Letters to the editor - December 15

Parking concern

I was appalled last week as I attended as a donor at the Blood Bank in Fairy Street Warrnambool and found one hour restricted parking outside. This is my first visit for some time as following surgery for a broken leg, I was ineligible to donate for six months. I am a plasma donor.  As such, I am at the blood bank for more than two hours each time I donate. The one hour parking outside is useless, two hour parking further up the road is useless. The centre road unrestricted bays were all taken (as they always are). I eventually found an unrestricted park in Timor Street near IGA and limped (a legacy of my broken leg) to the Blood Bank. Why has this happened without consideration for the users? Who was consulted? The Blood Bank is hardly part of the precious CBD. As the Red Cross struggles to recruit donors for this essential (and voluntary) service, it beggars belief that local bureaucrats are working at their obtuse best to thwart this process. Consult with the Red Cross and simply allocate a few spaces either in the middle of the road or outside the blood bank for donors, it might demonstrate to ratepayers that there is an ounce of compassion left in the cold heart of local government.

Amanda Fennessy, Tower Hill

Tree questions

Moyne Shire conducted a website survey seeking community feedback regarding preferred trees to replace the Cypress trees which have been removed in James Street. It was no surprise to learn the Drooping Sheoak was the winner and the Norfolk Pine a very close second. The website survey provided only four selection boxes, Sheoak, Norfolk Pine, Olive and Other. A very predictable and obviously pre determined outcome indeed. As a rate payer I was unable to find information what research occurred to inform the selection of trees decision. The website response rate was exceptional, (164) however, was the survey designed one response per individual or multiple responses per individual? The previous beautiful 'Avenue of trees' will be replaced with very unattractive dull foliage tree with needles similar to a pine tree; drops limbs in strong winds and has woody cones. My quick research on the Drooping Sheoak indicates the tree has a lifespan up to eighty years. The same age span as the Cypress. The Shire advised community of an historical link, in that Sheoaks were originally in James Street some eighty years ago, however the Shire have no information as to why these trees were removed, perhaps they got uglier as they aged?

Gayle Nichols, Port Fairy

Mural should stay

I see someone is gathering petitions to have a Rolf Harris mural removed in Warrnambool. No doubt this won't stop her, but just last month an Appeal in London resulted in the one sexual assault for which Rolf could be classed as a paedophile was found to be a complete fabrication, a list of lies as investigations following the verdict revealed. It was proved that Harris had never been to the Community Centre at Leith Park, near Portsmouth. The High Court in the UK struck off the verdict. It is hard to overcome the more than 3 years when the media in the UK and Australia kept referring to him as a paedophile. Another 2 trials over 7 women who made complaints - largely hoping for financial compensation - resulted in Harris being found not guilty on all counts. We believe that the first show trial was a mistrial in most respects. But the key factor, is it is now established that Harris can't be called a paedophile. Does this mean that his mural should be destroyed? I think not.

Bruce Harris, Woolwich, NSW

Who pays for power?

I am writing in response to the front page article in the Warrnambool Standard on December, 12, 2017, recharging electric cars for free in Liebig Street. Could the Warrnambool City Council please inform us (the public) who is paying for the electricity that is free, is it the council? As stated in the article the person recharging his car (for nothing) stated "he will never go back to an old banger car". Well sir the majority of  people who  do drive the "old banger car"  have to pay for their fuel! So i was wondering if the council will let us fill up our fuel tank for nothing and they foot the bill like so for "electric cars". 

Glenda Hand, Warrnambool

Harbour concerns​

Warrnambool being situated on the coast we are exposed to strong prevailing South West winds and frequent large swells that originate from deep in the Southern Ocean, essentially low pressure systems that spin out of Antarctica and travel thousands of miles building large ocean swells that eventually smash into our coastline.

These naturally occurring elements have long belted our coastline making it perilous for seamen and their craft to enter the Port of Warrnambool, especially prior to 1890, to load and discharge cargoes. Our forebears seeing the economic benefits to the township decided that some protection was required for the old sailing & coal driven ships when they lay at anchor in Lady Bay during cargo operations. If the town was to grow the Port of Warrnambool, needed to provide safer conditions because too many ships were being lost due to heavy weather conditions.  

This is the time when our Breakwater as we now see it was proposed to be built, and after much deliberation it was completed in 1890. The Breakwater was built by making large concrete blocks of some 32t which were then stacked on top of each other to make the physical wall which was to repel the forces of the Southern Ocean swells. To connect the new Breakwater to the township Viaduct road was constructed, timber crossheads supported road and rail transport direct to the Breakwater.

After the construction of the breakwater & Viaduct road the flow of the inshore waters were changed forever, the natural open wash through of the sea was now constricted, and the resultant flow of water around the end of the Breakwater was starting to cause sand to build up on near shore areas and making the inner harbour areas generally shallower. From that period to current day it has been shown that the sand deposits have reclaimed approximately 70 acres(28ha) of land.

Dredging was required to maintain sufficient depths of water for safe movements of shipping, but the amount of sand eventually caused the ships with even moderate drafts to abandon trading out of Warrnambool due to the now shallower harbour areas. With the land area now growing into areas which were once covered by seawater came the introduction of non-indigenous species of flora & fauna into this area, and this can be seen today with the numbers of coastal wattles, foxes, rabbits etc.

Today the same problems exist that originated from those early days after the Breakwater was built, a continual flow of sand into the western parts of Lady Bay. During the early 1900’s dredge spoils were loaded onto small ships and simply dumped out to sea beyond the Breakwater, these sands just washed straight back into where they originated. The same problems were experienced recently when the State Govt Dept. of Sustainability banning the sand being pumped onto the land between where the Yacht Club once stood and Worm Bay Rd. WCC had no option other than to dump the dredge spoils directly onto beach. This was vehemently opposed by the local professional fishermen who understand the seas far better than WCC & DSE, they knew the sands would just wash back into the inner harbour area after the next big swell. Sure enough that is exactly what happened, just another example of Council not listening to experienced local fishermen.

Let's move to the current day where WCC has now acknowledged that the boat ramp and the foreshore area needs a lot of work. The boat ramp especially needs some serious attention, not only is it dangerous at times but it does not comply with the Australian Standard where the launching and retrieval of small craft at boat ramps is to be done with waves of less than 20cm or about 8”.

WCC Harbour Master Plan released in November 2017 has identified priorities and a staged approach for the redevelopment of the Breakwater precinct. Immediate term priorities identified in the Master Plan include the construction of a 3-lane boat launching ramp within a 0-3-year period. The quoted costs of the new boat ramp and associated jetty & roadworks is $3.22m.

WCC hired Water Technology a consulting company who have proposed using a construction method never used before, a boat ramp with a porous face using sheets of FRP grating supported by galvanised steel piles. These sheets will sit over a sub-sea layer of large rocks that have been laid on the seabed. The area under the existing boat ramp is to be dredged to a depth of 3.5m to facilitate the use of such large rocks. It is apparent the learned consultants have very little local knowledge of the existing rock bed that lays under the sand, surrounding the boat ramp. Another example of WCC using expensive consultant reports which totally ignore local knowledge.

To provide a safe boat ramp you need to minimise the swell and associated long waves that approach the inner harbour area, this idea of a porous ramp face will not work for a multitude of reasons and it will be a complete and utter total waste of money. Those who attended the recent Public Meeting were shown reasons why it will not work. 

To solve the perennial problem of waves approaching the boat ramp one solution is to build structural protection to absolutely minimise the waves at the boat ramp, problem solved.

 During wild storm conditions there will be occasions that exceed the Australian Standard, but in those storm conditions no body would be stupid enough to go out to sea anyway.

Can WCC listen to local people who have the knowledge and acquired expertise, to understand what is the most effective way to provide a safe launching facility. Even their own consultants proposed the building of an Enclosed Harbour (2011 Safer Boating and Harbour Facility Study) to provide much needed safety for ramp users. Unfortunately, WCC totally ignored public opinion when they put this idea out for feedback just a couple of years ago. Another example of Council ignoring what the public want, but ultimately as custodians of the Harbour they must provide basic safety standards.

Building an Enclosed Harbour would provide much more than just a safer boat ramp, additional infrastructure including a netted area for safe swimming could provide the elderly & disabled access to the sea, diving boards could be built along the spur and of course the provision of marina type berths could provide the Coast Guard with much safer and timely access to their boat for quicker emergency response. Marina berths would also be available for the professional fishing fleet and recreational boat users. The possibilities are enormous we just need Council to act.

 With protection provided at the boat ramp floating jetties could be used which would provide vastly improved conditions for embarking & disembarking from boats whilst alongside the jetty-this would allow safe access for the elderly & disabled, presently it is quite dangerous at times due to the surge.

Of course, any new structures built in the Harbour area would alter the flow of the ocean as it comes around the end of the Breakwater, inevitable sand build up around the proposed spur and groyne would require annual dredging to maintain water depths. Spoils from the dredging can be pumped into a specially made dam which could be lined with clay, excess water would be pumped directly back to the sea and the sand could be sold off as fill for builders etc. 

The cost of buying and maintaining a dredge could be offset with the introduction of fees for the use of the boat ramp. Other ports along our Southern coastline also use dredging to remove excessive sand washed in by the ocean, e.g. Port Fairy, Apollo Bay and Lakes Entrance. 

Utilising the Enclosed Harbour structures would allow the Council to use the proposed spur built off the breakwater to provide structural support for Breakwater which is sagging due to sand being eroded from around the base of the large concrete blocks. Council recently published the urgent need to make structural repairs to the Breakwater, well this has been a very long and slow process, they just made it public right at the time when we have been pushing for an Enclosed Harbour to be built to offset some of the negative vibes from the community. How many of us have swam and dived along the Breakwater over the past 40-50 years and seen the gaps in the blocks, you can even hear the water hissing as it rushes between the blocks.

What our city desperately needs now is for enough councillors to have the vision and the intestinal fortitude to make a bold statement to our community that they are listening, and they are willing to make significant changes that will ensure we have 21st Century facilities. The breakwater precinct has the potential to encourage further tourism, enable greater access for our elderly & disabled and provide employment opportunities.

If Warrnambool can just encourage 10-20% of the passing traffic towing fishing boats to stay in our town, then millions of $ that gets spent in Portland will be spent here. 

As for our sitting councillors, the public knows that we have the strong support of 3 Councillors to build an enclosed harbour, with the Mayor sitting on the fence. 

It is now time for the Council to represent the wishes of the people and provide leadership in encouraging such a project which will certainly provide a safer boat ramp but more importantly it will encourage growth for local businesses.

I urge  Warrnambool citizens and people from surrounding areas to write a submission to Council asking that they build an Enclosed Harbour in the immediate future. The closing date for submissions to be delivered to WCC is 22nd of December. 

Rodney Blake, Neville Dance, Steve Tippett, Warrnambool 

Gender equality action

It has come to my attention the issue gender inequality, which proves just how big this issue is. For someone like me to lay my attention on this issue, well, it must be a pretty big issue. Because of course, I definitely wouldn’t focus on something small, that wouldn’t make a difference whatever I did. I think that this is absolutely outrageous (and I am certain many citizens of this country will agree), and that we are all in this together, no matter who you are, what gender you are, or what you believe in. I want to put a stop to any violence, discrimination, or any unfair rules or laws heading, or being headed towards woman and girls. Citizens around Australia still, and shall always think that men and woman should come together and be equal, but I have to admit, many still think men should get preference when it comes to good jobs, better education, a better life. I personally think that there is an unfortunate stigma when it comes to the “battle of the sexes” and if you want to be reasonable, the obvious option is to allow everyone to be equal and have that kind of opportunity, because life’s to short to waste.

Being violent and unfair towards women and especially young girls, they will soon be taught that that is the okay think to do, which it is absolutely not. Then there will be the possibility that our society will not will not turn out the way our nation has always worked towards. In fact, our society could fill up with uneducated children, with mothers who have been influenced to do the wrong thing. Put a stop to this now, and watch society grow.

Amber Columbine, 5/6 student of Warrnambool East Primary School

Export gas intervention

The gas industry is obviously not happy about the moratorium on onshore conventional gas exploration. But their discontent is not a solid reason for lifting this it. In response to the release of the ACCC report into gas supply, Lakes Oil is quoted (‘Energy supply outlook fires up debate on gas moratorium’ 13/12/17) as saying there is a ‘lack of actual knowledge’ about the gas resource and they should be allowed to access it.

But this misses some fairly significant points: the ACCC is clear in saying there are three reasons gas prices are so high: the development of the LNG export industry, a drop in the price of oil (which is impacting on gas exploration) and state moratoriums. Gas companies and Coalition MPs continue to focus on the latter reason, while largely ignoring the first.

But it is the development of a massive LNG export industry that is the main cause of the price increase which is hitting consumers. This is because we are now competing for gas on the volatile international market. It is extremely unlikely that western Victoria will produce large volumes of conventional onshore gas even if we lifted the moratorium tomorrow. But if we assume there are commercial quantities of gas in the west, it would take several years to truth up the resource, get approvals and start production. Our key problem is the much more immediate one of the LNG export industry.

The federal government finally intervened and in October secured agreement from the large gas producers that they will hold over more gas for domestic use. It was the PM’s intervention that finally started to reduce upwards pressure on prices. This clearly shows the federal government needs to set further directives to the export sector to withhold sufficient gas reserves for the domestic market. This will deliver real outcomes for consumers now. Hoping that some future production of some conventional onshore gas will not deliver benefits. If Corangamite and Moyne Shire seriously want to see relief for local gas consumers who are struggling with bills, they need to look to the bigger picture and demand federal intervention in the export gas industry.

Cam Walker, campaigns co-ordinator, Friends of the Earth Australia

Festive season of belonging

For many Australians, the festive season is one of joy and connection, where friendships and family are celebrated, food is shared and holiday plans are made. Yet for others in our neighbourhoods, that sense of togetherness, warmth and belonging will not be felt, and rather an acute sense of loneliness will take hold.

Christmas Day might be lunch for one, sleeping rough or spent with the paralysing uncertainty of not knowing where family is, after being separated because of war or conflict.

There is hope. At Red Cross loneliness is not something to be ashamed of. We’re there for people who have nobody else: calling and visiting, driving them to appointments, offering one-to-one support to those struggling with mental illness, or giving a warm welcome to those seeking safety from violence or persecution.

We know loneliness doesn’t discriminate. It stealthily creeps into our lives, no matter our age, gender or ethnicity, and takes hold when tragedy happens, like losing a loved one, a divorce or losing your job. And if you don’t catch it early, loneliness can reach chronic levels and have a significant effect on our health.

But it’s bigger than that. When there’s no one by your side, and you’re feeling deeply isolated, communities start to become less trusting, there’s more fear and places start to feel less safe. 

It’s time for Australians to change that. Red Cross is calling on you to make this the Season of Belonging, by taking simple steps. Be kind on social media, say hello to your neighbours, volunteer or check on someone you know is in trouble.

A donation to Red Cross will also help us continue on our mission to work with half a million of the most socially excluded Australians to build the vital connections they need. You can help: redcross.org.au/act.

Wenda Donaldson, Director Victoria,  Australian Red Cross