A huge congratulations to the team and dedicated volunteers at the Bendigo Visitor Information Centre who took out the Gold Award at last week's Victorian Tourism Awards. What a fabulous achievement and I was delighted to be able to spend some time celebrating with the team at the awards ceremony. The Bendigo Visitor Information Centre is situated in the historic Post Office, which opened in 1887. This classic example of Renaissance Revival style architecture now operates as the Bendigo Visitor Information Centre. It is now also home to the Living Arts Space, showcasing the best of local artisans, and the Post Office Gallery, showcasing the region's heritage.
Visitor Centre and is open everyday from 9am to 5pm(except Christmas Day). Volunteers play an important role in welcoming visitors to Bendigo and provide an authentic local connection for visitors to the region. The Bendigo Visitor Information Centre has over 75 volunteers, who talk to visitors, act as meet and greet or special event ambassadors, take guided tours and distribute brochures.
The Bendigo Visitor Information Centre has over 75 volunteers
A step (or paw print) closer to a Dog Park for Heathcote
I was really pleased to have moved (and was subsequently supported unanimously) the motion at the last council meeting which prioritised consideration of a 2019-20 budget bid for the lifetime costs associated with the installation, fit out and ongoing servicing of a new fenced off leash dog park in Heathcote, with consideration given to the Depot Rd, Heathcote site is reflected in the Heathcote Township Plan.
And to identify suitable locations for an additional off leash dog park(s) in Greater Bendigo to support rural communities during the review of the City’s Domestic Animal Management Plan (2016 – 2021).
Residents in Heathcote and surrounds have for over 2 years approached me about the potential to identify a space in Heathcote for locals and visitors to exercise their dogs in a safe 'off-leash' space. I am very pleased to see that the community have continued this advocacy and supported the submission of a petition of 271 signatures which was presented to council in September this year.
The work concurrently underway with the Heathcote Township Plan has also flagged a dog park as a significant opportunity and as one of the Eppalock Ward Councillors I am keen to continue the advocacy on this matter for the community.
The Victorian Domestic Animal Act 1994 requires Council at four (4) year intervals to develop a Domestic Animal Management Plan (DAMP). During the development of the City’s third DMAP 2016-2021, it was identified that Greater Bendigo has one of the highest levels of companion animal ownership in Victoria with more than one third of households owning a cat or dog.
The primary aim of the DAMP is to improve animal management within the City of Greater Bendigo and recognises the need to address one of Council’s key liveability indicators (reducing obesity) by providing open space for dogs to exercise, which in turn provides incentive for residents to exercise themselves.
Supporting this objective, dogs are not required to be leashed in public places within Greater Bendigo, except for 10 designated leash parks and a small number of other areas including the Hargreaves Mall and within 10 metres of children’s play grounds. Dogs are only prohibited from entering the QEO and Crusoe Reservoir.
The city currently has 3 fenced off fully leashed dog parks in the municipality:
I am fully supportive of giving priority consideration in the 2019-20 budget bid for a fenced off leash dog park in Heathcote
A potential location for a proposed fenced off leash dog park at Depot Road was identified during the community consultation for the Heathcote Township Plan. It was discussed in the Issues and Opportunities Paper which identified that for this matter to progress a number of steps need to be followed. The first is to establish that there is a demand for a dog park in Heathcote and an assessment made that this site is the best for such a facility.
While the Depot Rd, Heathcote site has not been fully assessed for its suitability, the demand for a dog park in Heathcote has been established.
The site at present does have dense ground based vegetation creating areas of concealment for animals and humans. The site also contains debris including car parts and concrete rubble that would need to be removed. The terrain is rough, with minimal areas of level ground and lots of rocks. This would require significant works to create a surface suitable to mow. In addition, there are native vegetation plantings that were undertaken during three separate National Tree Planting Day activities. The vegetation is dense, and is at ground level limiting opportunities for passive surveillance. Removal or thinning of this vegetation would be unlikely to be approved and may not be supported by the local community.
Regardless of the challenge that this specific site might face, I am fully supportive of giving priority consideration in the 2019-20 budget bid for a fenced off leash dog park in Heathcote given the demand has been established; however a thorough analysis of the suitability of the Depot Street site needs to be undertaken.
I congratulate Craig Guy and members of the Heathcote community, including the Heathcote and District Community Bank Branch (who have made an in-principle commitment to the project of $2500) in their leadership and continued advocacy in working towards the realisation of a dog park in Heathcote.
Planning Application in a Rural Conservation Zone
It was a tough discussion when Council had to consider an application for a re-subdivision of land the construction of three dwellings on Lyell Road in Redesdale, when as a Ward Councillor I would like nothing more to see townships and outskirts of villages such as Redesdale flourish with new families and those seeking a rural lifestyle build their dreams. However in this case, I could not see how intensifying this particular section of land so close to the Lake Eppalock Water Supply Catchment could be a good outcome, but rather tip the balance to an overdevelopment of a rural area.
The permit was refused on the following grounds:
1. The application will adversely impact the rural character and appearance of the area by resulting in an intensification of dwellings in the area.
2. The application will result in an intensification of residential development in the Lake Eppalock Declared Water Supply Catchment.
3. The application is inconsistent with the Rural Dwellings Policy, Rural Subdivision Policy, Rural Conservation Zone, Environmental Significance Overlay and Clause 65 of the Greater Bendigo Planning Scheme.
The application was thoroughly reviewed and assessed against the Planning Policy Framework and the Local Planning Framework. The provisions of particular relevance to this application related to the protection of water supply and water supply catchments, discouraging rural residential development in inappropriate locations and protecting the environmental, cultural and landscape values of rural areas.
The guidelines require the responsible authority (being Council) to consider the cumulative impact of residential development within water catchments, regardless of whether the proposal technically complies with the relevant setbacks and guidelines.
It was accepted that GMW and Coliban Water have consented to the granting of a permit as the information provided with the application technically demonstrated the wastewater from the dwellings can be accommodated on the site and met the relevant setbacks and guidelines set by the EPA. However, the capability of the site to accommodate the proposal did not adequately address the cumulative risk factor which the Guidelines require the responsible authority to consider.
The proposal does not meet the objectives in relation to rural dwellings nor rural subdivision, but rather treats the site as if it were an area identified as being for rural living. In its present form, the proposal is at odds with the Planning Policy Frameworks as it will result in the intensification of residential land uses in the Lake Eppalock Water Supply Catchment Area, will adversely impacting existing and future agricultural land uses and will change the character of the area to rural residential.
A key question was whether the proposal met the purposes of the Rural Conservation Zone and the Environment Significance Overlay? The Rural Conservation Zone is not a residential zone. A dwelling is a section 2 use and permit may be granted if it supports the objectives and the decision guidelines of the zone. As is the case with any application for a planning permit, just because a land use is permitted in the zone it does not automatically make it acceptable for a planning permit to be granted.
In its present form, the proposal is at odds with the Planning Policy Frameworks as it will result in the intensification of residential land uses in the Lake Eppalock Water Supply Catchment Area,
The subject site is also affected by the Environmental Significance Overlay Schedules 1 and 3 which aim to protect waterways and the Lake Eppalock Declared Water Supply Catchment.
The Planning Scheme does not identify the subject site as being suitable for rural residential development nor is the site located in close proximity to rural living land. The site is within an area zoned Rural Conservation Zone and Farming Zone and the Planning Scheme includes clear policy direction of protecting catchments, protecting agricultural land and directing rural living into appropriate areas such as on the outskirts of townships like Heathcote and Strathfieldsaye.
The argument the previous planning permits had been issued in the area and an additional 3 dwellings will have no further impacts was not accepted. The incremental impact of individual changes eventually undermines the integrity of rural zones such as Rural Conservation Zone. Even though previous planning permits have been issued in the area, this does not make it appropriate to continue issuing planning permits for residential land uses and each application must be considered on its own merit.
In conclusion, the application was rejected basis that it represents an unacceptable risk to the Lake Eppalock Water Supply Catchment due to the cumulative impact of residential development. The proposal constitutes an encroachment of residential development and is contrary to the purpose of the Rural Conservation Zone and Environmental Significance Overlay.
Stability in Times of Uncertainty
Recently on social media, I reflected on the importance of leadership stability at the grass roots level. I include my comments again for readers of my blog:
I want to talk about the importance of successive years for mayoral leadership. I’ve had several people ask me about it since we elected Mayor Cr Margaret O'Rourke to lead us into the third year in our term. Yes it’s a record and yes makes history in Bendigo, and I predict we will see more of this trend in local government. It is what a modern council should support. Stability in a time when other levels of government and sectors are unable to find something rock solid. It would be a shame to see this instability at the grassroots, a stable platform of leadership is vital to continue our ability to respond and make a positive difference to things our communities and residents experience day to day. So yeah we have a third term mayor, and I believe we are privileged to have a chance to support this. This is modern leadership and this is the new look Council. It’s not a game of musical chairs, no high performing organisation would swap leadership every 12 months so everyone gets a turn, so why would local government? This is the future. One I’m proud to be a part of.
The next Council meeting is on Wednesday 12th December, 2018 at 6pm at the Bendigo Town Hall, perhaps I might see you there? Or you can tune in via the live broadcast on Phoenix FM 106.7
Yvonne Wrigglesworth is a Councillor in the Eppalock Ward, City of Greater Bendigo Council.