Author: Keith Platt

POWERFUL owls might be 60 centimetre s tall and have white plumage, but they are rarely seen; heard maybe, but not seen. Being a nocturnal bird of prey they are most active at night and make themselves scarce during the day. They are the largest of the avian night hunters and, as their name suggests, capable of preying on medium to large tree-dwelling mammals: ringtail possum and great glider. They also take roosting birds and animals on the ground, such as rabbits and small marsupials. Despite their strength and hunting prowess, powerful owls are listed as being endangered. The Mornington…

IT might be getting to the pointy end of the season for the AFL, but players were not too busy when asked to sign surfboards for a charity auction. The players stayed off the field long enough to take turns with black markers to autograph boards made in their team colours for the Disabled Surfers Association Mornington Peninsula branch. The auction for the 18 boards starts 2.30pm Sunday 13 September at the Baha taco and music bar, 2201 Point Nepean Rd, Rye. Bids, starting at $650 a board, will be taken from the floor and over the phone. Unsold boards…

AN unusual census is being organised by the Western Port Biosphere. Schools, community groups and individuals are being asked to record sightings of animals, birds, reptiles, plants and insects for one week next month. The 2142 square kilometre biosphere covers the municipalities of Frankston, Mornington Peninsula, Casey, Cardinia and Bass Coast as well as French Island. The Lifesearch program – “citizen science in action” – is designed to increase knowledge about biodiversity within the biosphere and how to manage and protect it for the future. The Western Port Biosphere contains national and marine parks, rural agriculture and urban-growth areas and…

SACKING staff at the Port of Hastings Development Authority has seen millions of dollars “lost” to Hastings, according to Opposition leader Matthew Guy. Speaking to journalists in Frankston last week Mr Guy said 55 jobs had gone and payouts “will cost millions”. A news release from Opposition ports spokesman David Hodgett said the state government had paid out $2.64 million to 17 staff made redundant at the planning authority. “That works out to an average redundancy payment of over $155,000 a worker,” Mr Hodgett stated in a news release. “These 17 jobs should never have been lost because a second…

AN appeal has been launched to build a centre that can save and turn lives around for troubled young people on the southern peninsula. Land has been set aside for a Wellness Pavilion at Rosebud Secondary College that can provide a place for meditation and rooms for students to speak with counsellors. Two mothers spoke movingly about how the suicide of a young member has affected their lives. Year 11 student Hamish Swayn described the far-reaching impact the suicide of his uncle last year continues to have across his family and local community. “People can easily get stuck in a…

PLANS to build new footpaths at Somers have led to a call for a study into protecting “the grace and appeal of coastal villages”. The $1.5 million footpath scheme residents are being asked to contribute towards has sparked debate within the community and claims that the peninsula’s coastal townships will lose their “special atmosphere so carefully created in the past”. Former Mornington shire president David Gill says Somers is being treated as “the guinea pig for more ugly concrete in our coastal villages”. Mornington Peninsula Shire’s infrastructure strategy manager Davey Smith says Somers residents are being treated no differently to…

FLINDERS MP Greg Hunt was back in the political fast lane on Monday, in Canberra for the Liberal party room’s vote for a Speaker to replace Bronwyn Bishop. Three days before that he had been standing at the end of Cowes pier after completing his 19-day Walk for Autism. His walk to raise $25,000 for Amaze (Autism Victoria) and the Abacus Learning Centre, Hastings, took him 500 kilometres through his electorate, which includes the southern Mornington Peninsula and Western Port, including Phillip Island. While on his walk Mr Hunt was publicly absent from being involved in the controversy surrounding Mrs…

THE cost to the taxpayer of travel by the two federal MPs who represent Frankston and the Mornington Peninsula is reasonably modest compared with some of their colleagues. According to the latest available Department of Finance figures taxpayer-paid travelling expenses for the two MPs up to the end of December last year came to $249,249. The department says the costs relate to 1 July-31 December 2014 and an unspecified time before 1 July 2014. Neither Mr Billson or Mr Hunt rated in the top 10 of MPs with the highest travel expenses. The bill for Dunkley MP Bruce Billson, who…

LAND bought for a fuel storage and distribution depot is the first step towards the realisation of state government plans for the Port of Hastings to be increasingly used as a “bulk” port. An eight hectare site in Bayview Rd has been bought by Puma Energy, a relatively new player in Australia’s fuel industry. The company already has “seaboard” terminals at Brisbane, Mackay and Townsville, with a fourth being built in Perth. It is understood Puma paid $2.2 million for its Hastings land which will be developed as a fuel storage depot at a cost of up to $120 million…

THE reorganisation of Mornington Peninsula Shire continues under the guidance of CEO Carl Cowie. About 330 staff last Thursday were invited to a briefing by Mr Cowie at Morning Star Estate, Mt Eliza, with many looking over their shoulders wondering about the ongoing security of their positions. “The news is that there is really no news. The only upshot is that the customer service is going to be better,” a staff member who did not want to be identified told The News. The same person said many staff had been looking forward “to the change a new CEO would bring…

CREDITORS have so far lodged claims of $2.334 million against Shiva Yoga Inc, which went into voluntary liquidation in April. The organisation’s main assets are three houses in Mt Eliza, two in Petrel Av and one in Clendon Close. The properties are near the Shiva School of Meditation and Yoga, headquartered on a much larger property in Tower Rd. However, the residential ashram in Tower Rd surrounded by carefully tended gardens around an ornamental lake is owned by Shiva Yoga’s former spiritual leader, Russell Kruckman, also known as Swamiji and Swami Shankarananda. Paul Burness, of liquidators Worrells Solvency & Forensic…

THE organisational shake-up of Mornington Peninsula Shire continues with nine staff being made redundant just days before CEO Carl Cowie unveiled more “new arrangements”. Mr Cowie says the changes to staffing levels and the organisational structure will “deliver enhanced service to the community”. In a statement issued on Thursday Mr Cowie said he had identified a number of changes “to better align shire operations and deliver efficiencies and savings”. The mayor, Cr Bev Colomb, said councillors were “supportive of Mr Cowie’s work on identifying efficiencies, streamlining processes and most importantly, all aspects of customer service”. Mr Cowie took over the…

DESPITE the appointment of receivers, police investigations into alleged sexual assaults and back room negotiations to avoid action under civil law, devotees are again attending Saturday night assemblies at the former headquarters of the Shiva School of Meditation and Yoga at Mt Eliza. The Tower Rd property was not listed as being part of the organisation’s assets when liquidators Worrells Solvency & Forensic Accountants were appointed in April. As well as facing the possible sale of three residential properties in streets near to the Tower Rd ashram, Shiva Yoga Inc is also the subject of possible action by lawyer Angela…

IT’S doctor’s orders, really, that bring Taffy out onto the street on a regular basis. The 10-year-old small horse had a hoof complaint and, when being looked at by the vet, was also judged to be a bit overweight. So, regular exercise was seen as being part of the cure. Taffy, hauling a jinker containing his owner Simone Kelly, have become a regular sight along the Esplanade and side streets in Mt Martha. “It’s amazing how many people stop to chat, especially parents with little children,” Ms Kelly said. “He’s very well trained and we’ve had no big frights, although…

MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire is calling for an “urgent meeting” with the state government over the effects of its plans to lease the Port of Melbourne. Under the terms of the lease being considered by the government, it will promise not to allow another competitive port to be built for at least 50 years, effectively ending plans for a container port at Hastings. Instead, the government wants Hastings to be used as a “bulk” port, adding processed brown coal to the existing trade in petroleum products and natural gas. The call for talks by the shire comes after similar concerns raised…

IT has been a record year for whale sightings in and around Western Port. Nearly 80 sightings of mostly humpback whales have been reported in the bay, from near Crib Point, Phillip Island and Sea Rocks. Others have been spotted off Mornington Peninsula surf beaches. With the whale spotting season ending next month (August) Dolphin Research Institute executive director Jeff Weir said the increasing number of whales “is consistent with the population of humpback whales still recovering from the days of commercial whaling”. The whales have provided a pleasant added extra for passengers on the French Island ferry as well…

CORMORANTS are reported to have died in agony after baited fish hooks were purposely left on a small fishing jetty at Devilbend reserve. The hooks had apparently been tied to the jetty, ripping out the birds’ throats when they attempted to fly off. Rangers at the 1005 hectare natural features reserve have investigated the report and are closely monitoring the situation to make sure it does not happen again. At least one incident of cormorant baiting at the Devilbend has been reported to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP). “Parks Victoria rangers have confirmed they visited the…

FRANKSTON Council says its call for a container port at Hastings is based on economic benefits and concern for the environment. The mayor Cr Sandra Mayer said on Friday that the state government’s “commendable” plan to remove rail level crossings “should not come at the expense of the south east and in particular Frankston City”. Before the November 2014 state election Frankston was touting itself as the logical commercial hub for an expanded port at Hastings. But those dreams have faded with the Labor government planning to lease the Port of Melbourne along with a promise of no new competitive…

THE state government has ended plans for a multi-million plan for a commercial development at Point Nepean National Park based around a luxury hotel and thermal springs. Although it may cost up to $1 million to break the 49-year lease signed off by the previous Liberal/National coalition six weeks before the November 2014 election, the government says its decision will prevent “inappropriate development” at the park. The focus on what to do with the park will now swing back to a master plan developed five years ago but dropped when Labor lost power. Ending the lease entered into with the…

AUTHOR and illustrator Michael Leeworthy wants to help people find work. He believes everyone has skills and with a bit of soul searching and encouragement can market their natural abilities. Hired “to motivate people” by agencies running Work for the Dole projects, Leeworthy says the experience has shown him that “everyone has skills and they need to sit down and make a list of what they area”. No stranger to trying to find work himself, Leeworthy describes himself as “a dropout at 16” but says he never collected unemployment benefits. He had a willingness to try his hand at any…

NO doubt it will go unremarked on by horses, but a new equestrian centre at Merricks has overcome all odds and won a major architecture award. The winner of Sir Osborn McCutcheon Award in the commercial section of this year’s Victorian Architecture Awards, the equestrian centre is both a training centre and stud. Extensive use of rammed earth and wood is a feature of the curved building designed by Melbourne architects Watson Architecture + Design and Seth Stein Architects, of London. The Australian Institute of Architects’ said “any tendency to complicate the program or the resultant built form has been…

THE word “restaurant” has disappeared from the website of a Red Hill business that may have breached Green Wedge planning regulations. Mornington Peninsula Shire officers last month recommended councillors seek an enforcement order from the Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) against the Green Olive of Red Hill for not complying with its operating permit. Environment protection and community safety manager Claire Smith last week no complaints had been received about any other restaurants. The Green Olive is on a 10 hectare block and under the planning regulations no restaurant can operate on land under 40 hectares. In 2008 owners Sue…

HASTINGS MP Neale Burgess is predicting a dark future for Hastings because of the state government’s decision to increasingly use Western Port as a “bulk” port. The scaled-down Port of Hastings Development Authority has swung its focus from preparing for a container port to promoting its use for bulk products, such as LNG (liquefied natural gas), petroleum products and brown coal. Hastings is already used to import and export petroleum and gas products and Mr Burgess accuses the government of having “secret plans” that will lead to Western Port being “a toxic dumping ground”, damaging lifestyles and cutting property values.…

THE self-described “sustainable” Mornington Peninsula Shire has a neighbour that’s now officially known as the “sustainable city” – Frankston. While the peninsula gave itself the title of sustainable, Frankston has been named Sustainable City of the Year by Keep Australia Beautiful Victoria. Frankston earned its right to use sustainable through its 10-year plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve carbon neutrality by 2025. Frankston has also pipped the peninsula on naming rights with the September 2014 opening of its $50 million Peninsula Aquatic Recreation Centre built close to the city’ central commercial area. The shire has dropped its plans…

MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire councillors will be asked if they want to continue legal action against an award-winning business that, although preparing and regularly serving food, claims it is not a restaurant. Green Olive of Red Hill in 2008 was given a permit for “primary produce sales” and “manufacturing sales” after presenting plans that showed a small sales counter and tasting area in an existing shed. Council officers say Green Olive now offers “a substantive menu of food and drink” prepared by two chefs in a commercial-sized kitchen served in an area equipped with 80 chairs. It also runs cooking classes,…

OPPONENTS to a container port at Hastings are being warned not to give up the fight just because the state government plans to lease the Port of Melbourne with guarantees of no competition for 50 years. The Preserve Western Port Action Group wants the government to “pursue sustainable developments that support the tourism and recreational boating industries” as an alternative to further industrialising Western Port. The group was Infrastructure Victoria to begin its assessment of whether Bay West in Port Phillip or Hastings is the best location for the state’s next container port. “Detailed submissions will be sought and the…

THE latest studies into rising sea levels show beaches and foreshores will be affected throughout Western Port, with the biggest loss of land to inundation occurring in the northern section of the bay. While beaches from Somers to Flinders with steeper foreshores will in large part retain their existing profiles, erosion is expected to increase as cliffs become more exposed to the sea. The studies also warn that underground water supplies will increasingly be salt affected. Land surrounding the bay’s tidal channels, such as those at Hastings and Merricks Creek, will also come under increasing pressure from rising levels in…

PENINSULA Home Hospice (PHH) has launched a $5m campaign to pay for its new Mornington headquarters. The building will provide the first permanent home for the 30-year-old organisation that supports people suffering from a terminal illness. The service offers free palliative care, counselling and therapies to patients and their families in the municipalities of Mornington Peninsula, Frankston and Kingston (south of Mordialloc Creek). Small charges may apply to care by the Royal District Nursing Service (RDNS) and the use of specialist equipment. Directors of PHH bought 327 Main St, Mornington, in April after research and “years of coping with leases…

POLICE have all but confirmed there will be no public service counter at the soon-to-be-opened Somerville police station. Acting chief commissioner Tim Cartwright says he does not think the demand will justify taking police away from neighbouring police stations. “My judgement is that I would prefer to have those members available for patrols to Somerville and surrounding areas rather than take them from the neighbouring stations to provide a counter service which I do not think justifies the commitment,” Mr Cartwright told the public accounts and estimates committee on 12 May, adding that a final decision had yet to be…

THE Opposition is accusing the state government of lying over its claim to be searching for the best site for Victoria’s second container port. The Labor government has all but backed away from choosing Western Port and is overseeing the slow demise of the Port of Hastings Development Authority (PoHDA). And now, with its intention of leasing the Port of Melbourne for 50 years with a guarantee of compensation if there is competition from another major port, the government appears to have abandoned its plan for another container port. The greatly diminished PoHDA says it is investigating investment opportunities for…