Sunday, October 31, 2010

it doesn't rain - it pours

I had every intention of heading down to Birdsland today to help out with the community planting organised by the Birdsland Environment Collective, however when I got there the gates were shut, Birdsland closed due to flooding.

This is Monbulk Creek near Birdsland, it's banks well and truly broken, water lapping the bridge on McNicol Road.

Local waterways were gushing, swollen with water, many banks broken.

The other side of Monbulk Creek near Birdsland.
In Healesville many roads were closed, Yarra Ranges MECC (Municipal Emergency Communications Centre) was activated as shire staff set about dealing with flooding in Healesville and the Upper Yarra.
The Weir at Belgrave Lake Park was overflowing, spilling along the length of the wall, quite an amazing sight.
With heavy rains comes trees down, this one blocking a road in Belgrave.

This is Monbulk Creek at Belgrave Lake Park, the arrows indicate the stakes from some revegetation works undertaken on the existing creek bank. Lets hope the plants are well established and survive this inundation.

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

significant tree down in belgrave

I was disappointed to learn from locals that a significant tree, a Mountain Grey Gum, in Alexander's Carpark had been felled. In following up how it came to be cut down I learnt that the tree had been felled by SPAusnet as it had been assessed as hazardous and could compromise the high voltage power lines nearby.

This tree has been under ongoing monitoring by the Shire of Yarra Ranges for some time, however we were not consulted by SPAusnet about the removal so could not discuss the management and ongoing future of the tree with them.

I have spoken to SPAusnet directly to ask them to consider changing their processes so the shire can be notified of these significant and prominent removals so a considered response can be planned in the future. It wont save this Mountain Grey, but perhaps it will save others in the future.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

new reporting for councillors

report from the roundtable - 26 oct

This council meeting included details of meeting considered 'assemblies' of councillors, the new requirement is part of the changes to the Local Government Act 1989. Any meeting defined as an Assembly of Councillors now must be reported to the next practical ordinary council meeting and recorded in the minutes of that meeting.

I welcome open and transparent government but note with interest that the same disclosure obligations don't apply to the state MPs who have imposed these new regulations on councillors.

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electronic bird scarers, local law still not right

report from the roundtable - 26 oct

Council had to consider the final version of the Electronic Bird Deterrent Local Law 2010. The law has been before us twice before.

It is a complex matter and raises the issues of tensions between agriculture, environment and residential areas when they're next door to each other.

I seconded a motion to resolve not to proceed with the making of the proposed local law and that the draft law be reconsidered as part of the Scare Gun Local Law review to commence in 2011.

I didn't want to see the draft law proceed for a number of reasons.

As it currently stands the draft law does not solve environmental issues and does not solve farmer's issues.

I was concerned that the exclusions zones prescribed did not go far enough or cover enough species. I thought that there should be at least a 1000mt exclusion zone, not only from Helmeted Honeyeaters, but known nesting sites of Powerful Owls and Sooty Owls too. The officer's report supported the suggested exclusion zones did take account of literature on the subject but it is my view that the literature in relation to this issue is far from conclusive.

I also had concerns about the times prescribed for use of the devices, farmers weren't allowed to use the devices before 7:00am and birds would have no trouble destroying a crop between sunrise and 7:00am.

This is netting over an apple orchard in Lysterfield. Netting can benefit farmers in many ways, it stops the prevalence of blemishes, sunburn and rub on fruit, stops hail damage as well as reducing chemical and water use, it also keeps birds and bats at bay too.

I had concerns about the electronic devices not being the most effective way to control birds and cited a recent report by the federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Managing Bird Damage to Fruit and Other Horticultural Crops. "Birds ignore sounds afer a short time if they are repetitive, emanate from the same point source, and pose no physical threat."

Council's Green Wedge Management Plan talks about council supporting sustainable farming and in my view electronic bird scaring devices are not the most sustainable choice for crop protection. It is my view that the more sustainable option to protect crops is netting, the DAFF report says "Netting overcomes concerns about the use of chemicals, animal welfare issues, and restrictions on the use of acoustic devices".

I don't think the draft law as it stands got it right, there's too many issues still outstanding and I think it needs more work. It really is a complex issue which needs more examination. The majority of councillors agreed.

Councillors for the motion:
Crs Samantha Dunn, Tim Heenan, Graham Warren, Chris Templar, Terry Avery and Len Cox
Crs Jeanette McRae, Richard Higgins and Noel Cliff.

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another inappropriate telstra tower

report from the roundtable - 26 oct

At this week's meeting council had to consider an application by Telstra for a telecommunications tower on the prominent site of Milners Hill in Yarra Junction. The tower, some 32.59 metres in height would stand 12.59 metres above the tree canopy.

The proposed tower was located in a site covered by an Environmental Significance Overlay which indicates the site has both botanical and zoological significance. It was my view that land with such significance should remain undisturbed to ensure that its status is retained and it continues to provide important core habitat for the region.

The site also was subject to a Significant Landscape Overlay due to its importance in framing the landscape which so defines the Upper Yarra corridor (or the Little Yarra Valley).

There is no doubting that Milners Hill provides a stunning backdrop to the town of Yarra Junction, it is very prominent and the proposed communications tower would be too greater visual impact on the region and a blight on the landscape.

We have seen many applications come before us by Telstra for towers that have been too prominent on the ridgelines, in which council has refused and VCAT upheld. We know that impact on landscape and visual amenity impacts are skey considerations and it seems Telstra don't want to heed this.

I think if Telstra want to provide services they need to be innovative in their approach and come at the issues with new thinking.

Councillors unanimously supported the refusal of the installation of the telecommunications tower.

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cockies, who's helping who?

report from the roundtable - 26 oct

I felt the need at this week's council meeting to respond to a letter sent to us by the Minister for Environment, Gavin Jennings about the cockatoo problems in the Dandenong Ranges.

Some of the damage caused by cockatoos in 2009. There is a direct link between feeding and this type of behaviour. Rather than foraging in the wild, cockatoos get an easy feed but still need to hone their beaks by chewing.

The Minister wrote to council in response to a letter we'd sent regarding the ongoing issue of feeding cockatoos. The Minister made us aware of a flyer the Department of Sustainability and Environment has produced encouraging the public not to feed birds. The Minister went on to say "the material has been provided to the Shire of Yarra Ranges for distribution to interested ratepayers".

It was at this point I felt I needed to call the Minister to account. The Shire paid for the distribution of flyers to "interested ratepayers" and my ward fund paid for the printing of the flyers.

The Minister went on to say there are no plans to develop regulations that prohibit the feeding of wildlife in Victoria or Yarra Ranges even though the Wildlife Act 1975 provides the Head of Power to do so.

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50kph seems a long way away

report from the roundtable - 26 oct

At this week's council meeting I spoke about the recently announced new speed limits for Mt Dandenong and Yarra Glen. These are two towns the Shire has long campaigned to have lower speed limits and it's terrific to see it finally happen.

Although this is a positive for these towns, there are still a number of towns in the Shire still waiting for a lower speed limit, including Belgrave South, Coldstream, Montrose, Millgrove, Mt Evelyn, Selby, Tecoma, Wandin North and Woori Yallock.

This is the township of Kallista, after years of campaigning it's finally a 50kph zone. Selby however is still a 60kph zone, even after years of asking for a reduction. When pedestrians navigate Selby's main road with its poor site lines and no pedestrian crossing, they take their life into their hands.

The Shire has been determined in its efforts to advocate for lower speed limits, I share that determination and have long campaigned for safer speed limits. It seems incredible to me that the community and council need to repeatedly ask for lower speed limits, however Vic Roads seems to have tunnel vision in relation to this matter.

At the meeting I suggested to councillors that if our politicians wanted a quick and cost effective way to improve the lot of pedestrians in the lead up to the state election then this would be the way to do it.

As it stands at the moment I think I will go to my grave before I see these towns get a more pedestrian friendly speed limit approved by Vic Roads. I only hope we don't see any nasty accidents before it happens.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

sherbrooke wins again

It was terrific to be able to hand the Habitat for Schools Award to Sherbrooke Community School for the second year in a row this week.

Last year the school developed an action plan to improve the habitat in their school, it was such a great plan they received an award.

Pictured from left to right are: Cr Noel Cliff, Simon Woodland - environmental educator, Cr Samantha Dunn, Robert Pergl - year 12 student (and committed environmentalist) and Anne Broadribb - Acting Principal with the stunning award made by Justin Purser, local artist from Yarra Glen.
This year the plan was put into action, and the school scooped the pool again and got the award for action on habitat.

Sherbrooke Community School are committed to the environment, it's incorporated into their curriculum, and I'm very impressed by the way the entire school embraces the environment. It's a credit to teachers and students.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

samantha in the press - planning

Kiln noise plea heats up
Mail Newspaper
by Kath Gannaway
26 Oct 2010

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Monday, October 25, 2010

calling young filmmakers

Yes, Hillside Film Festival is back and is calling for entries to the 2011 festival. Hillside Film Festival showcases short films by emerging young filmmakers from Victoria (aged 30 and under). This year there is a new category, Music Video.

It's a great opportunity to see your works on the big screen at the amazing outdoor cinema at the Cameo Cinema in Belgrave.

Judges this year include Glendyn Ivin and Paul Harris.

To enter your film must be 15 minutes or under, you must be from Victoria and under 30. If you want to know more click here.


samantha in the press - community safety

Yarra Ranges fights for lower speed limits in towns
Lilydale and Yarra Valley Leader
by Kimberley Seedy
25 Oct 10

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

history abounds in montrose

It was terrific to visit the Yarra Ranges Heritage Network to celebrate History Week 2010 today. Mooroolbark History Group hosted an Antiques and Collectibles Appraisal Day to showcase the network. People came from across the shire with family heirlooms, curios and oddities to be appraised by local experts.

This is Dianne Kueffer, from the Dandenong Ranges National Trust, who had a marvellous display of Semco embroidery and tapestries.

Local Heritage Societys put on displays and there was much to learn about the many pockets of early settlement across the Dandenongs.

Here I am with Phil Garland, president of the Sherbrooke Foothills Historical Society. Phil had a great display of military paraphernalia on hand and the kids took great delight in learning about the military guns circa 1855.

The historical and heritage societies are passionate about revealing and preserving our history. It was great to wander down memory lane, learn some more about our past and be thankful that there's volunteers who readily give their time to make sure our history is retained.

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

logging our central highlands - it has to stop joe

Earlier this week I joined with community members outside the offices of Joe Helper, Minister for Agriculture and in charge of VicForests, to protest about the ongoing logging in the Central Highlands, I was there representing the Shire of Yarra Ranges.

The Shire of Yarra Ranges council is opposed to the logging of Melbourne's water catchments and is also opposed to logging where it has significant effects on the local economy, tourism features and the environment. Thanks to Brent Lukey for this image.

The protest was to highlight the ongoing destruction caused by logging burnt and green forests in the Central Highlands, an already fragile environment due to the Black Saturday fires.

Much wood has been logged after the fires, causing untold damage to the forest. Local residents angry about the constant stream of logging trucks on roads, angry about logging on prominent ridgelines in tourist towns and angry that the forests haven't been given a chance to regenerate naturally.

Thanks to Brent Lukey for this image.

Logging has also occurred in the Armstrong Catchment, one of Melbourne's closed water catchments, contrary to the advice given in the BAER report (a report commissioned by government after the Black Saturday fires, from experts about how to best to deal with environmental impacts post fire).

The BAER report urged conservation action for a number of endangered species at risk, warned against salvage logging and also stated that no more than 236 hectares of burnt forest should be salvage logged. Contrary to this advice the government allowed more than 10 times this amount of forest to be logged setting our endangered species on a short path to extinction.

Key habitat, vital for endangered species like Leadbeater's Possum, Powerful & Sooty Owls and Barred Galaxias has been logged, contrary to BAER recommendations, putting these species at great risk of disappearing before our very eyes. Yarra Ranges Council shares our communities concern about logging our forests and the impact this has on fire affected communities, local economies, tourism and the environment.

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

samantha in the press - road safety

Lower speed limits for Mt Dandenong and Yarra Glen
Leader Newspapers
by Kimberley Seedy
21 Oct 2010

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public transport neglect

to read on click here.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

samantha in the press - public transport

Pre-poll promises flood
Mail Newspapers
by Russell Bennett
19 Oct 2010

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samantha in the press - planning

No to Hilton hotel in Yarra Glen
Leader Newspapers
by Emily Webb
19 Oct 2010

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Monday, October 18, 2010

celebrating a dandenongs institution

It was wonderful to join the 60th birthday celebration of the Save the Dandenongs League yesterday at Karwarra Gardens in Kalorama.

Here I am with Betty Marsden, current and long term president of SDL (as well as past Shire of Sherbrooke shire president and local councillor). Betty has been a driving force in proper land use and environmental protection, she is an inspiration.

Save the Dandenongs League (SDL) has played a key role in shaping the Dandenongs and have left many legacies as part of their 60 year advocacy history.

It was terrific to be able to congratulate such passionate and committed members of our community, who have worked tirelessly as the community watchdog over a span of some sixty years.

It was wonderful to hear stories of SDL founder May Moon, known not only for her fiesty and fierce protection of the Dandenong Ranges but for her memorable drop scones too.

Many recounted stories of past trials and tribulations as well as challenges for the future. SDL continues to be the voice of the community, I look forward to joining them for many future celebrations.

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

greens commit to ringwood station upgrade

to read more click on the image

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

hilton no more - part 2

report from the roundtable - 12 oct

There were two items up for consideration this week to do with the Hilton Hotel (the first covered under blog story part 1). The second matter was permission to change the original endorsed plans, rather than the original 4 storey hotel, the new proposal sought to construct 142 self contained villas on site.

In speaking against the proposed changes I talked about the complete transformation of the application. I found it outrageous to suggest that council would consent to the deletion of the 4 storey hotel and permit 142 individual villas.

The Yarra Valley is a spectacular region, any development must be sensitive to the signifcant agricultural sector, support townships and enhance the tourism experience.

The development looked more like a housing estate rather than a tourist destination. Yes we need tourism in the Shire and it is a key industry sector, but it must be sensitive to the region and it must work in with agriculture, an overdevelopment like this is far from keeping to the Yarra Ranges and Yarra Valley tourist experience.

The proposed changes failed the "westpoint test", which assesses how different the changes are from the original endorsed plans. On this occasion the application failed 3 of the 4 tests.

The proposal for the 142 villas is not consistent with the Regional Strategy Plan or the Green Wedge zone provisions. The applicant should have submitted a new proposal rather than try and change the existing plans, but they know that it is not possible because it is clear what is proposed is prohibited

I'm pleased to say the councillors voted unanimously to refuse any amendments to the endorsed plans.

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hilton no more - part 1

report from the roundtable - 12 oct

At this week's council meeting councillors had to consider whether to grant a third extension to the proposed Hilton Hotel project in Yarra Glen.

In the entire time the permit has been 'live' (since 2001) the only construction that has gone on is the grading of an internal road. We have not seen any commencement of a building in the last 10 years and the proposition before us was that the hotel would be built in the next two and a half years.

I was pleased to second the motion to refuse the extension. In speaking for a refusal I talked about the disappointment of seeing nothing but a token driveway being built out on site. If a hotel cant be built in 10 years why would we think it could be done in 2 1/2 years.

It is clear that the applicant doesn't want to proceed with the original application and want to apply for a hotel that is simply inappropriate on that site (see blog). If the applicants want a different hotel then they should apply for new planning permit and allow proper planning processes to take place

I was pleased to see the following councillors support the motion: Cr's Jeanette McRae (mover), Samantha Dunn (seconder), Richard Higgins, Tim Heenan, Noel Cliff and Len Cox

Those against the refusal were: Cr's Terry Avery, Graham Warren and Chris Templer.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

samantha in the press - cycle paths

Pedalling Belgrave
Leader Newspapers
by Kimberley Seedy
13 Oct 2010

click on image to read on

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agm season - belgrave south community house

Tis the season for AGMs and this week I was delighted to chair the Belgrave South Community House AGM.

What struck me particularly at this AGM was the amount of work that the Belgrave South Community House do for people with a disability. The house runs a tremendous range of programs that include:
Weekend Extend: a community based recreation program for adults with disabilities.
Extend: a community based day program where young adults with disabilities are encouraged to access the exisiting community house programs as well as a range of specific activities provided specifically for their interest and abilities.
Sailability at Lysterfield Lake: a sailing program providing sailing experiences for people with a disability.
Here I am at the Sailability Jetty down at Lysterfield Lake, constructed in 2008 with the assistance of a grant from the Shire of Yarra Ranges, the floating jetty was especially designed and constructed to ensure ease of access into boats for people with a disability.
As well as Riding for the Disabled, in Home Support and Support Coordination.

They fill a vital role and it couldn't happen without the dedication of the volunteers who give freely of their time to make it happen. Community houses are inspiring places and the extent of their reach, services and energy is always amazing.

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samantha in the press - library services

Yarra Ranges mobile library service set to be reviewed
Leader newspapers
by Kimberley Seedy
13 Oct 2010

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

broadband for seniors

I had the great pleasure of launching a new project NEC Broadband for Seniors at the Belgrave South Community House.

Pictured left to right: Lyn Young - Centre Manager, Cr Samantha Dunn - Lyster Ward, Vicki Boyle - trying out the system and Hillary Doulton - program coordinator.

Through NEC the project provides 2 broadband computers specifically for use by seniors with one on one tuition to guide newcomers through the maze of the internet.

Once the project runs its course the community house gets to keep the computers, which will be a wonderful addition to their computer lab.

It's a great initiative and yet another way Belgrave South Community House is assisting our community to build skills and connections.

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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

scouting about

It was terrific to join with the Sherbrooke Forest District Scouts for their AGM and Presentation night for 2009/10.

Scout Leaders from across the region representing cubs, scouts, venturers and rovers came out to celebrate the past year of activities and achievements.

The Sherbrooke Forest District Scouts have had experienced some tremendous growth, across the district its been 7.9% compared with a state average of 3%. Its terrific to see children joining up for the scouting experience.

It was wonderful to join the celebration of the 25 year service award for District Leader Support, Denis Toogood. 25 years in a volunteer role is a wonderful contribution and Denis is certainly committed to the Scouts.
The Chief Commissioner's award was handed out to the 1st Belgrave South, 1st Kallista, 1st Selby and 1st Upwey groups to recognise growth of greater than 10% in the last 12 months.
From left to right: Deirdre Lancaster - District Commissioner for the Sherbrooke Forest District Scouts, Cr Samantha Dunn - Lyster Ward and Michelle Thomas - Cub Scout Leader, 1st Belgrave South.

I was struck by the committment and dedication of all the people involved with the Sherbrooke Forest District Scouts. They are passionate about our young people and teaching them skills they can use throughout their life.

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scrap the desal rally

click on the image for the full story

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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

samantha in the press - planning

Warburton park plans on hold as the talks continue
Yarra Ranges Weekly
5 Oct 2010

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samantha in the press - public transport

Station plan lights flicker
Mail Newspapers
by Casey Neill
5 Oct 2010

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samantha in the press - planning

A little of new, a lot of old
Mail Newspapers
by Russell Bennett
5 Oct 2010

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samantha in the press - fire preparedness

Hunt for more bushfire safety
Mail Newspapers
by Casey Neill
5 Oct 2010

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samantha in the press - environment

Trees attacked
Mail Newspapers
by Russell Bennett
5 Oct 2010

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Monday, October 04, 2010

etc public transport forum

Click on the image for more info or visit the Eastern Transport Coalition's webpage.

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Sunday, October 03, 2010

hillscene zine – ed 2 out now

It was terrific to go to the official launch of The Hillscene, a maga'zine' about all the interesting people and things happening in the Dandenong Ranges.

Here I am pictured with Hillscene Editor, Adriana Alvarez, I was pleased to be able to support Hillscene get off the ground with the first edition.

Local artists and writers joined with designer/editor Adriana Alvarez to celebrate the second edition of this new zine at Limerence in Belgrave.

It’s terrific to see the development of zines aimed at local community and culture. Hillscene gives local people the opportunity to write about their passion and at the same time let people know about what’s going on in this vibrant arts community.

You can get your copy of Hillscene at local shops and cafes around Belgrave, Tecoma and Upwey.

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bus review delivers little for yarra ranges

report from the roundtable – 28 sep

As part of this week’s council meeting I moved the following motion:
That Council write to the Minister for Public Transport, the Honourable Martin
Pakula MP, with a copy to local state MPs, requesting that all bus services in the Shire of Yarra Ranges be immediately upgraded to the minimum standards outlined in Meeting Our Transport Challenges 2006 and request that immediate funding be allocated in conjunction with a definitive timeframe that will deliver the recommendations of the Yarra Ranges Bus Service Review as a priority.

I was moved to raise the issue of the Yarra Ranges Bus Service Review after reading a report from BusVic which indicated that only 5% of the recommendations from the Knox/Maroondah/Yarra Ranges Bus Service Review had been implemented. The lowest across Melbourne.

It was with a fair degree of frustration that I talked about this issue. We keep hearing from government that buses are the answer for the East, a message that has been repeated by the Minister himself and Brian Tee (Parliamentary Secretary for Transport). But clearly if buses are the answer, they need to be funded.

The 5% delivery of recommendations is woeful and continues to confirm the neglect for people in the east when it comes to public transport.

There has been no strategic transport planning for the East, it’s hard to know how government has come to the conclusion that only buses are the answer when the detail hasn’t been looked at in any meaningful way.

After a question from Greens MLC Greg Barber, the Minister for Public Transport, Martin Pakula, advised that it would cost $200million to deliver every bus service review recommendation across all of Melbourne. Given the billions spent on freeways and myki, $200million is a very small part of a very large budget. The current growth in funding at $5million per year only funds 15 buses shared between 31 municipalities, a drop in the ocean in terms of providing good bus services across Melbourne.

The motion also asks for all buses in Yarra Ranges to be upgraded to the minimum standard outlined in the 2006 Meeting Our Transport Challenges (at least an hourly service, till 9pm, 7 days a week). So many of our buses are below standard, making public transport travel difficult and building in a reliance on motor cars because we don’t have options.

I have to wonder why community expectations were raised in the Bus Service Reviews, held in four quarters of the shire, people inputting their time to tell their story and outline substantial changes to make buses more user friendly. If the community knew they were only going to get a 5% outcome I’m sure they wouldn’t have bothered.

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Saturday, October 02, 2010

monbulk pool gets the green light

report from the roundtable – 28 sep

At this week’s meeting council unanimously approved the planning permit to allow the
redevelopment of the Monbulk Pool.

The redeveloped facility includes:
Refurbished 25 metre pool;
New learn to swim and leisure pool, including beach entry;
New male and female change room facilities;
New pool store and family change room;
New plant room;
New foyer administration and kiosk;
New outdoor deck area;
Refurbishment of existing gym and childcare areas and
A maximum overall building height of 6.9 metres above natural ground level.

Any user of the pool will know the pressing need for new change rooms, well passed their use by date it will be great to see the development commence.

There is a constant demand on water space in the current pool and the new learn to swim pool will help alleviate that pressure.

The refurbished gym will be of great benefit in the future and mean that the pool has an ongoing source of income making it far more economically self sustaining.

The redevelopment is well overdue and I look forward to seeing this project delivered for the benefit of the Dandenong Ranges community.

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Friday, October 01, 2010

new fire prevention staff

Yarra Ranges Council has employed two new officers to assist with our bushfire prevention activities.

A Weed Management officer and a Fuel Management officer will be involved in our bushfire preparation in the lead up to this year's fire season.

Pittosporum are terrible weeds in the Dandenongs and contribute to fuel loads and fire risk. It's much easier to get rid of them at this size than when they grown into fully blown trees.

The officers will work closely to assess fuel loads on council property including road reserves and will work to manage the fire risk in an appropriate way whilst minimising the impact on Yarra Ranges precious bushland.

The new Weed Management officer will be responsible for mapping high conservation areas for weeds and implementing council's $300,000 weed blackspot program. They are also responsible for council's $60,000 noxious weeds program on council land and roadsides.

The new Fuel Management officer will oversee council's slashing program and work closely with CFA and council's Municipal Fire Prevention Officers.

Weeds create additional fuel load and fire risk and targetting them is an important part of bushfire preparation.

Department of Corrections crews will assist with the on the ground works as part of the weed fuel management program.

Weeds continue to be a huge issue in Yarra Ranges, as they impact on many areas including bushfire risk, not to mention biodiversity and water quality. If you'd like more information on how to tackle weeds on your property click here.

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