Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Monday, August 30, 2010
samantha in the press - post natal depression
Thursday, August 26, 2010
a shed, a factory or the modern face of floriculture?
report from the roundtable – 24 aug
At this week's council meeting we had to consider an application in Monbulk for igloos and a shed, a fair size shed at that, it measured 25mt wide x 75.5mt long and would stand at a height of 10.12mts from natural ground level.
Surrounding residents were very concerned about the amenity impacts of the shed, its size, noise and location being the key issues of concern.
There were a number of issues to take into account when considering the matter. I moved a motion to relocate the shed to a different site on the lot.
The application is yet another application that highlights the tensions that come about when agriculture and residential areas share the same space. In speaking to the motion I talked about the scale and size of the shed, it was enormous and I had no doubt it would impact on the amenity of surrounding residents.
The site has a Significant Landscape Overlay, which means it is in an area that has important amenity values and any built form must be sensitively located and must not dominate the area or sightlines, the view lines in Yarra Ranges are an important feature of our shire and must be preserved.
It would be tempting to consider refusing the application, but farming (in this case cut flowers) is an as of right use, so it was better to contemplate a compromise rather than an outright refusal. The cut flower industry (floriculture) is a key economic driver in the Yarra Ranges economy with the floriculture region of the Monbulk/Silvan area the largest in the country.
I had concerns about the process, I was surprised to learn that a planning application notice wasn't displayed on site as our planners hadn't thought it necessary, in an application like this I think it would be highly appropriate. I was also concerned that objectors letters were not forwarded to councillors and questioned the process to ensure that in future councillors would receive objection letters marked to their attention.
It is important that we preserve the amenity of the residents but at the same time encourage ongoing expansion of our agricultural industries. The relocation of the shed was a reasonable compromise which allowed a key industry to pursue its development whilst addressing the amenity concerns of the residents.
Councillors voted unanimously to relocate the shed to a more appropriate location.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
mission impossible turns 12
It was terrific to join the wonderful staff and visitors at Mission Impossible to celebrate 12 years of service to the community. To mark the occasion local cafe, Reel Cafe, made a birthday cake for all to enjoy (and have done so for many years).
Celebrating 12 years of care and compassion at Mission Impossible in the Tin Shed, Belgrave.
Mission Impossible has been providing hot meals to those who are disadvantaged or homeless in our community for the past 12 years. The team are dedicated to helping the needy and do a great job of it.
In March last year I funded the installation of a shower for people to use at Mission Impossible. There are many people in our community who are either homeless or don't have access to hot running water, the shower is a practical way to assist. It's proved to be a valuable addition to Mission Impossible's services, with it being used every day by up to 5 people a day.
Well done to Mission Impossible, your work is truly appreciated by many in our community including me.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
the games begin
It was terrific to be invited by the Shire's EcoLeaders to launch the Greenhouse Games challenge for shire employees. Run by Sustainability Victoria, the Greenhouse Games encourage workplaces to register to compete to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Employees are encouraged to register workplace teams and compete against each other to see who can reduce the most greenhouse gas emissions and lighten the footprint.
There was a great amount of enthusiasm and competitive spirit across many divisions and departments of the shire with people registering all sorts of teams to compete not only against each other but other organisations across Victoria.
It was wonderful to see the staff at Yarra Ranges want to do their bit at a household level to reduce energy use, water use and emissions. The idea of the Greenhouse Games is for people to change their habits so they continue to reduce emissions and their footprint every year.
The Greenhouse Games is also available for schools to register. I look forward to reporting back how the Shire of Yarra Ranges is going, watch this space for updates.
samantha in the press – water recycling
samantha in the press – bird scaring devices
Monday, August 23, 2010
fire ops plans – have your say
Each year the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) develops a forward 3 year Fire Operations Plan for the Central Area (which includes Yarra Ranges) that details proposals for all planned burning and associated fuel reduction to protect public and private assets.
Find out about proposed burns in your area - the type and purpose of each burn, its size and when and where it will take place. Learn about other proposed fire prevention and preparation activities such as slashing and other clearing works.
DSE is currently inviting comments from agencies and the community on the plan. The Fire Operations Plan for the Yarra Ranges (Central Area) is available via the DSE Website and copies are also available at local DSE and Parks Victoria offices. If you want to comment make sure you provide your feedback before 4pm on Tuesday, 31 August 2010.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
What a terrific election result for the Greens.
Me with Adam Bandt at campaign HQ in Fitzroy.
Congratulations to Adam Bandt, our first Green to win a seat in the House of Representatives in a General Election and to Dr Richard di Natale, Victoria’s first Greens Senator
Me campaigning in Warburton with Dr Richard di Natale last week.
You will do us proud and help to make this country a forward thinking, compassionate and progressive place to live.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
ribbons of green in selby
I've long been a keen supporter of the Shire of Yarra Ranges Ribbons of Green Program.
The Ribbons of Green program was developed to encourage the use of indigenous plants and to help offset carbon emissions caused by council's fleet. Rather than just rely on trees to offset our emissions we extended the program to include understory plants so we could generally improve the environmental and biodiversity outcomes for the shire. Council provides free plants each year to private landowners, schools and community groups looking to create bush habitats.
This planting effort was by the Grade 3 & 4 students at Selby Primary School. Known as the SWAT team (Saving Water and Trees), the students dedicate time every week to environmental learning through the Shire's Learning for Sustainability program.
The Ribbons of Green program sees an increase in the planting of native vegetation across the Shire. These plantings help provide habitat and shelter for our native animals, help with erosion control and weed reduction and on the whole improve the landscape and local amenity that Yarra Ranges is renowned for.
Every year the Shire makes 60,000 tubes of indigenous plants available free of charge to private landowners, schools and community groups. Plant guards, weed mats and stakes are also available. There's also information on how to prepare the planting site, control weeds and select appropriate plants.
If you'd like to know more about Ribbons of Green click here. Orders for plants are taken from July to November so that planting can be done the following May or June. It's a great program and it's nice to see it happening at a local level at Selby Primary School.
Friday, August 20, 2010
water use well down
The Shire of Yarra Ranges has nominated for a national award after recording a 72% drop in the amount of drinking water used on sports fields during the past 10 years.
Council has been working hard to drought proof our ovals by implementing a range of different initiatives. In 2001 the shire used 104,000,000 litres of drinking water on our sports fields. In 2009/10 that consumption has dropped to around 29,000,000 – a 72% reduction.
The initiatives to reduce the use of potable water include harvesting rain water, using technology to monitor irrigation frequency and length, installing flow metres and rain sensors to shut off watering systems when it is raining. We've also made significant changes to our sports field construction methods using summer grass species for improved drought tolerance and have increased cutting heights of grass to ensure resilience.
Other initiatives include the use of wetting agents, installation of water bores and tanks to receive recycled water. It is important to continue to provide good quality sports fields for community. Sports fields provide a pivotal community meeting space and if that is taken away we see a breakdown in the social fabric of our community.
Whether it be organised sport or passive recreation, our sports fields are an important asset to local communities and with 64 of them in Yarra Ranges it is important that we do as much as we can to ensure their ongoing usability.
There has been a concerted effort to reduce our reliance on drinking water which not only has advantages for our community but huge benefits for our environment.
Council has nominated in the national 2010 Savewater! Awards which will be announced in November.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
not so muddy for muddy creek riders
Walkers and horse riders on the equestrian trail alongside Wellington Rd in Belgrave South can enjoy a new bridge to cross Muddy Creek.
The new bridge has been constructed with durable steel and concrete at a cost of $70,000 from council's bridge improvements program.
The bridge, constructed from steel and concrete, replaces the previous wooden bridge. The bridge forms part of the Wellington Rd Equestrian Trail near Kerrs Park in Belgrave South.
The bridge was replaced after an inspection revealed the main timber beams had deteriorated. Timber decking bridges require frequent maintenance so it was decided that the new structure of concrete and steel would be better in the longer term for walkers, riders and ratepayers too with lower ongoing maintenance costs.
It's a terrific trail, well used by horse riders and walkers alike, which wends its way through some good quality native bush in Belgrave South.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
in the press - belgrave hub
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
in the press - recycled water for yarra valley
Monday, August 16, 2010
recycled water for the valley
report from the roundtable – 10 aug
Council had to consider a report on the Business Case for Recycled Water Pipeline for Agriculture in the Yarra Valley.
It is an important advocacy issue for council. Yarra Ranges upholds and protects the Green Wedge as the food bowl of Melbourne and a prime driver of our local economy. We know as a council that water shortages will be more frequent as the effects of climate change continue to change local weather patterns and rainfall.
We need to start thinking about water security for our farmers now before the situation becomes dire. The business case focuses on recycled water supply from the Brushy Creek/Lilydale Sewerage Treatment Plants to supply growers in the Yarra Valley region.
The environmental benefits are enormous, not to mention the economic benefits. The project would deliver enormous flow on effects for the regional service economy as well as reductions in nutrient flows to the Olinda Creek, Yarra River and Port Phillip Bay.
It is a terrific project, makes good sense, all we need is government to take up the mantle and see it happen for farmers in Yarra Ranges.
belgrave community hub
report from the roundtable – 10 aug
It was terrific to be considering the Yarra Ranges Community Hubs Feasibility for Belgrave and Yarra Glen.
The feasibility study indicates that Belgrave is in need of such a facility and a health and wellbeing focus would be a good fit for the town. Belgrave has a number of community buildings, most of them very, very tired. We are overdue for a hub to incorporate a range of services as well as flexible space for the community too.
I'm pleased to report that councillors supported the motion to "Refer consideration of the allocation of potential funds for the development of a Community Hub in Belgrave to the Capital Expenditure Program".
It's exciting times ahead, with the feasibility study setting the strategic framework for a hub in Belgrave. I look forward to seeing this project progress.
electronic bird scaring devices – out for comment
report from the roundtable – 10 aug
At last week's meeting council had to consider whether it was going to release for public comment the draft Electronic Bird Deterrent Local Law 2010.
I moved a motion to call for public submissions and give public notice of council's intention to make the local law. In speaking to the motion I talked about the unease I had about various elements of the law as it currently stands, particularly in relation to its silence on exclusion zones for species such as the Powerful Owls.
I talked about the importance for community input in relation to the local law as it is controversial in its nature given the span of hours of operation, noise generation and potential to effect fauna.
I also expressed concerns that I didn't believe that Electronic Scare Guns come under the definition of Sustainable Farming as outlined in the council report and council's recently endorsed Green Wedge Management Plan. To me, nets are a far more sustainable farming option, although an expensive option out of reach to some farmers. I think there's a strong advocacy role for council to play in relation to gaining support for farmers to use netting.
I look forward to public submissions on the local law, it's a complex matter, and I think it's important to hear community views.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
henson, hall and hoorahs
It was great news to learn that Burrinja was awarded the Archival Survival Award for Small Museums, 2010 by Museums Australia (Vic), for its Exemplary Public Programs.
The award is a tremendous peer acknowledgement of the amazing depth and diversity of programs, projects, exhibitions and performances on offer at the centre.
The current exhibition in the Burrinja Gallery, Bill Henson: early works from the MGA collection, is a stunning exhibition, well worth attending. The local community are lucky to have a gallery so close at hand to experience such a quality exhibition.
The exhibition on show in the Burrinja Cafe, Jenny Mai Hall: Going Downtown, is another great example of local work by a local artist. Burrinja is a great venue for local artists to display their work, giving them valuable exhibition experience and a public venue to sell their works.
Pictured left to right: Phil Manning, Samantha Dunn and Alex Legg at the Burrinja Cafe.
Burrinja also provides a terrific venue for live music, local performing artist Alex Legg, has been working hard to hold a monthly Blues and Roots night and last Friday saw the very talented Phil Manning play to a packed house.
It is wonderful to see the Performing Arts Space start to take shape as the construction leaps ahead. The shell of the space is clearly visible now and it is exciting to see the site transform into what will be a truly wonderful community cultural arts space.
Bill Henson runs through to 26 September. Jenny Mai Hall runs through to 22 August.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
samantha in the press – heritage
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
samantha in the press – 10/30 rule
in the press – public transport
next local food swap
Magpie House Food Swap is moving to a later time, with organisers also including a mini talk on various subjects.
Although it is a quiet growing time Magpie House Food Swap still has on offer seeds, seedlings and greens eggs, lemons, etc.
If you’d like to sell, meet, swap and buy locally grown produce be sure to visit the next Magpie House Food Swap.
When: 28 August 9.30 to 11.00am
Where: Magpie House, 48 Main street, Upwey
Talk: Christine speaking on Medicinal Herbs for 30 minutes at 9.45am.
There are plans afoot to increase the sites food swap operates from, watch this space for more info.
Sunday, August 08, 2010
greens launch this weekend
seeing the central highlands
Last week I toured some logging sites and forests in the Central Highlands. These photos capture some of the things I saw whilst out in the forests.
This is the edge of a logging coupe on Mt St Leonards, it’s this coupe that’s cuts a ‘tooth’ in the side of the mountain visible from Healesville. This logging galvanized residents to raise the alarm about logging on such a prominent site raising concerns about impact on biodiversity and tourism.
This is the Kalatha Giant, a massive tree spanning between 15 and 17 metres, there’s a logging coupe planned only 10 metres from this tree in Leadbeater’s Possum habitat in the North Western most place where this forest type grows.
This logging coupe is right in the midst of Leadbeater’s Possum habitat, very close to a monitoring site that’s been in place for decades.
You can tell by the size of the stumps left behind that these trees are much older than 1939 regrowth.
This is a logging coupe in the Armstrong Water Catchment. The Armstrong makes up part of Melbourne’s water supply, closed to the public, entry is prohibited to protect the integrity and quality of Melbourne’s water, yet this is allowed to happen.
queens scout for selby
It was terrific to celebrate the awarding of the Queens Scout Award to Selby local, Jessica Ashburner today at the Selby Scout Hall in Menzies Creek. Jessica, a member of the first Selby Scouts, was humble in her acceptance of this prestigious award.
The award is granted to those individuals who are outstanding senior scouts and was first awarded as the Kings Scout Award in 1910. It is awarded to scouts who excel in physical, mental, social and spiritual development. Jessica is in select company, it is an honour to be awarded a Queens Scout Badge.
Jessica chose her father, Will Ashburner, to present her with her Queens Scout Badge.
Jessica, now a Venturer, undertook the tasks required to obtain her Queens Scout Award at the same time as her VCE, it is a credit to her dedication and commitment to her studies and to scouting. She needed to concentrate on four areas including community, adventuring activities, personal growth and leadership development. The last time the Selby troupe received a Queens Scout Award was in 2001.
Congratulations to Jessica and her proud family, it is great to see your efforts awarded.
Friday, August 06, 2010
koha a goer
The Koha Community Cafe is a not-for-profit pilot program providing terrific vegetarian meals one night a week (Thursday's) in Yarra Junction (see blog post).
Did you know you can keep up to date with Koha Community Cafe news and feedback by following them on
The Koha Community Cafe is currently undertaking a very important review of their first six months of operation, the outcome of which will determine if and how they continue.
Koha Community Cafe urges people to get involved, even if that's only to turn up on a Thursday night to complete the survey – but you may as well stay for a yummy meal too!
The cafe is run by volunteers from our community and welcomes everyone to come along and enjoy a meal. Every now and then, they have musicians who volunteer their time and play at the cafe too.
Meals are available from 6pm to 8pm and you pay what you can afford or what you feel the meal is worth.
Where is the Koha Community Cafe?
Yarraburn Centre, 1-3 Park Road, Yarra Junction
(previously the Senior Citizen's Centre next to the football oval)
Thursday, August 05, 2010
solar savers for the east
As part of Yarra Ranges council's climate change initiatives, it has banded together with other councils as part of the Eastern Alliance for Greenhouse Action to offer the supply and installation of solar hot water systems or heat pumps at reduced prices.
The program, coordinated by solar provider Green Project, will offer advice and discounts to residents living in Yarra Ranges, Knox, Boroondara, Maroondah, Monash and Whitehorse.
Residents could receive a discount of up to $500 when installing a solar hot water system through the Sustainable Eastern Suburbs Solar Hot Water program, up to September 30, 2010.
This project is a great example of local councils working together to achieve not only a good deal for our residents, but for the planet too.
Solar hot water is a great way to reduce energy consumption and do our bit to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and like many environmentally friendly initiatives, solar hot water can save you money too.
If you'd like to find out more call Green Project on 1800 899 300 or visit Green Project.
Wednesday, August 04, 2010
in the press – bushfire royal commission, 10/30 rule
Tuesday, August 03, 2010
in the press – seville supermarket
in the press – seville supermarket
in the press – bushfires royal commission, fuel reduction
in the press – seville supermarket
in the press – logging forum
in the press – bushfire royal commission, refuges
In the press – bushfire royal commission, fuel reduction burning
in the press – monbulk pool
in the press – bushfire royal commission buy back plan
Monday, August 02, 2010
water bottling – the trucks continue
report from the roundtable – 27 jul
This week council had to consider an amendment to a planning application at a water bottling plant in the Don Valley.
The plant was approved some time ago (2005) but recent non compliant activity forced the company to apply for an amendment to their permit to distribute ‘bulk’ water from the site via water tankers. The matter is currently before VCAT so council was deciding on a position to put to VCAT.
A lot of the recommendation centred around truck movements but to me, the key issue was whether to allow bulk water to be transported off the site. In arguing to refuse the amendment to the permit I tried to highlight the importance of not allowing bulk water off the site.
It is bad enough that bottled water has been approved, but to remove bulk water is even more detrimental. Currently the modest nature of the bottling plant limits the amount of water currently trucked off site. The plant is currently licensed to extract 62 megalitres (62 million litres!) from a bore, but bottling slows this process of extraction down. The water, managed by Southern Rural Water, is sold off at dirt cheap rates. It’s scandalous that our precious resources are managed so poorly.
It is not an environmentally sustainable business and has serious consequences for the water table and stream flow in the Don River.
The Don Road is a winding road, with no line marking or footpaths, kids walk on it to get home from school and it has deep ditches, it beggars belief that Vic Roads had no issues with trucks, including semi trailers, using this section of the road.
I couldn’t support the motion, I thought our strength was refusing to accept bulk water transport. A division was called so the way councillors voted was publicly recorded.
For: Crs Templer, Warren, Higgins, Avery and Cox
Against: Crs Dunn, McRae, Heenan and Cliff
Sunday, August 01, 2010
royal commission hands down its findings
It has been an important weekend for those communities in fire affected areas as well as the broader community in high fire risk areas as we waited for the report of the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.
Staff from Yarra Ranges made sure that hard copies of the report were available for community members at both the Healesville and Lilydale libraries over the weekend.
The report spans some 4 volumes which will take some time to work through but I have had a chance to look at the 67 recommendations from the Royal Commission.
I certainly welcome the recommendations of the Royal Commission. At this stage we don't know whether the government will take up all the recommendations, however it is clear that bushfire policies need to change.
Late last year I had the opportunity to speak as a witness at the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission. I was there to give evidence about the process of designating Neighbourhood Safer Places (NSPs) in the Shire of Yarra Ranges.
I followed the process of NSPs very closely and was directly involved with the development of the Neighbourhood Safer Places Plan and onsite inspections of potential NSPs. Commissioners were interested to hear how designation was progressing from the perspective of a councillor and a resident in a high fire danger area.
I look forward to more clarity on vital community safeguards such as the Prepare Act Survive policy, early evacuation, bushfire shelters/neighbourhood safer places and other options for high fire risk communities.
We know from CSIRO predictions that the likelihood of these extreme events under a climate change scenario is greater and we need to ensure preparedness for what will be more frequent and severe events.
I think that the outcome for any action we undertake must be that we make communities safer. Without that as the main focus our efforts will be in vain. With that in mind I was pleased to see the emphasis the Royal Commission has put on the need to gather data and establish a national centre for bushfire research.
It is only with comprehensive scientific understanding that we can truly take actions with some surety that it will protect communities and make them safer places to be.
Council will be examining the recommendations in some detail over the coming weeks, I will be focusing particularly on those recommendations that affect the Dandenong Ranges and other high fire risk areas in the Shire.
launching some links
I had the great pleasure of being able to officially launch the Community Link Project at Selby Community House on behalf of the Yarra Ranges Neighbourhood House Network.
The wonderful community house staff from houses across the shire and representatives of many local Bendigo Banks joined with me in celebrating the launch of the Community Link Project.
The project, jointly funded between the Shire of Yarra Ranges and local Bendigo Community Banks, sees community houses across the shire equipped with the InfoCom System. The system will allow Community Houses to have access to better referral and service information and provide a greater level of service to residents who visit the links.
Community Houses now have the capacity to also build their own local databases to share with each other in supporting better community enquiries as well as having access to online data about services and organisations state wide.
This initiative directly supports the shire's Vision 2020 Community Plan - Strong Healthy and Connected Communities. One of the aspirations in Vision 2020 is a the creation of a place "where local citizens go to find out about and access services, get information, offer themselves as volunteers, find out what those who offer."
The Community Links have been installed in Belgrave South, Chirnside Park, Japara, Olinda, Selby, Healesville, Woori Yallock, Warburton Community Bank and Upper Yarra.
Mount Evelyn Community Bank supported Japara House
Mooroolbark Community Bank supported Chirnside Park Community House
Upwey & Belgrave Community Bank supported Belgrave South, Selby and Olinda Community Houses
Warburton Community Bank supported having a link in their branch
Woori Community Bank supported Healesville and Woori Community Houses
Yarra Junction Community Bank supported Upper Yarra Community House
seville supermarket still up for consideration
report from the roundtable – 27 jul
The officers report had recommended that council proceed to a panel and base its submission to the Panel indicating 'general support for the proposal'.
I could not support the recommendation. In speaking against the motion I raised the following concerns.
Firstly, it defies logic to rezone this residential land to a business zoning. This land is so closely located to the township it is far more important to see it preserved as residential land. We know from strategic work completed that it is important to continue to have residential land available close to townships.
I continue to be concerned about the economic impacts of such a development. If built this supermarket development would be the largest supermarket in the entire Shire. I am concerned that the spend at this site will be substituting spend at another location, so although it might be good for local employment, the loss of trade in other areas will flow on to a loss of employment there.
We know that traffic is already an issue in Seville, putting a development this size in a town that currently supports a population of around 2000 people, will only exacerbate the traffic problems in the town.
I have grave concerns for the amenity of the town, Seville is a small town, encouraging a development like this will have serious consequences to the quality of life currently enjoyed by residents in this lovely rural yarra valley town.
The amenity of locals living on Britton Road will be challenged with them facing a 2.4mt high fence. I noted that a landscaping buffer is planned for the road reserve on Britton Road and I called into question why council would be supplying public land for a vegetation buffer, the applicant should be putting all buffers on their own land, yet another indication that this development is oversized and there is too much on this site.
The shire's Municipal Strategic Statement (our key strategic document to detail land use and development objectives for our municipality) is clear in its intent for Seville – "identifies Seville as a Rural Township...essentially a dormitory residential area with a small commercial centre".
It is an overdevelopment of the site and an overdevelopment of the town, why would the largest supermarket in the shire be in Seville? It defies logic. Should the supermarket go ahead I have grave concerns for the long term impacts to Seville. The increased retail space will see pressure put on the urban growth boundary to expand and could irreparably change the town.
I didn't think we should wait to hear the outcomes of a panel hearing. Councillors are the elected representatives, it is our role to provide leadership and deliver the strategic outcomes for the people of the shire. There is a clear strategic statement for Seville, it is up to councillors to maintain the integrity of our planning policies.
I felt that councillors should abandon the planning scheme amendment and fulfil our responsibilities as elected representatives to uphold the strategic direction of Yarra Ranges. With that I foreshadowed an alternate motion to abandon the planning scheme amendment should the motion fail.
The motion was put to the vote, I called a division to ensure there was a public record of the vote.
For: Crs Warren, Higgins, Templer, Avery and Cox
Against: Crs Dunn, McRae, Heenan and Cliff
Once the panel has heard the matter it will come back to council for a final decision. I encourage residents of the region to be involved in the panel hearing process, it's your town, it's your lifestyle that will be impacted.