President's Page - May 2007

We have reached the fiftieth edition of our newsletter which we currently call “Greenprint”. This has grown from very humble beginnings, nearly thirty years ago, to a more substantial version that we have today. It includes articles, press releases and photographs about the Dandenongs, and feedback from our readers suggests that many people enjoy its contents. Carolyn Ebdon has now taken on the task of being editor and is doing a fine job, following in the footsteps of Betty Hotchin who enhanced the publication with her own distinctive style.

While our committee numbers remain small, we continue to meet regularly. We have monitored local issues and contacted council where appropriate. Some of us are involved in a number of council committees and Friend’s Groups, depending on our availability and inclination; this enables us to keep informed about local issues.

I wish to thank, most sincerely, the office bearers and members of committee for their valued support and their many contributions over the year.

Application for the “Castle” in Olinda.
As reported last year, the proposal for this very large hotel-like building in a residential area, was rejected by the Shire of Yarra Ranges. The League was
one of forty objectors to this application and I spoke at the VCAT hearing where I represented both the League and the Upper Yarra and Dandenongs
Environment Council (UYDEC). Several of the nearby residents attended the hearing and gave excellent presentations  outlining the unsuitability in this
quiet residential area. The Chairperson undertook to visit the site and did so. We were subsequently notified that the Chairperson supported the council’s position and the development could not proceed. We obviously applaud this decision, which gives some confidence that outlandish applications will be dealt with accordingly.

The Warburton Trail.
One of our members alerted us to some work being carried out by volunteers along a section of the former Rail Trail in Mt Evelyn.
This work involved the total removal of virtually all the ground cover and a number of quite large trees including sweet pittosporum and, arguably, some natives. The sound of chainsaws and a bobcat went on for some weeks and in the process a gully was completely cleared out and the bushland setting (admittedly with some weed infestation) was changed irrevocably. Possums and birds were de-housed, birds’ nests were torn down and, because of the removal of all logs, other small ground dwelling creatures were left without habitat.
My response was to make numerous phone calls, which included the Warburton Trail Committee, Council staff, the local Councillor, the offices of the DSE and the local press all to no avail. I also made several site inspections and, as I had some previous knowledge I was aghast at what I saw. Because the Rail Trail land was  Crown land managed by the DSE through a Committee of Management the situation was somewhat complex.
Even though it was not directly a Shire matter this destruction of native vegetation was taking place within the Shire and I believe they should have taken some action to prevent the situation continuing. Despite some site visits by staff the work has not been halted. It seems the work has not been properly planned and thought through; most of the people who inspected the site had not seen it prior to the works commencing. Volunteers may be a fine thing but they need training and supervision.
The whole saga has left me both angry and disillusioned. Some of the nearby residents are extremely distressed at what is left of the bush trail - mourning the birds and animals which have disappeared. Recently the State Government has appointed the Shire of Yarra Ranges managers of the 38km Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail on their behalf. Whilst we applaud this decision, adequate supervision of volunteers will need to be a key component of the Management Strategy. We also expect that the State Government will make a financial contribution to the Shire.

Betty Marsden