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Council Watch

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…

By David Gill* I AM disappointed with the way my mostly newly-elected fellow councillors have allowed Mornington Peninsula Shire Council officers to continue to dominate the budget process, despite my advocacy on transparency and accountability. The budget is prepared by management without any opportunity for the community-elected representatives to vote on its contents until the draft budget is presented. At the draft budget meeting CEO John Baker even said that it is not best practice to change the draft budget and that we should wait for the final budget declaration meeting. Unfortunately, we missed an opportunity to be transparent and…

THE Victorian Electoral Commission will conduct a countback of votes on Tuesday 13 April to fill the vacancy on Mornington Peninsula Shire Council caused by the resignation of Hugh Fraser. Mr Fraser was reelected last November and his position will be filled by one of five candidates who unsuccessfully stood against him in Nepean Ward (“Fraser bows out after ‘differences’ with CEO” The News 15/3/21). The five candidates in the running are Susan Bissinger, Mechelle Cheers, Mark Davis, Simon Mulvany and Gary Naughton. The VEC says the vacancy will be filled by a countback of all formal votes from the…

ANYONE wanting to discuss an idea or other municipal matters can apply to meet the Mornington Peninsula Shire mayor Cr Despi O’Connor and CEO John Baker. The once-a-month 25-minute meetings start this week and will rotate across the shire’s Rosebud, Mornington and Hastings offices. All applications will be reviewed and, if a meeting request relates to operational matters, the applicant may be referred to a shire officer. Meeting times are limited and not confirmed until a response is received from the shire’s councillor support team. Confirmed times may be subject to change. Those attending will receive follow-up correspondence after each…

HUGH Fraser last week resigned as a Nepean Ward councillor on Mornington Peninsula Shire Council. His resignation, just four months after being elected for the third successive time, took his fellow councillors, shire officers and constituents by surprise. Mr Fraser’s position on council will be filled by one of five candidates who unsuccessfully stood for Nepean Ward in last November’s municipal elections. The winner is likely to be known in about two weeks following a countback of votes by the Victorian Electoral Commission. The five candidates in the running to fill the vacancy are Susan Bissinger, Mechelle Cheers, Mark Davis,…

By Steve Holland* MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire councillors have for the first time held an open briefing before releasing a draft budget. A recording of the Tuesday 2 March public meeting is available on the shire’s YouTube channel. I would encourage other municipalities around Victoria to adopt this new practice, as it proved to be a win for transparency and lifts the lid on the local government budget formulation process. According to the state government website, Know Your Council, the shire’s rates are much lower than other municipalities. While some residents will dispute this, the statistics are publicly available and speak…

THE issue of whether or not to start Mornington Peninsula Shire Council meetings with a prayer or a pledge has received another setback. Councillors last week voted against giving the public a say on four options for starting meetings. The options suggested by Cr Antonella Celi included retaining the traditional prayer; rewording the prayer to delete any reference to “God”; replacing it with a pledge; or observing one minute’s silence. Both state and federal governments start sittings with a prayer that mentions God as well as an acknowledgement of country and traditional custodians. In December, council decided on saying a…

By Hugh Fraser* MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire CEO John Baker has been quick to propose to the new council – with eight new councillors out of 11 – radical changes to meeting procedures that substantially enhance a CEO’s powers while reducing council’s ability to regulate its own procedure. Touted as “best practice”, these management-proposed rules are not. Council needs to be zealous in guarding the representative democratic rights of the community to our third tier of (local) government as transparent, community engaged and able to extract accountability from management. As recently as 2018, councillors revised their meeting procedure rules. Over the…

MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire’s planning and building director David Bergin resigned last week. Mr Bergin, one of the council’s highest paid “key management personnel” was with the shire for five years after stints at Swan Hill, Boroondara and Mitchell Shire and local government in the UK. Shire staff learned of his “immediate resignation for a variety of personal reasons” in a farewell email to staff on Thursday 18 February. Mr Bergin said CEO Johan Baker had “kindly allowed me to end my contract early”. He was leaving the shire “having followed and displayed all our values, including courage, openness, respect, excellence…

TUESDAY 9 February was the first Mornington Peninsula Shire Council meeting open to the public since April, when COVID-19 forced them online. Just 50 members of the public were allowed to attend last week’s meeting at Mornington Community Theatre and strict safety measures applied: mandatory masks, QR codes, social distancing and “a symptom self-assessment” before leaving home. Councillors and staff were masked up, although the 1.5 metre distance seemed hard to achieve for some, especially when a rear shot showed the mayor Cr Despi O’Connor lean left and whisper in the ear of governance manager Amanda Sapolu. It is not…

MORNINGTON Peninsula residents who did not to vote in last year’s council elections will be sent “please explain” notices by the Victorian Electoral Commission. The VEC says it may send an infringement notice and a penalty of $83 to anyone who doesn’t respond to the letter, or doesn’t provide a sufficient reason for not voting. Around 350,000 letters will be sent out statewide. The letters are due back to the VEC within 28 days. “This notice is not a fine. It’s your chance to explain why you appear not to have voted, if this is the case. This is a…

VOLUNTEERING Victoria has given Mornington Peninsula Shire $23,000 to “strengthen volunteer connections on the peninsula”. The shire says it will use the money to help community groups recruit more volunteers in a COVID-safe environment. The mayor Cr Despi O’Connor said: “Volunteering allows people to connect with and make a difference in their communities. “Dedicating your time as a volunteer not only helps the cause they choose to volunteer for, it is also a good opportunity to make new connections and friends.” The shire says it can can help recruit and screen volunteers in a COVID-19 safe way. Resources include the…

THE weekly mobile library service to 16 Mornington Peninsula towns may be taken off the road permanently as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The service was stopped in March due to state government coronavirus restrictions and replaced by a home delivery service. Mornington Peninsula Shire says the alternative has been so popular that it had decided to review the future of the mobile service. Libraries, arts and culture manager Karina Lamb said the online “click and deliver” was used 1729 times during its first three weeks. “We’ve received exceptional feedback on this service, and it has prompted us to…

MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire’s aim of introducing an effective recycling policy is being hampered by apathy, experts say. Some residents are unsure of what can and can’t be recycled, while others couldn’t care less what goes into their bin as long as they get rid of it. As a result, contaminated recycling rates on the peninsula are 5 per cent higher than the state average. Birte Molier, of Waste Wise Peninsula, supports the shire’s efforts to introduce a three-strike process. “If residents continue to deliberately and significantly contaminate their recycling bin, they will receive official notices or warnings and eventually get…