Monthly Archives: September 2015

Road to nowhere

AS the flood mitigation saga in the Melbourne Hill Road storm water catchment continues, communication between residents and council officers has hit a crisis point with each side of the debate accusing the other of inaccuracies, inconsistencies and misrepresentations of fact.

At the most recent meeting with Manningham council, the community representative panel presented a letter to council CEO Joe Carbone (published in the Diary’s August edition) outlining their dissatisfaction with the handling and progress of the issue, and the conclusions in the Community Report presented by council.

In a conference call briefing, and a lengthy media statement, Director Assets and Engineering Leigh Harrison outlined to the Diary areas with which council disagree with the residents’ summation.

Although extremely detailed and sometimes confusing, council’s main points of contention seem to focus on the residents’ assertion that the process has been manipulated and that the external consultancy firm has not acted independently — which council denies.

According to Mr Harrison: “Claims that the process has been manipulated to achieve a preconceived outcome are baseless. A consultative process has been followed throughout.”

Similarly: “The assertion that council did not allow for an independent assessment of the issue is a misinterpretation of fact.”

Mr Harrison also indicated council did not agree to provide draft reports directly to the residents and, although a baseline cost estimate was requested by the panel on the upgrade to manage a one in five year storm event, it was “not a requirement of the project brief and would have no value in informing the process”.

In the media statement, the issue of environmental impact on the eco- logically sensitive area is dismissed, with focus only on the impact of nitrogen flows on Andersons Creek in minor storm events. There is no mention of major flood activity (the impetus for the report) or of the impact drilling, construction, concreting and insertion of underground storm water infrastructure would have on the whole topography, amenity and long term ecological sustainability of the catchment.

Manager Engineering and Technical Services, Roger Woodlock, also sent out a letter to all the residents in the catchment summarising the last public meeting from the council perspective. This was labelled as “deliberately misleading” by rep panel spokesperson Daniel Drew.

Additionally, a new fact sheet has been placed on the area dedicated to Melbourne Hill Road on council’s ‘Your Say Manningham’ consultation portal. The page outlines the council’s position about the issue but at the time the Diary went to print omits provision for public commentary.

Mr Harrison told the Diary: “Council has gone to great lengths to ensure a consultative and inclusive process through the development of the Community Report, and every effort has been made to involve the affected community in the identification of flood mitigation schemes and the basis for comparison.”

However, the fact remains that after three years of considerable work on the part of council officers, the establishment of a community reference panel and the appointment of an external consultancy firm, Manningham council has been unsuccessful in communicating their position and have not sold their original plan to ratepayers.

Daniel Drew told the Diary: “The representative panel stands by its statement of rejection of the so- called ‘independent’ consultant’s flood mitigation report and our accusation of incomplete, misleading or biased information provided by council to the catchment community.”

For more information on Manningham Council’s Community Report visit: yoursaymanningham.com.au

The full statement from both Manningham City Council and the Melbourne Hill Road panel can be found below…

 

 

 

COUNCIL STATEMENT

Please note:

  • Text in regular font is quoting the Warrandyte Diary article on Melbourne Hill Road, August 2015
  • Text in bold is responding to points/issues raised in the above article

Despite three years of negotiations with ratepayers, Manningham council officers appear determined to enforce their original and controversial “special charge scheme” for flood mitigation in Melbourne Hill Road.

After residents objected in force to the scheme, which was devised to address flooding in four properties in 2011, a dedicated rep panel was set up by council to investigate alternative options.

There are 8 properties in this catchment which flood in a 1 in 100 year (major) flood event.

Among other issues, the panel criticised the scheme’s exorbitant cost to householders, as well as its lack of environmental consideration for the ecological sensitivity of the catchment.

The focus of the initial scheme was flood mitigation, in keeping with the core objectives of this project, as set out in the Project Brief developed in consultation with a subcommittee of the Reference Panel.

The Melbourne Hill Road catchment contributes flows to Andersons Creek. The Community Report assessed the relative environmental impacts of each scheme in terms of their ability to reduce the quantity of nitrogen discharging from the catchment and their relative impacts on the naturalness of peak flows in a minor storm event in Andersons Creek. As this sub catchment represents only a small proportion of the Andersons Creek catchment, the relative impacts of the four schemes on the naturalness of Andersons Creek flows from this catchment vary by only 4%.   Differences in impacts in this sense are not significant.  

Only two of the schemes developed in consultation with the community provided any benefit in terms of reducing the discharge of nitrogen from the catchment. It is clear that the original scheme does not provide the level of nitrogen discharge reduction benefit of schemes 4 and 5.

Works incorporated into any flood mitigation scheme for this catchment will be scoped to achieve the project objectives only. Competitive tenders will be called for any scheme and the Council will seek the most cost effective proposal.  

At the request of the rep panel, Manningham Council eventually appointed an independent consulting firm to produce a report for flood mitigation in the catchment.

However, spokesperson for the rep panel Daniel Drew told the Diary he believed engineers “manipulated the options in the report to reflect preconceived outcomes” and that the process was engineered by engineers from the beginning.

Claims that the process has been manipulated to achieve a preconceived outcome are baseless. A consultative process has been followed throughout the development of the three additional schemes, and the consultant has acted independently and in accordance with the industry Code of Ethics.

The process adopted for the development of the three additional sustainable flood mitigation schemes was identified in the Project Brief, which was developed in consultation with a subcommittee of the Reference Panel. Reference Panel input was sought in developing the Community Values which have informed the assessment and comparison of the performances of the four schemes.

The appointed consultant has assessed the four flood mitigation options for the Melbourne Hill Road catchment and the results of their investigations are set out in the Community Report which is available on the Your Say Manningham website.

In developing the three options, the consultant developed a long list of 25 sustainable flood mitigation options as components available to be incorporated into the three community short listed flood mitigation schemes to be tested through the flood model. At the short listing workshop, the long list options were presented and the community prioritised these options. The community then worked with the consultant and officers to develop the three additional shortlisted schemes for testing through the flood model. Council has no record of Mr Drew attending the shortlisting workshop. Furthermore, no decision has been taken at this time regarding a preferred flood mitigation scheme for this catchment.

Mr Drew, who is also a professional environment consultant, said: “Council’s justification for the drainage scheme is to provide flood protection to a handful of houses in the lower section of Melbourne Hill Road – houses that were somehow give planning and building approval by this same council, which is now seeking to erase their responsibility in allowing such houses to be built.

The properties which flood in a major storm event are not restricted to the lower section of Melbourne Hill Road. Irrespective, these houses were built in accordance with state-wide building controls that applied at the time, and without the knowledge that has been gained since, in relation to stormwater flows. Council has no liability for past actions by private land owners.

While Council will contribute to the project cost, the Local Government Act 1989, supported by decades of tribunal case law, provides that residents gaining a direct benefit from the provision of drainage infrastructure should pay separately for that benefit; while general rates are to be used for broad community benefit. The overriding principle being that the broad resident base shouldn’t subsidise individual benefit. The fact that drainage was not provided at the time of development does not mean that resident liability is foregone. It simply means that residents have been able to defer the cost of drainage for those years that have since passed.

“Additionally, a substantial contributor to the floodwater is the uncontrolled flow of council water through the catchment and the underlying responsibility of council to install infrastructure required to manage such flows … without impacting on the threatened houses – which were permitted to be built in the flood zone”.

The Wildflower Reserve and associated road reservation constitute approximately 12 per cent of the catchment, therefore the remaining 88 per cent of the catchment is made up of private properties and streets, and the contributions to downstream storm flows in the valley are of a similar proportion. All areas, including public and private land contribute to overland flows within this catchment and there is a need to manage these flows to achieve the flood mitigation project objective. It is not feasible to construct drainage infrastructure solely within road reservations and achieve the project habitable floor flood mitigation objective.

Mr Drew also told the Diary it is “on record in a number of meetings” that ratepayers are only legally required to contribute to flood mitigation costs for what is termed “One-in-Five-Year” rainfall events. The solution proposed by council, to which residents would be required to contribute, however, is designed for a “One-in-100-Year” event.

It is confirmed that Council will contribute to the cost of any flood mitigation scheme in accordance with the requirements of its Policy. Council will fund the cost of upgrading the minor 5 year drainage system to convey flows from the major or 100 year storm events. In addition, Council will contribute to the cost of the minor 5 year system works proportionate to the area of public land within the catchment. Logically, residents should also contribute to the project costs on the basis of the stormwater runoff their land contributes and/or the protection their properties derive from the works (in accordance with lawful tribunal rulings).

According to residents, one of the difficulties of the brief given to the consulting firm is they were asked to compare and gauge the alternatives with the ‘benchmark’ provided in the original council model. This did not allow for an original and independent assessment of the task at hand, but rather an appraisal of the effectiveness of the existing scheme.

This statement is a misinterpretation of fact. Contrary to this assertion, it was important for the consultancy to independently assess the original scheme, in order to verify, or otherwise, its legitimacy against other possible solutions. To not have done so would have been prejudicial to the process. In addition, the inclusion of this option did not in any way influence the consultant’s independent thinking in regard to other options. Each option was separately assessed against the objectives, and not against each other.

The Brief was developed in consultation with a subcommittee of the Reference Panel. The Brief is clear in its requirements for the consultant to consider traditional and non-traditional solutions to meet flood protection and achieve improved environmental outcomes. Further, the brief called for the development of cost effective solutions, in consultation with the affected community. Schemes 4 and 5 both offer sustainability benefits and these results are in contrast with the concerns expressed. The project objectives have been met, within the constraints of the local topography, limitations on the availability of public land and the broader catchment appetite for a sustainable solution.

The issue currently plaguing Melbourne Hill road is likely to become a widespread one within Warrandyte and Manningham as a whole, as councils are forced to deal with escalating extreme weather events caused by climate change. The Melbourne Hill Road residents are of the opinion it seems Manningham Council engineers are happy to come up with “special charges schemes” rather than address long-term effective environmental solutions.

The residents of the area are liable for their drainage and for the contribution their drainage makes to downstream flows. There is no escaping this fact. By its very nature, this means that residents are responsible for these aspects. A scheme is merely a legal means of ensuring that this is affected in an equitable way. This is a common approach across the state, and the country, supported by decades of tribunal case law.

Significant effort and time has been invested in the development of three alternative, sustainable flood mitigation schemes, which have been tested through the flood model and assessed against the community and project values. Special charge schemes can incorporate environmental solutions where the associated assets provide a special benefit.

The Melbourne Hill Road Catchment Community Representative Panel unanimously rejects the report from BMT WBM entitled:

“Melbourne Hill Road Drainage Scheme Assessment – Community Report”

The report is rejected because:

  1. The Rep Panel has strong reservations about the independence and therefore the integrity of the report:

The consultant agreed on 5 February 2015 to provide a written declaration of independence to the Rep Panel. No such statement has been received

The Reference Panel Terms of Reference signed by the Ward Councillor and the Chairperson for the Melbourne Hill Road Representative Panel on 5 February 2015 state that the consultant is independent. The Terms of Reference have been available through the Your Say Manningham website since February 2015.

The consultant agreed to provide draft reports to the Rep Panel (together with all supporting raw data) at the same time as such information was provided to council. Both the consultants and Council are in breach of this agreement as all information relating to the consultant’s work has been provided only after prior approval by Council officers.

While there was a request for draft reports to be provided by the Consultant directly to the Reference Panel, there was no agreement to this request. It would, in fact, be highly inappropriate for Council to allow the work of any consultant to be made public without first confirming its accuracy and its compliance with the contract, as awarded. Council has a responsibility to ensure due process is followed in the management of any contract that it has let. To not do so would be negligent of Council. However, it should be made patently clear that this does not mean that Council has unduly influenced the contractor/consultant.

The consultant’s work is their own, and all Council is doing is acting responsibly in ensuring that the agreed terms of the contract are met. Council’s independent auditors would insist on this.

  1. The report contains statements that the Rep Panel believe to be factually incorrect:

“The entire catchment contributes to the flooding issues experienced in the catchment” is a patently untrue statement and we believe its inclusion is solely to support justifying a special charges scheme for the entire catchment.

This is an entirely inaccurate statement. By basic physical fact, stormwater that falls in any part of a catchment contributes to downstream flows, whether that land is private property or otherwise.

  1. The Rep Panel has reason to question some of the flood modelling and has been given no opportunity to discuss these issues or obtain clarification before the report was released.

At the community meeting held on 30 April 2015, the flood modelling undertaken in respect of the existing catchment was presented to the community. Comment was invited and received from community members, including the Reference Panel, specifically relating to the flood extents in the Lorraine Avenue area. In response, a further field survey was undertaken by Council officers and this information was incorporated into the flood model. Details of these changes and the updated flood model results have been explained in the Community Report. The flood model results were also compared against the reports of the actual property flooding that was experienced, and the video footage provided by community members of overland flows following the December 2011 flood event. It was found that there was good correlation between the model results and the community reports. This is a universally accepted means of testing the validity of models, and, as a result, Council is satisfied with the accuracy of the modelling.

Further, this statement was made at the commencement of the community meeting conducted on Monday, 10 August 2015. The purpose of the community meeting was to present the findings of the Community Report and respond to any questions raised by the community members. Responses to several questions regarding the flood mapping were provided at the community meeting, and a list of questions and responses from that meeting will be posted on Your Say Manningham shortly.

  1. The report fails to quantify the significant contribution to flooding in the catchment from water which originates from Council-controlled areas or Council assets

The flood modelling quantifies the aggregated stormwater runoff from the catchment as stormwater runoff moves downstream, and progressively picks up more land. This is how all flood models work. It is not practical to increasingly isolate flows from road reservations from those flows from private property as it travels down the catchment. However, the apportionment of costs between Council and the property owners for the preferred scheme will take account of the relative areas of public and private land at that stage of the project development. This work is beyond the scope of the current study and will be undertaken by Council officers.

This is standard practice for any scheme (not just for Manningham), and is a verified process through VCAT, which is the ultimate test of a scheme’s integrity.

It should also be reiterated here that, in addition to its land, Council is bearing the cost of the runoff from all streets, irrespective of the fact that they can legally be charged to the private land owners.

  1. The report fails to include a baseline estimate of minimum cost required to upgrade existing drainage infrastructure to manage a 1 in 5 year ARI.

Apart from the fact that this was not a requirement of the Project Brief, which was developed in consultation with a subcommittee of the Reference Panel, it would have no value in informing the process. This would mean that Council would be assigning apportioned costs to residents based on a minimal works model against a larger scheme and bearing the balance of the resident costs itself. This lesser cost should not then be used as the basis of resident contributions towards a full drainage scheme (e.g. Option 1), as, by default, Council would be paying for drains in upstream properties through general rates, rather than the properties paying for what they are liable for. The Project Brief requires the protection of habitable floor areas from flooding in a major (1 in 100 year) flood event. The value of the minor (five year) rainfall event infrastructure will be estimated based on the preferred scheme option.

  1. The report implies that the Rep Panel endorsed the 4 options modelled, whereas

Scheme 1 has never been accepted or endorsed by the Rep Panel

Accepted, however, scheme 1 was required to be included in the Study as part of the agreed Project Brief, in order to have it checked for probity purposes, and to enable the consultant to independently assess it against any other model they may have come up with.

Scheme 5 as modelled was not agreed to by the Rep Panel.

This is not correct. Scheme 5 was proposed by the Reference Panel following the community shortlisting workshop conducted on 30 April 2015, to replace scheme 3 as developed by the community. Scheme 5 was modelled based on the options originally provided by the Panel. After the closing date, the Panel submitted a modified Scheme 5, but the flood modelling had already progressed based on the original Scheme 5. Advice was provided to the Panel that the modified Scheme 5 could therefore not be included in the project.

  1. The report fails to record how each of the houses that are subject to flooding were permitted to be built without adequate flood protection

This was not a requirement of the Project Brief developed in consultation with a subcommittee of the Reference Panel and falls beyond the scope of the consultant study. These houses were built in accordance with state-wide building controls that applied at the time, and without the knowledge that has been gained since, in relation to stormwater flows.

The fact that drainage was not provided at the time of development does not mean that resident liability is foregone. It simply means that residents have been able to defer the cost of drainage for those years that have since passed.

  1. The report fails to offer any proposals for site-specific flood-protection measures for any of the flood-threatened houses, in the absence of a Scheme 1 project.

The study has been prepared in accordance with the methodology specified in the Project Brief, including the development of three schemes with the community. This option was not raised as the basis of a potential scheme. Site specific flood protection measures are unlikely to be feasible for all properties subject to flooding of habitable floor areas within this catchment, particularly for houses located in the valley. For Council to contribute to the cost of drainage improvement works, the assets developed need to be owned and maintained by Council. If site specific flood protection measures were feasible, it is likely that the affected property owner would be liable for the cost of construction. This approach would be inequitable, as it denies the responsibility of the owners of upstream properties to contribute to the cost of addressing downstream flooding and damage to neighbouring properties, which they are jointly accountable for.

  1. The Rep Panel believes the tone of the report to be biased towards Council’s intention to enforce a Special Charges Scheme onto MHRC ratepayers and section 5.10 is a thinly veiled attempt to intimidate the community into acceptance of such a Scheme that would maximize their contribution.

The Community Report simply states the results of the investigation into the relative merits of the four schemes considered as part of the study and compares their performance based on the community values suggested by the community and the core project values stated in the Project Brief. Community contributions to any adopted scheme will be in accordance with the requirements of Council policy. In fact, Council is doing the opposite of trying to maximise resident costs. Manningham’s policy is generous compared with the equivalent policies of many other councils. For example, under the provisions of the Local Government Act 1989, residents should also pay for what their local streets contribute, but it should be noted that in the case of the Melbourne Hill Road catchment, Council is proposing paying for this. In addition, Council is proposing paying for the 100 year storm contribution, not the residents, as well as other concessional costs normally covered by residents, like boring.

  1. The MHRC community unanimously objects to the imposition of a Special Charges Scheme and nowhere in the report is this noted.

The focus of the Community Report was a technical assessment of four flood mitigation schemes. This is only a part of the overall process. Community views will be sought and reported to Council by Council officers, prior to Council determining a course of action in relation to the project.

  1. During the period of the study, numerous delays have occurred as the consultants and/or Council failed to meet their own deadlines. Provision of information to the Rep Panel was always late and invariably insufficient time was allowed by Council for Rep Panel assessment with no consideration given for submissions after Council-imposed deadlines.

The Reference Panel received documentation a minimum of five days prior to each community meeting. It should also be pointed out that Council has gone beyond the original consultancy remit in responding to resident concerns as they arise, and this has, by implication, resulted in more work and more time being expended through the process.

  1. The Rep Panel believes that the report has been unduly influenced by the views of Council officers and does not adequately reflect the input from either the Rep Panel or the wider MHRC community

Claims that the process has been manipulated to achieve a preconceived outcome are baseless. As stated earlier, Council has a responsibility to ensure due process is followed in the management of any contract that it has let. To not do so would be negligent of Council. However, it should be made patently clear that this does not mean that Council has unduly influenced the contractor/consultant. The consultant’s work is their own, and all Council is doing is acting responsibly in ensuring that the agreed terms of the contract are met. Council’s independent auditors would insist on this.

 

Council has gone to great lengths to ensure a consultative and inclusive process through the development of the Community Report, and every effort has been made to involve the affected community in the identification of flood mitigation schemes and the basis for comparison.

The MHRC Community Representative Panel is resolute in its rejection of the report and the apparent collusive relationship with Council officers. We are prepared to refer this matter to a higher Investigative Authority.

The Way Forward

Council officers have stated that the MHRC community would be required to contribute to the cost of upgrading the drainage infrastructure to manage a 1 in 5 year ARI. Further upgrades required to manage a 1 in 100 year ARI would be fully funded by Council.

The significant inputs of water from Council-controlled assets (Wildflower reserve, Upper MHR reserve and the Leber Street drain), are solely the responsibility of Council and all infrastructure required to conduct such water through the catchment must be paid for by council alone.

The Melbourne Hill Road Catchment Community Representative Panel therefore demands:

  • An independent baseline costing of the minimum upgrades to existing MHRC drainage infrastructure to manage a 1 in 5 year ARI in the absence of water originating from Council assets.

Further to the response to the prior item 5, firstly, to the question of the minimum infrastructure requirements to address habitable floor flooding within the Melbourne hill Road catchment. Minor improvements to the existing drainage network will not resolve habitable floor flooding within this catchment.   The modelling has clearly demonstrated that the entire length of the Valley Drain requires significant upgrade to deliver the required level of flood protection. The consultant has run the flood model in the order of 200 times with refinements of the requested infrastructure for each scheme and has optimised the proposed infrastructure through this process.

The lowest cost scheme analysed was scheme 2 but this scheme also had the poorest flood mitigation performance. All schemes included similar upgrades to the valley drain. In order to identify a lower cost scheme with comparable flood mitigation performance to scheme 1, it is proposed to work with the Reference Panel to develop a modified version of scheme 2. Scheme 2 (modified) will then be tested through the flood model for the 100 year or major storm event and optimised, and a cost estimate will be prepared. Scheme 2 (modified) will also be assessed against the community and core project values and the results will be shared with the community.

A community survey will be conducted following this process to invite community feedback regarding their preferred flood mitigation scheme. The results of this survey will be reported with other information to Council, prior to Council resolving on any further action to address the habitable floor flooding in this catchment.

Any contribution required of the community to fund the preferred scheme works will need to relate to the actual works to be constructed as the community will need to contribute to the cost of the works proportional to the special benefit derived, in accordance with the provisions of Council’s Policy. Information regarding the cost apportionments between Council and the property owners have been prepared and are available through the Your Say Manningham website for Schemes 1 and 5. This information will also follow for the modified Scheme 2 when available.

In order to meet the requirements of the project brief, each scheme to be considered by Council must achieve the protection of habitable floor areas in a major (1 in 100 year) storm event. As such, the approach requested by the Reference Panel to focus on minor (1 in 5 year) event infrastructure required to convey flows from private property alone is not supported; it is contrary to Council’s policy.  

Suggested Drainage Scheme Implementation:

A drainage scheme to manage the water from Council-controlled assets be implemented to manage a 1 in 100 year ARI. Construction to be staged and in consultation with affected property owners such that costs to Council be spread over a number of years.

This approach is not supported as it will not resolve the flooding of habitable floors within the catchment.

The staged approach to include the diversion of water down Houghton Road

The diversion of water down Houghton Road is included in scheme 5.

 

MHRC REPRESENTATIVE PANEL STATEMENT

The MHRC Representative Panel Stands by its statement of rejection of the so-called “independent” consultant’s flood mitigation report and our accusation of incomplete, misleading or biased information provided by Council to the catchment community.

The provision of selective information from Council has continued with a letter to the catchment community from Mr Roger Woodlock reporting on the public meeting held on 10 August 2015. The letter, received by residents on 14 August:

  • Fails to mention the Rep Panel’s unanimous rejection of the consultant’s report
  • Contains information which is untrue
  • Contains selective information presented to support Council objectives
  • States that questions raised at the meeting and Council responses would be posted on the “Your Say Manningham” website by 20 August 2015. At the time of writing, no questions or answers have been posted nor has any information from the Representative Panel been posted, even though copies have been provided to Council.

As the letter was circulated to the entire MHRC community, residents that were unable to attend the 10 August public meeting would most likely be misled into thinking the Rep Panel accepts the report’s methodology, editorial content and recommendations. This is clearly not the case.

As representatives of our catchment community, we are increasingly disturbed by the persistent dogmatic presentation of partial information, misinformation, intentionally withheld information and biased Council-interpretation of data and regulations, all aimed at maximizing the contribution from catchment Ratepayers towards implementation of a drainage scheme designed primarily to convey council storm water through the catchment.

Here are some REAL facts:

  1. Ratepayers are only required to contribute to infrastructure which can manage a 1 in 5 year Average Recurrence Interval (ARI) storm event.
  1. Council is obliged to fully fund any infrastructure upgrade (above a 1 in 5 year event), required to manage a 1 in 100 year ARI storm event (This is Council Policy).
  1. Council is solely responsible for transporting its own storm water through the catchment or away from the catchment.
  1. A large number of properties currently included in the proposed Special Charges Scheme are exempt from any charges in relation to the proposed Scheme.
  1. Not all properties currently included in the proposed scheme contribute to flooding of houses in the lower catchment.

The MHRC Representative Panel again calls upon Council to:

  • Immediately undertake an independent baseline costing of the minimum upgrades to existing MHRC drainage infrastructure to manage a 1 in 5 year ARI in the absence of water originating from Council assets.

This request is fundamental to an objective assessment of the community’s contribution to costs yet has been ignored, in fact not even acknowledged, by Council or Council officers.

  • Acknowledge major deficiencies in the consultant’s report and the Rep Panel’s unanimous rejection of the report
  • Acknowledge past serious deficiencies with planning and building permits
  • Acknowledge the Rep Panel’s legitimate claims of deception and cunning used by Council to mislead catchment Ratepayers in order to avoid its obligations.
  • Publish our rejection of the consultant’s report on the Your Say Manningham website. The rejection notice is now a public document, is directly related to the proposed drainage scheme and the consultant’s report, and is after all…. “Our Say” and not Our Say as ignored by, interpreted by, twisted around by or misrepresented by, Council.

The MHRC Community Representative Panel calls on Council to stop the charade of misinformation and engage openly, transparently and honestly with the community to resolve this matter to the satisfaction of all catchment Ratepayers.

 

 

 

 

 

Push for more police

IN response to the recent increase in anti-social behaviour and crime in the area, our local member Ryan Smith has launched an initiative in an effort to increase police numbers and operational hours for the Warrandyte police station.

A petition for the proposed change has been dispersed across multiple local businesses to gauge public perspective on the matter.

“I have had a number of constituents contact my office with concerns about the operating hours of Warrandyte police station and the low numbers of police stationed there,” Mr Smith said. “Warrandyte police station is not a 24-hour station and, at its full complement, has only seven police officers. Of course they are not all there at the same time but are spread out over the week’s shifts.”

Through launching the petition, Mr Smith is able to see if the wider Warrandyte community also share the view that an increased police presence in Warrandyte would be beneficial. With more than 550 signatures in less than a week, it appears the answer is a resounding yes.

Mr Smith said the rising number of crimes in the area has contributed to the community’s concern and has essentially fuelled the initiative. Several homes and local businesses have been broken into in the past few months alone, including Ruby Tuesday, Warrandyte Café and Quinton’s IGA.

“With the increasing population and this perceived rise in anti-social behaviour, there really should be more police and more operating hours,” Mr Smith said.

Julie Quinton – owner of Quinton’s IGA and advocate of the petitions – is hopeful the petition achieves its goal. After her store’s recent break-in she is led to question the level of safety in our town.

“I don’t think anything’s completely safe anymore and that’s always a worry,” Julie said. “We’re not immune from [criminal activity] here in Warrandyte, but I think people have often thought that we are immune – but we’re not.”

Julie said her No.1 priority as a storeowner is the protection of her staff and any initiative to support that is worthwhile in her eyes.

Once a significant number of signatures are attained, Mr Smith intends to take it to parliament.

“The aim of the game is to raise it in parliament, make sure the minister knows that my community wants to see some action,” Mr Smith said.

“A petition in parliament needs to be seen as serious and there’s not a finite number required, but the more names and signatures there are then the more the government should understand that there is a real need.”

“The government hasn’t demonstrated a real interest in the Warrandyte community which is unfortunate. But these things are about making as much noise as possible and if you can keep raising it in parliament, it gets to the point where the government has to give you a reason why they’re not acting, and sometimes that’s the thing that’ll push things along,” he added.

Mr Smith understands it’s ultimately the chief commissioner of Victoria Police who determines where police resources go. However, making the minister aware of the issue can lead him to direct the chief commissioner to where he believes resources are needed.

“I anticipate that the minister’s formal answer will be the allocation of resources is up to police command. However, we know that the minister has directed Victoria Police to place additional police in Bellarine, a marginal Labor seat.”

While most locals have responded positively to the petition, others have questioned if those measures were necessary.

“At the end of the day, my job is to be the voice of my community and one of the reasons why the petition’s out there is for me to gauge if there is more support for this out there then just a few anecdotal comments that I’ve heard or the emails that I’ve got,” Mr Smith said. “So my answer to people who would ask if it’s really needed – well I’m going to have a lot of signatures that say we do and my job is to make sure that those people are heard.”

To support the initiative for increased police numbers and hours, sign the petition at Quinton’s IGA, the Warrandyte Community Bank or other participating businesses in the area.

Hope for our teens with mental illness

A MANNINGHAM Youth Services project is set to launch next month in a bid to offer guidance and hope for Warrandyte teenagers affected by mental illness.

The String of Hope aims to encourage young people talk to about mental illness and reduce the stigma attached to mental health issues.

It’s a taboo topic, but with research figures showing one in four young people living with a mental illness, it can’t be ignored.

What started as a youth photography experiment, highlighting the prevalence of mental illness among young people, has blossomed into a multi-faceted project with school visits, a website and a festival in the works.

The String of Hope is being led by a group of dedicated youth volunteers. The group of 15 – from Warrandyte and surrounding areas – are determined to create a safe environment for teenagers to talk about mental health issues; in the schoolyard and online.

“The fact that String of Hope has been envisioned and led by young volunteers is this project’s biggest strength,” volunteer Lauren Lowe tells the Diary. “No one under- stands what young people are going through better than young people themselves.”

The String of Hope website will provide a platform for young people to share personal stories of mental illness and connect with others. The

site aims to arm teens with information about mental illness and direct them to the relevant support services in the area.

“Projects like the String of Hope are essential in an era where mental health is too often neglected and stigma- tised. This is especially true for younger generations, with poor mental health being one of the top ranking issues fac- ing Australian teens. We love the String of Hope because it empowers these young people to take control of their mental health and talk about their struggles and progress,” Lowe says.

The project has already launched in schools in the district with Warrandyte High School the first to experience the education sessions.

“Students participated in positive mental health activities, sports and music. They actively discussed and shared positive mental health strategies with the facilitators and each other. Lots of them seemed excited and engaged,” Manningham YMCA employee Kim Nguyen says.

The String of Hope team is putting their months of hard work on display at a festival next month during Mental Health Week. There’ll be activities, live music, food, a photography exhibition and more.

VIDEO: Sweet Valentine

SARAH Valentine is Warrandyte’s musical pride and joy. The 22-year-old wedding singer is a regular on Warrandyte’s main street and, in recent times, a regular on hundreds of thousands of TV screens in living rooms across the country.

Sarah’s just wrapped filming for Channel Nine’s The Voice, the hottest reality singing show on Australian television. As Sarah tells the Diary, there’s a big difference between busking at the local market and recording a TV performance watched by over a million people.

“My experience on The Voice was not what I expected it would be. I didn’t think that I’d get very far—but it just kept going and working in my favour,” Sarah said.

It’s been a wild ride for Sarah, who travelled between Sydney and Melbourne for months to film the fourth season of the show. Her blind audition has racked up tens of thousands of views and The Voice regularly tops the ratings, boasting over a million viewers every night. But it’s not all glitz and glamour, and Sarah assures the Diary that so much more goes on behind the scenes compared with what we see on our screens.

“The TV world is very different to anything I expected. The power of editing is second to none. It sur- prised me a lot,” she said.

“I’d done about seven auditions prior to even getting to audition in front of the coaches. One day, they took 10 hours to audition eight peo- ple. It’s crazy!”

Despite all the waiting, long hours, nerves and sitting around in hair and make-up, Sarah wouldn’t change a thing.

“It was very, very intense. But I loved every minute of it.”

The community of people working on the show ended up feeling like family for Sarah.

“Your backstage crew are the people that you latch onto. They’re the ones that show you the most support,” she told the Diary.

“I loved my stylist. She gave me the most amazing outfits—I remember coming out of the wardrobe each time and everyone else would say ‘Oh, Sarah’s got the best outfit again’. You literally feel like a rock star. It’s so awesome.”

So, what is it like working with the Madden Brothers? Are they as cool, calm and collected, as they seem on TV?

“They were so great. Their strength was setting the atmosphere and making it a relaxed environment. They treat you like friends. You’d never feel like there’s a status difference and they don’t act like celebrities—they talk to you like they would their pals.”

Sarah cites the support from her family and friends as one of the best parts of the experience and the support from her local Warrandyte community as “second to none.”

“I actually posted on the Facebook about my audition and everyone was commenting and wishing me luck.

“It was like ‘Team Sarah!’ and ‘Team Warrandyte!’ It was so cool.

“A week after I got booted from the show, I did a busking gig at the Warrandyte market. It was so great to interact with people who had followed my journey just because I was from Warrandyte, like I became their pride and joy. I loved that and I soaked it all up!”

What’s next for Sarah?

“I’m doing some gigs and the moment. I got a lot of work and traction from the show. I think next for me though is writing some songs and releasing an EP,” Sarah told the Diary.

She might not be on our TV screens any more, but one thing is for sure: you certainly haven’t heard the last of Sarah Valentine.

VIDEO: Rare block sells for $2.03 million

The Diary team heads to the auction of the rare vacant block on Keen Avenue. The 2.7 acres of untouched land is one of the few remaining allotments in Warrandyte which permits subdivision, selling for an impressive $2.03 million.