Bulletin

Category for WD Bulletin originated stories

Shopping centres shuttered

OUR ONCE bustling shopping centres now resemble museums to commercialism — shop shutters locked in place, and lights dimmed.
While we often focus on how local businesses are doing; the butchers, the milk bar, the IGA, how often do we extend that thought to the traders at Eastland, The Pines, or Doncaster Shopping Town.?

Stockland The Pines, a once bustling hub for your everyday shopping needs, is now filled with visions of shutters and muted light amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shopping has been hard the past few months, especially for those behind the counter, with many vendors having to constantly adapt to ever changing lockdown restrictions.

The combination of business restrictions and the public making shopping and lifestyle choices minimising their movement, the swathe of retail and hospitality businesses within The Pines have seen significant drop-offs in their customer numbers.

While some coffee shops and eateries within The Pines have opted to take up the takeaway only option — such as Indulgence Café and Chirpy Chix — and weather the pandemic, many, facing dwindling shopper numbers, have opted to close.

Indulgence Café has been a Pines favourite for the 15 years — with decadent cakes, coffees and a homey brunch menu, the café was often busy, as shoppers took time out during their shop.

Café’s Manager, Shantha, says it is important to continue trading during these tough times, to maintain a sense of normality.

“We want to look after the regulars and keep the community spirit around,” she said.

Shantha says the encouragement to keep going is reflected through their regular customers.

“Our regulars supported us so much,” she said.

While the new culture of take away and delivery has provided a buoyancy aid for many hospitality businesses, charcoal chicken shop, Chirpy Chix’s owner Madrit told WD Bulletin that the dine-in experience is a big part of cuisine culture for many businesses, and these businesses are beginning to feel the impact of reduced foot traffic.

“Weekdays are quiet, not like they used to be,” he said.

Recently, the Victorian Government announced the $3 billion business support package which Premier Daniel Andrews described as the “biggest package of business support” the state has ever obtained.

Over $1.1B in cash grants will be allocated to small and medium-sized businesses, those vendors most affected by tough lockdown restrictions.

As Melburnians patiently wait for metropolitan restrictions to be relaxed, the Victorian Government will invest $44 million to aid businesses in easing and adapting toward our new COVID Normal.

But Madrit says, for businesses like his who are reliant on the dine-in experience, this support is not enough.

With plummeting sales, loss of customers and staff concerned about catching Coronavirus, the emotional and financial losses are not offset by government payments.

The prolonged restrictions are also beginning to impact the day-to-day legal matters, like rent.

Negotiations with landlords can be stressful at the best of times, let alone during a global health crisis.

Madrit says small businesses are having to quickly learn and adjust to negotiating with landlords, often without help, making these conversations difficult to navigate.

Some, like Madrit, have resorted to employing a middleman to help with lease negotiations and he says this has eased some of the burden of having to deal with this crisis, and the mechanics of running a business.

However, there is a glimmer of hope, Madrit says small and medium businesses are “fighting every day”.

“Stress is there, anxiety is there — but we have to be positive about it.”

As active cases fall and regional Victoria beginning to open up, there is hope that a café culture will return soon, albeit through a COVID Normal filter.

WD Bulletin also spoke with The Pines Centre Management but they did not wish to comment.

However, when these restrictions took hold in late July, The Pines put out a statement on their website expressing their support for struggling businesses.

“The health, safety and wellbeing of our customers, retailers, team members and the wider community is our highest priority so we are taking extra precautions to ensure our centres are clean, hygienic and minimise large scale interactions.

“We know this is a unique and changing situation, but we’re all in it together.

“We’re proud to be part of a community that can support each other.”

Lease help for retailers

On Friday, September 18, the Victorian Government announced changes in the Retail Leases Act 2003.

The changes focus on making it easier for small business owners to get their security deposits back more promptly, in addition to making leases and legal obligations easier to understand.

  • Key edits to the act include:
  • Landlords informing tenants of rent increases prior to lease extensions.
  • An additional seven days to consider terms and conditions proposed in a lease.
  • A maximum of 30 days for the return of a security deposit.

The Government is also extending further support to affected parties through the Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme as well as the Commercial Landlord Hardship Fund.

The Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme, introduced on March 29, 2020, provides rent reductions for small-to-medium sized businesses who’s income has been directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It also puts a freeze on evictions for rent non-payment for those businesses with an annual turnover of under $50M, that have also experienced a minimum 30 per cent reduction in turnover due to COVID-19.

The Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme offers grants of up to $3,000 per tenancy to eligible landlords experiencing financial hardship due to rent reductions.

Additionally, the Government is offering free mediation through the Victorian Small Business Commission, whereby mediators are appointed to help resolve any persisting disputes between renters and landlords — creating an accessible service for businesses who do not have the means to outsource.

Minister for Small Businesses, Jaala Pulford said the scheme was about accessibility and a better understanding of retail leases.

“This is about giving business owners a fair go in tough times and providing certainty for all parties.”

The announcement will be good news for struggling commercial renters and will hopefully alleviate some of the stresses small businesses face when it comes to tenancy, especially when the state is a long way from business as usual.

On the campaign trail

CAMPAIGNING for the 2020 Local Elections has begun and, as we go to print, we are approaching the end of the candidate nomination period.

Those wishing to nominate will need to complete the registration process by 12pm on Tuesday, September 22.

Ballot packs will be mailed out between October 6 and October 8, and registered voters will have until 6pm on October 23 to return their ballot paper.

The Victorian Government has published a detailed breakdown of what campaign activities are permitted under the various steps of their roadmap to COVID Normal.

For candidates in metro-Melbourne, unless there is a further, dramatic and significant drop in active cases and the 14-day average drops below five — the threshold for Step 3 which would bring metro-Melbourne in line with regional Victoria — campaigning for the 2020 local elections is going to play out in our mail boxes, in our newspapers and on social media.

Under Step 1 and Step 2, candidates and their campaign team are permitted to conduct letterbox drops, and bill poster activities within the ward they are campaigning for.

Door knocking, public meetings and face-to-face campaigning is not permitted.

History shows that a public figure’s ability to effectively harness the power of a new communication tool can make or break their campaign.

From the first televised presidential debates in the United States of America in 1960 which historically dubbed John F. Kennedy as “the first television president” for his effective use of the “new” medium of television to speak directly to public, to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign which was significantly bolstered by his use of Twitter, a platform that to this day still plays a big role in commentary and analysis of his time in the White House.

The effective, and ineffective, use of social media platforms have become part of the fabric of national politics both here and around the world and COVID-19 may mean the October 26 local elections may be won and lost on the succinctness of a candidates words and the savviness of their social media.

In October’s Warrandyte Diary and WD Bulletin, we will give candidates in Manningham and Nillumbik the opportunity to present their campaign, ahead of the voting deadline.

In the meantime, now is a good opportunity for voters to get to know their wards.

A combination of the Victorian Electoral Commission’s Representation Review in 2019 and the change to ward structure as part of the newly implemented Local Government Act 2020 means the ward you have previously voted in may not be the ward you vote in this time.

Saving Gooligulch


MANNINGHAM COUNCIL has responded to an outcry from Wonga Park residents around the redevelopment of the historic Golligulch Playground.
Council initially released three options for the playgrounds in Wonga Park, to remodel two areas, the Gooligulch Playground and the Dudley Reserve playground.
Council’s Your Say website proposed removing the current Gooligulch playground and replacing it with either a Nature Playspace for young children, a ropes course aimed at teens, or a small basic facility, which would be offset with a “destination” playground constructed in Dudley Reserve.
However, following a flurry of comments on social media, a petition and numerous letters to Council, the website was amended to acknowledge the importance of the Gooligulch Playspace, Council added a comments section to the survey, which they extended by two weeks.
Frank Vassilacos, Acting Manager Integrated Planning at Manningham Council said in a letter to the Warrandyte Community Association, which has been provided to the Dairy: “We acknowledge that the initial material we provided through our website may not have adequately represented the existing historical elements.
“For that, we sincerely apologise for any angst or concern this may have created”.
Niall Sheehy , Manningham Council’s Acting Director City Planning and Community told the Diary: “Manningham Council is currently seeking feedback on proposals for play spaces in the Wonga Park area, including at Wonga Park Reserve and Dudley Reserve, to understand the needs of the local community and how they may have changed since the play spaces were first installed”.Wonga Park resident, Ros Forrest told the Diary that the community is upset both about the lack of consultation to this point, and that none of those options for the redevelopment include keeping the current unique playground.
Mr Sheehy said the three proposals outline new possibilities for Wonga Park Reserve and Dudley Reserve that may increase play options for a wider range of ages.
He said that the nature play space would “retain the theme and style of the existing Gooligulch Playspace”.
The Gooligulch Playspace was created in 1998, designed by Cathy Kiss, a former Planner with M

anningham Council, themed around a Graeme Base book My Grandma lived in Gooligulch.
The author was in attendance at the opening, signing books for people.
“It was a big event for our little suburb and a great talking point with all the school children in the community.
“It was so nice to have a playground that was very unique, but one which also blended in well in our semi-rural environment — it still does to this day,” Ms Forrest said.
She said many people have contacted her on Facebook saying that they use the playground, they appreciate that it is unique and do not want it demolished.
“Having said that, I have no objection to Council adding extra play equipment to the area for older children, but not at the expense of the current infrastructure,” she said.
“I would love to see this unique piece of history remain and I gather a lot of other people feel the same.”
Other people within the community have welcomed the proposal, with local resident Amy Cresswell posting that: “Council are wanting to provide us with beautiful new, innovative, safe and exciting new play spaces for our children and I can’t believe that anyone would be against this.
“I’m 100% for my rates dollars going towards this cause, it’s wonderful!”
She reminded objectors that first and foremost “children’s happiness is what this is all about”.
The Diary spoke with Author Graeme Base, who was pragmatic in his response to the news that the facility may be revamped.

“After 20 years I’m sure it must be in need of work — I’d love to see it live on, but everything has its day and it’d be silly to hang on to something if it is past its useful life.
We had heaps of fun designing and building all the bits and pieces for the playground back in the day but it’s a mistake to be too precious about one’s creations — if it can be refurbished for a reasonable cost then great — if not, let’s all hope some else fun and imaginative can be created to take its place.”

Following the public outcry Council amended the Your Say website to reflect that the Gooligulch theme would be retained in one of the options.

The council has three options on the table:

Option A
Gooligulch’ playground is replaced with a destination nature play space, that will retain the theme and style of the existing Gooligulch play space, while including a wide range of new nature play experiences and an informal picnic area designed for children between the ages of two and 12 years.
The current play equipment at Dudley Reserve will be replaced with a small local play space suitable for children between the ages of two and 12 years.

Option B
Gooligulch playground is removed and a new nature themed destination obstacle/ropes course aimed at children over 13 years and young adults.
This would be installed near the BMX track and tennis courts.
The current play equipment at Dudley Reserve will be replaced with a small play space suitable for children between the ages of two and 12 years.

Option C
Gooligulch playground is removed and minor improvements are carried out to an existing small playground alongside the lower oval at Wonga Park Reserve.
This playground caters for ages of two to 12 years.
The current play equipment at Dudley Reserve will be replaced with a large destination play space suitable for children between the ages of two and 12 years.

Mr Sheehy said Council understands that the existing Gooligulch play space “is unique and a very cherished feature in Wonga Park”.
“In the 25 years since its installation, Gooligulch Playground at Wonga Park Reserve has experienced considerable deterioration and is in need of replacement,” he said.
Mr Sheey said the images on the Your Say website were chosen to help illustrate the possible options, “but no designs have been prepared at this stage”.
“We are currently consulting with the community to seek feedback and hear suggestions.
“We acknowledge that there is also a strong community connection to the Gooligulch Playground, particularly with the historic elements of the existing play space.
“We are keen to hear from the community to let us know which elements are important to them and how we can best address these themes as part of a customised design,” Mr Sheehy said.
He said following the current consultation to understand the location and type of play space the community would prefer, a detailed design proposal will be prepared and made available for community feedback later this year.
Former Councillor and now declared candidate for Yarra Ward in the upcoming election, Meg Downie has blamed the Council for lack of maintenance that has led to the deterioration of the playground.
“I was frustrated to hear that some time ago Council decided not to maintain this unique playground and now plans have been drawn up without input from the community,” she said on the Your Say forum.
President of the Warrandyte Community Associate, and candidate for Yarra Ward in the forthcoming Manningham Council election, Carli Lange-Boutle, told the Diary that she has advocated for a community consultation panel to work on the final design for the play space.
Ms Lange-Boutle said she has been advised the Council will “involve the relevant historical society and community representatives… to incorporate their input into a future customised design”.
Mr Vassilacos said: “a detailed design proposal will be prepared and made available for community feedback later this year – no doubt, incorporating the existing unique character”.
The initial round of community consultation has been extended and will now close on Monday, September 14.