Former councillor David Gibb, veteran defender of the shire’s green wedge over his nearly two decades in office, has bitterly criticised the council executive team’s treatment of the zone in his submission to the proposed Council Plan 2017-2021.

Gibb hdshotThe draft Plan – which Mr Gibb (pictured) describes as “the most important document of the shire” – has been stripped this year of “virtually all references to agriculture”.

In a submission on the draft, he describes it as “massively slimmed down from last year”.

“There is much good stuff that has gone,” he writes, “material that was incorporated from the extensive community consultation that occurred over the years, especially the ‘Your Community, Your Future’, meetings held in 17 townships every few years and the Climate Change township meetings.”

Mr Gibb described as “bizarre” that material had been extracted from “quite an old Council Plan” by way of doing a “cut and paste” holus bolus.

“For example, there has been no dairying on the Peninsula since 1985, reference to it was deleted from Council Plans some time back, and beef correctly inserted in its place.

“And yet on page 6 of the Draft, under ‘Our Prosperity’, in the sixth dot point, ‘Dairy’ makes a reappearance. This should be deleted and reference to beef, Chicken meat and eggs reinserted. What [use] is a ‘cut and paste’ from out of date docs?”

Mr Gibb’s was one of 12 submissions to the draft Plan, his emphasis being “Stronger emphasis on agriculture (and the Green Wedge) and inclusion under ‘Our Prosperity’; reference to Road Improvement Strategy; and other issues”. He chose not to address councillors at last Wednesday’s (10 May) meeting.

David Douglas Valentine Gibb was first elected to council in 1997, to the then Kangerong ward, which stretched from Strachans Road, Mornington, to Chinaman’s Creek in West Rosebud.

When boundaries were redrawn in 2000 he won the newly created Rosebud ward, encompassing Rosebud and McCrae. This was incorporated into the three-councillor Seawinds ward in 2012. He resigned from council before last year’s election.

The Dromana beef farmer was tireless in his defence of the green wedge zone (GWZ), which comprises 70% of the Mornington Peninsula. The zone was ferociously defended by councillors up to last year’s influx of eight newly elected councillors – who, Bandicoot understands, have yet to be briefed on green wedge planning rules and policy after nearly six months in office.

Mr Gibb begins his submission by stating that the Council Plan outranks all other shire plans and proposals, including the Five Year Strategic Plan and the annual budget. All are “subservient to the Council Plan”, he states.

He highlights draft Plan references to the GWZ, such as “highly valuable green wedge land” under the heading ‘Our Place’ on page 18 (Bandicoot was unable to check this, since the draft Plan has been removed from the shire website) and “Maintain 70% of the Mornington Peninsula as green wedge” under the heading ‘Strategies’.

A further mention cited was “Review and adopt the Green Wedge Management Plan” included as a dot point under the heading ‘Major initiatives’.

Mr Gibb comments: “Agriculture and the Green Wedge used to be highlighted under the 3rd ‘Theme’ of Our Prosperity (Economy) where they belong.

“The Our Prosperity section looks quite underdone without the key sector of agriculture. (There is the oblique phrase Support and develop our food economy that could relate to agriculture but one has the sense that in fact it more relates to cafés.)

“And: ‘highly valuable green wedge land’; but to whom? Developers?”

Mr Gibb could well have been referring to the new shire drive for development in all parts of the shire, evidenced by several recent controversial GWZ decisions including one that approved 282 patrons on a small GWZ property as recommended by planners (GWZ maximum 150 patrons) and the OK for a brewery, also in green wedge, despite two VCAT decisions ruling that “brewery” is not a Rural Industry. 

His submission continued: “Active agriculture is crucial to maintain the land as Green Wedge, if we don’t want it fragmented into little two-hectare lots. [As a councillor, Mr Gibb pushed relentlessly for the shire policy of merging small land parcels into viable farming properties. No doubt that is still his position.]

“It’s a fragile setting,” he continued. “For example there is only one large animal vet practice left on the Peninsula. There is only one Agricultural Show left on the Peninsula. The pressure from development and rural residential is huge, constantly nibbling away, reducing the critical mass of agriculture.

“Every 20ha sports field, every large hotel or convention centre, every Moonah Links proposal, is undermining agriculture on the Peninsula.

“With all that in mind and understood by successive Mornington Peninsula Shire councils, they have ensured the following key phrase has been in all past Council Plans, for many years – ‘To foster and encourage agriculture and promote the Peninsula’s rural sector’.

“The Mornington Peninsula community through extensive consultation over the decades has indicated its support for the Green Wedge and agriculture and would strongly support the reinstatement of this key objective in Council’s pre-eminent document,” he writes. 

Mr Gibb’s submission concludes: “Companion objectives also deleted from the draft are:

■ To develop and grow local businesses including agritourism and intensive agriculture”, and

■ To support rural business through networking and industry development.”

“[These] are both worthy objectives in Council’s goal to ‘Maintain 70% of the Mornington Peninsula as green wedge’.”