Tag Archives: WD Bulletin

Diamond Creek Regional Playspace officially opened

AFTER 10 years in the planning, the Diamond Creek Regional Playspace has been officially opened.
Member for Yan Yean, Danielle Green opened the playspace on behalf of Local Government Minister Shaun Leane, cutting the ribbon with Nillumbik Mayor Peter Perkins, Member for Eltham, Vicki Ward and Nillumbik Councillors at a ribbon-cutting ceremony in early March.
The 2020 School Captains and leaders of Diamond Creek, Diamond Creek East, Wattle Glen and Sacred Heart Diamond Creek Primary Schools also assisted in the ribbon cutting ceremony and plaque reveal.
Mayor, Cr Peter Perkins said the playspace, which references Diamond Creek’s gold mining history, has already proven to be one of the most popular playgrounds in Melbourne’s northeast since its completion late last year.

“The playspace has really helped to put Diamond Creek on the map, and people are travelling from across Melbourne to experience what we are lucky enough to be able to enjoy in our own backyard.
“More than 10 years in the making, this project has revitalised an underutilised area of the Diamond Creek Reserve, and will be enjoyed by families local and from afar, for generations to come,” said Cr Perkins

The $2.5 million playspace was funded by the Victorian Government through the Growing Suburbs Fund, and Cr Perkins thanked the Victorian Government, Danielle Green and Eltham MP Vicki Ward for their support in making a long-term vision for the area a reality.

“This is one of many local infrastructure projects across the Shire — including the extension of the Diamond Creek Trail to Hurstbridge, the new Diamond Creek Netball Pavilion and the Marngrook Oval Pavilion — that have been made possible by Victorian Government support, which has totalled $35 million since 2017,” Cr Perkins said.

A key attraction of the playspace, the Tram Café, was also opened by Danielle Green, Vicki Ward, Cr Perkins and members of the Rotary Club of Diamond Creek.
The Diamond Creek Rotary Tram Project saw a retired W-Class Yarra tram from the Victorian Government beautifully restored and transformed into a café with the support of Nillumbik Shire Council, sponsors including Plenty Valley Financial Services (Bendigo Bank) and many other members of the community.
The playspace has been a huge collaboration with many other community groups.
The Diamond Valley Lions raised almost $24,000 to provide the two popular barbecue shelters and another $36,000 for the fitness stations, while Diamond Creek Men’s Shed built the nesting boxes that have been placed in trees in the reserve.
The Diamond Creek Labyrinth in the reserve off Watkins Street, was also completed as part of the playspace project.
The Labyrinth, which was initiated by OM:NI (Older Men, New Ideas) Diamond Creek, provides visitors with the opportunity for meditation and quiet reflection while following the stone path into the centre and out again.
For more information on the playspace, go to nillumbik.vic.gov.au/diamond-creek-playspace

Images courtesy Nillumbik Shire Council

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FIRE RESTRICTIONS are scheduled to end later this month in Country Fire Authority (CFA) areas of Manningham and Nillumbuk.
A statement from the CFA said, in the latest Australian Seasonal Outlook, above average summer rainfall has led to a reduced bushfire risk for autumn.
These conditions have led to a reduced fire activity in both grasslands and forests this summer.
Victoria will continue to experience milder conditions and lower bushfire potential over the coming months.
CFA District 13’s Fire Danger Period will end at 1am on Monday, March 22 in the following Municipalities:

  • City of Knox
  • City of Manningham (CFA area)
  • City of Maroondah (CFA area)
  • Yarra Ranges Council (CFA area)

At 1am, on Monday, March 29, the Fire Danger Period (FDP) will end for CFA District 14, which includes the following Municipalities:

  • City of Melton
  • City of Wyndham
  • Shire of Nillumbik
  • City of Whittlesea
  • City of Hume
  • City of Banyule

CFA District 13 Acting Assistant Chief Fire Officer Colin Brown said the grass is too green in some areas within the District for fire to be sustained.

“Meanwhile other areas may see low intensity fire sustained with low flame heights and controlled with minimal effort,” he said.

A/ACFO Brown emphasised that while the FDP is coming to an end in some areas, it is still important to remain vigilant.

“We’re urging everyone to stay safe, whether you’re living in or travelling to high bushfire risk areas,” he said.

CFA District 14 Assistant Chief Fire Officer Christian Thorley also reminded people that even though the fire conditions are favourable, vigilance is still required.

“Please monitor the conditions on hot, dry and windy days, as we may still see some days of elevated fire risk,” he said.

While the Fire Danger Period will come to an end, it is still important that residents check the local conditions are safe for any burn-off they were considering undertaking.

“You must register your burn-offs, check weather conditions and follow local council laws and regulations.
“Registering your burn-off ensures that if somebody reports smoke, the incident will be cross-checked with the burn-off register, which will then prevent CFA crews wasting resources and showing up at your door,” AFCO Thorley said.

Landowners can now register their burn-off online at firepermits.vic.gov.au.
Burn-offs can also be registered by calling 1800 668 511 or emailing burnoffs@esta.vic.gov.au.
When conducting burn-offs, remain alert and always have resources on hand to extinguish the fire.

Keep your burn off safe and legal

Check fire restrictions in your area and always register your burn at www.firepermits.vic.gov.au.
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.
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.

Featured image courtesy CFA Media

Macedon Square Streetscape Upgrade

MACEDON Square has remained a vibrant hub for Manningham residents for over 50 years — now it is time for an overdue makeover.
In August 2020, Manningham Council released two concept designs for an upgrade to the Macedon Square Streetscape, one including an open space concept (Option B) and one without (Option A).
The upgrade seeks to improve the public realm and rejuvenate the centre by addressing existing issues associated with aging infrastructure.
Both concept designs aim to address safety concerns within the centre by employing a new angled bay parking layout, as well as ensuring cars exit on Macedon Road in one direction.
Both options will also bring new paving, flora and outdoor spaces — however, Option B takes these changes to the next level by adding spaces suited for public gatherings, picnic tables and open lawns to draw in more community engagement.
After the extended consultation period concluded on November 15, 2020, a total of 108 responses were collected.
61 per cent were in favour of Option B, 26 per cent in favour of Option A and 13 per cent did not express preference.
Although the majority ruled for Option B, traders in Macedon Square expressed concern for both options and the potential detriment the upgrade could cause to the community space.
The Bulletin spoke to Gary Cyganek, owner of Egon’s Bakery, who is passionate about putting forth an “Option C”.

“We’re putting forward our Option C to say we reject both of these options — we have the support of 29 out of 32 shops in the centre,” he said.

Mr Cyganek went on to say traders in the centre feel as though safety concerns are not being properly addressed, particularly regarding the proposed new car park.

“Safety is most paramount.”

The Bulletin reached out to Manningham Council for additional information regarding this matter.
Manningham Director of City Planning and Community, Angelo Kourambas said the proposed concept plans have been designed with visitors in mind, including people of all ages and abilities.
Businesses have expressed concerns regarding how delivery vehicles will fit into these new parking spaces and the potential overhang of these vehicles causing accidents.
Mr Cyganek stresses the need for delivery accessibility from the front and rear, as some businesses are not suited to take deliveries from rear loading docks — including Australia Post.

“Only some shops are set up to take deliveries from the rear; this is a priority for the whole community.
“The proposed car parking aisle widths for angled parking within the centre are wider than the recommended Australian Standard for this style of shopping centre.
“Larger delivery vehicles will not be permitted to park in the angled parking bays along Macedon Road,” he said.

Mr Kourambas said Council would consider providing spaces within the main car park for regular delivery vans.
Council’s plan to realign the roadway, creating a single directional flow of traffic through the centre, aims to reduce traffic congestion and issues with vehicles attempting to access the same car space from opposite directions.
With a narrower roadway, business owners are anxious about potential collisions due to visibility issues, in the event multiple cars are trying to back out at once.
According to traders, accidents within the centre are common — particularly among elderly patrons.

Parking pains

Parking availability for traders in the centre has been a sore point for several years.
Currently, there are 133 car spaces in the centre — Option A would result in a loss of four car spaces while Option B would incur a loss of six.
For business owners, 133 car spaces has simply never been enough to cater for the needs of traders and customers alike.
In an independent traffic and car park study undertaken in 2017, it was reported that the perception of low parking availability within Macedon Square is a factor of uneven parking distributions, citing that certain areas are operating at full occupancy whilst others are operating at less than half.
Council suggests that areas such as the ALDI basement car park, off street parking near McGahy Street, and parking area to the rear of Woolworths Lower Templestowe should host ample room for shoppers to park.

“It is considered that a loss of between four to six spaces could reasonably be offset by higher utilisation of other parking areas” Mr Kourambas said.

For traders and shoppers who wish to use services provided in the square alone, parking in these further off-site locations can prove to be inconvenient.
Extra parking in the square itself would be a welcomed addition for many.
Mr Cyganek wants Council and the traffic engineers to come up with a more functional solution.

“We want the traffic engineers to sit down with them [the council] to see how we can actually maximise our parking possibilities.
“We want them to use the abundant open space we already do have, to put spaces for people to sit,” said Mr Cyganek.

Consultation closes at 5pm on Thursday, April 8, 2021 — in the meantime, Council is encouraging community members to get involved and have their say.

“Council is currently seeking community input on the proposed concept plans.
“Based on feedback received, Council will consider further suggestions from the community as part of its detailed design process,” said Mr Kourambas

Feature Image artist impression Option B courtesy Manningham Council

Community members are invited to attend a drop-in session with Councillors and council officers on Saturday, March 27, 2021, from 10am to 12pm at Macedon Square, Lower Templestowe.
Additionally, you can have your say at:
yoursay.manningham.vic.gov.au/macedon-square-streetscape-upgrade

Market under threat

THE ELTHAM Craft and Produce Market has been a staple of the Eltham community for 44 years but its future is now under threat.
Founded in 1978 along the driveway of the Living and Learning Centre on Main Road, the Eltham Craft and Produce Market has served as an outlet for locally and homemade crafts and produce.
I remember going to the market as a young boy, buying heat packs at the start of every winter with my parents and sister.
We would walk from home to the market and as you entered Alistair Knox Park, the aromas of the food trucks would draw you in.
Soon, aromas mixed with music, conversation and laughter — the sound of a happy and connected community.
These are memories that I hold dear to my heart, and now, it may all come to an end.
On Sunday, February 21, 2021, possibly the last Eltham Craft and Produce Market took place.
Following conversations with the Market organisers Bianca and Di, and Wingrove Ward Councillor, Geoff Paine, I learned the market is under threat of discontinuing due to the complicated process of obtaining licenses and the grounds to continue hosting the market.
The main issue revolves around having a committee properly in place and obtaining a permit to use the area behind Eltham Library.
The market has been using the location between Panther Place and Library Place since October of 2004, an area with great parking and easy accessibility for anyone to visit.
Both stall holders and market goers expressed their sadness over the potential discontinuation of the market and its end will have a long-lasting impact in the Eltham community.
Market organisers are asking Eltham residents and market goers to lobby the local community and market regulars to let Nillumbik Shire Council know that they want the market to stay.
The Warrandyte Diary and WD Bulletin will have further updates on this story as it develops.

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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.

 

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

Recycling goes up in smoke

RESIDENTS of Research received a lesson in the dangers of not properly disposing of their waste and recycling when they witnessed a small fire outside Research CFA Station.
On Wednesday morning, January 13 the driver of a garbage truck, collecting recycling, noticed his load had caught fire, and proceeded to drive to, and dump its load in the Research CFA carpark.
WD Bulletin spoke with Jarrad Bradley, 5th Lieutenant, Research CFA about the incident, he provided this statement, and picture.

“On Wednesday, January 13, at 07:36, the Research CFA brigade received an emergency fire call for a truck fire at the Research Fire Station.
Upon arrival at the station, members discovered that there was a large pile of rubbish on-fire in the middle of the station carpark.
It was quickly ascertained that a local rubbish truck, full of recycling refuse, had experienced a small fire in the load and had deposited the load into the station car park to save the truck and to allow for complete extinguishment.
Members safely entered the station and immediately deployed the Brigade’s tanker so that the fire could be delt with.
Several members used BA [Breathing Apparatus] to ensure that the smoke and any possible hazards where not a risk.
The fire was soon extinguished and the task of pulling the pile apart commenced.
This was to ensure that any embers or smouldering debris were out.
The remaining pile was later transferred to a dumpster via a bobcat and the rubbish contractor completed the disposal and the car park was washed clean.”

Smoke was visible around Research and triggered a warning via the VIC Emergency app.
The statement goes on to say.

“While a specific cause of this fire was not apparent, these types of fires are usually caused by the incorrect disposal of dangerous items in household rubbish bins.
Please ensure you check what can and cannot be put in your bins.
Particularly dangerous items include hot embers and ashes, gas cylinders — including small camping type Butane cylinders, and modern rechargeable batteries — especially Lithium, phone, laptop and LiPo batteries.
Please remember to check what goes into your bins, especially the correct disposal of batteries.”

Thanks to the quick thinking of the garbage truck driver, and the professionalism of the Research CFA volunteers, the events of Wednesday morning were quickly contained.
For information on how to properly dispose of e-waste, visit your local council’s website.

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Images courtesy: Jarrad Bradley, 5th Lieutenant, Research CFA

Chock-full of chooks

FOR THE LAST six months, Eltham local, Joan Denison has been using her passion for art to spread joy throughout her community, creating Iso Chook paintings on old fence palings.
WD Bulletin previously featured Joan and her quirky cartoon-like chooks at the beginning of her Iso Chook journey in our September 2020 issue.
Since then, demand for her Iso Chooks has grown and her paling paintings are now proudly on display through Eltham and surrounding communities.
Joan’s love for illustration began when she studied fashion design at RMIT, and later had a long career working for fashion houses.
Joan now frequents groups such as the Nillumbik U3A, who usually gather and paint together weekly.

“I’ve always been painting and drawing,” she says.

Joan was saddened to see her neighbours’ spirits dampened during the trialling times of the pandemic, so to spread a bit of joy, she painted a small group of chickens for her garden, so onlookers could have a smile.

“We noticed that people were stopping and taking photos of them, and so we painted some more.
“We put a sign outside our house and people started helping themselves,” Joan told WD Bulletin.

Joan and her husband had set up a stall every Saturday to give away free chook palings to the community, which received a fantastic response from families, especially those with small children.

“The line was all the way down the hill!” says Joan.

Enthused about the chooks taking Eltham gardens by storm, Joan’s neighbours and community members offered her free fencing to continue her crazy chook journey and during one of the most testing times for Victorian’s in recent history, Joan’s chooks became a symbol of hope and community cohesiveness.

“In the one hour we were allowed out for exercise, my husband and I went around putting chooks in peoples’ letter boxes just to surprise them — like Father Christmas!” Joan laughs.

To date, Joan has painted over 1,000 Iso Chooks and with demand still out there, she is showing no sign of stopping and is now taking commissions from community organisations.

“I’ve given to lots of hospitals, nursing homes, and five schools.
“It’s been a very interesting journey I tell you — it takes a lot of work,” she says.
“I’ve slowed down a bit, since Christmas.
“People are a lot busier now, we’re not seeing many people walking past our house anymore,” she says.

In decades to come, many will look back on 2020 and only see crisis, but for residents of Eltham, they will remember hope, joy and a connected community, symbolised by Joan’s Iso Chooks.

If you would like to contact Joan for a commissioned piece, she can be contacted through Facebook Messenger.
https://www.facebook.com/joan.denison.52

Running into 2021

Photo: Gavid D Andrew Photographer

WARRANDYTE’S celebrated community running event, Run Warrandyte, is toeing the line for a celebration of sport, health, and community as the event committee makes final preparations for its 10th anniversary run.
Preparation for this event is a year-long process and the uncertainty of Coronavirus restrictions has made planning for 2021 trickier than usual, but the Run Warrandyte Committee has sculpted an event to allow walkers, joggers and runners, of all abilities, to celebrate Warrandyte’s bush setting and the spirit of community in a COVID-Safe way.
Run Warrandyte committee representative, Michelle Bean, spoke to WD Bulletin about the challenges and changes to this year’s event.

“COVID created a challenge to our committee this year, as we had to come up with an event that would fit in with restrictions and also be flexible and adjustable to any potential lockdowns we might be back in on the February 28.
“We feel we have created something that fits those requirements,” she said.

Currently set to occur on Sunday, February 28, the event will be capped at 500 participants with an option to switch to a 30-day virtual option if Melbourne or Victoria is forced into another lockdown.
Michelle also notes a number of other, significant changes which will ensure this year’s event remains COVID-Safe:

  • No on the day registrations.
  • Separate start and finish lines.
  • Staggered start times (every 15 minutes).
  • No event village
  • No spectators

COVID-Safe measures such as hand sanitising stations, COVID Marshalls and face masks will also be a feature of the 2021 event, but Michelle says this will not take away from the fun of the day.

“We still plan to create a fun, community event, where our runners can run their favourite distances and receive their free 10-year celebration medal and backpack.
“We will also have spot prizes and goodies provided by some great local businesses and as always appreciate our sponsors: Charlie Bins, Warrandyte Ringwood Osteo’s, IGA, Harding Swift Caravan Services, The Grand Hotel and Project Clothing.
“We are excited to also announce a new 21km event and interest in this has been strong.
“This is alongside the regular 2.2km, 5km, 10km and 15km distances,” she said.

Staying hydrated and COVID-Safe

One of the biggest challenges for event organisers, and event caterers is how to provide food and drink in a convenient but COVID-Safe way.
Staying hydrated while exercising is important, and with high temperatures a distinct possibility for February 28, ensuring participants have access to water is vital.
The simplest method is to provide disposable, sealed containers, like bottled water, but this adds unnecessary waste to the environment and goes against Run Warrandyte’s mission to be as eco-friendly as possible.
Michelle told WD Bulletin Run Warrandyte has secured a partnership deal with a Victorian based company, who will provide water in containers made from plants.

“We are excited to announce our event partnership with the eco-friendly company Just Water.
“Just Water takes Spring Water that is sourced from Mt Warranheip in Ballarat, Victoria and packages it in plant based, eco-friendly cartons, made by Tetra Pak.
“The packaging materials and processes result in 75 per cent less harmful emissions, primarily C02, compared to a standard PET plastic bottle.
“The design of the carton was created to remain flat until it is filled with water, meaning Tetra Pak use only one truck to transport the cartons, compared to the same number of plastic bottles needing 13 trucks.
“Just Water and Tetra Pak will be providing water on course and at the finish line in 2021 to keep our event COVID-Safe for our runners.
“Being an eco-friendly event is super important to us and with this in mind, we feel Just Water and Run Warrandyte are a great fit,” she said.

Visit the Run Warrandyte website for more event details and to enter the 2021 event.

Shopping centres shuttered

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lease help for retailers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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