Author: Keith Platt

POLICE checked and cleared all passengers for travel on the Sorrento to Queenscliff ferry after stage three coronavirus restrictions came into force on Thursday 9 July. The ferry is classed as an essential service, linking the Mornington and Bellarine peninsulas. Although the Mornington Peninsula is subject to the restrictions Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula are not within the Melbourne metropolitan area. “During the next six weeks we expect that the only travellers on our service will be people that have a need to travel for one of the three permitted reasons,” Searoad Ferries’ operations general manager Wes Oswin said. “The…

YEARS of car stickers, protests and petitions are about to culminate with lengthy submissions against the floating gas import terminal planned at Crib Point by power company AGL. The state government has announced that the environment effects statement for the gas terminal and a 57 kilometre pipeline to Pakenham is open for public comment until 26 August. However, the process could be disrupted by Viva Energy’s announcement that it too wants to develop a gas import terminal at its Geelong refinery. A rival power supplier to AGL, Viva sees the refinery as establishing Geelong as a future “energy hub” for…

TOM Putt knows a thing or two about creating an image, and when he arrived at Balnarring beach early on a cold, misty morning he knew that all the right ingredients were available. Putt, of Mount Martha, had watched racehorses being exercised at the beach before but never had the conditions been so favourable. “With the forecast for near freezing temperatures overnight, I dragged out my winter woolies and prepared for the frosts and icy conditions the next day,” he said. The soft morning light revealed horses emerging from the mist. Used to the horses cantering up and down the…

IN Mid-May Frankston had recorded the third highest number of fines, 297, for breaking COVID-19 restrictions which came into force in mid-March. Only Melbourne, 590, and Greater Dandenong, 333, had a higher number of fines. Police on the Mornington Peninsula issued 203 fines in the same time frame, nearby Casey 249 and Kingston 113. The peninsula’s figures are sure to have grown since then with police handing the occupant of a house at St Andrews Beach, a $1652 fine on Sunday 28 June. Rye police said up to 18 guests were mingling at the Tiberius Road house when, acting on…

MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire councillors are expected this month to receive a report on planning approvals involving three Mornington-based companies, engineers, planners and developers Watsons, Schutz Consulting and Wolfdene Built. As well as involving its own officers, the shire hired an “external planning expert” to review permits going back 20 years relating to the $650 million Martha Cove development at Safety Beach. The investigations were ordered last December to make sure the shire has not made corrupt planning decisions similar to ones alleged at the City of Casey during the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission’s Operation Sandon. Shire councillors on 23 June…

THE Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal has been called in to determine what activities Peninsula Aero Club can undertake at the Tyabb airfield. Issues being investigated are use of the east-west runway, passenger charter services and night flying. Mornington Peninsula Shire and the aero club have long disputed some of the existing planning permit conditions and legislation requires that VCAT be called in to adjudicate. The shire last week issued a statement saying it would abide by VCAT’s decision and “then work with both the PAC and broader Tyabb community to understand any implications from the decision”. Aero club members were…

RESEARCHERS from the Dolphin Research Institute are worried about the welfare of a southern right whale mother and her calf after they were harassed by a vessel near Cape Schanck on Sunday. A volunteer citizen scientist with the institute’s Two Bays Whale Project was watching the whales as they appeared desperate to evade a harassing vessel. The normally slow-moving southern right whales were seen travelling fast and frequently changing direction as the boat manoeuvred in an apparent attempt to photograph the pair. There were so many reported incidents of whales being pursued by boats in Port Phillip and near Phillip…

ALL candidates in the October Mornington Peninsula Shire Council elections must complete a course on local government in August. The course requirement means candidates will be unable to keep their intentions secret until the last moment on nomination day, although the option of not lodging papers would remain. The elections are being held during an unprecedented time in local government caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Council meetings are being held online, the CEO John Baker has been granted emergency powers and shire income is under threat with an abnormal number of requests expected to defer rate payments. Councillors last week…

THE owners of beach boxes on Crown land managed by Mornington Peninsula Shire have succeeded in preventing their annual licence fees being increased to $1200. The shire has agreed to charge $990, with a further discount to $700 if the beach box is less than five square metres. In a submission to the council Mornington Peninsula Beach Box Association vice-president Mark A Davis said the proposed $1200 licence fee plus other shire-based fees meant that “in most cases” beach boxes were “higher than those applied to a resident’s residential property”. He said providing a weekly waste service to beach boxes…

SILHOUETTES along the Western Port shoreline on Saturday marked the shortest day the of year and underlined opposition to AGL’s plans for a gas import terminal at Crib Point. Save Westernport members saw the winter solstice as symbolic of the outcomes they fear from the gas plan. Socially distanced, many of those on beaches from Flinders to Hastings and on French and Phillip islands held lighted candles “in a show of appreciation for Western Port’s unique ecology and solidarity against AGL”, Julia Stockigt of Save Western Port said. Ms Stockigt said the beach vigil “symbolise their determination to stand by…

AS the time for voting on a name for the $50 million aquatic centre draws to a close Aboriginals and their supporters are making it clear that Yawa is their preferred title. Mornington Peninsula Shire councillors last month rejected a recommendation that the aquatic centre be called Gunawarra and instead shortlisted five names for a public vote. However, the councillors gave no guarantee that the most popular name would be adopted. The five shortlisted names are: Gunawarra Aquatic Centre; Rosebud Aquatic Centre; Barbawar Aquatic Centre; Yawa Aquatic Centre; and Tides Aquatic Centre. Gunawarra means black swan, barbawar stingray and yawa…

DESPITE their admitted lack of the required scientific expertise, Mornington Peninsula Shire officers have been ordered to investigate alleged health issues surrounding the 5G telecommunications network. The councillors’ decision to investigate what is essentially a federal government responsibility was made in response to 700-signature petition expressing concerns that the introduction of the 5G technology could endanger health. Fears of health risks from 5G have sparked street protests in Australia, including Melbourne, where marches have often been combined with those opposing vaccines. Overseas, demonstrators have set fire to 5G telecommunications towers. The petition was received in January and at that stage…

Mornington Peninsula Shire has unveiled a plan for a 192-hectare industrial area on the outskirts of Hastings. The plan to provide enough industrial land for the next 15 years follows the steady loss of unoccupied industrial land across the peninsula. The Draft Mornington Peninsula Industrial Areas Land Use and Infrastructure Assessment and Rezoning Strategy will be on exhibition for comment for six weeks. The shire’s strategic projects manager Allan Cowley says that allowing a shortage of industrial land would lead to a “constrained” market, with high prices impeding the development of new businesses. Due to changes in uses allowed in…

BOTH state and federal governments are being asked to launch a life raft to ease economic and social hardship on the Mornington Peninsula in the wake of the coronavirus emergency. The shire’s $320 million recovery wish list ranges from housing for the homeless to a technology park. Estimated costs are just as variable, with the homeless “package” put at $2.5 million, a plan to use recycled water coming in at $27.3m and road safety $130m. In its approach to both governments the shire says the Mornington Peninsula has “suffered one of the heaviest hits to employment in the state”, with…

MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire councillors are again appealing for the public to help them decide on a name for the $50 million aquatic centre being built at Rosebud. The councillors deferred voting on a short list of names when they met on 26 May, and instead decided to again ask the community. The short list of five names is now being publicised and public comment sought, but the final decision will be made by councillors. In a widely circulated email Cr David Gill stated “the last minute change by council is now also an opportunity to firmly state that we…

MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire mayor Cr Sam Hearn said seven homeless people were given permission last month to use the camping ground at Rosebud. The shire had been “trying to find places for them to stay” when a second group of four to six people arrived. Cr Hearn said the allotted area did not have the capacity to accommodate such large numbers and if allowed to continue could lead to a shanty town. Cr Hearn said homeless people had “year after year” used camping ground over summer with several always “staying on” after the end of the camping season. “It gets…

IT can be viewed as a sad commentary on humanity that children happily play where lives were brutally lost. Or perhaps the apparent incongruity of such a scene is testament to the human spirit of survival. Artist William Kelly describes Guernica in northern Spain as “a lovely city with children playing in parks”. But looming large in Kelly’s mindset is also the horror and brutality depicted in Pablo Picasso’s 1937 oil painting, Guernica. An optimist, Kelly’s own art is designed to create dialogue, peace talk, if you like. Kelly, who lives in Cheltenham, is known for his sweeping statement “art…

THE state opposition has waded into the debate over the time being given for the public to comment on an environmental effects statement prepared by AGL for a gas import terminal at Crib Point. “The potential consequences of a decision to locate this toxic industry at Crib Point, are too great to allow such an important part of the process to proceed at a time when our community is in the middle of dealing with a world wide virus pandemic,” Hastings MP Neale Burgess said. AGL’s environmental effects statement (EES) for its proposed floating gas terminal and a 56 kilometre pipeline…

TEN five-person teams are out disinfecting “communal touch points” throughout the Mornington Peninsula to lessen the spread of COVID-19. The teams are being paid for by the state government through Citywide, a “physical services company” and work in conjunction with the shire’s Clean Team. The teams are cleaning public seating, bike hoops, playground equipment, bins, pedestrian signal buttons, handrails, street furniture and bus shelters. “This was a quick turnaround initiative of the government to support our community in feeling safe and secure in public and provide some additional support to council and business as restrictions are eased,” the mayor Cr…

NEW regulations proposed for beach boxes will eventually see their ownership restricted to Mornington Peninsula residents or ratepayers. At present, licence renewals for 56 per cent of the 820 beach boxes managed by Mornington Peninsula Shire are sent to addresses outside of the municipality. New regulations proposed by the shire aim to bring beach box ownership back to the peninsula and also limit the number of licences to one a person. Cr David Gill said owning property on the peninsula was a requirement for beach box licences “until recent decades”, making the change “a renewal of a lapsed policy”. He…

ON National Sorry Day, Mornington Peninsula Shire councillors rejected adopting an Aboriginal name for the $50 million aquatic centre being built at Rosebud. Another public consultation process “targeted” at peninsula residents will now be undertaken with five suggested names, including three Aboriginal words. However, the final decision will be made by councillors with the delay costing ratepayers an estimated $200,000. The names on the list are: Gunawarra Aquatic Centre; Rosebud Aquatic Centre; Barbawar Aquatic Centre; Yawa Aquatic Centre; and Tides Aquatic Centre. Gunawarra means black swan, barbawar stingray and yawa to swim. Cr David Gill said council’s reluctance to vote…

Although they have been around the entertainment industry for most of their lives, Louine Shaw and Steve Myers were “thrilled” to watch as three of their songs took off on Triple J’s Unearthed charts. The Mornington-based duo started writing and recording under the name Aeon Volt about two years ago, but it was only with the release of their first album AxioMatic in February, and subsequently three singles on Unearthed, that things, as Myers says, “have really taken off”. Just as there is nothing simple about their music, the formula for crafting a song that races up the chart is…

THIRTEEN captive-bred orange-bellied parrots have been released in Western Port. This is the first time the critically endangered parrots have been released in the area and followed a two-month “training regime” in a large aviary. The training by Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park staff aimed to instil site-fidelity by daily calling the birds to a specially designed food station. The Pearcedale sanctuary’s director Michael Johnson said the release was made possible thanks to two environmentally dedicated landowners who allowed the aviary to be built on their property next to the parrot’s saltmarsh habitat. The release was part of the sanctuary’s…

A COLOURFUL sign woven into the fence at Crib Point clearly showed power company AGL is not welcomed by all at Crib Point. The company is awaiting a state government decision on its plan to establish a floating gas terminal in Western Port and a 56 kilometre pipeline to Pakenham (“Fairness call for AGL decision” The News 12/5/20). Although colourful and eye-catching the “No AGL” sign on the fence around the site of the proposed gas terminal and jetty was removed within one day. Don Juniper who photographed the sign before its removal, said he was “shocked to see the…

MORNINGTON’S Mr Movies has drawn the curtains for the last time on his three screens in Main Street. Mornington Cinemas has closed after 39 years. However, it’s more intermission than the end for Ian McCann, who plans to reopen in a smaller, more intimate way just around the corner. The new venue will sit alongside a restaurant, wine bar and cinema. “It will be like going back to the beginning for me,” McCann said last Thursday as he stood amid boxes of movie posters in the cinemas’ foyer off main Street. Other boxes placed just outside the entrance were being…

THE first whales of the 2020 season have been spotted off the Mornington Peninsula’s Number 16 beach. In between Blairgowrie and Rye back beaches, the humpback whales at Number 16 were recorded as travelling east by Mandy Robertson on Saturday 16 May. “It’s a wonderful coincidence that the first sighting of humpback whales in our region for 2020 aligned with the first relaxing of the COVID-19 rules,” Dolphin Research Institute executive director Jeff Weir said. “Our citizen scientists can now venture out, but this year need to keep a safe distance from each other – as well as from the…

ANGLERS could not resist the lure of the bay and golfers were destined to seek their fairway to scorecard heaven when social distancing bans were eased last Wednesday (13 May). Golf courses across the Mornington Peninsula were heavily booked for the first day on the greens for weeks and boat ramps were again back in use as anglers cast off in the hope that fish had become complacent. As well as those two major activities, the brakes of the coronavirus shutdown were also eased for religious groups which were given the go ahead for meetings of 10 people provided social…

Mornington Peninsula Shire councillors last week held their first virtual council meeting. Like schoolchildren and businesses throughout the country, councillors and support staff have now adapted to going online to keep the shire on track. And, like schoolchildren, their online performances may count towards an end of the year judgement following the state government’s announcements late Friday that municipal elections will be held as planned on Saturday 24 October. Local Government Minister Adam said “safe and secure” postal voting would be held in all municipalities. He said the government would spend more money to achieve its aim of “gender equality…

LONG time environmental campaigner Chris Chandler died of cancer on 30 April. Articulate and well-researched, Mr Chandler, who lived on French Island, was especially concerned with the loss of habitat and need to preserve the biodiversity and sensitive environment of Western Port. In February 2019, after joining more than 90 other fee paying passengers for a twilight cruise celebrating World Wetlands Day on Western Port,  Mr Chandler told The News that the bay’s wetlands “easily fit” the criteria required for them to be protected under the international Ramsar agreement. Always ready with statistics and a formidable knowledge of natural history,…

THE state government is under pressure to “do the right thing” and delay making any decision on power company AGL’s request for a gas import jetty at Crib Point. Environment Victoria and Save Westernport say it would be unfair in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic to give the community just 30 days to respond to the “thousands of pages of documents” prepared by AGL. The adequacy of AGL’s environmental effects statement (EES) for its proposed floating gas terminal and a 56 kilometre pipeline to Pakenham is now being reviewed by the Department for Environment Land Water and Planning (DELWP)…