News

Calmer waters for Melbourne Hill Rd

A SOLUTION to Melbourne Hill Road’s drainage issue could become the benchmark for other ecologically sensitive catchments within Manningham.

An epic struggle by residents for sustainable, cost effective stormwater management has inspired a new approach by Manningham council.

Although originally set to enforce an unpopular and costly scheme for localised flooding issues in the catchment, after sustained community campaigning council engineers are now considering alternative solutions.

Council has obtained a $50,000 grant from the state-funded Living Rivers Program (a previously unexplored option), which will be matched from council coffers to provide a $100,000 budget. This will allow investigation of more environmentally sustainable stormwater management possibilities in the troubled catchment.

Consulting engineering group BMT WBM has been appointed to conduct this feasibility study, which is planned for completion by the end of May.

Council has also undertaken a more consultative approach to management of the issue. Formalised in a ‘Terms of Reference’ document instigated by the community representative panel, this approach is an effort to bring more open and informed discussion around the issue.

Highly regarded strategic environmental engineer and president of Stormwater Australia, Andrew Allen, was a welcome new addition to the recent reference panel meeting.

It is expected Allen, who had been seconded from Manningham council to the office of Living Victoria during much of the original resident/council debate, will add his considerable depth of knowledge in sustainable flood mitigation to the project.

Cr Sophy Galbally, who has continued to campaign for a balanced solution to flood management in the catchment is satisfied with the progress so far.

“I was pleased to meet the senior executives from BMT WBM at the recent reference panel meeting where residents, council engineers and ward councillors were able to convey the issues they hope this study may be able to address. I sincerely hope the consultants’ report, which is welcomed by all, will provide council with innovative and sustainable options for all areas in need of flood mitigation, particularly in the Mullum Mullum ward,” Cr Galbally said.

Residents’ spokesperson Peter Noye told the Diary: “The representative panel stand committed to a more environmentally sustainable and economical outcome. We thank the councillors for voting towards seeking a more cost effective and sustainable alternative.”

The next community meeting on the Melbourne Hill Rd issue will be held at Warrandyte Uniting Church, Taroona Ave tonight (March 10) at 8pm.

Setting a wonderful eggs-ample

Warrandyte chicken“YOU must never run out of eggs,” is the common response when people know you have chickens.

However, for many Warrandytians, it’s not about the eggs. There are so many delightful reasons for having chickens, with eggs being a bonus.

Adjoining neighbours Adata and John share several chickens between their homes with a mobile coop made from the frame of an old barbeque, a shipping box and pallets. The result is a cleverly designed home for Scarlet, Darling, Lucy, Beautiful Girl, Belina and Bob that for the past two years has been moved from home to home on a roster basis.

If one family is away on a holiday, the other family is able to care for them.

“When you rent, it’s hard to ask a landlord for permission to build a permanent structure,” says John. “This way we can have chickens and share them with our friends.”

Emil, Marcel, Nell and Natalia all help with caring for the chickens, including collecting the eggs, putting them away at night and topping up the water, especially on hot days.

“They all have different temperaments and personalities,” says Agata. “They are curious and adventurous and a little cheeky sometimes by trying to get into the veggie garden.”

Mother of two, Natalie, from North Warrandyte has converted an old cubby into a sweet little home safe from foxes for her Rhode Island Reds – Poeey, Twinkles, Sparkles and My Chicken. Laying well means they often have more eggs than they need and either swap the eggs for other produce with friends or give them away.

Natalie and husband Ben’s aim is to upgrade the coop by designing a way for them to eat more grass which improves their Omega 6 balance.

Warrandyte chickens“Having chickens is calming. You start pottering and realise you are part of the circle of life and reconnecting with the fundamentals of living,” says Natalie.

Lynda not only has chickens but a number of charismatic ducks, the boss of the roost being Barry. They all live together in the Taj Mahal of coops that has been added to and improved over the years to accommodate the chickens and ducks as well as keep out the foxes.

“I’d recommend digging well down into the ground with your wire, at least 500mm to keep them out and I’ve also concreted part of the coop floor to keep out the rats,” says Lynda.

“Wasps aren’t too much of a problem if I avoid putting out too many food scraps.”

With both the chickens and ducks as good layers, Lynda used to sell her freerange eggs at work as they were in such demand – as Julie Quinton quickly discovered at our local IGA supermarket after banning caged hen eggs and stocking only freerange.

Currently, Daphne is broody and has been sitting on the duck eggs for a while, which will probably hatch in the next few days.

In the meantime, 5kg Barry is quite the stud with his harem of stunning white companions Daphne, Lulu and Lizzie.

On the side of a hill, facing north and overlooking the Yarra, lives an eclectic family of chickens.

Annette Lion has owned chickens and ducks for 14 years.

“Each duck has their own personality,” says Annette, as a collection of Bantams, Light Sussex and Pom Pom Heads saunter free around the garden.

With names like Carlotta, Bluebell and Nessie it’s easy to see why Annette’s daughters Luna and Mikaia enjoy having their chickens around.

They are so tame, they’ll even sit on their heads.

We couldn’t find Speckles but she turned up later in the day, having been gone for 10 days. Annette found her sitting on 12 eggs!

It’s obvious that the bonuses of owning chickens is not just the eggs but showing children where food comes from, how to care for them, how they can produce great fertiliser for the garden and the sheer entertainment of watching their antics.

Warrandyte chickens

If you’d like to share your own chicken stories, please tell us at the Diary by emailing info@warrandyte diary.com.au

VIDEO: See our chooks story on Diary TV at warrandytediary.com.au

EPA called in to investigate

VICTORIA’S Environment Protection Authority (EPA) followed up a request from local CFA officers to investigate the cause of spontaneous fire eruptions in Park Orchards recently.

CFA crews were called to Stintons Reserve twice in six weeks to attend to fire incidents that appear to have been ignited by “self-combusting material”.

“We asked the EPA to inspect the site to determine the cause of the eruptions, as our fire investigation team were satisfied they were not deliberately lit,” South Warrandyte CFA captain Greg Kennedy told the Diary.

The fires ignited at the reserve’s fenced-off greyhound slipping track. The reserve is above the original site of the Park Orchards tip, which closed in the early 1990s.

The track has been free of fire incidents since its inception about 12 years ago.

Mr Kennedy stressed it was purely a precautionary measure.

“I felt a bit uneasy given the history of the reserve and the fact that it happened twice in a matter of six weeks,” he said.

An EPA spokesperson said they had attended the site along with Manningham council officers and determined the cause of the outbreaks to be naturally occurring decomposition. He advised that they eliminated “the possibility of a sub-surface fire”.

“The fire was caused by a mixture of decomposing organic matter (sawdust in this case), generating enough heat to ignite the sawdust,” he said.

The fires caused concern about methane leaks among Park Orchards residents, as reported on 3AW’s Rumour File program.

That was understandable given what happened at a Cranbourne landfill several years ago.

A methane issue resulted in a class action against the City of Casey and the EPA that saw residents awarded $23.5 million in compensation.

Many such domestic waste dumps (including Stintons Reserve) were closed over before the introduction of more stringent regulations in 2004, requiring all landfills to be lined to provide leak protection.

The EPA subsequently reviewed metropolitan landfills, putting councils on notice to clean up sites where pollution of land or groundwater posed a potential risk to human health.

In 2013, the environmental watch- dog issued a pollution abatement notice to Manningham council.

The EPA issued the warning after con- ducting a compliance inspection at Stintons Reserve to assess management of contaminants leaking from the closed landfill.

The notice, which was later amend- ed to allow additional time for the works to be completed, stated: “Water sampling results and an assessment of the pipe integrity shows leachate from the landfill is contaminating the surface water piped beneath the landfill and the surrounding ground.”

It also stipulated: “… that this non-compliance, or likely non-compliance, must be remedied.”

Manningham council’s director of assets and engineering Leigh Harrison said the landfill had been rehabilitated in accordance with applicable standards at that time.

He confirmed that council had been “progressively upgrading” management of the site over the past 12 months “to accord with current standards”.

Mr Harrison said: “The present situation offers no threat to the health of those persons using the oval, BMX facility or the slipping track. The works will simply result in a renewed, and improved, leachate management system.”

With regard to recent fire activity at the site, Mr Harrison was adamant there was “no evidence of any issue with methane generation from the landfill contributing to these issues”.

The EPA pollution abatement notice stipulates that all relevant works must be completed by May 31 2015.

The arrival of warmer weather has also triggered community fears of recurring spontaneous fire activity at the slipping track.

Manningham council advised: “Council has spoken to the club and suggested that the track surface, which becomes compacted, be ‘turned over’ on a semi regular basis throughout the year and especially the summer months.”

Rabbits on the hop

BRADLEYS Lane residents have launched a campaign to rid their street of rabbits, saying they are destroying gardens, causing erosion along the banks of the Yarra River and competing with native wildlife for food and habitat.

A group of residents have held a meeting with Nillumbik council hoping to mobilise local support for a pest controller to come out in March or April to bait the rabbits with Pindone, a poison commonly used to control rabbits in Victoria.

Their proposed baiting program would require around 20 days, with the poison generally taking six to 10 days to work, affecting the rabbits’ livers and causing them to die from internal bleeding.

One of the residents leading the campaign, Janice Davies, says 20 people in her street have expressed their concerns about the damage caused by rabbits.

“Over the last year we have noticed a lot more rabbit droppings across our property,” Mrs Davies said.

“I also planted a whole lot of native grass one day and I thought I’d put barriers around them in the morning but by the time I went out the next morning the rabbits had already eaten the grass down to ground level.

“This campaign is about getting as many people in the street involved as possible. We’re taking people’s concerns on board and we’re finding out how to do it without harming pets.”

Another Bradleys Lane resident, Paul Fitzsimons, noticed rabbit numbers increasing when they started destroying his garden last year.

“We plant native vegetation to attract wildlife so when rabbits come along and eat it all, it’s very costly and very frustrating,” Paul said.

Mrs Davies says Nillumbik council has offered to pay for half of the associated costs for hiring a pest controller, bringing the cost to $60 per household.

Nillumbik mayor Helen Coleman says council regularly offers subsidies when residents form a local rabbit action group.

However, the Diary didn’t receive confirmation that council would provide assistance for Bradleys Lane residents at the time of publication.

The anti-rabbit proposal comes as Melbourne Water and Parks Victoria

plan to launch their own rabbit-baiting programs along the Yarra River and through the state park.

Janice says while Melbourne Water and Parks Victoria support the plan, they cannot provide financial assistance.

The Diar y understands residents would have a greater chance of drastically reducing the rabbit population around Bradleys Lane if they start their program around the same time that Melbourne Water and Parks Victoria commence their rabbit control program this year.

A rabbit baiting program involving the Osborne Peninsula Landcare Group about four years ago inspired

the group of Bradleys Lane residents to start informing neighbours about the issue and gauging support for a unified pest control plan.

It’s estimated about 80 percent of residents in Osborne Rd, Hamilton Rd and Koornong Cres were involved in the Osborne Peninsula Landcare Group program.

Ann Penrose, who is part of the Osborne Peninsula Landcare Group, says the high number of households involved made the program successful at reducing rabbit numbers.

“We have baited every year, usually around February or March,” Mrs Penrose said.

“For the first three years we baited the whole peninsula but eventually we managed to get the rabbit numbers down so low that we didn’t have to do all of the area.”

However, rabbits have few natural predators and with females known to have up to 14 babies per litter several times a year, Ann warns that rabbit populations can quickly become out of control.

“We have noticed there’s an increasing number of rabbits recently and we can never eliminate rabbits – only control them. That’s where educating the community comes in,” Mrs Penrose said.

“Controlling rabbit populations is on-going and it’s the residents’ responsibility to keep their properties clear of rabbits.”

Nationally, rabbits are estimated to cost more than $200 million a year in control measures and lost productivity, and as Bradleys Lane resident Cameron Bailey knows, rabbits can affect one neighbour but not the next.

“I’ve only seen one rabbit on my property in the two and a half years that I’ve been living here,” Cameron said.

“They’re not a problem on our property but I would probably support the plan because we’re all for removing non-native wildlife.”

Some have expressed reservations about the plan.

“I’d be happy to get on board if there’s enough residents on board and it’s likely to be effective,” Paul Fitzsimons said.

“In the meantime, we’ve taken our own immediate steps to address the measure. Since we put in fences everything has been fine and our chocolate lilies are starting to come up again but if you fence all of your property then there’s the issue of limiting the movement of animals.”

Others say rabbits are causing problems across Warrandyte, including Mitchell Ave, Gold Memorial Rd, West End Rd and along the Mullum Trail.

One Warrandyte resident commented on the Diary’s Facebook page that she rolled her ankle while playing cricket in her backyard in a rabbit hole that appeared overnight.

Elizabeth Wood, who lives in Stiggants St, says she has been baiting her property for years, yet rabbits are still eating away at her garden.

“I have been killing the rabbits but as I get rid of one lot a new lot move in,” Elizabeth said.

“The rabbits live in Stiggants Reserve and the church yard where there is an area of undergrowth. We have asked for it to be cleaned up to no avail at this stage.”

Campaigners hope baiting will begin in March or April, with Mrs Davies indicating the plan could still go ahead with 20 participants.

“Even with 20 residents we would still have a really good chance of reducing the damage that rabbits are causing to vegetation around our street, but of course, the more people involved the more success you’re likely to have,” she said.

ENTER: Mural competition and short story

Grand Wall Entry Form

Calling all

budding

artists

THE concrete wall alongside the drive-through at the Grand Hotel Warrandyte may be looking a bit bare at the moment, but it won’t be for much longer when a grand design appears there in the near future.

All budding artists in Warrandyte are invited to design a mural to be painted on the wall, with prizes offered to the best five designs and a major prize for the winning entry.

Entries for the competition will close on March 10 and winners will be announced on stage at the Warrandyte Festival on Saturday March 21.

See more details in the advertisement on Page 28 and entry forms and conditions are available at www.warrandytediary.com.au and from www.grandhotelwarrandyte.com.au