Thursday, October 31, 2013

happening around and about local lyster bushland

There's a lot going on in the bushland areas in the Lyster Ward, here's a snapshot of some of the current range of activities. I acknowledge and thank our environmental volunteers whose efforts are the key to the success of many of these projects and they contribute many volunteer hours to improving our local environment.

Belgrave to Lysterfield Bike Trail
Yarra Ranges is working with Melbourne Water and Parks Victoria on constructing the linking trail from Belgrave through Birdsland, Melbourne Water’s retarding basin (the lakes at Birdsland) and Parks Victoria’s existing trail network to Lysterfield Lake Park.

This project includes the newly constructed Monbulk Creek footbridge at the entrance to Birdsland on Mt Morton Rd, the linking trail to the Wellington Road/Lysterfield Road traffic lights and the upgrade of Melbourne Water’s Blackwood Forest Trail.

It's a great example of a range of land managers working together to maximise project outcomes.

Belgrave Lake Park Revegetation/Weed Control Project
There's a lot of weed control works going on at Belgrave Lake Park, funded through the Urban Fringe Weed Management initiative and Melbourne Water’s Corridors of Green Program. This project is in its third year starting with extensive woody weed removal and trad removal along the Monbulk Creek. It's been terrific to see more than 3,000 plants be part of a revegetation program, planted by both contractors and volunteers (some on Awesome Ornithorynkids day).

Birdsland Reserve Pest Animal Control and Nest Box Program
There's been some fox control activities taking place in conjunction with Parks Victoria, in its third year and exploring new techniques like soft jaw trapping.

Thirty nest boxes have been installed in two sections of the reserve, the Monbulk Creek corridor and old growth tree section of the ridge paddock. Ongoing monitoring of all locations has revealed up to 80% of boxes are in use. This project has been jointly funded through the Southern Dandenongs Landcare Group Caring for Country grant and Council’s budget.
Here I am with Yarra Ranges Environmental
Achiever of the Year, Vicki Boyle, a powerhouse
in the environmental volunteering stakes.
Nest boxes provide our local arboreal
mammals with housing options.
Many habitat trees have been removed
over time leaving nowhere for these
creatures to call home.

Bushland Management Plans for Hazelvale Valley Reserve, Bellbird Street Park and Birdsland
The Bushland Management Plans set priorities for bushland management for all these important reserves situated along the Monbulk Creek, they span between 2 to 5 years and are a collaboration between Shire contractors and our dedicated environmental volunteers.

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

patch has a plan

I was delighted to attend the assembly of The Patch Primary School last week to present them with the Shire of Yarra Ranges HabitAT award for 2013. 

From left to right: Brayden, Michelle - Teacher, James,
Cr Samantha Dunn, Anthony - Yarra Ranges, Georgia,
Debra - Principal and Caellan. The students at The Patch
are very proud of their achievements and they should be.
The works and planning for future works is impressive
and our future's looking bright with these young leaders.

The Patch took out the category for best HabitAT Plan in the Shire, for the work done completed by students planning short and long term actions to ensure the future protection and enhancement of the natural environment in their school grounds.

It's been a whole of school effort with every grade participating in some way, but the Grade 3 and 4's undertook the detailed work of developing the plan. The plan includes the development of wildlife corridors in the school grounds and the enhancement and expansion of a variety of ecologically diverse zones, including a fern gully, wetlands, open indigenous plantings, mountain ash gully, bird & butterfly attracting zones and additional productive gardens.

It's an impressive effort from the whole school community, and teacher Michelle Rayner has been a driving force behind the Learning for Sustainability program at The Patch.

The Shire awards 3 schools a year for either a HabitAT Census, Plan and Action award. The Patch Primary took out the HabitAT Census Award in 2012. The awards are part of the Shire's Learning for Sustainability program which aims to help schools gain a stronger understanding of their ecological footprint , how they use resources, but most of all how students, staff and members of the broader school community can make a difference working towards a more sustainable future. 

Congratulations to all at The Patch Primary, you really are an exemplary model of sustainability and rightly proud of your achievements.

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

samantha in the press

Driven Away
Mail Newspapers
by Jesse Graham
29 Oct 2013

Seeds plant habitat awareness
Mail Newspapers
by Rebecca Bills
29 Oct 2013

State kicks in $650,000 for soccer hub
Mail Newspapers
by Rebecca Bills
29 Oct 2013

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Monday, October 28, 2013

menzies creek hall turns 60

It was terrific to catch up with past Shire of
Sherbrooke President, Peter Downard who
was part of the official unveiling of the
commemorative plaque.
It was wonderful to join with the Menzies Creek community to celebrate the 60th anniversary of their much loved hall. Locals flocked to share the stories, reminisce and remember the Menzies Creek of old and of now. Long term families were well represented by the Hermons, Walkers and Johns.

I had the very great pleasure of joining Peter Downard, past Shire of Sherbrooke President, in unveiling a commemorative plaque to celebrate the occasion.

Community infrastructure is important, it provides a central meeting place for community and the hall has served the community well in its many iterations over the past 60 years. Still much loved, it's now used in the day to provide preschool services and of a night for a range of community activities.

Well done to organisers, it was a great day, with much hilarity and story sharing, I can only hope I'll be around to celebrate the hall's 100th!

The official unveiling to celebrate 60 years.

Menzies Creek Primary School Choir opened the day
with the national anthem as well as the school song.
It was lovely to see past school students sign along.

It was great to hear tales from the past, stories of dances,
parties, significant community events as well as
look at memorabilia going back to the hall's first event ever.

Local families played a prominent role
on the day.

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samantha in the press

Plan Melbourne's governance under fire
Government News
by Julian Bajkowski
15 Oct 2013

Say 'no' to racism
Lilydale Leader
21 Oct 2013

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

ddo’s up for minister’s consideration

report from the roundtable – 22 oct

At last night’s council meeting council had to consider Planning Scheme Amendment C126, a set of Design and Development Overlays (DDOs) that introduce a set of design guidelines for new town centre development across the Yarra Ranges. I was pleased to be able to move the motion to endorse the DDOs to proceed to the Minister for Planning for approval.

As part of the public exhibition process council received 72 submissions, the majority of those from community members in the Dandenong Ranges concerned about the prospect of more convenience restaurants in the hills. McDonalds also submitted to the public exhibition process, citing concerns with the DDOs around the ‘step down’ approach to building heights, the retention of buildings that contribute to the character of the town centre, the need for verandas to be designed based on established veranda design and lastly the provision to discourage drive throughs associated with convenience restaurants.

Because there were unresolved issues as part of the public exhibition process council referred the C126 amendment to a Planning Panel. Panel members conducted the hearing over two days and heard from a number of community members as well as landowners of prominent sites in the Shire and McDonalds.

The panel has since presented its report to council and last night was the opportunity for councillors to consider the report, the panel recommendations and what should be in and out of the DDOs.

For me there were a number of key issues I thought important to highlight as part of speaking to the motion.

Drive Throughs
The panel was concerned about council’s inclusion of the guideline “buildings that include drive through sales facilities associated with a convenience restaurant are discouraged”. The panel considered that this guideline was in effect a form of control over the ‘use’ of the land which is in conflict with the underlying zone. Council did not support the panel’s recommendation in relation to this issue, given the guideline is about townships with a strong pedestrian focus, fine grain development form and disruption to retail street frontage and not land use council endorsed an amended guideline “Building and works that comprise drive through sales facilities are discouraged”.

It’s important to note that the DDOs provide a set of guidelines and are not mandatory controls therefore the language in them needs to reflect that. I know a number of community members submitted that the word prohibit should be used rather than discourage but in the context of DDOs this was not possible.

It's also important to note that this particular guideline applies to the townships of Belgrave, Kallista, Mt Dandenong, Olinda, Sassafras and Tecoma.
Building Heights
There were a lot of submissions about building heights and the panel suggested that building heights should be expressed  in the DDOs as a number of storeys with no reference to a building height in metres.  Given other Yarra Ranges DDOs express height in metres (Lilydale and Chirnside Park) council considered that we would retain reference to the building height in meters and include an additional statement to give clarity “for the purpose of this schedule ‘building height’ means the vertical distance between the highest point of the building and the natural ground level immediately below that point…”. This guideline discourages building forms on sloping sites that result in acceptable heights on only some boundaries of the site with excessive heights on the other boundaries and is an important consideration in the hills where most sites are sloped.

Environmentally Sustainable Design
The panel did not support council’s desire to include a guideline that requires a management plan showing how proposals will adopt environmentally sustainable design principles on developments of more than 1500 square meters. Council did not agree with the panel recommendation and endorsed the view that there is an imperative to build this expectation across our planning policies and the reality is that there is an increasing expectation and acceptance of the need to consider ESD principles in the assessment of major development proposals.

In speaking to the motion I talked about the role of councillors, that we don’t have to accept or agree with the panel’s recommendations. We are the democratically elected representatives, we understand the aspiration of our community at a much deeper level than the planning panel.

I talked about the development of Vision2020 by Design, the founding document of the DDOs, the enormous body of work and community consultation that had gone into the development of the DDOs and the importance to guide built form throughout Yarra Ranges.

I said the DDOs reflected the aspirations of the community and looked forward to the Minister for Planning, Matthew Guy, supporting council in its aspiration for the Yarra Ranges Community. It is an opportunity for the Minister to support Yarra Ranges in what it’s trying to achieve on behalf of the community.

I’m pleased to report that the majority of councillors supported the motion.

Crs Samantha Dunn, Noel Cliff, Len Cox, Terry Avery, Andy Witlox, Maria McCarthy and Jason Callanan.
Cr Fiona McAllister

Absent from the chamber due to a Conflict of Interest
Cr Jim Child

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

community planning comes to the dandenongs

As a change in the way we inform council strategies and support local communities council agreed to a new approach as part of our Council Planning process earlier this year.

Council signed off on the development of a local area plan (or community plan) across the municipality based on four distinct geographic areas, being The Hills, Central and Upper Yarra, Yarra Valley and Urban areas. The local area plan is a document that includes a community's vision and plan to share their future aspirations. Council will support any community wanting to develop a local area plan. Local area plans are owned and implemented by the community. Over the coming years local area plans will help to inform future Council Plans. In the past council has relied on Vision 2020 which has been a great statement of community aspiration but does fall short of reflecting the local issues in such a big and diverse municipality.

In order to support the development of local area plans, Council employs four community development officers, each responsible for a specific region. In the Hills it's Amanda May.

It's a great process to get involved in, and the first opportunity is coming soon to the Hills.

When: 7:00 to 8:30pm Thursday 14 November, 2013

Where: Sherbrooke Family and Children's Centre - 1443 Burwood Hwy, Upwey

Book: yes please - let us know you're coming for catering purposes online here or call Amanda on 9294 6741

So why should community members get involved you ask?
Local area planning offers communities a structure or process that helps to:
• empower community leaders by providing an environment that lets you have a say on issues that are important to you and develop solutions to these issues
• identify local strengths and assets that can be enhanced, rather than focusing on needs and wants
• take the learnings from your neighbouring communities to help you to achieve your vision
• connect your community and develop local partnerships and networks that build pride in the place where you live
• tap into existing skills and experience or learn new skills
• promote the local social, economic and health benefits of your community that make it a good place to live.
What is Council’s role?
Council can support communities by:
• participating in meetings
• providing template documents
• being a conduit between the community & Council
• supporting and providing advice on community engagement
• providing support to identify funding sources
• providing demographic data

If you'd like to know more you can contact the Hills area Community Development Officer Amanda on 9294 6741 or otherwise I look forward to seeing you on the 14th to talk and listen to all things community aspiration.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

victorian communities commit to listening to children in planning and decision-making processes

Thanks to the creation of the Victorian Charter for Child Friendly Cities and Communities, local governments and community organisations across the State are making a commitment to include our young citizens in planning and decision-making.

The Charter was officially launched by Bernie Geary OAM, Principal Commissioner for Children and Young People, Cr Samantha Dunn, President of the Victorian Local Governance Association (VLGA) and primary school student, Ben Arnett on Tuesday 15 October, ahead of Children's Week 2013 which runs from 19 to 27 October.

It was terrific to be joined by Mayor of Moreland,
Cr Oscar Yildiz, Ben, Gwendolyn and Bernie Geary,
Principal Commissioner for Children and Young People
at the launch of the charter out at CERES.
Speaking at the launch, VLGA President Cr Samantha Dunn spoke of the importance of listening to children to ensure that their needs can be met.

“The VLGA believes children’s participation in the local decision-making process is vital to improve and develop services.

“Children are active citizens and have the right and an ability to help shape their own environments. We need to recognise those rights and need to actively involve children in decision-making around issues which will affect their wellbeing and the environments that they are living and growing up in.

“This Charter provides a set of guiding principles - freedom, respect and dignity and equitable access, which will help to empower our youngest citizens.

“The Charter will assist local governments and community organisations to work in conversation with children on creating places, policies and programs which fully consider their needs.

“We see the Charter as a tool to changing the thinking in local government, where the rights of children will become clearly reflected in community planning and building.

“Being a child friendly city means developing appropriate and inclusive policies and services reflecting children’s needs, acknowledging their important role in society and building their confidence in other processes including democracy,” said Cr Dunn.

Bernie Geary OAM, Principal Commissioner for Children and Young People advocated his support for the Charter, advising that children have the ability to offer a different perspective from adults.

"I am delighted to launch the Victorian Charter for Child Friendly Cities and Communities, which represents a significant step forward in terms of advancing the position of Victorian children and ensuring their interests, needs and opinions are reflected in public policy, programs and decision making,” said Principal Commissioner Geary OAM.

“I strongly encourage local governments to embrace the Charter and its principles of child-focused environments, respect and dignity for children's opinions and participation, and equitable access for all children regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion or ability.”

The Charter is an initiative of the VLGA and the Victorian Child Friendly Cities Asia Pacific Network.

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Monday, October 14, 2013

yarra ranges signs on for racism it stops with me

report from the roundtable – 8 oct         

At last week’s council meeting I was proud to be able to move a motion to support the Racism It Stops with Me campaign. 

Racism is insidious in our society and we’ve seen casual racism emerge as on ongoing issue. The Racism It Stops with Me campaign is a great way for Yarra Ranges Council to show leadership on the issue and drive action at a local level.

There is no place for racism in our society and it has serious consequences for individuals and local communities. It can affect people’s physical and mental health. It can undermine their ability to work or study or participate in community life. It can also increase social isolation when people try to avoid the sites where racism does happen, like in public spaces.

The Australian Human Rights Commission in encouraging oranisations and individuals to participate in the campaign and you can find more info on the Racism It Stops with Me here. I encourage you to be part of the campaign too.  

No matter what your cultural background you should always feel safe and respected.

I’m pleased to report that council was unanimous in its support of the Racism It Stops with Me campaign.

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

community gathers in celebration

Today the community came together to celebrate one year on from Reclaim Tecoma from McDonalds – Community Garden planting, a garden created in response to the VCAT decision to approve a McDonalds in Tecoma.

To mark the occasion a community lunch was held at Bonsai Bali, the place was packed, people coming together unified in their opposition to the development and bonded by strong friendships that have formed in the past year.

One year ago more than 500 people attended Reclaim Tecoma, it was a spontaneous response from the community and we've continued to see that level of response to many and varied events one year later. It doesn't surprise me, the Dandenong Ranges people are passionate about their area.

We've seen an amazing array of events over this last 12 months with an enormous amount of media attention, many of them featured on my past blogposts.

In more recent times we've seen Fatspace open with their inaugural exhibition, Junk Food - Fast Fried and Fatal, Fatspace continue their activities with an approach designed to take on key issues many of them confronting and controversial.
The opening of new business Fatspace in Tecoma was
an enormous success, the place was packed.

A benefit for the Tecoma 8 was put together in the space of one week and held at the Gemco Theatre in Emerald, a great night featuring an enormous array of talented hills musos giving their time freely to raise money for the eight community members being sued by McDonalds (note since this time damages have not been sought by McDonalds, but they are still pursuing legal costs).
A highlight of the Gemco benefit was the community singing
of Amazing Grace for the Tecoma 8 - well 6 on the night.
The youtube Les Miserable flash mob at Knox City has gone viral, sitting at over 55,000 views.

The Swing into Spring Ball gave everyone a chance to frock up 1920s style to raise money for the Tecoma 8. It was a great night, the music provided by local swing and jazz band Shirazz. The Ball gave everyone a chance to let down their hair, have a good time and enjoy new found friendships developed on the protest line.
It was terrific to be supported by Dave O'Neill and
local celeb Genevieve Morris at the Swing into Spring Ball.
Six of the Tecoma 8, got into the spirit of their fundraiser.
Some of the VCAT appeal team, nice to catch up with
community members who worked tirelessly on the VCAT appeal,
volunteering hundreds of hours in preparation.
Pictured left to right: Steve, Kate, Samantha, Nicole and Claire.

A rally was held at Federation Square, where the documentaries of Tim Smith ran for a week on the big screen, it was great to be there speaking on behalf of the community.
It was terrific to see hundreds of locals at Fed Square.
Many locals took the train to the city and marched from
Melbourne Central through to Federation Square
with much support from city onlookers.
Nick led a stirring rendition of the Les Mis song that's
become another part of the soundtrack to this campaign.
The flash mob perform at Fed Square, it was an
extraordinary and stirring part of the rally.

Comedian Dave O'Neill has been a terrific supporter and came back to perform at the Tecoma 8 fundraiser, the Dave O'Neill Spectacular, a night of stand up, trivia and a showing of TakeAway, a film he wrote with Mark O'Toole in 2003. The crowd was in stitches with many parallels between TakeAway and Tecoma.

Protestors have continued to maintain a presence on the site now for 105 days. In most recent news I can report that Yarra Ranges Council has written to McDonalds to ask what legal mechanism they are using to close the easements at the construction site.

What really strikes me a year on from Reclaim Tecoma is the resolve of people to continue to fight, it has not waned and I have no doubt they will continue in their efforts to fight this development and support the Tecoma 8.

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Friday, October 11, 2013

'new' metropolitan planning authority - a missed opportunity

The Victorian Local Governance Association (VLGA) says the announcement of the Metropolitan Planning Authority (MPA) is a missed opportunity to represent Victorian communities.

“While we welcome the MPA and the clear plan of action provided by Plan Melbourne, the opportunity for a new, democratic model with new governance arrangements has been overlooked,” said VLGA President Cr Samantha Dunn.

“We acknowledge that people in the MPA have experience working in growth areas and have worked with our member local governments on many projects.

“However we believe a representative governing body is best placed to oversee the implementation of Plan Melbourne rather than a board of appointed directors.

“Such a body would enable the participation of all metropolitan local governments and their communities in achieving the shared goal of delivering on community aspirations for the future of our city.

“Population growth and the appropriate infrastructure development to support it are key concerns for all Victorians,” said Cr Samantha Dunn.

“Communities fear that the 'bigger picture' is swallowing up the 'little picture' without taking into consideration the ramifications of large-scale developments on local communities.

“That is why we have previously called for elected local councillors to be represented through the governance of this new authority and we are concerned that this ‘new’ Authority is a change in name only.

“Adequate resourcing is essential, and we strongly urge Minister Guy to make representations to Treasury to ensure the MPA has the funds it needs for the implementation of Plan Melbourne, and to work successfully with regional Victoria on regional growth plans,” said Cr Samantha Dunn.

The VLGA’s local governments represent approximately 80 per cent of Victoria's population, and the VLGA will be seeking members’ opinions on how the sub-regional areas model and how that will serve good planning and integration.

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

it's in the plan, but is it in the budget?

The Eastern Transport Coalition has welcomed the public transport focus in the State Government’s Plan Melbourne document released today, but warned it would become another empty transport plan unless it was backed by substantial investment.

Cr Dunn said the Plan Melbourne strategy acknowledged the importance of the Melbourne Metro to an improved public transport system and integrated planning for Melbourne.

“The plan talks about harmonising public transport services across trains, trams and buses to provide better connectivity, removing level crossings and improving suburban rail and bus networks in growth areas and outer suburbs, goals that the ETC shares,” Cr Dunn said.

“Of course, previous government plans, some of them dating back decades have talked about the same thing.

“The former Metropolitan Town Planning Commission’s 1929 Plan of General Development and the 1969 Melbourne Transportation Study highlighted the need for rail lines for the then growth areas of Doncaster and Rowville.

“Subsequent studies, reports and plans have also supported these projects but without funding, they remain nothing more than decade’s old plans.

“Melbourne should not have to wait any longer for rail expansion. This new plan once again makes it clear that expanding and improving public transport around Melbourne is necessary and we urge the Government to take the next step – fund it and build it.”

Cr Dunn said the idea of a 20-minute neighbourhood contained in the plan was also an admirable goal, but would only work if supported by improved public transport, particularly improved and expanded bus services.

Cr Dunn encouraged commuters to share their thoughts about the plan via the ETC’s Commuters Count Facebook page or the hash tag #commuterscount on Twitter.

“The ETC’s Commuters Count campaign, launched in August this year, has been aimed at getting Melburnians talking about public transport and sharing their stories and frustrations and hopes for better public transport in the future,’’ she said.

“This new Plan Melbourne strategy will set the direction the Government will take over the next 40 years. If residents in Melbourne’s east want to receive more than they have in the past 40 years, now is the time to make your opinions known.’’

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Thursday, October 03, 2013

samantha in the press

McDonalds faces backlash in Tecoma, Australia
by Phil Mercer
2 Oct 2013

Wildlife retreat taking shape
Mail Newspapers
1 Oct 2013

Caravan park to be returned to bushland
Leader Newspapers
2 Oct 2013

60 year party planned for Menzies Creek Hall
Leader Newspapers
2 Oct 2013

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