Sunday, May 30, 2010

belgrave town centre study – what do you think?

report from the roundtable – 25 may

The Belgrave Town Centre Study was undertaken to address a range of issues relating to the appearance and operation of the township. The study was informed by extensive community input and the report provides guidelines for key redevelopment sites, design ideas for improving public spaces and suggestions for addressing traffic and parking issues.

The report recommends some areas for rezoning, one being the key site of New Belgrave Motors to Business One. I do have some concerns about this recommendation as it means that many more types of businesses can use the site as of right, in the back of my mind was the long fight to keep McDonalds off a prominent site in our town.

The report also considers the Belgrave Bypass, as council has never had a formal position on this matter, the report does not support the construction of a bypass.

The report is out for public consultation for the next 6 weeks, I look forward to hearing what the community has to say. If you'd like to read the report click here and here (it's in two parts) and email any comments to

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

budget announced

report from the roundtable – 25 may

This week's council meeting saw the budget released for public comment. It has been a challenging time developing this year's budget. More and more we find the state government shifting costs to local government putting more pressure on ratepayers.

This year's draft budget indicates a rate rise of 7.65% but there are a few factors that come into play to come arrive at this figure. The first is a $580,000 levy for landfill waste, imposed by the state government at the 11th hour of budget deliberations, this levy represents .7% of the Yarra Ranges rate increase. I'd like to think that the income raised from this levy on behalf of the state is returned to Yarra Ranges to implement waste reduction programs locally and consequently reduce waste costs to residents. How equitably the income from the levy will be distributed to local government remains to be seen.

Another pressure on our budget has been bushfire preparations, the additional works in bushland reserves and roadsides represents an additional .9% on the rate increase. It's vital work that must be done, but it does impact on our budget. Taking away these costs as well as the waste levy, the rate rise comes in at 6.05%. Our neighbouring councils are considering rises of Knox (7.82%), Maroondah (9.8%) and Whitehorse (7.28%). Considering the particular demands in the Shire of Yarra Ranges we have tried very hard to keep the rate rise as moderate as we could.

Yarra Ranges has seen the Federal Government withdraw funding for our landcare officer, it's an important position that council thought was an imperative to continue for the community. To date our land care officer has been instrumental in providing training and support for a number of landholders, community groups and agricultural-based industries. Support has included running workshops, assisting with the development of property use plans - especially for horse properties. These plans focus on the health of the animals as well as the land. The officer has also worked with the nursery and berry industries to help secure about $500,000 in funding for land improvements. It wasn't the sort of program we'd back away from, unlike the federal government.

I continue to be appalled by the lack of funding from Vic Roads towards our school crossing supervisors. When the school crossings program first started in the 1970's Vic Roads contributed 70% of costs whilst councils put in 30%. Now we see the split completely reversed with council putting in 70% and Vic Roads contributing 30%. Yet another example of ongoing cost shifting to local government.

Every year we see the burden of library costs shift further to local government, yet another area where ratepayers are picking up the costs. Back in the 1970's costs for libraries were split 50/50 between state and local government, today we see council picking up 75% of the costs. This continual shifting of costs puts greater and greater burden on local government every year.

The latest example of cost shifting would have to be costs associated with Neighbourhood Safer Places. On one site alone in Yarra Ranges council would have to spend $100,000 to get it up to scratch to comply as an NSP, yet we see in the most recent state budget the allocation of $500,000 to use across the state. It's a drop in the ocean and goes nowhere near helping local government with the costs of setting up and maintaining NSPs.

The Shire of Yarra Ranges council is committed to its community and continues to provide funding across a diverse range of services, but the continual shifting of costs makes the budget more and more challenging every year.

The budget is out for public comment, there's a lot of great initiatives in there, a full program of capital works to provide our community with facilities, footpaths and roads and additional initiatives to address our greenhouse gas emissions and assist the community to help reduce theirs. Council will consider any submissions to the budget and endorse it on 29th June, 2010.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

L2P learner driver mentor program off and running

Yesterday I attended the launch of the L2P program in Healesville. It’s a terrific program which sees community based volunteers provide mentor access to learner drivers who face significant barriers getting up their mandatory 120 hours of driving practice.

Learner drivers are matched with fully licensed community volunteers who have undertaken a selection and training process. Using a vehicle, sponsored by Swinburne – Lilydale Campus and the Bendigo Bank – Warburton & Yarra Junction, the learner driver and mentor go out driving once a week to work towards the 120 hours required.

L2P also incorporates up to 7 free professional driving lessons by a registered driving instructor. It’s aimed at young people between 16 and 21 with a learner’s permit but without access to a vehicle or supervising driver. Initially the program will focus on Healesville, Yarra Junction and Lilydale.

Alina checks out the newly leased L2P vehicle, generously sponsored by Swinburne – Lilydale Campus and the Bendigo Bank – Warburton & Yarra Junction.

It was wonderful to chat to Alina Clark from Lilydale about the program. The L2P program will mean that Alina will be able to clock up her 120 hours driving practice. At the moment Alina doesn’t have access to a car or a licensed driver making her an ideal candidate for the L2P program. If you’d like to find out more about the program click

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women work it out

Last week saw the regular quarterly forum and expo for the Eastern Business Women’s Network. The network is a collaboration between Yarra Ranges, Knox and Maroondah. The day included three keynote speakers who spoke with much enthusiasm and honesty about their journey in setting up their businesses.

Pictured left to right: Meaghan Grace, Cr Samantha Dunn, Lauren Wilson & Kirsten Laken at the Eastern Business Women's Forum May 2010

The speakers, Meaghan Grace - The Functional Beverage Company, Organic Tea Specialist, Kirsten Laken - Spirit Of Glass, Glass Art Design and Lauren Wilson – Moskito Blue, Fashion Store were passionate about their businesses and in their own unique ways have persevered through many triumphs and tribulations to get to where they are today.

It was wonderful to see such energy and enthusiasm from speakers and participants alike. I look forward to the next forum which promises to be as rewarding as past events. If you’d like to keep up with what’s happening in the Yarra Ranges Business Network you can find us on

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

monbulk aquatic club presentation night

It was terrific to join with families across the region to celebrate the achievements of young swimmers from the Monbulk Aquatic Club. I was delighted to be able to present the Shire of Yarra Ranges perpetual trophy for the 400mt Freestyle Handicap.

It is one of the most hotly contested perpetual trophies within the club and often the most mysterious as it leaves swimmers guessing who the winner is.

This year Natalie Grey took out the trophy, Natalie comes from a family of keen swimmers, Natalie and her 2 sisters joined the club in February 2009 and are going from strength to strength.

Monbulk Aquatic Club plays an important role in our community promoting and encouraging young people to take up the sport of swimming. They are passionate about their sport and look forward to seeing the Monbulk Pool redeveloped.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

logging costs us billions of litres

I recently toured the Central Highlands.

To read on visit

Samantha Dunn for Eastern Victoria

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Friday, May 21, 2010

logging in the central highlands

Last week I attended a roundtable with Environment Minister, Gavin Jennings, hosted by Tammy Lobato. It gave me the opportunity to raise some concerns about logging in the Central Highlands.

I talked to the Minister about the amount of salvage logging that has taken place in the last year. Since the bushfires last year, 715,000 m3 has been logged in Yarra Ranges and Murrundindi, double the intake of any standard year.

This is a logging coupe at Starvation Creek. Logging is changing the make up of our forests and increasing fire risk throughout the region.

Given the increase of logs available I to mills asked the Minister if the salvage wood currently in the supply chain is being delivered under deferred payment arrangements or at discounted rates?

I went on to talk about the audit process, my concern is that audits have not taken place since 2007 or if they have taken place they have not been made publicly available. This is contrary to the commitment to public transparency made by Minister Jenning’s predecessor, John Thwaites under the Our Forests Our Future policy. I went on to talk about concerns that the Auditor General no longer has the audit function as it will now be carried out by the Department of Treasury and Finance.

I also talked about the amount of logging trucks that are travelling laden on roads outside of the hours permitted (in accordance with the Code of Forests Practice). The code is specific in that trucks must not operate between dusk and dawn. At the roundtable I referred to a logging truck in Lilydale at 1:39am on Wednesday 12 May. I asked the Minister to clarify how the provisions of the Code of Practice are being enforced, as logging trucks on road late at night are a regular occurrence in Yarra Ranges.

Even this week, laden logging trucks were spotted on the road travelling in the wee small hours. This is an ongoing issue as it is commonplace to sight logging trucks operating in the dead of night and it will be good to get clarification on whether the code has been breached.

Community members took great interest in the roundtable and raised many far ranging environmental issues from the Climate Change White Paper, weeds, logging in water catchments, renewable energy, waterways and Container Deposit Legislation, to name a few. Local government also raised the issue of public street lighting and the cost impost of changing to more energy efficient lighting without any support from state government.

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Friday, May 14, 2010

the funding yarra ranges never got

report from the roundtable – 11 may

I recently attended a Minister for Environment roundtable organised by James Merlino MP, where members of some local environment groups were able to speak to both parliamentarians about key issues of concern.

Pictured is the Shire's Environment One Trailer, used as an education aid to help community members understand the impact of weeds. Here it is parked at Birdsland as part of Weedbusters week.

At this forum, James Merlino (Member for Monbulk), talked about funding the shire had received from the state government to tackle the weed issue in the Dandenong Ranges. The funding, announced in July last year, never got to the Shire of Yarra Ranges and council never got to see any of the $1million announced over the next four years.

I thought it was important that Minister Merlino be informed that this money did not flow to Yarra Ranges as announced so I moved the following motion:

That Council write to the Hon James Merlino MP, Minister for Youth, Sport and Recreation and Member for Monbulk, to:

1. Clarify that $1million for weed control programs on Council land in the Dandenong Ranges did not flow to the Yarra Ranges Shire Council as stated in a recent public forum.

2. Restate the importance of this funding for weed control in the Dandenong Ranges.

3. Request that these monies which have been allocated to the DSE under the Urban Fringe Weed Management Program be reinstated and reallocated back to the Shire of Yarra Ranges for weed control programs on Council land on of the basis of the original commitment to fund the Shire of Yarra Ranges on a dollar for dollar basis of $1million over a 4 year period.

There is no doubt that weeds are a critical issue in the Dandenong Ranges. Their impact on our biodiversity and water ways is immense as well as increasing fire hazards in the region. When the original funding announcement was made, council developed extensive work plans to tackle weeds on council land. The money from state government was to be matched dollar for dollar by council so we could really start to make some headway.

It was very disappointing to learn that those plans had to be swept aside as it became known that the funding did not flow to Yarra Ranges. I am surprised that Minister Merlino wasn't aware that the money didn't flow to Yarra Ranges and I hope that those funds are reinstated to Yarra Ranges as they were originally intended.

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another telecommunications tower planned for silvan

report from the roundtable – 11 may

This week's council meeting had to consider a 35mt high Telstra monopole in Silvan. The application sought permission to erect the pole in a Significant Landscape area of Silvan.

I could not support the application. This area has high scenic values due to the extensive rolling foothills east of the main ridge of the Dandenong Ranges. The proposed pole would have risen above the canopy line of the trees by 14 metres.

Locals in the area were not happy to see the pole installed, concerned about the amenity and health impacts of a 35 metre monopole.

Although the pole was sited below the ridgeline, the applicant had compensated by extending the height of the pole.

Our landscapes are far too important, millions flock to the Dandenongs because of their natural beauty and we cannot blight this landscape with these types of installations.

The Yarra Ranges council can feel vindicated by the position it takes in relation to significant landscapes. A recent application for another monopole in Seville was refused by council for similar reasons and council's refusal was upheld by VCAT. Our landscapes are very important.

The residents views in relation to the decision were paramount and they vehemently opposed the construction of the monopole. Their views must be taken into account for it is they who have to live with the decision council makes on a day to day basis.

Council was unanimous in voting to refuse the application.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

depression in young people

Last week saw a Mental Health Forum on Depression and Young People held in Emerald and organised by the Rotary clubs from Emerald, Monbulk and Belgrave. It was a compelling forum, well organised and thought provoking for people in the audience.

The panel were well informed and highlighted the good work going on to help young people get through depression despite the many barriers in place. Also well represented were our local secondary schools, Monbulk and Emerald, who’s Wellbeing Coordinators spoke with great empathy and care about the young people in the region.

Alarming to learn was the huge gap in mental health services in the public health system. Of even greater concern is the change to Secondary School support for students. In the past students were able to access on onsite psychologist, but under the new system, students must be registered through a centralised agency. This has created huge waiting lists and has serious consequences for young people seeking immediate help.

We know that between 8 and 17% of young people will experience a depressive illness.

It was staggering to learn about the lack of preventative measures in place to stop mental illness in the first place as clear indicators can be picked up at an early age. The speakers provided great perspectives on depression and mental health and the panel, facilitated by Dr Sally Coburn, included a practising clinical psychologist, youth worker from ECHO, young person who’d experienced depression for 4 years and a mother whose daughter had an eating disorder.

My congratulations go to Rotary for their ongoing commitment to working with our community and providing community members with useful resources to tackle youth depression.

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Sunday, May 09, 2010

agenda and minutes

Click on the image for a copy of the agenda
Click on the image for a copy of the minutes

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replace hazelwood with renewables

I joined with hundreds of other Victorians at the Replace Hazelwood with Renewables community action last week. To read on visit
for Eastern Victoria

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Saturday, May 08, 2010

koha community cafe in the junction



Thursday nights - Serving meals 6pm-8pm

Koha Community Cafe is a not-for-profit pilot programme providing terrific vegetarian meals one night a week. The menu changes every week and caters for a wide variety of tastes, including desserts. Tea, coffee and chai tea is also available.

The cafe is run by volunteers from our community and welcomes everyone to come along and enjoy a meal. Every now and then, they have musicians who volunteer their time and play at the cafe too.

Meals are available from 6pm and you pay what you can afford or what you feel the meal is worth.

Why not come along and find out more about Koha Community Cafe and stay for a dinner! I know I will the next time I'm in Yarra Junction on a Thursday.

Where: Yarraburn Centre, 1-3 Park Road, Yarra Junction
(previously the Senior Citizen's Centre next to the football oval)

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the state government failing us on public transport

The state budget is a kick in the teeth to commuters on the fringe of Melbourne. To read on visit
Samantha Dunn
for Eastern Victoria

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Thursday, May 06, 2010

weeds are taking over this state

This week's state budget is a kick in the teeth to all those volunteers who work tirelessly to improve our environment. To read on visit

Samantha Dunn
for Eastern Victoria

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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

budget fails the public transport users of the east

Yesterday’s release of the state government budget was another missed opportunity to address transport woes in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs.

The government says buses are the answer for the East, so where are they? Not in yesterday's budget announcement.

The Eastern Transport Coalition were optimistic that yesterday’s budget would provide some kind of assistance to those in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs who do not have access to adequate public transport.

However, on reviewing the budget documents, it appears Government has continued to ignore the needs of over a million eastern suburbs residents.

Although the budget does contain funding for some necessary transport initiatives, Melbourne’s east has missed out again.

The ETC is disappointed but not surprised. It is time this government looked seriously at providing sustainable transport options right across Melbourne rather than focussing on a few key electorates.

This election year provides a perfect opportunity for this government to show that it is listening to the million or so residents east of Warrigal road who are forced to drive their cars to work because they have no viable alternative.

The ETC will continue to work with the Transport Minister to address the shortfall of sustainable transport options for residents of Melbourne’s east.

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Monday, May 03, 2010

a place rich in history

Yesterday saw the Dandenong Ranges branch of the National Trust turn 20. People came from near and far to celebrate the occasion and remember past challenges of protecting our heritage buildings.

The Dandenong Ranges National Trust have played a key role protecting our heritage sites over the years. Providing advice to a range of bodies, including council and community, about the heritage values of various sites across the region.

Dianne Kueffer, Betty Marsden and me at the heritage listed Marybrooke in Sherbrooke. Dianne is current President of the Dandenong Ranges National Trust, she is passionate about local heritage and fights vigorously to protect heritage buildings in the Shire. Betty is a member of the Dandenong Ranges National Trust, among many other organisations. An ex Sherbrooke Councillor, Betty has had a proud history of fighting for our built and natural heritage.

Belgrave is very fortunate to have two National Trust sites, Dr Jorgensen's house (Earthly Pleasures) and the Cameo Cinema. Both are well loved by our community and cement the need for groups like the National Trust to be out there working to protect our history.

Speakers paid tribute to the local branch, their efforts as a volunteer organisation and the importance they play in protecting our heritage.

It was particularly fitting that the 2nd May was the Dandenong Ranges National Trust anniversary day, coinciding with the Great Train Race in Belgrave. The famous trestle bridge in Selby, which is a breathtaking part of the journey on Puffing Billy, is also classified by the National Trust.

It is always a terrific sight to see our local roads overflowing with runners keen to beat the train. More and more community members come out each year to support the event from the sidelines.

In its 29th year the Great Train Race sees 3,000 runners take on Puffing Billy on a fun run to Emerald Lake Park.

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Sunday, May 02, 2010

getting greener

Yesterday was an opportunity to fly the Greens flag at the Going Green expo in Melbourne.

To read on visit
Samantha Dunn
Greens candidate for Eastern Victoria

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Saturday, May 01, 2010

sea shepherd fundraiser a success

Last night I attended a fundraiser organised by Sherbrooke Community School student, Jordan Crooka to raise money for the Sea Shepherd.

To read on visit
Samantha Dunn
Greens Candidate for Eastern Victoria

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