Friday, October 28, 2011

samantha in the press - public transport

Free riders derail system
Leader Newspapers
by Tim Michell
28 Oct 2011

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

dandenong ranges bushfire planning

Last week I attended the launch of the Dandenong Ranges Landscape Bushfire Plan up at Sky High on Mt Dandenong.

The Plan, the first of its kind will look at issues, both short and long term, identify priorities and gaps in current fire management plans.

The Dandenong Ranges is complex in terms of fire risk and management, given the population, landscape and mix of private and public land.

The Plan will review a range of issues including:

~ public and private land management

~ demographics and population

~ community planning and preparation

~ understanding fire behaviour

It's a wholistic approach, the likes of which haven't been seen before in fire management planning. In the past we've seen piecemeal efforts that haven't looked more broadly across the full range of issues when it comes to fire preparedness and management. The Plan will be evidence based and enable informed decision making by both agencies and communities in the event of a bushfire in the region.

The Plan is being led by the Fire Services Commissioner in conjuction with agencies, the community and local government.

It's great to see, it's a step in the right direction and I look forward to seeing it delivered for the Dandenong Ranges community sooner rather than later.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

community fire refuge - pilot for yarra ranges?

report from the roundtable - 25 oct

At this week's council meeting I raised a motion in response to the government's recent announcement of the Community Fire Refuges Policy.

As part of the policy announcement the government has committed $1.5million to progress an immediate pilot of a community fire refuge (CFR).

My motion sought to write to the Minister for Emergency Services and the Fire Services Commissioner to have the first pilot community fire refuge located in the Shire of Yarra Ranges.

In speaking to the motion I clarified to my councillor colleagues that I thought that CFRs were part of a suite of shelter in place options for those caught out in a fire but certainly weren't a replacement for a well thought out and considered personal fire plan.

Given Yarra Ranges' lead role in relation to managing fire risk and fire preparedness I thought our municipality was ideally placed to be the location for the pilot CFR. Given our population, landscape and fire risk, it makes sense to have the pilot CFR located in Yarra Ranges.

Due to the strategic work just announced for the Dandenong Ranges (the Dandenong Ranges Bushfire Landscape Strategy), I thought it was not likely that the Dandenongs would be the location for a pilot CFR, something very disappointing to me. I have concerns as to how many summers the Dandenong Ranges community must wait until we have the full suite of options available to us in the event of a fire. There is also the issue of building standards for refuges, which I believe won't be available to mid next year.

There are also other locations in the shire which may be suitable for the pilot CFR, in particular Warburton or Powelltown, both remote communities with few options in high risk locations. It seems that there are numerous hurdles in place, however I think a positive starting point would be to see Yarra Ranges nominated as the site for the first CFR.

I'm pleased to report that councillors supported the motion unanimously.

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samantha in the press - fire preparedness

New fire plan for hills
Leader Newspapers
by Kimberley Seedy
26 Oct 2011

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chirnside park golf club redevelopment gets a green light

report from the roundtable - 25 Oct

Once again council found itself considering the Chirnside Park Country Club Golf Course redevelopment. An application that's had a long history with Yarra Ranges, it was first refused by council in September, 2008 (see blog).

However after council refused the application the then Minister for Planning, Justin Madden, called in the application and proceeded to approve the planning scheme amendment/redevelopment. In 2010, the Minister requested that he be the responsible authority for the development, councillors unanimously refused his request in November, 2010 as it would have been to the detriment of the local community by not allowing them to have a voice or be part of a local democratic process (see blog).

The development was back before council again this week to approve the redevelopment of the 54 hectare site which included 553 residential lots and 13.6 hectares of open space.

I could not support the motion to approve the Development Plan and support the Ministerial Amendment. In speaking against the motion I talked about a number of key issues. At the heart of the issue was the Ministerial interference in local democracy. However it was my view that we had not worked hard enough to get the best outcome for residents in Chirnside Park.

The original development presented to council was for 450 lots, however this current proposition of 553 lots was a complete overdevelopment of the site. The 22% increase in lots would see the destruction of 1520 trees, 256 of them assessed as being of high retention value. It was obvious from the cut and fill plan supplied with the documentation that little had been done to preserve the high amenity values of the site.

Although seeming to be generous in public open space, the linear parks proposed are poor in terms of their usability, although I can understand why abutting residents want a buffer between them and this development. Other public open spaces include wetland areas, also unusable as parkland as their primary purpose is to manage storm water.

The developer, as part of the presentation on the night, stated that the proposal included "economically viable housing" due to smaller lot sizes that would be a lesser cost than larger lots on the site. To suggest that smaller lot sizes respond to the affordable housing crisis is a nonsense and defies logic.

The lack of clarity as to the purpose of the super lot proposed as part of the redevelopment was also a key concern. There was no surety for council or residents as to the purpose of the lot and no third party appeal rights to any proposal for the lot. It would have been a terrific site for social housing, but without certainty no one in the community or council truly knows what this site will be used for.

The intensity of the development was too great, considering the site is outside of the defined area for the Chirnside Park Major Activity Centre, where council has determined higher densities should be contained as part of a broad community consultation.

The motion was won but it was clearly a contentious issue with councillors voting 5 for and 4 against.

Cr's Higgins, Warren, Templer, Heenan and Avery

Cr's Dunn, Cox, Cliff and McRae.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

samantha in the press - fire preparedness

Black Saturday: Land buyback on offer
Yarra Ranges Weekly
by Melissa Cunningham
25 Oct 2011

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

samantha in the press - vlga

Mayoral vote system review
Geelong Advertiser
by Peter Begg
23 Oct 2011

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

samantha in the press - planning

Macca's Tecoma plan fried
Leader Newspapers
by Kimberley Seedy
19 Oct 2011

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

samantha in the press - planning

McDonald's big whack
Mail Newspapers
by Casey Neill
18 Oct 2011

Animal Aid: Coldstream shelter gets OK for $5m revamp
Yarra Ranges Weeky
by Melissa Cunningham
18 Oct 2011

Macca battle set for VCAT
Yarra Ranges Weekly
by Melissa Cunningham
18 Oct 2011

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Monday, October 17, 2011

no maccas for tecoma - council refuses application

Report from the roundtable - 11 Oct

It's been awhile since I've done a report from the roundtable dispatch, it's been a very busy time, but this item most definitely needs reporting.

At the last meeting of council, we considered an application for a McDonalds in Tecoma.

The application has been highly controversial with over 1,100 objections received by community members (along with 8 letters of support). This is the highest number of objections Yarra Ranges council has had to any objection in it's history.

Because it was clear the application had enormous public interest council decided to move our meeting to a larger venue to accommodate interested community members. It was just as well we did, over 600 people attended the meeting, a Yarra Ranges record number at a council meeting.

Council heard from objectors (3) as well as supporters (1) of the application. After all the presentations I moved a motion to refuse the application.

I had a significant number of concerns in relation to the application. It must be noted that the application is for a building and works permit, not for the use of the land. As the land is zoned Business 1, it can be used for a convenience restaurant. However my concerns were in relation to the impact of that building should it proceed.

It was around the intensity of traffic and congestion the proposal would create by attracting a significant number of cars and people to an already busy location in Tecoma.

Tecoma is one of the unique villages of the Dandenong Ranges, a small scale village with a population of 2000, it is the gateway to Sherbrooke Forest which forms the backdrop of Tecoma, considered to be so special that the National Trust says the forest is of cultural significance to the state of Victoria and it's views must be protected both in and out of the forest.

The design itself, presents a bulky, blocky building, with a flat roof and wide frontage, completely out of character with the township of Tecoma. The design has poor articulation to the street frontage, as well as the west wall (the one facing Upwey) which is completely blank.

Although there is already a concrete slab building in Tecoma, we shouldn't be repeating mistakes of the past.

I have extensive concerns about the interface with the residential areas, a 2.4mt or 3mt high fence of perspex is a very poor outcome for surrounding residents and proves just how noisy this site will be. I also had reservations about the acoustic report, for anyone who lives in the hills knows the tricks of sound across the valleys.

The proposal had insufficient parking for both cars and bicycles. It was my view that the drive through configuration was dangerous given the amount of North/South traffic crossing the East/West carriageway easement. The intensified traffic would create greater safety problems for cars and pedestrians using the site.

I was appauled that there was a lack of dedicated space for pedestrians to access the site from the rear carpark, particularly if they had mobility issues (or prams). I was equally appauled by the siting of the disability carpark, it didn't even meet Australian Standards.

I had concerns about the hours of operation and did not gain any clarity about this from the submitter for McDonalds. However should the proposal operate 24/7 I have no doubt it will be a target for antisocial behaviour and create a feeling of compromised safety for local residents.

I thought the signage was excessive and created visual clutter in the area. I was also concerned that signage was proposed to close the drive through during the evening as well as prevent right hand turns into Burwood Highway. Any local knows how ineffective this signage is as we constantly see people turn right into the highway at Reynolds Lane in Belgrave.

The greatest concern to me was traffic. All locals know how busy Burwood Highway already is, the proposed configuration of a right hand turn into the BP Service Station, right hand turn into the proposed McDonalds site and the already existing right hand turn into McNicol Road will be traffic chaos. A 4 metre long line marked traffic island gives me no confidence to separate traffic driving head on into each other.

Given the proposed traffic configuration with 60% of traffic to exit the site via Sandells Road, I have no doubt that traffic will be forced into residential streets throughout Tecoma, which is a poor outcome for residential amenity.

I am staggered that McNicol Road, Tecoma's busiest local road, has not been factored into the traffic report even though it carries 3,500 motor vehicles per day. Burwood Highway is already a dangerous road, a look at the crash stats confirms this. With volumes of 23,000 motor vehicles a day on Burwood Highway, 2,700 on Sandells Road and 3,500 on McNicol Road, this is a very busy and chaotic piece of road space. I am amazed at the suggestion to increase the Green signal timing on Sandells Road due to the impacts on traffic on Burwood Highway, which already banks back 400mts in peak hours.

The proposal is also inconsistent with our Regional Strategy Plan in that it does not seek to protect the role and function of Tecoma.

It would be wrong not to mention the community, their aspirations are important. It should also be noted that Tecoma PreSchool and the Tecoma Primary School Council also objected to this application. They are key parts of the local Tecoma community. The objectors which number over 1,100 are not the usual suspects but include hundreds of people who have never been involved in a planning application, but they are concerned for their local community.

My colleague Cr McRae also spoke in support of the refusal and quoted from a letter sent to us by McDonalds earlier that day.

"Should Council override the recommendation of the officers of Council, and resolve to refuse the application the matter will be the subject of a VCAT Appeal. As you know significant resources will be expended by Council and objectors in contesting the Appeal. It is understood that the objectors to the proposal may raise the necessary funds for this appeal from donations from the community. This is disappointing given the many more important community projects that do not have sufficient funds."

Cr McRae's suggestion that perhaps McDonalds would like to contribute to more important community projects met with enormous approval from the crowd in attendance. If you'd like to read a full copy of the letter you can find it here.

In summing up to my councillor colleagues I talked about past applications on Burwood Highway where officers had recommended approval, council had refused those application and those refusals were upheld in VCAT. With a car entering the site every 21 seconds in peak, taking 3.5minutes to serve can only equal traffic chaos for the area. It is important to understand the nature of this section of Burwood Highway, it has enormous impact on the functioning of our townships already, we don't want to exacerbate already negative impacts with building and works that will create a town centre that is unworkable and has enormous traffic and amenity impacts.

I'm pleased to say my colleagues voted unanimously to refuse the application to an enormous response from the crowd, which you can hear here.

I have been swamped with letters of thanks from community members who are keen to know the where to from here. All I can say is watch this space, it will be up to McDonalds to determine if they think they have a viable business proposition and whether they want to pursue it at VCAT.

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Friday, October 14, 2011

samantha in the media - planning

Councillor Samantha Dunn discusses No Maccas for The Hills
The Hills Hoist, 3MDR
by Emma Johnson and Jenny Hall, filmed by Rod Neason
14 Oct 2011

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samantha in the media - fire refuges

No fire refuges ready for fire season
ABC 7:30 Victoria
by Stephanie March
14 Oct 2011

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

samantha in the press - planning

Yarra Ranges blocks fast-food outlet
ABC 774
by Stephanie Corsetti
12 Oct 2011

Tecoma Maccas rejected by Yarra Ranges Council
Leader Newspapers
by Kimberley Seedy
12 Oct 2011

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council decides on tecoma mcdonalds

stop press stop press stop press

Council votes unanimously to refuse the Tecoma McDonalds application at last night's meeting.

A bulky, blocky building contemplated in Tecoma, one that pays no respect to the existing hills character of the village - what an eyesore. On that section of Burwood Highway, where's there's already significant traffic issues, why would we encourage even greater intensity of traffic.

Congratulations to the community who came out in their droves (600 plus attended the meeting), you are passionate and engaged members of the wonderful Dandenong Ranges community.

Well done to the objectors who spoke against the application, you did your community proud and my particular thanks to my councillor colleagues on the Yarra Ranges Council who were compelled to support my refusal motion unanimously.

More details to come soon.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

samantha in the press - vlga

Not happy, Minister, on rulings for Maribyrnong
Leader Newspapers
by Sarah Anderson
11 Oct 2011

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Sunday, October 09, 2011

yarra ranges early years award finalists

It's terrific to learn that two of Yarra Ranges early years projects have been selected as finalists for the Victorian Early Years Awards.

The awards are presented annually as part of the Children’s Week celebrations and the winners will be announced at a ceremony at the NGV on 24 October.

The two projects are:

Building Strong N Proud Pathways – Boorai Early Years Transition Program, Yarra Valley Community Health.
A need to encourage Aboriginal families to send their children to kindergarten to better prepare them for school prompted the Yarra Valley Community Health Service to establish an occasional care and transition program. The program for children from birth to five years old is free and culturally appropriate, breaking down two of the barriers which have previously deterred Aboriginal families from using early childhood services.

Developed following consultation with Yarra Ranges Council, Yarra Valley Aboriginal Health and Kinderlink,the program encourages early literacy, numeracy, social and language skills and benefits from parents contributing to stimulating cultural activities. Parents are provided with support and information about other services and are free to stay and enjoy lunch with their children. An estimated 92 Aboriginal children aged under four live in the Yarra Ranges Shire. The program has seen an increase in kindergarten enrolments from the community, from 14 in 2005 to 22 in 2010.

Wellness Connections: Promoting Infant Outcomes at the Interface, Yarra Ranges Council
Yarra Ranges Council services a young demographic, with children under the age of five making up 12.8 percent of the residents living in both urban and rural areas. It was also a population in which post natal depression consistently ranked in the top three mental health issues for the shire – a statistic which prompted the council to look beyond its existing early childhood services for a way to improve the situation.

A Maternal Infant Mental Health program was created providing counselling, group work and interventions to help individuals cope better and develop new skills to help them enjoy their parenting experience. A partnership including the Eastern Ranges GP Association, individual health professionals, government funded early childhood initiatives and the Austin Hospital now ensures well targeted planning and comprehensive support through in-home consultations, a day stay program, therapy and supported playgroups.

Congratulations to our early years team for your innovation when it comes to dealing with the early years issues in the interface, the nominations are well earned.

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Friday, October 07, 2011

sustainable business program - interested in signing up?

What is the Sustainable Business Program?

The Sustainable Business Program is a council initiative which involves a group of local businesses meeting, sharing ideas, working together and attending a series of workshops. The workshops range from Sustainable Branding to Behaviour Change and even Sustainable H.R; how to retain your workforce and increase employee satisfaction.

In addition participating businesses also receive a complimentary energy audit of your business and comprehensive report of suggested modifications, to increase your efficiency.

Who should participate?
Any local business is eligible to participate in the Sustainable Business Program. A diverse mix of businesses have completed the Program ranging from sole operators to 100+ employees, across a wide range of industries.

How much does the Program cost?
The program is highly subsidised and only costs you around 10% of the actual Program cost. Your fee is based on a sliding scale according to how many employees you have.

When does the program commence?
March, 2012 with information sessions taking place in November, 2011

How do I find out more information?
Contact Lou Zarro, the Shire's Economic Development Officer on 9294 6271 or email or Joanne Tate at

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Wednesday, October 05, 2011

samantha in the press - fire service levy

Levy collection dispute in Yarra Ranges
Leader Newspapers
by Kimberley Seedy
5 Oct 2011

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mcdonalds application - this tuesday

Just to confirm council will be making a decision on the McDonalds application for Tecoma (YR 2011/647) this Tuesday, 11th October.

If you'd like to read the officer's report click here.

Due to the significant community interest council has decided to change venue as our regular council chambers in Lilydale only hold around 100 people (at a pinch).

Details of the meeting are:
Where: York on Lilydale

Cnr York and Swansea Roads
Mt Evelyn
When: Tues 11 Oct at 7:45pm

Due to the significant public interest council has decided to allow 3 speakers to speak for and against the application. I can report that council has received over 1,100 objections and 6 letters of support. If you have any questions about the planning process please contact me on

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samantha in the press - bushfire preparedness

Vic Govt under fire
Weekly Times
by Peter Hunt
5 Oct 2011

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samantha in the press - roads

Yarra Ranges road program back on track
Leader Newspapers
by Kimberley Seedy
5 Oct 2011

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nomination australia day awards 2012

Do you know some who has contributed in an outstanding way to the Yarra Ranges?

Then why not nominate them for the 2012 Australia Day Awards.

Nominations are now open in the categories of:
~ Citizen of the Year
~ Young Citizen of the Year
~ Environmental Achiever of the Year
~ Ken McIntosh Memorial Award for Young Environmental Achiever of the Year
~ Community Group of the Year

Two further awards are available at the judging panel’s discretion:
~ Ian De La Rue Community Lifetime Achievement Award
~ The Mayor’s Lifetime Achievement Award

I encourage residents to nominate someone in their community.There are many people in Yarra Ranges who do wonderful things to help our community, they make Yarra Ranges the great place it is to live.

The Australia Day Awards is an opportunity to recognise and encourage residents for their efforts.

Eligibility criteria and nomination forms are available on council’s website. Forms are also available from council’s Community Links or by calling 1300 368 333.

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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

samantha in the press - fire levy

Eastern councils take aim at fire levy
Yarra Ranges Weekly
by Melissa Cunningham
4 Oct 2011

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samantha in the press - early years

Funding cut
Mail Newspapers
by Mara Pattison-Sowden
4 Oct 2011

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samantha in the press - climate change

Pedal power cuts carbon footprint
Mail Newspapers
by Mara Pattison-Sowden
4 Oct 2011

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join in the conversation - community leadership program

Community Leadership Program - led by the community for the community.

Every other region of Victoria has a community leadership program and the results over a decade have been outstanding for individuals, communities and the wider region.

Everyone is welcome to join in the conversation. Is this something you want and, if so, how do you want it to operate?

If you're interested details are:
DATE: Wednesday 12 October, 2011
TIME: 7.00—9.00pm (including light refreshments)
VENUE: Old Station House, Wray Cres, Mount Evelyn
RSVP: 03 9736 1457 or Email:

Want to know more? Can’t make it to the discussion? Go to this web page where you can watch a clip and participate in an online survey.

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Monday, October 03, 2011

350 in the valley

I was delighted to be invited to speak at the recent event at ECOSS in the upper yarra valley in Wesburn. is a worldwide movement, created by author Bill McKibben, to build a grassroots global movement to solve climate change. Why 350 parts per million is the amount of Co2 scientists say is a safe limit for humanity (we're currently at 391ppm). ECOSS is modelled on the CERES model of community park to engender a culture of sustainability.

It was a great opportunity to talk about the range of initiatives council is undertaking to either adapt to or mitigate the effects of climate change.

This photo was taken to send to the website to show how Wesburn participated in this worldwide event.

Council's recognition of the importance of climate change as serious issue was first acknowledged with our signing of the Yarra Ranges Climate Change Commitment, which set out a number of actions we'd undertake to exceed Kyoto Protocol targets for reducing global warming pollution.

Local performers provided the entertainment, here's Michael Arvanitakis from the Jed Rowe band performing to delight of onlookers.

Council has developed a number of policies to help achieve this target:
~ Resource Management Strategy - an action plan to reduce both council and community energy and resource use and respond to climate change. It was this strategy that underpins council's decision to sign the Ethical Paper Pledge.
~ Environment Strategy - sets out our current strategic policy direction on climate change and how we will reduce our footprint through council's own operations and in the community.
~ Environmentally Sustainable Development Policy - focuses on how council can make its capital works program sustainable.

Part of the days activities included this labyrinth made out of plant pots, young and old alike had fun tracing and retracing the path of the labyrinth.

Council is also reviewing all of our strategies on climate change so we can revisit our overall approach to climate change. We are also in the midst of developing a new Peak Oil Strategy for how we will respond to potential oil shocks and fuel shortages that peak oil will bring.

After I spoke many people came up to me to say they were not aware of all the ways council plays a part in addressing climate change impacts and were pleased to have a progressive council.

We are about to embark on the development of a Water Management Strategy and have employed a dedicated Water Management Officer to deliver this. The strategy will address some of the risks climate change poses to water supply and waterway health. It will also identify alternative sources of water to allow for greater conservation of drinking water in the municipality.

Local community members had the opportunity to perform spoken word as well as songs, it was a great celebration of the diversity of talent in the valley.

Council also supports the Yarra Ranges Transition Towns network by coordinating an information sharing network and providing regular updates to our TTers.

Council has an enormous role to play in land use planning which means we have a significant input into creating a more sustainable pattern of development through our land use planning strategies. Our key strategy, the draft Housing Strategy plans for additional development in areas suitable - with connection to community infrastructure, services and public transport to reduce reliance on motor vehicles.

Our Vision 2020 by Design actively encourages the adoption of Environmentally Sustainable Design and council regularly requires new major developments to demonstrate ESD features are incorporated into the design.

Council keenly protects Green Wedge land which provides not only the food bowl to Melbourne but has enormous biodiversity and landscape values. Green Wedge policies have successfully prevented urban sprawl of car dependent suburbs into areas valued for their agriculture or biodiversity.

Council has strict controls over removal of native vegetation, along with our targetted revegetation programs we ensure we retain important habitat areas for flora and fauna to maintain a healthy ecosystems.

One of council's key revegetation programs is Ribbons of Green. Established in 2007 to offset council's fleet emissions and increase biodiversity outcomes, the program has seen participants plant more than 70,000 plants each year. The program also provides advice about how shcools, private landoweners and community groups can control weeds, manage erosion and address pest animals. More than half the plants provided under Ribbons of Green provide connections to existing remnant vegetation and will provide much needed habitat into the future.

Council is dedicated to making our own operations more sustainable and reducing our own carbon footprint, however we also play a key role in leading and educating the public, schools, professional associations, businesses and industry about reducing their footprint.

Our draft Economic Strategy recognises the importance of encouraging a low carbon economy in Yarra Ranges and council's commitment to assisting local businesses to meet the challenges this will bring.

Yarra Ranges Sustainable Business Program, has graduated over 95 businesses since its inception in 2007 and helps businesses develop growth strategies that do more with less, this innovative program was recognised with a nomination for the 2010 Banksia Awards.

Council's Learning for Sustainability program helps schools gain an stronger understanding of their ecological footprint, how they use their resources, and how students, staff and the broader school community can make a difference working towards a more sustainable future. The LfS program encourages students to take leadership on environment issues and learn good environmental habits.

Council also plays a key role in advocacy on public transport through the Eastern Transport Coalition, a group of 7 councils commited to reducing car dependency across the east of Melbourne and improving liveability.

Council has also played a key role in advocating to see native forest logging stopped in the municipality and currently oppose logging in Melbourne's water catchments and logging on Mt St Leonard and the Bicentennial Trail and most recently signed the Ethical Paper Pledge.

Council continues to act to reduce our footprint and encourages community members to do so also. ECOSS plays a key role in helping communities transition to a low carbon future and are dedicated to make our region more resiliant into the future. The ECOSS committee, staff and volunteers are to be commended for their ongoing efforts for Ecologically Sustainable Solutions and for the organising the valley's event.

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