News

Saturday’s Festival program cancelled

Due to the SEVERE Fire Danger rating and a Total Fire Ban in place, the SATURDAY program for the Warrandyte Festival has been cancelled.

The Warrandyte Festival Committee have released the following statement.

It is with regret that the Warrandyte Festival Committee has decided, in accordance with our Cancellation Policy, to cancel all festival activities and performances for Saturday 17th March.

This decision was made in consultation with the CFA, Victoria Police, the SES and Manningham Council.

Prior to this decision, the Victorian Education Department had already issued a directive prohibiting local government schools from participating on the Saturday.

Our decision is not taken lightly, but community safety is our priority.

All Friday evening and Sunday activities and performances will proceed as per the published programme.

Thank you for your understanding, and please stay safe.

The Warrandyte Diary is across all Warrandyte Festival updates and will post here and on our Facebook page if there are any further changes to this plan.

Information on the current and Fire Danger ratings and when and where Total Fire Bans are in place can be found here.

More power problems plague Warrandyte

ELECTRICITY consumers in Warrandyte and North Warrandyte have experienced a number of planned and unplanned power outages in the last three months with further planned outages still to come.

Urgent work on critical pole

A spokesman from AusNet Services spokesman Hugo Armstrong has advised the Diary that a wooden power pole in the RSL grounds to the southwest of the bridge roundabout is riddled with termites and has to be replaced as a matter of urgency.

This pole carries 22kV High Voltage (HV) 3-wire cables east and west along Yarra Street and also joins the newly-installed bundled HV electrical cable which spans the river and carries power up Kangaroo Ground Road and to adjoining residential properties.

The work has been scheduled during the day on Tuesday March 20 and a power outage will affect the approximately 500 residents and businesses who were also without power on January 19 and 20 for the bridge works.

This work will be done by AusNet subcontractors.

AusNet advise that they will do their best to keep power on for the businesses in Yarra Street served by this cable, either by means of generators or by reconfiguration.

This job will be particularly tricky as the pole is in a difficult place for access, and while it is intended to keep Yarra Street open there will be complex traffic management issues and traffic delays are expected on March 20.

Further work in relation to bridge widening

To complicate matters further, as a completely separate issue the bridge contractors need further work to be done on the HV cable crossing the river and associated poles.

As a result, the same consumers will have two further daytime planned outages.

That work will be done by licensed electrical subcontractors to VicRoads.

AusNet are insisting that this latter work not be done in March but be spaced out to give long-suffering consumers some breathing space.

All affected customers will be notified in advance of these planned outages.

AusNet have asked the Diary to convey their sincere apologies to the affected customers and emphasise that they are well aware of the inconvenience caused and are doing their very best to minimise disruptions.

Later work

We announced in the May 2017 issue that the Victorian Government’s Powerline Bushfire Safety Program was completed and this had replaced 3-wire HV powerlines in North Warrandyte areas with bundled cable to reduce bushfire risks.

However, this work did not extend to replacing existing old bundled cable such as that spanning the river.

The works on January 19 and 20 replaced the old bundled cable across the river for about 5 poles up to Castle Road, but we believe that the old cable continues on past that point.

We have come across a statement from AusNet regarding the North Warrandyte power supply: “AusNet Services will replace the remaining sections of HV aerial bundled cable along this line in the coming months.

“No dates have been set as yet, but we will advise affected residents well in advance.”

Recent outages

AusNet Services released a bulletin dated January 18 entitled “Update on North Warrandyte Power Supply” which was sent by text message to all those North Warrandyte residents who had experienced recent power outages and who had a mobile phone number notified to their electricity retailer.

The bulletin lists the causes of unplanned power problems in the previous six weeks including:

  • On December 9, a tree brought down overhead powerlines, which caused an extended fault and required tree clearers, traffic control and construction crews to rectify.
  • On January 6, a 40 degree, extreme fire danger day, there was a burnt out HV overhead cable fault near the bridge, which caused a ‘flashover’ along the overhead wire.
  • On January 11, a possum came into contact with an HV switch on Bradleys Lane, causing an outage, and as a result, the switch configuration has now been modified to prevent further possum incidents.

Additionally, on January 19 and 20 an overnight scheduled outage enabled replacement and rerouting of the HV cable across the river.

The bulletin concludes: “We are optimistic that both the reliability and safety of this part of the community have been enhanced, and you will experience better reliability in the future.”

On March 7, another possum incident caused further unplanned outages.

Mr Armstrong told the Diary “Following the possum incident on January 11 we had hoped that the modifications to the switchgear would prevent further similar incidents.

“Unfortunately, the possums had other ideas and we are now researching further solutions in attempt to minimise possum problems”.

One resident in Aton Street claims to have had a power outage every day between January 4 and 19 and has made a formal complaint to the Ombudsman.

Unplanned outages and compensation

One of the benefits of the Victorian Government’s Powerline Bushfire Safety Program completed last year was touted as being that it would improve reliability, a claim which residents are continuing to doubt.

Community frustration is growing at the continuing number of unplanned “recloser trips” being experienced almost on a weekly basis.

The recloser trip is a safety mechanism that cuts power to a localised area when there is an overload or abnormality (such as caused by possum activity) and then attempts to restore power a few seconds later.

This generally causes desktop computers and modems to reboot and causes clocks on microwaves or ovens to flash until reset.

AusNet Services are obliged to comply with a complex list of Guaranteed Service Levels (GSL) which provide for compensation if unplanned outages exceed certain targets in any calendar year.

There is no inclusion of planned outages in the GSL targets, that is those interruptions which have been notified to the consumer in advance, nor any provision for compensation for same, although sometimes ex-gratia payments are made.

The compensation starts at $30 if there are more than 24 momentary interruptions in a year, and $40 for more than 36 momentary interruptions.

Unfortunately, AusNet Services do not provide online access to the service interruption records for any property, and although details can be requested it takes a few days for a response.

The compliance with GSL targets for each residence is evaluated in February each year, and compensation payments where due are advised to the customer’s retailer in March and a credit allowed on the next bill.

However, the point at which the compensation starts is set so high that payments are — relatively speaking — rarely made, and the compensation of $30 or $40 feels like a drop in the ocean when compared with the $400+ fee per year that consumers are being charged for “service to property” before they have even started to consume any electricity.

Thousands turn out to defend Green Wedge

OVER THREE thousand people took to the streets of Eltham in a recent rally to protest the plans for Nillumbik Council to sell 17 parcels of public land.

The Council claims a lack of funding from State government for their plans to extend the Diamond Valley Trail and upgrade other sporting facilities as the reason why they have turned to the sell-off to get their infrastructure projects delivered.

But the community aren’t buying it.

Rally organiser Nerida Kirov from Save Community Spaces told the Diary that this flies in the face of the platform that Mayor Peter Clarke was elected on.

“This Council was elected on a platform of fiscal responsibility, they chose not to raise rates last year, despite the fact they knew costs would continue to increase”.

She says now Council are crying poor.

“The truth is that the rate of council debt is not high compared to other councils,” Ms Kirov said.

In an open letter to Council, State Member for Eltham Vicky Ward said that government have given Nillumbik Council $22 million dollars in the last few years for public infrastructure projects.

Ms Ward refutes claims that the government has not provided funding for the proposed works.

“The Andrews Labor Government has provided $1.2m for Stage 1 of the trail, an underpass for the rail line at Diamond Creek.

“This is in addition to $2.8 million for the Diamond Creek netball courts, $2.5m for the Diamond Valley Sports and Fitness Centre, $800,000 for Eltham Central Clubrooms and $416,650 for Marngrook Oval.”

Ms Ward called on Council to seek alternative sources of funding, such as from the Federal Government, rather than sell off the urban reserves.

The protesters are at a loss to understand the Council’s urgency to complete these projects.

“We don’t understand the rush to get this all done at once,” said Ms Kirov.

“The land that they want to sell is designated public land in the most built up part of the Shire, land that developers were required to set aside for public use.

“We are not against the walking trail at some stage, but not at the expense of public space,” Ms Kirov told the Diary.

Scholarship gives students a kick start

WARRANDYTE COMMUNITY Bank Branch scholarships for 2018 have been awarded to Eilish Kelly and Annie Marsh-Pearson, helping to supplement their study costs of higher education.

They join Alex Ward who is commencing her second year of scholarship funding whilst attending university in Ballarat.

The Warrandyte Community Bank Scholarship is part of Bendigo and Adelaide Bank’s Scholarship program, which across the network has invested more than $6.5 million into helping 568 Australian students realise their higher education dreams.

Scholarships are awarded to first-time tertiary students whose circumstances might mean that a TAFE course or university degree is otherwise out of their reach, with funding being delivered over the first two years of tertiary study and first year of TAFE.

This is the seventh year Warrandyte Community Bank Branch has offered scholarships, and the first time applications were open to students attending TAFE, validating the Bank’s Board of Director’s commitment to supporting local youth in furthering their education.

“Our branch is proud of these young people looking to further their education by attending TAFE and university,” Aaron Farr, chairman of Warrandyte Community Bank Branch said.

“The calibre of applicants we had for this year’s scholarship highlighted that our young people are an absolute asset to our local community.

“We are pleased that our investment in Annie, Eilish and Alex’s further education will help them focus on their studies and help lay a solid foundation for success,” Aaron added.

Recently the chairman along with branch manager, Cheryl Meikle had the pleasure of meeting these three wonderful young locals when the bank announced its 2018 scholarship recipients.

Following the new protocol this year which has opened up opportunities for students attending TAFE, Eilish is the first recipient of a TAFE scholarship.

She is attending Holmesglen Institute and is studying an Advanced Diploma of Justice, a two year full time course.

She is hoping to end up in the police force or have a career within the justice field.

Annie has overcome major health issues which have had a significant impact on her secondary school years.

She is about to embark on her tertiary education after accepting a place in a Bachelor of Nutrition Science Course at Deakin University.

“I am grateful to Warrandyte Community Bank Branch for helping me to attend university and to follow my passion for paediatric dietetics,” Annie said.

Alex is in her second year at Australian Catholic University (ACU) in Ballarat.

She is continuing with a double degree in Nursing and Paramedicine.

The first year of scholarship funding enabled Alex to enjoy a smooth transition into university life.

It has helped her to meet the costs of living and studying whilst living out of home.

“Moving away from home was a big change for me.

“The scholarship ensured I was able to settle into university life without the added pressure of financial stress.

“I am truly grateful for this opportunity, as are my parents,” she said.

The annual Warrandyte Community Bank scholarship helps first-year university students on their path to tertiary education with a $10,000 bursary over two years ($5,000 each year) or a one off payment of $5,000 for TAFE.

To be eligible, applicants must meet various criteria including residing in the local area, be academically motivated, involved in the community and be able to detail financial or social challenges which hinder their ability to undertake further study.

Bridgeworks finally commence

THE LONG-AWAITED works to upgrade Warrandyte Bridge finally commenced on January 15.

Major traffic disruption is expected over two full weekends in March when the Warrandyte Bridge will be completely closed to traffic on the Saturday and Sunday.

There may also be another full weekend closure in July.

Although VicRoads has not yet decided which two weekends in March are designated for the closures, they have confirmed that the bridge will remain open for the Festival weekend of March 17–18.

Whisper around the traps is that they may avoid the Labour Day long weekend of March 10–12, which leaves the possibility of March 3–4 and March 24–25, although the actual dates will be confirmed in February.

Residents planning trips during March weekends may need to reschedule their activities or plan for extra time as crossing the river during those two weekends will involve a 25km long diversion through Templestowe, Eltham and Research.

VicRoads has also confirmed that these bridge closures will be postponed if the Fire Danger Rating for Central District reaches Severe or above, or on days of Total Fire Ban.

CFA captains Trent Burris of North Warrandyte and Adrian Mullens of Warrandyte have advised the Diary that the emergency services have been fully consulted and they are both happy with the arrangements.

In the event of fire callouts during these closures, supporting brigades will be called from the same side of the river as the incident.

Now that it has officially started, the works which subcontractors VEC Civil Engineering Pty. Ltd. will be undertaking involve:

• Increasing the number of traffic lanes on the bridge from two to three, with two lanes southbound.

• New footpaths, including a shared user path for cyclists and pedestrians on the west side of the bridge.

• A wider intersection on the north side with traffic lights at the intersection of Research-Warrandyte Road and Kangaroo Ground-Warrandyte Road.

• A new left-turn slip lane on Yarra Street eastbound for traffic turning left onto the bridge.

The worksite is at the Lions’ tennis courts on the southwest side of the bridge, and already some of the fencing has been demolished and contractors’ sheds and amenities installed.

Lions Club of Warrandyte president Jenni Dean told the Diary, “The tennis courts have not been well used recently and are a burden to maintain and run.

“We have been in discussions with Manningham Council and VicRoads and have agreed that the courts can be used as the worksite for the duration of the works, after which they will be turned into an outdoor fitness and recreation area.”

A spokesperson for Manningham Council’s Landscape and Leisure department, told the Diary that once the works were completed it was intended to completely demolish the worksite, tennis courts and fencing and turn the area into beautiful landscaped public open space with unrestricted access from the car park down to the Yarra.

Works undertaken on the weekend of January 20–21 saw the bridge taken down to one lane and an overnight power outage, works included:

• Removing light poles.

• Removing three trees on the south side.

• Removing sections of the road surface in preparation for a new surface

• Installing barriers and temporary yellow lane markings on the bridge, with restricted lane widths.

• Removing the pedestrian traffic island on the north side of the roundabout – much later a zebra crossing will be installed.

• Renewing the 22kV bundled electrical cable which spans the Yarra to the west of the bridge and relocating poles so as to be out of the way of the upcoming works.

Over the next few weeks, works will include installing scaffolding around the bridge and the temporary removal of the Queen of the Shire.

Until the work nears completion, there will be no access for pedestrians on the north side of Yarra Street to cross Kangaroo Ground road at the bridge roundabout.

Pedestrians will need to cross to the south side at the roundabout, walk past the bus stop, and cross back again on the other side, or use the river path under the bridge.