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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

A trucking disaster

A NIGHT-TIME truck ban has been imposed by VicRoads on some of the busiest roads in Melbourne’s north-east, just a month after Melbourne’s new wholesale fruit and vegetable market opened in nearby Epping, drawing heavy truck traffic through Warrandyte from across the state.

Trucks are now banned on all major north-south roads which access the Ring Rd between Heidelberg Heights and Eltham between 10pm and 6am in response to a petition protesting increased truck traffic and noise on Rosanna Rd, signed by about 600 people.

A glance at the map of these banned routes shows the only river crossing to the east of this area that is available to trucks overnight is via Warrandyte Bridge.

The transport industry and fruit and vegetable growers have warned the Andrews government to expect road chaos as the curfew forces thousands of truck drivers onto other residential roads at night and in the early morning. The curfew is a 12-month trial on nine arterial roads that run between the Eastern Freeway and the M80, the so-called “missing link” in Melbourne’s ring road.

VicRoads have put out a brochure North-East Truck Curfew Trial which states: “The night truck curfews trial has been carefully planned to strike a balance for the local community and truck operators.”

However, the bans do not include Research-Warrandyte Road, Kangaroo Ground-Warrandyte Rd, Warrandyte Bridge, or Ringwood-Warrandyte Rd. Furthermore, the brochure goes to great lengths to specify where the trucks are not allowed at night, but does not make any attempt to explain where they should go, particularly for those trucks from the south and east of Melbourne coming up Eastlink to Ringwood that need to access the Ring Road.

The truck industry has warned the ban will simply create new conflict between trucks and residents elsewhere. Victorian Transport Association chief Peter Anderson called the government’s curfew “a lazy and short-term approach to the underlying problem of lack of connectivity of our road network. It’s going to push trucks down roads that they’ve never been down before,” he said.

This latest action by VicRoads reinforces the views of some residents that until such time as the state government does something about connecting the Ring Road to the Eastern Freeway and Eastlink, then Warrandyte is seen as the sucker in the middle that gets all the traffic.

That viewpoint gains strength when considered alongside other recent VicRoads decisions such as reneging on previous agreements to restrict engine brake noise through North Warrandyte and refusing Yarra Valley Water access from Research Road to their pumping station at Professors Lane on the grounds the road is “too busy”.

The Diary asked VicRoads to comment on why Warrandyte roads were not also considered for this ban, where the heavy traffic from Eastlink to the Ring Road was supposed to go, and what modelling had been done on the effect of this ban on Warrandyte’s roads.

Vince Punaro, regional director Metro North West, VicRoads said: “Before and after traffic volume, data is being collected at various locations in and around the curfew areas. Throughout the trial, this data will be used alongside community and industry feedback to ensure the curfews balance the needs of the local community and truck operators. At the end of the trial, all of the data collected will be assessed to determine the effectiveness of the curfews.”

Five for Friday (spooky!)

What’s happening in Warrandyte and surrounds in coming days? Hold onto your hat … and your heart! There’s something spooky in the air.

One … Tomorrow is the day when witches, monsters, black cats, zombies, vampires, werewolves and all sorts of creatures come out to play trick or treating. We don’t care if you think it’s too American and “unAustralian”. It’s all about the kids having fun, so have a heart!

Two … We are right in the thick of Spring Racing Carnival and where better to go than the mighty Grand Hotel Warrandyte for a beer, a bite, and a bet! TAB, great food, drinks, and the place to catch up with great friends. Aside from Saturday and the Cup on Tuesday, Oaks Day is on Thursday and the pub isn’t the only one having a function. It’s all happening at Olivigna http://olivigna.com.au/oaks-day/ but don’t bother trying to book – it’s a full house!

Three … Blatant plug for a valued Diary advertiser: Warran Glen Garden Centre & Cafe is holding a Pink Ribbon Charity Breakfast on November 5 from 9am to 11am with 100% proceeds going to the Cancer Council. Phone 9844 1322. What a way to start your Oaks Day and also contribute to a magnificent cause! Also don’t forget Warran Glen’s Ladies Shopping Night on November 26 that includes nibbles, fashions, specials and prizes from 5pm to 9pm.

Four … Food, glorious food, and this time it’s a Turkish Dinner Banquet at Cocoa Moon tonight and tomorrow night! $40 per person, don’t forget to book a table.

Five … Warrandyte Football Club’s amazing 15-minute DVD featuring all the highlights of the big Grand Final Day is up for sale for only $10 and available at the Grand Hotel, Warrandyte Newsagency and Diary office. Don’t miss your copy.

 

Bags of Cannabis dumped in Warrandyte

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Images Copyright Warrandyte Diary

POLICE were called this morning after loads of marijuana plants were found dumped in Gold Memorial Drive in Warrandyte after a resident noticed what appeared to be rubbish left on the side of the road.

More than 10 large garbage bags and four pot plants along with a hydroponic globe were found at the site on Gold Memorial near Hussey’s Lane. Police are currently investigating.

The resident called the Warrandyte Diary shortly after notifying police and said “at first I thought it was some idiot who had dumped a heap of rubbish, but I quickly realised what it was – it was some idiot who had dumped a heap of cannabis!”.

More information to come in the next edition of the Diary.