OPENING OF THE GREENS – SORRENTO BOWLS CLUB
3 September 2016

OPENING OF THE GREENS – SORRENTO BOWLS CLUB

Cr Hugh Fraser – Good morning everyone and thank you to your President Rod Bell and committee for your kind invitation to attend and speak at this “Opening of the Greens” today –  the third day of spring.

I am delighted to see that the dangerous Cyprus trees on the border with your greens have now been removed by the Council and, with assistance from the Shire, there have been improvements to your all-important kitchen with new large commercial oven and range hood.

For the current and last financial year the Shire has allocated $1.3 million each year for moderate renewal works to the Shire’s sports pavilions.

We are well advanced on discussions with the Sorrento Football Club for the renewal of their sports pavilion on this MacFarlane Reserve. The extent of the works has been agreed with the Club and the Shire is awaiting quotes for the works from the Club.

At the Portsea Surf Life Saving Club, the Shire recently has agreed to contribute a total of $1m over three years towards the cost of the much needed rebuilding of the club rooms.

Tenders have been sought for the construction of the all-important marine walkway around the sea base of the Eastern Sister on historic Sullivan Bay – site of the 1803 first European Settlement in Victoria. This will connect up Cameron’s Bight and Sullivan Bay. Although this will be an improvement to coastal Crown land by the Shire – it is an example of the sort of passive recreation that is essential for the residents of Nepean Ward with water and parks on three sides of our magnificent Nepean Peninsula.  And this is just as essential for the recreation our older Nepean Ward residents as is the $800,000 proposed skatepark for the recreation of younger Mornington residents.

At Police Point the historic recreation of the Calling Grounds, sculptures of horses in the Police Paddock, paths, fencing and historic cottage are nearing completion with only two of the five heritage cottages still to be restored. The artist in residence program and respite care programs are rolling out in the restored cottages.

I have also been asked to give an update on what is happening in Council.

The last two years have been a period of momentous change since the Red Hill by election in 2014 and the return of Tim Wood QC as councillor. We have secured Carl Cowie as our new CEO and he has restructured all of the Shire’s senior management.

Council abolished the names of Sustainable Organizations, Sustainable Infrastructure, Sustainable Communities and Sustainable Environment – which caused much confusion in the Council and community alike and the CEO  now has in place a Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer. Planning has been reorganized with strategic planning removed from statutory planning and the planning north, south, east and west teams re aligned more closely with the wards so that Red Hill is now aligned with Nepean for planning.

As to Council procedures, we have abolished a complex multi layered structure of “behind closed doors” sub-committees in favour of  all council business being transacted in one open and transparent council meeting each fortnight after 5pm on Monday with briefings on alternate Mondays after 5pm. Briefings have been streamlined with strict presentation requirements.

In late 2014 we discarded the commitment of the Shire to a “Sustainable Peninsula” as a malleable concept in favour of a certain commitment to Carbon Neutrality to produce measurable reductions in our carbon footprint –indeed neutrality – by 2021. This is a commitment driving practical projects such as more energy efficient use of Council buildings, solar panels, conversion of street lighting to LED – which will pay for itself over five years through reduced cost of electricity consumption (and longer term benefit reducing this recurrent expenditure) – and closing the Rye landfill which produces in excess of 48% of our greenhouse gasses.

As to the latter, this has had an immediate positive impact on the eco-tourism development potential of the immediate Rye, Boneo, Fingal and Tookgarook areas not to mention the long suffering residents immediately to the north of the landfill.

Council is paying down debt at a record rate and a recent tranche of $11m will be paid off by the end of the next financial year. The Shire is well placed to deal with the constraints of rate capping.

However, since Cr Bowden retired from Council in April on account of ill health, the balance of power on Council has shifted over the last 6 months and there is a risk that the good work of the progressive Council of the last two years will go into reverse. This is already occurring.

The 12 months old decision to close the Rye landfill by June 2018 was reversed three weeks ago – a disastrous blow to the commercial credibility of the Council as this landfill will now remain open indefinitely awaiting the advent of an AWT.

The new governing majority agreed to sell off a Shire “tree reserve” on the corner of Langford Road. The move by Cr Rodgers and myself – initiated by the Friends of Bridgewater Bay and Nepean Conservation Group – to protect our precious drainage reserves in Nepean Ward for the community to create innovative wildlife reserves – in the Bridgewater Bay area and throughout the urban areas of Nepean Ward – was rejected by the new governing majority on Council. These drainage reserves remain on the Shire’s “assets disposal register” at risk of sale and the proceeds redeployed for capital improvements in urbanized Mornington.

As to Shire Governance, the excessive spending on councillor expenses remains unexplained by management and there is an obscene move by management for Council to approve an additional total $110,000 for councillors’ so called “Education and Training” expenses at Monday’s Council Meeting. This is the fourth attempt by management to get this proposal through Council. We have rejected this proposal once already, last Mondays attempt failed because of insufficient notice of the special meeting business and I will be voting to reject it again on Monday.

So an election in late October is to be welcomed for the community to put an end to all this nonsense.

Enrolled electors will receive ballot pack in the post between 4 and 6 October, postal voting closes 21 October and Election Day is 22 October. We are working hard in all wards to ensure a strong unified team of councillors is elected to a new council to carry on the work of the last two years.