Councillor Performance


Year after year we have witnessed the farce that is called ‘public question’ time in Glen Eira. In the vast majority of cases no ‘answer’ is provided to the questioner. At best they receive a ‘response’. The question remains unanswered.

Residents have every right to expect that when a reasonable and relevant question is asked, council provides a clear and complete answer. Such occurrences are extremely rare.

This raises several fundamental issues of governance and the role of councillors. Given that the often carefully crafted and obtuse responses are delivered in councillors’ names, and signed off by the Mayor, then surely it is incumbent on these nine individuals to stand up and insist that questions are not simply fobbed off, but answered respectfully and truthfully. Only once in living memory has a councillor taken such a stance where he stated that he did not agree with the response.

One must therefore wonder:

  • Who writes the responses? And who finally authorises each response?
  • Do councillors actually get to see the questions before they are read out at the council meeting? If they do see the questions, when do they receive them?
  • Do councillors have any say, or contribute in any manner to the responses? If not, why not?
  • Why do councillors sit in chamber and never proffer any opinion/reaction to the response – even if they strongly disagree with what has been written?
  • How does such councillor silence engender greater ‘community involvement’ and/or faith in open and transparent government, or does this achieve the direct opposite?

Wednesday night’s council meeting provided the perfect example of this farce. We will focus on one question in particular. In this instance, a resident asked the simple and basic question about the budget – what projects had been abandoned, deferred or delayed over the past 2 financial years and what savings had accrued as a result of such delays? Here is the audio of the question and the ‘response’.  Interestingly, the sound quality of this recording is woeful. Given the millions that council has spent on technology, one should expect that public recordings provide decent audio versions.

Apart from the simple fact that this question remained unanswered, referring a resident to the budget and SRP (Strategic Resource) documents only compounds the problem of council’s lack of clear reporting. For anyone to try and make sense of what is proposed takes great effort and at the very least some modicum of accounting knowledge. Even more difficult is to remember what was contained in the previous year’s budget and to reconcile this with what is in the current budget. It should be council’s role to explain and expand on any variations. One example should suffice:  In the 2020/21 SRP we find on page 8 the following sentence: Town Hall Refurbishment – total of $8M ($2M per annum from 2021/22 to 2024/25). In the current SRP (page 12) this has changed to: Town Hall Refurbishment and Essential Safety Measures: $4M from 2021/22 to 2023/24. What does this actually mean? Is this a ‘saving’ of $4M or $2M given the different years stated?

We then have the latest Quarterly Report which does state that the Carnegie Market development has been ‘deferred’ and that both the Bleazby and Stanley Street proposed multi-storey car parks are ‘under review’. Whilst it is true that no specific funding was allocated to these projects in the current budget, and hence no real ‘savings’ per se, council could have highlighted these decisions in both its response to the public question and in its budget papers.

More importantly, given that there are frequent mentions of ‘efficiencies’ in council’s budget papers, a simple table that itemises ‘savings’ in each department would not go astray. Residents might also be interested to know which departments have had their budgets cut and by how much! Until all the information is out there in a simple, straight forward manner, residents will remain confused, befuddled, and ignorant of what is really happening to their money and how it is being spent and/or wasted.

Nor does it help create a climate of transparency when all councillors simply sit there like silent statues and accept the tripe that parades as ‘answers’ to public questions!

Council’s latest decision regarding waste collection changes has spurred much controversy on social media. Council has decided that the green bin collection will now become weekly instead of fortnightly and the red bin collection will change over to fortnightly. Food waste is now meant to go into the green bin.

This decision is supposedly based on a trial run of 1000 residences in the McKinnon/Ormond area. On the basis of this trial we now have the decision to forge ahead with this changeover.

Our understanding is that by diverting food waste into green bin collections this will reduce the amount of garbage going to landfill and also have environmental benefit in terms of reducing carbon emissions from this food waste  – as claimed in the letter dated 3rd May that was sent out to households.

We are not advocating in favour or against this decision. What we are fully cognisant of is the lack of process that has informed this decision making. When council decides something that will have an immediate and huge impact on residents’ lives, then they had better make sure that all the data is accurate, that it has majority community support, and is economically viable.

To the best of our knowledge, no formal consultation was undertaken by council for the trial and certainly none for this final decision. In other words, what is the real level of community support for this change? Nor do we know the cost of the green tidies that council has produced for distribution. We also don’t know how much the garbage ‘police’ surveillance is likely to cost. Or the cost of providing extra bins for those families that deal with nappies.

All we have to go on to determine whether the trial is in fact working and worthy of being implemented across the entire municipality is to be found in the small print of the current Quarterly Report. Here is the screen dump (page 31) from this report.

If the objective is to increase the amount of food scraps being diverted into the green bin, then the above results clearly show that this isn’t happening. So, what does this really mean? That residents aren’t embracing the change? If so, then what guarantee does council have that this will improve – unless of course they introduce a fine system to ‘encourage’ compliance! Nor do we accept the pathetic reasoning that seeks to blame COVID for the lack of improvement. Surely people still continued eating and creating food scraps regardless of whether they were in COVID lockdown or not. We could even argue that with lockdown more people would be cooking and eating at home rather than going out, so the production of food scraps should have increased! We also find it hard to buy the argument about seasons. Does this mean that winter produces more food scraps than summer? Where is the evidence for any of this?

Summing up we do not appear to have necessary pre-requisite data, or community support, that justifies the decision that has been made. Instead we are forging ahead with a project that cannot guarantee ‘success’, and has the potential to impact dramatically on countless residents. Perhaps we should simply say that this is another example of pre-determined decision making by council that ignores process and thorough testing, monitoring, and analyses.

Consultations are literally coming out of our ears over the past few years. Council’s repeated mantra is that they want to hear from residents. That residents should provide meaningful comments so that their views may be taken into account in any subsequent decision making. Sounds wonderful. But the reality is vastly different.

Time and again we are presented with surveys that deliberately avoid the central issues or are framed in such a way as to elicit the desired response(s). This approach is anything but genuine consultation!

The latest example is the Have Your Say survey on the draft Built Form Frameworks for Bentleigh East, Caulfield South and Caulfield North. Each centre has its own survey, but the questions are identical.

Here are some examples of what is presented and why this cannot be viewed as a fair, unbiased, and revealing ‘consultation’ designed to elicit real community feedback.

EXAMPLE 1

The question asked was: Thinking about the Centre as a ‘vibrant’ place, how important are the following to you? Readers were then provided with the following:

We allege that not only are these options meaningless but that they have no relevance whatsoever to what is actually proposed in the draft document. Nor do any of these objectives come close to justifying what the actual recommendations are! For the above options, clearly 99% of respondents would say that buildings should be ‘visually interesting’ and ‘attractive’. And not too many people would object to catering to the wide range of housing needed for the elderly or the young. Nor would many be opposed to supporting local businesses.  Thus we get a series of questions that literally lead most respondents to answer  in the ‘very important’ to ‘important’ range.

But how are these questions related to what is recommended in the drafts, or even within council’s current planning scheme? Will the implementation of a 5 metre setback from the street be of great assistance in encouraging ‘attractive and visually interesting buildings’? Will a discretionary 6 storey height limit, also assist in this objective? Or is this nothing more than gobbledy-gook parading as if any of these objectives can be achieved with what is currently in the planning scheme and what is proposed.

More importantly there remains the question of how council will choose to ‘interpret’ the results of this survey. Will we get statements such as 95% of respondents answered ‘very important’ and thus they are endorsing the draft BFFs?

EXAMPLE 2

The focus then turns to ‘design objectives’ with the following options:

It should be pointed out that council’s definition of ‘mid-rise’ for Caulfield South is stated to be: A mid-rise character is about building height (between 4 and 7 storeys). This idea reflects the role of Caulfield South as a Neighbourhood Activity Centre, with a moderate role to play in meeting future housing needs as well as employment, transport and services. Unless readers have bothered to plough through all the verbage prior to this point, then they would have no idea of what is proposed for this centre. Furthermore, the language used here is questionable at best and at worst deliberately evasive. What does ‘cohesive’ really mean – especially since the order of the survey has not as yet clearly depicted the proposed height limits along the various streets. Do readers really have a grasp on the fact that according to the recommendations hundreds and hundreds of metres of buildings could all be at this maximum height – and that is called ‘cohesive’?   

Also amiss is that unless readers have gone through the full documents, they would have no idea that council is proposing that sunlight only matters on the most ‘active’ part of the day. This is then defined as 10-12pm for certain streets and 12-2pm for some other streets. The above image does not relay this information. Of course, residents would respond that sunlight is vital. But this certainly doesn’t mean that they are ‘happy’ with a meagre 2 hours of sunlight because of the proposed building heights!

EXAMPLE 3

The following example if the best of the lot –

Of course height, setbacks, street walls and public realm areas are ‘important’ and should be the most important element in any planning document of this nature. But does selecting ‘very important’ indicate that residents are accepting of the recommendations in the draft document? Do residents really believe that a 6 storey discretionary height limit is what they want? Or that 2 hours of sunlight is sufficient?

CONCLUSIONS

There is much more that could be said about this style of ‘consultation’ and in particular, this survey. Until council is prepared to ask the questions that must be asked; to provide succinct and accurate summaries; to justify every single planning recommendation, then we are engaging in another sham consultation. All that is happening is that council is fulfilling its legislative requirement to undertake ‘consultation’, but nothing more. Until such a time that genuine evaluation of such processes is undertaken and reported upon we will continue to waste tens of thousands of dollars on consultations that are reverse engineered and designed to achieve predetermined outcomes.

The published draft budget contains some very interesting proposals. Below is a summary of the main ones that residents should pay attention to:

  • Proposed borrowings go from last year’s figure of $60M to the current goal of $65M and that still leaves the GESAC loan of just under $8m to be paid off.
  • The Carnegie Pool redevelopment has miraculously jumped from $51M last year to $53M this coming financial year
  • Pensioner rebates continue to decline. We are now down to the underwhelming subsidy of $23
  • The Elsternwick community Hub and park has now been further delayed to 2030 instead of the previous estimate of 2017.
  • $7M is proposed for the acquisition of open space. That is out of the current reserve sitting at about $25M. Hence whilst this proposed expenditure is a step in the right direction, we have to ask – is this enough given the long standing deficit of open space in Glen Eira? Also how much land will $7M actually buy?
  • The Murrumbeena Community Hub is fast tracked ahead of the Elsternwick Community Hub when the latter is in a major activity centre and has population forecasts that far exceed that of Murrumbeena.

There is also plenty missing in this year’s proposed budget. No clear and easily identified detail is provided on which projects have been abandoned or deferred and where the resulting allocated money has gone. For example: what is the status of the proposed multi-storey car parks in Bentleigh and Elsternwick? Have they been put on the back burner or simply gone into the dustbin of history?

Other councils do not appear to have any problem in providing their residents with tables that are easy for any lay person to comprehend. Just one example comes from the current Kingston budget where carried forward works are depicted. Nothing like this is to be found in the Glen Eira budget papers.

The budget is also replete with jargon and statements that are misleading or totally uninformative. For example, on page 16 we find this paragraph:

The City is substantially developed and while it is experiencing an increase in property numbers, these mainly arise from higher density developments. The budget implications arise in Council having to cope with replacement of infrastructure such as drains which cannot cope with the higher density. These costs cannot be passed on to the developer and are paid for from rates. The rates received from new dwellings do not offset the significant infrastructure costs.

COMMENT: At the moment the costs ‘cannot be passed on to the developer’ because council does not have a CDP, or a community infrastructure levy. This income source was removed from the planning scheme years ago. The impression that the above creates is that it is not legally possible for councils to recoup some of the costs from developers and this is totally untrue. Also the 2016 planning scheme review highlighted council’s need for a CDP, So 5 years down the track we are still waiting for these amendments to surface! Developers can (and should) pay for infrastructure, but it all depends on a council that is willing to progress the necessary amendments to ensure this happens.

Next on page 16 we have two incredible sentences:

Continued investment of resources in the Council’s Transformation Program will enable further efficiencies and enhance customer outcomes.

When millions upon millions are spent each year on such programs and technology, surely residents deserve more than some glib pronouncements about ‘efficiencies’. What is the total required? What ‘efficiencies’ are achieved? And who are the ‘customers’ that will benefit and in what manner?  

Another sentence on this page also needs detail and explanation – Council declared a Climate Emergency on Tuesday 5 May 2020. Responding to this declaration through our work program will require a substantial increase in investment.

Again, we get no detail, no projections of required investment and no timelines.

We urge all readers to take the time to assess this budget and what is proposed. Do we really need these mega projects (and without any published business cases) that will put this council into hock for decades, and what services are not receiving the required funding. What are OUR PRIORITIES as opposed to those enumerated by bureaucrats?

A quick report on last night’s council meeting:

  • Many of the submitted public questions merely ‘responded’ to rather than ‘answered’
  • By a vote of 5 to 4 committing $300,000 to $350,000 to proceed with the ‘design’ for the Inkerman Road bike path – in spite of the massive community opposition.
  • No attempt to change the public question format – current status accepted unanimously
  • The ‘revised’ Built Form Frameworks to go out for a 6 week ‘consultation’ period. Voted in unanimously with not a single word from any councillor as to why version 2 included some changes. The officer’s report for this latest version is still to make an appearance. We doubt it ever will.

We will comment in greater detail in the days ahead.

For the second time, councillors through their voting have sent a clear message to officers,  that the latter’s work is clearly not up to community expectations or standards. Last night’s motion on the Urban Design Frameworks was deferred until next month – the rationale being that councillors needed additional time to discuss and to be provided with far more detail and justification. This resolution follows the abandonment of Amendment C184 on the Bentleigh & Carnegie structure plans.

What does this mean and what are the ramifications long term? We can only speculate, but it is becoming apparent that the planning department is being put under increasing pressure and that many of these new councillors will not automatically be rubber stamping whatever is put in front of them. That is all to the good for residents.

The only ‘negative’ from the debate on this issue was provided by Magee and his vote against deferment. His comments were insulting – ie claiming that as an old councillor he understood perfectly what the Urban Design Frameworks were all about and that there was heaps of ‘detail’. Given that this is the first time that UDF’s have been introduced in well over a decade, we can only wonder as to Magee’s ‘familiarity’ with this planning tool. Secondly, his comments came directly after Zyngier stated that he had received a letter from council and that he had difficulty in comprehending what was proposed. His argument was that when council decides to communicate with residents they need to ensure that the ‘message’ is clear, and in everyday language. This followed on from Zmood’s points that Urban Design Frameworks should not be seen in isolation but that they are the result of looking at the municipality as a whole – ie via a Housing Strategy and that data must constitute the first step.

Magee also covered himself in glory with his views on Heritage. Suddenly he has become the saviour of properties with a heritage overlay on them – or so he would like us to believe. Put simply, he stated there is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. Could he then perhaps explain to residents if heritage is that important, why he seconded and voted in favour of the demolition of a contributory building and the erection of a 12 storey monstrosity on top of the heritage building next door in Derby Road, Caulfield East? For those interested we invite you to listen to his diametrically opposed comments below –

Item 8.1 last night –

AND

From November 2018 –

Consistency has never been Magee’s strong point on development and other issues. What residents must by now realise is that every ‘speech’ must be taken with a huge dollop of salt when Magee opens his mouth!

For years now, council has been losing millions of dollars annually on its aged care provision. Ratepayers have therefore been subsidising this program. There is nothing wrong with this. Even if council is the only municipality to still provide aged care, that is no reason to get rid of the facilities or the various programs. And besides, ratepayers have been subsidising developers for eons now because this council does not have a development contributions levy, or a community infrastructure levy which countless other councils have.

Before any decision is made regarding the future of aged care in Glen Eira, we believe that there simply has to be a full, comprehensive and genuine consultation with the entire community. This is not a decision solely for bureaucrats or 9 elected councillors. The community has got every right to determine where and how their money is spent. If the majority of residents are opposed to council run facilities, then so be it. If the majority prefer that the $3m or so each year is spent elsewhere, then again, so be it. But if the majority still want council to continue to care for our frail and elderly, then that is a decision that must be respected. That is democracy!

As for the consultation itself, and before any decision is made, residents need to know the full facts, such as:

  • What is the full cost to council (including staff, upgrade of facilities, cleaning, etc?)
  • What is the likely current and future demand for beds based on demographics?
  • Are there waiting lists?
  • Are the current facilities in the right areas, given demographic change?
  • What areas are deficient in aged care?
  • How many jobs are currently associated with aged care? What is the future job projection(s)?
  • How many (if any) Spurway residents were moved against their will or their families wishes?
  • How many private facilities are currently in the municipality and where?
  • What is the entry and weekly costs for residents associated with each of these private facilities?
  • What are the potential financial impacts of the recommendations likely to be made by the Royal Commission?

Once all of these facts are presented in a clear and concise manner to residents, the consultation should be straight forward, and include such questions as:

  • Should Glen Eira City council continue to provide aged care facilities?
  • Do you believe that private aged care can provide a better service? Why?
  • Is anyone in your family likely to require aged care in the next 10 years?

The other ramifications if council does decide to close Spurway, and potentially the others in time, is what happens to the land, the buildings, the staff? Additional questions that residents must have a say on, would focus on these areas:

  • Are you in favour of council land being sold off for private development?
  • How would you like the Spurway 2500 square metres of land used in the future?
  • Would you support the Spurway facilities being turned into social housing? Open Space?

Until this council learns to be upfront and honest with its ratepayers, we will continue to have the turmoil of 2019. In camera decisions are the antithesis of open, transparent government on issues such as this and what happened previously.

About two weeks ago, VCAT held a compulsory conference for the proposed development at 7 Selwyn Street, Elsternwick. Readers should remember the following:

  • The proposed height of 9 storeys is the equivalent of the 14 storeys that the Woolies application (directly opposite 7 Selwyn Street) stipulated. The Woolworth’s application was refused by both council and VCAT.
  • Council last year granted a permit for the 9 storeys with a vote of 6 to 3 in the face of stern opposition from residents.

Apparently at the compulsory conference the applicant made no concessions in terms of reducing the proposed height. What did come out at this conference however was that council is quite prepared to spend tens of thousands of ratepayer funds to ‘defend’ its decision to grant a permit.

So the stage is set for a major hearing lasting at least 8 days. Interestingly, the developer will be requiring 3 days to present evidence and expert witnesses, whilst council is asking for 4 days to present their 2 lawyers and 4 expert witnesses! So we have the ludicrous situation where council is actively fighting its own residents, spending their/our money, and doing more than the applicant himself in attempting to justify his application!

As far as money goes, we can only speculate how much this will end up costing ratepayers. Most expert witnesses charge at least (conservatively) $4000-$5000 per day. Barristers can charge around $6000 per day and some charge even more. Lawyers are another cost. Our reckoning comes out to at least $60-$70,000 that council is prepared to spend on defending its decision to grant a permit!

Whilst it is reasonable to argue that councils have every right to defend their decisions, and to use ratepayer funds in undertaking this defence, we maintain that it is NOT okay when a permit has already been granted, and certainly not to the extent of 4 expert witnesses plus a bevy of lawyers. Councils do front up at VCAT and argue their case, but this is when they have refused a permit and not when one has already been granted as is the case here.

We also need to take a look at what Glen Eira has been doing at VCAT in the past. The following list of hearings and attendances clearly shows that what council is about to do has NOT occurred previously – especially when permits have been granted. Most of the time a council planner attends and that is the end of the story. Where urban designers have been called, these are the selected consultants on contracts to council.

There are however two cases listed below where lawyers and one expert witness was called when council had granted a permit. Both cases represent different circumstances. In the Horne Street development readers will remember that the application was for 14 storeys and council granted a permit for 8 storeys. The VCAT member severely criticised council for its decision making and lack of strategic justification. The other case involved 411-415 Glen Huntly Road, and this was an appeal against council’s failure to issue a secondary consent within the prescribed time limits regarding amending the planning permit for 8 storeys and demolition of heritage buildings. Much of the hearing centred around what is called ‘accrued rights’ and the introduction of the DDO10. Hence it became an important question of ‘law’.

We have not found any other case at VCAT, where council has gone to the lengths it is doing here to defend a decision to grant a permit. So why is this happening now? What pressures are being applied and by whom? How on earth can council justify spending all this money in fighting its own residents?

In order to support our claims, we present the following list of VCAT hearings for the past few years and those who attended on behalf of council (as listed in the respective decisions). They are under two headings – council refusals of permits, and council’s granting of permits.

DECISIONS WHERE COUNCIL REFUSED PERMIT

348-354 Hawthorn Road, = Mr Kristian Cook, town planner (council).

679-683 Glen Huntly Road, = Mr P O’Leary, town planner, Polplan.

6-8 Bevis Street, Bentleigh East = Mr P O’Leary, Town Planner of PolPlan Pty Ltd

51 Hawthorn Road, = Mr Michael Dowel, town planner (council)

39 Lilac Street, Bentleigh East = Mr Stuart Taylor, town planner.(council)

6-8 Bevis Street, Bentleigh East = Mr P O’Leary, Town Planner of PolPlan Pty Ltd (1ST HEARING)

103 Gardenvale Road,GARDENVALE = Mr M Dowel (Day 1) and Mr K Cook, Coordinator Urban Planning (Practice Day Hearing).(council)

31 Weeroona Road, MURRUMBEENA = Mr P O’Leary, PolPlan Pty Ltd.

371-377 Hawthorn Road and 3 Olive Street, Caulfield South = Ms K Piskuric, solicitor of Harwood Andrews

9A and 9B Muntz Street, = Mr Stuart Taylor, planner of  Glen Eira  City Council.

31 Weeroona Road, MURRUMBEENA (1st hearing) = Mr P O’Leary, PolPlan Pty Ltd.

9 Marlborough Street, Bentleigh East = Ms Alison Orwin, Senior Urban Planner

12 Wheeler Street, ORMOND = Mr Peter O’Leary, town planner of Polplan Pty Ltd

2 Pearce Street, Caulfield South = Peter English, town planner.

342-346 Centre Road, (time extension) = Ms M Marcus, Solicitor, Maddocks, Mr R McGauran, Urban Design

11 Caleb Street, BENTLEIGH EAST = Mr Andrew Crack, town planner of Crack & Assoc.

45 Hoddle Street, = Mr A Crack, Andrew Crack & Associates Pty Ltd.

81 Dalny Road, Murrumbeena = Mr Andrew Crack, town planner of Andrew Crack

2 Wattle Grove, McKinnon = Mr Andrew Crack, town planning consultant.

24-26 Vickery Street, (time extension) = Ms Sarah Porrit, Barrister, instructed by Ms Jacqueline Simpkin, Solicitor, of Maddocks.

277-279 Centre Road, Bentleigh (time extension) = Ms Mimi Marcus of Maddocks Lawyers

43-45 Kokaribb Road, Carnegie = Mr P O’Leary, Polplan Pty Ltd.

4 Clarinda Street = lucy Bond (council)

430-434 Neerim Road – Ms Mimi Marcus, Solicitor, Marcus Lane

388-394 Hawthorn Road – Mr Zac Van Grondelle, town planner (council)

64-68 Lumeah Road, Caulfield North – Mr Anthony Adams, Principal Urban Planner (council)

42 George Street – Mr Michael Dowel, town planner, from Glen Eira  City Council

679-683 Glen Huntly Road – Mr P O’Leary, town planner, Polplan.

348-354 Hawthorn Road – Mr Kristian Cook, town planner.(council)

6-8 Bevis Street, – Mr P O’Leary, Town Planner of PolPlan Pty Ltd

10-16 Selwyn Street – Ms Susan Brennan SC and Ms Jane Sharp, both of Counsel, instructed by Marcus Lane lawyers; Ms Anita Brady (heritage); Mr Tim Biles (urban design);Ms Leanne Hodyl (urban design);Mr Jim Antonopoulos (acoustic);Mr Damien Iles (planning);Valentine Gnanakone (traffic).

51 Hawthorn Road – Mr Michael Dowel, town planner (council)

103 Gardenvale Road = Mr M Dowel (Day 1) and Mr K Cook, Coordinator Urban Planning (Practice Day Hearing). (council)

 

DECISIONS WHERE COUNCIL GRANTED A PERMIT

 

9 Faulkner Street, BENTLEIGH = Mr Julian Berzins, Town Planner (council)

Lot S4, PS448063B, 441 Inkerman Road, = Mr K Cook, Coordinator Urban Planning.(council)

10 Quinns Road, = Mr P O’Leary, town planner (council)

335 Chesterville Road, Bentleigh East = Mimi Nuciforo, town planner (council)

1 Portland Street, = Ms Alison Orwin, town planner of Council.

7-15 Horne Street, Elsternwick = Terry Montebello, Solicitor of Maddocks, Robert McGauran (architect) of MGS Architects

506 Hawthorn Road CAULFIELD SOUTH = Mr Alistair Dunlop, development planner (council)

122 Grange Road, Carnegie = Michael Dowel, town planner City of  Glen Eira

285-287 Neerim Road, = Mr A Dunlop, Town Planner (council)

51 College Street,  = Mr Alistair Dunlop, Town Planner (council)

1207 Glen Huntly Road, = Mr Peter O’Leary, town planner of PolPlan Pty Ltd.

38 Eddys Grove Bentleigh = Ms Mimi Nuciforo, town planner (council)

679 South Road, = Phoebe Hanna, town planner (council)

3 Ripon Grove, = Alistair Dunlop, town planner (council)

411-415 Glen Huntly Road, Elsternwick = Ms Mimi Marcus, Maddocks Lawyers (December 2018)

9 Faulkner Street = Mr Julian Berzins, Town Planner (council)

441 Inkerman Road – Mr K Cook, Coordinator Urban Planning. (council)

39 Lilac Street, – Mr Stuart Taylor, town planner. (Council)

Two decisions from last night’s council meeting, should provide some hope that perhaps, just perhaps, things might be changing at council.

Decision 1 – abandoning Amendment C184. This was an unanimous decision from all 8 councillors present (Cade being absent). Esakoff very ‘reluctantly’ voted for the motion, declaring that her wish would have been to send the amendment to a panel and have council adopt an advocacy position! There were some mea culpas, especially from Athanasopolous, who declared that he should have insisted on a housing strategy years before! Szmood pointed out that the need for a housing strategy should have been known since at least 2015 and together with other councillors hoped that the resulting strategy would be strategically and soundly based and looked at the entire municipality and not just the major activity centres.

Decision 2 – concerned the consultation approach to the Council Plan and the Health & Wellbeing strategy. The officer’s recommendation stated that the latter would undergo far more comprehensive consultation compared to the Council Plan. Szmood moved an alternate motion (seconded by Zhang) that the Council Plan be subject to a 500 phone survey, plus wider public consultation that was not limited to the Community Voice or the deliberative panel membership alone.

Both of these resolutions represent a positive change. What remains to be seen of course is whether the proposals are carried out in the spirit of the resolution. All will depend on:

  • The questions that are asked. For example: will any of the questions ask residents for feedback on specific heights, setbacks, permeability requirements, rezonings? Or will we be presented with another set of predetermined ‘options’ that ignore these fundamental concerns?
  • Will residents (ie the community consultation committee) have any say in the drafting of questions, or the analysis of feedback?
  • Will the housing strategy provide sufficient data to be justified or will we again have a 60 or 70 page document of which half is filled with pretty pictures and the rest is full of generalities, and clichés?

These are the issues and questions which remain to be resolved. If there is to be light at the end of the tunnel, then it is incumbent on these councillors to ensure that the agendas and mistakes of the past are not repeated!

PS: There’s one other item deserving of comment – agenda item 11.1. This was considered in camera and the subject was ‘Aged Care. Council’s are required to provide some detail as to why an item should be considered as confidential. In this case, the council blurb stated:

Aged Care
This agenda item is confidential information for the purposes of section 3(1)
of the Local Government Act 2020:
– because it is Council business information, being information that would prejudice the Council’s position in commercial negotiations if prematurely released (section 3(1)(a)); and

The information contained in this paper is confidential under the definition of confidential information as defined in section 3(1) of the Local Government Act 2020 (the Act) being Council business information that would prejudice the Council’s position in commercial negotiations if prematurely released and information concerned with land use that if prematurely released is likely to encourage speculation in land values.

Several questions spring to mind, especially since this was NOT specified as a normal tender. Hence:
  • are we back to square one with the possibility of the sale of our aged care once again?
  • is council possibly considering sale of some of the land?

The fact that 2 sections of the Local Government Act are cited, (ie commercial and land use) does not fill us with confidence that this administration is not having second thoughts regarding the future of aged care.

Item 8.9 in the current agenda papers, recommends that seven trees be included in the Significant Tree Register. Whilst this is admittedly only the start, we have to wonder why after 6 months, we only get seven nominated trees – of which only two are listed as being on private property.

The report states that between 4th September 2020 and 18th February 2021, 105 nominations were received. There is no information as to:

  • How many of these 105 were on private property as opposed to council land?
  • How many of these 105 have potentially been rejected?
  • How many assessments have actually been carried out or do we assume that in the space of nearly 6 months council has managed to assess a paltry 7 trees?

At this rate we will still be assessing these 105 trees in 2050!

Could we just once, please, have an officer’s report that provides all the relevant information.

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