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McMansion fears in Christmas Hills

MELBOURNE Water has announced it plans to sell-off 1000 hectares of land in Christmas Hills following a decision not to proceed with the Watson’s Creek Storage Reservoir.

Melbourne Water has engaged consultants, Spiire Australia to prepare a study for the land previously identified for the reservoir.

The project team called for submissions late last year and has now embarked on a period of community consultation.

During a series of information sessions held last month, Associate Planner at Spiire, Erica Fox, told attendees a decision had been made by Melbourne Water that the reservoir was no longer practical to build, therefore legislation dictated that the land must be divested from the authority’s land holdings.

The project team were frank in their advice to the meeting that some form of change is inevitable.

“There will be change in the study area, because you are going from publicly owned land that has essentially been locked up for 40 years to land that is privately owned,” Ms Fox told residents.

“To sell that land we need to ensure that it is in the appropriate zone which means it can no longer be in a Public Use Zone, something that only applies to public land and it needs to be put into what we call an underlying zone,” she said.

The divestment also frees up the privately held land that was under a Public Acquisition Overlay.

At the meeting, a number of options were presented to the community to gather feedback on the most appropriate zone to be applied to the area, and how to restructure the existing 112 lots that are currently owned by Melbourne Water.

Residents were told that 280Ha will be transferred to the Warrandyte Kinglake Nature Conservation Reserve, however the remaining 720Ha will be sold off on the open market.

“The land use study provides direction on appropriate planning controls and subdivision patterns, reflect the area’s constraints and opportunities; they will be implemented by a planning scheme amendment,” said Ms Fox.

Residents of Christmas Hills have voiced their concerns, firstly about the consultation process, but also that the sell-off will impact the character of the small rural community.

Spokesperson for the Christmas Hills Community Group, Veronica Holland, told the Diary what Melbourne Water were offering was either a “bad choice or a worse choice”.

“There has been no attempt to look at what Christmas Hills is and what it can offer the future planning of Melbourne.

“Melbourne Water has seen it as an opportunity to carve it up into smaller blocks and make money out of it.

“So we don’t agree with what they are doing, but these sessions have been designed not to include any discussion about anything other than Melbourne Water’s preferred option,” she said.

Media Manager for Melbourne Water, David Walsh told the Diary the way that it is planned to be broken up will potentially end up with between 18 and 30 new dwellings.

“It is a big area, but with the constraints, there will not be a massive amount of development taking place,” he said.

Local resident Sandy Jeffs disagrees, for the community of only 300 people another 20–30 houses is around a 20 per cent increase in the number of people living in the area.

“It is a big influx of people,” said Ms Jeffs, “people will build McMansions and try and cut the trees down and bring their horses and have their hobby farms.

“The whole character of Christmas Hills could change — it is a mix of rural and bushland, people nestled away in behind — you don’t see all the houses, and for us it is going to be a change of character,” she said.

A statement issued by Nillumbik Council to the Diary noted that any zoning decisions will be made by the State Government, it would not be a Council decision.

However, should permission to rezone be given, then further permission for any future housing would still need to be sought from Nillumbik Shire Council.

“We will continue to advocate for sensible planning outcomes consistent with land use in the area, with Council having a management role over the Rob Roy facility which should remain as Crown land,” the statement said.

“We are currently considering the various draft options by Melbourne Water as well as views of our community that have been expressed throughout the process to date.

“We will make our views known to the water authority and the community after thorough consideration,” it continued.

Last year the State Government brought in changes to the bushfire regulations which Ms Fox said have changed the requirements for land that is to be rezoned or subdivided.

“It needs to meet more stringent requirements for bushfire protection, previously we could meet BAL19 … because of the change to the legislation in late November, we now have to meet BAL12.5 which means a much larger area of defendable space is required.

“The result of this is that we have gone back and re-looked at the bushfire constraints for this area to work out the areas that no longer meet those requirements.

“So it has resulted in additional lots that won’t be able to be developed from a bushfire perspective,” said Ms Fox.

She told the meeting that many of these undevelopable lots will be marketed as “undevelopable lots” which could be suitable as offset properties, where the land will be set aside to offset land clearing in other areas.

The meeting included a round table discussion where residents could discuss the plans at a block-by-block level, establishing a preference for different zoning in each precinct, and how the various lots should be consolidated to allow the best outcomes both for the existing community and for the future development of the area in line with Green Wedge provisions.

Many options were a choice between RCZ3 or RCZ4 — either 8Ha or
40Ha blocks.

Veronica Holland believes this consultation and the subsequent internet survey treats the residents of Christmas Hills “like sheep”.

“There is no opportunity for deviating from agreement with Melbourne Water’s preferred option; no chance to object to rezoning of land to RCZ3 and the subsequent development of a small hobby farm, no chance to look at Christmas Hills as a whole,” Ms Holland said.

“At no point in the process has the vision or opportunity been looked at.

“Melbourne Water has manipulated the consultation process and almost cherry picked the planning scheme to support what they want to do, which is to maximise their financial gain.”

David Walsh says that Melbourne Water has to fit in with the Nillumbik planning scheme, “we cannot do something different through here because it was our land, it all has to comply with the planning scheme,” he said.

“People love what they have got at the moment, and what we are trying to do is make sure anything we do stays in line with the current feel of the area.”

Veronica Holland said it has been the long drawn-out decision on the dam that has forged the character of Christmas Hills in the first place.

“Ironically it is because Melbourne Water put on the Public Acquisition Overlay meant that it escaped the eagle-eye of speculative developers and people who wanted to build their McMansions… introducing hobby farms will bring people with urban expectations into the area… they will destroy the landscape and, because many of those blocks have nice views, you can see that they will attract people who want to build their McMansion to take advantage of the nice views and don’t realise that the view out destroys the view in,” she said.

“For so long it was up in the air and they hadn’t made a decision, said Sandy Jeffs, “so for us, we have been there 40 years, it has been 40 years of bliss because they hadn’t made a decision.

“It is Christmas every day here in Christmas Hills, we worry that as the roads are upgraded there are more houses more traffic more people it just brings in another level of complexity that we don’t want”.

Not all residents are pessimistic about the future of Christmas Hills, Narelle Campbell, from community group Rural Link told the Diary that she believed it would be “much better than another dam, which is what the land was bought for”.

She said the Melbourne Water proposal “appears to be balanced and reasonable and makes a genuine effort to consider the social, economic and environmental challenges”.

“We are pleased that a mix of landholding sizes and types is recommended, that rural residential lots are planned to be of suitable size for development, that the State Park allocation is progressing, and public spaces like Rob Roy, the Community Hall and tennis court are left in situ for the community.

“We will continue to work with Melbourne Water to promote the sustainability of the rural Nillumbik Green Wedge.”

Veronica Holland hopes a compromise can be reached.

“I am trusting in the Green Wedge Provisions, the planning provisions … I think it is possible that Melbourne Water can get quite a few very saleable lots without destroying the integrity of Christmas Hills as it is now.

“We want to preserve the integrity of the area — we want to preserve the idea of the scattered settlement and we don’t want to ruin the landscape value of the area, but we do want people to see it is such an asset in terms of its biodiversity and its high environmental values.”

There will be a long process before the final decisions have been made, as Erica Fox explained:

“Because Melbourne Water is a government authority, any land it seeks to sell needs to go through the Government Land Planning Service and that land service acts as an independent planning panel to assess and review the proposed Planning Scheme Amendment and the master plan we are proposing.

“It will then provide its own period of public consultation.”

She told the meeting the planning service will have a six-week submission period followed by a series of panel hearings that are anticipated to occur later this year.

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Val Polley honoured

CONGRATULATIONS to Val Polley, doyen of the Warrandyte community, who has been named in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Awarded an Honorary OAM for her “services to the Warrandyte Community”, which recognises her tireless work over a period of almost 50 years.

“I have to say it came as a complete surprise and I’m touched that others have thought me worthy of it,” Val told the Diary.

President of the Warrandyte Community Association, Dick Davies, told the Diary: “While many, many personalities and identities contribute greatly to the Warrandyte Community, it is hard to match Val’s long-term dedication as a planner, environmentalist, historical society stalwart, former Councillor and Mayor, and one of the founders of the WCA.

“Two major themes underpin her commitment: concern for residents and concern for the environment,” he said.

Val said her participation in community affairs started early when she was drawn in by local activist Joy Henke back in the late 1960s.

“It started with environmental issues and with groups such as the Warrandyte Environment League and Friends of Warrandyte State Park,” she said.

Since then she has long been actively involved in all local conservation activities: as a founding member of the Warrandyte Environment League (1970–75); as a committee member of the Yarra Valley Conservation League (1972–78); and since 1982 until today she is celebrated as a founding member of the Friends of the Warrandyte State Park (FOWSP).

In the wider community she has been equally active: 1972–78 council member of the Warrandyte Primary School and Anderson’s Creek Primary School; 1978–87 Council member of Warrandyte High School, as president from 1985–87 she was responsible for planning and oversight of the new buildings.

From 1976–78 she was a founding member and president of Doncaster and Templestowe Spinners and Weavers Group.

In the late 90s she was an OXFAM community support group member, as well as director/secretary of the Warrandyte Community Centre Supporters Group Inc., which managed the property on behalf of the Council.

Since 2001 she has been a member of the Warrandyte Community Association, where she was a Committee member from 2004–7 and president in 2006.

She also found time in 2003–4 to be a founding director of the Warrandyte Community Bank.

Val campaigned for many years, for the “Creekside” retirement complex.

In the past, because of the local terrain, elderly residents had been obliged to leave their homes and friends in the local community for more manageable properties elsewhere.

The project was first mooted in 1987, and she made it a central theme of her successful campaign to be a Doncaster and Templestowe Councillor.

“The fact that it took another 20 years before realisation is testament to Val’s early commitment and resolution to further community benefits,” said Dick.

Val continues to work for the cooperative to search for appropriate land for further residences.

Val has long been involved with Local Council activities.

From 1977–79 she was a member of the Doncaster and Templestowe Arts Advisory Committee, and from 1988–89 a member of the Warrandyte Township Improvement Study Committee.

Val was elected as a councillor to the City of Doncaster and Templestowe Council, serving from 1989–94, and as Mayor from 1991–92.

As a councillor with residential and environmental interests at heart, she supported strategic planning for heritage properties and open space, roadsides, and residential and commercial centres complemented by rate reductions.

She opposed dual occupancy, which would have increased housing density in a major bushfire prone area.

Val chaired a study on the heritage of the Old Warrandyte Post Office building; which was eventually restored and now houses the Warrandyte Historical Society.

She was involved in long-term planning for the Warrandyte Township and served on the Middle Yarra Advisory Committee, helping to save Green Wedge land in Park Orchards and Warrandyte, now enjoyed as part of the ‘lungs’ of the eastern suburbs.

Val also served on a Plant Pest Advisory Committee to safeguard the local environment and State Park from invasive weeds.

Val is currently Secretary of the Warrandyte Historical Society and has been an archivist and occasional committee member since 2005.

She has been instrumental over the past five years in the strategic direction, planning and procedures of the Society.

“She liaises with numerous external bodies and people, develops outstanding exhibitions, keeps history alive with articles in the Warrandyte Diary — she is truly a driving force behind the Society,” said Dick.

Val recently celebrated the Warrandyte Community as author of Wonderful Warrandyte – A History.

From 1987–88, Val was chief-of-staff of the Warrandyte Diary, and she continues to be an occasional feature writer celebrating local life, history and local identities.

Given that during this period Val had full time senior management employment and a family to bring up, it is difficult to appreciate how she found the time to contribute so much.

“She continues to do so, effectively and with such good grace and general approbation, that she is a role model for effective liaison between Government and our local community,” said Dick.

Val says she feels “privileged to live in Warrandyte… and to be part of such an inclusive, vibrant community.

“My involvement across various issues and organisations in the township has always led to friendships, new skills and a sense of satisfaction in putting something back.

“Looking back, it’s been such a rewarding journey with great people and good outcomes along the way.

“How lucky are we in Warrandyte?,” she said.

“Without such people, with the personality and skills to make things happen, well-meaning local initiatives are ineffective,” said Dick.

Val was granted an “honorary” award because she is not an Australian citizen.

Your Park needs you

MANNINGHAM Council are currently seeking submissions from the public regarding their draft masterplan for Lions Park.

Council are planning for what is to come once the bridgeworks are complete and the former tennis courts-cum -bridgeworks work site is no longer required.

In March this year, Manningham Council asked the public for their ideas regarding the future of the site and are now asking for further input from the community based on their interpretation of the feedback they received.

If adopted, the draft plan (pictured below) would open up the area next to the bridge – formerly the site of the Lions’ Tennis Courts – and connect it to the car park on the other side of the bridge.

The plan would improve pedestrian access between the road and the river and allow people to cross under the bridge without having to go all the way down to the river trail.

There is also a plan for additional picnic tables and barbecues, which would make this area of the river more attractive to day trippers and family picnics.

The plan is to start commencing development of this new park space mid-2019, after the Bridge is completed, however the public consultation phase ends next week.

This park is for current and future visitors and residents and we have been given an opportunity to, at least, voice our opinion of how we want to see this area of the river utilised.

To have a detailed look at the draft masterplan and to have your voice heard, please visit the Manningham YourSay website before  5pm on Monday June 18.

Large turnout at 103rd Anzac Day

Photo: STEPHEN REYNOLDS

DESPITE THE dwindling ranks of veterans, numbers continue to swell to commemorate Anzac Day.

On April 25 around a dozen former serving soldiers, sailors and airmen gathered at Whipstick Gully for the annual march to the Warrandyte RSL.

They were joined in their journey by an over 100-strong contingent of family, friends and community members. Representatives of all levels of government joined the march, led by a WWII Indian motorcycle together with lone piper, Casey McSwain.

Police, CFA, the Warrandyte Football Club as well as Scouts and Girl Guides showed their respect for servicemen and women by joining the march along Yarra Street, an effort that was appreciated by WWII veteran Don Haggarty.

“It is so good to see the young people here,” he told the Diary.

His son, Chris Haggarty, a volunteer at South Warrandyte CFA agreed, noting that it is important for the young people to “help keep the tradition alive”.

State Member for Warrandyte, Ryan Smith said that he commends the RSL for allowing “the evolution of the march to include family members who are here to support the veterans”.

The children who participated in the parade had been learning the history of Anzac Day and the Gallipoli campaign in the lead-up to the commemoration.

“We are here to remember the Anzacs from Gallipoli,” one young Guide said, proudly displaying her knowledge that Anzac stood for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.

As the marchers stepped off they were encouraged along the route by an estimated 200 people lining Yarra Street, and met by a further 800 people to participate in the commemorative service.

The Catafalque Guard was provided by Melbourne University Regiment and as they took their positions around the cenotaph, RSL president David Ryan commenced the service. Mr Ryan noted that it was the 103rd anniversary of the Anzac landings at Gallipoli “where hundreds died and thousands were injured”.

The gathering also commemorated 100 years since the second battle of Villers-Bretonneux on the Western Front “where Australian and British troops drove the Germans out of the town in a daring night attack at a cost of 1500 casualties”.

The Bellbird singers provided musical leadership for the hymns and anthems sung during the service, and Barry Carozzi performed the stirring Eric Bogle ballad, In Flanders Field. A very moving address was read by John Byrne.

Mr Byrne concluded his address with the poem A Soldier Died Today.

David Ryan said he was delighted to see the large crowd turn out to commemorate “the sacrifice that men, women and families at home and abroad have endured from pre WWI to today with the War on Terror, United Nations and humanitarian conflicts”.

Mr Ryan told the Diary, he was delighted with the growing turnout, “I am just relieved that we didn’t have the problems with vandalism we had last year”.

Page 18-19 of the May Warrandyte Diary has a full colour photo spread of the day and a transcription of Mr Bryne’s speech

Drains, paths and bins at centre of budget

FOOTPATHS and drainage were at the top of Manningham Council’s agenda when they unanimously adopted, in principle, the 2018/19 budget at the April 24 council meeting.

The draft budget includes an additional $1.5M to footpaths and $1.5M to drainage in their respective department budgets next financial year as part of an ongoing maintenance and improvement scheme.

This additional $3M is also part of Council’s four-year $10.5M plan to improve footpaths and drainage across the municipality. Highlights for Warrandyte are:

• Funds for finishing Warrandyte’s second “missing link”, connecting Warrandyte to the Main Yarra Trail with a new shared path.

• The final design of the Melbourne Hill Road drainage upgrade is earmarked for completion by September 30 this year.

On the other side of the ledger, there will be a rate increase of up to 2.25%.

China’s ban on foreign waste import, which has left many local governments across Australia floundering, means Manningham now has to pay $720,000p/a for waste and recycling to be removed whereas previously the council was given a $720,000 rebate for kerbside waste disposal. In real terms, waste and recycling charges are increasing 20%, or by an additional $42.30per household for standard waste collection.

In the council meeting, Councillor Paul McLeish highlighted that although a situation outside of council’s control has resulted in an increase in waste charges, the charges residents of Manningham will incur are still cheaper than they were six years ago and is the equivalent of half a cup of coffee per week ($2.50).

Although the budget is required to be adopted, in principle, under Local Government Act 1989, the budget is currently on public display and members of the public are invited to submit their views about the proposed budget via the Manningham YourSay website or in writing to council.

Written submissions will also have the opportunity to be presented verbally at a public meeting on May 31.

All submissions — whether presented just in writing or verbally as well — need to be submitted by 5pm on Thursday May 24.

Council will meet on June 24 to have the final say on the 2018/19 budget.