Author: Keith Platt

SARAH Race (pictured), this year’s deputy mayor, remains favourite to be the next mayor in a sweep being run by a group of Mornington Peninsula Shire Council officers. However, the race to next month’s prestigious finish saw the odds on Cr Race ease over the week from 2:1 to 3:1, with Cr Lisa Dixon as her deputy (“Lining up for mayoral stakes” The News 12/10/21). With punters backing just five starters out of the council’s 11 members, Cr Race is also second and third favourite at 6:1 with the current mayor Cr Despi O’Connor as her deputy and 10:1 with…

A SELECT group of councillors were given the opportunity to discuss amendments to rules under which Mornington Peninsula Shire operates at least 12 days before they became a last minute addition to the council agenda on Tuesday 24 August. Six councillors knew about the amendments which were not revealed to their five council colleagues until well after the public online meeting had started. Although the changes had been the subject of a series of emails going back at least 11 days, they were not raised at the pre-meeting councillor briefing. The five councillors were not informed of the amendments proposed…

Mornington Peninsula Shire councillors elect a new mayor early in November and lobbying for votes is already reportedly underway. The prestigious $100,000 plus position comes with a car – the mayor mobile, an electric BMW hatch – as well as the demands of representing the shire in different forums and publicly. While councillors usually keep their intentions inside the tent, that does not mean that other “insiders” cannot speculate. Council officers are running a book on the likelihood of who will be the next mayor and who will be that person’s deputy. Betting odds late last week show the smart…

POLICE have been given details of a jet-ski rider using a mobile to record chasing down a dolphin in the bay off Mornington. Unknown to the jet-ski rider one of the Dolphin Research Institute’s dolphin watchers was watching from the cliffs off the Esplanade near the Royal Hotel. The volunteer took photos of the jet-ski both in the water and later when it was loaded on a trailer at the Fishermans Beach boat ramp. The incident happened about 5.15pm on Tuesday 28 September. Regulations stipulate that jet-skis must stay at least 300 metres away from dolphins. The DRI volunteer said…

MORNINGTON Peninsula Beach Box Association, which lost a Supreme Court challenge against Mornington Peninsula Shire, now wants the shire to pay its own legal bills. The action taken by the association is understood to have cost each side at least $80,000, an amount that is believed to be being sought by the shire from the association. The shire will not disclose how much it wants the association to pay. Legal and governance manager Amanda Sapolu said it was “not appropriate to disclose” details about the negotiations” as the issue was “still before the court”. “Councillors have been briefed throughout the…

THE company awaiting the go ahead to build a battery storage system at Tyabb says advanced safety precautions have been included in its design. Risks have been reduced by using lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries and having 24/7 fire detection and suppression systems. Maoneng co-founder and CEO Morris Zhou said that safety was the company’s “top priority”, and it was important for people to understand how battery technology varied and risks were mitigated. “Batteries will play an increasingly important and necessary role as Australia transitions from traditional energy sources to renewable energy,” he said. “LFP technology has a very good…

REPORTS that an early federal election may be under consideration by the Prime Minister Scott Morrison has seen the two major parties and two non-aligned groups preparing to campaign. The Liberal and Labor parties have already selected their candidates but two non-aligned groups are yet to announce a candidate. Liberal Greg Hunt, who has held Flinders for a record 20 years, will seek re-election and Surbhi Snowball will stand for Labor. Voices for Mornington Peninsula has yet to announce its choice for an independent candidate but seems certain to join forces with the C200 climate change group led by Simon…

SOME welcome relief from last week’s mounting numbers of COVID-19 cases was provided on social media by Mornington Peninsula Shire Council. Deviating from the roads, rates and rubbish topics, the shire was confronted by mixed reactions after it entered the realm of sexual relations on its Facebook page. The shire said its promotion of Sexual and Reproductive Health Week had “reached” just under 17,000 people, making it the second “top performing” post. The mayor Cr Despi O’Connor said the shire was committed to gender equality and women’s health. “Open and honest discussions about sexual health, consent and respectful relationships are…

“HIDDEN” political donations and the high number of lobbyists given access to federal parliament were high on the list of topics covered by an online Q&A organised by Voices for Mornington Peninsula. VMP says it will choose an independent candidate to contest the seat of Flinders at the next federal election. In November, the seat will have been held for the past 20 years by Liberal Greg Hunt. VMP says it “seeks to restore and promote a participatory democracy where community voices are represented, and elected members act with honesty, integrity, and accountability”. The group’s chair Louise Page said about…

FRANKSTON Civic Centre was evacuated and a member of Mount Eliza Bowling Club was injured during last week’s earthquake. The epicentre of the 5.9-magnitude earthquake was about 10km below Mansfield, 81km from Melbourne. It was the largest recorded in Victoria and was felt in Tasmania and New South Wales. On the Mornington Peninsula houses, shops and factories shook for about 10 seconds. Two smaller quakes were recorded at 9.30am and 9.54am and there were no other reports of injury or property damage on the peninsula. The Mount Eliza man, in his 70s, was treated at the scene for upper body…

A FORMER councillor has questioned the legality of rules under which Mornington Peninsula Shire Council now operates. The Governance Rules adopted by councillors at their 24 August meeting included last minute amendments introduced by Cr Sarah Race. Officers were provided with the amendments just before the meeting, but councillors were not sent a copy of what was proposed and only found out during the meeting when Cr Race introduced her proposed changes. The argument over the legality of the new rules revolves around whether the changes were significant or “one or two minor changes”, as described by in-house lawyer Amanda…

SNAKES are starting to emerge from their winter hibernation and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) has issued a warning to walkers to wear long pants and stick to paths, particularly near long grass or water. “Most snake bites occur when people try to capture or kill a snake,” senior wildlife management officer, Rebecca Dixon said. Snake most often sought the fastest escape route but, if cornered and feeling threatened, would defend themselves. The most common species found on the Mornington Peninsula and around Frankston were the eastern brown snake, followed by red-bellied black snakes and tiger…

FOLLOWING a well-worn plot, Mornington Peninsula Shire Council appears to have arrived at a compromised, but happy, ending by continuing to run a mobile library service. The service, once back up and running in accord with COVID regulations, will be less frequent and with a smaller vehicle. The mobile library was taken off the road in March 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and replaced with a home delivery service. The shire saw an opportunity to review the mobile service and save some money at the same time (“Mobile libraries may be shelved” The News 18/1/21). However, feedback…

PARKS Victoria says that a scientific study has found that the effect on weedy seadragons by works to demolish part of Flinders pier “would be localised and temporary”. The report commissioned by Parks by environmental marine biology consultants CEE, examined the marine ecosystem at the pier, mapping habitat and marine life, and identifying potential impacts from removing the “unsafe” 180-metres of timber pier. Parks says the report shows removing the timber piles and deck “is unlikely to impact the population of weedy seadragons at a state, regional or local level and that any minor, temporary disturbances can be managed”. Parks…

KOALAS and other native animals were treated to specially prepared meals last week to celebrate Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park’s 20th anniversary. The dreams of a young Michael Johnston were able to turn into reality when the sanctuary was established by the Johnson family on 10-hectares of what was a farm and pony club at Pearcedale. Now it is home to more than 400 animals representing 70 species. However, while the koalas at the sanctuary always receive special treatment there are fears for the safety and survival of those in the wild across the Mornington Peninsula. Loss of habitat and…

THE re-emergence of Matthew Guy as state Opposition Leader saw Mornington MP David Morris lose his position in the shadow cabinet and Eastern Victoria MP Edward O’Donohue bring forward his retirement from parliament. Mr Morris was the Coalition’s spokesperson for local government, housing and aged care and Mr O’Donohue – whose electorate includes Frankston and the Mornington Peninsula – had already signalled that he would not contest next year’s state election. A supporter of former leader Michael O’Brien (“you back your leader”), Mr Morris was one of 11 MPs who voted against the spill that saw Mr Guy appointed Opposition…

MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire Council has put off making any decision on its preferred role of the Port of Hastings at least until mid-2022. Councillors decided at their 24 August meeting that there was no “legal obligation or urgency” for it to decide about the future use of the port. In doing so, they rejected advice from strategic planning manager Claire Dougall that the shire continue to oppose any dredging in Port Phillip to “accommodate” the state government’s planned container port at Bay West, near Geelong. As part of its existing opposition to the Bay West plan the shire has asked…

THE Voices of Mornington Peninsula group says any Australian Electoral Commission investigation into its financial sources would reveal an organisation “funded entirely by kind-hearted and frustrated locals who are disillusioned with party politics”. The response followed reports last week that federal Liberals had asked the AEC to make sure grassroots groups calling themselves “Voices for” or “Voices of” are obeying finance rules. “Is this a joke? A party that receives millions of dollars from corporate donors, including those in fossil fuel industries, is questioning a grassroots community organisation that values transparency and accountability,” VMP secretary Janelle Magee said. “Our democracy…

THE decision to drop saying a prayer before Mornington Peninsula Shire Council meetings was made despite 33 public submissions for it to be kept (plus a further 24 after the comment deadline) and 11 supporting a pledge suggested by Cr Anthony Marsh. Despite easily attracting the most feedback of any issue concerning the revised Governance Rules, in-house lawyer Amanda Sapolu told councillors “as a result of the community feedback, it is not considered that there are any changes required to be made to the substantive Governance Rules [which do not include the prayer]”. Ms Sapolu, who is the legal and…

MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire has been praised, the state government “acknowledged” for its progress and the federal government criticised for its lack of action on climate change. The contrasting responses to the three levels of government were voiced last week (Tuesday 31 August) during an online climate forum organised by Mornington Peninsula Labor Environment Action Network (MP LEAN) – a “grassroots network of Labor members and supporters”. The forum was sponsored by Labor MP for Nepean Chris Brayne. Guest speakers included the mayor Cr Despi O ’Connor, Cr Sarah Race, Dr George Mihaly of Merricks winery Paradigm Hill, Stephen Todd of…

AFTER months of debate, meetings behind closed doors, advice from experts and calling for public comments, Mornington Peninsula Shire councillors are again facing delays in adopting rules under which the shire operates. The Governance Rules adopted at last Tuesday’s (24 August) meeting must again be voted on following a late night move by Cr Steve Holland. With just minutes to spare before the new Governance Rules would have come into force (11.59pm), Cr Steve Holland lodged a notice of motion to revoke them “entirely, including and all parts as they relate to this item [3.2]”. The meeting ended at 11.30pm.…

THE rift between some Mornington Peninsula Shire councillors shows no sign of abating, with disagreements spilling out of the council chamber and onto social media. In the wake of last Tuesday’s (24 August) online council meeting Cr Steve Holland went on Facebook saying that “council is controlled by an exclusionary voting block that refuses to consider important community issues on their merits”. “Caucusing and a complete disregard for public sentiment has become the norm.” He later told The News that it was “disappointing that such a toxic culture has emerged”. Cr Holland said councillors often attacked other councillors’ characters rather…

URBAN areas of the Mornington Peninsula are dotted with nature strips and small plots of public land. However, efforts to use some of this land for recreation, growing vegetables or even flowers, can turn into a bureaucratic minefield. Efforts last month to persuade Mornington Peninsula Shire councillors to back a group of Balnarring residents, the Elisabeth Park Project Group, to turn a slice of public land into a “community space” fell on deaf ears. No councillor spoke against the notice of motion proposed by Cr David Gill to help the residents near Elisabeth Street but, when it came to the…

IT would be fair to say that without COVID-19 Brett Sutton would be able to walk down the street unnoticed. That is not the case anymore. Never has a state’s chief medical officer been such a highly regarded, recognisable figure. His almost daily appearances on TV news bulletins alongside Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and references to his advice have made Professor Sutton a familiar figure (and voice) to anyone following the progress of the pandemic. St Andrews-based artist Vicki Sullivan was casting around for a subject to paint for this year’s Archibald Prize when a friend suggested Prof Sutton. “I…

TWO of the Mornington Peninsula’s most prominent environment groups fear changes to federal government regulations will have a punitive backlash on the type of actions they successfully used to stop AGL’s plans for a gas import terminal at Crib Point. Changes to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Act give the charities commissioner, Gary Johns the power to shut down charities for breaching the Act or for suspecting that a breach might occur. Save Westernport’s secretary Julia Stockigt and the secretary of Westernport Peninsula Protection Council Sandra Milne have asked Flinders MP Greg Hunt “to do everything in your considerable…

AT LEAST six of Mornington Peninsula Shire’s 11 councillors have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, while another two are waiting for their age group to be cleared for the jab. In doing so, the councillors are backing up the shire’s online request for residents to “help stop the pandemic by getting a COVID-19 vaccine when it is available to you”. People and culture manager Kelly Gillies said the shire’s urging for vaccinations followed advice from the Chief Health Officer and supported the state government’s efforts to encourage community vaccination. There was no requirement for staff – many of whom interact…

IN WHAT is regarded as a landmark finding, the Victorian Supreme Court has ruled that beach box owners on the Mornington Peninsula must pay waste disposal charges. The decision handed down by the court last week after two years’ deliberation is likely to affect various other charges levied by municipalities throughout Victoria. The Mornington Peninsula Beach Owners Association launched legal action against Mornington Peninsula Shire Council three years ago in a bid to avoid paying the annual waste charge. Unlike households, the beach boxes do not have bins that are left to be emptied weekly at the kerbside but, following…

BEING labelled the worst mayor in Australia was a compliment, according to Mornington Peninsula Shire councillor and former mayor David Gill. He says the accusation was levelled after the 2019 federal election by Flinders MP Greg Hunt, during a meeting at the shire’s Rosebud headquarters attended by “20 to 30 people, including councillors, senior officers and some of his [Mr Hunt’s] people”. Cr Gill has since had no hesitation in repeating the Mr Hunt’s claim, and in fact counts it as a compliment and acknowledgment “that I had been doing my job”. He believes Mr Hunt dubbed him Australia’s worst…

SUBMARINES are designed to stay out of sight, but there is no way to hide the rusting hull of the Oberon class submarine Otama anchored off Crib Point. Having already missed one Parks Victoria order to move, the submarine lies tethered to four equally rusting anchor chains awaiting it fate off Crib Point. Politicians and the public are being encouraged to get involved in the ongoing wrangle over the Otama’s future. Two petitions have been lodged with the Legislative Council to be signed by the public and weighed for action by politicians. One petition lodged last month by the Western…

FEDERAL and state departments are being asked to reconsider earlier “informal” advice to Mornington Peninsula Shire Council officers that details of foreign ownership of land on the peninsula cannot be disclosed. The shire’s request for land ownership details also includes a suggestion that the state and federal governments consider establishing a database of foreign owned land. Chief financial officer Bulent Oz said the initial request for foreign owned land details in January had been “denied on the basis of sensitivity”. The information had been sought in case a notice of motion lodged by Cr David for discussion at the 27…