Mornington Peninsula Shire last week injected a bit of showbiz into its lobbying for money and support from the state government.
The mayor Cr Steve Holland and CEO John Baker last Wednesday took to the stage in Queen’s Hall, Parliament House to remind MPs and anyone else moving through the hall that the peninsula has problems as well as drawcards.
Baker told the assembled audience – including councillors and council officers – that about 4000 of the peninsula’s 170,000 residents were experiencing homelessness.
“Predominantly it’s women sleeping in cars with kids,” he said. “Typically, they’re divorced, they’ve been left with a couple of kids, and they’ve got nowhere to live. They’ve done all the sofa surfing. They’ve done all the staying-with-friends and now the last thing they’ve got left is their car.”
Holland said the shire was staging the event to highlight important community priorities “and bust some of the myths about the peninsula”.
“Over our three-day showcase we are hoping to talk to as many sitting members as possible about the benefits of the projects not only for our local community, but for all Victorians,” Holland said.
The presentation came one week after Holland warned the state government would “further centralise [its planning] power” on the back of an investigation by the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission into planning decisions by Casey Council (“Councils fear state planning takeover” The News 1/8/23).
But those warnings were not mentioned as the shire “took our community’s message directly to the decision-makers, ensuring we were heard above 78 other councils across Victoria,” Holland told The News.
Comedian and radio presenter Sammy J was hired as master of ceremonies for Wednesday’s presentation, with further entertainment provided by Katrina Waters, of the Mornington Peninsula Chorale choir.
MPs would have found the shire’s bid to get their attention hard to avoid as they passed through Queen’s Hall on their way to either the Legislative Assembly or Legislative Council. The venue is regarded as one of Melbourne’s most prestigious function and event venues.
“We wanted to highlight opportunities for government investment that would unlock significant economic and wellbeing benefits for our community,” Holland said, asserting “the benefits of this showcase will last for months and years to come”.
“We made connections that we will follow up and which will allow us to keep making our case for more investment.”
In his prepared speech, Holland said the peninsula was “a far more complex community than many people realise … a microcosm of Victoria as a whole”.
“So, we’re here today to give you a deeper understanding of the peninsula, bust some of the myths about our community and reveal some of the untapped potential of the region.
“We need your help to unlock the potential of the Mornington Peninsula – in particular Western Port … [which had] suffered as a result of chronic underinvestment from successive governments.”
However, he was pleased with recent announcements “that will see millions invested in the Western Port region”.
Holland said the shire was “very excited to have [former councillor now MP for Hastings] Paul Mercurio now representing our region”.
He said Mercurio (whose office said he did not attend because of illness) was a “committed champion” of three of the shire’s investment priorities: a performing arts centre for Hastings; “unlocking” land not needed for port development for such things as affordable housing, agriculture, conservation and industry; and future proofing one of the region’s major food producing areas by using the 370 million litres of “high-quality recycled water being flushed out to sea” daily at Gunnamatta.
“So, there you have it – three investment-ready projects that would boost the economy of Western Port, channel investment to some of the most disadvantaged communities in the state, support government policy and provide wider benefits for Victoria as a whole,” Holland said.