Zephyrs signal approaching change


Community meeting, Monday, 23 February. Venue: Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club. An outstanding chocolate cake was served (with real cream) following the usual very healthy repast in honour of Cr Tim Rodgers’ birthday. Cr Rodgers took home the edible “Happy Birthday” message that had adorned the cake. No candles were seen – but surely few more than two score would have been needed.

CHANGE is upon us apace across the shire, in small ways and large, with (so Council Watch believes) a couple of humdingers on the way. New shire CEO Carl Cowie’s review of the shire was due to go to councillors the following day, Tuesday, 24 February. Hang on to your hats.

A small change came at the start of last Monday’s meeting which, as is usual, began with the “acknowledgement of traditional land owners”.

CW, unsure whether “ownership” as we know it was a concept known to the Kulin nation, suddenly tuned in as Cr Hugh Fraser read the acknowledgement.

Its traditional wording is: “In the spirit of respect, the Mornington Peninsula Shire acknowledges the Boon wurrung/Bunurong, members of the Kulin nation, who have traditional connections for the land on which Council meets.”

But tonight, CW heard the following:

“We acknowledge the elders, families and forebears of the Boon wurrung/Bunurong tribe, the Kulin, who were the custodians of this land for many centuries. We acknowledge that the land on which we meet was the place of age-old ceremonies, of celebrations, initiation and renewal and that the Kulin peoples’ living culture had, and has, a unique role in the life of this region.”

Did this radical change evoke shrieks of shock, fainting away, howls of protest, from councillors or the gallery? Certainly not. Because suddenly, unexpectedly, the rather dusty acknowledgement was alive, human and, CW dares to say, poetic.

One visualised families tens of thousands of years ago preparing a seafood feast on the beach below the yacht club, children laughing, splashing in the shallows as the babies were fed first while mothers chatted. Much as families behave now at the seaside, except the food is faster.

Perhaps not such a small change. Gales start as zephyrs.

Mr Cowie introduced his monthly report to the community by inviting the gallery to take part in an “interactive” few minutes. His message: the benefit of attending council is to get your message across, “to make sure we hear what you’re saying”.

Then, the review of shire operations – containing “the benefit of my fresh eyes – not [on] the operation of the councillors themselves; that would be a bit risky at this stage, but I’m sure that will come over time … maybe not”. Was that nervous laughter CW heard from officers and councillors?

Then, the interactivity. From the gallery, Mornington stalwart Fred Crump wanted to know what was afoot to make his area look “a million dollars” – “new footpaths and the rest of it”. Mr Cowie said he’d had some interesting conversations with Mr Crump, but this night had no specific answers for him, hinting the budget might contain news for Mornington.

Cr Graham Pittock asked if test holes could be drilled at the Besgrove St shire office and at Truemans Rd to see if hot groundwater lay beneath. This, presumably, could be used for heating at the Southern Peninsula Aquatic Centre were it to be built nearby, and perhaps to heat the shire buildings, in pursuit of the shire’s new carbon-neutral policy.

Infrastructure boss Alison Leighton answered by saying the shire had talked to geothermal operators and universities. What was needed was a specific use and a specific site where underground hot water would be used. Cr Pittock, dissatisfied at this, urged action on starting a geothermal test program.

Stand by for an increasing flow of hot information on geothermal water and its role in making our area carbon neutral. CW understands a quarter of the shire’s gas bill goes to heating the Pelican Park pool at Hastings. And the big question: is there hot water under your house or business? Quite possibly.

Cr Tim Rodgers moved for the vote on Mr Cowie’s report to the community, congratulating him on recent improvements made to the document. It now had a table of contents and listed people responsible for the information it contained. “Something new and I welcome it,” he said.

Then, men’s sheds, too big a topic to cover here in a paragraph or two.


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