Storm before calm as Canberra boxes on


GREAT sheets of silent lightning flashed over the Rip as Council Watch headed for the Rosebud meeting, listening in the car to excited radio speculation on who would be prime minister after this night. CW wondered what the Boon Wurrung (or indeed the Bunurong) made of dramatic celestial pyrotechnics back in the Dreamtime. They had not heard of Canberra.

The restless sky portended rain. The restless radio appeared to be hoping for a warm change in Canberra, where the boxer and the banker were contesting Round 2 in their drawn-out bout for supremacy. CW recalled Simon & Garfunkel’s The Boxer: “After changes upon changes we are more or less the same.”

Inside the predominantly tory council chamber, the atmosphere was flat, preoccupied, thoughts probably wandering north to the political stoush. Two councillors, David Gibb and the mayor Bev Colomb, were apologies. Lynn Bowden remained on leave of absence.

Deputy mayor Graham Pittock was in the chair, brisk and businesslike. CW wondered how he votes. Anne Shaw and Andrew “Billy” Dixon have tory links and Cr Bowden’s spouse is a retired Liberal MP, but the chamber sees little evidence of party line voting. Several councillors studied their iPads intently, possibly awaiting political news.

The national capital’s name is generally regarded as aboriginal-derived, from “cobbrra” or derivations “kabura” or “kabera”, meaning great corroboree meeting ground. Emphasis on the first syllable. The settlement was originally named Canbery. A rather unprophetic tombstone marking an 1845 death states: “For here we have no continuing city, but seek one to come.” The city without a heart flourishes despite this.

But CW digresses. The council meeting recorded the passing of John M Morgan, pharmacist and 1970s councillor of Mornington Shire, aged 78. Then followed a single question, on possible leachate from Rye tip damaging the Tootgarook wetlands. Assurance was given that this was highly unlikely, but that an old landfill closer to the wetlands was being monitored as the Environment Protection Authority requires.

East Timor was in the agenda and was also subject of a notice of motion on seabed boundaries, as reported in The News (“Shire urged to back East Timor’s gas field claim”, 15/9/15). The shire’s Friends of Lospalos group, now 15 years old, advanced a step last December with the signing of a municipal agreement formally linking the Mornington Peninsula with Timor Leste’s Lautem municipality, in which the Lospalos sub-district is located.

The motion, moved by Friends group chairman Cr Tim Rodgers, was carried, with a couple of abstentions. It calls on the federal government to start negotiations on establishing permanent seabed boundaries that would provide the impoverished fledgling country with a revenue share from offshore oil and gas fields.

Cr Tim Wood pointed out that Australia was acting properly in its approach to these fields, the Greater Sunrise and Laminaria Corallina.

Cr Rodgers said East Timor was 45 minutes’ flight from Darwin. The Koreans and Chinese were more active there than is Australia, he said.

Ditto the “four-step context analysis and design response guide”, aimed to “assist prospective planning permit applicants and design consultants” to achieve better results “and hence contribute to the quality of the built environment on the Mornington Peninsula”. CW remains sceptical, having seen monstrosities rise on hills and valleys around the peninsula.

Municipal waste, also on the next agenda, usually raises temperatures in the chamber but this evening a profound change was approved without a single raised voice. Councillors decided to close the shire’s last tip, the odiferous Rye Landfill in Truemans Rd, and seek a site outside the peninsula to take the kerbside waste.

Shire policy for years was to keep shire rubbish in the shire. That changed when it became part of the metropolitan waste management program and the EPA refused to allow the old Pioneer quarry on Arthurs Seat to become a rubbish tip.

Oh, and not to forget the proposed RACV behemoth, high as a seven-storey building, about to loom over the Cape Schanck settlement.

What VCAT orders, the shire must cop. Blessed be the name of VCAT, and the folk who render their judgements on our neighbourhoods. Red gondolas? Splendid! Blue gondolas? Even more magnificent!  A great contribution to the natural beauty of Arthurs Seat, to be sure.

The Hastings plan for High St and local laneways prompted discussion on traffic speed – no provision for fast cyclists and a ring road speed of 40kph in the interests of pedestrians, mobility scooters and children – and passed, with a dissenting vote from Cr Pittock.

The Tootgarook wetland, rightly a favourite of councillors, has had imposed on part of it an environmental significance overlay, with two land parcels, part of the Boneo Equestrian Centre, excluded, effectively for reasons of mapping difficulties.     

In the same agenda item a small area of Bittern was proposed to be protected by an overlay, to create a graduated density zone on the outskirts of the village. Councillors were told a decision that night would protect the area until a ministerial ruling was made, by designating it “a seriously entertained proposal”. In the intricacies of planning, CW is a babe in the woods, but he thinks that was the gist of the explanation.

“There are some greedy developers out there,” the meeting was told.

A series of items on land subdivisions, tennis courts and waste monitoring whizzed through on the “moved, seconded, carried” basis. Then came the notice of motion on flood maps – a show-stopper which, councillors were told by governance manager Joe Spiteri, would have no effect even if councillors passed it, since the maps already had ministerial approval.

Cr Tim Rodgers had proposed suspending use of the maps as they were causing great difficulties for builders – as reported in The News (“Flood maps blamed for $2m work loss”, 15/9/15) – as well as what were described as inaccurate as well as involving tedious bureaucratic requirements and unnecessary costs.

Municipal building surveyor David Kotsiakos was not present to help with the map problems, which deeply disappointed Cr Rodgers. Cr Anne Shaw came to the rescue, suggesting replacing the words “council suspend” use of the maps to “council require a report … on 12 October” regarding the maps.

Problem neatly solved, and probably a nice problem created for Mr Kotsiakos.

The final agenda item was so confidential mere ratepayers could not even be told its subject. So, back into the lowering night, to await the result of our national leadership bout. Like a chess move, an Abbott fell to a Turnbull. Checkmate?

First published in the Mornington News – 22 September 2015


Comments are closed.