SAVE-SHIRE CAMPAIGN WRITES TO MPs

■ But where is the real battle plan?

Mornington Peninsula Shire’s campaign to reverse the state government decision to “Melbournise” the peninsula has begun, with a letter from mayor Bev Colomb to local state parliamentarians Martin Dixon, Neale Burgess and David Morris. Federal MP for Flinders Greg Hunt may also have been contacted.

Mr Martin Dixon’s Nepean electorate, extending south-east from Mount Martha to Somers and encompassing Dromana, McCrae, Rosebud and Capel Sound, contains nearly 13,200 house blocks – 54% of the 24,262 that are vulnerable – on which three-storey houses could be built if the new planning law is not changed.

Mr Burgess, Member for Hastings, represents Somerville (3330), Hastings (4027), Bittern (564) and Tyabb (760) for the second highest total of 8681.

Mr Morris’s Mornington electorate is next, with some 4490 vulnerable sites, plus 679 in Mount Martha, for a total of just over 5000.

Mr Hunt, appearing in the Victorian Court of Appeal on contempt of court charges with two federal ministerial colleagues, was dealing with this weightier matter on Friday.

Cr Colomb’s letter raised the shire’s concern about the changes to the General Residential Zone, especially increasing building height from two to three storeys (9 to 11 metres), with no consultation by Planning Minister Richard Wynne.

His decision took no account of the Mornington Peninsula’s own planning scheme, the Localised Planning Statement, and risked devastating the residential character of the Peninsula’s townships, the MPs, all representing the Liberal Party, were told.

It sought their support for an interim design and development overlay to protect the townships while the matter is negotiated with Mr Wynne.

Councillors on Tuesday endorsed the shire campaign to adopt “a clear advocacy position” against the Wynne changes.

The “strong advocacy campaign” was short on detail but long on windy sentiments (“Council will work with the community to undertake various actions”) that appear to indicate haste in composition.

And it was an invisible message.

By time of writing this post (late on Friday 16 June) the front page of the shire website contained nothing to indicate the planning crisis was being tackled. Nor did the shire Facebook page vibrate with urgency: its main feature was a Parks Victoria underwater video taken at Blairgowrie.

Someone, it appears, had not been told there was a crisis as expressed in the councillor resolution, “That Council immediately commences an advocacy campaign to highlight its strong concern to the State Government regarding the negative implications of the new height controls of the General Residential Zone and the associated lack of community consultation.”

Further, “That a further Management Report be prepared with the intent of introducing an Interim Design and Development Overlay to the Mornington Peninsula Planning Scheme for those towns that are not currently protected by existing Design and Development Overlays.”

(That interim measure appeared to have been undertaken with such commendable haste that it may well have been well under way well before Tuesday’s council meeting.)

Bandicoot’s antennae failed to detect any industrious buzz of activity driving this advocacy campaign in areas (such as shire interfaces) where the public could immediately and near-effortlessly be reached, nor any sense of urgency, such as a deadline, in the resolution.

He was reminded of Drake playing bowls as the Spanish Armada closed in. But there was, on reading the advocacy plan, none of the glow of security and confidence that one feels radiating off the old sea dog as he finishes his game.

The following paragraphs did not suggest to Bandicoot that the campaign contained the sort of keen cutting edge required to persuade a state planning minister as apparently fickle, arrogant and insensitive as Richard Wynne to change his mind:

This advocacy campaign should seek to involve community groups and associations and general community members. A wide range of communication channels should be utilised including social media (various platforms) print media, community forums and meetings with relevant decision makers.

The following key messages will be pursued as fundamental parts of the advocacy:

■ Local communities had no say before this decision was announced;

■ This decision will have a potentially vast negative impact on the character of many local villages

and townships across the Peninsula;

■ Local Government was completely removed from the consultative process; and

■ This dramatic change in streetscape is in marked contrast to other State planning policies.

In short, Wynne threw a bomb at us and we’re flicking marshmallows back. The shire has had since 27 March, since Mr Wynne dropped his planning bomb on Victoria, to put this campaign together. So far, it’s been an expression of concern in a media release and a letter to local MPs. Mr Wynne will be shaking in his suede loafers.

This is a great crisis for the peninsula. Who is leading the campaign? Who is the go-to person? How are “communication channels” being utilised? Where are the street protests? The newspaper ads? The stentorian speeches?

Bandicoot regards himself as a reasonably high-profile part of local “social media” – he has the regular readership to support that assertion – yet not a whisper to him from Besgrove St in the three full working days since councillors met. The one request he lodged was ignored. And, as noted, not a ripple can be seen on the shire’s electronic interfaces, its “social media (various platforms)”.

Local radio 3RPP was not even mentioned as an outlet for the campaign.

Bandicoot fears that, unless a hand grenade goes off under someone’s chair, this campaign will be over before the community is even engaged. Perhaps it is already too late.