News

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

Bridge works slip a further two months

THE DECEMBER Bridge Update Bulletin from VicRoads is now to hand and quietly announces a further major slip to the completion date, which is now listed as “late-February”.
Considering that these works were due to be completed by the end of September and at that time slipped a further three months to “before end of 2018” it is fair to say that the project completion now slips by two months every three months.
And interestingly the contact phone numbers and email addresses for further queries have been removed from the latest bulletin.
We had all expected that the night lane closures scheduled for next week would put the final surface and line markings on the bridge and enable it to be fully opened but we now learn that this work will now not take place until late-January and not be complete until late-February.
All three lanes are now open on the bridge, with temporary barriers separating the northbound from the southbound traffic, and there has been much discussion on social media at the relative narrowness of the lanes and folk are asking why it was necessary to have two footpaths at the expense of lane width.
A single night of lane closure next week is scheduled for either Tuesday 18 or Wednesday 19 December to do some further lane marking, but obviously this will not be the finished job.
Work scheduled for the rest of December involves completing the bus stop upgrade, installing traffic signage, completing pedestrian fencing and packing up the site facilities.
Looking on the brighter side, it would seem that we do at least get all three lanes open during the upcoming fire season.

 

 

Cartoon: COREY UPCYCLED BY ONA & SYD

Bridgeworks nearing completion

AFTER almost a year of disruption, and occasional chaos, the bridgeworks are now heading towards completion.

Night works and single lane closures, scheduled for December 1 to 4, to allow the construction team to seal the bridge surface, complete the lane markings and remove the remaining barriers were postposed due to bad weather and have not yet been rescheduled.

A further night of single-lane working on December 8 installed street lighting.

The work is looking very eye-pleasing, with colourful bollards and local stone cairns — sensitively designed echoes of stone end walls — at each of the abutments to the bridge.

Fitting of the green railings each side of the roadway and removal of most of the scaffolding from under the bridge was recently completed.

The further remedial work on the high voltage power cable over the Yarra associated with the bridgework was finally completed in the early hours of Sunday December 9 with a power outage affecting 446 residents.

Further works to be completed include finishing new shared use paths, finalising asphalting and line marking on the bridge, removing all remaining temporary barriers, installing the remaining street lighting, providing power and communications to the traffic lights, further strengthening works underneath the bridge, reinstatement of the Queen of the Shire and landscaping works.

The new bus stop works are being delivered by VicRoads on behalf of Public Transport Victoria (PTV) to extend the bus stop, allowing room for articulated buses on the road.

Traffic light troubles

The traffic lights at the corner of Research-Warrandyte Road and Kangaroo Ground-Warrandyte Road became operational on November 20.

Fatima Mohamed, VicRoads Director Metropolitan Assets, tells us “These new traffic lights have improved traffic flow and boosted safety at the intersection of Research-Warrandyte Road and Kangaroo Ground-Warrandyte Road and we appreciate the community’s patience during these important works.”

Although the traffic lights have been operational since November 20 there has been no power or communications laid on to the site, and the traffic lights are running off a generator.

Digital road rage

Last month, the community and road users continued to vent their frustrations on social media, this time directed at the newly activated traffic lights.

Complaints on social media indicated there was too much priority to traffic on Research Road and motorists stuck in traffic on Kangaroo Ground Road were falling back on old habits and speeding along the Blooms Road rat-run.

But it is the evening traffic that caused the most complaints, with the lights stopping northbound traffic across the bridge, and bridge traffic from Ringwood locking out traffic from the village.

Residents and commuters who have taken their complaints directly to VicRoads have told the Diary they are being advised “VicRoads is currently liaising with Telstra to get the permanent network connection installed which will allow real time adjustment of the signals and we anticipate that there will be tweaks to the signal timings based on traffic volumes once they are fully operational.”

Some adjustment must already be taking place as there has been a substantial improvement in traffic flow during the last week.

 Traffic flow

Despite criticism of the peak hour queues though Warrandyte, it must be remembered that the primary objective of the upgrade is in relation to bushfire evacuation, and to that extent the recent Bushfire Insurance Forum (see Page 7) was told that the emergency services have welcomed the works and believe that the bridge upgrade has greatly improved the situation in an emergency.

“Whilst the emergency services believe that the bridge upgrade has improved the situation, it is not a panacea and there will still be huge problems on the roads if an evacuation is required.”

The CFA message has always been to leave early and even with two southbound lanes, this message is more important than ever.