Friday, September 12, 2008

report from the round table – 9th September

A very big night at council this time round. Although a big agenda with a lot of major applications, one dominated more than any other, the amendment proposed to the Yarra Ranges Planning Scheme (C67) to allow a residential subdivision of the Chirnside Park Country Club Golf Course. The recommendation from officers was that the Minister for Planning be requested to appoint an independent panel to hear further submissions.

As such a large crowd was anticipated for this meeting it was moved to the York on Lilydale in Mt Evelyn to fit everybody in. I estimate that the crowd in the gallery numbered around the 350 to 400 mark.

First off council heard verbal submissions from objectors and supporters, both sides had the opportunity to put forward 4 speakers.

Cr Ken Smith moved a motion to support the request for a planning panel and was seconded by Cr Terry Avery. Then the debate began, most councillors had a say and it was certainly one of the most contentious matters I have dealt with as a councillor.

I could not support the motion and said:

“this proposal would see the removal of 1248 trees. We like to pride ourselves on our environmental stewardship, 1248 trees, we like to pride ourselves on environmental leadership, 1248 trees. We wear these badges with pride, how can we continue to be proud of our environmental credentials and allow the removal of 1248 trees?

The proposal does nothing to protect the existing vegetation, we cannot continue to cut down mature trees, 1248 trees, this isn’t an option we can support.

The number of objectors speaks volumes, and we’ve already heard from Cr Keane about the numbers (note: 963 objectors to 399 supporters, 87.3% of objectors lived locally, 52.8% of supporters lived locally). The people have spoken and we need to listen.

I would just like to read part of our (council’s) mission ‘we will work in partnership with the community to improve the quality of life of residents, protect and enhance the natural environment, create jobs and manage the Shire to provide for the needs and expectations of local and wider communities’. We would not be living up to our mission to allow this motion to go through.

We do not need an independent panel, we have already heard submissions and the message is clear. This amendment has already been on exhibition, the people have already had an opportunity to have their say, we do not need an independent panel. The people have spoken, we know what our community wants.

Councillors I cannot support this motion, I cannot support the removal of 1248 trees, I urge you to not support this motion and I foreshadow an alternate motion.”

The vote was taken and the motion was lost with the votes as follows:
For: Crs Avery, Heenan, Warren and Smith
Against: Crs Dunn, Keane, Cox, Cliff and McRae

As I had foreshadowed an alternate motion in the earlier debate, I had the floor so I moved a motion “That Council abandon Amendment C67 to the Yarra Ranges Planning Scheme,” which was seconded by Cr Keane.

In support of my motion I spoke about how people don’t realise how precious something is until it is threatened and that’s what had happened with the Chirnside Park community. I urged the community to work in cooperation with the Golf Club to find a way forward.

The motion was won with the votes recorded as follows:
For: Crs Dunn, Keane, Cox, Cliff and McRae
Against: Crs Avery, Heenan, Warren and Smith

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