Tag Archives: sandi miller

New hub for Wonga Park takes shape

AFTER SITTING dormant for several years, the Wonga Park Shopping Centre is coming to life with a facility that project developer Mark Etherington hopes will re-energise the community.

“It was the talk of the community about what we needed to get back in here.
“Then the opportunity arose for me to pick it up via the receivers.
“While not the development my business would normally undertake, we had a vision for it to be returned to its former glory and to be the community hub it once was,” Mark said.

He said there was “a fair bit of consultation” with Manningham Council about the undertaking — “the development application, making sure there was buy-in early, making sure there was community consultation about what was needed, or the amenities that were missing”.
He said the “full sweep of offerings” was contemplated from the outset, which includes a café, postal facility, butchers, deli, medical centre, gym, Pilates studio, and a restaurant.
He said he has worked very hard to get services that would be a good fit for the community and a good spread of complementary business that serves the community’s needs.
It is a passion project for Mark — who runs an investment group, which normally deals in large scale property investment around the country.
Being a local, he saw an opportunity to give back to the community by creating something sorely needed since the original shopping centre closed down.

“There have been a number of hurdles along the way, but we’ve never lost the vision to make sure that we delivered the community hub, and that’s where we’ve just about got to now.
“We’ve got some really good, robust tenants that understand the sense of community and that we are going local.
“Most of the tenants are locals; they’ll employ locals and be supported locally.
“They will genuinely give this the opportunity that it deserves to be successful.
“I think a longer-term vision is they’re all long-term tenants, and they understand that they’ve got some exclusivity, which allows them to genuinely get a foothold in the community going forward,” he said.

He said that with the inclusion of My Local GP, the community would get general practice doctors, pathologists, and a dentist. Other tenants are the Little Lofty Café, named after local landmark Mount Lofty; Rump Butchers, which is relocating from Tunstall Square; the Post Office, which will be relocating to the centre; and there will be a grocer or providore.
Upstairs there will be Wonga Health and Fitness Studio, and an Italian restaurant.
“At the moment, we’ve got the restaurant still for lease because we are trying to make sure we get the right operator,” he said.
During the interview, several community members took the opportunity to speak to the developer while he was on site.
One immediate neighbour, who did not want to be named, said she had concerns about the lighting that would be emitted from the centre, as well as privacy concerns with the second-storey gymnasium overlooking her property.
However, Mark attempted to assure her that the planning permit did not allow for internally illuminated signage and offered to enhance screening between the centre and her property.
She later told the Bulletin that she generally was supportive of the project to get the shops back into the community, as she had been particularly concerned about the abandoned site attracting squatters.
“It will be lovely to get a coffee shop back in the neighbourhood, but there was no need to make it two storeys,” she said.
Other community members were effusive in their praise of the centre’s redevelopment.
“Thank you — it is extraordinary,” said one woman. Mark said 99 per cent of the people of Wonga Park and the immediate area are celebrating and happy about this development and community hub coming back to life.
“Unfortunately, I can’t keep everyone happy, but I’ll certainly go to whatever reasonable means I can to help them and address their concerns,” he said.
He said during the permit process, there had been a “fair bit of backwards and forwards” with Manningham Council, including the expectation on the developer to undertake the cost of the redevelopment of community facilities.
Along with the initial pricetag of purchasing the site, and the $2.75 million cost of the redevelopment, Mark said he also agreed with Council to improve the parking at the community hall across the road, as well as a pedestrian crossing between the hall and the centre, pay for the landscaping of Launders Reserve, and put in curb and channel drainage along Launders Road.
He said the Council was meant to go to tender about a year and a half ago for someone to do the construction work on the hall carpark, but hasn’t yet.

“There’s been a number of steps along the way; we have had to go back to get some modifications with Council to extend the trading hours of the gym by half an hour — which required the full town planning application again.
“That’s just been granted, which is great, so now it’s full steam ahead,” he said.

Despite the issues of construction during COVID, the subsequent building supply chain issues, and the “hoops” that Council has made the project jump through, Mark said he is passionate about delivering this community hub for Wonga Park.
“Despite all the hurdles, once we start something, we’re not giving up.”
Mark estimates the final fit-out will take another eight weeks, so look for a grand opening towards the end of October.

Staying local to honour their service this Anzac Day

AFTER LAST year’s lockdown saw Anzac Day commemorations much changed, Victorians will be able to honour the sacrifice of our service men and women in person this year.
While attendance at the Dawn Service and March to the Shrine of Remembrance is to be limited this year, local services will be held at local RSLs across the state, including Warrandyte.
The Victorian Government has worked closely with RSL Victoria to ensure veterans and their families could march this year, but encourages Victorians to stay local on Anzac Day.

Chief Executive Officer of RSL Victoria Jamie Twidale said RSL Branches and local councils across the state are gearing up for an Anzac Day that will see the whole Victorian community commemorate in a COVID Safe way.“This Anzac Day — as we have done every year for over a century — we will remember them — Lest we forget.”

RSL sub-branch, local government and community services are being planned, so finding a service close to home is an easy, meaningful, and a COVID Safe way to remember those who served.
The Anzac Day March can proceed safely with 5,500 people, in line with the application submitted by the RSL and approved under Victoria’s Public Events Framework.
The traditional Dawn Service and Commemorative Services will also be held with smaller numbers in partnership with the Shrine of Remembrance, and streamed for all Victorians to watch on Facebook.
The Warrandyte RSL has advised that the traditional Anzac Day march and service will proceed on Sunday, April 25.
The march will step off at 10:30am in Yarra Street, from the carpark opposite Whipstick Gully Road.
A service will be held at the cenotaph in the RSL Memorial grounds at the conclusion of the march at 10:45am.
Secretary of the Warrandyte RSL, Del Caulfield said there will be limited reserved seating available from the RSL balcony for elderly or disabled veterans or those with restricted mobility.
Attendants will also be available to anyone requiring assistance on the day.
“Regrettably due to COVID-19 restrictions, the community morning tea which usually follows the service cannot be provided,” she said.
The Lions Club of Warrandyte will instead offer a sausage sizzle within the RSL grounds with all proceeds going to the Lions Club of Warrandyte.Police have confirmed that Yarra Street, will be closed between Whipstick Gully and the Warrandyte Bridge for the duration of the march.

42K Media will again be working with the Diary to produce a Livestream of the Warrandyte service.
Details on how to view the stream will be made available in the week leading up to the event.
Readers can also share their show of remembrance from home by taking part in #lightupthedawn on social media, while observing the traditional minute’s silence from their driveways, front yards, or balconies.
Anzac Day, April 25 — one of our most important national days — began as a commemoration of the landing of Australian and New Zealand forces at Gallipoli in 1915 during World War One.
It has grown to become a reflection on the service and sacrifice of all Australians who have served in conflict or on peacekeeping operations.
On Anzac Day, donations to the Anzac Appeal are encouraged through anzacappeal.com.au.
To reserve seats or for any further information about the local service please phone Del Caulfield on 0481 307 696 or leave a message at warrandytersl@gmail.com.

 

Groove on the Green

AFTER A YEAR of lockdown and isolation, February 6 saw Warrandyte emerge to remember its Year of Wonders, at a photo exhibition and live event held at Taffy’s hut at the newly opened Lion’s Park (see page 22 for a selection of the Year of Wonders photographs).
While the exhibition was a celebration of the wonderful creativity that abounds in our photographic artists, what was discovered over the course of the evening is the amazing potential for our new Village Green as a gathering space and place for all manner of purposes.
However, this Green may be short lived, as it is planned to be incorporated into an extended playground in Stage 2 of the site development.
Yarra Ward Councillor, Carli Lange attended the event and said, “it was clear — the vision for Lions Park upgrade had come to life”.
“The new, treasured and beneficial open space in front of Taffy Jones Hut has become a connection for all — families, groups, couples, individuals, everyone!
She said the grassed area between the playground and the Lions Park extension was a “Groove on the Green” — enjoyed by everyone.
She said the green had potential to be a picnic area, a game field, a social buzz and an audience arena.
She said many locals had spoken to her to say “thank-you” for this flat grass area to host presentations, speeches, entertainment, shows, rehearsals and galleries — a much needed connection point for all.
“Many locals said ‘Please, please, keep this new grass area — just as is — please keep it open, flat, grassed’,” Ms Lange said.
Warrandyte Resident Doreen Burge noted how well the new Green was utilised during the event, and said the extension of the playground, “seems very short-sighted given the possibilities for this lovely lawn and its proximity to the natural stage of Taffy’s Hut”.
Warrandyte Historical Society made a submission to Council in December, saying the Stage 2 upgrade would: “result in an overdeveloped Park with insufficient space for simple activities, such as sitting or playing on an open grassed area”.
“We feel that an extension to the playground is unnecessary given the many new features of Stage 1 that can be utilised by older children.
“We are concerned that the open views to and across the river will be compromised by the addition of more play equipment.
“We feel the current grassed area is an asset to this new park and would be well-utilised by families and all age groups if it were to become a permanent feature.
“It would be disappointing to see this area covered with play equipment.”
Karen Mew who coordinates Pottery Co, which backs onto the space told the Diary they are planning a series of events in the area, including Indigenous talks and music events.
This grass area will be the start and part of many community events of Taffy’s Hut, but to do that we need to keep our green.

Construction to commence on Fitzsimons Lane intersections

DESPITE COMMUNITY objection, work is about to commence on redevelopment of the “Eltham Gateway”, the intersection of Fitzsimons Lane with Main Road in Eltham and Porter Street in Templestowe.
Contractors BMD Construction are setting up to begin construction on the Fitzsimons Lane Major Roads project.
The project will upgrade key intersections along Fitzsimons Lane to reduce congestion, improve safety and provide better walking and cycling connections for the 60,000 people who use it every day.
A statement from Major Roads Projects Victoria (MRPV) said that the roundabouts cause delays, which can create risks for all road users.

“People travelling along Fitzsimons Lane will benefit from better and safer journeys travelling through these upgraded intersections.”

Local activists, Eltham Community Action Group (ECAG) have been vocal in their objection to the project.
The group has tied red ribbons around each of the trees earmarked for destruction.
They presented the State Government with a 2,900-signature petition against the project, calling the works an unnecessary overkill, which will see “hundreds” of trees removed in the process.

“A massive, signalised intersection (the three roads having 10, 8 and 8 lanes at the lights) will form an area of bitumen and concrete roughly the size of the MCG oval and destroy forever our iconic entrance to the Green Wedge Shire,” they said in a statement.

ECAG said they commissioned and presented their own alternative design that would keep the roundabout and many of the trees, but despite agreeing it was as effective as the official designs, MRPV rejected the compromise.
The statement from MRPV said following community consultation last year it removed two traffic lanes from the Eltham approach.

“We have also removed the bus priority lanes from all approaches to reduce the footprint of the Main Road and Fitzsimons Lane intersection.
“This change has reduced the number of trees that will be impacted, whilst ensuring the community and road users will still benefit from reduced congestion and improved safety.”

A construction worker who is working on the project told the WD Bulletin that he is concerned that lack of communications with the public by MRPV will see construction workers potentially come into conflict with protesters when tree removal begins.
ECAG is urging anyone with concerns about the project to visit elthamaction.org.au and write to their local member.
More information about the project plans from MRPV can be found at roadprojects.vic.gov.au/projects/fitzsimons-lane-upgrade

Warrandyte Fire Brigade ready to roll

WARRANDYTE FIRE Brigade is rolling out of the station with a shiny new Field Command Vehicle (FCV), thanks to some generous support from the community.
Spokesperson for the brigade, Firefighter Jeff Watters told the Diary many businesses stepped up to help replace the eight-year-old 4WD.
“Warrandyte Fire Brigade owns this vehicle and our slip-on unit, they have been funded by very generous donation from the community.
“The FCV most recently received support from a lot of groups and businesses, including Warrandyte Community Bank, TJM Burwood, Tanami 4WD and Commercial, Australian Warning Systems, National Radios, Pedders Suspension and Brakes, Nunawading Toyota,  Auto Complex, Tyremax, Tiger Tyres Bayswater, Calgraphics, and Automobility”.
He said while the FCV was not a direct firefighting appliance, it is an important part of the brigade’s inventory.
“During the fire season it is used to lead Strike Teams wherever they might be needed.”
He said that it is also used during the year to take crew and equipment to where it is required, for things like training, community engagement, meetings, or for things like traffic control during incidents.
He said it was important to get a versatile vehicle to enable it to carry out the roles it needs to fill.
“We configure the vehicle for strike team usage where you have got three people in it for 12 hours a day, so it needs to be a comfortable vehicle, it also needs to be the scouting vehicle to guide where we can take tankers — so we need a 4WD, but we do not need a 4WD that can go anywhere, we just need to make sure it is safe to take a tanker there.
“Typically what we will do is, we will hold the tankers at the bottom of a hill and  send the FCV up there, and the FCV will go ‘yes this it traversable by trucks’, or ‘no it is not’, and so it tends to do a lot of those scouting things.
“It also has to be able to be away for extended periods of time, so it has got an onboard fridge, it has lots of power, it has radios, it needs to be a very versatile vehicle, and that is what it is.”
He said while initially the timing for the vehicle changeover seemed to be during an awkward time, it turned out to be beneficial.
“Our routine vehicle replacement program identified that this vehicle needed to be done now, but COVID-19 has actually helped us, because there have been lots of incentives with waiving of luxury car tax et cetera, and we have been able to get substantial discounts and help on this one.
“Our change over cost has been surprisingly low, to the point that we have actually optimised our community money spend, so it is a really nice new vehicle.
“This vehicle will be able to be kept for six or seven years and we can use it for our ongoing support of the community that supports us,” he said.

50 years of Warrandyte Diary

AS THE DIARY celebrates its 50th birthday, we spoke with those who were there at the beginning.
Founding Editor Cliff Green, former Chief of Staff Jan Tindale (along with her late husband Lee), and Jock Macneish all had an immense contribution to the establishment of our community’s voice.
Earlier this year we had the opportunity to speak with Cliff and his wife Judy Green and then more recently with Jan and Jock.

Inception

Cliff was already a celebrated screenwriter and author, so we asked why he felt the need to start a newspaper.
“God knows why!” said Cliff.
“You would not believe it, it was because I wanted something to do here in Warrandyte.
“I could not understand why there was not [a paper] here and if there was going to be one, it had to be special.
“It had to be different because this was a special place.”
Judy reminded Cliff that it all started with the Youth Club.
Cliff said he volunteered on the Youth Club committee, because he had worked as a teacher and wanted to continue to work with young people.
Although, he said he had an ulterior motive.
“I wanted to start a newspaper, I did not tell anybody, I took on publicity officer for the Youth Club and started to report their material.
“We had to pay for it with something, so we decided to take advertising, so we started knocking on doors.”
Judy said Cliff first went to Peter McDougal’s office.
“He asked Peter if he would advertise   and then Ron Day came up, and Tom Kirkov,” said Judy.
“And suddenly we had the nucleus of a start,” added Cliff.
Cliff was approached by Peter Lovett, a Herald Sun sub-editor and sportswriter.
“He said ‘I will give you a hand with this paper’, so he came on as Sports Editor, and we were away.”
Cliff said the background to most of the early people who worked on the Diary was journalism.
“We had a lot of professional journalists coming and going on the paper.”
But Cliff also wanted an illustrator to join the team.
“I found out who this guy was that was doing these cartoons for the kinder, and it was Jock Macneish, and I went in and knocked on the door and told him what I wanted, and he said ‘alright I will be in that’, and away we went.
“Once I had Jock, I knew we had got ourselves one of the best press artists there was”.
Cliff said the first edition was 12 pages and they wanted to print 2,000 copies.
“I had been a printer, where I served my apprenticeship, he had started a little printery and I went to him; we had the typeset at Dudley King, which was the best typesetting found in Melbourne really good typesetters.
“The first issues looked really good, because they were designed by people who knew their business.”
Cliff said because the Diary was initially a fundraiser for the Youth Club, the kids were expected to letterbox.
“They folded it — to try and save money we did not get the printer to fold it, we took it flat, and the kids —after an issue or two, I started to see bundles of newspapers going down the Yarra, the kids were chucking them in the river, some of the kids were, so somebody said ‘oh you don’t need to distribute them, you put piles of them on shop counters, people will pick them up’ and they did, it worked beautifully”.
Jock said he was in awe of Cliff for his courage, in taking on the venture of producing a newspaper.
“I learnt a very important lesson from him, which was, if you have a bold dream and you are able to express it eloquently and passionately, whatever support you need sort of materialises out of the ether and he was able to recruit an absolutely huge number of volunteers that would do absolutely anything that he asked them to,” said Jock.

Many hands

Soon Cliff was joined by Lee Tindale, who worked as an associate editor of Truth newspaper.
“Truth was the biggest ratbag newspaper in Australia and Lee was the biggest ratbag journalist,” said Cliff.
Jan said when Cliff needed to step away from the Diary for other commitments, Lee was reluctant to take over any more work on the Diary.
“We had a meeting at the White House, which was a building next to the old football ground.
“I can remember Peter Lovett insisting on driving Lee home [from the city] that night because he did not want anything to do with the Diary, he said he had far too much to do as it was.
“They had many stops on the way home, Peter had to visit the Kew Cricket Club, where he was a member and have a few refreshment, I think the meeting started about 8pm, and Lee, until he died, said Peter held his hand up when they were looking for a new Editor.”
Jan and Lee ran the Diary for several years together, with Jan often doing a lot of the leg work.
“Any stories Lee would send me out to cover I had to do the ‘What Where Why’ questions and take a photo and Lee would write the story from that.
“Even with cricket and football, sport was his passion, he could write a cricket match from the scores and the time, all you had to do was write down the player’s name, the time he went out and what he made, and Lee would make the story.
“Much the same with football, most of the time he was there.
“Most of the time our stories were created from me doing that – and also Smokey Joe, we would sit down at night as a family, and the kids and he would ask what happened today, and you would find an awful lot of them were to do with the High School,” said Jan.
Cliff recalled Lee’s literary alter ego, Smokey Joe, fondly, however his column did tread a fine line sometimes.
“A brilliant creation but we had difficulty keeping us out of the courts and so on, but it was great stuff”.
“Smokey Joe, was keeping people honest, always very light-hearted,” said Jan.
Jock said the journalists loved volunteering at the Diary.
“They loved the Diary, they loved it with a passion, because it was absolute freedom.
“Cliff was a wonderful editor, trusted people endlessly, so the journalists just flocked to the newspaper.
“That was an interesting dynamic because there were professional journalists working with the Diary, they were able to help train the cadets in the subtle skills of journalists which are difficult to acquire in any other way, in those days you certainly could not go to journalism school.”
There were many volunteers, both professional and amateur, who emerged over the years to help out in the newsroom, many taking on the role of Editor for a time.
Sandy Burgoyne, Val Polley, Stephen Reynolds, Scott Podmore, Bob and Trish Millington, Ken Virtue, Jan Vagg and Judy McDonald have all played pivotal roles.
“David Wyman was a very good municipal affairs reporter,” recalls Cliff.
“You could thank David Wyman largely for what this place is now like, why it is zoned, why you cannot put up blocks of flats here and so on,” he said.
Jock said the Diary embraced the people of Warrandyte’s concern for their environment, in a major way.
“Those who saw the Diary as a propaganda machine for the green revolution totally misunderstood the fact that the Diary was representing the views of the people who read it, not pushing its views onto its people.
“That in a way meant that the Diary had the support of just about everybody in town, there was never any question as to whether the Diary was going to survive or not survive or be taken over by somebody else.
“I think the success of the Diary is measured in the conversations, I have had many times, with people of Warrandyte saying ‘do you know what they should put in the Diary, they should put this particular story in the Diary’, and it is the fact the people of Warrandyte have a right to say what is in the Diary; they do not phone up Mr Murdoch and say, this is what you should be putting in your paper – it is their paper, the Warrandyte Diary – it is Warrandyte’s paper.
“It is that sense of ownership that is fantastic,” said Jock.
He said in the early days there was a lot of discomfort felt by the local politicians.
“There were Council and State politicians who were horrified to find this ‘Roneo newsletter’ held such power, politically, in terms of people’s opinions.
“The major thrust in the early days was to either shut the thing down or to get some sort of measure of control over it: ‘Who is financing this operation?’
“When they discovered  that no one was financing it, and there was no way they could get any influence over it whatsoever, over a period of over ten years they started to change their tack and be a bit more open and considerate and courted the Diary, in subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways to get the idea across that they were wonderful people doing a great job for the community, which was not always the case,” said Jock.
Young bloods
Cadet journalists, these days called “Junior Reporters”, have always been an important part of the Diary, with Cliff taking many early cadets under his wing.
Jock recalls: “Cliff had a passion, not so much for the world as it was, but what he could foresee coming into being, so his focus was always on the future, how the village could be improved, how the lives of the people could be enhanced, and how the skills the young cadets could learn and contribute and watching the young cadets grow from basically school children into mature capable journalists was just a joy”.
Some of the stand-out cadets who have been through the Diary’s newsroom are remembered fondly by Cliff:
“Clinton Grybas, he was fabulous – at 14 he was doing the sports pages, brilliantly.
“Rachel Baker became an ABC Cadet and succeeded and became the ABC representative in Adelaide.
“She was typical of the young people who came through,” said Cliff.

Spirit of community

The Diary has changed its appearance, it has changed its size, it has changed from black and white to colour.
But Jock Macneish said despite the outward change, what has not changed is that it is still the voice of Warrandyte.
“It still concerns itself with the lives and the business of the people that live in Warrandyte and it reflects and shows the people of Warrandyte who they are — who they are to one another and who they are to the world,” said Jock.
Cliff said he was proud of the fact that the Diary exists.
“That it survived, and it did well, and it caught the heart of the community.”
His advice to the current team at the Diary, and one that the current editors take to heart, is the importance of keeping the paper close to the community: “Not having a them and us, but very much an us”.

Thank you to Warrandyte for your support of the Diary for 50 years.
We look forward to entertaining and engaging you for the next 50 years – Eds.

Getting back on the beers

AFTER SEVEN months of lockdown, the Grand Hotel Warrandyte reopened its doors under the latest stage of COVID-19 restriction easings, on Saturday, October 31.

Manager Peter Appleby said that when they announced they would be opening, they were booked out for their first four days within 50 minutes.

“We went live on Thursday afternoon, then 50 minutes later we were fully booked for four sessions, for 70 people, and that is like that now until Monday week.”

Peter said that customer support and confidence is important.

“That people want to get back to normal living is great,” he said.

Peter said the whole lockdown was very frustrating with an uncertain roadmap out of restrictions and unviable limits put on customer caps.

“The build-up has been intense, where we got promised one thing and then had it taken away from us.”

On October 19, Premier Daniel Andrews was expected to announce the reopening of hospitality, but put a pause on the reopening when there was a surge in cases in North Western Melbourne.

This was reversed 24 hours later with a rapid reopening announced as the state reported zero cases for two days in a row, and blitzed through the targeted 14-day average daily case number of five.

Despite being able to open four days earlier, the Grand took their time getting their new outdoor space opened.

“We got 30 hours’ notice to pull it all together, it is just crazy… we have been working around the clock the last five days to be able to be open today.

“It is exciting that we can open, but the disappointing part is the capacity for inside space is quite challenging for us, where we are only allowed 10 people per room, maximum of two rooms.

“It is great that we have got 50 people in our beautiful outdoor space, but when it rains this afternoon, what are we going to do, send them all home?” he said.

Throughout the lockdown, Peter has been firm that the minimum number of patrons to be viable to open was 50, however, with a pre-COVID-19 capacity of 700, even that number is barely sufficient.

He said he was hoping for one person per four-square-meters inside.

“We are COVID Safe, we are ready to open and we can work to that — we manage people, we manage customers, we manage responsible service of alcohol — we are the heaviest regulated industry in Australia, let us manage COVID in a COVID-Safe manner.”

The pub will be using a QR Code for contact tracing, a questionnaire on arrival, as well as temperature checking.

As per the government guidelines, patrons can only consume food and drinks while seated.

The timing could not be better to launch the Grand’s newest outdoor space, a beer garden, which has replaced the drive through bottle shop.

Peter told the Diary since new management took over the pub in November 2012 they had had the idea of having an outdoor space.

“We started the job, and with COVID-19 restrictions coming into place, and with what we could open down the track, we thought let us pull the trigger and get it all ready for when we can open, because outside dining is obviously going to be around for a while.

“We are pretty happy with what the outcome is, although we are not finished,” he said.

He said they were working until 2am every night in the week leading up to the reopening to get the venue ready.

Helping with the reopening was local Member for Warrandyte, Ryan Smith who, as luck would have it, has an RSA qualification, so was able to pull the first beer.

“Good to see the pub back, it is a focal point for the community, and the hospitality sector has been hit really, really hard by the lockdowns.

“I think people are really keen to get out and back to seeing their friends and family and having a few drinks and socialising again, and if you are going to socialise in Warrandyte, there is no better place than the Grand Hotel,” Mr Smith told the Diary.

Peter is grateful for all the support he has received from the community since the pub closed its doors back in March.

“It has been wonderful; we have had a lot of messages of support.

“We did takeaway at the start, which was great, it was just great to see some faces, people need a pub, it is pretty important for people’s mental health — we saw a lot of people just come in for a chat, which is nice and people need that.

“As publicans we are a sounding board for a lot of people in so many ways; we reached out to a lot of our customers who perhaps needed us, just checking on them making sure they were doing ok.

“Of course the local support on social media has been fantastic, we were getting messages here and there, just random, ‘thinking of you guys’, and that just melts us you know, makes us feel wanted, needed and loved.

“Just as much as we love our community, it is nice that people love us,” he said.

Peter also reiterated the important role that the social environment the pub generates contributes to mental health.

“Getting staff back in to work has been very important for us.

“Mental health is a very important thing, and I know it is used a lot at the moment, but we have seen some people suffer, not just staff, but customers as well.

“Just to get the pub back for people to get the opportunity to come back to normal — well semi-normal — and get back some social skills, which people have sorely missed.”

The Diary spoke with some of the first customers through the doors who were all very eager to be back at their favourite local.

“We are super excited.”

“We have the first session and are back again on Tuesday as well.”

“Beautiful, can’t wait to get in there and get back on the beers.”

“Beer out of a glass, I can’t wait.”

Peter said booking for an outing to the pub was simple.

“You can book on our website, there is an easy to follow link on there.

“Also on Facebook and Instagram there is a link there as well, and it will bring up the slots that are available.

“Click on the link and put your booking in with a maximum booking size of 10.”

www.grandhotelwarrandyte.com.au

As of midnight Sunday, November 8, State Government increased the dining caps to 40 people indoors and 70 people outdoors.

 

Artists and art lovers rejoice

CONFINED TO their studios since March, local artists have not been idle.

Artists have spent their time wisely and creatively, producing a myriad of new works that they are now able to present to the public.

Many galleries are reopening and, while many home-based studios remain closed, there are several studios opening to the public.

Ona Henderson and Syd Tunn have kept with the Nillumbik Artists Open Studios tradition and are holding an “Open Studio by appointment”.

Ona told the Diary that, as they are classed as private retail their Creek House Studios is able to operate under COVID-19 guidelines.

“We are already having visitors in our afternoons and making times up until Christmas,” she said.

This will mark Syd and Ona’s 37th year holding an Open Studio.

Their original open studio concept, first held in 1983, grew into what became the Nillumbik Artists Open Studios program, which they hope will return next year.

Syd and Ona’s Creek House Studios, at the Corner of Henley and Oxley Roads, Bend Of Islands, is a cornucopia of artistic delights.

The couple produce a range of paintings drawings prints and art cards, using a range of media.

Bookings can be made by phoning 9712 0393 after 10am.

While it would normally be time for the rest of Nillumbik Artists Open Studios to open their doors, the home based artists have decided to create a gallery exhibition, as well as show their works on an online gallery site.

Program coordinator Annette Nobes said the committee decided “having thousands of people visiting dozens of studios across Nillumbik was not responsible”.

So they have cancelled this year’s event.

You can visit their expanded website to visit a virtual shop plus up-to-date information on studio happenings, events and opening times at artistsopenstudios.com.au

 

Nillumbik Artists at Gallery 7 six 5

Nillumbik Artists have combined for a rolling exhibition at Gallery 7 six 5.

Located at 765d Eltham-Yarra Glen Road, Watsons Creek, the new gallery run by artists Lisa Ferrari and Benny Archer opened its doors just as Coronavirus hit.

“We opened on June 6 and were open for five weeks before the Stage 4 Lockdown, which was devastating,” Benny told the Diary.

However, they are back with a vengeance and reopened to the public on October 30 with an exhibition of Benny’s works.

This has been followed by an exhibition of the Nillumbik Artists Open Studio.

Each weekend for six weekends, starting from November 6, they are showcasing the works of one of the Open Studio Zones.

“We set this gallery up to support local artists, there is such incredible talent in the Artisan Hills,” Benny said.

The first fortnight November 6—15 is dedicated to Zone A artists, focussing on artists from Eltham and Research, this includes potter Mary-Lou Pittard, painter Claire Dunstan, glass artist Jacquie Hacansson and horticultural potter Jack Latti.

November 20—29 will feature Zone B, centred on artists from Christmas Hills, St Andrews and Kangaroo Ground, including sculptor Tim Read, artists Syd and Ona, Nerina Lascelles, and Robyn Koiker, and the printmakers from Baldessen Press.

December 4—13 will feature Zone C artists from the Hurstbridge area such as metal sculptor Mel Rayski-Mati, artist Harry Z Hughes and artists from the Dunmoochin foundation.

Benny’s studio sits within the gallery space, so you can watch the artist at work as you browse the collections.

With the Dark Horse Café next door, it makes the perfect destination to explore your extended bubble and support local art.

 

Art on Yarra Street

Warrandyte township is also seeing a resumption of artistic spaces as well as a new pottery space.

Stonehouse Gallery reopened its doors to the public in late October.

Jenny Johns told the Diary they leapt into action as soon as the Premier announced the changes to opening dates.

“We opened last Tuesday [27 October] with all the new rules and regulations in place to keep our visitors and members safe,” Jenny said.

She said during the second closure their team worked hard behind the scenes keeping up with all the general requirements so that they would be ready to open.

“Members and our many talented consignment artists have been making good use of the time out and have created many new and exciting works for the gallery.

“With Christmas in a few weeks we are hoping that all our visitors will find a special hand-crafted gift for friends and family,” Jenny said.

The Stonehouse Gallery is open six days from 10:30am to 5pm, closed Mondays.

A new pop up pottery market is opening each weekend of November and December below the Sassafras Sweet Shop, in the space formerly occupied by Ratty and Moles.

Jane Annois said the pop-up gallery is a forerunner for a permanent gallery and pottery school which is planned to open in 2021.

Jane said she is also participating this month in the Australian Ceramics Open Studio program, an annual nationwide event that celebrates clay, community and creativity.

Hosted by The Australian Ceramics Association, made up of over 100 ceramics studios, potters open their doors to offer insight, practical demonstrations and the chance to take home a handmade piece.

Jane’s pottery studio will be open at 109 Kangaroo Ground Road from 10am – 5pm on November 20 – 21.

 

Great expectations

Looking to the future, there is a plethora of art coming our way, assuming we keep COVID-19 at bay.

February is looking like a busy time on the art scene with a major photography exhibition (see Page 19) as well as the Mechanics Institute Arts Association hosting an Arts Expo.

“Since March, the hall has been ‘silent’ and so we thought an Arts Expo would help Warrandyte celebrate the lifting of lockdown restrictions and a return to something approaching normal life,” said WMIAA Vice Chair, Ian Craig.

They are planning to host a weekend of artistic activities, promoting local artists, groups, and bands.

The event will include concerts, visual arts and pottery workshops, a community choir event, and the popular Repair Cafe workshop.

“The emphasis will be on the promotion of Warrandyte Arts and ‘getting involved’ in the free activities.”

Ian said subject to Government restrictions, they are aiming to run the Expo on February 19–21.

Fire season approaching — are you ready?

WITH A WET September seeing Warrandyte’s verdant gardens bursting with growth, compounded by COVID-19 travel restrictions and the closure of green waste facilities, preparing for the upcoming summer is going to be a challenge.

With council tip facilities remaining closed, Manningham Council is developing a way for residents to dispose of green waste in the lead up to the fire season.

Similar to the response following January’s hailstorm, a council spokesperson said that it is planning to roll out skips at strategic locations around the municipality.

Rachelle Quattrocchi, Director City Services told the Diary “Council will provide a series of garden waste disposal days throughout spring and early summer to assist residents in Manningham’s Bushfire Prone Areas to prepare for the summer fire season.”

She said portable skip bins will be provided across several locations in the Bushfire Prone Area over four weekends so residents can dispose of their garden waste and reduce fire hazard fuel loads on their private properties.

“An Eventbrite booking system will be available for residents to pre-book garden waste disposal across several weekends and locations in Manningham,” she said.

The garden waste disposal days will be held on Saturdays and Sundays on the weekends of November, 21–22, 28 –29, and December 5–6, 12–13.

Booking information and skip locations will be communicated to residents in the coming weeks at www.manningham.vic.gov.au and will be published in the Warrandyte Diary and WD Bulletin.

Residents in North Warrandyte and Green Wedge areas of Nillumbik Shire, while unable to take their green waste to a transfer may be able to take advantage of the recent change in restrictions.

Under Step 2, sole traders such as garden maintenance are allowed to work, if they are working alone and outside. Although Nillumbik Shire transfer stations are currently closed to the public, the sites are open for commercial use, with a valid work permit.

With those on big blocks concerned about their inability to legally remove cleared vegetation, this — at least — may provide a short-term solution to help reduce the risk of bushfire damaging their property.

For those on properties able to burn off, the window of opportunity is closing, with the fire season having already started this time last year.

The Australian Seasonal Bushfire Outlook indicates Victoria will have a “normal” fire season in 2020–21, however possible spring rainfall is likely to have an impact on fire potential in the lead up to and over summer.

The outlook, developed by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre with Bureau of Meteorology and relevant state fire and land managers, was released on August 31.

Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said the outlook was an early indication of what Victoria could expect in the summer season and would be updated in November as predictions firm up.

“The severity of fires in the west half of the state will depend on several factors including the amount, location and timing of rain during spring and over summer,” he said.

Fast-running grassfires and fires in dry forests and woodlands are likely by late spring, depending on fire and weather conditions and dryness in grasslands.

“We have to stay home as much as possible at the moment due to COVID-19 restrictions — why not use the time to clean up your property and make a plan on how to keep yourself and your loved ones safe this summer?” he said.

Across the state, six thousand more burn-offs were registered with the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA) between the start of May and the end of August.

CFA Acting Chief Officer Garry Cook said it was great news to see so many Victorians doing the right thing.

“More people are spending more time at home at the moment and if that means they are choosing to spend more time to clean up their properties before the bushfire season, that’s a good thing.”

Acting Chief Officer Cook said welcome rain in many parts of Victoria over the winter months meant a slight delay to the start of the fire season compared to recent years when the fire danger period started in early September in East Gippsland.

“The best way to defend your homes is to prepare before the fire danger period begins.

“This includes cleaning up your gardens, your gutters and removing flammable waste from your yards,” Acting Chief Officer Cook said.

“Many property owners dispose of this waste with a burn-off, but we also recommend people consider alternative methods such as mulching, chipping or taking green waste to a transfer station.”

The recent Australian seasonal bushfire outlook identified recent rains have led to a reduced risk of prolonged fire activity throughout spring, although shorter duration fires in grasslands, drier forests and woodlands are still likely to occur across the state.

Mr Cook reminded Victorians that even an average fire season in the state can be a bad one.

“Residents who want to conduct burn-offs on their private properties need to follow some basic rules such as checking the weather conditions, monitoring the wind, and following local council laws and regulations.

“It is important that as well as registering your burn-offs, you notify your neighbours that they may see smoke as false alarms take CFA firefighters away from real emergencies which can be very frustrating for our crews.”

By registering burn-offs, any reports of smoke or fire will be cross-checked with the burn-off register to avoid unnecessary response of fire services.

Landowners can register their burn-off with ESTA by calling 1800 668 511 or emailing burnoffs@esta.vic.gov.au

Mr Cook said that when registering a burn-off by phone or email, people would be asked for basic information such as location, date, start and finish times, and what they intend to burn.

“The burn-off line is very easy to use — the operators are friendly, and prompt you by asking the key questions,” he said.

“When conducting burn-offs, remain alert and always have resources on hand to extinguish the fire.

“Check the weather, winds must be light and temperatures low.

“Make sure you have sufficient water on hand at all times and fully extinguish the burn once completed.

“Escaped burn-offs or those not conducted properly will result in you being liable for the consequences.”

Keep your burn-off safe and legal:

Check fire restrictions with your local council and register your burn -off on 1800 668 511.

Check and monitor weather conditions — particularly wind.

To avoid unnecessary calls to emergency services, notify your neighbours beforehand.

Leave a three-metre fire break, free from flammable materials around the burn-off.

Have sufficient equipment and water to stop the fire spreading.

Never leave a burn-off unattended — stay for its entire duration.

If your burn-off gets out of control, call 000 immediately.

“You also need to plan and prepare for your safety so that you, and everyone in your household, know what to do on hot, dry, windy days when fires will start and spread quickly,” said Acting Chief Officer Cook.

For more information about preparing your property, go to cfa.vic.gov.au/prepare

 

Back in action before bushfire season

By DAVID HOGG

 

THE FIRE DANGER sign at the north end of the bridge has not worked for almost a year.

We were originally told in November last year that Emergency Management Victoria (EMV) were awaiting a part to repair the sign.

In January, we were advised by EMV that the sign could not be repaired safely at its current location due to safety issues with a new overhead high-voltage cable and that EMV were working with Nillumbik Council to determine a new location for the sign.

In May, we were advised that EMV was working closely with Nillumbik Council, the Country Fire Authority and the Department of Transport to identify the most appropriate location for a new Fire Danger Rating sign, and that once agreement has been reached between all parties, it would be relocated.

With the 2020/21 Fire Season only three to four weeks away we decided to follow up progress on this issue with EMV and Nillumbik Council.

Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp sent us an almost identical response to the one he provided in May, but with a slightly changed first paragraph that reads “EMV is committed to ensuring the Fire Danger Rating sign near the Warrandyte Bridge in North Warrandyte is operational prior to the 2020/21 fire danger period and works to rehabilitate and make the sign operational will commence shortly.”

He then continued to advise that EMV is working closely with Nillumbik Council, the Country Fire Authority and the Department of Transport to identify the most appropriate location for a new Fire Danger Rating sign.

When we queried this further we were advised that works are about to commence on the sign and that it will be repaired and operate again in the same place it is now, until such time as another site can be agreed.

Nillumbik Council has also confirmed that a contractor has been engaged and the sign will be repaired in its current position before the Fire Danger Period commences.

A walk into Warrandyte’s history

MANNINGHAM CITY Council and Warrandyte Historical Society have installed another four historical plaques highlighting the rich history of the township.

Historical Society Secretary Valerie Polley said plaques were installed on the Warrandyte Mechanics Institute on the wall facing Yarra Street adjacent to the path leading to the outdoor area, on the front stone wall of the Old Fire Station, on the front wall of the Wine Hall, and on the right hand side of the stone retaining wall behind the War Memorial.

The plaques have been installed on historical buildings around Warrandyte and join another five, which were installed in 2017 at the Warrandyte Grand Hotel, Old Warrandyte Post Office (now museum), Warrandyte Bakery, Gospel Chapel (now Stonehouse Gallery) and the former Butcher’s Shop (now Riveresque).

The Historical Society provided the pictures and text and the council produced and installed the plaques.

The plaques tell the history of each building, providing residents and visitors an insight into the important history of the Warrandyte Township.

The owners and representatives of the properties were consulted on the placement of the plaques in a prominent position.

The new plaques add to the rich fabric of Warrandyte historical documentation and provide a COVID Safe friendly way for those interested to engage with and explore the history of Warrandyte township.

 

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Podcast weighs in on Teskey Brothers story

MUSHROOM HAS launched its first ever original podcast, 180 Grams, with a six-part rockumentary about Warrandyte’s very own Teskey Brothers.

180 Grams is an ongoing series which tells the stories behind remarkable albums, inviting fans into the lives of some of the most renowned and loved artists of our time.

Season one of the 180 Grams podcast uncovers the highs and lows and untold stories from Warrandyte locals to international rock’n’soul group; The Teskey Brothers.

From busking at the St Andrews Market to playing Red Rock Music Festival in Colorado the 10-year journey is explored by the boys themselves, and those that have been with them on that ride.

180 Grams is named because that is the weight of a collector’s edition vinyl record.

“Unlike the stories in the show, 180-gram records glide smoothly on turntables thanks to the weight,” said the Mushroom announcement.

Across six episodes, as the debut season of 180 Grams delves into the making of The Teskey Brothers’ acclaimed sophomore studio album Run Home Slow — listeners are taken on the journey from pre-production all the way through to sold-out international tours.

Run Home Slow, like Half Mile Harvest before it, was recorded right here in the band’s studio, built under their share-house on a typically Warrandyte bush block.

“The space really captures the whole energy of everyone there — the bustle of a share house with people — there’s gardening going on, there’s cooking going on, there’s yelling going on, there’s mostly good laughs from Josh and the rest of the boys,” reflected the band’s assistant engineer Soren Maryasin.

180 Grams is a tag-along adventure of creative struggle, teenage friendship and global fame with a universally loved band from Warrandyte.

Music journalist Mikey Cahill talks to the Teskey Brothers as they discuss learning the ropes of the music business and the pressures of making a second album filled with nuance, tension and carefully crafted songs.

The podcast explores how the band’s career skyrocketed in 2016 after uploading a track to Triple J Unearthed and being discovered by a record company.

Marihuzka Cornelius, A&R Manager at Ivy League Records, said she was sitting at her desk in Woolloomooloo, Sydney, trawling the Unearthed website then, hearing their song, sat up.

“When I heard them, I thought, ‘Oh my God, if I love this so much, off the bat, surely other people will love this too’ — and I just never had a doubt that it would cut through because I always say ‘you can’t fake good’.”

The conversation that followed spawned the release of their first album, Half Mile Harvest, which was just the start of their journey to international fame.

The band took their time courting deals for their second album, and the plan pays off with something rare and rather complicated.

They negotiated for the territories of USA, Europe and Australia to get favourable, big label, local representation in each.

Danny Roberts, from Decca/Universal said “I’ve signed many acts in my career, but signing the Teskey Brothers was without a doubt the proudest moment of my career, partly due to the fact that it took so long”.

The podcast is filled with little treasures for The Teskey Brothers super fans, including a pattern in the instrumental music used throughout the six-episode series.

In order of appearance on the album, instrumental tracks are used to score the narration and guests in each episode: Let Me Let You Down (track 1) before switching to stems from Carry You for the second half.

Many people who work intimately with the band were interviewed for the series; 32 in total across the USA, UK, Germany and Australia including Josh Teskey (vocals and rhythm guitar), Sam Teskey (lead guitar), Brendon Love (bass guitar) and Liam Gough (drums) who make up The Teskey Brothers.

Crashes question road safety

Crashes question road safety

By SANDI MILLER

 

LOCAL TRUCK driver, Stephen Goldsworthy says “enough is enough” after being forced to swerve his delivery truck into a ditch to avoid head on collision on Brysons Road in late June.

“My truck is a write off,” he said.

He told the Diary he was driving along Brysons Road, when he saw another truck come towards him in the middle of the road

“It was speeding towards me as I came around the bend I had nowhere to go — I hit the wall and wrote off the truck.”

He said the other driver stopped briefly before driving off.

“If I had not driven my van into the [ditch], the van coming the other way would have hit me head on, it was on the wrong side of the road, and I suspect speeding.

“He would have known what had happened, and then he drove off.”

While he managed to walk away from the accident, he said he is disgusted with the state of Brysons Road.

“Brysons Road is a mess, a total mess,” he said.

He said with no footpath on Brysons Road, people have to walk on the road, there is nowhere for kids to ride their bikes on the way to school.

He also says the drains are more than half a metre deep in places,

“They have not been managed at all, the road often floods, because the drains are full of debris,” he said.

He also says that with trees only 30–40cm away from the road, the speed limits are inappropriate.

“I would be lucky to be doing 40 safely [given the condition of the road],” he said.

However, he is appalled that the road carries a Federal Black Spot sign only 150 metres from where the crash occurred, despite not having any substantial work done on it for the 12 years he has lived on that road, particularly as the road is currently carrying additional traffic as the Jumping Creek Road traffic is being detoured along that road.

He said that funding is given to projects in more populated areas but is not going where is it needed.

“Someone will die on that road before Christmas,” he said.

Stephen is calling for a public meeting to discuss what should be done, saying that “Council, State and Federal Government, along with VicRoads are not taking the safety of our local residents seriously”.

“Federal Government, VicRoads, Council, we don’t care who is responsible, we just want it fixed.

 

Taking care, taking responsibility

Meanwhile a woman who was seriously injured in a crash in January at Warrandyte Bridge is calling for changes on Research Road.

Ana Quine was trapped in her vehicle for several hours, broke several bones and received lacerations, when a truck collided with her car when its brakes failed coming down Research Road toward the bridge.

“I would like to see signs telling trucks to check their brakes, warning about the steep incline,” she said.

Her mother, Benita Quine says there has got to be more accountability and more policing, to get the message through, that it is not just road deaths that leave a lasting legacy on families.

“Ana’s life was saved, and we are very grateful.

“But they don’t see the result, she has a lifetime of injury because of someone not thinking, ‘oh should I check my brakes’; the police officer said the driver knew his brakes were failing, and he could have pulled over at some point,” Benita said.

Ana said she understands that change happens gradually.

“I would like to see small changes that would add up to something better, like warning signs on the road.”

She implored people to be aware while driving “not driving for yourself but for everyone around you”.

“You can’t predict when an animal is going to run out in front of you, but you can help yourself be able to react, by doing the speed limit and leaving your phone in the back seat — none of these things contributed to my accident, but there are just so many things people could be doing every single day, simple things that won’t be as inconvenient as you think, but something that could save someone’s life.

“I think a lot of people who drive by [an accident] are hoping that the person survives, but then the person surviving has to deal with surviving afterwards.

“Coming so close to not surviving is something that makes you feel very, very mortal,” Ana said.

Bike path plans put residents in a spin

PLANNING FOR THE final stages of the bicycle path to connect Warrandyte to the Main Yarra Trail is underway.

Manningham Council is currently planning for a new shared bicycle path to connect Pound Road to Taroona Avenue in Warrandyte, with a final leg taking the path from Warrandyte High School to the junction with the Main Yarra Trail at Beasley’s Nursery.

Angelo Kourambas, Director City Planning and Community told the Diary, the path would complete the Main Yarra Trail connection to Warrandyte.

“This was identified as one of the top 10 trail connections in the Eastern Regional Trails Strategy 2018, which Manningham is a partner Council,” Mr Kourambas said.

He said it is also Council’s commitment to deliver key objectives of the Manningham Bicycle Strategy 2013.

However, locals have safety concerns over the chosen route for the Pound Bend to Taroona Avenue.

The proposed alignment of the new shared path includes a new off-road shared path and an on-road trail connection along an existing service lane, located off Heidelberg-Warrandyte Road ending at West End Road.

Residents who reside along the Heidelberg Road service lane are unhappy that the path will bring large numbers of bicycles along their narrow service lane.

Dr Abdul Qader, contacted the Diary on behalf of the residents after they received a letter from Manningham City Council regarding the bike trail extension.

“The residents of the service road totally reject this plan, mainly on safety grounds.

In a letter, signed by all the residents along the service road, which was sent to the Manningham Council Planning Department, the residents outlined their objections.

“Our service road will be subject to accident/collisions if this goes ahead.

Our driveways are built in such a way that we have to reverse our cars to go out and with bikes it would definitely become too hazardous.

So our driveways would have to be redesigned if this plan stands, if so who would bear the cost?”

MP Ryan Smith spoke to Council on the residents’ behalf and received the following statement from Council:

“The roadway itself is a quiet Council owned service lane that currently facilitates vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists.

Having said that, Council acknowledges that the service lane could be improved with such works potentially incorporated into the project scope.

Council will consider all submissions before confirming next steps with the community.

This is only a conceptual alignment at this stage.

Council will ensure resident concerns have been considered and where appropriate, changes can be made to strengthen the design.”

The group has suggested keeping the path on the main road, rather than on the service road, or to reroute the path along Pound Road to the riverside.

“The latter option would serve better as all bike riders would enjoy the Warrandyte scenic beauty rather than our residential houses,” the residents’ letter stated.

Dr Qader said the residents were not rejecting the whole plan.

“The overall scheme is plausible, but the diversion from the main road to our service road is absolutely unacceptable when there are a couple of alternatives available,” he said.

Mr Kourambas said Council is currently assessing feedback received from local residents on the proposed alignment of this section of the trail.

“The detailed design process for the proposed on-road trail connection would consider safety for all road users including cyclists, pedestrians and motorists along with resident feedback,” he said.

Mr Kourambas said a final detailed design for the trail connection is anticipated to be completed during 2020/21 and works on the path are planned for 2021/22.

The completed trail should eventually join into another proposed bike path to extend the Yarra River trail from Taroona Reserve, up Taroona Avenue.

The Taroona Avenue extension was originally planned in 2018, however this seems to have been shelved for the moment.

Fire service shake up begins in July

CHANGES ARE afoot for our fire services, with paid members of the Country Fire Authority (CFA) to merge with the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) to form Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV) as of July 1.

FRV brings together all career firefighters — MFB and CFA staff — to serve Melbourne and major regional centres.

Minister for Police and Emergency Services Lisa Neville said: “Our career and volunteer firefighters are the best in the world and our reforms are providing a more modern career firefighting organisation alongside a strengthened, community-based volunteer organisation.”

Member for Eastern Metropolitan, Sonja Terpstra told the Diary nothing is changing for Volunteer brigades, who will remain with the CFA.

She said the Government is “giving CFA the support it needs to continue to develop and build its proud and passionate volunteer base”.

FRV will cover the existing metropolitan fire area and has been expanded to include additional suburban areas and regional cities, until now, covered by the CFA’s 38 integrated stations.

Locally, South Warrandyte and Eltham are both integrated stations, who have both paid and volunteer firefighters, who work together with neighbouring CFA brigades to respond to emergencies.

Captain of Warrandyte Fire Brigade, Adrian Mullens told the Diary that at this stage, there has been little operational change information released.

“However, our members continue to remain positive and 100 per cent committed to our community.

“Our volunteers have been as active as ever with expanded efforts in online training, participating in community initiatives as well as maintaining station and vehicle maintenance schedules,” said Captain Mullens.

He said Warrandyte CFA have an “extremely successful working relationship with CFA career staff and MFB, we don’t believe this will change”.

Captain Mullens assured the Diary the Warrandyte community need not worry.

“In the event of an emergency, the community will still receive the same standards of excellence in response from Warrandyte CFA in conjunction with Fire Rescue Victoria.

“Our volunteers are ready and waiting to respond to the pager.”

Lieutenant Peter Cahill of Noth Warrandyte CFA said his brigade does not envisage any significant changes to the way they do business.

“We have always maintained a high level of community engagement, assistance and response and this will [continue to] be delivered,” he said.

Volunteers from the integrated station at South Warrandyte declined to comment on the changes, saying it is too early to tell what impact the largest changes in the history of the CFA will bring for volunteers, except to say that it will be operating as “business as usual” and to reassure the community that they will still be there when needed.

Member for Warrandyte, Ryan Smith called on the Government to guarantee that “volunteers at integrated stations are treated and valued as an integral part of the Brigade”.

However, Mr Smith said concerns were raised that the changes to the fire service would result in a reduction of volunteers.

“Over the past five years there has been a reduction of 5,000 in the number of CFA volunteers,” he said.

However, Government figures suggest that as at June 2019, CFA had over 54,000 volunteer members, encompassing operational and support.

More than 34,000 of these volunteers are operational, and the number of these that are active — available to turn out and fight fires — has remained stable at approximately 20,000 volunteers for any of the past five years

Lt Cahill said North Warrandyte is currently in the process of recruiting new members and says the enthusiastic response and applicant quality has been outstanding.

“In fact, this year will probably be the highest recruit intake for our Brigade in more than 10 years,” he said.

He said the brigade’s current surge capacity is strong, recently proven by a significant commitment of members deploying on Strike Teams both in regional Victoria and interstate.

“During the last fire season we were able to fill both deployment requirements and local commitments with excellent results,” Lt Cahill said.

This may not continue, as a CFA member told the Diary that processing recruits has been difficult during the COVID-19 restrictions.

Despite a surge in volunteer inquiries following the recent bushfires, applications are not being processed as head office staff work from home, and recruit training has been put on hold.

He said that could be “catastrophic” for the future of many volunteer brigades.

Ryan Smith is also concerned that the training for volunteers could be compromised.

“[Volunteer training] has been an issue for the last few years and, with control of the training passing to FRV, it is vitally important that all firefighters are trained to the highest standard,” he said.

Ms Neville stated the changes recognise the changing nature of population growth across Victoria.

FRV will cover existing MFB boundaries and serve metropolitan Melbourne, outer urban areas and larger regional centres across Victoria.

Boundaries will be altered to reflect population growth across the State — the current boundaries have been in place for more than 60 years.

Lt Cahill said FRV reforms will allow CFA to become a stand-alone, truly volunteer organisation.

“This will give us more autonomy, control and the direction of our service,” he said

Fire Service Levy changes

The Fire Services Property Levy rate will be reduced on residential properties across the state as part of an overhaul that will make the charge simpler and more consistent — and reflect the establishment of Fire Rescue Victoria.

As part of Coronavirus measures, the Victorian Government froze the Fire Services Property Levy (FSPL) collection levels.

The levy will be frozen at this year’s collection level for next financial year as a measure designed to support Victorians affected by the crisis.

The Government also announced it will create a consistent, state-wide FSPL.

Member for Eastern Metropolitan Melbourne, Sonja Terpstra said this is a common-sense change that recognises fire touches all Victorians — and that we all benefit from a well-resourced fire service.

“Longer and hotter summers and more intense fires are the new normal in Victoria.

“We’re making sure the men and women who keep us safe from these fires have the resources they need,” she said.

State Treasurer, Tim Pallas, said under the new streamlined system, property owners will no longer pay higher contributions depending on the location of their property.

From July, all residential properties in Victoria will see a fall in their FSPL rate, while all other properties — such as industrial or commercial properties — in the old CFA district will either see no increase, or a decrease in their rate.

The fixed levy will be indexed in accordance with the legislation.

Ms Terpstra said the vast majority of property owners will see a decrease in their rate, while for others, the change will be very modest.

The total FSPL levy charge will remain around $150 for a typical metropolitan residence, while a family home in regional Victoria will see a small fall in the FSPL, from around $141 to $137.

Non-residential properties in the old MFB area will see a modest increase in the levy — with an extra $1 per week for a typical small business, through to around an extra $15.50 per week ($806 per year) for a $10 million commercial property.

Mr Smith said many businesses are already struggling due to Coronavirus.

“With businesses largely and adversely impacted from the current pandemic, any additional cost will be very difficult to bear, including a rise in the Fire Services Levy”.

 

Prepare now to reduce bushfire risk

By DAVID HOGG

THE BRIDGE widening has been completed, but does that mean authorities think they have solved Warrandyte’s fire danger situation?

We hope not.

With winter approaching and all available resources consumed with tackling COVID-19, perhaps fire danger is not high on anybody’s radar.

But surly now is the time to be preparing in advance of the next fire season?

However, the Fire Danger Rating sign stands silently at the north end of the bridge, still out of operation, and if works are not commenced soon it will again fail to advise us of the danger levels come next fire season.

Meanwhile, the “No Burning Off” Fire Danger Period sign remains on display, even as we move into winter, a forgotten memento of summer.

After weeks of being told in November last year that Emergency Management Victoria (EMV) were awaiting a part to repair the electronic Fire Danger Rating sign, we were finally advised in January that the sign could not be repaired at its current location due to safety issues with an overhead high-voltage cable and that EMV were working with Nillumbik council to determine a new location for the sign.

The Diary has followed up with EMV and with Nillumbik to see what has been decided.

Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp tells us “EMV is committed to operationalising the Fire Danger Rating sign at Warrandyte and continues to meet with Nillumbik Council and CFA to seek agreement on an alternative location before the next fire season.”

Carl Cowie, Chief Executive Officer Nillumbik Council, tells the Diary “Council, along with the CFA and Emergency Management Victoria are working to resolve this issue as a priority.

“At present contractors cannot access and fix the sign due to safety issues following the bridge widening but Council, the CFA and EMV are writing to the Department of Transport requesting a solution as soon as possible.”

So it is incumbent on us to ensure we have multiple sources of information.

The sign is a great resource when it works, so it is best for all that we agitate for its repair, but there are other ways to find out: use the Vic Emergency App, radio, or internet sources (the Diary’s website displays the current fire danger rating during fire season, as does Be Ready Warrandyte).

One of the criticisms that has been levelled at the current fire danger ratings system, both on social media and in letters to the Diary, is that the Central District is far too large and that these signs can often show a far higher rating than is applicable locally.

This has led to a few people leaving Warrandyte on Severe days in summer when in fact the conditions locally were at a much lower rating.

This could lead to complacency, and a lack of trust in the warnings, when local weather fails to live up to the forecasts.

We put this concern to EMV and Commissioner Crisp advised: “Victoria is supporting a review into the National Fire Danger Rating System along with the Commonwealth and all States and Territories.

“A key stage of the National Fire Danger Rating project has focused on reviewing the science and models behind fire danger ratings to help us to more accurately predict fire danger.

“To contribute to this review, a nation-wide community research piece was completed recently to help us to better understand how the community understands and responds to fire danger ratings and warnings provided by the emergency services.

“We will continue to work with our partner agencies across Australia to consider how we can use the evidence and models arising from this work in Victoria in due course; and are committed to using the best evidence and approaches available to keep Victorians safe.”

If there was consultation, we are yet to find anyone who has been consulted.

Dick Davies, chair of Be Ready Warrandyte (BRW) told the Diary: “we are not aware of any ‘nationwide community research’ and BRW has not made a submission.”

BRW have had a highly active community education program with forums and scenarios encouraging residents to be fire-aware and have a plan, so hopefully Warrandyte is better informed than other parts of the state.

A 2018 survey commissioned by the CFA, reported on by The Guardian in May 2020, found that before last year’s catastrophic fire season, some Victorians at ‘extreme’ risk had unrealistic expectations of help.

Residents in Victorian towns at highest risk of bushfire went into the most recent bushfire season — which was unprecedented in intensity and devastation — with many believing firefighting aircraft and vehicles would save them if their lives and property were under threat.

The emergency services will always do their utmost to protect lives and property, but when all worst-case scenarios are surpassed, there is no certainty they can be everywhere at once.

The best advice is to plan on not being there when the fire comes — leave early — and always, always, have a Plan B.

Even though it is now winter, this is the time to be planning for the next fire season and to be getting the necessary signage and advice in place.

 

 

Final rally for Bridge Tennis Courts

AFTER MORE THAN 110 years, the life of the tennis courts with one of the best views in Melbourne is officially over.

The courts were established in 1907 and had been used to varying degrees until they were seconded by VicRoads as a worksite during the recent bridge redevelopment.

Rallies by the River, a book produced by Judy Green and Keith Wilson in 2007 to celebrate the centenary of  Warrandyte Tennis Club, notes that: “In September 1907 ‘with valuable assistance from the Progressive Association’ the land was gazetted by the Government to be used for ‘public purposes’”.

The courts were built by volunteers and opened in May 1908, “to celebrate the occasion ‘a large number of members assembled and some very enjoyable games were played’”.

The years that followed saw regular inter-club tournaments with neighbouring townships.

However, devastating fire and floods wrought havoc on the riverside courts, with the floods of 1934 washing the courts away, and the 1939 bushfires melting the asphalt surface.

These were replaced by concrete courts, but construction was interrupted by WWII, with the courts at Mr Ted Hemsworth’s Yarra Street home being used in the interim.

The Warrandyte Tennis Club continued to grow over the following decades, but with threats of road widening and the position’s geographical constraints, the club moved to Taroona Avenue in 1974.

The courts were unused for some time after Warrandyte Tennis Club had established itself at Taroona Avenue.

Enter the Warrandyte Lions Club who has now been managing the tennis courts by the bridge for more than 40 years.

Ron Cuthbert was a member in 1978 and recalls when the Lions decided to bring the courts back to life after the courts were damaged.

“There was a truck that came down and took out the whole fence.

“We had the idea to restore the courts, but we couldn’t find out who had control of the courts, it was the local MP who came to sort all that out,” Ron said.

It turned out the land belonged to the Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works, and once the Lions had established the ownership, they were able to undertake works to upgrade the area.

Long-time member, Denis Robertshaw said when the club took the courts over it was just asphalt.

“The Lions volunteers did all the work fixing it up, weekend after weekend, and then put the en tout cas [red clay] down.

Ron adds “Johnny Gilbert did the maintenance”.

Denis elaborates: “He was a stalwart gentleman, he was in his 80s, he used to come down here, and if he was going past and a branch had come down overnight, he’d be down here the next day.

“He was so diligent, even when it was not his allotted day, he would come down and have this place really clean and tidy and have it ready for anybody that was going to come and have a hit.

“First thing in the morning at 7am, he would be down here,” Denis recalled.

Ron said the club rooms were originally a small timber shack, but local bricklayer Eddie Ohlman constructed the brick clubhouse that stands to this day.

Current Lions President David Englefield recalls the honour system used when they rented the courts out to the public.

“We used to charge $10 per hour for a court.

“It was good fun, the lolly shop had the key, people would pay their $10 and collect the key and return it when they were finished,” said David.

At various times the keys were held by Riverview Café, Scandles, Landfield Real Estate and the Lolly Shop.

But it was not just social hit-ups that the courts were used for, at times Warrandyte Tennis Club and Kangaroo Ground Tennis Club would use the courts for competition when they needed extra courts.

Current Lions Club Secretary Lyn McDonald remembers using the courts in her youth.

“I played here when I was playing with Kangaroo Ground, we had to use it when there were not enough courts up there,” she said.

Former member Colin Davis told the Diary that Lions used to run a program for people with special needs.

“We called the program Everyone for Tennis, it started in 2007 and ran for four years.

“We had professional coaches and it was a good atmosphere, sometimes we would get 30 players,” he said.

However, Denis said the use of the courts had been in decline over the last few years.

“It was costing us a lot in maintenance each year to keep it up-to-date, and when you do not have the use, it is very disappointing.

“Then VicRoads announced they were going to remodel the bridge, they wanted to have it for extra space, so they commandeered the land,” Denis said.

David added “it was very disappointing when we lost it all, we put a lot of work into it to keep it up and going, and a lot of people wanted to keep it going, but the Council said, ‘it’s not your property, it is our property’.

“For the last three or four years it has just gone to wrack and ruin, VicRoads used it as a depot, parking the trucks and using it for their sheds.

“We are very sorry to see it go,” said David.

Current and former members gathered at the courts in late May to farewell the old courts.

Denis told the Diary they are donating $45,000 to purchase fitness stations to be installed in the new Lions Park and are pleased to continue to help people enjoy the area by the river.

“It is the Lions’ swan-song as tenancy of the tennis court area, but we are more than happy that the electric BBQ we built is going to continue on, so visitors to the area can still enjoy their snags and have a picnic… it’s going to turn out to be something usable — and nice,” Denis said.

The courts and clubhouse will now be demolished, and the land incorporated into Lions Park (see story below).

Rallies by the River by Judy Green and Keith Wilson is available from the Warrandyte Historical Society.

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Lions Park construction gets under way

By DAVID HOGG

THE CONTROVERSIAL Lions Park project might finally get underway this month to create a new dynamic park area running from the Federation Playspace to underneath the bridge on the south side of the river.

The Manningham Council meeting on May 26 approved a draft budget which included $600,000 for this project, and concluded in closed session to discuss and approve the tender responses for the works.

Angelo Kourambas, Director City Planning and Community, Manningham Council, told the Diary “Works on the first stage of the Lions Park upgrade at the Warrandyte River Reserve are anticipated to start in June and be completed by the end of November 2020.

“The upgrade will include new fitness equipment, which will be funded by the Lions Club of Warrandyte.

“A full list of works can be found in the document library at yoursaymanningham.com.au/lions-park

“Stage two works are planned for the financial year 2021/22.

“This will include a new playspace, picnic area, art project, and additional indigenous planting,” Mr Kourambas said.

There is slight confusion as to which of the works are included in Stage 1 this year, and Stage 2 in the 2021/22 financial year, particularly as the signs on display at the site are a later edition than the original master plan on the referenced website, but it looks safe to assume that Stage 1 consists of everything on the site plan apart from the four items listed above, and an extension to the existing Fire Garden.

We understand from the Lions Club that they have set aside $45,000 for provision of fixed-apparatus fitness equipment, which they had hoped would be out in the open but council has decided to locate under the bridge.

Progress on these works has been slow and controversial.

The original master plan was approved by council in September 2018 and we were assured at the time that work would be started shortly after completion of the bridgeworks in early 2019.

In May 2019 the Diary announced that council had allocated a total of $450,000 to the project in the financial years to June 2020, and that work would start shortly.

In fact, no work has been done since VicRoads vacated the site of the old tennis courts which they used as a depot for the bridge reconstruction, and it has been fenced off and abandoned.

Lions Club member Denis Robertshaw is concerned about the future of the 4-burner BBQ which is in good condition.

He tells us “This BBQ was a bicentennial project funded by Lions Club and all the bricks in the surrounds have people’s names on them; people in the community that we approached to donate money.

“I believe Council is going to retain the bricks even though they are going to repurpose them but it is a shame that they will be throwing out a perfectly good 4-burner BBQ and replacing it with a new 2-burner one; a waste of Lions Club donators’ and ratepayers’ money.

“Council tell us that the reason for this is that the area has to be made wheelchair accessible; we thought it already is!”

Lions Club Secretary Lyn McDonald tells the Diary “It is still to be called Lions Park, that’s what we have been told, emphasis that the Lions have had this space for so long, and it would be terrible to lose that history.”

The Diary is seeking clarification from Council on the funding for this project.

We know that $450,000 was allocated to the project in the 2018/19 and 2019/20 budgets although no work had started in these years.

We know that $600,000 has been included in the draft budget for 2020/21 but do not know whether this includes the $450,000 previously committed or whether it includes the Stage 2 works to be commenced in 2021/22.

We know that council debated the awarding of the contract for the works in a closed session in their May meeting but do not know who the contract was awarded to, the value of the contract, or whether this was for the whole project or just for Stage 1.

These are questions we have asked of Council, but they had not responded as we go to press, so we will seek to clarify next month.

Rather like the bridge widening project, we are sure it will be excellent when eventually completed, but final completion date and costs may differ from what was originally outlined.

Manningham’s short video walkthrough showing how the final implementation will look is very impressive and can be found at tinyurl.com/wlpk9

 

Council services impacted by COVID-19

WITH COVID-19 causing many disruptions to daily life, as we all try to “flatten the curve”, local councils still need to provide important services to the community, albeit at arm’s length.

As the doors closed to visitors at Council run facilities, the Diary asked Manningham and Nillumbik for details of how residents continue to interact with them during these restrictions.

Manningham City Council  

Manningham Council CEO Andrew Day said Council has modified operations to continue to provide core services to the community.

“Local government provides many important services and we understand we have a critical role to play in supporting our community at this time.”

He says Council is doing its part to contain the spread of the virus and reduce the risk to the health of the community, including the implementation of crisis management planning, in collaboration with the Victorian Government.

“Our management team is also meeting daily to direct and monitor our response to the situation as it unfolds, and for future planning.”

Mr Day said Council is continuing to provide as many services to the community as possible.

“To do this safely we are continually adapting our service delivery models and following the advice of the Department of Health and Human Services at all times,” Mr Day said.

For example, he said services like Maternal and Child Health visits are now being conducted over the phone or via video link and essential services for our elderly community, like Meals on Wheels, will continue to run with even stricter safe food handling standards.

“Since mid-March, there have been many impacts to Council events, facilities and services and we understand these impacts are being felt deeply by our community.

“At this time we ask that the community stay safe, practice appropriate social distancing, particularly in Manningham’s beautiful open spaces”

Mr Day urged residents to stay connected with family and friends via phone, email, video link or social media.

“We are all in this together, as a community we will support one another, and as a Council we will do what it takes to look after those who are most vulnerable at this time.”

For the most up to date information about COVID-19 and its impacts to Council services, events and facilities please visit:
manningham.vic.gov.au/coronavirus 

Customer service centres closed

To help slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the community Council’s customer service centres have closed until further notice.

This change was made following further restrictions on non-essential services and the government advice for the community to stay at home where possible.

Council rates, fees and charges 

Mr Day said Manningham Council is acutely aware of the devastating financial impacts the COVID-19 situation is having on the community.

In response, Council is considering a range of options to assist residents and community members during this difficult time.

He said more information will be made available as details are finalised.

“For those in our community who are already impacted, please contact Council to discuss hardship options,” he said.

Customers can contact Council via:

Website:

manningham.vic.gov.au

Email:

manningham@manningham.vic.gov.au 

Phone: 9840 9333

Nillumbik Shire Council

Nillumbik Communications Officer Natalie Town said Nillumbik Shire Council has closed its Customer Service Counter at the Civic Drive offices in Greensborough.

She told the Diary most Council staff are working from home where possible, and while some services have been significantly impacted, it is business as usual for many departments.

Most Council services can be conducted online including payments for pet registrations, rates, parking fines and other infringements.

If residents are experiencing hardship, they should call the rates team on 9433 3285.

If you are having technical trouble making an online payment, call Customer Service on 9433 3111 and they can talk you through the process or provide other information.

Mayor Karen Egan said the health and wellbeing of the community and Council staff was a priority.

“Council is committed to reducing the risk of the coronavirus spreading and we appreciate your patience during this difficult time.

“We urge residents to stay home and follow the recommendations of the State and Federal Governments.

“At the same time, we encourage you to look out for your neighbours, and others in the community, who are struggling.

“We will continue to monitor and update you as the situation changes over coming days and weeks,” she said.

Essential Council services are continuing, and these include:

  • Kerbside landfill, recycling and
    green waste collections as well
    as booked kerbside hard waste
    collections.
  • Food delivery services for older
    and vulnerable residents.
  • Critical Maternal and Child Health
    visits.
  • Essential call out services.

Council’s Economic Development team are offering support for local businesses.

Council’s Visit Nillumbik Facebook page @visitnillumbik is getting behind Nillumbik businesses with a Stay Home, Shop Local campaign.

Customers can contact Council via:

Website: nillumbik.vic.gov.au

Phone: 9433 3111

Swimming pool and spa registrations 

The Victorian Government has not currently advised councils of any changes to the time frame for the requirement to register swimming pools and spas.

Local Councils roll out governance updates

By JAMES POYNER

MARCH 24 was a big day for Local Government.

As well as the finalisation of a new Local Government Act, local councils also debated measures to enable them to be able to effectively govern as the threat of a worsening pandemic continues to dominate our news feeds.

An updated Local Government Act became law on March 24, 2020.

The Act provides the necessary legislative framework to enable local councils to perform their task of administering their municipality.

The Act replaces the Local Government Act 1989 and over the next 16 months, the Divisions of The Act 2020 will gradually replace The Act 1989.

It has been a long five years waiting for the updated Act to come into effect, the Local Government Bill 2018 fell at the last furlong in November 2018, when it lapsed after the Legislative Council failed to pass the bill.

The Local Government Act 2020 includes six key reforms in the areas of simplified franchise, standardising, electoral structure, training, donation reform, improved conduct and community accountability.

In July 2019, councils across Victoria were submitting responses to these areas of reform with many councils requesting The Act does not require all councils to operate as single member wards.

The proposal was generally rejected by most councils, even councils which already operated with a single member ward structure were not overly supportive of the move to simplify the electoral structure.

In their submission to the Local Government Bill 2019 in July 2019, Nillumbik Shire Council wrote:

“Given that Council already operates under a single member ward structure, the impact on Council as a result of this proposed reform will be minimal.

Council however recognises the diverse nature of councils across the state and that a single ward structure may not be appropriate in all instances.

Council would therefore advocate for the electoral structure for each Council be considered on its merits and not on a one structure for all basis.”

To the relief of many municipalities, the Legislative Council passed an amendment to The Act, which allows for a mixed system of single and multi-member representation.

The Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) has also been watching and waiting for a determination on whether the October 2020 Local Elections will be Postal or Attendance voting.

The Act specifies that the voting system to be used will be determined by the Minister for Local Government and that the Minister must make a decision on the system to be used within two months of that part of The Act coming into effect.

Documentation outlining the transition from The Act 1989 to The Act 2020 indicates this section comes into effect on April 6, 2020, which means Victorians will know how they can vote in the October 2020 local elections by no later than June 6, 2020.

However, it is worth noting — given our current situation — that the Minister has the power to change the date of an election under circumstances such as the declaration of a State of Emergency.

Council’s preparing for the worst

Manningham and Nillumbik Councils also passed motions to expand the Instrument of Delegation at the March 24 Ordinary Council Meeting.

The Instrument of Delegation means the CEO and other Officers can delegate on their behalf.

The responsibility was expanded as Councillors were concerned the current health situation may result in a scenario where not enough Councillors can attend a meeting to form a quorum.

Presently, there is no policy in place to allow councillors to conduct council meetings using teleconferencing software, which means they need to be physically present, a situation which may become difficult if social distancing restrictions become more severe.

While the vote was very cut-and-dry at Manningham, in Nillumbik, there was fierce debate with opposing councillors arguing they should be discussing supporting an initiative by the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV), which is calling on State Government to give councils the legislative capability to be able to hold Council Meetings online, with Councillor Perkins standing against Councillor Clarke to argue that this is what they should be discussing.

In a statement from MAV, Cr Coral Ross, MAV President and councillor for Boorondara, said:

“Inflexible council meeting requirements under state legislation are a significant concern for local governments across the country as many council chambers do not allow for appropriate social distancing.

“This is an unprecedented situation which requires collaboration and innovative thinking.

“We have been proactively working alongside the Victorian Government to provide solutions which will ensure the health and safety of councillors, council staff and the community.

“With streaming and virtual meetings now widely available, we call on the Minister for Local Government Adem Somyurek and the State Government to make this common sense decision and enable one of these options to be implemented as alternative to meeting face to face.”

Efficient operation by Local Government in the coming months will be integral to keeping a semblance of normality to the bureaucracy of everyday life.

The Diary will continue to report on the actions of local councils and the efforts of MAV to enable them to do their job in this climate of increasing restrictions.

 

Connecting with our artists in a disconnected world

THE ARTISTS of the Nillumbik Artist Open Studios program are taking their studios online.

The artists originally planned to open their studio doors for the weekend of May 2 – 3, but due to the restrictions around COVID-19, the artists will be displaying their works in a special online space.

The online store is open now with a small selection of works, but will be expanded over the coming weeks.

Founders of the program, Ona Henderson and Syd Tunn have been part of the program since 1983.

“We initially thought we could postpone and then we thought, no it has to be a cancellation, because everyone is saying this will go on for months”.

Program Coordinator and potter, Annette Nobe said going online is something that many organisations have been embracing.

“I have worked in the IT industry in the past, and many businesses will be able to survive with the use of digital platforms,” she said.

In light of the recent success of the Artists Open Studios weekends, Bend of Islands artist Tim Read said the cancellation of the studio openings was inescapable.

“Unfortunately, [the open weekend] is the ideal way for the disease to spread, so [the cancellation] is a good move.”

All of the participating artists will be initially submitting three works to the online site, with works available for pickup or delivery from studios.

The website will also incorporate video messages from the artists and a virtual look inside some of the studios.

The program is also cancelling many of the workshops and classes that are normally run by the artists, and most artists have cancelled their private art classes as well.

However, many of the artists say they will be able to use their time in isolation effectively.

Artist Linda MacAuley said her classes being cancelled has allowed for a creative space to open up.

“It gives you space to do whatever you like — it opens you up to other opportunities,” Linda said.

Glass Artist Jacquie Hacansson said that she is enjoying the time in self-isolation in her studio, and has already started to be very prolific.

“It is wonderful to be able to sit and create without interruption from the outside world,” she said.

Metal artist Mel Rayski-Mati said that the Artist Open Studios program has allowed for many collaborations between artists and doesn’t see this changing under the current restrictions.

There are many wonderful works on display on the Nillumbik Artist Open Studios website, and there is likely to be a large outpouring of new works from artists when isolation is lifted.

This will ensure November’s Artist Open Studios will be bigger and better than ever.

 

Exercise like no one is watching

WOMEN ARE constantly bombarded with imagery of women with so-called “perfect” bodies working out without even breaking a sweat.

It sends a message that there is something wrong with us if we don’t look like that.

Women should not feel like exercise isn’t for them because they don’t have a six-pack or the latest active wear.

That’s why This Girl Can celebrates all women’s bodies getting active — wrinkles, jiggles, red-faces and all.

The campaign, which features real Victorian women instead of professional athletes or toned Instagram models, last year inspired an incredible one in five Victorian women to get moving.

The campaign is empowering women to smash their fears of judgement and intimidation holding them back from being active.

Before the campaign, VicHealth research showed a staggering 52 per cent of Victorian women worried about being judged while exercising.

Now over three quarters of women who’ve seen the campaign feel it has helped women increase their confidence and overcome their fear of being judged when being active.

More than 400,000 Victorian women have been empowered to get active as a result of the This Girl Can campaign.

The This Girl Can launch in Nillumbik was attended by Eltham local and Richmond AFLW star Sabrina Frederick, who said public life was a “constant battle between what other people think and what you are doing”.

“When I started playing football, it was a very male-dominated sport and you get it into your head that it’s not for you or you’re not strong enough,” she said.

“But as time goes on you get more confident.

“Over time you realise it’s not about other people, it’s about what you want to do and what you want to achieve.”

VicHealth’s Melanie Fineberg says the program isn’t about making women feel bad about not exercising enough, it’s about celebrating what they can do, whether that’s a walk around the block or a few laps of the pool.

“We want to help women focus on the feeling of being active, instead of their worries about being judged, by showing a range of everyday women being physically active regardless of their background, ability, age or body shape,” Melanie said.

Women can get involved in a range of fun, inclusive, free or low-cost events being held right across the state as part of This Girl Can Week kicking off on March 23.

Local councils are offering a range of programs as part of the initiative.

Spokesperson for Manningham said: “Council is committed to helping women in Manningham to get more active and lead healthy lifestyles”.

She said to support active living, Council is focused on establishing programs that encouraging physical activity and reducing barriers to participation.

Manningham Council is offering over 30 free classes and activities to women of all ages.
A local highlight is free dancing in the dark with No Lights No Lycra (NLNL).

On Wednesdays, March 18 and 25 2020 Manningham Council is hosting NLNL in the Warrandyte Mechanics Hall.

At this event the lights will be turned off and the tunes will be cranked up so participants can release their inhibitions, move their moods and work up a wild sweat.
NLNL organiser Kim Hunting Thompson said these classes were an extension of the existing popular program she runs at the Mechanics Hall each week.

Kim says Council have also invited her to run the program in Templestowe on Mondays during This Girl Can Week.

Registration for these free sessions is available through the Manningham Council website.

Manningham are also hosting come-and-try clinics in AFL, Hockey, Netball, Volleyball and Lawn Bowls, as well as bike riding lessons and social walks.

Nillumbik Council’s Communications Officer Natalie Town said Nillumbik took part in the program for the first time last year.

“It was such a success we are doing it again this year,” she said.

All of Nillumbik’s five sport and leisure centres and the Yarrambat Golf Course are getting involved again, as are many local sporting clubs.

Eltham Leisure Centre is offering special free classes from March 23–29, everything from Meditation to Spin classes, to Zumba, with free childcare for some sessions.

For more details and to register go to elthamleisurecentre.com.au

Yarrambat Park Golf Course is offering free golf for women during This Girl Can Week, with clubs supplied, plus special clinics for women.

Full details at mygolf.org.au and search ‘Yarrambat’.

Or for something a bit different, head to Skaterz in Eltham for some Roller Derby action.

Find activities and register for events at thisgirlcan.com.au or via your Council’s website: nillumbik.vic.gov.au/thisgirlcan or manningham.vic.gov.au/thisgirl-can.

Getting behind Our Hall

NOT MANY people are aware that the Mechanics’ Institute Hall is a true community asset, it belongs to anyone, and everyone, lucky enough to live within a two-mile radius of the Hall.

And it is up to us all to give “our hall” the care it has provided to the community over the years.

While the Warrandyte Mechanics’ Institute is more than 140 years old, the current Mechanics’ Institute Hall is coming up on 95 years.

A recent grant from Warrandyte Community Bank for ongoing renovations continues a long history of community love for our little green hall.

A board of trustees was established in 1878, and the trustees were given the original schoolhouse in Forbes Street for use as a Mechanics’ Institute for the nominal sum of £1.

The next decade saw a concerted effort to construct a new building.

A meeting in July 1890 saw that good progress had been made to establish a building fund, having raised some £23 5s 9d towards a new building.

In December of that year the new building had passed inspection by the Board of Health and was ready for operation.

The Mechanics’ Institutes Hall opened on December 19, 1890 at the North West corner of Yarra Street and Web Street, on the site of what is now Rush and Hampshire Lawyers.

In 1925, they began fundraising for a new hall as the old hall was considered too small for the community’s needs.

The current hall was built on the site of the Warrandyte Hotel, which burned down in April, 1925.

A public meeting was held in the new hall to approve a set of rules and regulations and granting membership of the Institute to those residents over 21 years who lived “for not less than three months within a two-mile radius”.

The hall was immediately put to use with the first wedding taking place on December 8, 1928 between Alice (Pap) Schneider, the town’s first telephonist, and stonemason George Stringer.

The new hall also became the regular venue for the school’s Fancy Dress Ball and the Lilac Time Ball from 1930 until 1954.

There was an annual New Year’s Eve dance with locals gathering in the hall until midnight, then dancing along behind a Scottish pipe band to the bridge to ring in the new year — some years the young lads would let off a stick of gelignite to welcome in the new year with a bang.

Following WWII there were also regular Debutant Balls.

Moving pictures came to Warrandyte and were shown at the Mechanics’ Hall on Friday nights, providing a regular source of entertainment for the townsfolk.

One local remembers it cost ninepence to enter, however she only earned threepence delivering milk, so she saved her money for a month to go to the pictures, with threepence left over for an ice cream.

Then came Friday, January 13, 1939, and the disastrous Black Friday bushfires.

The fires destroyed some 160 homes — with all three churches, the post office, both cricket pavilions and the South Warrandyte Hall all falling to the flames.

The Mechanics’ became a Relief Centre for the community, which operated for some months, providing assistance to those in need.

On February 4, 1939 a dance was held at the Hall to raise money for the Lord Mayor’s Bushfire Fund.

Organised by Miss Renton and Miss Wagner (Popsy Bone) the dance raised £11 15s 6d for the cause.

Then WWII struck and the hall was the scene of some very emotional farewells to the departing troops, many whom never returned.

For the next six years, the Hall was host to many patriotic events to raise money for the war effort.

During this time, Warrandyte was given a fire fighting truck, and a fire station was constructed at the rear of the hall to house it.

The Fire Brigade leased the land from the hall for a rental of one shilling per year and a building was constructed with stone quarried from Whipstick Gully.

The shed was built in 1944 by George Stringer at a cost of £67.

During the 1962 fires the Hall was again used as a Bushfire Relief Centre.

In 1956, the Warrandyte Arts Association (WAA) was formed, and became an important tenant for the Hall.

Consisting of Craft, Drama, Musical, Paining and Pottery Groups, the main focus of the Association’s activities were classes for children.

The Arts Association was born as a result of a public meeting in November 1955 and the various groups emerged over the following months.

Not only could local people participate in the various groups, but professional musicians, for example, were brought out to perform in the Hall.

During the 50s and 60s the Mechanics’ Institute committee of management faced a constant battle to maintain the hall.

With a lack of film screenings, and lack of attendance at dances, the committee considered selling the land to developers and build a new hall at the Recreation Reserve.

Several meetings were held over the years to consider options, and at one well attended meeting in 1973 the members voted to stop negotiations on the sale of the hall.

While an important turning point for the hall, it did nothing to improve the financial position of the Institute.

WAA members maintained the building through fundraising, sale of debentures, loans from committee members, hours of voluntary labour and, above all, the drive to maintain the Hall.

At a public meeting in 1986, WAA was given the go-ahead to take over the full responsibility of the Hall and a new, incorporated association — the Warrandyte Mechanics’ Institute and Arts Association — was born.

Grandiose plans for extension as a fully-fledged theatre with foyer, exhibition space, storage et cetera were not fulfilled.

However, the association has devoted hours of work and thousands of dollars raised from theatrical productions, especially the annual Festival Follies, exhibitions and sales to undertake major refurbishment and purchase of equipment.

Major renovations began in 1991 and included, re-stumping, re-plastering and lining, insulation, internal and external painting and electrical work, installation of ducted heating, purchase of a new piano and lighting equipment.

This involved a huge investment of money and countless working bees and fund-raising concerts by members.

The renovations continued into the 21st century with the purchase of a new sound board, new tables, new chairs, new stage curtain, refurbishment of the committee room with cupboards, benches and flooring, installation of air conditioning, re-roofing and external painting and the creation of a garden with ramp access depicting the activities of the association through mosaics and dedicated to the memory of an outstanding volunteer.

More additions and improvements include the sealing of the rear car park, a professional building check for asbestos and some resulting modifications, purchase of additional theatre lighting, digital equipment and a motorised screen, as well as replacement of the rear stage doors and improved access in general.

President of the WMIAA, David Tynan, told the Diary that the Association has found funds largely from its theatre productions and from hiring the hall for community events.

“However, large expenses, such as improving the toilets, preventing the regular flood damage and major rotting of wooden structures in our buildings are beyond our modest budget.

“We have been very lucky to have forged an excellent relationship with the Warrandyte Community Bank, which has meant that we have been able to secure grant funding to refurbish the toilets and foyer area, and recently we have completed a major overhaul of our drainage so that future floods do not impact the buildings as severely as they have in the past,” he said.

Additional improvements are made each year, such as the installation of a toilet in the pottery studio, improved theatrical lighting and digital sound and light equipment, a rear deck and termite prevention work.

To date, the Bank has contributed almost $120,000 towards maintenance and refurbishment of the Hall.

This includes a recent contribution  of $32,000 toward current essential renovations.

“As custodians of the hall, we are conscious of our responsibility to maintain this historic building for future generations of Warrandyte residents, and we deeply appreciate the support of the Warrandyte Community Bank in completing this work,” David said.

He said that grants that come from the Bank “feel like support from our community”.

“The strength of the bank comes from our community’s investment in it, and the breadth and size of the Bendigo Bank Community grant schemes are what helps the local community groups to continue to thrive,” he said.

Direct assistance to the WMAII is also always appreciated, in the form of donations, labour, membership, or attending one of the many events the WMIAA holds each year.

Sources:
Bruce Bence, Celebrating the one hundredth anniversary of the first Warrandyte Mechanics Institute Hall.

Mechanics’ Institute of Victoria

 

Local Heroes

OUR LOCAL Country Fire Authority (CFA) brigades have been working tirelessly over what has turned out to be a very long summer.

Commencing with support to the Rural Fire Service (RFS) in New South Wales in October, members of Warrandyte, South Warrandyte, North Warrandyte and Wonga Park have joined their firefighting colleagues around the country.

As discussed in the December Diary, there were members from all our local brigades deployed to New South Wales.

Since that time, the brigades have sent members to the conflagration in East Gippsland, the Victorian Alpine Fires, as well as several fires closer to home — in Plenty Gorge and Sunbury.

Most importantly, the brigades have retained a contingent back at the station to protect the local area as our summer kicks in.

The Diary sat down with a panel of volunteer officers and CFA station staff from our local brigades to discuss the events of a very busy summer.

2nd Lieutenant from Wonga Park, Luke Summerscales said the CFA has been busy since September, with bushfires in Queensland, New South Wales and now Victoria.

“The NSW deployments were full on, CFA had 50 trucks and 20 support vehicles all sent to NSW — and thousands of firefighters on the ground all at once,” he said.

He said it was fortunate that the CFA crews were released from the NSW fires when they were, just before Gippsland took off.

Warrandyte member and District Group Officer (DGO) for the Maroondah Group of brigades, Shane Murphy told the Diary that the group currently has  an ongoing commitment in Gippsland.

“We have had 20 rotations of crews that have gone through there since December 28.

“They have been a mixture of brigades from around here, either individually or as composite crews that have made up the strike teams,” he said.

He said the crews have been undertaking a range of duties, including firefighting and asset protection and have been fairly active during that period of time.

“Now on top of that, there were a number of strike teams that went out on more of a short haul, out for a day,” he said.

The brigades’ vehicles have been busy too.

South Warrandyte Tanker has been out on the fireground constantly since November 8.

The highest ranking volunteer at South Warrandyte, 1st Lieutenant Nathan McDonald told the Diary that the truck spent time in Grafton and Singleton.

The truck was on its way back home when fires in Batemans Bay caused it to be redeployed to the New South Wales South Coast, where it spent the remainder of the year.

After Batemans Bay, it made it back from there to Seymour where it received minor repairs by CFA mechanics before being delivered back to the station.

“We put in about five hours into cleaning the appliance, then it was back on-line for about 45 minutes before it got shanghaied up to Wangaratta to form up another strike team,” Lt McDonald said.

South Warrandyte Station Officer Peter Nolan said the tanker was originally crewed by a South Warrandyte crew in New South Wales, but when it came back it was used on about three or four Staff Strike Teams — one of South Warrandyte’s Station Officers plus a South Warrandyte volunteer, who is a staff member in Portland, were on it.

“We have a photo up there of him standing in front of the truck, miles away.”

South Warrandyte’s tanker has been used far and wide.

“It has racked up a few kilometres,” SO Nolan said.

Warrandyte Captain Adrian Mullens explains the trucks and the crews are two separate entities.

“The trucks can come from everywhere and once they have the trucks together, they become a resource,” he said.

DGO Murphy adds: “The groups of trucks that are sent away are always a similar configuration of trucks, all the trucks have similar capability, so if you are used to having a truck of a similar capacity then you will go away on a group of trucks that have a similar capacity — what name is on it doesn’t matter — it’s a red truck — it doesn’t even need to be red — if it is a truck that you have some crews and some knowledge with, then they make sure they have someone as strike team leader that can make sure that they have the right crews and resources and are going in the right direction.”

Warrandyte has made great use of its Slip-On appliance, which was purchased with the proceeds of the 2016 Fireball.

South Warrandyte’s brand-new Forward Control Vehicle, also purchased with thanks to Fireball has been at Buchan in East Gippsland as the Forward Control Vehicle.

“It only had 1,300kms on it.

The morning it went away we had it serviced at Yarra Valley Toyota.

“So a big thank you to Yarra Valley Toyota and a big thanks to Fireball,” said Lt McDonald.

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Images courtesy Wonga Park CFA

Deployments

North Warrandyte members have been deployed all over East Gippsland, from Buchan to Mallacoota with crews working five-day rotations — with one day’s travel to and from the fire and three days working on the fireground.

Some of our local firefighters were at Mallacoota on New Year’s Eve.

“They were very busy, saved a lot of houses,” Lt McDonald said.

“The foreshore caravan park had around 9,000 people so I think by the time they closed the road about 3,000 people had left and there were still about 5–6,000 people, and all the residents that had decided to stay and defend their property,” he said.

He said the crews had trigger points for the trucks to fall back into town.

“The triggers were hit pretty early on Tuesday morning, so all the crews fell back into the Mallacoota township.

North Warrandyte Captain, Trent Burris added: “They were told that it was going to be 24 hours before it got there and it came in 12”.

Lt McDonald said between about 8am until midday the crews were flat out, some working 36 hours straight.

“They were putting out house fires, spot fires, car fires, whatever was popping up where it was blowing into the town.

“They had a brief reprieve for about an hour and a half before it went through another area and popped out the back and started impacting more houses on the other side.

“They worked right through that day and into the following morning, just going around mopping up, and trying to put out any of the fires that were still burning that were impacting on further properties.

“A lot of good work was done in Mallacoota,” he said.

Wonga Park 1st Lieutenant Warren Aikman said he and his crew were deployed to the Buchan area.

“We worked on road clearing — on the road to McKillops Bridge — in addition to patrolling the fire line around Buchan and assisting local brigades and residents to eliminate hot spots and secure properties,” he said.

The volunteers from South Warrandyte have also been busy.

There have been three rotations of crew deployed on tankers, with some members working on the Forward Control Vehicle either as Driver or Assistant Strike Team Leader.

Members from South Warrandyte have been posted to East Gippsland since late December, working in Buchan, Bruthen and Mallacoota

“We had a combined crew with Wonga Park on the Tarneet Tanker in Mallacoota — trucks were from here, there and everywhere.

“Some crews were on Eltham Tanker, then Kangaroo Ground and Tarneet”.

Since their deployment to NSW, the Warrandyte brigade have been involved in fires at Plenty Gorge and were deployed to the fires around Banalla and Euroa.

Protecting home

Lt McDonald said that brigades have to be careful when deploying people to keep enough crews for local jobs and not to overtax brigade members.

However, he says having staff manning the station has aleviated this issue at his station somewhat.

“In years gone by you always had to consider, who am I going to send away and who am I going to have still at home to respond to local jobs because — you still have a duty of care for your own community,” he said.

Each of the brigades has sent around 15 members to the fires, which in most cases is around a half of their active volunteer firefighter contingent.

Captain Mullens said there is an impact to families and employers when CFA members need to be deployed, especially for self-employed members.

“For people who work in the public sector they have Emergency Services Leave, but for the guys that work for themselves …”

Lt McDonald adding that he and other members took annual leave to be able to volunteer for Strike Teams.

“At any one time if you send a crew away it is usually four or five people and then if you are trying to send a changeover crew as well — that is 10 people out of your brigade and that takes almost a third of your active members away, especially when you have come into a season when you have had NSW deployments in October, November, December and then we start hitting our fire season and people are getting back into work,” he said.

Overwhelming support

3rd Lieutenant Peter Cahill from North Warrandyte said there has been an “absolute plethora” of people expressing interest in volunteering.

The best avenue to register is to fill out the expression of interest form on the CFA’s website and that will be allocated to your closest brigade.

Captain Mullens acknowledges that it is a very emotional time and people are keen to pitch in.

However, the best course of action is let the dust settle.

“And if you are still interested in April then apply for a recruit course, which will be run later in the year”.

The danger is not over yet 

Captain Mullens advised residents to “get out and still clean up around your houses”.

Saying there will be a lot of new growth after the rainfall.

“February is traditionally our bad time of the year, and there is a lot of leaf litter around after the hailstorms the other day.

“There is a bit of a false sense of security now that the weather has cooled off, but it is far from over,” he said.