Monday, January 31, 2011

off with their heads

Yes it's that time of year again when agapanthus are readily seen across the Dandenongs. Agapanthus are a terrible weed in the region and they are spreading more and more each year.

Off with their heads! It's an easy way to control the spread of agapanthus and now's the time to do it.

Residents can take simple and effective action to help stop the spread of agapanthus by making sure you deadhead them now them to stop the spread of seeds. Agapanthus are ranked as the 5th worst weed in the Yarra Ranges.

If you'd like to know more about how to remove various weeds in the Shire of Yarra Ranges you can click on our Weed Control information sheets.

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

war on weeds - this time it's blackberries

report from the roundtable - 25 jan

Report from the roundtable is my regular roundup of items of interest from the Yarra Ranges council meeting. It's a reflection of my views, debates and outcomes of various issues that come up at Yarra Ranges.

I have been very concerned by the explosive nature of weeds this growing season, in particular blackberries. Residents have been contacting me, concerned that people are letting their land degrade and get swamped by these shocking weeds. My concern has led to frustration in the knowledge that once a letter has been sent by the DPI requesting the landowner to clean up their property there is no follow up action or enforcement to compel people to take action on their blackberries and locals know it.

I wanted to raise the issue with the new Minister for Agriculture and Food Security, The Hon Peter Walsh MP. The DPI desperately need funding put into this area and failing that there needs to be some enforcement options available to local government.

I moved a motion to write to the Minister requesting the amendment of legislation to allow local government to enforce weed management as well as requesting stronger action by government to tackle this problem.

In speaking to the motion I talked about education being part of the mix, but when education has failed sadly enforcement needs to be the fall back. The DPI are so very under resourced there is little they can do but write a letter, it has to change. Of course part of dealing with the blackberry problem means that council has to lead by example and clear our own land of this shocking weed and I hoped councillors would sign off on a proper budget allocation to deal with the problem.

Council is also inviting the Minister on a tour so he can see first hand the impact of weeds on our municipality.

I'm pleased to say Councillors supported the motion unanimously.

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

zones do matter

report from the roundtable - 25 jan

This week's council meeting had to consider an application for a house and a tennis court in a rural conservation zone in Healesville.

Councillors were divided as to whether a tennis court should be permitted.

In seconding Cr McRae's motion to construct the house but not the tennis court I spoke about the intent of the Rural Conservation Zone.

The Rural Conservation Zone is council's strongest zoning in terms of environmental conservation, the main purpose of the zone is to protect and enhance the natural environment and the biodiversity of the area, to encourage development and use of land which is consistent with sustainable land management which takes into account the conservation values and environmental sensitivity of the locality.

The DSE's practice note clearly explains the zone, it states that the Rural Conservation Zone is primarily concerned with protecting and conserving rural land for its environmental features or attributes and all uses, including a right to a dwelling, are subordinate to the environmental values of the land. So that means that the applicant doesn't even have a right to build a house on site, that's how strong the zone is.

Given the zoning of the land it was clear it shouldn't be used for a tennis court, it should be used for conservation.

Cr Chris Templer suggested that the 10/30 rule, which allows clearance of vegetation, would just about get the applicants their tennis court, however 10/30 is about clearing for bushfire prevention purposes and has nothing to do with clearing land for tennis court construction. It was enlightening to hear these views.

In my view the vote was a test of which councillors truly understood the intent of the Rural Conservation Zone and it's importance in terms of environmental conservation and protection of biodiversity.

Those for: Cr's McRae, Dunn, Avery, Cox and Cliff

Those against: Cr's Heenan, Templer, Warren and Higgins

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

sleeping in cars - deferred for review

report from the roundtable - 25 jan

First meeting back for 2011 and there was a lot of attention given to our first item on the business paper, the making of the General Provisions Local Law 2010.

The local law had been developed to cover off on a number of things, however the item that caught the attention and ire of many community members, legal advocates and agencies was the part of the law that dealt with sleeping in cars.

As it was worded the draft law before council would have given council officers the ability to criminalise homelessness as it would be a breach of the law to sleep in your car. Council never intended the law to be applied in this way, it was really about having an ability to move on campers at Lillydale Lake, who are causing significant amenity impacts to locals who use the park.

I had come out publicly against supporting the law as it was written and had been working with officers on a solution. The best solution was to defer the making of the local law to give officers time to draft administrative guidelines and review the words of the local law so it wouldn't impact on the homeless.

In speaking to the deferral motion I reiterated to the gallery the law was only ever about addressing camping and was never about penalising the homeless. We need time to get the law right for the future, this council would never use this law against homeless people, but we need to get it right so any future council couldn't use it in this way.

It was a regrettable unintended consequence of the wording, the law was never about criminalising homelessness.

Council will work with legal advocates for homeless people and agencies involved with assisting homeless people to ensure the law achieves what council wants without penalising those most disadvantaged in our society.

Councillors voted unanimously to defer the local law, it will come back to us by the end of March, 2011 when we will consider it again.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

belgrave survival day 2011

Congratulations to organisers of Belgrave Survival Day, a great way to celebrate the survival of indigenous culture and heritage on Australia Day.

Hundreds of people flocked to Borthwick Park in Belgrave to join in the celebration.

In speaking to the crowd I acknowledged the understanding and relationship indigenous people have with this great land. There is much we could learn from their stewardship and custodianship of the land.
Aunty Dot Peters spoke to the crowd, a Survival Day favourite, her story is compelling.

I talked about the Shire's achievements in the last year which included the development of the Indigenous Protocols document. The protocols are a practical guide to working with the indigenous community in the Shire and provide information on how to communicate in a culturally appropriate way. It is one of the shire's ways of increasing knowledge, and with that greater understanding, of our indigenous community. It's been a busy year as we've also developed an Indigenous Employment Strategy.

Richard J Frankland and the Charcoal Club were teriffic, it was great that Kavisha Mazzella was there performing as well. Kavisha received an OAM as part of the Australia Day Honours, we were privileged for her to share her time with us in Belgrave.

The Shire has been successful in securing funding to see the reestablishment of the Aboriginal Children's Choir and an Indigenous Hip Hop dance program, I look forward to seeing both of these come to fruition.

The Jindi Worobak Dance Troupe provided some great entertainment.

There's also work on artworks at the Meeting Place in Healesville as well as the arts and education garden, Art of Place, at Burrinja.

The crowd couldn't help but get up and dance to Richard J Frankland and the Charcoal Club.

Our focus in the coming year will be on developing cultural strengthening and reconciliation approaches to provide positive health and wellbeing outcomes for Yarra Ranges.

The Shire of Yarra Ranges is committed to reconciliation and we proudly fly the aboriginal flag.

I thanked people for choosing to celebrate Australia Day this way and stressed the importance of keeping indigenous culture and heritage prominent.

This was the fourth running of Belgrave Survival Day and I'd love to see it become an annual calendar event. It was a great day and the organisers did a great job, there is no doubt volunteers are the life blood of our communities.

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environment a key theme for lyster

It was wonderful to attend the Yarra Ranges Australia Day Awards held out at the historic homestead, Mont de Lancy, in Wandin.

This year three of my constituents (from the Lyster ward) received awards and I was honoured to be able to present the awards to them.

Pictured left to right: Cr Samantha Dunn, Betty Marsden, Robert Pergl and Carol Seeger, such dedicated volunteers, their passion and commitment to our region is inspiring.

It was terrific to award Robert Pergl with the Ken McIntosh Memorial Award for Young Environmental Achiever of the Year. Ken was a driving force in environmental and conservation isssues in Yarra Ranges. Robert has shown a keen interest in the environment from his very early years and is passionate about conserving the dimishing biodiversity of the Dandenong Ranges. He's currently involved with the Southern Dandenongs Community Nursery and is particularly interested in the rehabilitation of the Monbulk Creek corridor where he volunteers his time. His knowledge of our environment is impressive and Robert intends to obtain formal qualifications in relation to the flora and ecology of Victoria. It is wonderful to see such passion for our environment in a young person.

I then had the honour of awarding Carol Seeger with the Environmental Achiever of the Year Award. Carol dedicates her life towards the rehabilitation of wildlife at the shelter she and and her husband built in Kallista. Carol spends her days cleaning cages and paddocks, washing bedding and pouches, preparing formulas, fruit and meat for the animals, visits to the vet, dressing wounds and taking calls for new animals in need of rescue. Carol never says no to a rescue and her loungeroom is often filled with all manner of wild animals in need of rescue even when all the pens and cages outside are full. Carol has been running the Kallista Wildlife Shelter for over 20 years and does it without any external funding, such dedication to our native wildlife is inspiring.

Last, but by no means least, I had the great pleasure of awarding Betty Marsden OAM the Mayor's Lifetime Achievement Award. Betty has been a conservationist in the Dandenong Ranges and Yarra Valley for more than 30 years. She continues to be involved and proactive with a diverse amount of groups across the region. She was a former councillor with the Shire of Sherbrooke at which time she gained an enormous knowledge of town planning. She is a dedicated environmentalist who is always keen to offer advice to residents on conservation, planning and environment issues. Betty also received an Order of Australia Medal as part of the Australia Day Honours, what a fitting recognition of a wonderful woman. She is a living legend of the hills and I am in awe of her ongoing passion and commitment for our region.

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jack dale mengenen launched

It was terrific to go to the launch of Neil McLeod's new book about prominent indigenous artist, Jack Dale Mengenen last week. Not only about Jack's artwork, the book details Jack's life growing up in the Kimberley and his insights into his culture and traditions.

Pictured from left to right: Cr Samantha Dunn, Neil McLeod, Tiriki Onus and Cr Noel Cliff with one of Jack's works in the background.

The launch coincides with the latest exhibition at Burrinja, Stories of Ancestors. It features works by members of the Nganjmirra family from Western Arnhem land, some of them never exhibited before.

It's well worth a visit, visually breathtaking.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

samantha in the press - homelessness

Fears over new laws in Yarra Ranges
Lilydale Leader
by Emily Webb
25 Jan 2011

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samantha in the press - wasps

Cheap rates to stamp out swarms in Yarra Ranges
Lilydale Leader
by Emily Webb
25 Jan 2011

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samantha in the press - belgrave roundabout

Bad crossing in for the works
Yarra Ranges Weekly
by Elisa Miller
25 Jan 2011

New roundabout set to reduce time
Mail Newspaper
by Casey Neill
25 Jan 2011

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Monday, January 24, 2011

samantha in the press - homelessness

Council parking ban would 'punish' homeless
The Age
Farah Farouque
24 Jan 2011

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flora and fauna strategy - extension

Back in November 2010 I reported that the Shire's draft Flora and Fauna Strategy was out for comment. It's a difficult time to release documents for comment as it's the lead up to Christmas, it was for that reason that council put an extended period of consultation on the strategy.

A number of people have contacted the shire concerned about the short timelines so council will be extending the timeline for feedback (the formal vote will take place tomorrow night). If you'd like to comment you now have until 4th March to get your submissions in.

Some of you may have read comments in the local press that the strategy is "a balance between human life and flora and fauna". In my view protection and safety of human life is paramount, there is no question of balance.

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

new roundabout for belgrave - starting soon

Work is about to commence on a new roundabout for Belgrave at the Bayview and Belgrave-Gembrook Rds intersection.

The roundabout will span this intersection (in the background), this large scale project involved many conversations with the Belgrave Traders, VicRoads, traffic specialists, Mater Christi and Puffing Billy as well as locals.

Locals to the area will understand the current peril drivers face trying to turn right out of the Metro carpark or Bayview Rd into Belgrave-Gembrook Rd and with the added overlay of Puffing Billy tourists, it's chaos.

The project is being jointly funded by council and the federal government.

Initial works include relocating a high voltage power pole to a new pole which will take around 4 weeks, works on the roundabout proper will start after that.

The project is expected to be completed in August this year. The roundabout will greatly improve traffic safety for people exiting the station carpark, Old Monbulk Rd and Bayview Rd onto the main road.

There will also be pedestrian refuges on Belgrave-Gembrook Rd to make it a little easier for pedestrians crossing this busy road. I did try and get a pedestrian crossing installed as part of the works but it was not supported by VicRoads, so the pedestrian refuge is the next best thing.

Traffic studies have shown that the new roundabout would complement the already existing roundabouts and reduce afternoon congestion.

Although the works will cause some delays during construction this will be some short term pain for long term gain, please be patient if you drive in this region.

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

communities & bushfire - a bushfire crc research project

Effective Communication
Communities and Bushfire
A bushfire CRC Research Project

An RMIT University research team is currently learning about how fire agencies talk to communities about bushfire risks and preparation.

Residents of Selby, Belgrave Heights and Belgrave South are invited to participate in focus group discussions. Researchers would like to hear about:
- The threat of bushfire in this area
- How you learn about it
- How you might prepare for it

Sessions are on at:
7:30pm Wednesday 19th Jan
Selby Community House, Wombalana Rd, Selby
7pm Tuesday 8th Feb
Belgrave South Community House, Gilmore Court, Belgrave South

You'll need to RSVP, just send an email to:
Alison Hart -
Julie Stratford -
Keith Toh -

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Friday, January 14, 2011

yering golf course knocked back by vcat

Just prior to Christmas VCAT handed down their decision in relation to the Yering Golf Course. VCAT determined to set aside council's decision and not issue a permit.

Back in June 2010, council considered the application, it was very controversial and the vote, which saw the application by Eastern Golf Club approved was 5 votes for, 4 votes against (click here to read more) with Cr's Templer, Avery, Higgins, Warren & Heenan voting for the golf course to go ahead and Cr's Dunn, McRae, Cliff and Cox voting against.

Healesville Environment Watch Inc, Friends of the Earth and Bill Boerkamp took the matter to VCAT and were successful in getting the approval reversed.

In handing down its decision VCAT said there were many aspects of the proposal that were acceptable in terms of policies and provisions and opponents to the golf course did not convince the tribunal on these grounds to reject the application.

However opponents did persuade VCAT to determine that there needed to be more stringent permit conditions with respect to the use of biocides on the site. VCAT also thought that the planning considerations remained unsufficiently resolved in relation to evacation route in the event of flood. It was because of these reasons the tribunal set aside council's approval and refused the application.

Friends of the Earth on learning of VCAT's decision said "Our concerns about widespread pesticide application above the offtake to Melbourne's drinking water were also taken onboard by the VCAT in its decision. Strict conditions around pesticide use, including a rigorous assessment of individual pesticides and a monitoring regime, would have been required if VCAT had approved the development".

in weighing up the merits of the application I too had concerns about the chemical cocktail used on golf courses and in this particular case it's proximity to the Sugarloaf Reservoir intake pipe.

I am sure this isn't the end of this one and before long council will see another application for a golf course on site to consider.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

young people and public transport - the disadvantage continues

It's been interesting to read Mind the Gap, a recent report released by VCOSS about transport needs and issues for young people on the urban fringe of Melbourne.

The report confirms what we hear as a council about the sorts of issues young people constantly face by not having adequate access to good quality public transport.

Key findings from the report include:
lack of or irregularity of services
lack of information about timetables or cancellations
safety fears, particularly at unstaffed train stations and taxi ranks
poor amenities such as lack of clean well lit bus shelters, difficulty using services with prams, bicycles and/or large school bags
lack of user friendly walking and cycling paths
lack of access to community transport options

I constantly hear stories of young people who can't access jobs, education and social occassions due to our poorly connected and infrequent public transport services. We already know that Yarra Ranges is over reliant on cars for transport and if you don't have a car or access to a car your transport options are very limited.

I'll continue highlighting these issues to our new government as the Chairperson of the Eastern Transport Coalition. There's also a role council can play in providing infrastructure to help people get around. It's important that our public transport services meet the needs of all sectors of our community and young people are particularly disadvantaged because they are often limited to public transport as their only way to travel around Yarra Ranges.

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fire danger period in yarra ranges postponed indefinately

I have just been advised that the declaration of the CFA Fire Danger Period has been postponed indefinately due to the excessive rainfall experienced this week. I'll keep you updated if there's any changes.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

glenfern valley subdivision - yarra ranges submits

I have had many people, both from the municipalities of Yarra Ranges and Knox, talk to me about the proposed sub division of land known as the Glenfern Cattle Run in the City of Knox. They are all concerned about the proposal that would see this iconic and heritage piece of land sub divided into 7 lots.

The Glenfern Cattle run is an iconic piece of land, it is a hard edge of Green Wedge land and signals you are entering the Dandenong Ranges.

A group of community members are fighting the subdivision proposal, you can visit them on facebook here.

The Yarra Ranges Council was asked to provide comment on the proposal as the land abuts the shire boundary and takes in some of the overlays from Yarra Ranges.

These are some of the concerns Yarra Ranges highlighted:
The access to Lot 3 and Lot 6 is odd, for Lot 3 it would result in a driveway that runs along the extent of New Road and there seems a potential for vegetation impacts to trees in the paddock and along the road reserve for 120 metres.
The proposed building envelopes are excessive in size and appear to be in contradiction to the purpose of the Green Wedge Zone, in particular protecting and conserving land for its agricultural and landscape values.
The impact of the building envelopes on the landscape values under the Significant Landscape Overlay are also a concern.
The plans are unclear in respect of impact on native vegetation across the site.

If you want to know more about the subdivision you can contact the City of Knox and quote application number: P/2010/6111, subdivision of land into seven lots, location 157-173 Glenfern Rd, Upper Ferntree Gully 3156.

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survival day - 26 jan in belgrave

2011 sees the fourth running of Survival Day in Belgrave. It is a great celebration of indigenous culture and provides some space on Australia Day to acknowledge an indigenous perspective. This year sees a change of venue to Borthwick Park (next to the Belgrave Pool).

I have been proud to be able to support organisers of Survival Day over the past 4 years, a volunteer organisation, they do a great job bringing this event to the community.

This year's event proves to be another great one, with a line up that includes:
Richard Frankland and the Charcoal Club
Jessie Lloyd
Black Elvis (Gnarnayarrahe Waitairie)
The Jindiworobak Dance Group
Aunty Dot
Bill Nicholson
all MC'd by Leila Gurruwiwi (from the Marngrook Footy Show)

What: Belgrave Survival Day
Where: Borthwick Park, Benson Street, Belgrave (map)
When: 12pm to 4pm - Wednesday 26 Jan

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

fire danger period declared for yarra ranges

STOP PRESS STOP PRESS STOP PRESS Thursday 13th January: I have just been advised that the declaration of the CFA Fire Danger Period has been postposed indefinately due to the excessive rainfall experienced this week.

The CFA has advised that the CFA Fire Danger Period and fire restrictions will come into force from 1am on Monday 24 January, 2011.

After this date no open air burning is permitted. It's well and truly time to make sure your fire plan is in place, rehearsed and you and your family are aware of the plan.

If you're not sure if you are allowed to burn off in the open for fire fuel reduction purposes prior to fire restrictions on the 24th January click here.

If you'd like to know more about bushfire preparation click here.

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