Dramas of all sorts occupy councillors


Venue: Hastings Hub, 22 June 2015. Fine buffet, but spartan for the discerning vegetarian, with carnivores far more generously catered for. A restrained dessert; sugar addicts could fall back on soft drink. A dearth of orange juice.

THIS being Cerberus ward’s turn to host what is now its sole annual community meeting, parish news was to the fore. There was a big footpath scheme for Somers, good news on the Stony Point rail line’s level crossings, bad news on hoon motorbikes in Hastings (they’re getting worse) and more good news on the Warringine boardwalk.

The popular boardwalk, destroyed in last summer’s bushfire, will be rebuilt with an eye to further such events, sectioned by non-flammable material to limit damage. Harder to control will be the wildlife that is already repopulating the blackened area.

Councillors were told the sighting of a rare swamp daisy had brought delight to a ranger, who hastened to bring colleagues back to see it. Alas, by the time they returned the plant was gone. Around the site were telltale wallaby tracks – small ones, indicating at least a joey had survived the blaze.

So, many such rare plants are being encased in joey-proof wire, in an effort to prevent the protected from eating the endangered.

From there to a small drama in Question Time, when gallery stalwart Barry Robinson, once-branded a “pest” and banned from asking questions about Pelican Park, was seeking information about the shire budget.

A sudden tumult occurred in the vicinity of Cr Lynn Bowden as the question was asked. People were hurrying to her aid. CEO Carl Cowie announced gravely that a serious table collapse was occurring: a trestle leg had failed. As the matter was attended to, Mr Cowie quipped that the gallery could now see that shire “will do virtually anything to avoid answering Barry’s questions”.

Discontent about the 5.2-kilometre $1.5 million Somers footpath-boardwalk plan was raised in a question from Del Skinner, who queried whether the scope of the project “is excessive for this rural coastal village”. Half the bill is paid by property owners past whose fences the path passes.

CW calculates the works will cost $288.48 a metre, give or take a couple of cents. Infrastructure director Alison Leighton poured bureaucratic oil on the troubled waters – there could be a range of views in a community on such projects, statutory processes to be followed, and so on.

Questioner Roger Stanley of Crib Point was assured by Cr Anne Shaw of the Mornington Peninsula Cemetery Trust committee that there were “absolutely” no plans for a crematorium on the peninsula “at this stage” but the trust was creating a business plan where “a number of things will be considered”.

Dog excreta was the topic David Lines of Tyabb raised, particularly the alleged – CW must take legal care – lack of shire response to his proposal that “dispenser units” be installed at leash-free beaches across the shire for canine waste collection.

Mr Cowie said he recollected telling Mr Lines at a recent meeting that “this was seen as a very expensive option and not something we were going to look into at this stage, beyond what we have already done, notwithstanding that it is a sensible proposal”.

Which was a timely reminder to dog owners to clean up after their pooches. CW, whose large curly part-poodle Henry is a prodigiously efficient converter of dog food to waste, must be closely watched when dashing around with his friends.

Then, two questions on possible bushfire threats to the Arthurs Seat Skylift. Skylift company leaders Simon McKeon and Hans Brugman were in the gallery to witness final councillor approval of their plans for this tourist attraction.

The questioners were assured that “all emergency plans will satisfactorily address the operational delivery of emergency services to the site”. Beautiful bureaucratese.

Finally, CW wishes to record a vigorous exchange between Cr Tim Rodgers and the mayor, Cr Bev Colomb. Cr Rodgers wanted to ask a question. He persevered with his request. Meeting chair Colomb told him a “process” was being followed and it did not include questions.

Still he persisted: her brow darkened. She suggested he might remove himself from the meeting.

Then, in a tone CW could vividly recall from combat with his mother in early childhood, the chair ticked off Cr Rodgers. CW was most impressed, as apparently was Cr Rodgers. He desisted. The chair, as it must, held sway. The “process” resumed.

First published in the Mornington News – 30 June 2015


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