An evening of passion and lost causes


WAS it a Ghillie Dhu* or a Shellycoat* who, at the 24 August council meeting, spirited a packet of family assorted biscuits on to the hospitality table in the council offices foyer? Council Watch, noting a previous column that complained of a quality drop-off in the biscuits available at council meetings, felt he had overstepped the mark.

He felt reproved. Here was a cornucopia of creams, a plethora of pastries suddenly arrived beside the glass jar of cookies provided for council-watching aesthetes. CW took a humble shortbread from the aesthetes’ jar as atonement for his previous curmudgeonly presumption.

It turned out to be a cream-biscuit style of meeting. Cr Tim Rodgers caused a storm by remarking earthily after a contribution to debate by colleague Anne Shaw: “I feel like slitting my throat after listening to that.” CW may have heard parliamentary terms including “Withdraw!” and “Shame!” in the hubbub.

Cr Shaw is a passionate advocate for her beliefs and presents them with force. She and Cr Antonella Celi – the emerging Edmund Burke of the chamber – were declaiming at length about the loss of the long-discussed Rosebud foreshore pool.

They also supported yet another move to resuscitate the historic Moorooduc Coolstores, on the Moorooduc Highway near the border of Somerville and Mt Eliza.

This is a location that may prosper only if the good Lord turns up unexpectedly and holds out His healing hand. Lazarus and the parting of the Red Sea would look like pushovers compared with the heavenly effort required at this benighted spot.

It was, CW ruminated, an evening of lost causes. There was Cr Celi, gloomily trying to uplift the cause of a commercial venture which time, and Peninsula Link, has passed by.

Besides, the uses being sought are now unlawful in the green wedge and possibly contravene rules the entirety of which only the aforementioned Lord and shire planning guru Allan Cowley know. This followed the Celi lament over the Rosebud pool, whose location the rules had long prohibited and which council, and the state government, had banished to the other side of Point Nepean Rd.

Cr Celi clearly is devoted to St Rita of Cascia, one of the four patron saints of lost causes. Her invocation of little faces beaming happily at the prospect of a pool with water slides had a whiff of the martyr – and early electioneering – about it.

But fear not, little ones. The pool is subject of a live council resolution and will rise again, possibly heated by underground water in a spectacular display of carbon-neutral modernity, except that the Greeks were lolling in hot springs well before the Christian era.

The Coolstores debate was also notable for its mover and seconder – councillors David Gibb and Graham Pittock, rarely seen in lockstep. Cr Gibb, a grazier and occasional greenie, concurs with Cr Pittock on improper use of green wedge land – shire policy is to bring non-conforming existing uses back within the new rules.

A further notable interlude concerned Rosebud beach, where loads of sand have recently been dumped on a contentious area from which it had been proposed that waste from roadworks should be removed and the beach encouraged to resume its original profile.

This is not a plan favoured by Cr Gibb, whose green credentials apparently cease at Point Nepean Rd. He employed his tried and true technique of making a speech by way of seeking officers’ answers to rhetorical questions. Until he was stopped. But he got most of the speech on to the record.

It’s an admirable technique, rarely used by other councillors. Break up your speech into questions then fire them at the officers. “Isn’t it true that…” “Can you confirm…” “Would you agree…” “Am I right in saying…”

It adduced the information he required. Like a good barrister, Cr Gibb knows not to ask questions to which he doesn’t know the answers.

But sand moves on, sometimes quite briskly after heavy storms. The freshly deposited Rosebud sand will, grain by grain, continue its eternal journey, possibly joining the vast quantity that dallied briefly at Anthony’s Nose after that beach was renourished last summer. The dumped roadworks waste will resurface and come back to council.

Will CW be in the chamber the night this occurs? Suddenly, a feeling of great weariness descends.

* Ghillie Dhu: a solitary elf. Shellycoat: a bogeyman. Both Celtic mythical creatures.

First published in the Mornington News – 1 September 2015


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