Subtle changes kick off year

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Council meeting at Besgrove St, Rosebud, 12 August, 7pm. Small gallery crowd; tea, coffee and biscuits provided.

THERE were a few new faces among the usual gallery veterans at 2015’s first council meeting on 27 January. Three of the faces were there to ask questions about the RACV proposal to build a five-storey addition to its Cape Schanck resort.

Five storeys! Thirty metres! Council Watch visualised such a monster rearing up out of the flat Cape Schanck landscape beside Boneo Rd.

Cape Schanck resident Phil Gledhill asked if all councillors had “fully informed themselves” of the impact the building would have on the landscape “such as bulk, height, 24/7 noise, light emission, reflection and overshadowing”.

The proposal would be “four times higher than any other structure permitted on the resort”, the question concluded. Three more questions sought further details of the project.

To summarise the shire response from sustainable environment director (planning manager) Steve Chapple, council could ask the RACV to consider a less prominent building, but this would likely mean one with a larger “footprint” to cater for planned accommodation and facilities.

Such planning proposals are a dilemma for the shire. Some heavyweight applicants appear to believe it’s the shire’s job to facilitate, rather than adjudicate, when presented with a corporate plan. And there’s always VCAT to take a friendly look at a rejected development, as many on the peninsula know to their financial and neighbourhood cost.

But enough of trying times to come. We met at the Rosebud shire offices like kids back at school after holidays, eager to take a long look at the new “head” person, chief executive Carl Cowie.

He introduced a new meeting procedure, reading all the questions in a calm, confident voice with a Scottish burr, then calling on the relevant officer to respond. He spoke deliberately and clearly, which CW took to mean he regards Question Time as an important opportunity for the community and council to “interface”.

Note CW’s mastery of buzzwords “footprint” and “interface”. In a few months you will struggle to have the faintest idea what this column is on about. CW is awaiting the opportunity to trot out “at the end of the day”.

Moving on from questions, a Letter Under Seal was presented to Roy Francis of Mornington, recently awarded an international honour for his work with prostate cancer sufferers and their families – the first Australian to receive the honour.

The Edward C Kaps Hope award, from the Us International Prostate Cancer Education & Support Network, is made to people who have shown “unselfish, dedicated service” to affected people.

Mr Francis presides over the prostate support group at Bentons Square in Mornington, Cr Anne Shaw told the gallery the group has been “a huge success” and congratulated Helen Francis for her devoted support of her husband.

But we sense a reading audience impatient to know more about Mr Cowie, the man who will make a serious impact on our lives for at least the next four years.

It came in his confident but (to CW) modest style in presenting his first Report to the Community, usually monthly but this month covering November and December. Mr Cowie started work on 1 December.

We would, he said, notice a document “slightly different to what’s gone previously”, with his first report about half the size of the October 2014 report. “Hopefully you’ll see we’re trying to streamline things” with a summary, he said.

He gave a précis of his activities; the opening of the Civic Reserve recreation centre; a Police Point, Portsea, twilight event for respite care; and the Buckley’s Rest facility, Safety Beach.

“Initially when I started, I thought, ̔This is really great – I’m involved in opening things every week’. And then of course early into January we had bushfires affecting the peninsula and also many tornados, so we flicked into operational mode to try to ensure things recovered as soon as possible.”

Mr Cowie said he would continue to “evolve” the monthly report to meet community needs for “meaningful and transparent” information. The veterans in the gallery smiled and nodded. We were off to a good start.

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