Several days ago, The Age newspaper, ran an article on the political chicanery that is occurring in the lead up to council elections in Greater Dandenong. The link is: https://www.theage.com.au/politics/victoria/the-facebook-election-the-vicious-online-battle-for-dandenong-council-20201016-p565su.html

Part of the article included this paragraph: Many are backed informally by Labor or Liberal Party members. In one ward, Keysborough South – where farmland could one day be rezoned for huge financial gain – there are 11 candidates and six are likely “dummies”, competing purely to funnel votes to others via preferences.

This paragraph does have relevance to all council elections and especially Glen Eira. There is no doubt that many of our 36 candidates are in reality there to ‘funnel votes to others via preferences’.  It can’t be a mere coincidence that Liberal party members are on the whole preferencing other declared Liberals; nor that Labor candidates are doing the same for their associates.  Whilst some have declared that they are there for ‘the community’ and not their parties, we can only wonder whether any Labor member would openly oppose and strongly lobby against what the current State Government is doing. The same goes for Liberal members should there be a change in Government.

Nor are we prepared to accept declarations of ‘independence’ from several candidates when their voting records at council clearly reveal a Liberal or Labor voting bloc alliance. The constant patterns of the past should not be ignored when time and time again we found this kind of voting: Lipshutz/Esakoff/Hyams/HO/Okotel opposed to Delahunty/Magee/Lobo. If this isn’t voting along party lines we don’t know what is!

All of this thus leaves us in a quandary-

  • Should residents vote according to their own political views? or
  • Should the emphases be on local council issues and who is best to solve these issues?

The next 4 years will be crucial in delivering what the community wants in Glen Eira. Ratepayers’ aspirations are clear. We want:

  • Genuine consultation
  • Structure planning accelerated for all activity centres
  • Less spending and more prudence
  • Budgets that are in line with community input
  • Public questions that are answered and not merely responded to
  • Planning processes reformed so that they are far more transparent and accountable
  • Transport/parking plans that align with majority resident views
  • Plenty of new open space and a levy that is commensurate with our needs
  • Real action on climate change and tree registers

Can the current party candidates fulfill these aspirations, or will they be captive to their political overlords?

Here is some flyers/info for two candidates from Rosstown: Marcus Oswald and Gregor Ptok.

MARCUS OSWALD

This is part of his brochure. The full document can be accessed HERE

GREGOR PTOK

Readers could be quite charitable and claim that what comes out of Magee’s mouth is the result of ignorance. He might even believe what he says! At the other end of the spectrum we face the conundrum of how could a councillor who has been in this position for 12 years straight get it so wrong, so often, on basic facts that he played a role in adopting/creating? Or are his statements nothing more than spin, obfuscation, and deliberate misrepresentation(s) of the truth?

We’ve gone through Magee’s comments at the recent Tucker Ward ‘Meet the Candidates Forum’ and present them below with our commentary on what he has said. Here is his allotted first statement. All candidates were given an initial 3 minutes to address residents.

 

POINT ONE: Magee claims that the ‘Victorian Planning Scheme’ and council’s planning scheme are ‘two entirely different documents’. No they are not! There is only one, and one only, planning scheme. This consists of the Victorian Planning Provisions, but there is also scope for councils to introduce their own policies, schedules, zonings, etc. In fact, over 25% of all planning schemes leave plenty of scope for individual councils to incorporate their vision.

POINT TWO: We are told that the ‘Glen Eira Planning Scheme’ is ‘our scheme’, ‘the one that the community put together’. This logic then goes on to claim that when people oppose an application, then ‘they don’t approve what the rest of us have said we want’. If only this were true and that the Planning Scheme does in fact reflect what residents want! Consider this:

  • The vast majority of resident responses to the structure plans were vehemently opposed to what council decided upon. The majority did not want 12 storeys in Carnegie and Elsternwick. Nor did they want more sites rezoned for higher density development.
  • Planning Schemes are supposed to be reviewed on a regular basis. This council applied for extension after extension to avoid reviewing the scheme. It was only when Wynne refused council another 2 year extension that the 2016 review was undertaken. Thus from 2010 to 2016 there was no community input. Furthermore, the 2010 ‘review’ basically featured formal submissions, and 3 poorly attended ‘information sessions’.
  • What has often been trotted out by council is that the community asked for height limits in 2010 and these were granted in 2013. Yet the 2010 planning scheme review does not contain any mention of height limits!
  • Significantly, Magee only refers to height in his reading of what might constitute ‘inappropriate development’. No mention is made of the countless other factors that council has failed to implement such as: decent permeability standards, tree protection, site coverage; overshadowing. We are still waiting for any Water Sensitive Urban Design policy or an Environmental Sustainability Design to make it into the planning scheme – 5 years after residents clamoured for this!

POINT THREE: Once again Magee trots out the usual scapegoat – VCAT. The claim that in 2016/7 there were 500 apartments ‘that wouldn’t have been built’ totally ignores the fact that VCAT’s  role is to apply council’s current planning scheme. If the scheme is so deficient, and so full of loopholes that favour developers, then why has Magee sat on his hands for 12 years and accepted this deficiency? Nor are VCAT’s decisions to overturn council refusals anything new. The 2010 Community Plan also lamented the fact that 500 dwellings (since 1999) had been granted a permit despite council’s refusal. This ‘problem’ was therefore not new and certainly known by all concerned. All that has changed is the rate of development and this council’s failure to adequately plug all the planning scheme loopholes – or at best, attempt to plug them.

POINT FOUR: Whom to believe? Magee clearly states that a ‘structure plan’ is coming for East Bentleigh. Yet taking the responses given to numerous public questions and from comments made by officers, all that has been ‘promised’ is Urban Design Guidelines. The term ‘structure plan’ has carefully been avoided in commitments made for East Bentleigh, Caulfield South and Caulfield North! We remind readers that these are usually nothing more than ‘guidelines’ and generally feature as ‘reference documents’ in Planning Schemes. Their ability to ‘control’ planning is therefore very limited.

POINT FIVE: According to Magee only 150 people in the municipality keep telling them what is wrong and 150,000 people think that things are ‘right’. If Magee honestly believes this, then we are truly in trouble!

Finally, let’s tackle the real question of how much power councils do have. It is true that any planning scheme amendment is eventually signed off by the Minister. This council has repeatedly stated that Wynne is to blame for changes to the proposed structure plan amendment for Bentleigh & Carnegie in particular. Our questions are:

  • How hard did council fight? What evidence did they present? Or did they simply cave in without a whimper? Is this why grants are freely flowing to Glen Eira?
  • Why can other councils achieve much better outcomes than Glen Eira? For example: mandatory height limits in neighbourhood centres (Stonnington); Nepean Highway height controls of 5 storey discretionary whilst Glen Eira wants at least 12 storeys on the other side of the highway (Bayside)?; mandatory 3 storey height limits in 28 out of 31 activity centres in Boroondara? The list goes on and on. So why oh why can other councils achieve what Glen Eira has spectacularly failed to achieve for its residents?

Magee has been part of the problem for 12 years. He can’t be part of the ‘solution’!

Esakoff was first elected in 2003 and apart from a few months ‘vacation’ after council was sacked, she has run again and again – and been elected. She is now seeking another 4 years – as is her right of course. Whether or not it is a good thing to have such long serving councillors is a personal viewpoint. Any answer should be based on the facts of their tenure – such as ‘what have they achieved’; ‘how have they improved the municipality’, ‘what is their stance on so many issues that now confront residents’ and do their actions support the claims?

What needs pointing out as well is that to the best of our knowledge Esakoff has never fronted up to answer residents’ questions in any Candidate Forum for the past 3 elections. Nor has she partaken in any ward meetings that were run occasionally years ago.

So, despite all the flyer statements as to opposing overdevelopment, creating more open space, etc. we have to rely on what has actually occurred in relation to these issues. That means looking at voting records.

The following lists some of Esakoff’s voting on planning applications only since 2012. These were all granted permits and were either moved or seconded by Esakoff.

Readers will notice that some addresses are repeated. This is because there was either a planning application to amend, or the proposal was passed on to another developer, so this meant a new application.

The standout feature for many of these is the penchant for lopping off a storey or two, or the number of apartments, only to have VCAT grant the developer everything he wanted. Of course, instead of fixing up the planning scheme, councillors (including Esakoff) continued with blaming VCAT for all the losses. As we’ve repeatedly stated, the VCAT member is bound to assess applications against the current council planning scheme. If the scheme is so archaic, and contains no viable constraints, then for the most part, this is not VCAT’s fault, but the councillors who have allowed this situation to continue.

Apart from all the following applications that received permits based on Esakoff’s endorsements, readers should also remember that she was in support of the introduction of the odious residential zones (in secret), the current interim structure plans, and countless other policies. Plus for years and years she was opposed to a tree register that included controls on private land.

After 17 years of ineffectualness, it is definitely time for a change.

1056-1060 DANDENONG ROAD – voted for 8 storeys. VCAT granted 12 storeys and 173 dwellings

149-153 NEERIM ROAD & 4 HINTON ROAD, GLEN HUNTLY VIC 3163 – 17 double storeys

2 MORTON AVENUE, CARNEGIE – 5 storeys, 33 dwellings. VCAT granted 6 storeys

730A CENTRE ROAD BENTLEIGH EAST – 4 storeys, 21 dwellings

328-330 NEERIM ROAD CARNEGIE – 4 storeys, 16 dwellings

259-261 NEERIM ROAD, CARNEGIE – 4 storeys, 28 units

33-35 Jersey Parade, Carnegie – 4 storeys, 28 units

534-538 North Road ORMOND – 4 storeys, 20 units

7 Ormond Road Ormond – 3 storeys, 15 units

115-125 Poath Road Murrumbeena – 4 storeys, 33 units. VCAT granted additional storey and 7 units

67-73 Poath Road MURRUMBEENA – 5 & 6 storeys, 30 dwellings

2-4 Penang Street MCKINNON – 3 storey, 23 units

15-17 Belsize Avenue & 316-320 Neerim Road CARNEGIE – 4 storey, 47 units. VCAT granted 52 units

670-672 Centre Road BENTLEIGH EAST – 5 storeys, 50 units

14-16 Elliott Avenue CARNEGIE – 3 storey, 18 units. VCAT granted permit for 4 storeys

482-484 North Road ORMOND – 4 storeys, 21 units

143-147 Neerim Road GLEN HUNTLY – 3 storeys, 32 units

247-251 Neerim Road CARNEGIE – 4 storeys, 48 units

253-255 Neerim Road CARNEGIE – 4 storeys, 38 units

1100 Dandenong Road CARNEGIE – 4 storeys, 22 units

30-32 Ames Avenue CARNEGIE – 12 double storeys

600-604 North Road, ORMOND – 5 storeys, 45 units

37-39 NICHOLSON STREET BENTLEIGH – 3 & 4 storeys, 10 units

8-12 ELLIOTT AVENUE CARNEGIE – 4 storeys, 40 units

322-326 NEERIM ROAD & 17 ELLIOTT AVENUE, CARNEGIE – 4 storeys, 38 units

45 Orrong Road, Elsternwick – 4 storeys, 13 units

1110-1112 Dandenong Road, Carnegie – 3 & 4 storeys, 38 units

153 Poath Road, Murrumbeena – 4 storeys, 10 units

813-815 GLEN HUNTLY ROAD, CAULFIELD – 5 storeys, 9 units

360 NEERIM ROAD, CARNEGIE – 4 storeys, 16 units

1254-1258 GLEN HUNTLY ROAD, CARNEGIE – 5 storeys, 68 units

777 Glen Huntly Road, Caulfield – 4 storeys, 5 units

3 Rigby Avenue, Carnegie – 5 units

2 Newman Avenue, Carnegie – 5 units

1110-1112 Dandenong Road, Carnegie – 2 to 4 storeys, 19 units

7-11 BELSIZE AVENUE, CARNEGIE – 4 storeys, 36 units

13-15 HAMILTON STREET BENTLEIGH – 4 storeys, 27 units

14-22 Woorayl Street, Carnegie – amend permit to be 13 storeys

81 DALNY ROAD, MURRUMBEENA – 3 units

20 BENT STREET, BENTLEIGH – 4 storeys, 7 units

285-287 NEERIM ROAD CARNEGIE – additional floor level and another 5 units to 46

1 AGNES STREET BENTLEIGH EAST – 4 triple and  one double storey unit

80 HOTHAM STREET ST KILDA EAST – 3 storey, 10 units

For those residents who were not in attendance at Tuesday night’s Camden Candidates Forum, and would like to know what was said, we have uploaded several audios from the candidates initial 3 minute address. The video version will, we are told, be available soon on both the Save Glen Eira and Glen Eira Residents Association websites.

We will upload all statements over the next week. First cab off the rank is Harry Graeve

Next is Jane Karslake

Last, but not least is Simone Zmood

How ratepayers vote in the next few weeks will, we believe, largely be dependent on how ratepayers respond to the following question:

How well has this current council and councillors handled:

  • Planning?
  • Traffic?
  • Open space?
  • Consultation?
  • Tree retention?
  • Rates?
  • Advocating for the community?

If there is the view that the above long standing issues have not been improved, and have even become worse, then logically what is required is a total clean out of the standing incumbents and the election of councillors who will dedicate themselves totally to changing the current strategies, policies, and processes of this council.

As we’ve previously stated, half of these incumbents have been there for eons.

Esakoff – since 2003 continuously (apart from being sacked for a few months in 2005)

Magee – since 2008 continuously

Athanasopolous – since 2016

Ann-Marie Cade – since 2018 on a count back win of a few hundred votes

Please remember this:

  • All voted for structure plans that included 12 storey height limits
  • All voted for the Integrated Transport Policy which suggests reducing parking requirements in activity centres
  • All voted for rate increase(s) – the longest serving councillors for up to 6.5% per annum
  • All voted for meeting procedures that limit public questions
  • All voted for 3000 apartments in East Village
  • All accept at various times without question, substandard officer reports
  • All voted to become more and more in debt and borrowing $60M plus

These are just some of the major decisions which have had, and will continue to have, a detrimental effect on many, many people in this community. Can we afford another 4 years of more of the same?

Harry Graeve/Camden

Starting next week (6th, 7th and 8th October) Save Glen Eira & the Glen Eira Residents’ Association, are holding forums where residents can interact with candidates and hear their views on what is needed in Glen Eira going forward. There will also be time for questions to the candidates.

In order to participate, everyone will need to register for these Zoom forums. The details are:

CAMDEN: Tuesday, 6th October – 7.30pm

Registration: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZEvce6vqDMtE9UHSDunNUyaBTquv9sxr08q

ROSSTOWN: Wednesday, 7th October – 7.30pm

Registration: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZIsceqpqDsuH9zG_QakYfk7XIzfyEIw2mM3

TUCKER: Thursday, 8th October – 7.30pm

Registration: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZIofuGrrD0qHdK_bu4XAwM8useR0ropg3b2

Those who register will receive an email as confirmation and be provided with access to the meetings.

Council elections are often seen as a meaningless imposition for many people. Most we suspect wouldn’t have a clue as to who is who, or even who their current councillors are. Yet, when one considers the role that local government has, and how it affects almost every aspect of our lives, those we elect have a tremendously important role to play. From land use, to rates and how this is spent, to child care, aged care, environmental responsibility, parking, etc. local government plays a huge role. Therefore, everyone’s vote does count!

We urge all readers to take the time and to consider what each individual candidate has to offer and therefore what they could contribute to making Glen Eira a far more cohesive and resident respondent council. Huge challenges are facing all of us – economically through COVID, massive overdevelopment, traffic congestion; loss of tree canopy; and consultation that needs to improve dramatically.

As we’ve said – it is definitely time for a change. So please register for these forums and consider who will best serve the interests of the community over the next four years.

For all the talk about running for council elections as an ‘independent’ it is pretty clear that for many candidates their political allegiances often outstrip their so called ‘independence’. Whilst not all candidates have listed their preferences as yet, it is obvious that for many the decision to nominate others is based on their Liberal or Labor affiliations. There’s nothing wrong with this of course, but not when some candidates keep declaring that they are fully ‘independent’.

For all the good intentions to remain autonomous, one must question what role party policies might have in crucial decision making. Have candidates been ‘ordered’ to preference fellow party members? Do they have the autonomy to preference whomever they like? Have any of these political parties assisted in funding, or providing discounts for corflutes, flyers, etc?

Here are examples of what we mean –

ESAKOFF: Claims to be ‘independent’ yet preferences Liberals. Those Liberals reciprocate by preferencing her (ie Zois & Balzer)

CADE: preferences Liberals

BEILBY: preferences Liberals

MAGEE: preferences Labor members Zhang & Martin. This is also reciprocated with their preferencing of Magee.

As far as we can tell, true independents are in the minority. We believe the following to be genuinely running as independents:

Harry Graeve (Camden)

Sam Parasol (Camden)

Cameron Simpkin (Camden)

Jesse Mansfield (Camden)

Simone Zmood (Camden)

Markus Oswald (Rosstown)

Neil Brewster (Tucker)

Christina Santos (Tucker)

This is not to decry political party membership or affiliations, nor deny that councillors can and some do go against their party politics. But doing so is difficult and rare. Plus, the history of Glen Eira is replete with instance after instance where voting has basically been along strict party lines. The result is block voting patterns that fly in the face of ‘independent’ decision making. Furthermore we have often witnessed cheap shots from various councillors according to this political leaning. Enough is enough. We repeat: if residents truly want councillors who listen to them and who act in accordance with majority ratepayer views, then we believe that the best way to achieve this is to elect candidates who are fully committed to these precepts and not the policies of their political parties.  We need strong minded individuals who will put party politics aside and vote according to their individual values and what the community says it wants and needs.

 

The Victorian Electoral Commission has now uploaded the complete list of Candidate Statements. This post features a candidate for Camden Ward – Mr. Cameron Simpkins.

Source: https://www.vec.vic.gov.au/voting/2020-local-council-election/elections/glen-eira-city-council/nominations#camden-ward

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