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Fire guts house close to main street in Warrandyte

A FIRE has gutted a house in Brackenbury Street in Warrandyte today as more than seven CFA trucks attend the blaze.

Firefighters are at the scene containing the fire, which is only a few hundred metres away from Yarra Street, Warrandyte’s busy main strip. At this stage it is unknown what caused the fire and it is believed the house had no people present.

Neighbours called 000 after smelling smoke today at about 1.30pm. Resident Cassie Jones told the Diary she could smell smoke for about half an hour before taking a look around the area to see where it was coming from.

“The CFA trucks were here within minutes,” she told the Diary. “That same house only had a chimney fire that did some damage just a few years ago as well.”

It is believed the house is in ruins with fire coming through the side walls and rooftop with large amounts of smoke billowing out and across the eastern suburb.

More to follow.

 

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Jock and Steve the toast of the town

WARRANDYTE’S Jock Macneish and Steve Pascoe have been recognised for their great services to the community by each receiving an Order of Australia Medal (OAM).

Announced on Australia Day, Jock, our much loved Diary cartoonist and master of many talents, was recognised for his service to the visual arts and to the community of Warrandyte. Steve, a legendary figure at the Warrandyte Cricket Club, was recognised for his service to cricket.

Both popped into the Diary this morning for a photo shoot and you can read all about it in the February edition of your CNAV Newspaper of the Year (back to back) Monday week.

 

New operator being sought for Warrandyte Community Market

MANNINGHAM council is seeking applications from not for profit community groups based in Manningham to operate the Warrandyte Community Market from April 2016.

The Warrandyte Community Market is held in the Warrandyte River Reserve on the first Saturday of each month (excluding January) with a second market held in on the third Saturday in December each year.

The decision to seek a new operator for the market has been made to resolve management issues at the market and follows extensive liaison between council and the existing Warrandyte Community Market Committee over the past two years.

In the interim, a working group has been set up to operate the market until a successful market operator has been selected. This interim group, comprising representatives from the Warrandyte Lions Club, Warrandyte Donvale Rotary Club, North Warrandyte CFA, Community Church and Be Ready Warrandyte, will operate the February and March 2016 markets.

Prospective market operators must demonstrate that they have the capacity, capability and skills to manage the community market, including effective governance through a properly constituted committee.

The successful operator will enter into a licence agreement with council for a term of three years, and will commence operation from the April 2016 market (Saturday 2 April).

Applications are required by at 11am on Wednesday 17 February 2016 and must be received by this time.

For more information, visit www.tendersearch.com.au/manningham or call Paul Goodison, Council’s Co-ordinator Landscape and Leisure on 9840 9460.

Full report to follow in the next edition of the Diary, February 8.

Warrandyte police station ‘will not close’ says Victoria Police superintendent

VICTORIA Police Force superintendent Richard Watkins says Warrandyte police station will “definitely not be closing” after recent rumours suggested the Warrandyte station was on the way out.

“Not true,” Superintendent Watkins told the Diary. “There’s no one size fits all when it comes to police stations and when there’s such a high bushfire risk in the area there is absolutely no intention of closing down Warrandyte police station.

“We’re still rolling out fire setter patrols (for anti-arson measures) during the warmer months and also going ahead with preparation and communicating with the local CFAs in the other months of the year.”

A source close to insiders at VicPol called the Diary earlier this week saying “it’s a done deal, 100 per cent” regarding the topic of the station closing. It follows more recent, and alarming, downsizing at suburban stations including Ashburton which has gone from being manned seven days to two, while Somerville has a brand new $16mill station completed last year but is yet to be manned and there are reports of a station in the Geelong area operating well below it’s full complement officers among several other examples.

A post earlier this week on the Diary Facebook page asking the question about whether the Warrandyte station would be closed down prompted mixed reactions from locals, most of whom were clearly against the idea of no police station in Warrandyte. “We have been here for two and a half years and had to use the station five times; seriously stupid idea (closing it),” one new resident said. Another pointed out, “No point staying open if no one is ever there,” while others said they would be shocked and disappointed given the station is only relatively new in addition to what many locals believe is a spike in crime in the area and the fact Warrandyte is one of the biggest bushfire risk suburbs in the country.

The topic of the future of the Warrandyte police station, along with how frequently it is unmanned, as well as the recent rejection of local MP Ryan Smith’s call for a 24-7 station with greater police numbers have been big talking points in recent weeks: particularly with the increased number of break-ins and burglaries to businesses, homes and cars within properties and on the street in the lead up to Christmas – and indeed the past two years – which have been of great concern to residents, business owners and community.

From documents received by the Diary showing Mr Smith’s requests (note plural) in August, October and November in relation to his and the community’s preference (1200 signatures were received) for a greater police presence in Warrandyte, official letters to Mr Smith show it is obvious both offices for the Minister for Police and the Chief Commissioner of Police were saying the other was responsible for making the decision about the allocation of additional police. Mr Smith’s letter to Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton in October also suggested “direct communication be made with the Warrandyte community as to why Victoria Police believe the current staffing level of seven officers is sufficient”. Clearly, that suggestion has been ignored.

Interestingly, Mr Smith did eventually get official response and in a letter from the Chief Commissioner’s office it stated: “There is currently no evidence to suggest that Warrandyte requires a 24-hour station or additional resources … statistics released by the Crime Statistics Agency in March this year indicated a decrease in the total number of offences in the Manningham PSA. I trust this advice clarifies the position of Victoria Police concerning the delivery of policing services to the Warrandyte community.”

However, through our own research, the Diary checked the Crime Statistics Agency website and found there has been an increase in offence counts in Manningham year on year for the past four years. Further to this, there has been a surge in thefts and break-ins in Warrandyte in recent months leading up to Christmas.

In one of the major ones, a pop-up gem shop called Rock and Mineral Store near the Roundabout Cafe was broken into on December 8 but security camera footage of the couple caught in the act resulted in the man and woman eventually handing themselves in to police over the burglary of more than $30,000 in jewellery and gems. The man, 39, and the woman, 37, surrendered at Doncaster police station last Wednesday with a large amount of jewellery and are in the process of being questioned and charged.

Furthermore, a recent report in the Herald Sun pointed out how Manningham had become so affluent that it was becoming a hunting ground for thieves, with police warning residents to beef up home security.

And there are more contradictions.

Despite the Chief Commissioner’s office claim there was a “decrease in the total number of offences in the Manningham PSA”, Manningham crime prevention officer Carla Reardon advised the Diary only last month that burglaries were on the increase and thieves often were from out of town specifically travelling to the area and targeting homes for their valuables. Even a roadside sign was placed on the side of Ringwood-Warrandyte Road at the entry point to the town – for traffic coming from the east – warning of a rise in thefts in the area and encouraging residents to beef up security and to be alert.

In Manningham over the past four years, burglaries were up 7 per cent to 533 a year, thefts were up 7 per cent to 1509 and drug use up 71 per cent to 163 people charged with drug offences, according to the latest Crime Statistics Agency data.

MP Ryan Smith believes it is one big mess.

“Warrandyte residents have real concerns about the escalation of crime and anti-social behaviour in their community,” he told the Diary.

“Unfortunately, while the Minister for Police and the Chief Commissioner pass responsibility between each other, these concerns remain unanswered by either party, while the call for an increased police presence falls on deaf ears. This latest development that Warrandyte Police Station may close will only add to the community’s fears that it is not being heard.

“Let’s face it, there has been an alarming trend this year in suburban police stations either closing or reducing the days they are manned.”

The Diary will provide a follow-up report in the New Year.

Anyone with any information about crimes being committed or suspicious activity is urged to call Warrandyte Police on 9844 3231 or Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000.

 

 

Bridge of discontent

THE Warrandyte Bridge is a source of community anxiety once again as summer arrives and bushfire season starts early as residents are left waiting for a much-anticipated traffic report and more so a solution to a serious problem.

VicRoads now expects “to present and seek community feedback on a preferred option by mid-2016”. If an emergency event were to strike Warrandyte tomorrow, an estimated 2502 vehicles per hour per lane would be able to evacuate the area, causing total evacuation time to exceed three hours. That’s time Warrandyte residents simply don’t have in the event of a bushfire, Member for Warrandyte Ryan Smith told the Diary.

“I’m glad there has actually been some progress around identifying some options to ease the congestion and make the community safer during a fire event. However, the timelines are too long and we actually need to see some progress from VicRoads a lot sooner than the timelines that they’ve flagged,” he says.

“I will certainly be continuing to put pressure on the government to ensure we do get some progress in a more timely manner.“

Back in June, VicRoads regional director Adam Maguire informed Mr Smith in a letter that traffic modeling of the Warrandyte Bridge road network would be conducted and a report handed down by the end of August. An additional $140,000 was committed in the 2015–16 budget to investigate ways to improve traffic capacity of the Warrandyte Bridge during an emergency.

VicRoads has since completed the traffic modelling investigation assessing potential options to provide additional vehicle crossing capacity of the Yarra River in the vicinity of the Kangaroo Ground-Warrandyte Road Bridge in the event of a fire evacuation scenario. The report is said to comprise emergency traffic plans to assist in evacuation in the event of emergency and an update on the daily bumper-to-bumper traffic.

A community forum was held on November 12 at the Warrandyte Community Church by VicRoads and Emergency Management Victoria to discuss with residents and authorities the possible scenarios for action in the event of a bush fire, and the construction work that should be done in regards to the traffic flow on the bridge.

David Teague, VicRoads’ director transport and planning metro north west, told the Diary: “Information and supporting documentation on the potential options will be made available on the VicRoads website in early 2016.

Among the options considered as part of the investigation were upgrading the existing bridge to three lanes and building a second pedestrian bridge on Bradleys Lane, which could be opened to vehicles during emergencies.

“VicRoads, in conjunction with councils and emergencies services, expect to be in a position to present and seek community feedback on a preferred option by mid-2016.

“In partnership with Warrandyte Community Association, emergency services and Nillumbik Shire Council we are committed to delivering new traffic cameras in the Warrandyte area over the coming months which will be strategically placed to provide real-time traffic information to the community.”

VicRoads has also installed new traffic management signs and Disaster Plan boxes in the area, which contain equipment needed to assist with traffic management during emergencies and together with Victoria Police and CFA has “also developed improved traffic management plans to better cope during emergency evacuations”.

Three scenarios were proposed by VicRoads at the forum including:

+ Upgrading the bridge to three lanes, two southbound and one northbound, with new T-intersection signals at Research-Warrandyte Road and a wider entry road prior to the bridge on Kangaroo Ground-Warrandyte Road.

+ Building a second bridge at Bradley’s Lane/Everard Drive for emergency use only.

+ Combining both scenario one and two for optimum results, saving over two hours of evacuation time and costing between $7-$10 million.

Warrandyte is in for a hot and dry fire season that all residents need to be prepared for, says emergency management commissioner Craig Lapsley and local fire chiefs.

“The presentation by VicRoads about the Warrandyte Bridge and the options available to help with the access and egress was a worthwhile start to the discussion but it also highlighted that no matter what option progresses, those who live in Warrandyte have to make good decisions about their safety early, and to know what they need to do in the event of a fire, or a high fire danger day,” he says.

“Victoria’s future emphasis is on safer and more resilient communities. Creating a resilience-based approach is the first step in creating a modern emergency management system for Victoria. Empowerment of local communities to drive their own emergency management processes is core to this, working through existing networks, local leadership and community priorities to ensure that planning and recovery process are tailored, meaningful and self-sustaining.”

Bush fire threats aside, residents are still up in arms about the daily traffic congestion at the bridge during peak times.

“Most residents are more concerned by the day-to-day gridlock,” says Dick Davies, president of the Warrandyte Community Association.

“I think in order to resolve the daily gridlock issue in Warrandyte, it needs to be tied into the emergency management planning. We’re [Warrandyte] too far down the list of priorities and I think the two need to be done together.”

If you have more information on this issue, or you want to voice your concerns about local issues, send an email to info@warrandytediary. com.au. To see the full report from the forum visit www.warrandyte.org.au and letters to the editor can be emailed to editor@warrandytediary.com.au