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Council Watch

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…

MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire denies it is using aerial drones to find private swimming pools in the lead-up to compulsory registration in November. The shire says drones may be used for vegetation inspections. A reference to the use of drones in the council’s 12 May Quarterly Report said drones were being used “to assist conducting formal inspections of land, which has reduced the risk to officers in navigating hazardous sites and eliminated the need to contract external providers … for aerial imaging”. Glenn Murphy told The News that he suspected drones were being used to find pools when his mother-in-law, who…

MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire Council will extend its financial hardship policy until 31 August to help ratepayers hit hard by the coronavirus. This will apply to all rateable properties – not just primary residences – and is for debtors seeking relief. No interest will be charged on any outstanding balances until after that date. The council does not propose writing off any debts owing outside of requests for the waiving of interest. Debt will still be due and payable, but with greater flexibility offered on repayments. The council adopted the revised hardship policy moved by Cr Antonella Celi and seconded by…

FINANCIAL savings on lost productivity for travel times alone justify the retention of the shire’s $80,000-a-year central Melbourne office, Mornington Peninsula Shire Council was told last week. Business support team leader Sally Milne, in a report to council’s 21 April meeting, said the office would “continue to benefit our ratepayers with improved customer service”. “It has already provided council with a significant competitive edge in attracting and retaining high quality staff that find it easier and more accessible to work out of a CBD office for part of the week,” Ms Milne said. Her report, authorised by planning and building…

ROSEBUD Aquatic Centre construction work costing $11.2 million is the single biggest item in Mornington Peninsula Shire’s proposed 2020-21 budget. Other big expenses are $4 million for road resealing and rehabilitation works, $1.5 million for construction works at Somerville Active Recreation Hub and $1.9 million for the Merricks Station grounds master plan. The proposed budget is on display and is open for public comment until 21 May. This comes as the council takes advantage of a time extension offered by the state government due to changed circumstances under COVID-19 (“Extra time to strike balance with budget” The News 14/4/20). The…

A FREE online service has been launched to help individuals, businesses and community organisations to easily identify and access government funding, as well as philanthropic grant programs. Mornington Peninsula Shire’s Funding Finder website includes a page dedicated to gathering the many COVID-19 funding opportunities into one place. This one-stop-shop approach aims to save time and effort on research. Users can create favourites lists, receive direct email alerts from their areas of interest and keep abreast of all funding opportunities and deadlines. The website also offers advice and tips for finding and applying for grants to maximise the chances of success.…

THE state government has told Mornington Peninsula Shire it can take an extra two months to adopt its 2020/21 budget. If the shire decides to accept the offer, the budget will now need to be adopted by 31 August instead of 30 June and the annual report by 30 November, instead of 30 September. Last week’s announcement of extended times for adopting budgets by Local Government Minister Adam Somyurek appears to have caught the shire and other municipalities by surprise. The new budget deadline came after the shire had released its draft budget for pubic comment by 23 April, with…

MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire has moved the Tuesday 24 March community council meeting from Peninsula Community Theatre in Mornington to the Council Chambers at Rosebud. The mayor Cr Sam Hearn said: “A live online stream that gives real time access to the meeting will be established and the community is being encouraged to access the meeting this way, and not to attend in person. “This is one of a number of measures we are putting in place to protect our community in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.” Cr Hearn said he also encouraged people to check on the…

A RESHUFFLE of the state opposition has seen Mornington MP David Morris lose the high-profile position of spokesperson for environment and climate change. Mr Morris is now the opposition’s spokesperson for finance, ageing, bay protection and fishing and boating. In the reshuffle announced by opposition leader Michael O’Brien, first-term MP for Evelyn, Bridget Vallence, was promoted to be spokesperson for environment, climate change and youth affairs. The reshuffle follows the departure from Parliament of Upper House MP Mary Wooldridge, the opposition’s health spokesperson. Mr Morris, a former Shire of Mornington councillor and shire president, was elected as the Liberal MP…

REGISTRATIONS for children eligible to attend Mornington Peninsula kindergartens next year are open now. The on-time registration period closes 11.59pm, Sunday 28 June. Late registrations will be accepted from 9am Monday 29 June. Kindergarten, or preschool, for children aged 3-6 years will be delivered by a qualified early childhood teacher. Mornington Peninsula Shire uses the Kindergarten Central Registration system, which it says is a “streamlined and transparent application and allocation process that is fair and equitable for all families”. The shire says kindergarten is an important step for young children with research showing that early education helps set children up…

THE screws are being tightened on Mornington Peninsula Shire councillors’ off-the-record expense claims. A three-part notice of motion put by Cr David Gill last week – and passed unanimously – will ensure councillors’ reimbursement claims and requests for training, personal development, entertainment or other expenses, including payments for tickets for functions, should only be claimable from their expense allowances and not through any other council accounts. Secondly, all past claims presented by councillors not claimable under legislation or Mornington Peninsula Shire Council protocols, must now be reported to council. The third part of the motion was to remind councillors that…

IN what has become a battle of motions, toilets at four Mornington Peninsula Shire-controlled campgrounds may be open all year to the public. Councillors last month agreed to open the toilets exclusively to the family and friends of beach box licence holders at Sorrento, Rye, Rosebud and McCrae instead of closing them from May to September. However, Cr Hugh Fraser last week told The News it was ridiculous to reserve the toilets for a select few people, most of whom did not live in the shire. He said the motion by Cr David Gill adopted by council at its 28…

MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire councillors are being asked to change their briefing sessions from night to day and be held once a fortnight. Briefings are now held three Mondays and one Tuesday a month starting at 5pm. Cr Julie Morris says there are health benefits and cost savings by changing the meeting times and has asked her colleagues to trial her suggestion for a year from 4 May. Cr Morris wants fortnightly briefings held between 9am and 5pm with a report after the first six months on “the productivity benefits and cost savings”. In an email to her fellow councillors (sent…

THE investigation into planning decisions involving three Mornington-based planning and development companies could “potentially encourage [the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission] to look at the Mornington Peninsula”. This eventuality would be a “welcome outcome … if we get greater transparency” as a result, according to Mornington Peninsula Shire mayor Cr Sam Hearn. Councillors last week endorsed moves outlined in December by CEO John Baker to review decisions made on planning requests by developer John Woodman and his Mornington-based company Watsons Pty Ltd as well as associated companies Wolfdene Built Pty Ltd and Schutz Consulting Pty Ltd (“Permit probe goes further than…

RESIDENTS have only a few days left to provide input on whether they’d benefit from a Cross Peninsula bus service and an on-demand bus service on the Mornington Peninsula. “Since the launch of the council’s Better Buses campaign in August, about 70,000 people have told us how public transport plays a vital role for many on the peninsula,” the mayor Cr Sam Hearn said. “Public transport connects young people with education and employment. It allows our ageing population to live independently and go to medical appointments and social activities. During the peninsula’s busiest periods, public transport benefits visitors who are…

MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire is likely to come under pressure to adopt an emblem featuring a koala. The idea will be floated at a public meeting in March, along with a plan to use the shire’s planning powers to protect koalas. Cr David Gill is holding the 26 March meeting and says having a koala-based flora and faunal-based emblem is a good idea, although changing the planning rules “is a long process which needs ministerial approval”. However, he says advocating using planning laws to protect koalas “would generate much needed publicity on the lack of state government action”. Craig Thomson, director…

MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire wants to protect the peninsula’s “unique landscape” by having the power to decide how much land is set aside for and commercial and industrial purposes. The shire says projections for industrial and commercial land that will be needed on the peninsula are wrong in a plan prepared for the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP). In a submission to DELWP, the council says the amount of commercial floor space that needed on the peninsula by 2031 is overestimated in the draft Melbourne Industrial and Commercial Land Use Plan. The shire’s submission criticises parts of the…

PLANS to develop a 4.85MG solar farm in the Dromana industrial estate have received support from Mornington Peninsula Shire Council. The Dromana Clean Energy Farm in Collins Road is the first regional solar farm on the peninsula and aligns with what the council sees as a practical response to its declared Climate Emergency stance. Cr Simon Brooks said after the planning services meeting, Monday 18 November, that councillors had applauded the “effort that the applicant had gone to in bringing the proposal to this point”. “The location is ideal for grid connection into the southern peninsula electricity grid,” he said.…

A SPEECHWRITER has been hired to “provide help” to Mornington Peninsula Shire’s 11 councillors and its CEO John Baker. Christina (Tina) McGuffie was appointed in August “to support our councillors by providing help with the high demand for speeches which has always been a function of the shire’s communications team”, communications and events executive manage Randal Mathieson said. “The peninsula has a very active population and our councillors are highly engaged with their local communities,” Mr Mathieson said. “Each month we receive dozens of requests from community groups for councillors to speak at events, launches and activities throughout the shire.…

NEPEAN MP Chris Brayne has lost his licence for three months after being caught by police driving at 108kph in an 80kph zone. Mr Brayne had just turned 25 when he became the state’s youngest serving MP when elected last November. His win was hailed as a major victory for Labor which gained a valuable foothold on the Liberal-dominated Mornington Peninsula. Nepean had been held for 14 years by former minister Martin Dixon, whose former office manager Russell Joseph was expected to easily win the seat. Sportsbet offered $16 for a Labor win and $1.01 for the Liberals. The loss…

THE devastating impact of raging bushfires, especially in NSW and Queensland, has generated discussion about the effects of climate change and the dangers Australia faces in a warming environment. Politicians, depending on their political hue, either want to dampen debate on global warming in the emergency, saying it’s “not the right time to talk about climate change”, while others are keen to use the topic as a means of pressing their point on the “new reality”. Mornington Peninsula Shire’s Cr Simon Brooks said it’s “never a wrong time to speak about climate change”. “With the year-on-year trend of native forests…

THE Legislative Assembly’s Environment and Planning Committee will meet at Mornington this week to look into community initiatives to tackle climate change. The public hearing at the Council Chambers, 2 Queen Street, 12.30-3.30pm, Thursday 7 November, is one of a series being held in regional Victoria during November. The committee will hear from the Port Phillip Eco Centre, Bayside Climate Action Group, Mornington Peninsula Shire Council and South East Councils Climate Change Alliance. “We’re interested in finding out what’s happening at the local level to tackle climate change and what the Victorian Government can do to support communities take action,”…

IT’S 25 years since council amalgamations throughout Victoria, which led to formation of a “super shire” on the Mornington Peninsula. The amalgamation of 1994 saw the peninsula run by three state government-appointed commissioners instead of elected councillors, who were effectively sacked by the Kennett Liberal government. The commissioners’ job was to create one council where there had been three: Flinders, Mornington and Hastings. In the lead-up to amalgamation, individual councils fought turf wars, staking their claim (through submissions to the government) to land outside their municipal boundaries. But the government stood firm on wanting one municipality for the peninsula. Surrounded…

MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire says survey results “show the community believes [the council’s] overall performance, customer service and waste management are all positive”. The annual community satisfaction survey, independently conducted by telephone across shire households in February and March for the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, measures community perception on the performance of Victorian councils across a range of measures. While a minimum of 400 interviews were conducted in 63 municipalities for the survey, the results for each council have not been published for the public by DELWP. The mayor Cr David Gill said results for the peninsula show…

MEMBERS of the community are invited to share their thoughts on Mornington Peninsula Shire Council’s draft Smoke Free Environment Policy. Community consultation on the draft Policy is open until Monday 7 October. The initiative stems from the council’s public health and wellbeing plan and the Frankston Mornington Peninsula smoke free charter. The charter encourages the shire, other public land owners, businesses and community groups to provide smoke free public areas and implement programs to reduce smoking rates in the community. Many local businesses have joined the charter by providing smoke-free areas, such as at Bentons Square and Mornington Central shopping…

THE “full legal review” into planning permits involving Tyabb airfield and businesses operating there will not be released to the public. Mornington Peninsula Shire has decided to extend the deadline for the review by a Queen’s Counsel beyond 30 June and at some stage release “a document consolidating the conditions of all current planning permits that currently apply to the Tyabb airfield”. The motion agreeing to the deadline change and to keeping the review secret appears to conflict with council’s decision on 26 March for “the outcome of the legal review … be brought back to council by the end…

WINNERS and losers in Mornington Peninsula Shire’s 2019/20 budget include $25 million towards the Rosebud Aquatic centre and beach box owners being hit with increased annual fees. The state government has set a 2.5 per cent cap on rate rises, although the shire has changed its rating strategy – and raise more money – to “focus on green wedge protection” and increased the waste collection costs. The mayor Cr David Gill said the budget was “balanced and community friendly”. Money too for boat ramps had been left out of the budget in anticipation of them being taken over in spring…

Mornington Peninsula Shire Council sees the release of 400 hectares of land near Hastings for light industry as the key to creating jobs and “increasing economic output”. The land has been virtually “frozen” for decades because of the expectation of its development alongside the Port of Hastings. However, plans for a major container port have been shelved due to lack of international demand and expansion of the Port of Melbourne. The shire says the land – part of 3500 hectares set aside for port related purposes – may be freed up for light industry under the latest strategy released by…

RESIDENTS are being invited to have their say on planning for the Mornington Peninsula’s future. The Neighbourhood Character Study, which will affect the whole shire, and the Western Port Coastal Villages Strategy, which will only affect Western Port towns, are both in their draft stages. The shire says the Neighbourhood Character Study is designed to retain the “unique values” of residential areas, capturing the key characteristics of each area. The Western Port Coastal Villages Strategy will provide policy and guidelines to manage development on public and private land to retain and enhance township character and address climate change impacts relating…

A “LOUD and clear” message from the recent waste forum has prompted Mornington Peninsula Shire Council to demand that the state government “introduce a container deposit scheme as soon as practical”. Speaking after the Tuesday 15 May council meeting, the mayor Cr David Gill said: “We heard loud and clear from passionate community groups that we need to take action in ensuring plastics and glass are recycled. “We fully support a container deposit scheme as part of the Municipal Association of Victoria’s rescue our recycling action plan. It is an important measure and will help bolster community education.” The shire…