President's Page - May 2009

We have been involved in a number of issues throughout the year 2008. However, the small number of committee members has at times limited our activities. The first two items below are wins and the second two are losses.


We attended a number of public consultation meetings relating to the Shire of Yarra Ranges proposed Housing Strategy. At the outset the Shire’s planners were proposing increased housing density in the “suburbs” of Upwey, Tecoma and Belgrave and also Monbulk. In the case of the first three, the proximity of the railway line was given as a reason for this proposed further development. We were extremely alarmed at this proposed housing increase and we expressed our opposition to our councillors and relevant staff.

Some of our reasons for objecting were that:

  • Further urbanisation would detract from the natural environment particularly along the Burwood Hwy, as one of the main approaches to the Dandenongs for tourists and visitors alike. The foothills approach has already been damaged by over development.
  • Population increase would add to the danger for residents in the high fire risk areas of the Dandenongs. The narrow and often winding roads present major hazards in the case of mass evacuation.
  • Further residential development would detract from the natural appearance of the landscape and make the area less attractive for potential tourists.

Fortunately the councillors shared our views and they had the areas of Upwey, Tecoma and Belgrave removed from the proposal. However Monbulk has been left with discretion for some further residential development. We still believe that because there is no sewerage and little public transport in Monbulk and the fire risk should not be overlooked, we do not believe that further development should be encouraged.


We attended a consultation meeting with the Shire at which there were a number of objectors. We put in a letter of objection on the grounds that it was an over development of the site (up to 80 residences plus a caretakers cottage, too far from the township of Monbulk and also waste disposal was a problem). Jo Tenner represented both UYDEC and SDL at VCAT. The Shire had refused the proposal but the applicant went to VCAT. The Tribunal, after visiting the site and looking at the legal ramifications of the Planning Scheme agreed with the Shire and the objectors and refused to issue a permit.


Demolition of the Historic Staircase. Formerly, Museum of Lillydale, Castella Street, Lilydale now Shire of Yarra Ranges Regional Museum. This was a part of the proposed redevelopment of the museum to include extra room for the museum itself and gallery space and a café. The museum was the former Shire of Lilydale Offices built in 1889 and is one of the most historic buildings in the Shire. The building has National Trust classification and is a site of significance in the Shire. Unfortunately it does not have internal controls in the planning scheme which would have protected the historic staircase. This was an extremely long running saga over a number of years. We believe the decision to remove the staircase was actually made long before the issue came before council. SDL objected on heritage grounds, and that we believed that the staircase was a fine example of its type. The majority of councillors voted for demolition of the staircase. Local historian, Ellena Biggs decided to take the Shire to VCAT on the issue, SDL and several objectors joined her. Louis Delacretaz represented SDL. Ellena Biggs and Dianne Kueffer (DR National Trust) did an enormous amount of research for the case. However, because of the lack of internal controls the case was unsuccessful. Subsequent to this Heritage Victoria decided the building should have the protection of internal controls but did not make it retrospective. The Shire agreed to place the internal controls AFTER they had acted on the existing permit; i.e. the Shire will still demolish the staircase and THEN place the internal controls in the planning scheme. As a concession the Shire has agreed to demolish the staircase carefully and store it for possible future use.


Monbulk Community Hub Redevelopment including demolition of existing Community Hall and Senior Citizens Clubrooms Like the Lillydale Museum Development this is another saga that goes back several years, where decisions were made before any meaningful public consultation took place and before the matter went formally to the Shire of Yarra Ranges council. SDL objected as did a few residents. SDL’s main concerns were the lack of public consultation and the demolition of two substantial buildings which were only 30 years old. In the early days of this application the Shire of Yarra Ranges promised public consultation however in our opinion this really did not happen. There was a form of consultation with a few select individuals and groups all of whom agreed with the proponents. Genuine objectors were marginalised and ignored. One of the so-called attractions of the proposal for the Hub was a library for Monbulk which in reality is the Monbulk Primary School Library with the addition of a reading room for the public. The well-situated Shire of Yarra Ranges Community Link’s office is to be moved to this development at the far end of the town. In September 2008 the council chose to ignore most of the objectors points for this very expensive development (six million dollars) and agreed to the demolition of the two buildings. Ross Whitford spoke on behalf of SDL at the council meeting. It is our opinion that neither the large community hall or the delightful senior citizens hall with its own stage, will be adequately replaced by this community hub. By the time all the staff are located, a small hall seating approximately one hundred people will be all that is left for community hire. As I said in my letter to the Shire of Yarra Ranges in March 2007, there are ‘winners and losers’ in this Hub development. It will be interesting to see in the long term whether this development as it now stands is really in the best interests of the majority of the community of Monbulk.

Betty Marsden – President. Save the Dandenongs League 8 May 2009