Phase 2 of the ‘consultation’ for the Virginia Estate development has been announced.

Feb – 11 – 2016 9:26 am Community drop in events announced

The owners of the East Village precinct have announced the first round of community drop-in events as part of consultation on the development of a 20 year masterplan for the Bentleigh East industrial area.

Three sessions are open to all residents and interested parties:

Tuesday 23rd February from 6.30pm to 8.30pm
Wednesday 24th February from 6.30pm to 8.30pm
Saturday 27th February 2pm to 4pm

All sessions will be held at 18 North Drive, 236-262 East Boundary Road, Bentleigh East.

Read our media release for more information.

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The Level Crossings authority dates are as follows –

Hughesdale Saturday 13 February, 1:30pm – 4:30pm Hughesdale Community Centre, 160 Poath Road Hughesdale

Murrumbeena Tuesday 16 February, 5:00pm – 8:00pm Murrumbeena Pavilion, 28 Gerald Street Murrumbeena

Carnegie Tuesday 23 February, 5:00pm – 8:00pm Boyd Room, Carnegie Community Centre, 7 Shepparson Avenue Carnegie

Hughesdale Thursday 25 February, 9:00am – 12:00pm Hughesdale Community Centre, 160 Poath Road, Hughesdale

Clayton Saturday 27 February, 9:00am – 12:00pm Clayton Community Centre, 9-1 5 Cooke Street, Clayton

Murrumbeena Thursday 3 March, 5:00pm – 8:00pm Murrumbeena Pavilion, 28 Gerald Street Murrumbeena

Carnegie Saturday 5 March, 9:00am – 12:00pm, Boyd Room, Carnegie Community Centre, 7 Shepparson Avenue Carnegie

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A great shame that Council with its multitude of staff devoted to ‘community liaison’ and ‘public relations’ cannot have anything up on its website that informs residents of these important events – unlike other councils of course. All you will find is this, dating from August 2015 – http://www.gleneira.vic.gov.au/Council/News-and-media/Latest-news/Level-crossing-removals-in-Glen-Eira

Mr DIMOPOULOS (Oakleigh)—The matter I raise is for the Minister for Public Transport, and the action I seek from the minister is that she produce any documentation she may have that will clarify the position of Glen Eira Council in relation to consultation on the Andrews Labor government’s proposed design to remove all nine level crossings between Caulfield and Dandenong. There have been recent pieces of misinformation being spread by one particular Liberal Party member of the Glen Eira Council. As I said in this place yesterday removing level crossings is the no. 1 priority for the residents in my community. It took the Andrews government and a very active Minister for Public Transport to get on and do this—and the government will be doing it all by 2018.

I take this time to refer the minister to comments that I have been reported and that have been provided to me from media outlets in my community about a meeting held at the City of Glen Eira between councillors and the Level Crossing Removal Authority. They are sourced from a councillor at the City of Glen Eira, who has suggested amongst other things that rail lines on the ground will stay there for years, councils will have to pay to develop the new parkland and—here is a cracker—councils will get into the business of shopping centre development and the government will be gifting them a whole lot of land to do it. What absolute scaremongering nonsense. Yet more nonsense being peddled and organised directly by those opposite.

I have it on good authority that these comments are from the Liberal Party member of the Glen Eira City Council, Karina Okotel. We may remember Cr Okotel from when she campaigned for my opponent at the last election. We may also remember her as a prospective Liberal Senate candidate for the next federal election, which was mentioned in the media recently. If this is conduct that she thinks is appropriate, God forbid that she gets elected to the national Parliament. You might also know her from the protests in my community recently, despite the fact that we keep hearing that these protests are not political. Not political? The last protest had no less than five Liberal members of Parliament, including the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.

I recognise that there are people in my community who have genuine concerns and from day one the Premier made it clear that each affected resident would have their own dedicated case manager. I understand there will be a range of things provided for each resident, but this will be done in a calm and considered way by a caring government, one by one with all residents. What I do not recognise is the scaremongering, misinformation and out-and-out lies spread by those opposite. I have even heard that staff members of those opposite have been out doorknocking my community and staff members of the Leader of the Opposition have been canvassing shoppers in Koornang Road, Carnegie, about their views on sky rail without identifying who they are. I have also heard that members of the Leader of the Opposition’s staff have been doing other activities to coordinate this anti-campaign. I look forward to welcoming the minister to my community again through the duration of this project and I look forward to her clarification on these matters.

RESPONSE

MS ALLEN (Minister)…..Finally, the member for Oakleigh has raised a matter with me. It is quite a concerning matter because it does go to some misinformation that has been produced in his local community for purely political purposes. I know the member for Brighton is shocked. She is shocked at what is going on in the Oakleigh community. The member asked for me to produce documentation that would clarify the position of Glen Eira council.

I am looking to read into the record comments that I have in a letter. I am prepared to make the letter available to the house this evening. I received this morning a letter from the office of the mayor, Cr Neil Pilling, in response to an issue that was raised in the Herald Sun today about some claims about a meeting that was held with the Glen Eira council and the level crossing removal project team on Tuesday evening. Sorry, it was not to me. I should be clear. It was to Kevin Devlin, the CEO of the Level Crossing Removal Authority. I would just like to make that correction: it was to Kevin Devlin. He indicated that the discussion was, and I quote:

robust but productive, and it was helpful to gain a greater insight into not only your plans for further consultation with the community

He goes on to say, and I quote:

It has come to our attention that one of our councillors has distributed her personal interpretation of matters discussed at the meeting to a wider audience … I would like to emphasise that this communication is neither an official record nor an accurate record of the discussion, nor does it represent the views of the collective council group.

I apologise that this has occurred as it is inconsistent with both the intent of the briefing and the courtesy that council seeks to afford to guest presenters.

As I have said, I appreciate the mayor taking immediate steps to correct the record from his council’s perspective following the reports in the media today. Is it not such a shame that the mayor has had to write a letter apologising on behalf of his council for the actions of a renegade councillor who is choosing to put her own party political interests above the good of the council and the good of the local community? It is incredibly disappointing. I hope for the member that that clarifies the position of the Glen Eira council. I appreciated the opportunity to briefly meet with the CEO and the mayor this afternoon as they were meeting with members in Parliament.

I also just want to mention too that we really look forward to working with the Glen Eira council on both the project and the opportunities that come from removing nine level crossings in the way that it is going to be done, creating those 11 MCGs worth of open space. The Glen Eira council has the least open space of any municipality in Melbourne, so this presents a unique, one-off opportunity not only to get rid of level crossings but to run more train services, to reduce road local community. It is going to be an opportunity. The Andrews Labor government has already said that we look forward to funding new facilities—they will be municipal facilities but new facilities along this corridor—and then providing funding to the councils in the longer term for them to maintain the upkeep of these facilities. That is why we want to work constructively and proactively with councils like Glen Eira and others along this rail corridor as we deliver an incredibly exciting infrastructure project for this community.

PS:  From The Age – http://www.theage.com.au/comment/sky-rail-more-an-eye-opener-than-an-eyesore-20160210-gmq1mi.html

PPS: Daniel Bowen’s view – from his blog – http://www.danielbowen.com/2016/02/11/skyrail/

No compensation for residents with proposed sky rail tracks above their houses, councillors told

Herald Sun

Councillors in a secret meeting have been told the sky rail proposal will go ahead despite fierce protest.

HOUSES along the planned sky rail in Melbourne’s southeast won’t get compensation once trains run above their houses, councillors have been told.

Level Crossing Removal Authority representatives acknowledged to councillors in Glen Eira that elevating rail lines along sections of the Cranbourne-Pakenham was “unexpected”, but the $1.6 billion project was unlikely to be dumped no matter how fierce community protests became.

A closed meeting was held between councillors and the Authority on Tuesday night, after the Andrews Government revealed details of the sky rail plan on Sunday.

The project will see nine level crossings removed along Melbourne’s busiest train line, with three sections of the track to be elevated to nine metres above the ground.

Residents along the line are outraged, and have expressed alarm about safety, noise, and property values.

But the council meeting was told that families along the train line would not get compensation, and that home values may even increase.

Residents say they were not told of the sky rail plan during consultation sessions last year.

They said that potential bidders had been given a “blank canvas” to design the project, but that community input did influence final design.

But representatives from the Authority said consultation participants had been shown four possible options for removing level crossings, including putting train tracks over roads.

tom.minear@news.com.au

Source: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/no-compensation-for-residents-with-proposed-sky-rail-tracks-above-their-houses-councillors-told/news-story/a908e905a000e3f0435efd01c9774678

The first round of submissions on reforming the Local Government Act has now closed. There were several from Glen Eira residents. Of major significance is the submission from the Ombudsman. Every one of the selected extracts below has direct relevance to what occurs in Glen Eira. Some of these recommendations also fly in the face of what Council submitted. It is now up to the new CEO to change the culture and ensure that Glen Eira is dragged screaming into a new era of greater transparency and accountability to its ratepayers.

Here are some extracts. All submissions may be accessed from – http://www.yourcouncilyourcommunity.vic.gov.au/submission?preview=true

Secrecy in government creates conditions in which improper conduct and poor administration can flourish. It also fuels suspicions of wrongdoing and erodes community trust. Members of the public who complain to my office about council decisions occasionally mention the fact that decisions were made ‘behind closed doors’ or ‘in secret’ as evidence to support their concerns.

While the Local Government Act requires councils to record the reasons for closing a meeting in the minutes, recent experience of my office is that councils on occasion simply repeat the wording of the Act without providing specific reasons as required by the Act.

I also note that Victoria’s Act does not provide for separate confidentiality orders for documents. While a meeting may be closed to the public for valid reasons, the documents considered at that meeting may not contain the same level of confidential information. I favour strengthening these provisions in the Local Government Act to promote transparency, encourage councils to minimise the use of closed meetings, and to provide more information to the community about the reasons for closed meetings.

In its current form, the Act only deals with complaint handling in the context of complaints about the Chief Executive Officer of a council. This is not sufficient. The main subject matter of complaints about councils to my office continues to be the manner in which councils handle complaints. Of the roughly 3,400 complaints received by my office last financial year, almost 1,000 complaints raised issues about the way the council had handled the complaint. Key problems included delays, inadequate processes and inadequate remedies.

I recommended that the government consider whether there should be restrictions on donations to candidates and political parties by property developers; and whether the details of all donations should be published on a publically available register within 30 days of the relevant election.

Earlier investigations by my predecessor identified issues that affect good governance when prior political affiliations – both within and across political parties – lead to ‘block voting’ by councillors. Previous investigations by my office have noted that this hampers the proper functioning of a council as a decision-making body, with councillors engaging in decision making which in effect:

takes place behind closed doors

 causes detriment to the council

sees votes made for personal gain or political motivations

sees voting in a ‘block’ to support a faction when those decisions may not be necessarily in the best interests of the community

lacks impartiality when councillors meet in a ‘block’ prior to council meetings to determine their votes without considering the merits of a matter while in council chambers

….allegations of conflict of interest continue to be made about councillors and council officers. My office received over 40 complaints about conflict of interest in the last financial year. Eleven of those complaints were considered serious enough to be notified to IBAC by my office.

I also support the creation of a uniform code of conduct for all councils. While the Local Government Act requires councils to establish a Councillor Code of Conduct, there is no requirement for a uniform code across the state. Having a prescribed code of conduct would provide consistency in the application of key principles of behaviour.

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COMMENT

A few recent examples from the last council meeting alone:

  • An in camera item about ‘personnel’ and the Audit Committee. No outcome for this item was reported in the minutes. Hence for the nth time we have to ask: why is this in camera? Council ‘tradition’ has largely been to reappoint either Gibbs or McLean in secret. Is this another instance of this practise? One of these members is now gone? Is the other one going as well? Why, when other councils can table their intentions about appointments to the Audit Committe, does Glen Eira continue to operate in total secrecy?
  • Why is there no ‘estimated value’ provided for another tender in the in camera items and no announcement of any result? Jobs for the boys perhaps?
  • Voting in blocks? Another ‘tradition’ in Glen Eira!
  • Resolving ‘complaints’ – councillor responses are always ‘I have been advised’ with no further evidence to support the decision.
  • Conflict of interest? Perceptions of this abound in Glen Eira – Esakoff Seaview property; Frogmore and Jewish Care; How to vote card fiasco; countless Melbourne Racing Club applications; councillors voting on petitions when they are named in order to reject a petition (ie on appointment of Councillor Trustees) and the very ‘convenient’ declaration of conflict of interest by Esakoff on Frogmore!
  • A Code of Conduct that includes ‘no surprises’ so that councillors are gagged.
  • No penalties included in the Code of Conduct since it is, according to council, only a ‘code’ and therefore not ‘enforceable’.

The litany of poor governance practices is shocking. Residents need to make sure that there is dramatic change in October 2016.

The issue of ‘Skyrail’ has become major news in the past 36 hours culminating in protest meetings and petitions to parliament. All accompanied by major TV, newspaper and radio focus. Many comments are also going up on our website. Hence, this post is basically a few reflections on the processes involved by all players to this stage – Liberal, Labor and Council. Please note that we are not advocating for any specific pro or con position on ‘skyrail’ – there is so much that is unknown that at this stage at least, it is impossible to form a cogent and valid viewpoint – unless one is gullible enough to swallow hook line and sinker the multi-million dollar public relations videos and flyers. What is undeniably clear is:

  • The failure to inform the community
  • The failure to consult with the community prior to such major decisions being made
  • The reprehensible game of politics where the Liberal Party is so very quick to seize the opportunity to oppose the project whilst when in government they also had ‘secret’ plans to sell off land to developers and produce ten storey apartment blocks in the south-east. Why weren’t residents consulted here? – See: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/highrise-plan-for-railway-hubs-20140503-37p6f.html
  • Next there’s Council with Hyams and Okotel (Liberals) taking full advantage of yesterday’s public protest meeting. Where was Delahunty, Magee, Lobo (nominally Labor) – especially since the mantra is that councillors are not representing political parties but the local community? Where were the Labor pollies?
  • Where is Council right now with its pathetic Draft Action Plan on Transport – that is already behind schedule and most of the ‘actions’ not due to happen for at least another 2 years? Council has not raised a finger to allay resident concerns about high rise developments alongside stations, or the further loss of public open space, or sought in any shape or form to protect native vegetation or 600 year old trees. No public statements, no media releases on council position on these things. Now rumour has it that Kitmont St and the Riley Park area could be devastated by construction yet there is only one Vegetation Overlay in the entire planning scheme and no Significant Tree Register.

Each and every one of these players deserves to be condemned for their secrecy, their short sightedness, their indifference to community concerns, and the awful political games they all play at the expense of local residents and proper governance. In the end the only possible conclusion is how poorly we are governed overall and how powerful certain vested interests are.

PS: If anyone has any doubts as to our councillors being “community representatives” or political party disciples, then the minutes from 8th April 2015 should resolve all doubt. Item 9.10 of that meeting included ‘debate’ on the timing of grade separation. A motion was put and then Sounness and Delahunty moved the following amendment –

Amend section (a) to read; (a) Thanking her for her letter and commending
her and the Andrews Government on the recent announcement regarding the
Cranbourne Packenham line upgrade which will mean a great deal to our
residents.

The vote on the above was:

FOR : Sounness, Delahunty, Lobo, Magee, Pilling

AGAINST: Hyams, Lipshutz, Esakoff, Okotel

Need we say any more?

 

Crs Pilling/Okotel
That a report be provided that provides options for a response from Council whereas;
A/ a Councillor has made remarks against a section of the community in the Council chamber that are widely viewed as racist,
B/ a Councillor has made statements to the media that are widely viewed as false and damaging to the reputation of Council,
C/ this report to be presented at the February 23rd meeting.
DIVISION
Cr Lipshutz called for a DIVISION on the voting of the MOTION.

FOR
Cr Lipshutz
Cr Hyams
Cr Esakoff
Cr Delahunty
Cr Pilling
Cr Sounness
Cr Okotel
Cr Magee

AGAINST – Cr Lobo
On the basis of the DIVISION the Chairperson declared the Motion CARRIED

Hyams moved motion to accept ‘as printed’. Seconded by Magee.

HYAMS: started by saying that there is ‘frustration’ that VCAT gets away with ‘pretty much ignoring our policies’. The act ‘requires VCAT to consider’ policies ‘rather than apply them’. Said that council went to the Supreme Court ‘many years ago’ about this and was ‘declined’. ‘Residents are continually let down by VCAT’. Admitted that it is ‘hard’ to compare applications that are exactly the same but claimed that ‘when VCAT is not bound by our policies’ it creates ‘uncertainty’ and that doesn’t ‘benefit’ anyone including ‘applicants because they don’t know what they can apply for reasonably’. Council will continue advocating like they have to ‘several governments’ for change.

COMMENT – When the new zones were introduced in secret, without community consultation, the argument went –

The new arrangements make clear the intensity of development that is allowable on any block. That provides certainty and “…as VCAT’s areas of discretion are reduced, Councillors’ views and decisions carry more weight. (Source: council ‘Guide to the Community’ from 2013). Now we have the reverse argument it seems – the zones have not brought ‘certainty’! Our view is that applicants know exactly where and what they can build because the zones tell them that this site can have 4 storeys, and that’s what council is encouraging you to build!

MAGEE: societies ‘live by what is reasonable’ and when the ‘majority’ want to go ‘left, we go left’ and when right, ‘we go right’. The Government requires a planning scheme and council ‘over a two year period talked to our residents’, ‘we consulted widely’. They produced a ‘booklet of what our residents wanted’ which ‘looked street by street’ and they ‘identified where high density should be’ near stations and the areas further away was ‘that’s where you want your minimal change’. So over time and ‘many many consultations’ the document ‘called the Glen Eira planning scheme’ was produced. This was approved at all levels. This was what council and ‘what our residents wanted’. But VCAT ‘has the right to ignore’ so there is a ‘statutary body ignoring what your residents have said’ like height limits and ‘increased setbacks’ and residents wanted to know where high density would go and ‘that is what you got’ with the planning scheme. ‘I believe we have a very, very good planning scheme’. Last year ‘VCAT approved 582 apartments’ that had been refused by council and that was because ‘it wasn’t consistent with our planning scheme’. ‘Our planning scheme is what our residents said they wanted’. Council ‘went to the community’ and asked ‘Do you approve?’ and residents said ‘yes’. The minister then approved but VCAT ‘only have to consider it’. So when council consider buildings of 9 or 2 storeys ‘we look at residential building codes’, and the planning scheme. Councillors ‘sometimes’ give a permit to ‘buildings we don’t like’ mainly because ‘there are no grounds for refusal’. ‘It is wrong to say we want this and then to vote for something different’. Council and community has ‘asked’ for this planning scheme and that is ‘what is so disappointing about VCAT’. VCAT is ‘like a box of chocolates’ in terms of its members that ‘you don’t know which one you are going to get’. You can ‘have a good member or a member that just goes to the letter of the law’. This isn’t ‘how society works’. Society ‘works in an environment where we want to make it better’. Said that no councillor wants a resident to ‘live near a 4 or 5 or 6 storey’ building. Reiterated about the current zones – ie two storey height limit in Neighbourhood Residential Zone and ‘98% of Glen Eira has a height limit’. ‘We have done what our residents have asked us’. It is ‘disappointing’ when VCAT ‘come back time and time again quoting ResCode’ and ‘totally ignoring the Glen Eira planning scheme’.

COMMENT: we need not comment on the above because the hypocrisy is simply mind boggling and frankly insulting. When Council can publish documents which state that they didn’t seek community input because they knew that residents would be worse off, and Magee can resort to using such terms as ‘consultation’ and imply democratic process, then this speaks loudly and clearly enough.

DELAHUNTY: they wanted the report to ‘show inconsistencies’ but what it ‘more outlines’ is the ‘frustrating nature of those inconsistencies’. Claimed that some members provide reasons for upholding council decisions and others use these very same reasons to ‘overturn’ council decisions. Council was trying to help those who have power to ‘understand the frustrations’ of council. Admitted that ‘it is very hard to find an apple and apple comparison’ but reading through decisions ‘you find yourself agreeing with the member’ one day and then the next there is a different decision. Said that ‘subjective decisions’ are relied up by both VCAT and councillors. That is ‘right’ because ‘we are closest to the community, we live in the community’ so that ‘sometimes we need that ambiguity’ in the planning scheme. This sometimes means that ‘we will apply some differences’ to the policies. (gave example of a previous decision for synagogue extension in Inkerman Road). ‘We do it ourselves’ we ‘change and we interpret our policies’ differently according to circumstances. When VCAT does this is it ‘frustrating’ because they are not ‘the closest to the community’. Hoped that government and VCAT would be ‘able to learn’ from the report as well as ‘council’ learning from ‘the way we have formulated the scheme’ and since they have ‘always stayed away from structure plans’ but maybe if they looked at ‘other councils’ that ‘have structure plans’ and how they go at VCAT but officers have said that they don’t fare any better – ‘it is not the case’. Hoped that ‘community voices’ and the ‘petitions’ will make government ‘take it into account’ in bringing the VCAT ‘member’ and the ‘decisions’ ‘closer to the people’. Thought that the report provided ‘enough’ for council to ‘advocate very strongly’.

COMMENT: how many times has Delahunty got on her high horse and demanded that ‘policy’ be adhered to by council? Examples – McKinnon Bowls club for one? Radio antennaes on council towers? If we are talking ‘inconsistencies’ then perhaps Delahunty needs to look at her ‘consistency’ levels when it comes to advocating on adherence to ‘policy’ or even the need to ’ ‘create’ policy to guide council decisions

SOUNNESS: thought planning was like the Japanese ‘chinko’ game where balls ‘go up’ and ‘down’. Going through all the processes ‘the community is bemused’ and the ‘planning officers do their very, very best’. Supported the ‘intent’ of the report but advised that people should read the ‘dense, turgid’ member decisions which are ‘quite entertaining’. This is the current state of the planning system and VCAT members have got ‘enormous discretion to go any way they want’. Didn’t think that council and planners have ‘got good tools to work with’. Has seen other places where the system works ‘with much more clarity’.

OKOTEL: shared the ‘frustration’ of all and ‘it is clear there is inconsistency in VCAT’s decision making’ especially on ‘neighbourhood character’. VCAT ‘interprets that very, very differently’. When council determines something they are a ‘quasi-judicial body’. It goes through the planning department and they consider ‘planning policy’ and put in their recommendations and ‘we apply’ the planning laws again. At VCAT there is an ‘unelected representative’ making a decision ‘as one person’. They ‘don’t have the same level of understanding’ as to ‘what is important’ to residents. The inconsistencies ‘are troubling’ because they ‘create uncertainty’ even for councillors because they have to think how VCAT will respond if an appeal goes in. Said this was ‘hard because we have consistently seen inconsistent decisions’.

COMMENT: and when council delegates practically all of its planning decision making to officers, who are also ‘unelected’ and probably don’t live in the municipality – then how different is this? As for the old chestnut, or thinking will need to consider what VCAT might do – could any councillor, please point to the exact clause, or section, of the Act which says this is part of any planning decision making process?

LIPSHUTZ: agreed with everyone and said ‘what a difference’ between democracies and ‘tin pot’ countries. In democracies, legislation and the courts ‘are separate’. In Australia, at all court levels judges are ‘appointed’ until they are 70, but not at VCAT where ‘members are appointed for a term’. ‘If they don’t follow the guidelines of government’ they won’t be reappointed. Said ‘there is no independent judiciary’. Also decisions by magistrates or supreme courts create ‘precedents’ and they are ‘independent’ and ‘make decisions irrespective of what the government said’. ‘The members of VCAT are not independent’. All members whether Labor, Liberal are ‘beholden’ to make decisions which are ‘in accord with government policy’ or ‘they do not get reappointed’. If this was ‘addressed’ then ‘some of the problems we are talking about today would disappear’.

COMMENT – we suggest that Lipshutz should start reading some VCAT judgements in order to discover how often members refer to previous decisions (in effect as ‘precedents’). As for high court judges, and state judges, Australian history is full of contentious ‘political’ court appointments!

HYAMS: endorsed Lipshutz and said the report ‘gave some hope’.

MOTION PUT AND PASSED UNANIMOUSLY