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Council Watch

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…

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…

TWO COVID-19 education officers have been hired by Mornington Peninsula Shire for six months to help businesses, community groups and event organisers establish COVIDSafe plans and practices. The shire has also partnered with the state government to provide extra resources to help protect customers, staff and members of the public in the pandemic. The officers will help their clients put in place or update COVIDSafe plans as well as provide resources and templates to help with plans and practices. They will also promote safe practices among those in the hospitality industry, at community venues and in small retail settings. Details:…

MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire has invited community feedback on its approach to planning and managing water in the face of climate change and population growth. With the green wedge covering 70 per cent of its land area and 192 kilometres of coastline, water and land management plays an important role in the peninsula’s community, economy and environment. The draft integrated water management plan aims to enhance the peninsula’s water supplies by using alternative water resources, such as rainwater and stormwater, to irrigate and drought proof green open spaces; protect the health of waterways, wetlands and bays; reduce flood risks; increase sewerage…

MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire Council will extend its financial hardship policy until at least 28 February 2022. The policy, moved at its 7 September meeting, will apply to all rateable properties and debtors who apply for relief. The council also agreed not to raise interest on any outstanding balances for ratepayers and debtors until that date. Officers will then report back to council which will decide whether or not to extend the relief period. Revenue business support coordinator Ros Humphrey told councillors that having regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Victorian Ombudsman’s report, the rates hardship policy had been reviewed…

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…

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.…

COMMUNITY consultation on Mornington Peninsula Shire’s 2021 draft Domestic Animal Management Plan closes Wednesday 22 September. The plan outlines the shire’s approach to animal management services, programs and strategies across the peninsula over the next four years. Victorian councils are required to produce a Domestic Animal Management Plan every four years. The focus of the plan will be on communication around responsible pet ownership; promoting compliance and enhancing education and improving animal welfare outcomes. It will focus on supporting a consistent approach to leash-free and dog prohibited areas; increasing pet registration and opportunities for lost pets to be reunited with…

By Joseph Misuraca MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire Council wants to buy a small section of private land in Shoreham that was originally part of the outdoor Cyril Young Memorial Chapel. The land at 39 Marine Parade was erroneously included in the private block when subdivided in the 1960s, according to Cr David Gill. “Nobody, I believe, went and looked and saw what was there,” he said. If the land sale negotiations are successful, a heritage overlay will be adopted to protect the reserve on which the chapel lies. “I can’t reveal sums [needed to buy the land] because that’s in negotiation,”…

THE state opposition has told the government to “stop pretending” the Mornington Peninsula is part of metropolitan Melbourne. Mornington MP David Morris criticised the Premier Daniel Andrews in parliament for avoiding repeated demands to reclassify the peninsula as regional. “The fact that the premier was not prepared to address the issue directly makes it clear that there is no justification for the current situation,” Mr Morris said. “The response confirms that this is nothing more than a bureaucratic convenience. “The peninsula is not an extension of the metropolitan area. The standard of government services on the Mornington Peninsula is not…

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…

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…

THE Bass Park Trust met last Thursday (29 July) but did not invite Mornington Peninsula Shire’s nominated representative, Cr Anthony Marsh. The online Zoom meeting was, however, attended by Cr David Gill, as he has done for the past four and a half years. Cr Marsh, a Briars Ward councillor (Mount Eliza, Mornington and Mount Martha), successfully nominated himself for the position in June, saying it was “important all councillors are active all over the municipality”. Cr Gill, whose Red Hill Ward includes Flinders Golf Course which is on land managed by the Bass Park Trust, told The News that…

DESPITE facing community calls for his appointment to be reversed, Cr Anthony Marsh was “excited” to inform his Mornington Peninsula Shire Council colleagues that his application to join the Bass Park trust “has progressed”. The minutes of the council’s Tuesday 13 July meeting state that Cr Marsh “is hoping at the [27 July] council meeting to be able to advise that the appointment has been ratified”. Cr Marsh successfully nominated himself for the position on the trust held by Cr David Gill for the past four and a half years (“Trust says ‘no’ to council’s chosen delegate” The News 15/6/21).…

UNDEMOCRATIC, manifestly inadequate, vague, ambiguous and absurdly long [time for lodging notices of motion] are just some of the words by former councillor Hugh Fraser to describe proposed changes to rules under which Mornington Peninsula Shire operates. Mr Fraser’s detailed critique of parts of the draft Governance Rules is made in one of the submissions now being collated by shire officers. Councillors will be briefed on the feedback from the public to the proposed changes on 3 August, and the Governance Rules will then be listed for discussion at the council’s 24 August public meeting. Mr Fraser’s main objections to…

STEVE Holland is the latest member of Mornington Peninsula Shire Council to be appointed to a group involved in managing or advising local government in Victoria. Cr Holland’s election to the board of the Victorian Local Government Association board follows the mayor Cr Despi O’Connor’s appointment by the state government to the local government mayoral advisory panel and deputy mayor Cr Sarah Race to its gender equality advisory committee. Cr Holland was one of two councillors elected for a three-year term on the VLGA board. Cr Josh Fergeus, of Monash Council, was the other successful candidate. Cr Holland’s Briars Ward…

MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire councillors are ignoring requests for them to reverse their decision to appoint Cr Anthony Marsh to the Bass Park Trust. Councillors on 1 June voted 6/5 to replace Cr David Gill with Cr Marsh on the trust. Both the trust and Flinders Community Association say Cr Gill should be on the trust as property overseen by the trust, Flinders golf course and surrounds, lies within his Red Hill Ward. Cr Marsh represents Briars Ward, which covers Mount Martha, Mornington and Mount Eliza. The trust, which next meets on 29 July, was quick to write to councillors seeking…

DATA in last week’s council budget papers revealed the greatest increase in valuations across the Mornington Peninsula occurred in the townships of St Andrews Beach, Merricks Beach, Boneo, Blairgowrie, Point Leo, Merricks and Cape Schanck. Valuations team leader Lauren Ashley, speaking to the General Valuation Return and Valuers’ Report on Tuesday 22 June, said this had come about as residents “sought out lifestyle properties and lower density housing and took the opportunity to work from home in the popular holiday areas”. “They were among many regional areas to experience a surge in housing prices as demand outweighed supply,” she said.…

DESPITE using an increase in Aboriginal children enrolled in three-year-old kindergarten as an example of its “positive action towards reconciliation”, Mornington Peninsula Shire will not release actual statistics. The shire says there has been a 300 per cent increase in Aboriginal enrolments since 2016 but will not reveal how many children are involved. “We cannot provide the actual numbers … because it may allow individual members of the community to be identified and this is not culturally safe,” community services manager Jo Bradshaw said. The shire also chose to highlight higher rates in “Aboriginal business procurement, and work” as…

NINE out of Mornington Peninsula Shire’s 11 councillors have voted in favour of their colleague Anthony Marsh being able to spend more than $8000 on a director’s course. The money will come from the $16,000 each councillor is allowed to spend on courses or conferences during their four-year term. Cr Steve Holland, the only dissenting councillor during debate at the council’s 1 June online meeting, said spending the money “doesn’t pass the pub test”. “I know councillors can spend $16,000 on conferences and training, but this needs to be linked to community benefit,” he said. “I don’t know how this…

MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire is investigating whether more planning controls are needed to protect the environmental values of the Balcombe Estuary Reserves. The estuary is one of the peninsula’s major waterways and regarded as a significant natural asset. The reserves are rich in biodiversity and offer picnic tables, playgrounds, fishing platforms and walking tracks and boardwalk alongside Balcombe Creek, extending from the bay to Nepean Highway and on to The Briars. Other recreation facilities include tennis courts, cricket and football ovals, pistol club, and bowls club, as well as Mount Martha Pre-School and maternal and child health centre. The shire is…

MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire Council is not allocating enough resources to cope with demand for services from population growth, according to the lobby group Committee for Mornington Peninsula. The group’s assessment of the council’s proposed 2021-22 budget acknowledges that the shire’s our community, our connectivity, our prosperity and our wellbeing strategy is “synergetic with [our] strategic objectives in addressing disadvantage, improving accessibility, land for livelihoods and lifelong learning”. The committee welcomed the council’s $10 million COVID-19 recovery package, particularly $2.2 million to fast track capital works for infrastructure and community connections; $2 million for business support, community recovery, events, youth and…

WHAT do you want life to look like on the Mornington Peninsula in 2040? That’s the question Mornington Peninsula Shire has been asking the community throughout May with the help of a team of dedicated local community ambassadors. It’s the biggest community engagement project the Shire has ever done and it’s going to help shape our future for the next 20 years. The Shire is literally handing the pen to the community to write their own vision. The ambassadors have been out and about across the Peninsula, chatting with people and collecting their thoughts and ideas about what is important…

SOME business fees charged by Mornington Peninsula Shire Council are likely to be frozen for four years if the Liberal Nationals opposition wins the next state election. Although the election is not due until November 2022, Mornington MP David Morris said “freezing the cost of fees levied on local businesses is a practical and effective way to deliver that support”. Without giving any examples, Mr Morris, in a joint news release with Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien, said some councils had not been able to resist “the temptation to bolster their financial position by slugging local small businesses”. “Small traders who…

Mornington Peninsula Shire’s deputy mayor Cr Sarah Race, pictured, has been appointed to the state government’s Gender Equality Advisory Committee. The committee was established to “drive” gender equality across Victoria’s 79 municipal councils and will advise Local Government Minister Shaun Leane and the Minister for Women, Gabrielle Williams, on how to achieve the government’s target of 50 per cent female mayors and councillors by 2025. Seven of Mornington Peninsula Shire’s 11 councillors are women, about 63 per cent,  including the mayor, Cr Despi O’Connor. The appointment of Cr Race to the 16-member gender committee follows Cr O’Connor’s inclusion on the…

THERE are 145 families and 183 children affected by Mornington Peninsula Shire’s decision to stop administering family day care services. As well as finding “redeployment options” for its two children’s services officers, the shire says it is “committed to supporting each [of 25 educators] to find a preferred [commercial] provider to ensure a smooth transition for themselves and their families”. The shire says there has been a steady decline in demand for the service, which coincides with a rise in the number of commercial day care providers (“Shire closes door on family day care” The News 6/4/21). The shire’s family…

SUSAN Bissinger seems certain to be named as the replacement councillor for Hugh Fraser in Mornington Peninsula Shire’s Nepean Ward. Ms Bissinger’s appointment – subject to her signing a declaration that she is still qualified to be a councillor – follows Tuesday’s (13 April) recount of votes cast in the November 2020 election. Ms Bissinger told The News that she was “looking forward to getting things done, or at least having a go at getting them done”. In her candidate’s statement before the November election Ms Bissinger said “my goal is to improve the look, feel and function of our…

By Simon Brooks* With Mornington Peninsula Shire Council’s declaration of a climate emergency in mid-2019, and the August 2020 adoption of the climate emergency plan there is an expectation by many that the shire clearly communicates a position on some of the big energy infrastructure projects planned for our country, state and in particular within the municipality. I was privileged to be a councillor who was able to help drive these initiatives and I’m hopeful the new group of councillors will keep up the momentum with support from the shire staff and senior officers. Climate change is placing us at…

COMMUNITY groups and sporting clubs are being offered grants to buy such things as bottles and crockery to lessen their dependence on single-use plastics. Up to $50,000 will be distributed in $1000 to $5000 grants by Mornington Peninsula Shire to organisation’s based in buildings or spaces. “Single-use plastics are a massive problem globally and right here on the peninsula. Plastic litter doesn’t belong on our beaches, in our bays or creeks, yet we see it everywhere we go,” the mayor Cr Despi O’Connor said. “As a coastal community, the protection of our bays, creeks and ocean is integral to ensuring…

THE mayors of Mornington Peninsula and Frankston councils have been included in the state government’s Local Government Mayoral Advisory Panel. Cr Despi O’Connor (Mornington Peninsula) and Cr Kris Bolam (Frankston) are among 15 mayor’s on the panel which will meet with Local Government Minister Shaun Leane four times this year to “provide advice on a range of matters that impact local government” including “ideas and initiatives to benefit the local government sector and aid in recovery from the coronavirus pandemic”. The news release from the minister’s office incorrectly identified Cr O’Connor as “Mayor of Mornington”. The former Shire of Mornington…