Council ‘a joke’ over Potter show secrecy
Clearly, the planning for the Potter event has been underway for some time, shrouded in secrecy, involving details disclosed at a closed council meeting with councillors being asked to sign non-disclosure agreements.
Many residents will be totally opposed to The Briars wildlife sanctuary being used in this manner, rightly so and no doubt the reason for the secrecy.
If it was good enough for the people in Brussels to see what an impact this would have on the environment and have the proposed staging moved elsewhere, then surely enough residents here could, with organisation from Friends of the Briars and other like minded parties, force our council to go elsewhere.
I for one will certainly sign the petition and join any protest march or other activity residents might organise to show how strong the feeling in our community is against the staging of this event at such an inappropriate venue.
We do not need a lot of outsiders trampling over the undergrowth and disturbing our wildlife for a couple of hours entertainment, leaving their footprints behind, as is the case during the summer months.
Our wildlife, what is left of it, is precious, their habitat must be protected, and they must feel safe in their environment.
Beverley Treloar, Mornington
Jekyll and Hyde
Mornington Peninsula Shire councillors are being shown as Jekyll and Hyde. On the one hand, local residents were kept in the dark about Warner Brothers’ plans to stage Harry Potter light shows in our beloved wildlife sanctuary at The Briars because councillors signed non-disclosure agreements (NDA). There was a complete lack of transparency and no community consultation (Thumbs down for Potter Performance, The News 9/1/24).
On the other hand, the shire has plans for an accessible online “transparency and integrity hub” (All clear for transparency, The News 9/1/24).
The shenanigans in council would make a good script for the next season of ABC’s Utopia.
The strong local backlash towards staging the Harry Potter event in a precious wildlife sanctuary resulted in more than 16,000 people signing a change.org petition within a fortnight.
As the opposition to this foolhardy decision grows, the councillors will be forced to explain not only why they signed an NDA but also why the event was kept top secret until Warner Brothers had begun selling tickets.
Sarah Russell, Mount Martha
To quote singer Alanis Morissette, “Isn’t it ironic?” Mornington Peninsula Shire councillors have just discovered “transparency” and are proposing a “transparency and integrity hub”, to provide the community with “curated information” after “cleansing” (All clear for transparency, The News 9/1/24).
This comes to us after the total lack of transparency displayed by the “secret” negotiations with the Warner/Fever group to permit them to install the Harry Potter sound and light show inside The Briars wildlife sanctuary (Thumbs down for Potter Performance, The News 9/1/24).
It is standard practice to have confidentiality/non-disclosure agreements when council is discussing competitive tenders, such as if we need a new bridge, the three tenders are confidential, but the community knows we are working on getting a new bridge.
Warners/Fever approached the shire. They decided on the location. There is no competition, just seeking permission and negotiating a price. The financials may be kept confidential but the event itself should be public knowledge.
Why were all our councillors gagged on this and all council staff put under a cone of silence? Fever PR chaps would have loved the extra publicity.
It seems this gag order may have been pushed by Mornpen executives to keep the community out because they knew this bad decision would attract huge backlash, as it has done. I cannot think of another logical reason. Transparency and Integrity, I don’t think so.
Apart from Cr David Gill, our councillors have all bowed to Mornpen executives and signed up. Those that negotiated this deal perhaps were not the ideal people to negotiate with a powerful multinational entertainment group.
The councillors have failed dismally in their duty to the community. When you hide something, the truth will eventually come out and bite you.
David Mason, Mount Martha
My family has been enjoying the magical creatures at The Briars wildlife sanctuary for years. We’ve watched in wonder at the abundant water birdlife, marvelled at echidnas pottering about, and even seen an emu with her chicks.
Even though we adore the Harry Potter stories, we were shocked to learn that there will be a large corporate sound and light “Forbidden Forest” experience occurring within the sanctuary (Thumbs down for Potter Performance, The News 9/1/24).
Not only is the location inappropriate for 2000 people a night and the sales of unnecessary plastic merchandise, but it poses larger questions: why does it take money-making “entertainment” to encourage folk to enjoy a forested area? And what will it take for us to value nature for the precious wonder that it is?
It’s heartening that more than 17,000 people have signed a petition requesting that the location of this event be changed.
Wildlife and the environment are essential to life – they must be valued and prioritised.
Amy Hiller, Kew
Flowers, not Potter
The flowering gums are in bloom, and these days you can get any colour. Wouldn’t it be lovely to see Mornington with those beautiful orange coloured flowering gums along our nature strips?
Could Mornington Peninsula Shire Council, instead of going behind our backs and organising a loud and bright Harry Potter event in the middle of The Briars sanctuary, provide us with trees such as this for, say, $10 each, so we could plant them outside our homes and bring back our native birds?
Wendy Doyle, Mornington
Uphold shire principles
When I first heard of this [Harry Potter] “performance” [at The Briars, Mount Martha] I thought it was one of these hoaxes one hears about being spread on the so-called social media. Perhaps even a scam to get people to pay for tickets for a non-existent event.
Thousands of people traipsing through a wildlife sanctuary at night, with lights and sound, for two months. Come on, who would believe that? Maybe something dreamed up by a shire employee but no way a highly educated CEO I thought would do anything other than laugh at the preposterous suggestion.
Then I saw a reference to councillors signing a non-disclosure agreement, a master stroke by the hoax perpetrators. Who would think a shire with a public transparency policy would tolerate that? The policy states: The shire considers transparency a cornerstone of democratic governance. Openness, accountability and honesty are essential for fully informed engagement in the democratic process.
Now I am gob smacked to find that it is not a hoax or a scam. So, wildlife is not a part of our “unique characteristics”? The Briars is not part of our way of life? Neither is to be valued and protected?
I read that those [two] councillors who declined to sign the NDA are “frozen out of the ongoing negotiations”. Is that compatible with democratic governance?
Is this a fait accompli or can it be stopped?
If it cannot be stopped, how will those ratepayers who care for our peninsula react at the next election? I know how I will react.
What of the CEO’s contract when it comes up for renewal? Might the state government begin to wonder if our shire is departing from its principles?
Dickson Dalgleish, Mount Eliza
Once implemented, at a great cost to us the ratepayers, it is not clear to me if I will be able to find out an answer to my questions on Mornington Peninsula Shire’s proposed transparency and integrity hub (All clear for transparency, The News 9/1/24).
What is the term of the current very inadequate road drainage contractor?
Is there an open tender when the contract expires?
Can I find out about work performances and met key targets?
Who from the shire’s officers supervises the work and sees that it meets engineering and construction standards?
How long do we the ratepayers have to put up with poor performances and shire dissatisfaction?
Oh yes, let’s have another survey until we get an answers that suits us.
Shire officers at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars a year have no business running year after year a dissatisfied and underperforming council, they should be gone.
Let’s put in place can-do people, with open tenders, who have the interest of the shire at heart.
Gerard van de Ven, Mount Martha
I would not have had a clue about the lack of transparency surrounding briefing papers given to Mornington Peninsula Shire officers were it not for The News (‘Transparent’ council Take 2, 12/12/23).
The transparency fight by electors has been going on for the 23 years I have lived here. Transparency: give us what we want when we want it and do not force expensive FOI processes to thwart us.
Had some councillors for some unknown reason voted no, we, the electors, would not have been denied access to the innocuous briefing papers in the first place and the issue would not have exploded.
Now, a councillor who voted no on presenting this innocuous information puts forth a “transparency hub” proposal like Frankston has with development costs of possibly more than $300,000 and yearly maintenance costs of $100,000. I painstakingly, after several attempts, found out how the system worked and only then got what Frankston Council wanted to give me.
Have councillors or the officers putting this forward spent any time evaluating this site and tried to get answers to tough questions?
All this information could be provided on the current shire site and AI should be used to help you get the answer you are looking for (if you are allowed to have it). I wonder if contentious briefing papers would be available?
I’ll be sending my thoughts to councillors directly as some do not bother to read the local paper or the letters of electors.
Joe Lenzo, Safety Beach
The veto of the Western Port wind terminal project by the federal government is disappointing but not the end of the world (Federal veto a blow to terminal plans, The News 13/1/24). Modifications can be made to make the project environmentally acceptable. Equally disappointing, and predictable, was the Liberal Party response. Opposition spokesperson Jonathan Duniam, taking his cues from Mr No, Dutton, claims that “you can’t trust Labor to get energy policy right”. Senator Duniam has been in parliament long enough to know that the Coalition government, of which he was a member, achieved absolutely nothing in energy policy in its nine years of government, so it is hypocritical of him to criticise Labor for actually having plans whilst having the temerity of trying to protect the environment at the same time.
Do us a favour Senator Duniam, instead of the childish carping, how about outlining the Coalition’s comprehensive plan for our energy future, or do you need another nine years to come up with something?
Dr Ross Hudson, Mount Martha
Find an alternative
It is pleasing that federal environment minister Tanya Plibersek has intervened to protect the Ramsar wetlands of Western Port from new development (Federal veto a blow to terminal plans, The News 13/1/24). However, the Victorian government’s commitment “to overturning the federal veto” is disappointing.
Western Port’s wetlands have been under siege from energy projects in recent times, and locals are weary from defending them. The proposed AGL gas import terminal was stopped in 2021 by then planning minister Richard Wynne on environmental grounds and the latest project is no different. The same is true of the ridiculous coal to hydrogen project which also proposes to export from Western Port.
Reporting by The News on these projects has been consistent and influential over the years, although the intervention of the Coalition environment minister Sussan Ley was not forthcoming.
Australia cannot ignore its offshore wind potential. The global wind atlas shows that we have some of the strongest and most reliable offshore wind in the world.
Finding the environmentally optimal pathway to tap into offshore wind, as 13 OECD countries have done, is our next big challenge. The Port of Geelong’s plans to develop a “wind farm hub” is the obvious way forward. A Ramsar wetland is not.
Ray Peck, Hawthorn
Link not liked
Friday 12 January 11am, Peninsula Link northbound. A warm sunny day in holiday time, and everyone’s driving somewhere. So, Peninsula Link decided to cause a traffic jam.
Both lanes were crawling stop/start for about two kilometres from Arthur’s Seat to Jetty Road, Rosebud.
Why? Why? Because the roadside weeds needed spraying immediately. And one lane had to be closed.
Warwick Spinaze, Tootgarook
The Dunkley by-election has begun with the announcement of the Labor Party’s candidate, Jodie Belyea (Dunkley poll a test for Labor govt, The News 9/1/24).
Of course, she commits herself to solving the cost of living crisis, heath and Medicare and social housing.
But she must tell the people of Dunkley why the Albanese government has been completely absorbed by the Voice to Parliament referendum and not the cost of living and housing shortage which landlords are taking full advantage of and increasing their rents to make bigger profits.
I await her policy on Australia Day being held on 26 January.
Russell Morse, Karingal
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