Tag Archives: North Warrandyte

Feedback wanted on Nillumbik Draft Housing Strategy

Nillumbik Shire Council has released a Draft Housing Strategy which will help shape how Council responds to housing needs across the Shire for the next 15 years.
Nillumbik Mayor Karen Egan said the draft strategy aims to ensure the housing needs of the Shire can be met now and into the future.
The draft notes:

“Nillumbik is predicted to be the lowest growth municipality in metropolitan Melbourne, both in terms of the proportion of growth and absolute numbers, with 0.4 per cent annual population growth (6,140 additional people between 2016 and 2036).
This compares to a city-wide average annual growth rate of 1.6 per cent.
The Nillumbik community is ageing.
By 2036 Nillumbik will have a significant proportion of one and two person households, comprising mainly empty nesters and retirees.
In particular Nillumbik will have significantly more people aged over 70 than is the case today.”

Nillumbik Mayor Karen Egan said this strategy aims to ensure Nillumbik’s housing needs are met now and in the future.

“This strategy outlines a range of housing for all of our residents, including our ageing population and those with special needs.
“But, importantly, it also seeks to protect the Shire’s valued rural and neighbourhood characteristics and unique green wedge for future generations.
“Significant consolidation of housing is only proposed in the Eltham and Diamond Creek Major Activity Centres, where Council is expected, by State Government policy, to consolidate housing due to the easy, walkable access in these centres to shops, public transport and services.
“I encourage the community to provide feedback on this critical strategy,” Cr Egan said.

The Draft Housing Strategy is seeking feedback from residents and those with a vested interest in the Shire between now and June 29.
A copy of the draft document along with additional information is available via Council’s participate website.
Council is also holding a series of online Q&A sessions, where registered participants can discuss their questions/concerns with council officers.
These sessions are limited to 10 participants per session (excluding council officers) and are currently scheduled for the following dates:

11am, Wednesday, June 17.
2:30pm, Friday, June 19.
7pm, Tuesday, June 23.
1pm, Wednesday, June 24.

Those wishing to participate in the sessions, or supply feedback to the Draft Housing Strategy should visit: participate.nillumbik.vic.gov.au/draft-housing-strategy

Bushfire Scenario shocks community

By DAVID HOGG
ABOUT 200 people attended a very clever Bushfire Scenario evening at North Warrandyte Family Centre on November 27, presented by Be Ready Warrandyte, a branch of the Warrandyte Community Association.
The evening was intended to inform the community as to what would actually happen in a serious bushfire scenario, rather than give specific detailed advice as to how people should act or how they should write their individual bushfire plans.
It certainly succeeded. Steve Pascoe, Emergency Management and Bushfire Safety Consultant and a survivor of the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires at Strathewan, together with Joff Manders, Commander Emergency Management Liaison at Melbourne Metropolitan Fire Brigade, took us on a simulated journey of what will actually happen if and when a serious bushfire hits our region.
Set on the lines of a Geoffrey Robinson Hypothetical, with brilliant and disturbing graphics, photographs, and map simulations on a big screen, these two eminent experts took us step-by-step through each stage of the disaster, from time-to-time calling other experts in their field — police, CFA, local authorities — to the microphone to provide additional clarification.

3 dead, 10 missing, many in hospital, 50 homes gone, many more damaged.

It is Terrible Thursday, February 13, 2020.
This is the second of two very hot spells of weather so far this year, temperature is 39°, wind is a strong south-westerly, Forest Fire Danger  Index is 60 so the fire danger level is at Severe and so those who were going to evacuate on Extreme or Code Red days have not done so.
At 9am a bushfire is reported in Beauty Point Road, Research; trucks are dispatched and on arrival call for more assistance as the fire spreads quickly west and 000 receive calls of further spot fires.
Emergency Services issue a “Watch and Act” for North Warrandyte, Warrandyte, South Warrandyte and Park Orchards, and many people start to leave North Warrandyte by car.
By noon the Watch and Act is upgraded to an Emergency Warning stating: “It is now too late to leave”.
Power is off to the whole district and the water supply is reduced to a trickle.
By 12:30pm the temperature is 40°, humidity is 12 per cent, there is smoke everywhere; Research Road and Kangaroo Ground Road are jammed with cars trying to go south across the bridge.
Others are trying to get north across the bridge to join their families who are trapped on the north side but they are being turned around by Police at the roundabout.
A 4WD with horse float has jackknifed on Research Road.
The north-westerly wind change comes through and the flank of the fire now becomes a wide fire front which the wind pushes as a huge storm towards North Warrandyte.

The fire has quickly doubled in size and embers are spotting up to 10km ahead of the front.
Firefighters have now been pulled back as the fire roars into North Warrandyte.
It is evening: 2,350 hectares have been burned, three bodies have been pulled from cars, 10 people are missing possibly in the remains of their homes, 50 houses have been lost and hundreds are damaged.The area will be locked down for at least a week, possibly a month as there are trees and powerlines across roads and embers still burning.
Resident s cannot access the fireground, and any who have survived and decide to leave the area will not be allowed to return. 
Councils will provide emergency relief centres in due course, possibly at Diamond Creek Stadium and Eltham Leisure Centre, and at Manningham DISC and the Pines Shopping Centre, where victims can obtain assistance, advice, comfort, and some food.
Power may not be restored for weeks and emergency crews will be busy removing fallen trees, erecting new powerlines, dousing burning embers, removing any dangerous trees from roadsides and removing the remains of many cars.

The presentation was very informative and made most residents more aware of what could happen.
The photos were, at times, disturbing.
The evening finished with snacks and drinks outside, and the emergency services and council personnel were available to answer any further question.
Well done Be Ready Warrandyte, and congratulations to all involved with this very professional and informative scenario session.

 

Images by Jock Macneish

Telstra outage hits North Warrandyte

AN UNFORTUNATE sequence of events, coupled with ageing infrastructure, have left a large number of North Warrandyte residents without landline phones and ADSL internet for almost a fortnight.

On May 9 a contractor working on the bridge project damaged a hydrant near Kangaroo Ground-Warrandyte Road causing a water main to rupture, which left residents on both sides of the river without water for several hours.

The ensuing flood necessitated single lane working at the bridge while Yarra Valley Water (YVW) attended and repaired the fracture which led to further misery to motorists who are already frustrated by the road congestion in and around Warrandyte.

Dona Tantirimudalige, General Manager, Distribution Services at YVW advised us “Permanent repairs were completed and water supply restored as quickly as possible, with no further works required.

“We thank the community for their patience while these works were carried out.”

Unfortunately the flood of water found its way into an important Telstra pit containing a 400-pair cable and damaged both the connections and the cable itself which has to be replaced leaving residents with no phone service and no or very slow-speed ADSL internet.

Residents had been complaining to their phone/internet suppliers about problems with their service since May 3 so it is assumed that water had already seeped into this pit before the great flood of May 9.

Loretta Willaton, Telstra Area General Manager, tells the Diary “We have up to 170 landline and internet customers without service in the Warrandyte area.

“Problems were first reported to us from May 5.

“We have had a major cable damaged and contractors are working daily to replace 150 metres of cable and join two separate ends.

“The work is complex and in a difficult area to access and completion is tentatively scheduled for May 16; however it may be restored sooner.

“We are sorry for the inconvenience this is causing and are working as quickly as possible to get customers back online.”

Vince Punaro, VicRoads Regional Director, Metro North West advised “VicRoads is aware of the issue of a burst fire hydrant in Warrandyte on Wednesday May 9.

“As soon as we were made aware of the issue, we worked quickly with the contractor, Melbourne Water and Yarra Valley Water and notified emergency services to minimise the impact on the community.”

Featured photo posted on Facebook Warrandyte Business and Community Page by Clive Rixon, May 9.

Warrandyte’s bridgeworks and traffic nightmare

Mystery surrounds ongoing delays

EAGLE-EYED READERS will have noticed that not a lot has been happening with the bridge upgrade works over the last few weeks.

Certainly contractors are working on the north side drilling holes for the road barriers, however, nothing seems to have progressed on the bridge structure itself.

The scaffolding and access platforms are all in place on both sides, but there is no sign of any construction of cantilevers or beams.

The closure of the bridge over a full weekend was originally scheduled for March 3–4 but was postponed due to the market and the fun run being on that date.

The following weekend of March 10–12 was not suitable as it was the Labour Day long weekend, and the next weekend of 17–18 was the Warrandyte Festival.

The works were then re-scheduled for March 23–25 but were cancelled at extremely short notice, at 3pm on Friday March 23, because, according to VicRoads, “our contractor, VEC Civil Engineering, has requested more time to prepare to install the beams”.

This last minute cancellation caused disruption to residents and businesses who had put alternative arrangements in place, including cancelling newspaper and grocery deliveries to North Warrandyte and Warrandyte Theatre Company forgoing their matinee performance — it is still unclear why the decision to cancel  the full bridge closure occurred hours before it was meant to start.

Since then, not much has happened, and a complete veil of secrecy has descended on the project.

We visited the site and asked a number of VEC workers what was happening.

We were told, “we’re not allowed to say anything; you’ll have to talk to VicRoads”.

So we asked VicRoads:

• When will the postponed full weekend bridge closure be re-scheduled?

• Have you any dates for later full closures?

• What caused the delay to the originally planned closure?

• When will the whole works be completed?

• What is the schedule for further power outages when your electrical subcontractors need to do further work?

• Do you have any indication of when the traffic lights will be going in on the north side?

Vince Punaro, Regional Director Metro North West, VicRoads told the Diary “At this stage, we have not confirmed any further dates for full closures of the bridge.

“Any lane closures on the bridge will be shared well in advance with the local community and scheduled to minimise inconvenience.”

Cameron Tait, Media Advisor Public Engagement, VicRoads, offered some further information:

“The installation of traffic lights at the Kangaroo Ground-Warrandyte Road and Research-Warrandyte Road intersection is expected to get underway in July.

“All works on the Warrandyte Bridge upgrade are scheduled to be completed by late 2018.”

The April Information Update Bulletin does not tell us much more than the March bulletin, other than that they will shortly be building a new retaining wall on the north side of the bridge, but it does indicate that the first full weekend closure is likely to be rescheduled for “late April/early May”.

VicRoads Strategic Engagement Advisor, Jacqueline Novoselac, insists that there are no problems, work
is continuing on the bridge and
that the project is not running
behind schedule.

However, the lack of activity on the bridge structure, ongoing postponements of the full closure, and the subtle change of the date for completion, previously September but now “late 2018” would suggest otherwise.

Any further delays might well drive this project into the next bushfire season.

Obviously something is amiss to have caused a two-month slippage of the closure for installation of cantilevers and beams, and we are not being told the reason.

In view of the significant traffic disruption and as public funds are being spent on this project, the public has a right to be kept better informed of progress and reasons for any delays.

The Diary will keep readers informed on any proposed road closures, as and when information comes to hand, either via this publication, the Diary website or social media channels.

Warrandyte road rage

SEVERE SPEED humps to the north of the bridge — an attempt to calm traffic and make a temporary pedestrian crossing safer — are potentially exacerbating traffic congestion as vehicles are forced to slow to a crawl to clear the traffic calming measures installed in early March.

In the busy hours, school and work commuters — on both sides of the bridge — can be delayed by anything up to 30 minutes.

In the morning, queues north of the river stretch back as far as Albert Road on Research-Warrandyte Road and Floods Road on Kangaroo Ground-Warrandyte Road.

While the evening queues south of the river stretch back as far as the roundabout at Harris Gully Road and to the five-ways Croydon Road junction on Ringwood-Warrandyte Road.

VicRoads vehemently denies that any lengthening of queues is due to the speed humps, and blame any increased queues on the disruption to the Hurstbridge line train service which they say is causing more traffic in the area.

Queues have slackened off considerably in the last fortnight due to the school holidays, but congestion is expected to return to previous levels as of this week.

Additional congestion may also occur on April 18 when the power pole at the RSL is due to be replaced.

The increased queues are causing major headaches for residents on the unsealed roads in North Warrandyte, with many “rat run” drivers ignoring the “No Turn” signs at each end of Blooms Road in an attempt to find a short cut.

Eltham Police have been kept busy booking motorists who ignore these signs but are too busy to attend on a daily basis.

Dingley Dell Road has probably copped the worst of the rat run traffic with motorists from both directions attempting to use this narrow winding street as a shortcut.

But with the morning queues extending further up Kangaroo Ground-Warrandyte Road, a number of motorists are now turning into Floods Road and cutting through Boyd Street and Hawkes Road.

Michelle Parker from Hawkes Road is now on first name terms with the tow-truck drivers as two cars have already fallen into the ditch near her house, and she dreads the day there may be a head-on collision on the blind corner.

She adds, “You should see the chaos on Monday mornings when the rat run drivers meet the garbage truck!”

Suzanne Reid from Dingley Dell Road tells a similar story.

She and other residents are already upset that the signs preventing turns into Blooms Road make it virtually impossible for her to legally get back to her house before 9:30am after dropping children at school in Research.

She would like a “Residents Excepted” sign to be added to the no turn signs.

Ms Reid goes on to say, “when I finally get back to my home on a Monday morning I can find three cars in my driveway because they have had to pull in to let the garbage truck pass.

“And this is a single-track, unsealed road with ditches at the side and with children and dogs walking on the roadway.

“We have to pay to have this road graded now four times a year”.

Because of these problems Mathew Deayton, Manager, Infrastructure at Nillumbik Council has written to residents of Dingley Dell Road seeking their views on a proposal that the street be closed off completely to through traffic.

The plan involves installing a permanent obstruction at the top of Dingley Dell Road.

This would prevent all traffic — including Dingley Dell residents — from turning into Dingley Dell Road from Blooms Road.

Provision would be made for emergency service vehicles and waste collection vehicles.

The opinion of residents is being sought before any decision is made.

Ms Reid tells us that the idea is well-intentioned but as proposed is completely impractical.

As a number of the homes in the street have no provision for cars to turn around on the property, and angled driveways prevent a U-turn on entry and exit, this idea would require cars to reverse a long way down the difficult hill before they would be able to turn.

Affected residents have until April 20 to fill in a questionnaire or make a submission to council.

Planned burns scheduled for March 29 – POSTPONED

UPDATE (28/3 15:24): Planned burns have been postponed due to too much moisture in the soil.

Burns may go ahead on April 3 instead.

 

Forest Fire Management Victoria (FFMVic) has scheduled two planned burns near North Warrandyte and Eltham tomorrow, March 29.

There will be a 5.5 hectare burn near Laughing Waters Road and a 15.5 hectare burn near Overbank Road.

FFMVic Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Dan White said: “These burns are an important part of our planned burn program and will reduce fuel loads in the area.

“Smoke may be visible in Eltham, North Warrandyte, Templestowe and Warrandyte.

“We aim to reduce the impact of smoke on communities from planned burning and continue to invest in new technologies and systems to help us better understand the dispersion of smoke.”

Clearning, slashing and planned burns are an important part of managing fuel and reducing the risk of bushfire to communities in bushfire zones.

But, as Mr White explains, weather is an important factor when authorities are preparing for a planned burn.

“We work closely with the Bureau of Meteorology to assess weather conditions – such as humidity, temperature and wind speed — and will only carry out burns when conditions are suitable.

“Until the recent rainfall it had been too dry to conduct these burns,” he said.

If the weather conditions remain favourable, the planned burns will commence around 10am Thursday morning, but if the conditions change the planned burns could be postponed or cancelled.

The Diary will stay across this and provide an update if anything changes.

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.

Pigeon Bank planning pain 

A storm is brewing in North Warrandyte after Nillumbik council granted planning approval for a residential building at 2 Pigeon Bank Road.

At a meeting of the Future Nillumbik committee on March 14, five out of seven councillors voted to approve the plans, going against the recommendation of the council planning department.

The land in question is a pristine, steep riverine bush-block in an extremely environmentally sensitive area.

Architect Phillip Mannerheim purchased the block in 2014 and has plans to build an eco-friendly sustainable home on it for his retirement.

The property is one of eight blocks in a low density or bush land residential street that is well serviced with existing infrastructure, including sealed road with reticulated water, power and sewerage.

There was just one objector, a neighbour, who was not objecting to the development but wanted better separation and screening from his property.

There are multiple parties both for and against this development.

Warrandyte Community Association

The Warrandyte Community Association distributed a flyer entitled Thin end of the green wedge at the Warrandyte Festival, which states:

  • The land is unique in having four distinct native plant communities supporting diverse wildlife populations.
  • The planning sets a disastrous precedent which could see the end of the “Green Wedge” as we know it.
  • The decision, against the recommendation of experienced Nillumbik Planning Officers to reject the planning application, will see the destruction of at least 746 trees to build a house and out-buildings on a ridge, creating a visual eyesore and threatening the nearby Koornong State Park bushland.
  • At 5.3 hectares, the block is smaller than the eight hectare minimum subdivision required under Rural Conservation Zone (RCZ) Schedule 3.
  • Clause 35.06 of Nillumbik’s own planning scheme requires use of land to protect and enhance the environmental and landscape value of the land — This proposal does the opposite.
  • Rural Conservation Zoning seeks to ensure that “the existing character, landscape quality, view-lines and other natural environmental characteristics of the area are protected and enhanced in an equitable and sustainable manner”.
  • The proposal also contravenes other clauses and overlays in the Nillumbik planning scheme.
  • The “Stranded Asset” argument, that a landowner has a reasonable right to build on such a site has no validity as RCZ zoning was introduced as early as 1973 and any land purchaser should conduct due diligence on any property before purchase.
  • The nearby Koornong land was purchased by the State in 1979 after an intensive campaign by the Warrandyte Environment League, supported by the Warrandyte Diary, to save it from destruction by inappropriate housing development.
  • Council has apparently identified about 700 similar undersized blocks which could be opened-up for development in Nillumbik.
  • This would destroy the Green Wedge and Nillumbik as “The Green Wedge Shire”.

Council planning department

The planning officers’ recommendation to councillors to refuse a permit is on the grounds that the proposal:

  • To use the land for a dwelling on a substandard sized lot is not consistent with the intended purpose and decision guidelines of the RCZ.
  • Does not seek to use the land to protect and enhance the environmental and landscape value of the site.
  • Is not consistent with clauses concerning green wedges, vision strategic framework, settlement and housing and rural land use.
  • Does not respond to the decision guidelines of the RCZ, and siting and design policy, for buildings and works in non-urban areas, due to the level of site disturbance required for the construction of the dwelling, and the associated conservation and environmental impacts.
  • Has not adequately responded to the objectives and decision guidelines of the bushfire management overlay and wildfire management policy as the development of the land; a dwelling will pose a threat to life and property, is inappropriately sited, requires an impractical level of maintenance — in light of the site’s topographical features — and is deemed unsafe.
  • Is not responsive to the objectives and decision guidelines concerning native vegetation in that the proposal has not adequately considered the role of native vegetation as both habitat, and playing a crucial role in minimising land degradation.
  • Has not adequately responded to the objectives and decision guidelines of the environmental significance overlay in terms of the potential to detrimentally impact on the environmental values of the land due to the proposed vegetation removal.
  • Will not result in an acceptable planning outcome as outlined in the decision guidelines having regard to the orderly planning of the area, the degree of fire hazard for the proposed development, the extent of vegetation proposed to be removed, and the potential land degradation and erosion.

Jane Ashton – Sugarloaf ward councillor

Jane Ashton was one of five councillors who supported the development. She spoke at length to the Diary, and these are her main points.

  • The decision was not made lightly; I did a considerable amount of research beforehand with regard to the design, the CFA reports and the environmental studies performed.
  • The block has a house number and kerbing for the driveway.
  • The Department of Environment and Land did not object and said the development “is not expected to have a significant impact on any rare or threatened species”.
  • The applicant commissioned 5 ecological surveys, has agreed to 4.5 ha becoming Bushland Conservation Zone and is providing $80,000 of offsets.
  • The applicant is an experienced architect.
  • He has designed an eco-friendly carbon-neutral home with a 10-star energy rating
  • The home has solar panels, a 500,000 litre water tank for bushfire survival and is recessed into the ground to minimise any visual impact and reduce the footprint substantially.
  • The application meets all bushfire risk management requirements and the design displays excellence in satisfying CFA requirements.
  • The block is very heavily treed having over 5,000 trees, many of which are small.
  • The 750 trees mentioned are mainly saplings and very immature trees with a girth less than 50cm, there are very few mature trees and no “significant” trees.
  • The number of mature trees impacted is likely to be less than 100 in total and, as with the other houses in the street, removal is necessary to provide a defendable space around the property.
  • The applicant has committed to connect to the sewer at considerable distance and expense, even though this is not a requirement.
  • The eight-hectare minimum lot size mentioned by critics is for subdivision planning only and is not relevant to this application as the area has already been subdivided.
  • Under RCZ Schedule 3, dwellings are not prohibited, the land is in private ownership and is not reserved for conservation purposes.
  • I firmly believe that we do not own the land, the land owns us; we are the guardians.
  • Friends of Nillumbik should embrace the applicant with open arms and help him tidy up the understory and remove the 17% of introduced species from his block.
  • I am of the opinion that the applicant will be an impeccable guardian of this precious land.

Friends of Nillumbik

This group’s latest bulletin states:

  • The permit approval undermines Green Wedge values and our Planning Scheme
  • The 5.3 hectares contains habitat of high conservation significance, almost a hectare of vegetation will be cleared including the loss of 746 trees.
  • A ridge top will be extensively cleared for the house so landscape values will be seriously degraded.
  • It is intended to use the land for rural residential purposes, a use at odds with its rural conservation zoning.
  • Councillor’s Brooker and Dumaresq opposed issuing the permit urging respect for our planning scheme.
  • This irresponsible council decision shows that the purpose of Nillumbik’s Green Wedge has been purposely questioned by councillors.

They have recently added the following comments:

  • Nillumbik was created to be “the conservation shire with the Green Wedge as its strategic focus”.
  • The bulk of Nillumbik’s Green Wedge was given protection under the Rural Conservation Zone (Schedule 3) of the Planning Scheme and the later placement of the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) reinforced this demarcation separating planned residential land from rural land.
  • The government’s intention to protect our Green Wedge was given further emphasis when it required any rezoning proposal affecting Green Wedge land to be passed by both houses of the Victorian Parliament.
  • This permit application has brought into sharp focus the application of Nillumbik’s Scheme.
  • The north side of Pigeon Bank Road is outside the UGB, is zoned Rural Conservation Zone (RCZ3) and there is no mention of residential use in the zone purpose.
  • In fact for the RCZ it is all about protecting the natural environment, landscape, faunal habitat and cultural values including biodiversity of the area and ensuring that land use changes do not have an adverse impact on these.
  • The removal of close to a hectare of bushland, including the destruction of 746 trees and the clearing of a landscape-sensitive ridge top, is not consistent with these zone requirements.
  • It is up to a purchaser of land to consider all restrictions which may affect future plans; hence the need for a permit.

The landowner

Phillip Mannerheim spoke to the Diary and stated:

“This is to be a home for my retirement.

“I jumped through various hoops, hurdles, ecological surveys and assessments required by council, at considerable expense.

“At their suggestion, the plans have already been changed so as to relocate down from the ridge top and the driveway redesigned for fire truck access.

“It was therefore quite dismaying to receive a recommendation from the planning department which was totally negative, and amounted to a statement to the effect that this land was unsuitable for a building.

“I cannot understand why my block is being singled out for special treatment, as all the other blocks in the subdivision contain houses and the planning regulations have not changed.

“Fortunately, Mayor Peter Clarke, himself an architect and with considerable experience as a Councillor at Melbourne City, saw my point of view and four of the other six councillors agreed with him.

“I am trying here to achieve a 10-star energy rating with innovations such as tracking the sun, insulation, and recessing part of the home into the ground; all designed with world-leading conservation values in mind.

“I am surprised that so-called conservation and community groups would be against this development, when what I am proposing should set an example to Australia on how to build sensitively and efficiently in the bush while protecting and enhancing the environmental and landscape value of the land”.

Moving forward

Not being an original objector to the proposal Warrandyte Community Association is unable to lodge a direct case at VCAT.

However — as we go to press — we learn that it is considering whether as an “Affected Person”, it will apply to VCAT for leave under Section 82B of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 to apply for a review of Nillumbik Council’s decision.

Fire danger period to end south of the river

The CFA have declared the fire danger period for District 13 will finish at 1am on March 20, this includes Knox, Manningham, Maroondah, and Yarra Ranges Council areas.

CFA Operations Manager Dave Renkin urges people to remember to adhere to local council regulations, and to register their burn-offs.

“Calls to unregistered burn-offs take volunteer firefighters away from workplaces, families and potentially genuine emergencies,” he said.

Given Nillumbik still has fire restrictions in place, taking the necessary precautions when planning to burn-off will allow the fire authorities to react efficiently to all fire calls.

“If you haven’t registered your burn you can expect some disgruntled fireys arriving at your property asking you to ‘please explain’,” Mr Renkin said.

Keep your burn off safe and legal:

  • Check fire restrictions in your area and always register your burn.
  • Check and monitor weather conditions — particularly wind.
  • Warn your neighbours beforehand that there will be smoke in the air.
  • Stay in attendance the whole time your burn is going.
  • Have sufficient equipment and water to stop the fire spreading.

Landowners can register their burn-off with the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA) by calling 1800 668 511 or emailing burnoffs@esta.vic.gov.au

Photo: Stephen Reynolds

Telstra support fails Warrandyte

  • Crisis with phone infrastructure affects Warrandyte businesses and homes.
  • Lines in a plastic bag.
  • Pit covers broken.
  • Telstra support a nightmare.
  • Business without phones for over a week.

 On the weekend of February 11, Troy Hagan Managing Director of Intermax, a company operating out of Husseys Lane, noticed a Telstra contractor re-terminating the cables running down that street.

On the Monday morning, he noticed that the work appeared to be only partially completed and the connections were now wrapped up in a plastic bag and secured by tape.

Arriving at work, Mr Hogan found that the first of his incoming phone lines was dead.

Callers to the business received a ring tone, but the line was not connected.

As this was the first line of a rotary group and was not “busy”, the incoming calls did not rotate onto the other lines — meaning effectively the company was unable to receive any calls.

This was, of course, immediately reported to Telstra Business Faults and a reference number provided by them.

Mr Hogan has provided the Diary with a copy of a long log detailing many calls they made over the course of that week trying to get the issue resolved.

“This is so frustrating,” he said, “we pay Telstra tens of thousands of dollars a year.”

He explained that they even persuaded him to enter into an extra contract whereby Telstra would support their NEC PABX system.

“This seems to have backfired because Telstra are now blaming the fault on our NEC system, whereas it is blindingly obvious to us that the fault has occurred because of shoddy line work in the street,” he said.

The final straw for Mr Hogan was when he received a call from Telstra’s Dandenong Business Centre who said they had tested the line.

“They confirmed that there was a fault in that the phone line was no longer attached to the PABX but they could not send out a technician to repair same until we had completed a consent form to agree to pay if no fault was found — and we needed to provide credit card details in advance,” he said.

By the end of the week Telstra had finally put a diversion on the number to a mobile phone — so at least the company could receive a single incoming call at a time — even though no-one had appeared to rectify the fault.

The following week a technician did finally arrive and said he had been asked to call after enquiries by the Warrandyte Diary.

He discovered that the connection was in fact broken inside the plastic bag, so he re-made the connection and installed a proper junction box.

 Lack of support

Although the Warrandyte telephone exchange is well equipped and up-to-date it is now very clear that the infrastructure of cables in the street is showing its age and is being very poorly maintained, if at all.

For instance, the Diary has spoken to the postman covering Research-Warrandyte Road who has an ongoing battle trying to get Telstra to fix a broken pit cover opposite Bradleys Lane, which presents a safety hazard for his motorbike and for pedestrians.

The issue is compounded because the support system for faults is simply not working.

Many readers tell us of their frustration of trying to get through to Telstra’s call centre in the Philippines to log a fault — and when this is finally achieved often nothing happens.

No-one from Telstra phones back and no-one comes to correct the fault, and so the whole process has to be started again.

Customers who have left Telstra and gone to another service provider for their landline phone or internet are at an even greater disadvantage, because it is Telstra alone who maintain the infrastructure so the support case has to be forwarded on to them by the other company.

In the April 2014 Diary, after many complaints of this type, we advised that Telstra had set up a dedicated team to answer questions regarding issues in the Warrandyte area.

To test how this arrangement was working we called the number.

The person who answered told us that all the contact details had changed, and that someone would get back to us with the correct details.

This has not happened.

So the Diary tried the email address previously given for this local support, related the ongoing saga at Intermax, and asked what dedicated local support is available for Warrandyte residents and business (the following day, the technician turned up at Intermax).

James Kelly, State Media Manager Victoria & Tasmania at Telstra Corporate Affairs advised the 1800 number and email address previously given to locals was to address a set of very specific problems relating to localised network issues and ADSL availability performance some customers may have been experiencing.

“Since that time Telstra has worked to the issues and concerns raised and there are about 581 ADSL2+ ports at the local exchange available for customers to connect to,” he said.

Mr Kelly suggested locals can get in touch with Telstra in several ways, including online through telstra.com, Telstra’s Facebook page, and on Twitter via the @Telstra handle, or by calling the Telstra contact centre on 132 200.

The closest retail stores are at The Pines in Donvale, or Eastland in Ringwood.

For issues relating to fixed lines services in normal operating circumstances, Telstra has in place customer service guarantees for restoration of service; there are various categories and conditions that apply to this but in most cases the response commitments are measured in days rather than hours.