Wednesday, June 26, 2013

yarra ranges budget endorsed for 13/14

report from the roundtable – 25 jun

At this week’s council meeting we had to consider the adoption of the budget for 2013/14.  The budget was adopted unanimously by council (note Cr Cox and McAllister were absent).

In speaking in consideration of the motion I talked about some councillors who were elected on a platform of no rate or low rate rises. This budget, at a rate increase of 4.8%, has not been able to realise that outcome nor the same level of rate rise as last year’s budget of 4.2%.

However I believe that is recognition by councillors of significant cost pressures we are facing and the continued cost shifting by state government to local government.

As part of our budget deliberations we still need to take into account the capping of many of our fees and charges by state government meaning that we can’t recover the cost for the services we provide. We continue to see an erosion of funding for specific purpose grants, so the money received doesn’t keep pace with the cost to provide the service, libraries and school crossing supervisors are two examples that spring to mind.

All of this is also framed by being the collection agent for the Landfill Levy which we still don’t see applied to local initiatives to reduce waste and work toward zero waste goals. And this time round we will also be the collection agent for the Fire Services Levy and I have no doubt we will be in the firing line over this even though it is a state government levy and they should be the ones collecting it.

I’m pleased to report that Lyster Ward initiatives endorsed as part of our capital program for 2013/14 include:
$60,000         Drainage works on Blair Rd, Belgrave
$25,000         Bus Stop works Belgrave Hallam Rd, Belgrave
$20,000         Footpath construction works, Station St, Belgrave
$50,000         Construction of View Rd, Belgrave (as part of a special charge scheme)
$112,000       Continuation of the shared trail from Lysterfield to Belgrave
$53,900         Continued work on the Feasibility study for the Belgrave Hub
$100,000       Footpath construction works, Kallista-Emerald Rd, The Patch

This is along with the projects outlined in my blog story when the budget went on exhibition. You can read more about them here.

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

samantha in the media

Vic councils probe developer donations and bad candidate conduct
Government News
By Julian Bajkowski
25 Jun 2013

Replas Environmental Centre
visit from Cr Samantha Dunn
11 Jun 2013

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

samantha in the press

Yarra Ranges councillors told to 'zip it'
by David Schout
Yarra Ranges Weekly
14 Jun 2013

Furious Agreement
by Emma Sun
Mail Newspapers
18 Jun 2013
Cocky crisis
by Melissa Mehan
Mail Newspapers
18 Jun 2013

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

to gag or not to gag?

report from the roundtable – 11 jun
An interesting and very quiet night at council last night as the Mayor chose to exercise his right under the Yarra Ranges Meeting Procedures and Use of Common Seal Local Law 2007 to not allow councillors to speak to motions if the motion was not opposed.

It was a surprising turn of events given the Meeting Procedures were discussed at length at our private meeting a week earlier on the 4th June where there were concerns expressed about the time frames Councillors took to debate (going beyond 5 minutes) but absolutely no discussion of not being able to speak to a motion should there be no opposition. It has been custom and practice at Yarra Ranges Council, since the return of councillors in 1997 post amalgamation, to allow councillors to speak to a motion whether there’s unanimous agreement or not.

I sat aghast last night, although a very short agenda with only two items, no opportunity to talk to how important they are in their own way. From my perspective it was a poor outcome for local democracy. I believe the public gallery has a right to know why councillors vote the way we do (and the record should reflect that too – all council meetings are recorded).

As I left the meeting a member of the public said to me “I like to know what the councillors think”, I couldn’t agree more, you have a right to understand why we vote the way we do even if we are all in furious agreement.

To me it looked like we were ‘rubber stampers’, like we had no ownership of the issue and I don’t believe the local law is operating in the best interest of open and transparent government.

I was also concerned that if there was no opposition to a motion, which was the case at last night’s meeting, there was no need for a show of hands, so not even a requirement to physically participate in the democratic process.

Clearly the local law is flawed and needs to change. I will be raising the issue at the next meeting of council on the 25th June, the section concerned (S48 Moving a Motion) clearly needs review, needs discussion by all councillors to provide appropriate guidance to the meeting chair. (NOTE 13 June: Since writing this blog I have learnt that some councillors will be absent for the next couple of council meetings so I will be bringing this issue back to a later meeting in July). I was advised later that the Mayor had changed his mind and would allow the mover and seconder to speak at our next council meeting, however this is a matter of importance to all councillors and we should all have the opportunity to participate in how we would like our meetings to run and the best way to achieve that is through a review.

The objectives of the Yarra Ranges Meeting Procedures and Use of Common Seal local law are to:
  • provide a mechanism which facilitates the good governance of the Council
  • promote and encourage community participation
  • regulate and control the election of the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and any chairpersons for special committees
  • control the use of the Council seal
  • generally provide for the administration of Council's powers and functions.
It’s my view that the current provisions do not facilitate good governance and discourage participation by councillors, the community representatives.  

I hope that my colleagues support my motion for a review, the local law is clearly outdated, has never operated as written (up until last night) and needs an update to reflect the current practice at Yarra Ranges. The way it stands at the moment it allows for the chair to exercise the provision to its full extent and that’s not a good outcome.

And for the record, the two issues we voted on last night were Constitutional Recognition of Local Government and the Electronic Gaming Machine Gambling Policy and EGM Process Guidelines. Two really key and important issues in their own way, it’s very disappointing that there was no discussion around either.

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Monday, June 10, 2013

planting a platypus picnic

I had a terrific time at the Platypus Picnic held this weekend. The Birdsland Environment Gardening Gang (the BeeGees) organised the day and it was a great opportunity for families who want to improve the environment in a family friendly way to do so.

Activities included fun with Peter the Platypus, learning about what platypus like to eat and planting habitat for platypus. A range of other activities were on offer but the children were very happy to get their hands dirty planting along the Monbulk Creek and this kept them amused for most of the afternoon.

It was great to see the children working together to get their plants in the ground with very little guidance required, these kids already knew what to do!
The wonderful group of volunteers who organised the days
activities, well done to Kerry, Clare, Jordan, Jimmy and Elicia.
The BeeGees is a great new initiative, based at Birdsland and launched at this year's MiniBeast Festival, it aims to provide a fun environment in which families and their children can take part in environmental and gardening activities, whilst increasing their knowledge of the world around them.

Well done to organisers, what a great way to improve the environment and have fun doing so, much of the Monbulk Creek is very degraded and this revegetation work is vital to improving the quality of the waterway and improving the habitat of those vertebrates and invertebrates that live in it including our iconic local, the platypus.

With ongoing work the health of
Monbulk Creek can be restored so
it's premium habitat for platypus
and our other waterway creatures.


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Sunday, June 09, 2013

save the dandenongs league agm 2013

I was delighted to preside over the annual elections for the Save the Dandenongs League, one of the oldest conservation groups in Victoria. They provide an important community voice and advocate for the protection and restoration of the Dandenong Ranges as a natural asset for all time.
Myself and Betty Marsden OAM, President of the Save the
 Dandenongs League, it was terrific to catch up with League
members at their AGM held at Kallista Community House.

The League began in 1950 when residents and non-residents of the Ranges were drawn together by the efforts of Miss Moon, John Turner and Cr Leane of Ferntree Gully to express their united concern about sub-division unplanned urban development across the Ranges unregulated activities of public and semi-public bodies such as the State Electricity Commission and the Country Roads Board.

They celebrated their 60th anniversary in 2010, a wonderful occasion where many a tale was told about their trials and tribulations.

At this year's Annual General Meeting various matters were reported by President, Betty Marsden OAM. Betty spoke about the loss of the two heritage buildings, Saffron Cottage and Hazelvale Dairy as part of the McDonalds development. She also talked about the newly exhibited Design and Development Overlays (planning scheme amendment C126) but reiterated that they were only general guidelines.

She also mentioned sign off of the Birdsland Masterplan and with that the call for a new management committee, she also expressed concern about the state government move to allow development in national parks.

Betty also expressed concern about the recently approved ALDI development in Monbulk and raised concerns about the Burnham Beeches development (yet to be decided by council).

In front of over 30 community members I was delighted to announce that Betty had been re-elected President of the League for the upcoming year. I was also delighted to announce Ross Whitford as Secretary, whilst Jenny Saulwick, Carolyn Ebdon and Daryl Shatte were elected general members.

Congratulations Betty, you continue to be an inspiration with your undying passion for what's special about the Dandenong Ranges.

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Thursday, June 06, 2013

samantha in the media

Feeding ban voted down, ruffling a few feathers
by David Schout
Yarra Ranges Weekly
4 Jun 2013

Yarra Shire's memo to Abbott
Yarra Ranges Weekly
4 Jun 2013

3MDR Judy Ann and Company
Interview with Judy-Ann

Panel to referee fast food slow burn
by Emily Webb
Leader Newspaper
3 Jun 2013

Planning future under scrutiny
by Kath Gannaway
Mail Newpapers
4 Jun 2013

Hills controversy spills over
Mail Newspaper
4 Jun 2013

No cocky ban
by Emma Sun
Mail Newspaper
4 Jun 2013

Feathers fly as bid fails to fine cockatoo feeders
by Emily Webb
Leader Newspapers
3 Jun 2013

Panel to chew over fast food proposal
by Emily Webb
Free Press Leader
5 Jun 2013

Waging war on weeds
Free Press Leader
5 Jun 2013

Free to feed cockies
by Emily Webb
Free Press Leader
5 Jun 2013

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Sunday, June 02, 2013

no mcdonalds, community reflective walk

I joined with 250 community members for the 'Show You Say...NO! To McDonalds in Tecoma: Reflective Walk Protest' on the weekend. I was impressed by the turnout, given it was the wettest June day on record.

One of the purposes of the walk was to pledge on behalf of family members to No McDonalds in Tecoma. Organisers report that the 250 who attended on the day were representative of over 2,000 family members saying No to McDonalds in Tecoma.

Merryn and Jessica wanted to take action and came up
with the idea of a reflective walk from Belgrave to Tecoma.
Community members walked from the Belgrave Town Park to the site in Tecoma and stood in one minutes reflective silence led by event organisers Jessica and Merryn.

After the minutes silence community members placed their messages of No on the fence and moved to FatSpace (in the same building as DVD Destination) where I spoke, followed by Brian Baker who led a rousing rendition of the Ballad of Tecoma. In speaking to the crowd I reminded people as to why I thought McDonalds in Tecoma was a bad idea. I acknowledged that we are all here and say no for our own reasons but for me, these are my reasons.
Local singer/songwriter Brian Baker is
intrinsically linked to the campaign as the
writer and performer of the Ballad of Tecoma,
you can check out his performance on youtube.
I voted against the development based on concerns around intensity of traffic, we know that Burwood Highway will be so much more dangerous, more congested and because of that we'll see more 'rat running' through local streets. I was concerned about the cultural significance of the Dandenongs, namely Sherbrooke Forest, which is so important that view lines in and out of the forest are listed as being of state significance by the National Trust.  I was concerned about the built form, being blocky, boxy and bulky, terms that came very familiar at the VCAT appeal.

I was concerned with the poor articulation to the street frontage, the building does not integrate well to the frontage. I am very concerned about the interface with residential areas, I would not like to be one of the residents abutting the development as I think the impacts on their amenity will be enormous. I'm concerned about the acoustics, as hills dwellers we all know that the hills and valleys play tricks with the sound and noise can travel long distances. I was concerned with the drive through configuration which crosses a public carriageway not once but three times.

I'm concerned about the safety of pedestrians on site and the lack of dedicated pedestrian space on site, I believe it's because McDonalds don't want you to get out of your car, particularly as 70% of their business in generated through the drive through. I was concerned about the configuration of the disability car park, located close to the driveway entrance and exit on Burwood Hwy, it will be nightmarish to try and get out of that car park.

I was concerned about the excessive signage and visual clutter of the signage proposed and last but certainly not least I was concerned about the failure of the development to be in keeping or enhance the neighbourhood character of Tecoma.

Let there be no doubt that my concerns were based on planning matters. When council voted unanimously to refuse the application that was representative democracy in action. However the decision by VCAT to approve the application was far from democratic. Made by tribunal members that have no accountability to the local community, are not representative of the local community and don't need to take into account the number of community objections nor community aspiration, it is far from democratic and fundamentally flawed.

I finished by making an observation, last time I said this I was accused of incitement but I wanted people to know categorically that this was not incitement but an observation and that is that you aint seen nothing yet.  

Thanks to Gregg who's uploaded a video of the reflective walk on youtube, you can check it out here.

Located at 1535 Burwood Hwy, Tecoma, FatSpace is a retail space set up to tackle contentious, confronting, current and controversial community issues, they are currently calling for entries to "Junk Food: fast, fried and fatal".

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