News

Electoral Tribunal sends Koonung ward back to the ballot box

Voters in Koonung ward may find themselves back at the ballot box after the Municipal Electoral Tribunal today found the results from the 2016 election void due a failure to properly inform all ratepayers on their eligibility to vote.

Last October’s election results were challenged by Ms Stella Yee, a resident of Doncaster who came fifth in the Local Council election on the grounds the Ward’s non-citizen ratepayers were not properly informed on their right to vote in the election.

Mr Warwick Winn, Manningham Council CEO issued a statement saying “Magistrate Smith found the Victoria Electoral Commission (VEC) ‘effectively failed to properly inform, or may have misled, non-resident ratepayers as to their eligibility to enrol to vote’”, he said.

Magistrate Smith also found the numbers of non-resident ratepayers who were prevented or disenfranchised from taking part in the election were significant enough that their inclusion in the election process probably would have affected the outcome of the election.

The three Manningham councillors, Cr Dot Haynes, Cr Anna Chen and Cr Mike Zafiropoulos will continue in their roles as elected officials for the time being, VEC have seven days to appeal the decision.

If the VEC accept today’s decision the next step will be to inform the Minister for Local Government who will then need to set a new election date.

The Warrandyte Diary will have more on this story as it develops.

Bridge work further delayed awaiting permits

• Contractor now known but not yet announced

• VicRoads in meetings with objectors for Manningham permit

• Nillumbik permit still stalled

WORKS HAVE still not commenced on the bridge expansion originally due to begin in April with  completion scheduled for before the start of the next bushfire season.

VicRoads has not formally announced the contractor for these works and has not replied to questions from the Diary on this or when the work will be starting.

However, the Diary has ascertained the contract has been awarded to VEC Civil Engineering Pty Ltd for $4.265M

VEC is part of the Downer group of companies and is a respected civil engineering design and construction company specialising in bridges.

Some confusion still remains on the start date for works, as planning permits have still not been approved by Manningham or Nillumbik.

William Nottle, Senior Structures Engineer at VicRoads Metro North West, stated: “At this stage, it is unlikely any works will commence until permits are granted.

“VicRoads will never conduct any work on site (or established a site for that matter) before obtaining appropriate planning approval.

“We have recently suspended site activity with our contractor in order to resolve the current planning issues,” he said.

However, in somewhat of a contradiction he continued: “In keeping with the project schedule to complete the works ahead of the next bush fire season, we have initiated works that do not require planning approval”.

Manningham received objections to the proposed planning permit from seven individuals and from the Warrandyte Community Association (WCA) .

VicRoads had scheduled a series of separate meetings with each objector on May 23 to hear and discuss their concerns.

WCA had filed a well-considered objection on two main grounds.

Firstly the applicant (a Mr Richard Francis of Abzeco Ltd) is not the owner of the land, the application is not signed by the owner of the land, and therefore the whole application is invalid and must be thrown out.

Secondly the applicant has failed to adequately address the requirements of Heritage Overlay Schedules applicable to the area.

As mentioned in the May issue, the Warrandyte Historical Society and the WCA had joined forces with a view to establishing an Urban Design Advisory Panel (UDAP) to evaluate, discuss and attempt to reach agreement with VicRoads on the materials to be used in the construction, to ensure the heritage values of the area at the south side of the bridge were considered and preserved.

They had expressed concern because the historical road alignment is being changed and widened, and the use of barriers and guardrails — similar to those recently the subject of protests in Kangaroo Ground — fences and the ugly use of grey concrete and plastic handrails do not comply with the heritage guidelines required by Manningham.

We understand at that meeting VicRoads had agreed with WCA’s proposal that this UDAP be set up.

However, the terms of reference and scope have yet to be agreed.

Most of the individual objectors spoke to the Diary on condition of anonymity.

Three objectors wanted the two tall trees  at the southern end of the bridge to be retained;  one suggested this could be done by making the cantilevered pathway go around the tree on the west side, and fill be avoided at the base of the tree on the east side with the new off-ramp being shored up with pylons or a wall constructed.

VicRoads agreed to investigate the practicality and costs associated with such additional works, but had some doubts on the ability of the budget to accommodate the increased costs involved.

One resident tabled the VicRoads-produced artist’s impression of the south side as published in the March edition and asked how the four tall trees shown in this impression were to be provided.

VicRoads confirmed they would not be there “It’s only an artist’s impression”; which the objector suggested was deliberately misleading.

As part of the discussion it became evident that, in addition to the new cantilevered shared pathway on the west side, the bridge structure will also be extended slightly out on the east side to partly move that footpath outwards.

It was also discovered the plans provide for considerable fill material on the south east off-ramp side and it was not clear how this was to be revegetated.

An objector wanted the whole issue of tree retention, flora, fauna and reforestation to be included in the scope of the UDAP, but VicRoads was adamant the UDAP restrict itself only to the construction materials.

“How can you have a design panel which does not look at the total design; the final ‘look’ of the whole project is what matters most?” asked one resident.

A recurring theme in the objectors’ submissions was they did not want the development to proceed at all on various grounds including this was a band-aid solution to a wider problem, they suggested the decision should be delayed until the route for the North East Link had been decided and the traffic flow through Warrandyte had been remodelled and the original modelling of evacuation times and improvements to daily traffic flow was fundamentally flawed.

A resident of Ringwood-Warrandyte road pointed to the stationary queues of traffic outside their house and dreaded to think how bad this would become when further traffic was attracted to the area and red traffic lights north of the bridge would cause gridlock back around the roundabout at the bridge causing even longer queues along Ringwood-Warrandyte Road in the evening peak period.

Also raised was concern the materials used and the extra fenced-off pathways might completely or partially block the view of the Yarra for passengers in vehicles.

Many comments were made on the lack of concern for flora and fauna, these included:

• “I object to the removal of indigenous eucalyptus polyanthemus, eucalyptus goniocalyx and, bursaria spinosa trees and shrub on the north east embankment of Yarra Street.”

• “The Southern Mahogany nearby should also be retained.”

• “Eucalyptus polyanthemus is already in severe decline in Warrandyte — all large trees should be retained for habitat, ecology reasons, mitigating against climate change.”

• “These works will greatly downgrade the significant river scenery.”

• “Construction of the turning lane will impact on fauna habitat and corridors, including breeding wombats and swamp wallabies.”

• “A canopy rope bridge for arboreal fauna must be included, as must a pipe to enable wombats to cross under Kangaroo Ground Road at the north end of the Bridge.”

• “Kookaburras, wood ducks and sulphur crested cockatoos use hollows in other beautiful large eucalyptus trees a few metres below the embankment nearer the river.”

• “These trees will also be at risk from the proposed works due to root damage, changes to the water table, possible introduction of harmful fungi, etc.”

• “All the trees in the vicinity of Warrandyte Bridge require protection — measures must be taken to minimize impact.”

• “The character of unique and historic Warrandyte, prized by artists past and present is irreplaceable.”

• “To what extent have the Wurundjeri Tribe Council Elders been consulted about these works?”

• “So much lost — heritage, wildlife safety, access and habitat, pedestrian safety at an already difficult intersection, liveability through increased traffic volumes — for little, if any, gain.”

A number of these comments, whilst being very valid, are outside the scope of Manningham to determine in direct relation to the planning laws.

However WCA’s first and primary objection on the grounds the application as submitted is invalid in law will be difficult for Manningham to disprove and it is hard to see how they could grant a permit to an invalid applicant.

We await with interest to see if Manningham planners will hold off making a recommendation to councillors until the UDAP has been formed and its scope agreed and findings released.

We asked WCA to comment on their meeting with VicRoads and formation of the UDAP, but they declined to comment.

North side of the bridge

In terms of progress not much has happened.

The planning permit application was lodged with Nillumbik on April 3.

A site inspection was carried out by the council planners on April 27 following which a letter was sent to VicRoads requesting more information, Nillumbik are still awaiting VicRoads’ reply.

When that is to hand the matter will progress to the “advertised” status, which will involve a notice being posted and the public then given 14 days in which to make submissions or objections.

We await further progress with interest.

Residents fear Green Wedge at risk in Nillumbik’s draft plan

DURING a community consultation session held at Eltham’s Edendale Farm on May 17, local Nillumbik residents voiced their concerns at Nillumbik Council’s draft 2017–2021 Plan.

In the plan, the Council has chosen to focus on five key “strategic” objectives:

• Engaged, connected communities.

• Active and creative people.

• Safe and healthy environments.

• A prosperous economy.

• Responsible leadership.

Members of the community were concerned about a lack of balance in the plan between protecting the environment and other issues, such as generating income and infrastructure projects.

North Warrandyte local Ian Penrose has made a written submission to Nillumbik Council, criticising the language used in the plan.

“[The Green Wedge] is fundamental to the shire’s identity and its responsibility,” he said.

Mr Penrose is also concerned about the plan’s lack of focus on maintaining and improving the environment in the Green Wedge.

“The language used by the Council is an indicator of its perspective, and that is worrying,” he said.

Other locals voiced similar concerns to Mr Penrose during the community consultation, particularly surrounding property development around the Shire.

There were strong opinions about what the Council should do with some vacant blocks of land.

While the Council could sell the land to fund other community-based projects, Nillumbik residents were nervous about the potential for further development in busy townships such as Eltham and Diamond Creek.

One woman argued there was “intrinsic value in vacant land” and “odd pockets of trees and land add to the natural streetscape of the Shire”.

Others were troubled about a potential “population increase” as well as criticising the Council for seeing vacant lots as a “development opportunity”.

These are the latest development worries for Nillumbik residents, with the Warrandyte Diary reporting concerns surrounding a potential property development on Pigeon Bank Road in North Warrandyte (see page 9).

Spokesperson for the Nillumbik Pro Active Landowners (PALs), Max Parsons said, “Nillumbik PALs supports the Council’s focus on the importance of proper representation of, and advocacy for, its ratepayers.”

The Nillumbik PALs believe the Green Wedge Management Plan is due for review and supports the Council’s focus on building the Shire’s economic possibilities.

“Like all relevant sections of any Planning Scheme, the Green Wedge Management Plan should be subject to review and updating, as it is long overdue,” Mr Parsons said.

The Nillumbik PALs support “the establishment of a strong financial position, which includes an emphasis on the economy, tourism and employment,” Mr Parsons said.

Focus on the economy and tourism was also on the agenda at the community consultation meeting.

Nillumbik Mayor Peter Clarke proposed the construction of a “Civic Hub” for Eltham.

While no concrete plans are in place, the Mayor encouraged the community to join the conversation about potentially building a hotel or even a small hospital in Eltham.

Mr Penrose feels as if the emphasis on jobs, economy and tourism in the Council’s plan will put the natural landscape of the Green Wedge at risk.

“[The draft Council Plan] conveys the message that the Council is ignoring its fundamental responsibility to care for the Nillumbik Green Wedge,” he said.

“I urge the Council to correct this glaring and critical shortcoming in its plan.”

In response, Mayor Peter Clarke said during the consultation that language specific to the Green Wedge was not used in the strategic objectives because it was seen as “too broad”. He pointed out that other councils also see themselves as a Green Wedge municipality.

That is unlikely to ease the concerns of North Warrandyte residents such as Mr Penrose who want to ensure the natural landscape of Nillumbik Council and the surrounding areas are preserved and improved well into the future.

The public consultation period for the 2017-2021 Plan officially closed on June 2.

Warrandyte set to go potty for teapots

IN 2004 A group of potters joined together and opened The Studio@Flinders, a gallery which sold, exhibited, and raised awareness about the world of wheel thrown, handmade ceramics.

One of the major annual exhibitions The Studio@Flinders hosted was the Melbourne Teapot exhibition.

In 2016, The Studio@Flinders closed, but the craft and spirit of handmade ceramics is still strong in Warrandyte and The Stonehouse Gallery on Yarra Street has taken up the mantel and will be hosting Melbourne’s annual teapot exhibition in August.

The Diary spoke with Marymae Trench, a ceramics artist and Stonehouse Gallery member since 2003, Ms Trench is part of the team who is arranging this year’s exhibition.

“Warrandyte has a long tradition of ceramics… at one stage there were seven shops in Warrandyte so there is definitely a history,” she said.

Ceramics has fallen out of fashion and there are very few courses now that allow new people to learn ceramics,

“I started classes at Potters Cottage in 1979, then ceramics were king but 20 years on ceramics has really slowed down… there used to be three TAFE colleges which allowed students to study ceramics, now there are none,” said Ms Trench.

A trend which is compounded by the convenience and availability of cheaply made and imported ceramic goods.

“We get tyre kickers here on Sunday, this young couple came in and the bloke said ‘there’s a mug in here and you’ve gotta’ pay $20 for it, and his partner said well its handmade you know… people come in and say they’ve always drunk out of clay because that’s what their mum and dad did, but the people who haven’t grown up with handmade stuff don’t really know the joy of using something that has been hand made,” Ms Trench said.

The Melbourne Teapot Exhibition, if successful, could become a regular calendar event for the Stonehouse Gallery which will compliment other community events on the Warrandyte calendar — such as the Warrandyte Festival and Pottery Expo — as a way of bringing tourism into the area.

Ms Trench is talking to local businesses in an attempt to generate some enthusiasm for the exhibition.

To inspire local businesses to get involved, Ms Trench explained how she hoped to replicate something along the lines of the Warrandyte Christmas Gnome hunt.

“We were told there were 200 entries last year, which means there were 200 kids and their parents, wandering the streets of Warrandyte looking in the windows of businesses — this is one of the problems with Warrandyte, people don’t know what is here,” she said.

The Stonehouse Gallery is a working gallery, which means everything on display in the shop, including exhibition content, is for sale.

The exhibition organisers are excited by the prospect of having around 50 different artists from all over Australia displaying their works and the organisers are sure there is something to suit all tastes.

But why teapots?

The process of making tea in a teapot has fallen out of fashion, the convenience of teabags is too hard to ignore.

There is still a generation who do remember their parents or grandparents using a tea pot, and the fashion of handmade is slowly coming back, but what’s in it for the potters?

Ms Trench describes the process of making a teapot and the appeal to potters due to the skill required to make a good teapot.

“When I was a student, I made five teapots and at the end I said I was never going to make a teapot ever, ever, ever, ever again because they are so hard to make.

“So you’ve got to make it so it is going to hold tea, you’ve got to have a handle that is functional, it’s got to have a spout, now when you make it you have got to make sure the level of the spout is above the level of the water— if it is below you fill it up and it comes straight out the spout, you’ve got to make sure the lid doesn’t fall out when you tip it up. “When you have a tea pot that already weighs a lot and you put in a litre of water, that’s another kilogram of weight, and it has to be aesthetically pleasing.

“You have to put the little holes where the spout is.

“You throw it on the wheel, you throw the spout then you have to cut the spout so it fits on and it’s got to have a lip that doesn’t dribble.

“It is totally different to making a bowl because there are so many elements that you need to get right and when it is full the centre of gravity needs to be in the right place and that is very hard to get right.

“It is very difficult and I don’t think people realise just how hard it is,” she said.

The exhibition will be open to the public August 4 – 15.

MDD awareness month

MAY is Metabolic Dietary Disorders awareness month and Warrandyte’s own Grand Hotel have announced a very special program — in what is believed to be a world first; they are offering a special menu to cater for people living with this rare group of diseases.

The Warrandyte Diary spoke with the President of the Metabolic Dietary Disorders Association (MDDA) about the most common of this rare disorder Phenylketonuria (PKU) and what this menu initiative means for people living with PKU.

What is it like living with PKU?

Phenylketonuria is considered a rare disease and I guess the significance of this disease is it is one of the things they pick up with the heal prick test.

The heal prick test has been administered for about 50 years and most newborn babies are tested, so PKU is usually diagnosed within the first ten days of life.

My son is seven and he’s got PKU — when he was diagnosed, I had never heard of it before and it came as quite a shock.

However, as a parent you learn — over time —it is a manageable disease as long as you are diagnosed early, are on top of it, and you teach your child as they are growing into a teenager and an adult.

They live a relatively normal healthy life — the biggest challenge is the diet, because it is all about your metabolism.

What are the symptoms and restrictions?

To have PKU means you have got a faulty enzyme in your liver that prevents you from metabolising a particular amino acid which is found in protein — Phenylalanine.

It can’t be metabolised and therefore creates toxic levels in your body which effect the brain — so a young child, if they are not diagnosed early, just simply breastfeeding is getting more  Phenylalanine than they need.

It sends their levels sky high and potentially within 6-12 months, they are brain damaged, so it is all about avoiding brain damage.

When they are young that is when it is most critical, as they get older their brain gets to a point where it is considered to be developed, which they now say doesn’t happen until they are 25, but they advocate diet for life to protect the brain for life so what that means it they have to have a very strict low protein diet.

My son Charlie is allowed to have 12 grams of protein, kids his age with a metabolism his age would probably have about 40 grams, that doesn’t sound too bad because he is a child, but as he gets older that 12 grams won’t change, most adults will have around 70 grams of protein a day.

For example, an egg is six grams or a glass of milk is 10 grams of protein, a potato is two grams, so it is fruit and vegetable as well — everything has protein in it, even nuts legumes soy; we have to avoid all those things too because they are too high in protein, so what we have to counteract this is a specialised synthesised protein, it is like a protein shake — Charlie will have that three times a day and that gives him all of the other protein amino acids his diets is missing out on.

We also have special protein free rice, pasta, milk, cereals, cheese, the whole lot to make up a lot of the staples of the diet and then depending on what their actual allowance is we will incorporate normal foods in to their diet — I am always to the supermarket now reading labels.

It is a very complex diet and because it is not an allergy, or something like diabetes, it doesn’t have that instant effect so it is very hard for people to understand. oIt doesn’t really fit into any category of special diet either, people say, oh you are just vegan — and then they will bring you out a vegan meal with all these sesame seeds or lentils or something.

So what happens is people with PKU often don’t dine out because it is too hard to explain and prepare a meal and so most places you go generally the staple they have is hot chips, but we generally have to weigh them, because one potato is two grams of protein so if someone is going out trying to find a two gram meal for their kid they have to weigh them and they say: Charlie you can have that many — so it is tough.

 The Grand Hotel are doing a special PKU menu, how important is that?

With dining out, a lot of people say it’s just too hard so they take their food everywhere and they often eat the same bland stuff, that is the other sad thing they have their special free pasta they boil it up they put a bit of their free cheese they might sprinkle some herbs on top, you think how much food is a part of our lives and it so bland – even drinking — I mean beer has protein so to even go and have some beers with your mates, to have that social aspect, for families with kids and teenagers and for adults to be able to come out and have that dining experience and just eat some beautiful foods.

What it will mean is that families that are in the area can come and have a dining experience with their kids or as adults and actually be able to order something off a menu without having to explain it — it is just brilliant to be able to eat something and feel like everyone else.