News

North East Link planning hots up

ACTIVITY IS RAMPING up in the planning for the North East Link, and the route to be chosen is by far the most contentious issue.

North East Link Authority (NELA)

NELA has confirmed their process of consultation will commence in July/August.

Their current investigations are concentrating on geotechnical testing and analysis.

Their website has a short video on the current program of drilling to take soil samples from 24 sites.

Geotechnical study sites (North East Link Authority website)

Whilst the line of drillings to the west of Warrandyte follows the expected path of the central route past Beasley’s Nursery, there is one curious drilling location shown in Warrandyte, south of the river around the Stonehouse Café area.

Katie Hall, Corporate Communications and Media Manager North East Link Authority, told the Diary “the drill locations on the video map are indicative of where drilling will take place but are not exact.

“Where the rigs are set up depends on where there is a suitable location such as a VicRoads reservation, and where we are missing information regarding the soil and rock profiles,” she said.

The current investigations will look at the suitability of tunnelling, cut and fill, gradients, vegetation, environmental and socioeconomic considerations.

NELA will then identify several corridors.

Each of the identified corridors will have a full analysis of the positives and negatives for each.

This process will not select a route for the NE Link; it is a broad corridor identification process only.

After the corridors have been identified, the first full round of public consultation by NELA will commence.

The consultations will allow the public to have input into the corridors identified and to make submissions with respect to their suitability.

Nillumbik Pro-Active Landowners (PALs)

The PALs group conducted a survey via their Facebook page, this survey received 146 responses.

47% of the responders were from Kangaroo Ground while only 1% were from North Warrandyte.

The overwhelming majority (94%) of respondents supported the North East Link with only 5% saying they did not support it.

While 70% objected to the road being built in Nillumbik, with 25% saying they approved of a Green Wedge route, and 65% supporting the link being mainly tunnel (12% against).

Spokesman for the PALs group, Max Parsons, told the Diary PALs will be working to ensure NELA understand, acknowledge and appreciate the importance of the Green Wedge to the residents and landowners in Nillumbik, as well as its state and national significance, Mr Parsons also stressed the importance of financial compensation for landowners.

“With a determined view to the primacy of human life in relation to bush fire risk, the loss of vegetation and Green Wedge areas, the dissection of and disruption to existing communities and the isolation of native fauna must all be factored into the equation to select an appropriate route for the North East Link.

“Should the North East Link proceed, affected landowners must receive appropriate market-based compensation for any acquired land or adjoining affected properties,” he said.

Warrandyte Community Association (WCA)

The WCA has expressed concern Banyule Council and residents are mounting a well-organised campaign advocating the Central Option to the west of Warrandyte as preferable to the shorter route running down to andunder the Banyule river flats to join the Eastern Freeway at Bulleen.

Convenor of the Warrandyte Community Association subcommittee working on this issue, Carli Lange-Boutle, feels the action in Banyule could have serious impact on Warrandyte.

“The Government plans to start construction on the Link in 2019 and community groups and Councils along the various routes are linking up and preparing to argue against a route through their communities,” she said

The WCA understands the public will have only six weeks in which to respond to the NELA Route Options paper, planned for issue in late July so the research needed to lodge an objection needs to begin now.

The WCA is alarmed at the potential impact of the Greensborough–Ringwood route.

The borehole location figure on the NELA website confirms the Authority is considering an alignment parallel to the high voltage powerline easements running from St Helena to Ringwood, crossing or passing under the Yarra River near Target Road in Warrandyte.

At 19 km long, this route would be over twice the length of the Banyule route and unless extensive tunnelling is used, it would impact the Diamond and Mullum Mullum Creeks, as well as the Yarra River.

Mrs Lange-Boutle says, “Access ramps at Reynolds Road near Springvale Rd seem likely for this route option and this could generate serious traffic volumes for Yarra Street Warrandyte, including Warrandyte Bridge traffic and through the neighbouring Donvale and Park Orchards.

“There is also great concern for the health of the Mullum Mullum Creek and Yarra River.

“We need to consider all impacts to our communities; economically, socially and environmentally,” she said.

There is also pressure from the east.

Nillumbik groups are preparing to argue against the routes through the Green Wedge areas of Kangaroo Ground and Christmas Hills; there are serious environmental issues along these routes too.

The WCA has urged Warrandyte residents to take an active interest on this issue

Manningham City Council

Unlike other municipalities, Manningham City Council seems to be sitting on the fence when it comesto taking a position on the route the North East Link should take.

Last month Director of Assets and Engineering, Leigh Harrison, advised the Diary the “council does not currently have a formal position on the proposal”.

The council has an Integrated Transport Advisory Subcommittee (ITAC), but Mr Harrison advised “The ITAC is an advisory committee and, as such, does not formulate policy for Council’s consideration.

“The committee can agree on a view in relation to North East Link however, to date, the level of detail associated with the North East Link is too abstract to determine any concrete direction,” he said.

Their reluctance to take a position is perhaps understandable when it is considered a number of route options pass within their boundaries.

Nillumbik Shire Council

Nillumbik council officers and Councillors Karen Egan and Jane Ashton have reached agreement with NELA to hold several information sessions for local communities within the Nillumbik investigation area to talk with NELA representatives about their process, opportunities, issues and the challenges North East Link will bring so that they can use what they learn in their decision making.

The sessions are planned to be held:

  • Sunday July 23 — 9am – 12pm Eltham Town Square
  • Monday July 24 — 5pm – 8pm Nillumbik Civic Centre Greensborough
  • Saturday July 29 — 10am – 1:30pm Diamond Creek Community Centre
  • Sunday July 30 — 10am – 12:30pm Research shops

Jane Ashton said on Facebook she is aiming to organise for a meeting in Kangaroo Ground “as this is where people who care live”.

Narelle Campbell, from the No Rural Link group who have started the social media hashtag #buildthelinkbutdontsplitthewedge are opposing the road passing through the Green Wedge.

Ms Campbell thinks the sessions are “a great opportunity for our communities to engage with NELA face to face in a reasonable, evidence based, informal and passionate way”.

More formal information, engagement and feedback sessions are planned once corridors are identified and announced in August.

The North East Link Authority are not going to have an easy time ahead of them north-east Melbourne seems to find itself in a situation where most people want the link but very few want it anywhere near them.

Major upgrade for Jumping Creek Road

AFTER 17 RECORDED vehicle crashes in four years, Manningham Council began the process for a major upgrade to Jumping Creek Road in July 2016.

At an estimated cost of $17.9M and a construction period of six years, works are scheduled to begin in 2018, after the next fire danger period has ended and assuming the necessary permits have been issued.

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

Manningham Council estimates Jumping Creek Road currently carries more than 8000 vehicles per day, a number which is expected to of doubled by 2035.

Taking into account the number of accidents on this important artery, Manningham believe the road, which is already failing to keep drivers safe will be unable to accommodate a major increase in traffic without an upgrade.

The works will include roadway realignment, roundabouts, 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.

This last adjustment will deliver greater accessibility to the Wonga Park community as well as improving safety for cyclists and pedestrians.

As part of the development process, Manningham Council have formed the Jumping Creek Road Community Reference Panel, a panel which consists of residents, businesses and community groups which are directly affected by Jumping Creek Road.

Mr Leigh Harrison, Director of Assets and Engineering for Manningham Council spoke to the Diary, explaining the role the panel will play in the forthcoming upgrade.

“The Jumping Creek Road Community Reference Panel will provide an important and long term opportunity for the community to highlight issues, queries and provide feedback on proposals to upgrade Jumping Creek Road.

“[The panel] will also help guide the materials and finishes, path widths, replanting opportunities, fauna crossings, street lighting, pedestrian crossing locations, non-regulatory signage, roadside aesthetics, emergency stopping bay locations, the Dudley Road/Yarra Road/Jumping Creek Road intersection surface treatment and the extent and nature of equestrian treatments,” he said.

Residents will get the opportunity to express their thoughts on the road upgrade via the Community Reference Panel, as well as via the Manningham “Your Say” page.

However, one major concern will be traffic congestion.

The Diary asked Mr Harrison what steps have been taken to minimise further congestion to an already heavily congested area.

“The key objectives of this project are to improve safety for all users, including motorists, cyclists and pedestrians, and to accommodate the forecasted increase in traffic volumes — which is expected to double to 15,000 vehicles per day by 2035.

“During our consultation process, concerns were raised about traffic congestion at the Jumping Creek Road and Homestead Road intersection — located on the municipal boundary between the Shire of Yarra Ranges and the City of Manningham.

“Council is working with the Shire of Yarra Ranges to address resident concerns regarding this intersection.

“Some traffic disruption during works of this scale is unavoidable,” he said.

Jumping Creek Road Upgrade plan courtesy of the Manningham “YourSay” page

Electoral Tribunal sends Koonung ward back to the ballot box

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bridge work further delayed awaiting permits

• Contractor now known but not yet announced

• VicRoads in meetings with objectors for Manningham permit

• Nillumbik permit still stalled

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

North side of the bridge

In terms of progress not much has happened.

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

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

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

We await further progress with interest.

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

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

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

• Engaged, connected communities.

• Active and creative people.

• Safe and healthy environments.

• A prosperous economy.

• Responsible leadership.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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