Category Archives: Plannning

Must read! Investigation into the transparency of local government decision making

Council Transparency

The Investigation into the transparency of local government decision making has been completed and the report publicly released.

I took the time to read through this report and found it very informative and interesting that it revealed some issues relating to Councils. Community members had reasonable concerns about transparency in their Councils and in fact there were many complaints  made to the Ombudsman.

“This investigation arose from a single complaint about a decision made in a closed council meeting – a practice that we found to be widespread across Victoria. Some complaints resonate as a theme: local councils continue to account for some 25 per cent of jurisdictional complaints to my office – more than 3,400 last year. People complaining to my office about council decisions periodically refer to the decision being made “in secret” or “behind closed doors” as evidence to support their concerns. I tabled the report into the original complaint in June 2016, but this has been a far wider investigation, looking at the transparency of decision-making within local government in Victoria.” Source: Deborah Glass Ombudsman.

As part of the investigation 79 Victorian councils were surveyed and 12  were selected to be examined in detail.  

The areas of focus were:

the closure of council meetings and special committee meetings to     the public

• the handling of confidential matters

• the nature and quality of audio and visual records of meetings and       the public’s ability to access records

• the scope and exercise of delegated council functions/powers and       administrative actions; and the reporting of these to council and           the public

• the nature and content of information discussed in ‘assemblies of         councillors’

Due to the findings, there were specific recommendations made in the report to be introduced or implemented. Here is a summary of   some of the recommendations or suggestions:

• relating to the Local Government Act, a requirement for more              detailed reasons in relation to the closure of meetings to be                    specified in the minutes and that embarrassment to, or potential          adverse criticism of, council are not reasons to close a meeting to        the public

implement a mandatory ‘Code of Councillor Conduct’ training               program       

• conflict of interest requirements to extend to advisory committee      members and to have an updated list of committees on a Council’s      website                               

• ensure that agendas are made available to public five days before a     council meeting

 public questions and answers to be recorded in minutes,  through       audio or audio-visual recording and publication, as well as posting       recorded open meetings to council websites

Did you know about section 15 Your right to freedom of expression’ under the Human Rights Charter?  

“People are free to say what they think and want to say. They have the right to find, receive and share information and ideas. In general, this right might be limited to respect the rights and reputation of other people, or for the protection of public safety and order.” Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission

How does this right play a role in Council? As stated in the report: 

“Councils also need to take care regarding restrictions on public question time. Unreasonable restrictions have the potential to be incompatible with not only the right to participate in public life, but the right to freedom of expression in section 15 of the Charter. For example, where councils require questions in writing prior to meetings, they should ensure there is appropriate assistance available to those who may have difficulty placing their question in writing. A number of councils mentioned they offered such assistance. Councils should also ensure that any restriction on the content of questions or submissions by members of the public at meetings which could be considered to limit their right to freedom of expression is appropriately balanced with any lawful restrictions reasonably necessary to respect the rights and reputation of other persons or national security, public order, public health or public morality.”

You will also find a summary of transparency in the report:
What does a transparent council look like?
What does a transparent council look like?
Page 150 -151 of the Investigation into the transparency of local government decision making report. Click to view!

Link to full report: Victorian Ombudsman: Investigation into the transparency of local government decision making

Related links: 

Local government transparency a postcode lottery: Victorian Ombudsman

Victorian public being shut out of local council meetings, ombudsman says

Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass says councils must be more transparent over their decisions

Empowering Monash & YOU post – Transparency in Council 

Empowering Monash & YOU post – Feedback to Council: Streaming/recording of meetings

Comments are welcome!

HarikNG – Administrator and Contributer

Empowering Monash & YOU

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Are you sick of over-development and loss of greenery? Then sign this petition before it is too late!

Save Us! Sign the petition!
Save Us! Sign the petition!

If you are worried about over-development in Monash – huge houses on tiny blocks, trees and gardens disappearing, then you have an opportunity to stop this from happening by signing this petition!

The petition was created by an Ashwood resident concerned with over development in Monash.  Link to more information relating to this matter – Petition against over-development. So far some signatures have been collected by community members, but need more to make a big impact! If you are a Monash resident, please feel free to print as many petitions as you can get your relatives, neighbours and friends to sign. Once you have the completed forms email EMonashU@gmail.com and I will email you the address to forward them to.
Click on image to open up petition document to print and sign!
PETITION_c125_2016
PETITION_c125_2016

Brandon Park Secondary College site development – ensure its community friendly petition

Council has informed the community about a proposed development plan for the former Brandon Park Secondary College site. Proposal for Developing buildings (3-5 storeys in height) which will be for independent retirement living, and aged care facilities. The applicant is Ryman Healthcare, which developed and operates the Weary Dunlop aged care and retirement complex in Wheelers Hill.

The Brandon Park Residents Action Group has created a petition to ensure any development on the site did not dilute the liveability of the neighbourhood, especially the loss of open space. The Petition is asking Council to ensure that Ryman Healthcare address the requirements in the Development Plan Overlay for the site, such as open space, drainage, trees, traffic and parking.

To support them please click on link provided to direct you to petition. Feedback needs to be provided to Council by 26 September 2016, so please sign petition before then.

Link to petition: Brandon Park Secondary College site development – ensure its community friendly

Related information:

Proposed Development Plan: Former Brandon Park Secondary College site

Brandon Park Residents Action Group

Commuting standstill: Council and Community need to act

9 AM TUESDAY 18 MAY 2016

Traffic south bound on Springvale Road at a standstill 800-900 metres from the High Street Road intersection.

Cars travelling at minimum speed and banked up across 3 lanes on Springvale Road is a common situation in the north of Glen Waverley. One of Melbourne’s busiest transit routes is also a main access point for local residents travelling to work, to schools and other local venues.

Ten minutes from home in Glen Waverley north to the Monash Aquatic and Recreation Centre for the 9.30 class?  Forget it – allow 35 – 40 minutes.

Have a medical appointment in Glen Waverley?  Allow an extra half hour to negotiate Springvale Road.

Increasing development in the area can only increase the traffic on Springvale Road and so reduce access to traffic routes for local residents:

The State Government and Monash Council must consider the implications of increased transport on Springvale Road and other main transport routes but there is a further role for Councils and for members of the community.

Cycling paths
Pedestrian friendly environments
Public Transport
Car sharing

2016-05-18 08.57.15

From Syndal cyclists can take the Waverley Rail Trail and cycle all the way into the City or Docklands!

Upgrading the cycling track from Syndal and extending it through the Central Car Park area will enable cyclists safe off road cycling all the way to the City.  East of Central Car Park is the link to the Dandenong Creek Trail.  Safe bicycle storage near the railway station encourages riding to catch the train. Safe bicycle storage on Central Car Park will encourage people to cycle to Kingsway to borrow a Library book or to  have a coffee with friends (this is a way of life in the north of Melbourne!).

Pedestrian Friendly Environments encourage people to walk to public transport

As part of my commute I have walked from Glen Waverley north to the Glen Waverley Railway Station and the Burwood Road tram stop.  A more pedestrian friendly environment can be created by improved lighting for those dark winter nights, maintaining footpaths, cutting back vegetation over footpaths and shady trees for warmer days.  Signage to public transport, such as those in Springvale Road between Highbury Road and Burwood Highway also promote the use  of public transport.

Car Sharing?

Car sharing is up to YOU!  Ask your neighbour, post on Facebook, ask around at work.  Imagine half your current petrol bill!  Sure it takes a little compromise but the benefits are good.

2016-05-18 08.55.07
9 am: Traffic on Springvale Road banked up between Ravenswood Court and High Street Road – a distance of nearly 1 km

We welcome your comments!

The Economic Case for Protecting Trees in Cities

A recently published article reports on the research of US Forest Service’s Northern Research Station makes the case for the economic benefits of trees in cities.  Given the current planning scheme amendments under consideration, this makes for an interesting and relevant read…

David Nowak whittles down 30 years of studying the economic value of forests to this advice: If you can only plant one tree, plant it in a city.

After all, in an era of overwhelming need for urban infrastructure improvements, trees offer cities some of the best bang for their buck. Trees remove carbon dioxide, filter air pollution, and produce oxygen. They absorb rainwater, UV radiation, and noise. They slow down traffic, improve property values, and reduce human stress and mental fatigue. And they provide shade, which means we have to use less energy to cool down.

“Trees help us avoid emissions in the first place, in addition to taking out carbon,” says Nowak, a lead researcher at the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station in Syracuse, New York. “It’s a big problem that they help us solve.”

2014-07-20 14.46.16
No trees?
IMG_9198
Trees or…

 

Council has received feedback arguing that:

  • Canopy trees will increase heating and lighting costs,
  • Canopy trees will cause carbon dioxide poisoning, and
  • Canopy trees are an unnecessary risk, cost and nuisance.

It is perhaps timely to consider some scientifically based research.

If trees bring economic benefits to cities, what is the cost of their removal?  And who pays for that?

The answer to the first question is hard to quantify for Monash but, in qualitative terms, the cost of removal is the economic benefit lost through the absence of those trees.

The answer to the second is much easier.  Ratepayers pay for all council expenses ultimately; either through increased rates (difficult under the present capping scheme) or through reduced services and infrastructure maintenance.

Councillor Brian Little has been watching the tree coverage using overhead imagery available on the “NearMap” website.  I won’t put words in his mouth here but Monash’s tree canopy is diminishing rapidly and that’s something we all should be worried about.

 

 

Community members plea for user pays underground car park

Are you finding it difficult to keep up to date with all the planning codes and changes in Glen Waverley?  You are not alone. 

In this post Lynnette Saloumi sets out the case for green and open space on Central Car Park.

Remove Area B 10+ storeys from the Central Car Park site at 281 Springvale Rd Glen Waverley

The (existing) Central Car Park site is the jewel in the heart of Glen Waverley. Perfectly positioned – it should not be carved up and subsequently stifled by the weight of yet more unwelcome high rise developments.

People who argue that it would cost too much to keep this strategic open space for the community are not visionaries. There should be consideration for Glen Waverley residents long past 2035. Great public places withstand the test of time – St Marks’ Square is iconic, huge –and 900 years old and consistently rated the No. 1 attraction in Venice. Although free to visit, by definition, the ‘attraction” drives economic activity in the region, as would an open square in ours.

The will to sell off the site in its entirety has been driven by the desire of one proponent to relocate Monash’s sixth library (currently situated 200m away) onto the Kingsway edge of the site. To do this an EOI for the sale of the entire site was released promoting the 7114sq m site for high rise, i.e. 10+ storeys, developments. This EOI process should be stopped.

Given the published cost of $45M to build the 6000sq m Geelong Library and Heritage Archive Centre on which the criteria for the “new” Glen Waverley library is based, it would seem extravagant in the extreme to impose such a burden on Monash ratepayers. In Geelong, the original 750sq m library was knocked down and another erected on the same site in the civic – not commercial – precinct. In contrast to the 81sq km City of Monash, the City of Greater Geelong is 1249sqkm. Glen Waverley, a suburb with real estate sales of $885M last year, supports a demographic well able to privately cater for its own technological needs.

With a series of recent community consultations on the future of the Central Car Park Site completed, where all attendees were in fierce agreement to keep the site as open public space it is our opinion that to pursue personal goals at the expense of the welfare of the community present and future would be unthinkable and in defiance of the community’s wishes. A library with limited opening hours would create a ‘dead’ centre and dissuade Kingsway bound trade. Similarly a tower block fronting Springvale Rd – would be a BLOCK.

The site is perfect for a user pays underground car park. The square would provide balance in an otherwise built environment. As an outdoor venue it can attract hirer’s fees. It could provide the entry platform for an underground retail outlet such as an Apple Store eg New York and Istanbul. Such stores are accessed through a glass cube entry point that does not disturb the vista above.

Square_Lynette

Related posts:

Getting a Perspective on Council Illustrations

Monash Council Proceeds with URL Despite Community Feedback

Green Waverley – Do NOT Build on Central Car Park

Click on “Leave a Comment” at the top of the page to add your thoughts.

Glen Waverley traffic congestion: flaws in Council plan

I hear many community members saying there is no point spending time responding to Monash Council’s call for feedback on plans for the Glen Waverley Activity Centre.  “Council have already decided”, “They will do what they want” and “I don’t have time.”  These are understandable views on the current situation.  I have been asking why I should give so much time to writing submissions and reports when the community view is rarely acted upon.

One Monash resident, Lynnette Saloumi, is commended by Empowering Monash & YOU for the endless hours she has put in for the purpose of making Glen Waverley a liveable city.  There is no doubt Glen Waverley is currently at risk of becoming traffic jammed, over-crowded and disconnected.

Lynette has given EM&U permission to print her response to Monash Council’s traffic model plan.  She points out many discrepancies and inconsistencies, highlighting the issues that will arise if the Council plan goes ahead. She concludes with the view constructing the Ring Road, according to the Council’s plans, would not satisfy Local Government (Best Value Principles) Act 1999.

STOP PRESS: Murray Nicholas’s response to the same Council document has been added below.  Murray is an active EM&U supporter and we also commend him for the work he does for the Glen Waverley community.

Lynette & Murray’s reports and the Monash Council document they responded to have been attached below.  Click on the title to open a document.

Traffic Modelling C120 Monash Submitter 24 Response (PDF 1789KB)
Community member’s response to Monash Council (published with permission)

Planning Panel Submissions 13 and 43
Community  member’s response to Monash Council (published with permission)

Copy of (DOC-16-51593) — Monash C120 Traffic modelling information requested by Panel (PDF 766KB)
Monash Council’s Traffic modelling for Glen Waverley.

Click on the Comment button at the top of the page to leave your response.

New website! Know Your Council!

The website was developed by Local Government Victoria (LGV) for community to have access to information on how local councils are performing and updates relating to local government.

It is important that there is transparency of councils. This website can ensure community have access to information and in a method that is easy to understand.

Do you want to know how Monash Council performed? Please visit the Know Your Council website!

Visit site – Know Your Council

No Jargon, Plain English! – An inexpensive solution for Monash Council

Council information jargon
Image courtesy of iosphere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Have you seen this article?

Monash Council needs gun communications expert to decipher planning jargon into ‘plain English’. Monash Leader Mayor Paul Klisaris says Monash Council might have “lost some people’s interest” with jargon in the first mail-out.  – Source: Monash Council needs gun communications expert to decipher planning jargon into ‘plain English’ 

Perhaps Monash council should have joined the ‘Drop the Jargon’ day and pledged to use plain language! This day was for professionals, health services and local governments to challenge themselves to use plain language.  www.dropthejargon.org.au  

Monash council needs to understand what community consultation and engagement is, as if they did they would have asked the community if a communications expert is needed or the best option to help the community understand information or plans provided to them.

This is what I propose!

Why waste funds on hiring a communications expert when there is a simple way to communicate information to the community?

The best way to provide information to the community is to implement or commence a Community Information Reference Group. Community members can join to review information, including budget and proposed planning documents to ensure that fact sheets are written in plain English and cater to all consumers or community members. This way the community will understand the information provided to them and can have a say. The council can follow examples from health/community services which already provide information, that is accessible and easy to understand and reviewed by community members as part of the Standard 2: Partnering with Consumers. 

A great example is what Link Health and Community has introduced. Their publications or information are reviewed and approved by consumer members. They also have a vital role in producing their quarterly magazine to ensure that it is in a format that is suitable for community members.  

Other Councils such as Mitchell Shire Council have prepared plans in consultation with the community and developed in a format to communicate to community in a clear way. Link: Wallan Structure Plan, Mitchell Shire Council

Review Council Information
Image courtesy of ddpavumba at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This option would be more cost effective as well as Council consulting and engaging with the community. Hiring a communications expert would only assist short time and will not cater to the changing diversity and demographics of the community. Community members are the experts! They are the ones that will read the information provided to them!

Council could commence a long term transparent Information Reference or Working Group and consider these points:

  • Diverse community members should have input in reviewing information or plans to ensure all are catered for
  • Run informal meetings monthly or what members prefer to review items and ensure there are no barriers for members of the group to attend and participate
  • Members to have input on the planning and delivery of information to the public
  • A community engagement officer to facilitate the meetings and take notes or record of discussions, but members should have authority over the decision making
  • Councillors should be invited to the group to listen and seek advice, not as members of the group, as this will ensure community members will have unbiased feedback and authority over discussions and decisions
  • Members to decide on guidelines that are suitable for the committee and reviewing information

Info standing man EM&U Stuart MilesLinks to more info:

Example of a plain English guide

Victorian Government Accessible Communication Guidelines

Communicating data with Colour: a guide to producing accessible maps and visual data

Communicate Clearly – A Guide to Plain English

The challenges of communicating the law to the public

Accessible Communication Guides – Whitehorse Council

Darebin’s Inclusive Communications Charter

Wyndham Cruiser – Wyndham Council

Monash Council Report says ‘no changes’ in response to community feedback

After an extensive community consultation plan on Amendment C120 to the Monash Planning Scheme (Glen Waverley Activity Centre) a Monash Council Report recommends NO CHANGE to the Planning Scheme.

The Council held Information Sessions and sought information at Listening Posts.  Have they listened?  Have they read the letters, emails and submissions from community members?  It appears not really.

The Council Report is recommending an Independent Panel appointed by the Minister for Planning consider the submissions.  It remains to be seen whether the panel will understand the people, nature and heart beat of Glen Waverley and surrounds.

The submission put forward by 39 people associated with Empowering Monash and YOU, for green and open space managed by the people on the Central Car Park area, was not accepted.

The Report will go to the Council Meeting on Tuesday 27 October, 7.30 pm at Clayton Community Centre.  Councillors will vote on whether to accept the report. You have until noon Monday 26 October to submit questions for Public Question Time. Whether or not you are asking a question please come along to support those that do and to see how the Councillors in your ward vote.

Why not contact your ward Councillor before the meeting with your comments on the Report?

Central Car Park
Central Car Park Glen Waverley

A few excerpts from the report (with comments – add your comments by clicking on “Leave a Comment” at the top of this post)

“These centrally located taller buildings will also help to create a clear and visible presence for the activity centre.”

Who wants this?  Have you asked to see the activity centre from your home or nearby park?  Would you prefer to see the activity centre or the birds flying home at sunset?

“The vision for the future development of the Ring Road is a key element of the transport network and the overall urban design concept for the activity centre”

The PTV say sinking the railway is a low priority and there is no money to do it, so how do we get a ring road?

“…if a public space is too large it can lack life and eventually become uninviting..”

Who says this?  There are great public open spaces across Europe and Asia, so this statement needs a reference or further explanation to hold any weight.

You can read the report by going to Tuesday evening’s meeting agenda Item 4.1

Related Posts:

Submission re C120 Glen Waverley Activity Zone

10 Storeys Plus on Central Car Park

Green Waverley: Do NOT build on Central Car Park