Tag Archives: Vicky Ward

Breaking ground on trail extension

WORKS BEGAN ON Stage 2 of the Diamond Creek Trail extension following a ground-breaking ceremony on February 6.
Stage 2 of the trail extension will link Wattle Glen to Hurstbridge.
Once the Diamond Creek Trail is fully extended to Hurstbridge, the 5.5-kilometre trail extension will complete a 55-kilometre continuous trail from Hurstbridge to the CBD, incorporating the Main Yarra Trail from Eltham Lower Park.
The trail extension is primarily funded by the Victorian Government with $4M for Stage 1 through VicRoads’ Towards Zero initiative and Stage 2 utilising $5.1M from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning’s (DELWP) Suburban Parks Program.
Nillumbik Shire Council also contributed approximately $5M to the project through land acquisition for the 14.4 hectares of land the trail is built on.
Once completed, the trail extension will have a concrete-paved path for pedestrians and cyclists and a separate, parallel natural-surface trail for horse riders.
In attendance at the ground-breaking were members of the community, Nillumbik Shire councillors, Member for Eltham Vicky Ward, Member for Yan Yean Danielle Green, and Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio.
Nillumbik Shire Mayor, Peter Perkins commended the efforts of all those involved in the trail project.

“That the Diamond Creek Trail project is now well on the way to completion is a great result for our community and a credit to the efforts of others on their behalf – including the Victorian Government, Danielle Green MP the Member for Yan Yean, and Vicki Ward MP the Member for Eltham.
“Our community, in particular the efforts of our Regional Trails Advisory Group and Trailblazers Inc. are also to be commended.
“Their tireless advocacy and passion for this project has been integral to bringing us to where we are today.
“The trail is an important community asset, providing a fantastic outlet for physical activity and a safe transport connection between the urban parts of the Shire and our rural townships.
“Also critical, is that it will attract more visitors to our Shire, boosting our local tourism industry and other businesses,” he said.

Bunjil Ward Councillor Karen Egan said the commencement of Stage 2 works was a major development for not only the townships, but the Shire’s rural community.

“I’m very pleased that work is starting on the final stage of an infrastructure project that is of such critical importance to many sectors of our community, being a shared trail open to all,” said Cr Egan.

Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D’Ambrosio spoke about the benefits to the local economy and the improved quality of life the trail will bring to the area.

“In the past year, many of us have rediscovered the simple pleasure of going for a walk, run or bike ride.
“Through projects like the Diamond Creek Trail extension, we’re giving people more opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.
“Construction of the trail extension will create as many as 100 jobs over 12 months and boost the local economy by attracting visitors to the trail and surrounding communities.”

Stage 1 of the trail extension, linking Diamond Creek to Wattle Glen is due to be completed and opened to the public in October 2021.

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Price of progress

Eltham residents have come out of lockdown to discover that hundreds of trees that graced the Eltham Gateway roundabout have been removed.
Under cover of COVID, Major Roads Projects Victoria (MRPV) moved in on February 15 to clearfell the intersection of Main Road and Fitzsimons Lane, and then removed the large Lemon Scented Gums from the Porter Street intersection on February 16.
Resident Vicky Shukuroglou described the scene as residents who had left their home for the four reasons and came across the Main Road demolition site.

“People started pulling over and parking their cars and were in shock, complete shock,” she said.

Consultation deficit

Community groups are outraged that there had not been extensive community consultation around the project, with many residents unaware of the impending works until Eltham Community Action Group placed red ribbons around the doomed trees in early 2020.
MRPV said they had 300 responses to their community consultation, but admitted to ECAG that less than 100 of them had come from Eltham residents.
In contrast ECAG had received over 3,000 signatures from locals on its petition.
ECAG have spent around two years negotiating with MRPV to compromise on the project to retain the treed gateway intersection.
Secretary of ECAG, Sue Dyet, said the group had first been made aware of the plans when they were told by local member Vicky Ward some months after the plans were put out for consultation.

“She showed us some plans and we went away looking at them and the enormity of the situation sunk in.”

The group managed to hold some meetings with MRPV but, Ms Dyet said the group feel they have been “managed”.

“They listened to us, they gave us time, but when we asked particular questions, and asked for information it was not always forthcoming,” she said.

Nillumbik Council passed a resolution in December 2020 to request MRPV conduct further community consultation, but this did not occur.
Ms Shukuroglou had organised a protest rally for February 13, which had to be cancelled due to the COVID lockdown.
However, the lockdown did not deter the construction workers who brought out the chainsaws, which was seen as a massive slap in the face to the community.

“Even it had been planned for six months, it was in bad taste,” said Ms Dyet.

Major Road Projects Victoria Program Director Dipal Sorathian defended the works occurring during lockdown.

“This project is essential work, like many other projects that have commenced and continued through various stages of COVID-19 restrictions over the past year,” he said.

Overkill

The project will see the intersection widened substantially, with eight lanes (four lanes each way) on the Main Road, eight lanes on Lower Plenty Road and eleven lanes in total on Fitzsimons Lane.
Although Mayor of Nillumbik, Peter Perkins notes that this was reduced from the original plans.

“Council has advocated on behalf of the community since the announcement of this project.
“These efforts have helped to influence MRPV to revise its design, including the reduction of the proposed intersection from 11 to eight lanes, saving more than 200 trees along the corridor.
“Fitzsimons Lane is a key gateway to the Shire and is of significant aesthetic, environmental and economic value to the community.
“Council supports the government’s efforts to minimise traffic congestion while at all times seeking to ensure that the community’s voice is heard and appropriately acted upon,” said Cr Perkins.

Ms Shukuroglou said that with the massive changes in the way people are working and moving around the city the plan should have been reconsidered.
She said the project also does not take the road use changes projected by the North East Link.

“MRPV made their case by using figures that were not really all that accurate, because their traffic modelling and numbers were based on 2027, and then 2028 is estimated for the NEL opening, which suggests traffic will drop by quite a large percentage.
“Then we also need to contemplate there is also a current ban on immigration and the trend of working from home, and that it most likely to be the thing that remains.
“Once the pandemic is abated, people will start getting back on the trains and will be working from home — these things have not been taken into account,” she said.

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Photos: VICKY SHUKUROGLOU

Alternatives ignored

Ms Shukuroglou  went on to say: “We realised as a bunch of volunteers on community planning issues we needed to get hold of some people who knew more about this game than we did.

“So we subsequently got three experts in the field, one a retired VicRoads person, one transport manager from AECOM in London, a huge international firm, and more recently someone who is an expert on roundabouts.

The group had their experts draw up alternative plans in attempt to reduce the footprint of the works and to retain the roundabout, and therefore the trees, but despite being told their plans were as affective as the official plans they would not be considered.
Mr Sorathia told WD Bulletin as part of the development process, “a number of designs options were investigated”, and he said it was found that upgrading to a signalised intersection was the best option to make the road safer and less congested.

“Compared to signals, a roundabout solution will be less safe, increase congestion and travel times, and will not alleviate the traffic queues,” he said.

Objectors to the roadworks were resigned to the fact that the project would go ahead no matter what their objections, but Ms Dyet said she felt that MRPV played lip-service to community consultation.

“I would say that they feel that they ticked all the boxes,” she said.

Enough is enough

Ms Shukuroglou said MRPV has been asking the wrong questions.

“They went in and said, ‘well there is a traffic problem how are we going to solve the traffic problem’.
“As opposed to ‘there is a traffic problem, how can we solve this while respecting the community, the area, and all the values that are within this place’,” she said.

She said she wants to see a dynamic change in how major projects such as this are managed.

“It seems to us very clearly, is the greatest needs of society, which is social and environmental health, which are not just boxes to be ticked and they ought to underpin all decisions, and infrastructure ought to serve purposes in response to these things,” said Ms Shukologlou.
“It starts creeping inwards, it is the thin edge of the wedge, this is where we can slowly chip away and say ‘now that road is there, we are going to have to do this duplication, we are going to have to add extra roads’.
“At what point do we say, ‘actually, enough is enough’?”

She said the community has learnt from this “absolutely horrendous” process and the “devastating” outcome.

“The one thing we need to do is maintain hope for what we can achieve for anything that is happening in the future.
“There are a lot of demoralised, tired people, there are people who feel like they have there is no point in attempting to have a go.
“But that, in all sorts of ways, the system is working in that way.
“It would be much easier if we all sat down and said nothing, there would be a lot less hiccups, work could be done a lot more efficiently.
“But we are not just going to sit down and accept this — we will organise the protest again to say, this must change, this is not an appropriate example of community consultation.
“This is not a good example of how things must be.”

Replanting plan

“We have heard from the local community that they appreciate the natural environment, which is why we are planting more trees than we remove on the Fitzsimons Lane Upgrade,” said Mr Sorathian.

Local member Vicky Ward has announced that 5,000 trees will be planted around Eltham to offset the trees that have been removed.
In a statement, she said approximately six new trees will be planted for every tree removed as part of the project.
This calculation makes the tally of trees lost at approximately 830.

“This program will leave an important legacy that all participants and the wider community will enjoy for years to come,” she said.

Ms Ward’s announcement stated local secondary school students will also be involved in a propagating project to create a new supply of native plants and trees, which will be planted and grown in the local area.
However, Ms Shoukoglou said even 5,000 trees, will not replace what has been lost.

“One of the main issues is there are very few hollow bearing trees left, and it is a serious problem.
“So planting a one-year-old, or five-year-old tree is nothing like it.
“Even if you have 5,000 of them, it is nothing like one mature tree that has lived for 50, 60, 100, 200 years.
“You are never going to regain that,” she said.

Cr Perkins said Council and the community lament the recent destruction of so many trees at this key gateway.

“We look forward to the completion of the project when the benefits will be realised and landscaping completed,” he said.

Display of grief

On Saturday, 20 February, locals gathered for a demonstration at the intersection, gathering in small groups to place “letters of love and loss”.
Ms Shukuroglou told WD Bulletin due to COVID restrictions the community was unable to protest in the traditional sense.
To ensure the event was conducted safely the organisers opted for a multi-site staged gathering over the course of the day.

“It was an independent demonstration, a COVID-safe solution, and an opportunity for people to express their grief, which is immense and rippling through the community”.

She said people came on their own mournful walk, delivered letters, had conversations, and shared their feelings of dismay, anxiety, shock.

“People’s worlds have been rocked — how can that be allowed in our system which is touted as fair?
“Others said their anxiety is through the roof… so much more,” she said.

What now for the future?

Protest organisers are asking concerned citizens to visit their website, to send messages, and keep updated on future actions.
elthamroundabout.wixsite.com/my-site
The WD Bulletin and Warrandyte Diary will continue to follow this developing story.

 

Thousands turn out to defend Green Wedge

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

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

But the community aren’t buying it.

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

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

She says now Council are crying poor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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