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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Bellarine Peninsula misses out on ferry trial

(Source: Herald-Sun)
Businessman Paul Little has announced that on May 16, it will start an eight-week trial of a ferry service between Point Cook and Docklands that won’t include a stop on the Bellarine Peninsula.

In the trial, a catamaran will ferry 400 passengers indoors from Wyndham Harbour near Point Cook, to Docklands' Victoria Harbour in the CBD in the morning peak time; and will return during the evening peak time. Mr Little's Little Group has established a new company - Port Phillip Ferries – to run the service, which will take around 70 minutes each way. The new company wants to reduce the travel time, which it says is due to low speed limits on the Yarra River.

An adult return fare will cost around $20 during the trial, while the normal cost will be $25 for an online booking and $29 if bought on the day, with discounts for seniors, children and concession cardholders. Parking at Wyndham Harbour marina will be included in the fare and ferry passengers will have free wi-fi access.
Still no ferry for the Bellarine
When Mr Little first floated his plan for a ferry service in October 2015, it included a stop at Portarlington, but Mr Little said more work was needed to allow ferries to berth there. "We'd be very happy to run the ferries out of Portarlington if the demand was there", he said.

The infrastructure for a Portarlington ferry stop will be completed in the months after the Port Phillip Ferries trial. The 2016 state budget includes money for Stage Two of the $15m ‘safe harbour’ at Portarlington, which includes docking for ferry services and is due to be completed in the 2016-2017 financial year. The budget also includes $107m to build the long-awaited Drysdale bypass which, once complete, will make a Portarlington ferry a more attractive option for people from the western Bellarine who commute to Melbourne.

Begging the question
Point Cook residents who have to spend hours a day travelling to and from jobs in the city would welcome a ferry between Wyndham Harbour and Melbourne’s CBD. Similarly, Bellarine Peninsula residents forced to commute to Melbourne would welcome a ferry between Portarlington and the CBD – either as part of the proposed Port Phillip Ferries service or in addition to it.

However, such ferry services solve a problem that shouldn’t have been created – insufficient business and jobs for the expanding population of Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula. The City of Greater Geelong has actively encouraged the creation of ever more housing estates, home to many thousands of residents, without ensuring that there are jobs to support them. The result is the creation of 'dormitory towns' as an increasing number of people on the Bellarine joining commuters from Geelong on the hours-long commuter trek to and from central Melbourne.

For example, when the Curlewis ‘growth area’ on the outskirts of Drysdale is completed, it will house  around 16,000 people, yet the area is virtually deserted during the day (apart from builders and tradies building more houses), because so many of its residents are commuters. The only jobs are at the small shopping centre, with its Woolworth supermarket and a handful of ‘speciality’ shops and even these will be at risk as the Leopold shopping centre expands from its present 5,000m2 to 65,000m2 by 2021. (See “More shops, no vision” [13 October 2013] on this blog.)

Creating a jobs drain
An expanded Leopold shopping centre will drain custom from elsewhere on the Bellarine, just as shopping centres in Waurn Ponds and Corio Village have drained custom from central Geelong. The shopping centres provide some new jobs, but most are relatively low-skilled, low-paid and with very limited career paths. Why are there no plans to provide other sorts of jobs?

CoGG's drive to expand the population of the Bellarine must be accompanied by plans to expand and diversify employment. As a rule of thumb, a new job should be created for each house built. That would at least start to match economic growth with population growth.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Good or bad for local democracy?

Like many residents of the Bellarine Peninsula, DCSCA members are concerned that the state government's plan to replace the City of Greater Geelong council with an administrator could be bad for local democracy.

Today (12 April) the Victorian state government intends to table the review of a Commission of Inquiry into the governance of the City of Greater Geelong council; and then introduce legislation sacking the whole council – the mayor and the twelve councillors – and appointing an administrator to run the council until the 2020 elections.

The Government has sufficient support in the Lower House for its bill to pass easily, but the bill may take longer to pass the Upper House, where the government needs the support of either the Coalition, or the Greens and at least two crossbenchers.

If the legislation passes, Geelong council will be the sixth Victorian council to be sacked since the Kennett government amalgamated more than 200 Victorian councils to 79 in the 1990s. The others were Wangaratta (2013), Brimbank (2009), Glen Eira (2005), Nillumbik (1998) and Darebin (1998).

No strategic vision?
One of the reasons the Commission gives for sacking the council is that it has failed to develop a strategic vision for Geelong. However, the council lost control of its strategic planning in August 2015, when Victorian planning minister Richard Wynne took over planning decisions in Geelong for major projects over 5,000 square metres.

At the same time, the state government created the Geelong Authority to advise the Minister on key projects, implement major planning decisions, create jobs and drive growth in Geelong. Key projects for the Authority will include a new convention centre in central Geelong, the redevelopment of the Geelong Performing Arts Centre, the relocation of WorkCover and revitalizing the Geelong railway station precinct and Johnstone Park. The projects will be delivered by Places Victoria, the Victorian Government’s property development agency, which has the power to acquire, sell and swap land.

What future – and when?
Until the Commission of Inquiry’s report is made public and the state government introduces its legislation, we can only speculate about the implications of sacking the present council and appointing an administrator to run its affairs until 2020.

However, the legislation will have to address the Victorian Electoral Commission’s recent recommendation (to the Minister for Local Government) that the City of Greater Geelong should be reorganised in time for the 2016 elections. The present council consists of a directly-elected mayor plus twelve councillors, with each councillor representing a single ward. The VEC recommended reorganising the council into a directly-elected mayor plus eleven councillors representing four wards - three three-councillor wards and one two-councillor ward. (The whole Bellarine Peninsula would be one ward, represented by three councillors.)

Like the proposed council sacking, the VEC recommendation is based in legislation - a 2012 amendment to the City of Greater Geelong Act (1993). That amendment created the post of directly-elected Mayor of Geelong, resulting in a council of 12 councillors plus the Mayor for the 2012 council election. The amendment also required the VEC to recommend to the Minister for Local Government the most appropriate electoral structure for the council from the 2016 election onwards.

The state government’s sacking legislation would effectively overrule that 2012 amendment. It will be interesting to see how the government justifies doing this and denying Geelong's citizens the chance to vote for its council in October 2016.