October.

240litre green waste bins are a great way to get rid of fire fuel throughout the summer.
We will also be encouraging residents with small green waste bins to upgrade to the larger bins. I was surprised to learn that many residents who use the green waste service only have small bins, this will provide them with an opportunity to double the capacity at only an additional $15 per year.

The motion was supported unanimously and is a very positive step forward. I think it provides residents with a suite of options to manage fire fuel on their properties. Looking at the data in the report, residents found by far the most successful way to rid their properties of fire fuel was through free tipping arrangements, approved by the Shire earlier this year for the 08/09 fire season.

Those who live in residential bushland or rural areas can also utilise burning off for fire fuel reduction as well as green waste bins and free tipping. I encourage all residents to start now to make sure your property is free of fire fuel. If you want to know what constitutes fire fuel, the CFA has a wealth of information online.
I urge residents to start cleaning up now, I know I am.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

calling young filmmakers with a story to tell

Celebrating its fifth year in 2010, the Hillside Film Festival (formerly the Blue Dandenongs Young Filmmakers Festival) is calling for entries from Victoria’s most-promising young filmmakers. The festival gives emerging filmmakers the opportunity to see their films on the big screen in front of a large audience, be judged professionally by some of the most respected filmmakers and writers in the country, and win some fantastic prizes along the way.

Screened at the fabulous (and local) Cameo Outdoor Cinema in Belgrave, the festival proudly focuses on artistic excellence and innovation, celebrating great filmmaking across all genres, styles and budgets. Hillside Film Festival want to hear from young filmmakers with a unique voice, a story to tell and a fresh approach to filmmaking – not just those with the best equipment or famous friends. Industry judges include Sandra Sciberras, director of the AFI award-winning ‘Caterpillar Wish’ (AUS 2006), and Bridget Callow, producer of the AFI-nominated ‘Bitter and Twisted’ (AUS 2008).

This year, filmmakers are competing for a stack of cash and awards, including a $1,000 cash prize from The Upwey & District Community Bank Group and a prize pack from Madman Entertainment. Selected films will also feature on the small screen, presented on Foxtel’s Aurora Community Channel as part of Youth Week 2010. To enter, films must be 15 minutes or less, and the filmmaker from Victoria and aged 30 or under.

For more information, and to enter online, check out

Entries close on Monday 2nd November.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

the low down on peak oil

Last week I attended the MAV's Smart Urban Peak Futures conference. The focus on the conference was on sustainable, transport oriented development and the impact of peak oil. It was an excellent conference and very thought provoking.

Key messages from the conference were:

  • any change, whether it be addressing climate change, peak oil or 'smart' land use must be driven by strong, clear leadership at the top

  • people on the fringe of cities spend a lot more of their household income on transport

  • there should be a much greater focus on "away from oil" strategies

  • peak oil will hit in 2013

  • Australia has no strategic oil supply/reserve and only has 20 days worth of supply

  • 79% of oil production sites across the world are in decline

  • 72% to 86% of Australia's oil has already been consumed

  • as an interim measure motor vehicles should be converted to compressed natural gas

  • liveable cities are those with good public transport systems

  • good public transport systems reduce kilometres travelled by cars and ease congestion

  • "transition towns" are becoming more well known as communities prepare for peak oil and a low carbon economy

  • the Energy Descent Action Plan developed as part of the transition town processs are responsive to the town and dependent on its circumstances and seek commitment for action by individuals, households, regions, government, communities and businesses

  • Australia has the highest road congestion costs in the world running at 2.6% of GDP (the OECD average is 2%)

  • we have high motor vehicle ownership and low density, creating a greater reliance on motor vehicle travel

  • urban congestion in Australia was costed at $12.8 billion per annum in 2000

  • electric cars are coming, powered by 100% renewable energy with a planned launch in Australia in 2012 (Canberra), 2013 in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane

  • Maribyrnong Council have developed a Peak Oil Contingency Plan which focuses on business continuity for council in a time of high oil prices and reduced oil supply

Freeways are not a solution, more roads create more congestion. Fast and frequent public transport gives people more sustainable transport options. Increased public transport patronage is good for the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, addresses peak oil and creates healthy and well connected communities.

This is only a snapshot of what was presented at the conference but the message is clear. We need to be thinking about planning for a shortage of oil in the future. Peak Oil is something government must be focussing on now, with projections of peak oil starting to impact in 2013, there is not long to plan for less oil at higher prices.

I will be raising the issue with my councillor colleagues at the Shire of Yarra Ranges as the implications will be far ranging and include issues such as staff travel, community mobility, food security, disadvantaged communities, service delivery (ie: Meals on Wheels), climate change and use of new technologies.

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poetry slam at ferntree gully library

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

etc meets on myki, monster petition, peak oil and bike cages

Earlier this week the Eastern Transport Coalition met to talk about all things public transport in the East of Melbourne.

This month's meeting included a presentation by the Transport Ticketing Authority about the operation of the MyKi ticketing system being developed for Victoria's public transport. It was reported that the planned date for implementation is late 2009 in Melbourne metro areas and 2010 in V Line regions.

It is a touch on/touch off system which will mean passengers will have to ensure that they not only "touch on" to register they are on but "touch off" so the system can calculate the appropriate fare, something that could be challenging in a peak hour tram, or late night at an unsafe station.

There are a number of issues of concern to the ETC and we will be addressing them with the Minister in the near future.

The ETC's Monster Petition has now moved on from the City of Monash and finds itself in Whitehorse, there has been much interest and activity in the petition, with 1206 signatures collected so far. People in the East are tired of a second class public transport system and the response to the petition has been very positive. The next municipality the petiton will visit is the city of Greater Dandenong.

Peak Oil was another one of the key topics at this month's ETC meeting with three of the member councils having just attended the MAV's Smart Urban Peak Futures conference. Public transport is one of the best ways government can respond to peak oil, predicted to impact by 2013. Much of the discussion was around Dr Jago Dodson (of Griffith University) and his research into the vulnerability of outer suburban areas to increasing mortgages and rising fuel costs but with little opportunity to use alternative transport modes to access work, schools and shops. The ETC will be doing more advocacy about peak oil in the future and I will certainly be taking up the matter with councillors at the Shire of Yarra Ranges too.
The ETC has been advocating for bike cages for some time, we
welcomed the announcement of secure bike storage at the Doncaster Park and Ride and have been working on developing a list of railway stations throughout the ETC region where bike cages could easily be installed. Bike cages give commuters an alternative way of getting to the station in the knowledge that their bike will be safe and secure and are a great way to encourage cycling to stations.

Station car parks are at peak capacity already in Yarra Ranges, we need to think of alternate ways to get people to the station and bike cages are a practical part of the solution.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

clean up time now

It's time for people across the Dandenongs to clean up their properties for the upcoming fire season. Many of us last season were caught unawares by the early declaration of the fire danger period and missed the opportunity to dispose of fire fuel by burning off.

Don't wait for Mr Brumby's clean up week from the 11th to 18th October, the time to act is now. Remember making your property fire ready means getting rid of the fire fuels, the twigs, the leaves, the bark, the dead undergrowth on your property (for more info on fire fuels and other things you can do to make your property fire ready visit the CFA website).

The Shire of Yarra Ranges allows residents in Bushland Residential and Rural areas to burn off, but remember burning off is permitted for fuel reduction purposes only. You should never burn when the wind speed is more than 15km/h and make sure your fire is supervised at all times by an adult.

You must ensure that water supply from a hose or a container with at least 10 litres of water must be available at the site of the fire.

Your fire must not cause nuisance through excessive smoke outside of a property boundary or create a hazard on a public highway and burning wet or green vegetation and other materials which produce excessive smoke is prohibited.

For more info on burning off in Yarra Ranges click here.

There are also other ways to dispose of your fire fuels, consider if it can be recycled, mulched or composted? Or perhaps you'd like to wait for the free tipping service in October, 2009.

Back on the 24th February, 2009 I successfully moved the following motion:
That Council:
1. Investigate:
(a) The provision of a weekly green waste bin service over the fire danger period.
(b) Alternate ways for residents to dispose of fire fuel loads.
2. Review the success of the current bundled green waste collection.
The results of that review will be considered by council at this week's meeting on Tuesday 25th August, I'm pleased to report that residents will be given the opportunity to dispose of their fire fuel with free access to the tip for one month from the commencement of the clean up week on the 11th October. Residents will also be encouraged to upgrade their 120 litre green waste bin to a 240 litre bin (at an additional annual cost of $15) to assist with the removal of fire fuel over the fire season.
Although not voted on yet, I certainly will be supporting the recommendation. It is essential that we do all we can to assist residents with fire fuel reduction.
I urge residents to start the clean up now, take advantage of council's green waste fortnightly collection, bundled branch collection and free tipping too.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

stop press - tecoma panels win award

In an earlier edition of my blog I highlighted a new solar installation at the Tecoma Uniting Church (see blog).

I was pleased to learn that Going Solar (the company who installed the 5.1kW solar system) has just won an Award for Excellence - Design and Install of a Grid Connected System 5kW - 20kW for the installation at the church, in the 2009 industry awards, presented by the Clean Energy Council.

That's great news and continues to highlight the commitment the church has to taking responsibility for the care of our environment.

Well done!

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Monday, August 17, 2009

kallista holds cockie meeting

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

desal works in yarra ranges

report from the roundtable – 11 Aug
Just recently I learnt that pipe works for the Desalination Plant in Wonthaggi would be coming through a small part of the Shire of Yarra Ranges in order to deliver desalinated water to Cardinia Reservoir.

Part of the installation includes some removal of vegetation within the Lyster Ward. Melbourne Water met with the Shire to ask if we were okay about this. Given the Minister will be the responsible authority in relation to this project, council’s opinion is a moot point, however I think it is important that council articulate community concerns about the desalination project.

I am not remotely happy about works in Yarra Ranges or anywhere else for that matter.

Me, near the proposed Cardinia Desalination Integration Works in Yarra Ranges, Narre Warren East.
The desalination plant will generate 1.4million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions during construction and 1.2million tonnes of emissions during operation. The government has said that the 1.2million would be offset, however nothing has been said about the 70,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions generated from decomposing waste from the plant.

This desalination plant will intake 380,000 small marine organisms per second whilst discharging 8,800 litres of brine per second. This is an environmental disaster for this part of Victoria’s coastline. We can say goodbye to the tourism industry in the region, no one wants to visit a dead sea.

The works will be completed at the end of Duffy's Road, benefits offered for the loss of vegetation include sealing Duffy's Road, I'm not convinced in the long run if that's enough of a benefit.
There are much better options for securing water for Melbourne, it rains more on Melbourne than what Melburnians consume. Tanks, stormwater capture, mandatory water sensitive urban design, recycling and upgrading aging infrastructure are the way forward for securing Melbourne’s water.

A recent 2007 study found “rainwater tanks are five times more energy efficient that desalinations plants….Most Australian houses are suitable for a rainwater tanks…in Melbourne 72% of existing houses have potential for a rainwater tank….fewer than 6% of the houses in Melbourne have water tanks.”

At Tuesday night’s council meeting I urged my colleagues to join me in articulating concerns about the construction of the desalination plant, however it was not supported by the majority of councillors.

Advocating for better water solutions for our community is not new territory for Yarra Ranges, our stance on the North South Pipeline and logging in Melbourne’s water catchments both highlighted key issues of concern with water policy for Victoria.

Desalination is not a solution, just a lot of pollution.

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Friday, August 07, 2009

governor in yarra ranges

This week saw the Governor of Victoria, Professor David De Kretsner visit Yarra Ranges. The Governor went on an extensive tour of Yarra Ranges taking in many parts of the Shire.

Me and Steve Meacher of C4, Steve works tirelessly on raising awareness about Climate Change through his involvement with Communities Combating Climate Crisis, C4.

Coral Jeffs, Coordinator of Southern Ranges Environment Alliance and me. SREA is a group whose focus is working on environmental assets along the Puffing Billy corridor.

A civic reception was held on Thursday night, a cross section of the community were there as special guests, including volunteers, emergency service workers and community leaders.

Me pictured with Clare Worsnop. Clare is Yarra Ranges Environmental Achiever of the Year, 2008. She is passionate about the environment and has a special interest in owls, particularly the Powerful Owls who nest in Mt Evelyn.

It was a great night, community members enjoying the opportunity to talk to the Governor about their passion in Yarra Ranges.

From Left to right: Jackie Glen - Friends of Selby Conservation Reserve, Julie Howard - 50kph in Selby campaigner, Robyn Bowker - Friends of Monbulk Creek, Belgrave Lake Section and me. A fine group of dedicated women, passionate about their cause and prepared to put in the effort to affect change and make our world a better place to live.

I had the very great pleasure of accompanying the Governor and Mrs De Kretsner on a tour of the Birdsland Education Centre and Burrinja. The Governor was very interested in the Learning for Sustainability education program run by the shire out of Birdsland and saw first hand the students of Belgrave Heights Christian School learn about the water cycle.

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

eastern victoria campaign

Wednesday night saw the start of the campaign for the Greens in Eastern Victoria. Greens and supporters came from far and wide to listen to myself and Green’s Senate candidate Richard Di Natale talk about Green Jobs and the Green Economy.

To read on visit
Samantha Dunn for Eastern Victoria.

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Monday, August 03, 2009

does melbourne really need expanding?

It was alarming to see the proposed changes to Melbourne’s Urban Growth Boundary (UGB). Rather than driving changes to create a more compact city, the state government’s proposed changes will see a loss of Melbourne’s “Green Wedges”.

to read on visit
Samantha Dunn for Eastern Victoria .

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Sunday, August 02, 2009

cockie communal chew continues

Once again, cockatoos topped the talk at this month’s Kallista Market.

The devastation the cockatoos have caused in the region is staggering.

The damage to bollards is extensive and the Shire will be replacing them with recycled plastic bollards in the near future.

This does not come cheaply and it is ratepayers who bear the cost of their replacement.

Add to this the costs that residents incur for cockatoo damage to their own properties, it is understandable that people are saying enough is enough.

A proforma letter was being circulated at the market by one resident determined to see the feeding at Grant’s Picnic Ground stopped. She was well supported by marketgoers, who were more than happy to put pen to paper to see this practice stopped.

If you would like a copy of the proforma supplied to you contact me on for an electronic copy.

The DSE have just finalised a Living with Wildlife fact sheet which makes specific reference to the issue of cockatoo damage:
Causing problems for humans…..DSE frequently receives complaints from people whose neighbours have been feeding wild animals. Often, the animals have become a nuisance and the caller wants them killed or removed. Many people do not think about the neighbourhood impact when they start feeding wildlife. Wild animals do not usually discriminate between one human and another, and will often start pestering neighbours for food. They may also cause damage to homes and property. For example, cockatoos need to chew items to maintain their beaks at the correct length and condition. They generally achieve this by chewing bark and branches in their roost trees. When people give them food, they tend to hang around near where they are fed. They also have more “free time” as they don’t need to forage. This can result in cockatoos chewing on timber fittings, outdoor furniture, other household fittings or vegetation on neighbouring properties. The best solution is to find out who is feeding the birds and ask them to stop.”

If you’d like a copy of the fact sheet email me on

I am more than happy to work with Parks Victoria and the DSE about education materials for our community so people understand the ramifications of feeding wildlife.

However whilst this practice still goes on at Grant’s Picnic Ground it is going to be very difficult to encourage residents to do the right thing whilst doing the wrong thing still continues at Grant’s.

And how do residents within range of Grant’s Picnic Ground get their neighbours to stop feeding? Why should they bear the cost of ongoing and significant repairs due to cockatoo feeding?

This is recent damage to one of the windows at the Kallista Community House, the only way to stop it happening again is to replace the windows with aluminium frames. As the windows are not a standard size custom frames must be made, making replacement costs as much as $2,000 per window. On Saturday I noticed that three of the windows in the community house has been chewed by cockatoos, not to mention the front door which has also been under attack.

Repair costs are hefty, to date the Shire expects to outlay:
$3,250 – Belgrave Library, to replace damaged cedar weatherboards and fit bird wire to protect the ceiling windows from further attack (please note this damage is likely to be from a local flock of cockatoos in the Belgrave region).
$7,500 – Kallista Village Green, to replace bollards
$2,000 per window frame, there are 3 so far – Kallista Community House
$?? – front doors – Kallista Community House
$?? – uprights – Kallista Community House
$?? – ramp – Kallista Community House
$?? – railings – Kallista Community House
$?? – fascia board – Kallista Community House
$?? – bollards – Kallista township, main street
$?? – signage for Heidelberg Artists Trail, Kallista

The Belgrave Library needed repairs as cockatoos had chewed along the window frames, the entire length of the building had to be enclosed with bird wire to stop the damage reoccuring.

Many costs are unknown, are likely to be ongoing and this list only reflects costs the Shire is bearing. What about individual residents, Kallista Kindergarten parents, Kallista Mechanics Hall committee, businesses in the region? We cannot continue to patch up cockatoo damage year after year, state government has to give this issue the serious consideration it deserves.

keep wildlife wild

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Saturday, August 01, 2009

church charges up

On Wednesday I went to the Tecoma Uniting Church’s 'switch on' solar power system. Motivated by church member, Brian Broughton, the church has installed a 5.1kw solar panel system. The church is hopeful that there will be enough electricity generated by the system to feed excess energy back into the grid.

At the Switch On, church Minister, Reverend Mike Esbensen, talked about the Hebrew definition of community, which encompasses people, water, earth and the sun and how the installation of the panels fitted well into this definition.

Me pictured with Reverend Di Esbensen, Brian Broughton and Reverend Mike Esbensen in front of the solar panel interpretive display. The panel indicates how much power is being generated in real time, total power generation for the day and since installation.

The Tecoma Primary School choir provided some wonderful singing on the day whilst the Belgrave Heights Christian School did a terrific job with the catering.

Their next plans are to install two 22,000 litre water tanks and explore the possibility of a community garden.The church is a great example to others and has a real commitment to sustainability and treading lightly on the earth.

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