Author: Keith Platt

MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire has called on the state government to investigate health risks and environmental impacts of a plan by Esso Resources to use ethane gas to generate electricity. Esso has an oversupply of ethane, a by-product from natural gas used at its fractionation plant at Long Island, Hastings. The company says burning the gas – or flaring-off – is the alternative to setting up an ethane-driven electricity power plant. It says the plant will produce enough electricity to power 35,000 household a year will increase the peninsula’s greenhouse gas emissions by six per cent a year. While the decision…

MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire councillor Desi O’Connor wants to make it clear that her decision to suspend campaigning for last month’s federal election was due to questions over her employment as a teacher by the Victorian education department and not retaining her role as a councillor. “Just a clarification that I did not suspend my campaign because I was still holding an elected position as a Mornington Peninsula Shire councillor,” she said. “The suspension occurred because I discovered that being a public school teacher constituted holding “… any office of profit under the crown…” – Section 44 (iv). Therefore, there was…

THE Voices of Mornington Peninsula group which backed independent Dr Sarah Russell in the May federal election, is now turning its sights on local government. The group’s latest newsletter criticises Mornington Peninsula Shire for removing $200,000 to buy carbon credits from its 2022/23 budget “despite the many letters and 299 petition signatures that were presented to them”. “We don’t think the process that was followed in this instance could be held up as best practice,” the online newsletter states. “The council now wants us (peninsula residents) to help shape their draft public transparency policy.” Russell was the second candidate chosen…

THE number of remaining buildings on the Mornington Peninsula clad with combustible aluminium should be public knowledge in August. Mornington Peninsula Shire in May directed its officers to “update our community on the situation regarding combustible cladding of buildings”. Officers said they could provide councillors with “a brief update” by 19 July. Concerns worldwide about combustible aluminium being used in multi-storey buildings were raised in June 2017 when 72 people died when London’s 20-storey Grenfell Tower caught fire. In March 2019, a cigarette was blamed for a blaze in Melbourne’s Neo200 building that that jumped five storeys. However, in January…

ALTHOUGH not always rigorously enforced, Mornington Peninsula Shire has powers that enable it to be involved in many aspects of peoples’ daily lives. Rules to manage alcohol use, parking, open air burning, and short-stay rentals are well known, but they also cover feeding birds in the backyard; leaving rubbish bins out for too long; and the need to provide council with details of anyone who is being given a cat or dog. Anyone thinking of taking a three-day break may soon need to take account of rubbish collections. Bins must not be put out for more than one day before…

THE behaviour of whales in Port Phillip and Western Port appears to be changing. Data collected by the Hastings-based Dolphin Research Institute includes a blue whale being recorded in early June near Portland. The sighting was the on record as they usually leave those water in autumn. Questions are being asked about the effects of climate change on whale habits when the Portland sighting is competitive pods of male humpbacks appearing in Port Phillip and a humpback whale song recorded near Port Phillip Heads. DRI Executive director Jeff Weir says these “are things that would normally occur in the sub-tropics”,…

MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire Council has reappointed chief executive officer John Baker for a further four years but is yet to decide on any change to the amount and terms of his $425,000 salary package. The contract terms will be reviewed and approved by the shire’s Chief Executive Officer Remuneration and Employment Committee before being negotiated by Baker and the mayor, Cr Anthony Marsh. Baker’s current contract ends in November and the new contract must be finalised and agreed on by 8 November. Council said Baker’s current package was decided in November 2021, after it had been “advised on industry standards…

ALTHOUGH now into the sixth year of a five-year plan to achieve “carbon neutrality”, Mornington Peninsula Shire dropped $200,000 from its $273 million budget earmarked to buy credits from “offset” projects. Cr Kerri McCafferty criticised some of her colleagues for claiming credits previously bought by the shire involved “fraudulent activity”. “But we’re not buying offsets from poorly regulated rogue projects,” she said during council’s Tuesday 7 June budget meeting. “We’re buying them through the federal government’s accreditation system, Climate Active.” McCafferty said the credits came with a guarantee that each one “corresponds to one tonne of carbon dioxide removed from…

THE Local Governance Inspectorate says there is “insufficient evidence” to substantiate any offences under the Local Government Act in the lead up to Mornington Peninsula Shire adopting amended Governance Rules in October 2021. David Walker, the inspectorate’s investigations team leader, said the shire’s “administration” said it had been “regrettable” that proposed changes to the Governance Rules had not been circulated to councillors before a meeting on 24 August 2021, but it had not prejudiced the outcome. The inspectorate was investigating a complaint that the then mayor Cr Despi O’Connor, CEO John Baker and legal and governance manager Amanda Sapolu had…

MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire mayor Cr Anthony Marsh has defended his inability to carry out a pre-election promise to implement a “rate freeze”. In March 2021 he seconded an unsuccessful move by fellow Briars Ward councillor Steve Holland to give ratepayers a 1.5 per cent rebate, but this year was hamstrung by being mayor, a position that prevents him moving motions or amendments. “Given no other councillor tested a motion or amendment to freeze or reduce the proposed rate increase, I had no opportunity to vote in support of a ‘rate freeze’ this year,” Marsh, who was elected in late 2020,…

MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire councillors have adopted a 1.75 per cent rate increase as part of their $273 million 2022/23 budget. The rate hike is the maximum allowed by the state government and is 0.25 per cent higher than last year. CEO John Baker said the government’s rate cap “in terms of current economic trends, it’s not a great outcome”. “With this year’s increase being less than half of the consumer price index (CPI) rise of 5.1 per cent for the March quarter, it means our revenue has shrunk in real terms,” he stated in his introduction to the “challenging budget”.…

SOME Mornington Peninsula Shire councillors underwent “additional training” before this week’s public meeting to adopt the municipality’s $282.8 million budget for the next 12 months. The shire on Monday last week issued a statement saying the budget meeting scheduled for Tuesday 7 June was rescheduled to give the mayor, Cr Anthony Marsh “enough time to recover and participate as chair”. Marsh claimed on Facebook that the report in The News was “misreported and corrected”. “The meeting was postponed to conduct a training session on request of councillors as elements of the new governance rules were not understood by many councillors”.…

MORNINGTON Peninsula property owners and residents are being asked their views on the care and use of nature strips. Although Mornington Peninsula Shire already has a set of rules for the use of nature strips, they do not appear to be uniformly regulated or applied. A walk around many peninsula towns and suburbs reveals the most basic of rules – keeping a minimum 1.5 metre wide strip for pedestrian access – is often ignored. Nature strips have been incorporated into front yards, rocks, stones and sleepers used to delineate driveways and trees or bushes planted to prevent public access. As…

THE state government has been accused of ignoring the “unique” environmental qualities of where an artificial reef has been installed off Point Nepean. Designed to be a lure for kingfish, the reef has been put in place despite calls for it to be delayed – including from Mornington Peninsula Shire Council – until further studies had been carried out. In the days following news that the 16 purpose-built concrete “reef modules” had been installed on the seabed their main attraction was criticism. Conservationists and dolphin watching business operators have accused the state government and the Department of Environment, Land, Water…

THIS week’s scheduled public meeting of Mornington Peninsula Shire Council has been postponed until Tuesday 7 June. Included on the agenda was the adoption of the 2022/23 budget. It is understood the mayor Cr Anthony Marsh requested the delay while he undergoes treatment in hospital. Although there is a deputy mayor, Cr Lisa Dixon, Cr Susan Bissinger said “really, it is in the community’s interest that we have the best chair possible” at the final budget meeting. “We’re trying to do the best we can for the community. The deputy was willing to step in, but the consensus was that…

HUNDREDS of people are homeless on the Mornington Peninsula while at least 26 state government-owned houses are sitting vacant. Another 18 are also empty, although they are slated to be demolished or redeveloped. The shortage of permanent houses is also exacerbated by the number of privately-owned properties used as short-stay, or holiday rentals. A report by the Salvation Army last year estimated there were 2600 people experiencing homelessness in the federal electorate of Flinders, which covers most of the peninsula. Unverified data provided to The News puts the number of holiday rental properties at 4529, with most being located between…

THE biggest artificial reef in Port Phillip has been installed near Point Nepean. A crane lowered concrete sections of the reef into the water on Sunday 22 May and Monday 23 May in a format designed to attract fish for recreational fishers. The reef is the last in a series that have been deployed throughout Port Phillip and Corio bays as part of the state government’s $2.5 million artificial reef program made as a 2018 election commitment. The laying of the reef’s 16 large concrete structures in clusters of four about 50 metres apart, was made despite criticism by environmentalists…

THE state government has been asked by Mornington Peninsula Shire to investigate how appointments are made to the Bass Park Trust by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP). The request follows the appointment to the trust earlier this year of the mayor, Cr Anthony Marsh and claims by DELWP that Cr David Gill had resigned. The shire has told the Premier Daniel Andrews and the Victorian Governor Linda Dessau that Cr Gill was never officially appointed to the trust during his four years as the shire’s chosen delegate “and therefore has not resigned and did not have…

RENEWABLE energy company Maoneng’s Tyabb battery project has been given permission to the existing substation. The Australian Energy Market Operator has approved the company to connect its battery energy storage system (BESS) to AusNet’s existing Tyabb substation. Maoneng received development approval earlier this year and is scheduled to complete the project in early 2024 (previously mid-2023 “Positive result for battery plan” The News 1/2/22). The company says its $190 million project is expected to generate up to 160 full-time equivalent jobs during its 12-month construction. The BESS is designed to draw and store energy from the grid during off-peak periods…

SATURDAY dawned like no other for Zoe McKenzie. The Liberal Party’s candidate for Flinders was facing the test of her career: could she get voter endorsement to fill the role occupied by retiring MP Greg Hunt for the past 21 years? She need not have had any fears, within two hours of voting closing at 6pm, McKenzie was being declared the new MP for Flinders. The result flashed on-screen by ABC TV just before 8pm initially gave her 58.2% of the vote and, although that total slipped as counting continued, the result was never in doubt. However, the win was…

MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire has come under fire for publicising federal election candidates’ promises on its website and using a photograph of Liberal Party candidates on Facebook to promote a fast-charging outlet for electric vehicles. A photograph featuring the Liberals’ candidate for Flinders Zoe McKenzie and Senator Jane Hume was placed on the shire’s Facebook after last Tuesday’s promotion of a fast-charging outlet for electric vehicles at Sorrento. The picture was quickly taken down in the face of online criticism. “The launch of electric vehicle chargers at Sorrento was an external event and was not organised by the shire,” advocacy, communications…

FISHING trawlers licensed by the federal government are threatening the numbers of King George whiting in Port Phillip and Western Port bays, according to the Futurefish Foundation. The foundation’s chairman Michael Buxton says the trawlers’ catch breeding-sized whiting off Wilsons Promontory could lead to fewer fish available to recreational fishers in the bays and 18 commercial fishers at Corner Inlet. Buxton says he twice wrote to Flinders MP Greg Hunt who passed on his concerns to federal Fisheries Minister Jonathon Duniam “who replied he was not prepared to change anything”. Buxton says he has also expressed his concerns to the…

IT may have taken 10 years of lobbying, but Mornington MP David Morris is pleased the state budget included a commitment to rebuild Mornington Special Development School. “In a welcome departure from its usual habit of ignoring the Mornington electorate in the state budget, the Victorian government has finally funded two desperately needed local projects,” Morris said. He said the government had committed to spending “at least $6.769 million” but warned the project was no expected to be completed until December 2025. “Students, parents and teachers shouldn’t be expecting immediate action as only a fraction of the money allocated to…

MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire Council’s online federal election candidates’ “pledge tracker” was made by a “councillor consultative group” consisting of five councillors and several council officers. Two weeks ago, the tracker showed seven promises made by Liberal Party candidate for Flinders Zoe McKenzie and none for Labor, which had made an election promise (“Shire following the money” The News 10/5/22). The tracker is supposed to be listing campaign promises and pledges by candidates in Flinders and Dunkley electorates, but only mentions Liberal and Labor candidates. Flinders has 10 candidates and Dunkley nine. Under the heading “Flinders electorate election pledge tracker” and…

LIBERAL Party candidate for Flinders Zoe McKenzie says she had an “exceptional evening” discussing “Australia’s national security and intelligence landscape” at the same time that 400 people gathered in Mount Martha expecting to hear from all 10 candidates. McKenzie told organisers during the morning before that evening’s town hall meeting that she would not be attending as Senator James Paterson was available to attend a meeting at Portsea Sorrento RSL. Animal Justice Party candidate Pamela Engelander was also absent from the meeting on Wednesday 11 May organised by the non-political community group Peninsula Voice and radio station RPP FM. The…

THE past three federal elections have seen the Liberal Party vote in the Flinders electorate drop from a high of 59.14% in 2013 to 55.64% in 2019. Each election was won for the Liberals by Greg Hunt, who had held the seat since 2001, but is now retiring. The same three elections have seen the proportion of the vote for independent candidates jump from less than 1% to nearly 16%, a figure that could be eclipsed this year with the greater emphasis being placed on independents across Australia. The 2013 election saw 10 candidates contest the seat, with Hunt increasing…

AN audience of about 400 last Wednesday heard the policies of eight of the 10 candidates standing for the seat of Flinders in Saturday’s federal election. Not represented at the “town hall” meeting organised by the non-political Peninsula Voice and radio station RPP FM were Pamela Engelander of the Animal Justice Party and the Liberal Party’s Zoe McKenzie. McKenzie bowed out on the morning of the evening meeting at Mount Martha to attend a meeting she had arranged at Portsea Sorrento RSL with Senator James Paterson (“Security takes precedence”). Labor candidate Surbhi Snowball was ill, but her campaign manager Marg…

HIGH profile independent Despi O’Connor will continue her campaign for the federal seat of Flinders despite acknowledging a constitutional “roadblock” if she wins. The Australian Electoral Commission says that if O’Connor is successful “her eligibility to serve as the Member for Flinders must be determined by the Court of Disputed Returns”. The dramas in O’Connor’s campaign became apparent early last week when she issued a statement that her employment as a teacher by the state education department may breach section 44(iv) of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act. Following advice from “barristers, lawyers, and constitutional experts” O’Connor issued a statement…

POLITICAL candidates have long endured the ignominy of having their vote-for-me signs adorned with moustaches or blackened teeth, but this year’s crop of such political comment has been particularly nasty in the Finders electorate. Ten candidates are competing for the long-held Liberal seat and signs spruiking Zoe McKenzie, the party’s choice to replace retiring MP Greg Hunt, have been particularly hard hit, with sexist swear words painted across her signs and car. (“Candidates unite against sign vandals” The News 26/4/22). McKenzie posted a message on her Facebook page saying she was not surprised at the vandalism: “Women in politics cop…

POLITICAL activist group GetUp! sees Flinders as one of seven “marginal” Victorian seats where it will try to influence the federal election outcome on 21 May. The organisation says its how-to-vote cards preference candidates with strong policies on climate action, First Nations justice and economic inequality. Other Coalition seats targeted by GetUp! are Higgins, Casey, Chisholm, Deakin, Goldstein and Kooyong. “From seats where so-called moderate Liberals are under pressure from independents, to disaster-affected seats where communities have been left behind by the Morrison government’s shameful lack of assistance, our how-to-vote cards ask voters to cast their vote for climate leadership…