News

Clean up and clear out

WARRANDYTE RESIDENTS are being urged to start their fire preparation early and identify hazards on their properties to minimise fire risk this season.

Victoria has experienced a dry winter and it is likely to remain dry and warm for the next three months, this means we could see a very early fire season.

Council encourages residents to prepare for the upcoming fire season, using spring as a great time to start preparations.

“It is vital that all residents living within bushfire prone areas have an emergency plan in place — residents can find more information about developing their plan on Council’s website,” said Manningham Mayor, Cr Michelle Kleinert.

Captain of Warrandyte CFA Adrian Mullens said because Warrandyte has not experienced a bad bushfire for several years many residents are getting complacent.

“Warrandyte and North Warrandyte are up there in terms of fire risk, we have just been lucky on I don’t know how many occasions… if the 2014 fire in Flannary Court had got over Tindalls road, Warrandyte would be gone,” he told the Diary.

Both Manningham and Nillumbik councils are providing vouchers to allow residents to dispose of green waste in the lead up to summer.

Nillumbik Shire Mayor Cr Peter Clarke said Council is preparing for the fire season with bushfire mitigation plans underway, this includes roadside clearing and mowing, tree management and native vegetation clearing.

“Residents can help reduce the impact of fire and storm damage by conducting regular maintenance of their property, including clearing long grass, timber and wood stores, gutters and drains,” Cr Clarke said.

“We have also introduced green waste vouchers, giving residents the flexibility to recycle garden materials and vegetation at the Recycling and Recovery Centre in Plenty at a convenient time throughout the year.”

The new Nillumbik green waste vouchers are for one cubic metre of domestic green waste like prunings, garden clippings, leaves or grass or one level 6 x 4m sized trailer load or less — loads larger than this will require two vouchers.

Cr Kleinert says garden waste vouchers are now available for Manningham residents, free of charge and can be used from September through to the end of November.

“Clearing and removing excess vegetation from properties is an important part of reducing bushfire risk, she said.

Vouchers for four standard trailer loads can be redeemed on Sundays between 9.00 am and 3.00 pm at Manningham’s Garden Waste Recycle Centre on the corner of Blackburn and Websters Road, Templestowe.

For branches and prunings, Manningham residents also have the option of exchanging one hard rubbish collection for a bundled green waste collection.

The State government are urging residents to check their insurance policies to ensure they are sufficiently covered for emergencies such as bushfire and storm.

Be Ready Warrandyte will be holding a seminar on October 26 to discuss fire-safe building materials following a report from the Great Ocean Road fire in 2015 as well as insurance and the CFA’s Leave Early message — more information in the October Diary.

Visit insureit.vic.gov.au for information about the ‘Insure It.It’s worth It’ campaign.

Visit the CFA website for more ideas and information to help prepare and protect yourself and your property this bushfire season.

Council green waste visit manningham.vic.gov.au or nillumbik.vic.gov.au/greenwastevouchers

Old Warrandyte dairy faces uncertain future

THE OLD WARRANDYTE Dairy, an important reminder of the history of Warrandyte as a township, is under review by Melbourne Water to determine the building’s future.

Even though modern Warrandyte is a suburb of metropolitan Melbourne, until the late 20th century the village was an independent township.

Built in 1948, the building served as a cool room for storing milk delivered from Box Hill.

Melbourne Water currently own the site, and therefore the building, and in late August erected a fence around the entrance to the old building and are now seeking community feedback while they decide the future of this severely dilapidated building.

Andrew Mellor, Team Leader for Melbourne Water’s north east regional services spoke to the Diary about the condition of the building and Melbourne Water’s desire to come up with a solution which serves both the integrity of the site and respects the importance of the building in Warrandyte’s history.

“An engineering assessment of the building will be undertaken in coming weeks, which will help guide discussion around the future of the building.

“We want the community to guide the decision making on a use for the site which is most appropriate for time,” he said.

The Diary also spoke with Margaret Kelly, President of the Warrandyte Historical Society who explained the significance of the building within the township and the reasons why the community should engage with Melbourne Water in deciding the future of the building.

Ms Kelly explained the butchers building, old post office, bakery hotel, dairy and churches are all part of the infrastructure that defines a township.

“There are not many places around that are suburbs of Melbourne that still have all those buildings; that is why I think it is really important to preserve the story of Warrandyte as an independent township,” she said.

Under the Warrandyte Township Heritage Precinct, the old dairy is listed as a building of contributory significance which adds an extra dimension to this story as the building’s original purpose adds to the gestalt of the Warrandyte township.

Ms Kelly believes the loss of this building could not just degrade the history of the township but start a cascade of changes to other buildings within the heritage precinct — but the way forward is not to simply preserve it for the sake of preservation.

“[The] concern is when one building goes that weakens the overlay, so what is to stop someone else who owns another building saying ‘why can’t I knock my one down and move that as well’, so I think you don’t want the dominos to start falling — if it is in a position where it can be saved, I think it should be and in a practical manner as well, not just to preserve it for the sake of it,” she said.

Melbourne Water have told the Diary they will be holding a number of community meetings in the near future.

As we go to print, dates for these meetings have not been set, but follow the Diary Facebook page for information and feedback from these meetings.

Council greenlights bridgeworks

AUGUST HAS been a busy month with regards to the Warrandyte Bridge upgrade project.

On August 29, Manningham Council discussed and passed a motion to grant a conditional planning permit to Abzeco Pty Ltd on behalf of VicRoads for the roadworks associated with the bridge upgrade on the Manningham side of the river.

Approval granted

Cr McLeish made amendments to the original motion to include details around the use of local stone and for a “safe crossing point” where the bridge meets the roundabout.

This alternate motion was carried by the Council, which effectively means once VicRoads produce the required amendments, they will have their permit.

The ammended motion comes after Council, VicRoads and the objectors met in a Submitters meeting.

At the meeting, a number of proposed changes were put forward.

The Diary asked the WCA for comment on Manningham’s decision, Mr Gillan, on behalf of the WCA told the Diary they were happy with the addition of the pedestrian crossing but “disappointed the other conditions were not adopted”.

Reports that bridgeworks would start in late October sparked conversation in the community last week.

With the bridge project always earmarked for completion “before the next fire season”, the prospect of major roadworks during the region’s most dangerous time of year is unsettling.

This news conflicts with comment from Manningham councillors who stated they were told works would be delayed until after the fire season, the Diary spoke with Manningham Mayor Cr Michelle Kleinert.

“With any upgrade there is always going to be disruption, we are in one of the top 10 places in the world for fire hazard — traffic is lighter over school holidays but we have this factor of bushfire,” she said.

Manningham council also stressed that this is a VicRoads project and legal responsibility for safeguarding their workers and the community lies with them.

Once construction commences, the roadworks will include:

  • Road space to accommodate the three traffic lanes on the bridge (one northbound and two southbound).
  • Pedestrian footpath widening to accommodate the three-metre-wide path on the east/downstream side of the bridge and the 1.8metre wide path on the west/upstream side of the bridge.
  • A dedicated left turn lane onto the bridge going northbound.
  • Guard rails for traffic and pedestrians.
  • New retaining walls.
  • The removal of five native trees/shrubs.

On the Nillumbik side, there were six objections to the planning application for roadworks and vegetation removal on the north side of the river, Nillumbik’s planning officer is currently talking to Melbourne Water about the application and the Diary is led to believe a decision will be made very soon.

As we go to print, we have also learned Nillumbik Shire CEO Mark Stoermer has written to VicRoads relaying concerns that the “Warrandyte Bridge serves as a critical, single access point for both the local community and emergency services during emergency events, particularly during the bushfire season”.

Nillumbik Council also told the Diary:

Council is waiting on a response from VicRoads confirming that the bridgeworks will not affect emergency responses to and from the area.

That VicRoads will provide an outline of the measures proposed during days of elevated fire risk.

And a communication plan informing residents of any possible closures so residents can make informed decisions about their safety.

Council expects a response from VicRoads by mid-September.

The Diary have pressed VicRoads for comment regarding bridgeworks over the summer, as we go to print, we are still awaiting comment.

The deliberation

When considering the application, Manningham council reported the key issues in this application are environment impact, landscape impact and heritage consideration.

A number of environmental (ESO 2 and ESO 3) and heritage overlays at the site for the bridgeworks mean a planning permit is required for the roadworks associated with the bridge upgrade and as such, a number of conditions need to be met if the planning application is to be approved.

The report indicates the removal of the five trees has resulted in the recommendation that 92 plants must be planted to offset the loss of the trees, this means 14 canopy trees and 78 indigenous trees, shrubs, climbers or grasses all of which must be indigenous to Manningham and will be located within the “Port Phillip and Westernport Catchment Management Authority Boundary or Manningham City Council municipal district”.

The report also suggests the addition of an aerial wildlife movement pathway is also condition for approval.

The Council’s heritage advisor is quoted in the report as saying:

“This application has been assessed in relation to the impact of the proposed development on the precinct as a whole.

“Given the extensive nature of the precinct and the amount of mature vegetation that exists within it, it is not anticipated that the proposed works will impact on the distinctive landscape character of the precinct. 

“It is also noted that there is potential for the proposed works to contribute to the appreciation of heritage values associated with the area by reducing traffic congestion at this key intersection, and by increasing potential for use and enjoyment of the area by pedestrians and cyclists”.

The department of City Strategy (Open Space) asked the plans to address the following elements:

  • The new roads and kerbs need to match existing stonework projects within Warrandyte and conform to the township’s heritage guidelines.
  • A new footpath between Yarra Street and the river on the Western side of the bridge.
  • Signage to help pedestrians identify the pedestrian crossing point on either side of the roundabout or to give them the option to walk under the bridge, along the river.

The Council report also noted there is an amendment in place to minimise any modifications to the existing bus stops around the Bridge intersection (eastbound at the toilet block and westbound in front of the War Memorial) but there is a provision for a semi-mountable kerb opposite 217 Yarra Street (approximately located above the Lions Club tennis courts) for a bus parking area.

With the bus parking area and the new northbound slip-lane, the number of parking bays between the lolly shop and the bridge are likely to be significantly reduced.

The Council report noted there were 10 objectors to the Manningham application, these objectors were made up of two local groups and eight private objectors.

Their objections centred around environmental and natural impact relating to the removal of the trees, the aesthetic and heritage impact of the bridge, the disruption during construction and the threat of increased traffic flow once the upgrade is complete.

On Thursday August 24, VicRoads, Manningham Council and the 10 objectors held a Submitters meeting at Manningham Council offices where the objectors were able to voice their concerns and discuss their objection to the planning application.

Following this meeting, Kyle Gillan, representing the Warrandyte Community Association (WCA), invited a few of the objectors along to a meeting with the Diary to discuss their objections to the Warrandyte Bridge upgrade project.

The Diary asked the group about the Submitters meeting on August 24; Mr Gillan began with a summary of what the WCA had taken to the meeting, in reaction to the council officer’s report.

“The submission the WCA made was asking for four additional conditions to be imposed on the permit,” he said.

The WCA’s additional conditions were:

  • The retention of the pedestrian crossing between the bridge and the roundabout.
  • Yarra Street is not to be widened to accommodate the northbound slip lane.
  • Crash barriers redesigned or removed because they are an “eyesore” and “not consistent with the heritage overlay”.
  • The use of natural stone (similar to stone used in the recent footpath works east of the bridge) on all paths, abutments and retaining walls.

Mr Gillan later clarified the objectors at the Submitters meeting wanted this crossing changed from a pedestrian refuge to a zebra crossing.

“At the moment there is a pedestrian refuge so what everyone’s asking for is a zebra crossing which gives pedestrians priority and legal protection, so if they are on that they are protected”.

“A lot of the councillors, particularly Cr Sophy Galbally of Mullum Mullum ward was very concerned about pedestrian safety as she herself has mobility issues.

“The VicRoads plan will be quite bad for people with mobility issues or for children who are catching the bus,” said Mr Gillan.

Other objectors to the Manningham planning application expressed their concern about the cultural and environmental impact of the works.

Pamela Hipwell is worried about the future of the stonework underneath the War Memorial.

Her concern lies in the non-existence of any statement which suggests the stonework around the War Memorial will be protected at all cost.

“They were built by sustenance workers in the 1930s depression and they are of unique historic and aesthetic value and they link up with the War Memorial and that is very very precious to Warrandyte.

“What I am concerned about is that will chip away, they’ve got their slip lanes and then they will be gouging out more because Yarra Street won’t cope with the extra traffic flow and they’ll want more,” she said.

All the way through the extensive discussion the Diary had with the objectors, concerns over protecting the township’s heritage and the environment were at the core of their arguments, but there was also genuine concern that the bridgeworks will do nothing to alleviate the peak-time traffic congestion.

Theresa Dawson and Jeremy Loftus-Hills, who are also on the Urban Design Advisory Panel (UDAP), expressed doubts as to the benefits the bridge upgrade will have.

“My first and major concern was once they widen the bridge and then there is no room — yes the traffic, for a split second over the bridge, will move faster but then it is going to come to a dead halt on either side of the bridge,” said Ms Dawson.

Mr Loftus-Hills objects to the current plan in its entirety and says it has been stunted by Government budget constraints.

“We are better off without it… my objection is to the design that’s been built into the bridge has been lowering the performance of the existing bridge,” he said.

Mr Loftus-Hills later explained why he thinks the bridge is constrained by budget.

“If you read the feedback they gave us in November last year, they say they cannot do that for economic reasons and for environmental reasons but …the last FOI response I got from them said they hadn’t done any costings, there is no paperwork to show you, that’s now before the commissioner,” he said.

The Manningham Council report contains a response to objections about funding for this project.

The report states the bridge offers “significant community benefits” and states the “extensive consultation” which has occurred over the past three years “cannot be revisited under the planning assessment”.

The key issue around the bridge upgrade is the comment by Victoria’s Emergency Management Commissioner, Craig Lapsley, who identified the Yarra crossing in Warrandyte as a real weakness for traffic flow, in both everyday congestion and in emergency evacuation during bushfire.

During the interview with the Diary, objectors raised concern this context to the bridge upgrade was muddying the CFA’s “leave early” message.

The Diary put this concern to Warrandyte CFA Captain, Adrian Mullens.

“Potentially yeah, the hardest part is to get into people’s heads that they have to leave early,” he said.

Captain Mullens went on to say the high turnover of population in Warrandyte and that there have been no significant fires in Warrandyte since 2014 has led to a state of complacency in the community.

The take-out from this is that the bridge’s effectiveness during emergency evacuation is indeed an important aspect of the upgrade project and an aspect which should be put under heavy critical analysis.

However, awareness of the risks of bushfire and the message of “leave early” is something that, as a community, we need to be proactive about.

Time to come together

It is becoming clear the Warrandyte Bridge upgrade will eventually happen, the government feels it has invested a lot of money into this project and VicRoads will not want to be seen backing down on this issue, especially with the link between the bridge widening and the threat of bushfire.

Objections to the bridge project centre on protecting heritage and environmental overlays, as well as defending the “independent township” culture of our suburb.

An idea that has been fought for by long term residents for many decades and it is these same residents who now argue the point of the fight is to maintain the identity, as it is, for future generations.

“From the very start I said ‘don’t let this happen because it is not about what happens today, it is about where it will go in the future’, so you have to look outside of here to fix the problem and that’s what everyone has to get on board with, it’s leave us alone and we have to push them to move outside the area — do the Ring Road,” said Ms Dawson.

Mr Gillan added: “It’s not the residents of Warrandyte that are causing this, it’s the growth in the sprawling suburbs of Melbourne, the northern growth corridor.

“That’s why we have the heritage overlay, that’s why we have the Green Wedge protected by the Environment act and those things have to be respected,” he said.

The conversations the Diary has had with different sides of the bridge debate and the type of conversation seen on Social Media would suggest there is a growing divide between the residents who have been in the Township for 20,30,40 years and those who have not.

Warrandyte has fought hard to maintain an aesthetic and amenity which makes Warrandyte the lovely place it is but the suburbs around the Green Wedge and along the northern growth corridors are pushing more cars and more people through Warrandyte and the surrounding area.

The Warrandyte Bridge upgrade debate illustrates the clash between maintaining our village-like heritage and functioning as a suburb of a growing Melbourne.

To have the qualities that define Warrandyte as a special place and accessibility to modern infrastructure is always going to be a difficult balance, but this is a special place and we are a determined community.

With some intelligent conversation and some empathy towards other people’s views we can have the best of both worlds.

Teapots of every shape, size and function

THE STONEHOUSE Gallery has taken up the mantel of hosting this year’s Melbourne Teapot Exhibition.

Studio@Flinders started the annual event back in 2004, but when the gallery closed in 2016, the Stonehouse Gallery was delighted to be given the opportunity to extend the life of this annual event.

38 artists have contributed a combined total of 66 teapots (21 functional and 45 non-functional pieces).

The exhibition features a number of prizes, of which a teapot from both functional and non-functional categories will be selected: excellence in design; highly commended; encouragement; people’s choice.

Teapots have travelled from all over Australia to be in this year’s exhibition with the furthest all the way from Budderim, Queensland.

Closer to home, entrants include students from Marge Beecham’s pottery group who work out of the old fire station behind the Mechanics’ Institute.

But it is not only potters who have been hard at work in the build-up to this exhibition.

As well as a large advertising poster supplied by Gardiner McGuiness, the gallery has also received sponsorship from Quinton’s Supa IGA Supermarket, Warrandyte Community Bank Branch of the Bendigo Bank and Rob Dolan wines.

The gallery also wished to acknowledge Clayworks, GE and GE Kilns, Northcote pottery and Walker Ceramics for their donations towards prizes.

Additionally, local businesses took part in the “Warrandyte Teapot Photo” social media campaign where they posted photos of their business using teapots in unique ways.

Stonehouse artist and exhibition curator Marymae Trench has extended an invitation to all locals to come and see the wonderful teapots on display.

“We are hoping that the Teapot Exhibition will bring many new people to Warrandyte, and that all local businesses (including the Stonehouse Gallery) will benefit from their visits.

“We always appreciate the support from Warrandyte residents.

“Come and visit us at the Stonehouse Gallery, 103 Yarra Street Warrandyte,” she said.

The exhibition runs until August 15.

Photo: Bill McAuley

Bridge advisory panel walks a rocky road

An Urban Design Advisory Panel (UDAP) has been formed to represent the Warrandyte community with regards to the aesthetic elements of the works planned for the Warrandyte Bridge.

VicRoads Acting Director of Operations Metro North West, Fatima Mohamed, told the Diary that any design changes will be guided by the outcome of the Panel meetings.

“In addition to extensive community consultation already undertaken, an Urban Design Advisory Panel has been established to provide an opportunity for the wider Warrandyte community to provide feedback on bridge design, such as to the look and feel of the upgraded bridge and retaining wall and footpath finishes,” she said.

VicRoads has provided terms of reference which outline the topics the UDAP will be consulted on, including:

• Outer bridge railing (design, colour, finish).

• Bridge abutment treatment and finish.

• Footpath surface colour and treatment.

• Pedestrian movement — including possible under bridge crossing (with connections to the river trail).

• Retaining wall treatments surface and finish.

• Retaining wall pedestrian railings.

• Bollards to approaches.

• Landscape integration including replacement of the large Eucalypts which frame the southern bridge approach.

• Rock beaching to drainage outlets and batters (local rock preferred).

Panel members will be asked to provide advice and make decisions on the above topics on behalf of the wider Warrandyte community.

At the bottom of this article is an image gallery with excerpts from the presentation given by VicRoads in the first meeting.

The presentation gives details on bridge specs and the types of materials being proposed by VicRoads.

The panel is made up of a cross section of the Warrandyte community who will bring divergent views to the panel:

David Carty, John Chapman, Theresa Dawson, Geoff Flicking, Kyle Gillan, Bambi Gordon, Leigh Hearn, Jennie Hill, Jeremy Loftus-Hills and Sasha Reid.

The meetings are chaired by an independent facilitator responsible for guiding discussions to reach decisions for two to three topics at the end of each meeting.

FIRST MEETING: DOWN TO BUSINESS

A report of the initial meeting was provided to the Diary by panel member Bambi Gordon.

The meeting began with an overview of the first task for the Panel, which was to agree upon the objectives for the bridge works — and in fact the Panel itself.

It was agreed that members would evaluate all options in the area of landscaping, environmental management, bridge finishes and so on against the stated objective to achieve “a functional bridge which is sympathetic to and reflects the environments and the character of the town in the design and finish”.

Some changes had already been made (prior to the UDAP meeting) based on earlier objections received.

The primary change to the plan was the addition of a shared footpath on the eastern side of the bridge.

This then had a flow-on effect of requiring a pedestrian crossing on the northern side of the bridge to allow for people to access both footpaths from the north.

The panel were against a pedestrian crossing on the northern end of the bridge due to the potential delay of traffic during peak hours.

However, the panel was also concerned about having the pedestrian crossing on the southern end and it was generally agreed that this crossing needs to be under the bridge — whether that requires some steps down to ground level and back up to Yarra Street, or a slung pedestrian pathway under the bridge.

Both options for a pedestrian crossing at the southern end will entail the potential removal of one or two trees — a further concern for some members as was the retention of the prunus trees that could be impacted by the addition of a left hand turn slip lane on Yarra Street.

The panel ended the meeting with a number of questions for VicRoads and the bridge architect to consider.

In general, the panel were respectful of each other and though no decisions were made on the night it is the Panel’s aim to come to those decisions over the further three scheduled meetings.

Following the first meeting Kyle Gillan, who represents the WCA, told the Diary he was concerned with a comment from VicRoads engineer William Nottle.

In his introductory comments to the panel Mr Nottle noted the project intends to double the amount of traffic through Warrandyte in the morning peak.

“When [Mr Nottle was] pressed on the projected number of additional cars in Warrandyte he answered he could only comment on queue lengths and not increased traffic volumes.

“The impact on the amenity and character of the town is of utmost importance to the WCA.

“That is why the panel is helping to mitigate the broader effects of the project by ensuring we get the very best design for Warrandyte,” said Mr Gillan

SECOND MEETING: PROCEEDINGS TURN SOUR

The panel members returned to their respective groups to report on the proceedings, which initiated some heated discussion online.

Ms Gordon reported to the Diary the Facebook vitriol spilled into the second meeting, so proceedings did not run so smoothly:

The second meeting of the UDAP was in stark contrast to the first. 

Prior to the meeting commencing, one of the members demanded 15 minutes to read a prepared statement to complain about a post made on Facebook a few days earlier by another member.  

A representative from the Historical Society also addressed this same post.  

At issue for both members was that a post on the Fix the Warrandyte Bridge Facebook Group referred to them as members of the WCA – which they are not.  

The post also commented that they had been against the bridge widening. 

Again they stressed that they are not against the bridge widening.
With regard to the social media post the administrator of that group has since apologised for her assumption. 

It should also be noted, at no time did the post name any members of the UDAP.
These and many of the UDAP members still have objections to various aspects of the plan and it is unclear how they will proceed if these objections are not addressed satisfactorily.
Once the meeting commenced it very quickly went off the tracks with members wanting to make presentations and give submissions, which is outside the remit of UDAP.
The various issues discussed at this second meeting, within the nine issues that UDAP is instructed to make recommendations upon were:  landscape integration, pedestrian movement, pathway surfaces, beaching under bridge, retaining walls and new sections of bridge abutment.
Regarding “landscape integration” and “surfaces” UDAP made recommendations, but in the most part the recommendations were for further investigation.

For all the other issues UDAP has asked for further investigation.
The meeting was very heated, with raised voices and direct criticism of the VicRoads representatives.

At one point a member left (and was encouraged to re-join by one of the VicRoads Stakeholder Engagement staff).
A few of the members have since said they hold little hope in UDAP being able to agree upon recommendations for the nine design issues, that the level of vitriol and disrespect makes the process very uncomfortable.

These members also suspect there are some people who will continue to disagree simply to indefinitely delay the project.

They are also concerned that one member of UDAP has already stated quite firmly that if the changes they want are not made the bridge widening will not proceed, while another has said they will “sit here for six months” if their changes are not made.

Meanwhile, VicRoads has told the Diary the contractor has begun work in preparation to commence construction.

“We have appointed a contractor which has begun off-site works which are not tied to the planning process and we intend to commence on-site activities in the coming months,” Ms Mohamed said.

This is despite The Diary being led to believe that one member of UDAP is considering taking the matter to VCAT, which could delay the commencement of works until at least next year.

As we go to print, three members of the advisory panel are considering whether to continue with their role.

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