News

Where have all the koalas gone?

By SANDI MILLER
Feature image: Sondra Vlasic

ANYONE WHO has lived in the area for any length of time will know the joys of receiving a visit from one of Warrandyte’s koalas.
Sadly, this is an increasingly rare occurrence, and as our nature columnist Glenn Jameson discusses below, the reintroduction and
subsequent drought has been responsible for the boom and bust of the local koala population over the last 20 or so years.
Koalas locally have been a large tourist drawcard, indeed the national value of the koala as a tourism icon has been estimated at over $1 billion.

In 2004, the then Department of Sustainability and Environment produced a Koala Management Strategy, which outlined the challenges faced by the koala population and the approaches to aid in their preservation.
Major conservation issues for the koala in Victoria were seen as the continuing incremental loss of mature trees through deliberate felling
associated with land development and land-use change, and the declining health of remnant trees in rural landscapes.
The potential for increased frequency of wildfire associated with climate change is also a serious concern for the Koala.
Annual koala counts in Pound Bend occurred from 1998 to 2011, with numbers declining over this period.
This local decline may be caused by dispersion along the river corridor, as individual koalas tend to require a substantial environment to accommodate their dietary needs, or other factors such as the Millennium Drought, urban encroachment or natural attrition.
In light of the Government reviewing the State’s Koala Management Strategy, which seems to have been much more successful than that of New South Wales and Queensland where koala populations are effectively extinct, the Diary sat down with Vivian Amenta, Wildlife Management Coordinator at the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP).
Diary: What has led to the decline in the local koala population?
Vivian: In Victoria, the koala population was reduced to extremely low numbers by the 1920s, when the koala fur trade was finally abolished.
A re-introduction program, begun in 1923 with French Island koalas, has resulted in occupation of almost all suitable koala habitat in the State.
While we do not have statistics for koala numbers in Warrandyte, there is no doubt that numbers would have dropped over the last 20
years, and indeed would have been declining since people first moved into the area.
This is due to habitat fragmentation, removal of their preferred food trees to make way for housing, roads and other infrastructure, and significant numbers being killed directly by cars and dogs.
Though koalas are considered vulnerable in Queensland and New South Wales, in rural areas of Victoria and South Australia,
they are plentiful, and far healthier than their northern counterparts, as the diseases chlamydiosis and koala retrovirus are not nearly as
prevalent.
In fact, in Victoria and South Australia, fertility control and translocation are required to ensure they do not eat themselves out of house and home and end up starving.
Diary: Are there any plans to repopulate the area?
Vivian: Translocation of koalas is only undertaken in areas where their on-going welfare is well-assured.
Unfortunately, the network of roads, the ever-increasing housing density and number of predators (dogs) in Warrandyte and surrounds rules out consideration of repopulation here.
There is also a need to consider the existing population of koalas.
They are territorial, will fight to retain/establish their patch, and if the new comers are displaced, they may try to return “home”, increasing
their chances of road mortality.
This is why the Kinglake translocation undertaken in 2017 was considered ideal.
We only translocate to sites where there are very few or no existing koalas.
At Kinglake we were able to release the koalas deep within the park.
There is only one nearby road and the 400 koalas were able to move in unopposed, as sadly, the existing population had been destroyed in
the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires.
Diary: Are there tips we can give local residents to provide habitat for the animals?
Vivian: Residents can encourage koalas to remain by:
• discouraging harassment by dogs – their own animals and other residents’
• keeping dogs on-leash when in koala habitat
• not letting dogs roam
• being “wildlife aware” when driving
• requesting that speed limits be lowered on local roads, and adhering to the limits
• calling wildlife carers to assist when an animal is sick or injured
• reporting cases of wildlife cruelty (yes people are cruel to koalas) to Council and DELWP
• planting appropriate species of Eucalypts — though there are around 28 species that Victorian koalas will eat, koalas in this part of Victoria prefer manna gum (Eucalyptus viminalis), swamp gum (Eucalyptus ovata), blue gum (Eucalyptus leucoxylon) and
river red gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis)
• leaving out shallow bowls of water for koalas in hot weather — koalas get most of their moisture from leaves, but in hot conditions will need additional water.
Diary: What are the ongoing plans for koala management?
Vivian: Victoria is currently in the process of reviewing the Victorian Koala Management Strategy (2004).
Updating the Strategy is an action under DELWP’s Living with Wildlife Action Plan, to ensure the State’s koala populations are secure and
healthy, and to guide their current and future management.
Victoria’s koala population will also benefit from the Victorian Government’s Biodiversity 2037 Plan which aims to improve the extent
and condition of native habitat and secure the greatest possible number of species in the wild.

The story of the boom and bust of the koala

By GLENN JAMESON

MY MATERNAL Grandmother was an English World War One, war bride, marrying my grandfather an Australian soldier after he was
discharged from the army suffering chronic “trench feet” from wet and muddy trenches at the Somme.
Grandmother owned a pair of gloves made from koala fur, her pride and joy, bringing them on the honeymoon voyage to Australia.
As peace spread across Europe, a war continued on koalas with an estimated eight million koalas killed between 1888 and 1927 for the fur
trade, their waterproof pelts shipped to London, the United States and Canada to line coats and make hats and gloves.
By 1924, the koala population had gone bust; they were extinct in South Australia, severely depleted in New South Wales, and estimates for
Victoria were as low as 500 animals.
The economic bust of the 1930s depression was a difficult time for Nana who had the task of bringing up a family of six by herself as
Grandfather had died, never quite recovering from the war.
By this time, the koala population on the Victorian mainland was thought to be confined to a few remnant populations in South Gippsland and the Mornington Peninsula.
Citizens concerned at the survival of the koala in Victoria during the 1930s captured individuals and placed them on Phillip Island and
French Island where they were secure and able to breed up.
Koalas had been extinct from Warrandyte for decades when in 1985, government agencies released 30 adult and eight juvenile koalas at
Pound Bend.
The following year there was another release of a similar number.
Phillip and French Islands had provided security to enable koalas to boom and breed up large numbers but now they were outstripping their habitat.
However, the koala boom was from an isolated, in-bred population, with a very low genetic diversity and this population is now the source of most of the Victorian koala populations — with the exception of unique Strzelecki Ranges wild populations, which are genetically intact and diverse.
The release was incredibly successful and by 1995 koalas were generally found everywhere in the Middle Yarra area where there was suitable habitat, especially in Warrandyte State Park, the population had even spread to private property.
In Dreaming Stories, Wurundjeri legends associate Koobor (koala) with drought.
Although they may kill koala for food, the skin may not be removed, or bones broken, until after koala is cooked.
Should anyone disobey this law, it is said that the spirit of the dead koala will cause such a severe drought that everyone except the koalas will die of thirst.
In 1997 the Millennium Drought started, the climatic version of “boom or bust”, and our local koala population went bust.
The koala diet is very restricted, there is only a few species of eucalypt leaves which they can eat.
The leaves they can eat also need to have a minimum moisture level of 45 per cent to provide them with enough water so that they do not have to drink water.
The success of the 1985 koala release allowed koala’s to fill all available niches in local habitats, but the Millennium Drought reduced the leaf moisture content below 45 per cent and koalas began falling out of trees.
In the local wildlife refuge, 52 died in care and 102 were euthanized, the population dropping dramatically.
“Boom and bust” is the breeding dynamic many Australian mammals employ to overcome one of the most erratic and variable climates
in the world; breeding prolifically during productive high levels of rainfall, which allows populations to safely diminish (bust) during
periods of drought and then expand again (boom) when the rains return, Australian mammals are genetically pre-determined to
manage their population and habitat in conjunction with this climate cycle.
B u t , as successful as the translocation program operating from the Islands has been, the lack of genetic diversity has produced
behaviour traits which do not assist in survival.
For example, not changing food trees every night, thereby killing feed trees and breeding during droughts, strategies other genetically intact and diverse koala populations avoid doing.
The good news is koalas are still in the landscape — but at highly reduced numbers and fighting for survival.
I have not seen one since 2005.
On the mainland, the amount of viable habitat available remains a limited island in a sea of urbanisation, farmland and unsuitable bushlands.
The hotter and drier our climate becomes with Global Warming the more precipitous their future becomes.
My Grandmother — a war bride and then a war widow — never needed her koala skin gloves in the hot Australian climate, but she
did need the sanctuary which her children provided for her in later years.
Something we may not be able to provide for koalas locally, as the climate warms.

 

 

VEC Representational Review of Manningham begins


THE VICTORIAN Electoral Commission (VEC) has begun its representational review of Manningham City Council.

Between now and October, members of the public will have their opportunity to have their say on the representational structure of Manningham Council.

The review will examine the following aspects of Council’s structure:

  • The number of councillors.
  • Whether the council should remain subdivided into wards.
  • The number of wards, their boundaries and the number of councillors per ward.

Electoral Commissioner Warwick Gately says these reviews are an important way to ensure voters are represented fairly within the council structure.

“The opportunity to have your say doesn’t come around too often, so it’s important to have a broad range of community members contributing to the shape of their local democracy.

“If you are interested in the future electoral structure of your local area, I encourage you to get involved.

“Public submissions are a vital part of the review process, providing valuable local knowledge and perspectives,” he said.

Submission for the preliminary report will be accepted between Wednesday, June 26 and 5pm, Wednesday, July 24.

Information on how to submit can be found on the VEC website or will be listed in the July edition of the Diary.

On Monday, June 24, the VEC will be holding a public information session at the Manningham Civic Centre from 7pm.

Members of the public who wish to find out more before the purpose of this review and its processes are encouraged to attend.

National recycling problems deepen

AT A TIME when problems with weekly recycling collections have escalated beyond local council level to State and Federal Government, the Diary is still unable to find out exactly where the material we put in to our recycling bins ends up.

For this writer, and I suspect many of our readers, despite Councils’ best efforts to educate us, it has always been a problem understanding exactly what we can and what we can’t put in our recycling bin.

Different councils have different rules, some packaging carries a numbered recycling logo yet Councils say that some of these cannot be recycled, stuff that is obviously plastic such as coat hangers are not to be recycled, glass bottles are OK but drinking glasses and window glass are not.

We are told to put “soft plastics” into another plastic bag (Nillumbik only) but their recycling company tells us that nothing is to be inside plastic bags, and is that black tray that your BBQ meat came on made out of recyclable plastic or polystyrene?

It all gets much too difficult and I was slightly in sympathy with a non-politically-correct neighbour who told me, “I’ve never understood it; I just put everything into the green bin because it gets collected weekly and I don’t have to bother sorting it”.

But now even when we do get it right, we have to ask whether it actually gets converted into something useful or gets stockpiled or sent to landfill or, at worst case, left in a disused warehouse until it catches fire!

One of the problems is that the so-called recycling companies do precious little recycling themselves.

Their function is to collect the refuse from the local council, sort it, and then “make it available” to other companies, some of whom may be subsidiaries who do recycle the material, or they may export the material for processing overseas.

Local councils are very helpful in providing information; recycling companies are not.

Nillumbik

Nillumbik residents are some of Victoria’s best recyclers, consistently achieving at least 65 per cent diversion from landfill, compared to the State average of 46 per cent.

Nillumbik is one of five councils in a collaborative contract with recycling processor SKM Recycling, administered by the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group on behalf of the councils.

This contract requires SKM to manage kerbside recycling in an environmentally responsible way.

Nillumbik delivers approximately 7,000 tonnes of kerbside recycling to SKM annually.

Of all the material collected in the Yellow Bin, the big hitters are glass, at 27.96 per cent, paper at 23.41 per cent and cardboard at 17.66 per cent.

Whereas soft plastics come in at 1.48 per cent and Tetra Pak (or liquid paperboard) at a low 0.45 per cent.

It is expected that SKM will sort, bale and sell this material through local and overseas markets for processing into new products.

According to SKM’s website, more than 60 per cent of materials remain in Australia for use in local industries.

In regards to whether any materials are being stockpiled, Council has not been notified of any non-conformance since SKM’s Laverton North and Coolaroo sites re-opened in March.

Residents can find out what to recycle or how to dispose of something correctly on Nillumbik Council’s website.

SKM Recycling has not responded to the Diary’s emails or phone calls.

In the recently adopted 2019/20 budget, ratepayers will see an increase of around 3.5 per cent in charges for waste and recycling collection, bringing the standard waste charge to $263.40.

Manningham

Manningham have a similar arrangement to Nillumbik, but their contract is with Visy Recycling.

Visy would appear to have associated companies who produce PET plastic food containers and it would seem that their clients can select the inclusion of varying amounts of recycled content.

But as with all the “recycling” companies their website concentrates a great deal on “collecting” and “sorting” the waste and “recovering” the material but has very little to say on how it is reprocessed and what is actually produced from the material and where.

Our calls to Visy to find out about all of this fell on deaf ears, but Manningham Council were helpful in providing the Diary with the contact details of their person there.

However, despite numerous emails and phone calls, no-one at Visy has responded to us or returned our calls.

In the draft 2019/20 budget adopted in principle by Council in April with a final decision occurring at the June 25 Ordinary Council Meeting, Manningham ratepayers will see a domestic waste service charge increase of 2.25 per cent.

State Government

In February 2018, Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio chipped in $13 million to help the Councils manage their recyclable rubbish, after China had refused to accept further plastic waste.

This was a stop-gap measure in the 2018/19 Budget.

In late May of this year, Special Minister of State Gavin Jennings announced that Infrastructure Victoria should look at what is needed to develop waste-to-energy projects and resource recovery from organic waste.

It comes at the same time as Malaysia announced that it would be returning plastic waste to Australia and after the earlier discovery of a dozen illegal waste sites in Melbourne’s north as well as toxic factory fires involving waste stockpiles at Campbellfield, West Footscray and Coolaroo.

Federal Government

The Australian Government has announced the appointment of an Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environment Management.

The new Assistant Minister, Trevor Evans, was appointed on May 26 as part of Scott Morrison’s new cabinet.

Evans said he is humbled to have been sworn in as the Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management and was looking forward to the challenges ahead and working as a strong advocate for protecting Australia’s environment.

No more time to waste

With the recycling industry now in a deepening crisis, it is time for government — at all levels – to come up with a plan, and hopefully some sort of standardisation across councils and packaging, so that we all know what can go into any yellow bin in Australia and have confidence that it will be properly recycled.

It is clear from the 2019/20 Budget that a solution to the recycling crisis has not been found.

Maybe it is time for the community to handle this problem on a local level.

Dealing with deer

MANY READERS will be aware of the increasing number of incidents in and around Warrandyte involving deer.

There are regular posts on the Warrandyte Businesses and Community Facebook page about deer sightings, and regular walkers in Warrandyte State Park are likely to have spotted a deer or two around Fourth Hill and The Pound.

There is an increasing number of posts regarding incidents involving deer on roads too.

The Andersons Creek Landcare Group is on the front line when it comes to the battle against the damage inflicted by the deer population.

Andersons Creek Landcare Group Secretary, Jill Dixon, spoke to the Diary about the deer problem at Andersons Creek Reserve.

“Deer are now quite a serious problem, doing more damage than foxes, rabbits and feral cats.

“They are so large, they breed quickly and can reach up high, with a taste for most bushes and trees and stripping the bark off trees,” she said.

In November 2018, the Diary published a story about environmental groups’ dissatisfaction with the State’s Draft Victorian Deer Management Strategy (DVDMS), their dissatisfaction supported by concurrent submissions by Manningham, Nillumbik and Yarra Ranges Councils to the DVDMS in July/August of that year to make it easier for councils to control the deer populations in peri-urban municipalities.

But the DVDMS is woefully inadequate and local Landcare groups are asking residents to write to State Government to convey this concern.

“You can help by writing to Victorian State Ministers on the inadequate strategies currently in the planning process which we believe are too few and too slow,” said Ms Dixon.

Public submissions and responses to the DVDMS were due to be released in February this year.

The Diary wrote to Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) to ask them for an update on the DVDMS.

“A Deer Management Strategy is currently being developed to set out a coordinated and strategic approach to deer management across the state.

“Feedback received during public consultation is currently being reviewed to inform the development of the final strategy.

“The final strategy will be released later this year,” said a spokesperson for DELWP.

The Diary also spoke with North Ringwood resident Brian Dungey, a licensed hunter.

Mr Dungey believes the deer are not as large a threat to the local environment as others have stated.

“Yes, deer do some damage to the environment… but compared to people and stock they do very little.

“People as a whole need to care more for their environment before we start blaming animal species — we are the more destructive species.

“I would pose the observation that kangaroos do more damage due to their over-population here in Warrandyte,” he said.

Mr Dungey also believes the DVDMS has missed the mark, but for very different reasons.

“While it acknowledges deer are both a material and monetary resource it doesn’t do enough to help landowners and the State to benefit more from the money that could be derived from foreign hunters and from balloted hunts.

“The document does acknowledge that deer are too many and too wary to remove from everywhere, hunters also acknowledge this and the Government should make further use of these people, and not just one group of hunters.

“The use of scent-trailing hounds is generally acknowledged as the most effective form of deer management yet the document doesn’t make use of this tool.

Mr Dungey also commented the deer management strategy does not do enough to discourage illegal hunting practices, and that practices such as arial hunting and poisoning not only cause the animal to suffer, but can also cause more problems down the line, like attracting feral dogs.

“Hunters dislike the waste, expense and cruelty created by aerial shooting.

“Recreational hunters are more than happy to remove all the meat from the deer they take.

“Aerial shooting creates food for feral dogs, which then breed up, and then kill native wildlife.

“What the document needs to do is change the law so venison gathered by legal hunters can be commercially processed and donated to charities for human consumption which happens in many countries,” said Mr Dungey.

Currently, whether you are of the opinion that deer are either a game species that should be protected, or a pest species which needs to be eradicated, this introduced species is still currently protected under the Wildlife Act.

Mr Dungey has some advice for residents who would like to deter deer from their property.

“Deer are creatures of habit, once land owners have established where the deer are accessing their properties, they can set up scarecrows and use solar powered flashing lights to act as a deterrent.

“The more you move around your property the less deer are likely to visit, as they like to be left alone.

“Remember deer only want three things, to eat, to drink and to sleep, you need to deny them what they want.”

Mr Dungey notes these animals have been in country for more than 100 years and have adapted to the environment.

“Perhaps we, as people, need to consider living with these wonderful creatures — they have adapted to living with us — are we so arrogant as a species that we expect other sentient creatures to conform to us?”

If an invasive deer population, or any wildlife is causing significant damage to your property, and your only option so to have them destroyed, then there are a series of permits you are required to possess before you can hire a local hunter.

This starts with an Authority to Control Wildlife (ATCW) permit which is issued by DELWP.

A recent discussion on 3AW, and subsequently the Rural Link Facebook group, regarding the explosion in number of eastern grey kangaroo across Nillumbik, attributed to a migration of the kangaroo population from the Northern Growth Corridor.

Urban development is displacing the kangaroos in the urban growth corridor and forcing them to move onto properties in the Green Wedge.

Property owners are reporting an exponential rise in the number of kangaroos causing property damage and becoming a traffic hazard, this may add some weight to Mr Dungey’s controversial statement regarding living with deer.

Extending this to encompass all wildlife, maybe the discussion should look to how Green Wedge communities can co-habit with both indigenous and introduced wildlife as urban expansion around Melbourne continues.

 

Photos: Shirley Bendle

Have your say on North East Link


THE NORTH East Link Authority (NELA) has released its Environmental Effects Statement (EES).

Both Manningham and Boroondara Councils have had concerns over, in particular, the light industrial and sporting precincts in their council areas.

Manningham Council claims that 1,200 jobs will be lost with the loss of the light industrial areas around Bulleen and that the road project will take away public sporting facilities in the area.

In a special meeting on June 4, Cr Paul McLeish spoke passionately about the need for compensation for removal of these local amenities, particularly as they are situated on some of the only flat open space in the municipality.

The special meeting also heard public submissions, with public concern expressed for the welfare of the 350-year-old River Red Gum in Bridge Road Bulleen, which council have agreed is a of significant cultural and environmental importance and have included its protection as one of their recommendations, along with Bolin Bolin Billabong.

Based on the preliminary information provided on the proposed North East Link (NEL) project, Manningham Council has submitted 19 recommendations to the North East Link Authority (NELA), of those 19, the following are of significance to the residents of Warrandyte.

The upgrade of Templestowe Road (including an off-road shared path) should be included as part of the NEL project.

That a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service between the CBD and Manningham is incorporated as part of the Doncaster Busway proposal.

Ensure that public transport infrastructure and service improvements to the Doncaster Area Rapid Transit (DART) are provided.

Provide a number of improvements to the local bus network to support public transport connections between the City of Manningham and the La Trobe National Employment and Innovation Cluster.

Develop the existing Doncaster Park & Ride site to create a mixed-use Transit-Oriented Development (TOD).

That a corridor along the Eastern Freeway is preserved for a future heavy rail link to Doncaster (or that the Doncaster Busway is designed to allow for future transition to heavy rail).

To deliver a number of walking and cycling improvements including a new shared-path bridge across the Yarra River between Bulleen and Heidelberg and safer pedestrian crossings in various locations.

Enhance the Koonung Creek Linear Park and associated trails, including a safe crossing point at Doncaster Road and maintain the existing natural landscape environment.

Minimise or mitigate impact to several sites of (cultural, recreational or community) significance throughout the municipality.

Provide prominent public art at key “gateway” entrances to Manningham.

Ensure that no road tolls are introduced to the Eastern Freeway

Public submissions to the North East Link EES close at 5pm, Friday, June 7.

To have your say go to https://engage.vic.gov.au/north-east-link-project

The next step is for the appointment of an Inquiry and Advisory Committee (IAC) who will conduct hearings starting on July 25.

Those who have made a written submission will be invited to give a verbal submission to the panel.

Your Say: Brickbats and Bouquets

RSL Access an issue for our ageing Veterans

Dear Diary,
Two veterans from the Second World War led the march along Yarra Street on Anzac Day this year.
One used a walking frame; the other was in a wheelchair.
Warrandyte’s citizens greeted them as the heroes they are.
They were waved at, cheered and clapped.
The march ended at the bridge for the turn into — and up to — the place where the service was to be held.
And there began the problem for those leading men.
The climb up the steps was steep and long.
And the steps were not deeply spaced nor wide enough for a walking frame.
Certainly out of the question for a wheelchair.
Alternatively, the second entrance was a little further along.
A make-piece railing, bound with wire which end sprung dangerously into space.
More difficult steps leading to a steep and rutted track along which it was impossible to push a wheelchair.
My 96-year-old father was in that wheelchair.
He had to leave it and finally reach the service area on the arms of strong and willing relations.
When the National Anthem had been sung and all the photographs taken, he had to leave the area the same way — walking with difficulty on the arms of the stalwart younger generation.
Access difficulties are not confined to veterans in their nineties.
My generation of Vietnam “boys” are only a few years behind and they too will find, if they already have not done so, that the easy part of the march ends at the entrance to the RSL.
Babes in prams and pushers, the civilian elderly and the disabled are all faced with a steep climb made extra difficult by dangerous path work.
Last year I was already worried about access to the service area for this year’s Anzac Day and, not knowing how heritage overlay, OHS, the roles of Warrandyte RSL, Manningham Council and the State government could affect improvements, I approached State MP, Ryan Smith as a first call.
He readily took up the problem and began talks and a visit with the RSL and the Council.
Then came the State election and despite two emails to Mr Smith since then I have heard nothing.
And nothing was done to make this year’s end of march access easier and safer.
Please, is there nothing that can be done to improve the situation before Anzac Day 2020?
Gaynor Bishop, Warrandtye

Hoon Hassles in Jumping Creek

Dear Diary,
This is an issue I think everyone living in and around Warrandyte must be made aware of and I ask that you all share this with your friends to ensure as many people as possible will know about this very local, potentially dangerous situation.
Jumping Creek Reserve, off Jumping Creek Road, but across the Yarra from North Warrandyte, approximately 1.5 kms as the crow flies north of Warrandyte Village, is a ticking time bomb.
I live directly opposite the picnic area and car park, and along with my neighbours I enjoy hearing visitors having a good time at the Reserve during the day.
However, as night falls other visitors arrive, doing burnouts and causing so much noise it is unbearable.
I’m sure this terrorises the wildlife in that area as well.
Sometimes they light fires (with wood provided by Parks Vic) and then they leave, often leaving the fires burning….and these fires are not always in the BBQ areas.
My neighbours and I regularly have to call the CFA and police but of course after hours police from Doncaster are never going to arrive in time to catch the hoons.
Last night (early April) at 10:30pm the situation escalated dramatically.
Hoons were doing burnouts for half an hour before leaving and peace reigned again, for ten minutes until the first massive explosion bought me to my feet.
Across the river was a huge car fire, flames leaping up among the top leaves of gum trees.
More explosions and finally the car was totally engulfed with the sky alight with fire and smoke.
We called the emergency services with the CFA arriving within 10 minutes.
They extinguished the fire before it escaped into the tinder dry bush on this occasion, but imagine if it was one of our hot nights with a north wind blowing.
The river would be no fire break as the embers would be landing in our village. We have two major issues here and locals have tried to eliminate them in the past even meeting with an MP on site, to no avail.
These two issues:
The park is only ever closed if the fire rating is severe or extreme, not necessarily on a Total Fire Ban day. This means vehicle access is 24 hours at all other times.
Wood fires BBQs are available here, with wood provided by Parks Vic, all year round. In such a high fire danger area why do we need wood fired BBQs? Parks Vic answer to this is “healthy Parks, healthy people”.I believe it would be acceptable to all visitors to the park to have no fires at all in the fire ban season. If I can’t light a fire 50 meters away on my property, why should visitors to the park be able to light fires? Remembering that not all fires are lit in the BBQ areas.
Ok locals, what should we do about this situation, are you all happy to allow this to continue?
I believe it is only a matter of time, not if, but when, before a similar situation arises and we locals are not around to call emergency services.
We need the park closed at sunset and wood fired BBQs removed.
A small price to pay to keep Warrandyte and surrounding suburbs safe.
Gail Watts, North Warrandyte

Young people these days!

Meet North Warrandyte’s Litter Warrior.
Liz Blackwood takes a whole week of work each year to pick up rubbish along the north side of the Yarra and along Research-Warrandyte Road.
This year she collected over 4 cubic metres of other people’s rubbish.
She collects it in large bags then sorts it: the skip is for landfill and large yellow bags for recyclables.
“Thanks to mum and dad for helping and also bringing me icy poles on the side of the road…it was hot this year!” she said.
Liz’s mother Celia told the Diary that Liz has been doing this for several years, occasionally with the help of family, friends and neighbours.
“I think this is the 4th time Liz has had a skip to fill — it was filled up further when neighbours paddled the river and even collected a fuel tank,” Celia said.
“Pick up your rubbish people,” quipped Liz.
The Diary offers a round of applause to this amazing Warrandytian.
Great work Liz.

 

Lions Park ready to roll


WITH THE BRIDGE Upgrade now almost complete, attention turns to the Lions Park, previously the Lions Tennis Courts and more recently the work site for the bridgeworks.
The masterplan for the Lions Park project was approved by Manningham Council in September last year, and covered in our October issue.
Key features include additional picnic facilities, seating, barbeques, outdoor fitness equipment, drinking fountains, signage, public art displays and landscaping work, which includes an improved path layout and river access.
Angelo Kourambas, Director City Planning and Community at Manningham Council, told the Diary: “The site of the Lions Tennis Court will be updated as a part of the broader Lions Park Masterplan, which will deliver places and spaces for the whole community to enjoy.
“Lions Park works will be undertaken in a staged implementation over 2019/20 and 2020/21 and the immediate focus will be on updates to the areas surrounding the bridge, access and carpark improvements.
“Further community consultation will be undertaken around the design of the Lions Park play space and area and nearby picnic facilities.”
Council has allocated a total of $450,000 to the project in this and the next financial year.
There is an excellent animated video of the planned works here .
For more information, see manningham.vic.gov.au/manningham-approves-lions-park-masterplan

The Bridge is complete: but at what cost?


AS THE QUEEN of the Shire was returned to her rightful place, State Government politicians have come out to applaud the completion of the Warrandyte Bridge.
Member for Yan Yean Danielle Green has officially announced the completion of the project to widen the bridge to three lanes and build a new shared path for pedestrians and cyclists across the Yarra River.
“We’ve worked hard to make this bridge safer while preserving the unique character of the bridge and this area of Warrandyte,” said Ms Green.
She also commended the people of Warrandyte for their patience during the roadworks.
“We appreciate all of the feedback we received from locals who helped shape the look and feel of this bridge and showed great patience while we made these important safety improvements,” she said.
Member for Eastern Metropolitan Region, Sonja Terpstra said: “I am really pleased to see the results of this project to make the bridge crossing safer and easier for all local road users.”
So with the politicians marking the project as complete, the Diary thought it was time to ask the authorities concerned with the Bridge Upgrade project whether they regarded it as complete, and what the total cost was.
Nillumbik suggested that we ask VicRoads whether they had any further landscaping works to be done on the north side.
Manningham told us that “Council is working with VicRoads to plan the delivery of the surrounding landscape works” in particular with reference to the Lions Park project, so we take it that there is still more site clearing and landscaping work to be done on the south side by VicRoads.
We asked VicRoads whether they considered the project to be complete, however they had not responded by the time we went to press.
Cost of the Upgrade
The Andrews Labor Government committed $5.1 million funding for the project in March 2016.
In May 2017, we ascertained the contract had been awarded to VEC Civil Engineering Pty Ltd for $4.265M.
In November 2017, following representations in State Parliament by local member for Warrandyte, Ryan Smith, a further $200,000 had been secured for the slip-lane on the south side.
Following extensive delays to the project we asked VicRoads in November 2018 what the final cost of the project would be, in view of rumours circulating that the cost had blown out way beyond the original funding commitments.
At that time, they responded “The total cost of the project will be provided once complete”.
The Diary has continued to ask VicRoads over the past month what the final cost will be, and they have failed to respond to our questions.
We will publish an update if we learn anything further.

Nillumbik representation report published


THE VICTORIAN Electoral Commission (VEC) have released its preliminary report regarding the electoral structure of Nillumbik Shire Council in its representation review.

Following an analysis of the projected population/voter data and the comments made in the Preliminary Submissions the VEC want feedback on two options:

  • Option A: Seven councillors elected from three wards (one three‑councillor ward and two two‑councillor wards)
  • Option B: Seven councillors elected from seven single‑councillor wards.

 

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The VEC has highlighted its preference is for Option A.

An extensive 36 page report has been produced by the VEC and can read and downloaded here.

The urban/rural divide and the challenge of fairly representing residents was a common theme during the submission period.

It is common knowledge that the 435 square kilometre shire, with an estimated population of around 50,000 struggles with the challenges of having a highly concentrated population in its urban areas (Eltham had a population of 18,314 in the 2016 census) but has a responsibility to conserve the Green Wedge which makes up 91% of the geographical area and a population of 13,000.

This, coupled with ideological differences between significant community groups within Nillumbik’s Green Wedge, make fair representation a challenge.

Under the Local Government Act 1989 (LGA89), a subdivided municipality needs to ensure that each councillor represents around 10% of the total voter population.

The VEC uses LGA89 to calculate the total number of councillors needed to accurately represent each ward.

The choice to keep the number of councillors at seven is based on population growth projections which estimates Nillumbik Shire’s voting population will increase by 9.51% by the year 2036.

A large number of the submissions called for a system based on un-subdivided proportional representation, and while its preferred multi-councillor ward system does rely on proportional representation, it decided to not adopt a single ward model:

“The VEC recognises that there are some significant advantages to an un-subdivided electoral structure for Nillumbik Shire Council.

It would mean the proportional representation system would be used at elections and ensure that all seven councillors would be subject to the same quota to be elected (12.5%), which increases the community’s confidence during elections.

The un-subdivided electoral structure would provide voters with the widest choice of candidates at elections, enable both geographic and non-geographic communities of interest to elect a representative based on the proportion of support by the whole community and promote a whole-of-shire focus for councillors in a local council area where urban and rural interests are deeply inter-related due to their shared concerns about balancing environmental and development priorities.

However, the VEC has observed that elections for Nillumbik Shire Council have consistently been highly contested.

…An un-subdivided election for Nillumbik Shire Council will result in a lengthy ballot paper with an unwieldy list of candidates.

In the VEC’s experience, longer ballot papers can be confusing for voters and more difficult to fill out correctly, leading to higher levels of informal voting through voter error thereby effectively disenfranchising these voters.

On balance, the VEC did not favour an un-subdivided electoral structure for Nillumbik Shire Council for the following reasons:

  • An un-subdivided electoral structure would result in a much larger ballot paper.
  • The preliminary submissions have tended to focus on the division between interest groups with conservation or development priorities in the Green Wedge.

However, the VEC has generally heard that there remain differences in experiences and interests between urban and rural voters in the Shire.

Unlike an un-subdivided electoral structure, a subdivided structure would ensure there remains recognition of the broad geographic communities of interest in Nillumbik Shire.”

The VEC’s preferred three-ward multi-councillor option divides the shire into urban and rural wards and the multi-councillor option “ensures that the same counting system will be used in all three wards (i.e. proportional representation).”

With more than one councillor per ward, it is hoped this would address the issues of polarised council policy, specifically in the Green Wedge as it will not be just one councillor representing the view of everyone.

However, this is only going to work if the views/opinions of two Green Wedge council representatives are different enough to bring balanced representation to both conservation and development factions within the Green Wedge.

The VEC does highlight that under the three-ward Option, the Artisan Hills Ward is disproportionately larger — in terms of area — than the other two wards and may mean long travel times for those elected councillors, but the VEC states that this two-councillor structure keeps with the 10% representation tolerance.

If Option-A is chosen, will it “fix” the legislative issues in the Green Wedge? — probably not. It is this journalist’s opinion that the ideological and policy issues of the Green Wedge transcend Local Government.

However, if having multi-councillor wards stops the trend of Council swinging dramatically between development and conservation and allows for some debate on how to address both sides of the Green Wedge debate, then it is a good thing.

The VEC wants to know your opinion on Option A and Option B, public submissions are open until 5pm, Wednesday, May 8.

Submissions must include the full name, address and contact telephone number of the submitter.

Submissions without this information cannot be accepted.

Submissions can be made via:

The online submission form at vec.vic.gov.au

Email at nillumbik.review@vec.vic.gov.au

Post to

Victorian Electoral Commission

Level 11, 530 Collins Street

Melbourne VIC 3000

On Monday, May 13, there will be a public hearing at Nillumbik Council.

At this hearing, submitters will have a chance to talk about their submission in person.

Spruced up and ready to come home


THE QUEEN of the Shire is coming home, and her creator, highly acclaimed sculptor Deborah Halpern, is one of many that will be happy to see her back where
she belongs.

“I’m glad she is coming home,” said Deborah, “it’s exciting.”

Residents and visitors to the area have asked of her whereabouts and when she is returning.

“When a work is made for a special place and it is moved it is upsetting,” said Deborah.

Queen of the Shire, commissioned by Nillumbik Council and installed in 2015, usually stands 2.5 metres above the ground, on Kangaroo Ground-Warrandyte Rd just north of the bridge, marking the entrance to Nillumbik Shire.

Per the agreement between Council and VicRoads, the sculpture was removed for protection.

“She was in the way”, said Deborah.

Queen of the Shire was found to have some damage so was taken away
for repairs.

“She’s gone … to have a little revamp,” said Deborah.

Council spokesperson Mitch Grayson said the artwork underwent a standard condition report while roadworks were underway.

“This condition report applies to all public artworks exposed to natural elements that can cause some wear”.

Council attributed the damage to “almost three years of exposure to natural elements”, saying that the repairs only amounted to “replacing about five missing tiles out of a sculpture that has a couple of thousand tiles”.

He said the costs were minimal — “and well within the standard maintenance budget for keeping public artworks in pristine condition”.

As a gateway piece, Queen of the Shire has the role of both welcoming residents and visitors into Nillumbik Shire, and also of watching over
that area.

“If only she could speak,” said Deborah, “if only she could say, look — slow down, you have to be careful here.

“We have the river, and we love our river, we love our little village … so be careful.”

When the sculpture first went up, many people would tell Deborah how much they loved her, and that “she was magical”.

“Her eyes look at you,” they would say, and Deborah’s response was “yes, she is looking, she is looking at everything and she’s looking
after everything.”

Growing up in Warrandyte, Deborah has lived here for over 60 years and has noticed that many things have changed.

Perhaps the return of The Queen of the Shire is a good opportunity to remind us all that there is a law to the land and we must be careful, we need to treat the area with respect.

“There are a lot of people here who are new to Warrandyte,” said Deborah, “and you have to get into the vibe and understand it.

“You need to have a sensitivity to the place you are in and take time to find out about it.”

Although not aware of her official return date, having her ready to come back is a relief.

With the bridge now open as usual, people have been wondering when and even if the Queen would return but with a new footing poured and the giant truck warning sign relocated, the Diary has been able to confirm with both VicRoads and Nillumbik Shire Council that Warrandyte and Nillumbik Shire’s prized sculpture will return within a few weeks.

“I enjoy spending time with her because I get to revisit the process … but she has a job to do … and she is coming back to look over that intersection … to look over the area.”

“We have restored her and she looks beautiful again, we have cleaned her up… and now she is coming home.”

Mitch Grayson agrees, telling the Diary that the Shire Council is very much looking forward to her being re-installed.

“What a great day that will be for all the people who have missed her so much!” he said.

Deborah is part of the Nillumbik Artists Open Studios, and her studio will be one of many open on the weekend of May 4-5 (see page 9 for more details).

 

Slow progress on Jumping Creek Road Upgrade


IN JULY 2016, Manningham Council endorsed the Jumping Creek Road Development Framework, a major project costing (then) $17.9M with a construction period of six years scheduled to begin in 2018.

The road currently carries over 8,000 vehicles per day, a number which is expected to double by 2035, and has had over 20 recorded vehicle crashes in the past five years.

An important link road between Warrandyte and the Yarra Valley, the road also gives access to the only river crossing within 10 kilometres for Wonga Park and the surrounding area.

A Jumping Creek Road Community Reference Panel was formed in 2017 and this consists of nine people comprising residents, businesses and community groups which are directly affected by Jumping Creek Road.

The works will include roadway realignment, emergency vehicle stopping bays and a shared pedestrian/cycling path which will run the entire length of Jumping Creek Road between Wonga Park and Warrandyte.

Roundabouts are to be constructed at the Warrandyte State Park Entrance, Hooper Road, Hartley Road and Yarra Road.

We ran a detailed description of this project in our July 2017 issue.

However, since then progress has been very slow and not a lot has happened.

The Diary asked Manningham Council for an update.

“Works to relocate water, gas and telecommunications lines between Ringwood-Warrandyte Road and Nelson Drive are progressing as part of stage 1A of the Jumping Creek Road upgrade,” said Grant Jack, Acting Director City Services.

“These works started in November 2018; over summer some electrical relocation works were delayed due to warm weather.

“While the relocation works are underway, Council is finalising the design of stage 1A of the road upgrade.

“This will include a planning permit process, which is anticipated to be advertised for public comment during April/May.

“The schedule of construction works for stage 1A will be set once the design is finalised.

“It is anticipated works will commence later in 2019.

“The upgrade is proposed to be constructed across a number of stages over an eight year period,” he said.

Manningham’s Yoursay website has a comprehensive map of the upgrade works.

However the website, and the responses from Manningham Council refer to various stages by number, but it is hard to determine which features are included in which stage and we have asked for further clarification of this and a mud map of the stage process with dates.

A further meeting of the Reference Panel has now been convened for Thursday, April 11 and we have been promised an update following this.

The Diary will keep you informed.

For more information and updates on the Jumping Creek Road upgrade, visit: www.yoursaymanningham.com.au/jumping-creek-road-upgrade

 

Artists open their studios


WARRANDYTE, and its surrounds, is home to many artists, and some are throwing open the doors to their studios to let the public see just how they work.
The next instalment of the Nillumbik Artists Open Studios program will take place on the weekend of May 4-5, with over over 30 artists participating, including relative newcomer to the program, Deborah Halpern, sculptor and creator of Warrandyte’s own Queen of the Shire.
The Diary caught up with Deborah recently, and she gave us some insight into what it’s like for an artist to welcome people in to their workspace.
“Open Studios is a great time to have conversations with people,” said Deborah.
“It’s nice that people are interested and a lot of people don’t know what a studio looks like.”
Deborah says that much of what is within her studio is experimental or works in progress, and many of the works will not make it into public view.
“It is quite challenging to open your studio,” said Deborah.
“The good side is that you have to clean it up – tidying up is a good thing, you have to do it sometimes, but you also feel a bit invaded – it’s like people coming into your head,” she said.
Deborah’s son, Artek Halpern-Laurence, is a screen printer and, with his studio on the same property, will also be participating in the program.
Founding Open Studio artists and Diary regulars, Ona Henderson and Syd Tunn will also be opening the doors to their Bend Of Islands studio, an ‘Aladdin’s cave … abundant with magical adventures’.
The artists officially open their studios two weekends a year, in May and November, but many of the artists also run workshops at other times.
The weekend after Open Studios, May 11-12, Deborah will be holding one of her two-day mosaic workshops, where participants can create a mosaic piece from design to completion.
Later in the year, Research Potter, Jack Lätti will hold a workshop 
on wheelwork, hand building and raku firing.
Navigating around the 32 participating studios across the Shire has been made easier with the program being divided into geographical zones.
Studios in Zone A centre around  Eltham and Research and include Kate Hudson,  Chris and Mary-Lou Pittard, Wendy Hicks, Linda MacAulay, Sue McFarland, Glynis Brown, Clare Dunstan, Jacquie Hacansson and Jack Lätti.
Zone B includes artists from Warrandyte, Panton Hill, St Andrews and Bend Of Islands: Artek Halpern-Laurence and Deborah Halpern, Annette Nobes, Nerina Lascelles, Bruce Mckay, Ona Henderson and Syd Tunn, Tim Read and Jess Jarvie.
While Zone C features artists from Hurstbridge, Cottles Bridge and Plenty.
Nillumbik Artist Open Studios will be held on May 4-5, with participating studios opening their doors from 10 am until 5pm.
More information on Nillumbik Artists Open Studios can be found at artistsopenstudios.com.au

Bee-utiful artwork
This amazing artwork, which was commissioned to celebrate an international blockbuster film, now takes pride of place on the Tread Sculptures art trail in the Bend of Islands.
Artist Tim Read works with reclaimed steel to produce some incredible, imaginative works of art, often collaborating with fellow artists, such as glass artist Rob Hayley, who produced the glasswork for the eyes and wings on the sculpture Tim is calling Buzz.
“Rob is great to work with, very experimental and always up for a challenge, which is great as I knew we would be pushing the boundaries when it came to the glasswork for this piece,” Tim said.
Tread Sculptures is at 225 Catani Blvd, Bend Of Islands, Kangaroo Ground and will be open 4-5 May as part of Nillumbik Artist Open Studios, where local artists open their studios to visitors to meet the artists and get to see amazing pieces like Buzz in her natural environment.

Defib your community


Photo: DEE DICKSON

WARRANDYTE Community Bank Branch has recently purchased seven new automatic external defibrillators which have been installed throughout the greater Warrandyte area.

The defibrillators, which were purchased as part of the bank’s Defib Your Community program, were part of a $20,000 contribution by the local branch.

Branch Chair Aaron Farr said the defibrillators were one of the most important investments the bank has ever put into the community.

“Over the next 20 years, if one of our new defibrillators can be used to save one life, it will be worth all the money we’ve invested”.

Community liaison officer Dee Dickson said the program was something the bank was very passionate about.

“The directors are volunteers on the Board because they believe in community and want the best outcomes for our community.

“As soon as they heard about the program, they unanimously said ‘we’re in, let’s do it’.”

Ambulance Victoria figures show approximately 6,000 people suffer a cardiac arrest outside of hospital each year in Victoria.

The new defibrillators, which are fixed externally to buildings throughout the community, are accessible 24/7 and are designed to assist in these exact emergency scenarios.

Advanced Life Support Paramedic Bec Hodgson said with greater access to a defibrillator in the community, chances of surviving a cardiac arrest are greatly increased.

“The management of a patient between the time of collapse and the arrival of an ambulance is vital.

“Survival rates nearly double when a defibrillator has been used prior to paramedic arrival,” she said.

While most businesses will have a defibrillator, it may only be available during business hours, these new externally mounted units give people a chance when a cardiac arrest occurs outside of business hours — like on a Monday.

“If you’re going for a 7am walk along the river, they’re not available.

“Hopefully the community doesn’t need them, but these new external defibrillators are an insurance policy in case they do.”

As well as providing a priceless benefit to the community, the new defibrillators will relieve some of the stress for emergency services workers and volunteers, who respond to these calls.

“They may make the difference between a patient still being in cardiac arrest or having come out of it when the ambulance arrives,” said Ms Hodgson.

Aside from funding the program, the bank is also working with emergency services organisations to encourage those members of the community who already have defibrillators to register them with Ambulance Victoria.

The more defibrillators which are registered means an Emergency Services Telecommunication Agency worker can direct someone calling 000 to the nearest unit, potentially saving someone’s life.

“There’s no point in someone calling 000 and the operator not knowing there is a defibrillator two doors down because it’s not registered,” said Mr Farr.

The defibrillators were purchased through non-for-profit organisation Defib For Life, which also provides on-going support for the machines, including regular checks and training.

The bank will be working with Defib For Life to organise training sessions in the coming months for those interested in building confidence with the defibrillators.

Although proper training on how to use one of these units will mean they are used properly, and promptly during an emergency, Ms Hodgson says they are also designed so anyone can assist someone suffering from a cardiac arrest.

“The unit will talk you through what you need to do in simple steps and you will have the support of the 000 call taker also helping you through the process”.

Mr Farr said the training will be directed at building confidence with the machines.

“If you’re more confident in using something, you’re more likely to pick it up and use it.

“When people actually feel confident in using it, it empowers them to say, ‘I know how to make a difference myself’.

“So, it’s no longer just this daunting box on the side of the wall,” he said.

Warrandyte Community Bank will continue to fund the Defib Your Community program, and have two more defibrillators already lined up.

“We’re going to keep rolling them out until you can’t go 10 minutes without seeing one,” said Ms Dickson.

“By us dotting them around the community, with some even only 200 metres apart, we’re really increasing the outcomes for members of our community if something drastic happens.”

Ms Dickson reminds us that it is the profits gained from banking with Warrandyte Community Bank which goes towards funding projects like this and through locals and businesses banking locally, they can be proud knowing their money is being reinvested in the health of their local community.

“People are making a difference just by banking here — it’s so simple,” she said.

Members of the community with defibrillators can register them with Ambulance Victoria via www.reigstermyaed.ambulance.vic.gov.au or call 1800 233 734.

Anyone wishing to participate in training with the defibrillators can contact Dee Dickson via

community@warrandytecb.com.au

Nillumbik considers outsourcing ethanasia


NILLUMBIK Council is considering a report to cease providing a wildlife euthanising service across the Shire.

The service attends to the euthanasia of injured wildlife and domestic animals on both public and private land, in accordance with the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1968.

Wherever possible, qualified and accredited officers are obliged to minimise the suffering of injured animals where a recovery from injuries is unlikely.

The service also seeks to minimise the chance of injured wildlife creating a hazard on public roads.

The service is provided 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Currently, two licensed Rangers attend to incidents within business hours and a contractor delivers the service outside of business hours.

In May 2018, Council engaged Maddocks Lawyers and PPB Advisory (now part of PWC) to undertake an independent audit and review of its past, present and future management of its wildlife euthanising service and related management of firearms.

The audit report was presented to Council’s Audit Committee on August 13, 2018, due to the Committee’s risk management advisory role and expertise.

At its meeting, the Audit Committee decided that the Council should consider making alternative arrangements to deliver these services in the future.

Since then, officers have continued to seek alternatives for the provision of this service, and have commenced engaging with key stakeholders such as the Victoria Police and Wildlife Victoria in preparation for Council exiting this service.

In a report considered at the Council’s February Future Nillumbik Committee meeting, Councillors were briefed on a report which addressed the costs of providing this service, and the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) risks associated with the management and use of firearms in the day to day duties of Community Safety Officers (i.e. Rangers).

The report recommended that Council “support officers in engaging key stakeholders to develop an orderly exit from this service”.

The report went on to recommend:

  • Immediately cease providing the injured wildlife euthanisation service on private property and only focus on risks within the public realm.
  • Direct officers to continue an engage with Victoria Police, Wildlife Victoria and other stakeholder organisations in formulating an exit of this service.
  • Direct officers to negotiate a support package for Wildlife Victoria for a period of three years to ensure that they continue to be adequately funded within Nillumbik to provide this service as they do across the rest of Victoria.
  • Endorse a planned exit from the injured wildlife euthanisation service in its entirety by no later than June 30, 2019.

Council also heard that the financial benefit of exiting this service will be a direct cost saving of $56,000 annually as well as freeing up the time of Rangers to attend to other duties.

The report noted that the trend amongst other councils has been to pull out of this service, with all councils surveyed having stopped using firearms, while two have moved to using bolt guns.

“The remaining councils either ceased providing the service, or had never provided the service.

“Concerns relating to the overall risk of handling of firearms; whether councils really should be in the business of handling firearms; and points of decreasing demand, or access to other agencies (such as the police) being better suited to providing the service were all points put forward by these councils”, the report stated.

The Committee took the recommendations on advisement and has commissioned a period of public consultation and a further report to be considered at their May meeting.

New hope for Wonga Park shopping centre


THERE IS A NEW wave of optimism that the Wonga Park Village shops will be given a new lease of life.

The “For Lease” sign that has stood as a sentinel outside the derelict shopping strip for over a year was given the addition of an “Under New Ownership” sign in late February, and has been joined by some cyclone fencing around the perimeter of the centre.

On contacting the leasing agent, Lewis Waddell of Fitzroys Real Estate, it was confirmed that the site has been purchased by a developer who would like to remain anonymous at this time.

Mr Waddell told the Dairy that the new owner has submitted plans to redevelop and refurbish the site to “bring it back to life”.

The owner has plans for what, in his words, will be a “community revitalisation”, and is hoping to attract tenants for a variety of retail, medical and dining spaces.

“Depending on how the permit application goes the owner hopes [tenants will be able to move in] within the next three to six months,” said Mr Waddell.

Tenants were evicted from the shopping centre by the former owner three years ago.

Hairdresser, Lynn Munro received notice to vacate her Yarra Road salon just before Christmas of 2015.

“I received a letter on December 17, 2015 to say I had to vacate within four weeks,” she said.

Since then the shops in the precinct have remained empty, much to the frustration of Wonga Park locals.

“The owner was a local person, but she moved to Sydney and stopped renewing leases on all the shops, even the Post Office couldn’t continue to operate,” she said.

When the centre was put up for lease again last year there were hopes for activity at the site, but despite numerous enquiries from potential tenants, none of the shops were let.

“The shops were the heart and soul of Wonga Park, with everyone living on such big blocks it was a place for everyone to meet.

“When I was the last shop there, people would come in and say, ‘where can we get a coffee?’, but there was nowhere,” Ms Munro said.

Over the last three years, all attempts of contacting the now-former Sydney-based owner of the property have proven futile as Council, media and residents have had letters unanswered, phone calls cut off, and many questions left unanswered.

While the centre has been languishing unoccupied, the town has been resolute in maintaining their community spirit.

Wonga Park Farmers Market has been established in an attempt to reinvigorate the community, but this does not solve the village’s day-to-day needs, which, until the property is tenanted, are still unmet.

Angelo Kourambas, Director City Planning and Community at Manningham City Council said it was too early for Council to comment on the owner’s ideas for the site.

However, he said the Council welcomes the potential rejuvenation of the centre.

“Council is keen to see the Wonga Park Village Centre restored to a viable and vibrant local shopping and community precinct for the local community to enjoy,” he said.

Anyone interested in leasing space from the new owner can contact Lewis Waddell at Fitzroys Real Estate 0431 107 275.

 

Bridgeworks February 25 – March 8


EARLIER TODAY, VicRoads released their latest information update, detailing bridgeworks to take place over the next two week.

Between 7am and 5pm, Monday to Friday on weeks beginning February 25 and March 4, VicRoads contractors will be on-site installing expansion joints, and a “splitter island” at the south end of the bridge in the centre of the new pedestrian crossing.

The expansion joint will allow the bridge to flex in extreme weather conditions while the splitter island should be installed to complete the pedestrian crossing at the southern end of the bridge, separating the northbound from the southbound traffic.

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VicRoads have stated traffic management will be in place to ensure traffic is moving, even during lane closures and there may be speed restrictions in place.

With the works taking place only on weekdays between 7am and 5pm, although the morning peak may be affected by the bridgeworks, the evening peak traffic congestion should remain at its usual level.

“Plan ahead” as bridgeworks return


IN A MAJOR change of plan, VicRoads has announced with just four days’ advance notice that the resurfacing works on the bridge will commence next Monday, February 11 and are scheduled to take place for the full week in both daytime and night-time including the morning peak period.

Daytime works are scheduled to take place between 7am and 5pm from Monday, February 11 to Saturday, February 16.

Night-time works are scheduled to take place between 8pm and 5am from Tuesday, February 12 to Monday, February 18.

The suddenness of these works and the announcement of both day and night lane closures may come as a bit of a shock, when the Diary recently asked VicRoads about any further lane closures, Stephane Hinkeesing, Manager Structures Metro said:

“Over the coming weeks, we’ll be finalising our works including new asphalting on the bridge and permanent line marking.

“During these works, there may be some overnight temporary lane closures.”

The new update advises that during the above times there will be lane closures on the bridge; however traffic flow will be maintained with on-site traffic management, although it is unclear how many lanes will be open.

The latest email update also states:

“Works can only proceed under favourable weather conditions and can be impacted by rain, cold or excessive heat.

Contingency dates have been included in case of unfavourable weather.”

This would indicate — assuming all goes well — road users in Warrandyte may not need to suffer through a full week of lane closures.

But with peak time traffic still backing up, it is possible that any lane closures are going to have an adverse effect on already congested Warrandyte roads.

Take heed at VicRoads advice, plan ahead and assume the bridge is out of order for the second full week of February.

A decade on, artists reflect on time of Renewal

BLocal artists are using their art to heal the lingering wounds of the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires.

A metal dragonfly fashioned from old fencing and barbed wire is one of the works of art at Renewal — A Black Saturday Memorial Exhibition.

It commemorates a decade since the Black Saturday fires tore through Victoria, in one of the darkest days the State has ever experienced.

A dragonfly was the first sign of life artists Dawn and Gary McDonnell saw on their return to their Nillumbik property after the fires — and it became a symbol of hope and renewal to them.

The couple is among 60 artists showcasing their work at an exhibition which runs from January 25 – February 25 at two locations in Nillumbik.

Diary contributors, Ona Henderson and Syd Tunn also feature in the exhibition, which gives them an opportunity to reflect on the events of 2009.

The pair lost friends to the flames that day, and recall the worrying time spent as the fires threatened their Bend of Islands home.

Ona’s contribution to the exhibition, Ancient Silent Sentinels [right] comes through as a message of resilience.

Ona explains, “the 2009 bushfires burned hot throughout much of the bush but these graceful grasstrees started to sprout again quite quickly — silent sentinels with black trunk.

She said that the grasstrees became for her symbols of regeneration, as they often stand starkly in the landscape “to remind us of the ability to stand strong and resilient against the chaos and destruction that follows a huge bushfire”. 

Nillumbik Shire Council Mayor Karen Egan said like a phoenix rising from the ashes, a feeling of renewal, fuelled by hope and courage, had emerged in the community.

“Hope is a flame that burns eternally, and many artists have found creating works of art a cathartic experience,” Cr Egan said.

“Art speaks from the heart often saying what words cannot.”

Ona told the Diary of how, in the month’s following Black Saturday, she and Syd healed by collaborating on shared canvases.

“We both went through trauma where we could not paint for several months, and then we started painting on each other’s paintings, we started new paintings, which were healing paintings,” she said.

Last year, Council put a call out to artists inviting them to exhibit their work.

Their art includes a range of mediums — paintings, ceramics, sculptures, etchings, jewellery, print, wool, a digital movie and photographs.

Cr Egan said many of the works are paintings that reflect the scars on the landscape that have healed over time – an outward manifestation of emotional scars which are often less easy to heal.

Others works of art are less traditional. 

One is made from latex casts of fallen trees in the Kinglake National Park.

Cr Egan said for many artists, creating the pieces on display would have been a cathartic experience.

“Some works of art are for sale, others aren’t. 

“Some visitors to the galleries will smile, others will be reduced to tears.

“But what I believe all will take away with them is the message of courage, healing and hope,” Cr Egan said.

The exhibitions are at Wadambuk Art Gallery in St Andrews and the Eltham Library Community Gallery.

The exhibition was among seven Nillumbik community initiatives collectively awarded Victorian Government grants of nearly $33,000 to mark the 10th anniversary of Black Saturday.

Community attempts to rescue bus shelter walling

Concern on lack of consultation

A HUGE community effort has gone into mitigating the effects of a Public Transport Victoria (PTV) decision to reconstruct the 906 bus terminus at the bridge roundabout; demolishing a wall and damaging heritage stairs in the process.

This work is part of PTV’s ongoing future-proofing of bus stops in the area to allow for the potential introduction of bendy buses.

PTV handed the work over to VicRoads to manage as part of the bridge reconstruction and to be performed simultaneously to prevent the need for any further disruption.

VicRoads had been planning this work for some time and had applied to Manningham Council for an alteration to the original permit to include this work — a permit being required because of the heritage overlay applying to the site.

Manningham Council did not advertise this planning request, deeming it to be of minor nature, and in June 2018 they amended the original permit to include this work.

The Diary has learned from VicRoads correspondence that Council had referred the permit amendment to its heritage advisor and urban design team.

It was recommended that the works reuse as much of the existing stone work as possible and care should be taken to match the new stone wall in size, colour, arrangement and visibility.

The first that locals knew of this work was in mid-November when fencing was erected around the site and contractors began to demolish the existing heritage stone walling, which caused damage to the historic stone steps.

A group of concerned residents, along with the Warrandyte Historical Society (WHS), convened meetings with VicRoads and their subcontractors, reminding them of their community obligations and offered the pro-bono services of local conservation stonemason James Charlwood as a design consultant to oversee the rebuilding to the appropriate standards.

Warrandyte Historical Society President, Margaret Kelly, spoke to the Diary regarding the bus stop works.

“The Warrandyte Historical Society was disappointed that there had been no warning of the work to be undertaken on the bus stop wall (this would have allowed photos to be taken for archival purposes) or neither it or other community groups had been consulted on the project.

“This highly visible, central area of the Warrandyte Township Heritage Precinct is historically significant and the Society is concerned that any changes to any of the various elements should be in line with the relevant plans and guidelines.

“We were pleased with the community response and the quick involvement of individuals to try to ensure the best outcome,” she said.

Last year, WHS was successful in negotiating the fate of the Old Dairy with Council and Melbourne Water and are hopeful that this sort of consultation will happen again in the future.

WHS along with Warrandyte Community Association are meeting with Council this month to discuss heritage protection in Warrandyte.

Mr Charlwood has produced a comprehensive Concluding Report which is highly critical of VicRoads, the sub-contractors and Manningham Council for their inadequate provisions to protect the heritage assets.

A copy of the report is available from the Diary upon request.

Whilst to a layperson the finished result may look acceptable, Mr Charlwood is critical that the style of the new work fails to match the adjacent walling.

Others have commented that the diagonal cyclone fencing above the wall detracts from the overall look and feel.

And it is noted that despite all this work, nothing has yet been done to rectify the broken stonework rumble strip that separates the bus stop from the Yarra Street traffic.

It is not known whether further work is intended here, but it would be a shame to leave the broken stonework as is, as the surrounding area and roundabout have been rebuilt.

Theresa Dawson, who was a driving force behind the community initiative to preserve the wall told the Diary: “There are a lot of new people living here now who are more than likely unaware that the reason they are able to live in such a unique and beautiful suburb, in such close proximity to the CBD, is because of the tireless work through the 70s and 80s of the Warrandyte Environment League, WCA, many other diligent locals and the Diary, that acted impartially to present necessary facts to locals. 

“We need to continue to honour the legacy of all these groups and individuals by standing up and carrying on their work if we wish to continue enjoying such a lovely village with rich history.”

The last 24 months have seen community groups defending heritage in the face of utilitarian progress and the Diary looks forward to reporting on the plans to help maintain cultural heritage.

Nillumbik and Manningham Councils both tackle Green Wedge plans

Manningham’s C117 Planning Review published

THE REPORT from the independent Planning Panel enquiry into Manningham Council’s C117 Planning Scheme amendment has now been published.

The controversial amendment seeks to encourage tourist-related activities within the Green Wedge and had been the subject of a three-day hearing at Planning Panels Victoria in October at which many local individuals, community groups, businesses and the Council made presentations.

The Panel’s findings

The amendment proposes three related but potentially independent changes to clauses within the planning scheme.

The first of these is to change the Municipal Strategic Statement at Clause 21.07 to give greater support to tourism in the Rural Conservation Zone (RCZ).

The panel threw this change out, and recommended that changes to this clause be abandoned.

Changes to Clause 22.19 propose to allow outbuildings and sheds in the RCZ to the same extent as currently applies to the Low Density Residential Zone.

The panel found that these were reasonable.

The new local policy at Clause 22.20 intends to provide more guidance for non-residential land use applications in the RCZ, covering design, location and scale of new buildings.

The panel found that this clause provided useful guidance to applicants, but had some trouble with the wording and suggested improvements.

The Panel concluded that “the broader policy position to support more tourism in the Green Wedge is contrary to sound planning and runs counter to the purposes of the RCZ.”

However, it conceded that many of the issues with this broader policy position were beyond the scope of the Panel.

Community reaction

The Wedge Tails website, sponsored by the Warrandyte Community Association, the Friends of Nillumbik and the Green Wedge Protection Group describes the Panel’s report as “a major win for community involvement and for the values of the Green Wedge in the face of the usual commercial pressures.

“It is also evidence that the system can work as we would want it to.

“The Panel left no doubt that it understood the essential purposes of the Rural Conservation Zone and of the Green Wedge generally.”

Friends of Warrandyte State Park were delighted with the outcome of the panel hearing.

Lynda Gilbert said “FOWSP have been engaged in a number of environmental battles with other like-minded community groups to save the Green Wedge because there are so few places close to the city where humans can observe the wildlife and admire the flora in its natural state.

“There are some 24 restaurants and cafes in Warrandyte already, as well as several B&Bs and a caravan park nearby in Deep Creek, so we do not need any more development as it will severely impact on the habitat for our flora and fauna.

“Our only hope is that Manningham City Council accepts the Panel’s decision.”

Jamie Day, who is seeking to promote an eco-friendly low-impact tourist camping facility at Pound Bend said “I find it disappointing that it seems, in regard to tourism related business activity within the RCZ, the status quo might remain; that would restrict business activity that could be complementary to the area.”

Others who gave evidence at the panel hearing in favour of the amendment were approached for comment, but declined to say anything at this stage.

What happens next?

We now await the response of Manningham Council to the Panel’s report.

Lee Robson, Acting Director of City Planning and Community at Manningham Council told us “Council received the Independent Panel Report for Amendment C117 (Rural Areas Discretionary Land Uses) on December 19, 2018.

“The Report was made available to the public on Council’s website on January 8 this year and Council will consider the Panel’s recommendations at its Council Meeting on February 26, 2019.”

Manningham Council could choose to abandon the entire amendment, or they could put the amendment forward to the Minister for Planning either as it is or including some or all of the Panel’s recommendations.

The final decision will rest with the Minister.

For more information about the C117 amendment and a link to the Planning Panel report: yoursaymanningham.com.au/C117

Nillumbik Council divided over Green Wedge Management Plan

NILLUMBIK Council’s meeting on December 18 continued to run what appears to be a bunfight between Friends of Nillumbik in the one corner and Nillumbik Proactive Landowners Group (PALs)in the other.

As we reported in the December issue a community panel of 39 members had produced a 64-page Community Engagement Report to Nillumbik’s Green Wedge Management Plan (GWMP) of which 32 pages were the majority report, and a further 32 pages were a dissenting Minority Report, prepared by five resident hobby farmer panel members.

Because the full panel did not see and was unaware of this content Mayor Karen Egan determined it would not be considered by Council.

PALs have responded, saying the half of the report now being considered is “illegitimate”.

At the December meeting, Mayor Egan attempted to defuse the situation by saying Council welcomes a submission from the dissenting Panel members — and the wider community — on the draft Green Wedge Management Plan, which will be released for broader engagement in early 2019.

But the meeting quickly descended into farce with the seven amendments to edit various sections of the response document, many being lost on divisions, and personal accusations flying around the room in a meeting that lasted almost 3.5 hours.

The final resolution that passed with amendments requests Officers to commence writing the draft GWMP for consideration by March 2019 for the purposes of wider community engagement.

Council spokesman Licardo Prince told the Diary: “The aim remains for it to go to the March 26 meeting and then subsequently be put out for further community consultation.”

And Nillumbik Council problems are not confined to the Green Wedge issue.

The Council returned two weeks earlier than expected in the middle of January on a Thursday night at a special meeting to consider a motion to rescind a decision made at the December 11 meeting that refused a planning application.

The rescission motion was defeated, but not before Councillors blamed each other for calling the Special Meeting at additional expense to ratepayers.

This is a divided band of Councillors, and it will be interesting to see how they handle the proposed GWMP at their March meeting.

Nillumbik’s GWMP and links to the Engagement Report are at:
https://participate.nillumbik.vic.gov.au/gwmp