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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Birdsong and bylaws don't mix

Kurrawongs and Kookaburras are currently delighting Drysdale residents in the vicinity of McLeod's Waterholes.

The large, charcoal-grey Kurrawongs have bright yellow eyes and flashes of white on their tail and wings. Allegedly, their name comes from their musical call, but you need some imagination to hear it! It's been several months since they've been in the area, because Kurrawongs are migratory, moving between feeding and breeding grounds.

The reappearance of the Kurrawongs in the area coincides with a visit by a group of Kookaburras. Interesting birds, Kookaburras are notable for their socialised child care! Kookaburras live in groups and in each group, one or two adults will look after young birds from several pairs of adults - an efficient, cost-effective approach to child care of which, no doubt, federal treasurers would approve! Kookaburras are migratory, too, but a group will generally move around a regular route.

A 'wildlife corridor' - who needs it?
The recurring presence of the Kurrawongs and Kookaburras in the area shows the importance of the 'nature corridor' formed by the stretch of trees and shrubs along Griggs Creek that crosses Jetty Road and continues to McLeod's Waterholes. Many other birds, including Galahs, Lorikeets and Red-rumped Parrots (a.k.a. Grass Parrots) also fly regularly along that corridor; and Wattle Birds and Honeyeaters are semi-permanent residents.

Until recently, the corridor had a 'spur' of some trees at the junction of Jetty Road and Wyndham Street, but these were destroyed to make way for the enlarged junction. These trees formed a local landmark, but the first that local people knew of the trees' fate was when they awoke to the sound of chain saws cutting them down. Among the trees was an old Willow tree, described by the contractor's supervisor as 'just a weed'!

Doing what's legal - or doing what's right?
When the City of Greater Geelong's supervising engineer was asked why the council hadn't consulted local people about the trees' planned destruction, he replied, 'We don't have to'. He meant that the council has a legal obligation to consult the public about changes to bylaws, etc (e.g. re-zoning), but has no legal obligation to consult the public about any 'non-legal' issues - and destroying these trees was one of those 'non-legal' issues.

So the council's guiding principle isn't 'What is right?' but 'What can we get away with?' A council's operations offer many opportunities to strengthen local democracy and build citizenship by involving local people in council decisions that affect them. For this council, however, local democracy appears to mean 'electing a councillor every four years'; and citizenship appears to mean 'paying your rates on time'.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Jetty Road still threatens cyclists, walkers

Loose gravel in Jetty Road
The section of Jetty Road in the vicinity of the Clifton Springs Primary School continues to pose a threat to cyclists and walkers, despite recent road works.

DCSCA and by the Clifton Springs Primary School have called vigorously and frequently for action to make the junction safer. We were concerned that the new footpath and junction constituted a threat to walkers and cyclists - especially to students of the primary school - because they had been built so poorly. (See 'Squeezing a Jetty Road bottleneck tighter' on drycliftdays 2 March 2012.)

Loose gravel in Jetty Road
In response,  potholes have been filled-in and road edging improved. Bouquets to the City of Greater Geelong for doing the work; buckets to the council for taking months to do it, for leaving dangerous loose surface gravel that could still injure walkers and cyclists and for leaving in place the dangerous 1.5m section of footpath.

It is clear that without the campaign by DCSCA and the Primary School, this junction would still be dangerous to walkers and cyclists. Decent, respectful consultation with local people would have shows precisely what needed to be done to create a safe junction. Why should local people have to fight for decent, safe infrastructure when developers are spending millions of dollars to create the new housing estates in Jetty Road - allegedly under the supervision of the council's planners?

Drysdale Cemetery safe from development

DCSCA hosted a meeting on Monday 19th November at SpringDale, at which Darryl Thomas, CEO of the Geelong Cemeteries Trust described the Trust's role.

The Trust maintains the 13 local cemeteries in the Geelong region (with no government funding); individual graves are owned privately and their maintenance is the owner's responsibility.

Local people at the meeting were concerned about the future of the Cemetery, in particularly the vacant land adjoining Clifton Springs Road. Daryl said that the Drysdale cemetery has enough land to accommodate current demand for 15 to 20 years. Daryl said that  the vacant land is zoned as 'cemetery' and that the Trust has no plans to ask for the land to be rezoned and/or to sell it to housing developers. He added that before the Trust could sell the land, it would have to consult the local community extensively.

The vacant land in question would accommodate about ten thousand graves - nowhere near enough to meet the area's expected population growth. The Bellarine Peninsula in general is expected to see a major increase in population in the coming years and each of its local cemeteries (including Drysdale's) has only about 20–25 years worth of grave sites available. Consequently, the Trust is looking for land on the Bellarine for a new Bellarine Cemetery.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A business bypass for Drysdale?

2013 will be a crucial year for DCSCA's campaign for a Drysdale bypass. The state government funds bypasses and in 2013 all sides in state politics will be preparing for the state elections in 2014, in which the seat of Bellarine - which includes Drysdale & Clifton Springs - is likely to be a marginal seat. Consequently, the major parties will be especially keen to grant local voters' requests - including a Drysdale bypass! (In the 2010 state election, Ms Lisa Neville [ALP] held the seat by just 2.74% after preferences.)

Despite the growing support for a Drysdale bypass, it won't necessarily - and by itself - improve the quality of life in the town. Indeed, as it takes away traffic, a bypass could also take away trade and weaken the local economy. However, DCSCA has said consistently that with careful planning and preparation, a bypass could both relieve traffic and boost local businesses. To start that planning and preparation, we need to understand how bypasses affect small towns; and we need to see the bypass as part of local economic development.

Understanding how bypasses affect small towns
There isn't much research online about how bypasses affect small towns and what there is comes mostly from the USA. With that it mind, the research shows that Drysdale can grasp the benefits of a bypass and avoid the threats if it takes some simple practical steps:
  • A town with a distinct, attractive identity is likely to find that it becomes more attractive to visitors as the bypass reduces its through traffic.
  • A town with good road signage can counter drivers' tendency to stay on major roads - including a bypass.
  • A town with a bypass has better links to major roads, stimulating adjacent industrial growth, with positive 'knock on' benefits to local businesses.
  • A town is less likely to suffer economically from a bypass if its economy is strong, if it is an existing trade centre and if its local government has an appropriate economic development strategy.

Seeing the bypass as part of local economic development
In the City of Greater Geelong's 'Structure Plan for Drysdale & Clifton Springs', economic development consists of opening some more shops and a couple of motels. However, shops and motels won't offer local people the high-skill, high-wage careers that currently attract them to Geelong or Melbourne. Further, the council's plan to massively expand the Leopold shopping centre may threaten the future of Drysdale's existing shops, let alone any new ones.

DCSCA regards a Drysdale bypass as part of a broader alternative vision of economic development in the north Bellarine. That vision is centred on a new light industrial precinct in Murradoc Road, to be created in three stages:
1. Open up the area north of Murradoc Road for commercial development by creating new access roads into it.
2. Extend Murradoc Road's existing 'business/industrial' zoning eastwards to Clarendon Road.
3. Create tree-lined service roads on the north and south verges of Murradoc Road to offer easier delivery access, plus imaginative outdoor dining and performance spaces to attract pedestrians and effectively extend the centre of Drysdale eastwards.

Such a new precinct would offer new businesses easy access to major roads via the proposed Drysdale bypass, which will cross Murradoc Road near Clarendon Road; and business trade to and from Melbourne on the proposed Portarlington ferry wouldn't be delayed in a congested Drysdale High Street. The outcome would be a greater diversity and quality of jobs than the council's Structure Plan could ever offer; and the positive 'knock on' effects of the growth in light industry would be within the grasp of local businesses.