Home' South Gippsland Sentinel-Times : January 19, 2016 Edition Contents THE SOUTH GIPPSLAND SENTINEL-TIMES, TUESDAY, JANUARY 19, 2016 - PAGE 5
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THEY’RE hardly likely to cause a stir.
In fact, if the South Gippsland Shire Council
would allow the Foster and District Historical
Society to address their land sales panel, they
might actually learn something.
But having excluded this august group from
the ‘in camera’ panel hearing, set down for Tues-
day, February 9, the shire has opened itself up to
a volley public criticism.
And it has already started to fly thick and fast.
The local history group has sent out a letter
to every councillor, and also to the local press,
describing how disappointed it is to have been
“excluded” from making a presentation to the
shire in relation to the proposed sale of the land
at 2 Berry Street Foster.
“This is an extremely important site of a for-
mer Chinese market garden,” said Meg Rog-
ers, president of the society, who noted that the
group had already scheduled an archaeological
dig at the site in the near future.
“As President of the Society, I wrote to the Shire
on December 17, 2015 to register our objection
to the sale, but we have been refused permission
to present our objections at the hearing to be
held on Tuesday. February 9. We are appalled
that our voice is being silenced by the shire of-
ficers on this important issue,”
By their own admission, the society didn’t
make a request to be heard when they initially
sent in their submission.
But after discussing their concerns with other
members of the local community, they were en-
couraged to address the panel.
They made a late request to be included, but
The shire has flatly turned them down.
Last Friday, after the historical society had sent
out its protest letter, the shire CEO Tim Tamlin
confirmed there would be no back down.
Cr Moyha Davies, who pressed the group’s
claims with Mr Tamlin was clearly uncomfort-
able about the response.
“They’re going to be very disappointed with
that response, I appreciate that,” Cr Davies said.
“But I will do my best to see that their con-
cerns are expressed strongly.”
Prior to hearing from Mr Tamlin, Cr Davies
had told the ‘Sentinel-Times’ that while she was
aware the hearing was heavily booked, there
might be a way for the society to address council
before February 9.
“I’m afraid that’s not going to be possible,” she
said after speaking with Mr Tamlin.
“There are no meetings scheduled before the
panel meets,” she said.
Cr Davies said the proposed land sale process
had been going on for a long time and council
was keen to stick with a predetermined sched-
ule for public consultation.
Submissions closed on Monday, January
4, 30 days after the community had been ad-
vised that the shire was looking to dispose of 23
blocks of land, all of them allegedly “surplus to
“They are following the process set out in the
legislation,” said Cr Davies.
There may be no “scheduled” meetings of
council, but as Cr Kieran Kennedy proved on
Wednesday last week, there can be unscheduled
meetings called if there is a good reason or will-
ingness by council.
Cr Kennedy forced all councillors to show up
at a Special Council Meeting in Leongatha last
Wednesday morning at 9am. He subsequently
withdrew the motion which would have raised
concerns about the land sales process, and the
meeting was over by 9.04am.
But it proved a point.
The fact is a meeting could be called to hear
late submissions and verbal presentations be-
fore the panel meets formally on February 9.
But the shire’s hierarchy, which is dependent
on the proceeds of the land sales to make bud-
get in the light of the State Government’s cap on
rates, can’t allow the process to go off the rails,
as it has done in the past.
As well as revealing that the panel hearing has
been heavily over-subscribed with objectors, Cr
Davies said the shire had received a lot of sub-
missions, especially from Foster and Venus Bay.
It was at a public meeting in Venus Bay on
Saturday, January 2, that community members
were urged to make submissions against the
sale of six council-owned allotments in the town
and they responded in spades.
Residents there aren’t only concerned about
losing the “public open space”, they also don’t
want to see the money syphoned to pay for a re-
development of Bair Street or Stages II and III of
the Splash pool complex in Leongatha.
As well as being under pressure to pull back
from the sale of the Venus Bay sites, there’s also
opposition coming from all sides to the sale of 2
Berry Street, Foster; previously the subject of a
The hearing before a panel of selected shire
councillors and officers on February 9 is closed
to the public, allegedly because information re-
vealed at the hearing might compromise the sale
Groups apalled at being excluded from secret hearing
Land sale backlash
Bid to open land sales debate fails
SHHHH! It’s a secret. Don’t tell anyone.
But we have it on good authority that all nine
South Gippsland Shire Councillors turned up at
a meeting in Leongatha last Wednesday morning
which lasted for four minutes.
What actually transpired, between 9am and
9.04am is a secret, because discussion about
the confidential matter before Council was held
behind closed doors.
But the notice about the special meeting, is-
sued by the shire on Monday, January 11, indi-
cates that it was an aspect of the controversial
sale of council-owned land that was up for dis-
Here is what council listed as Item 1 on its
agenda for the record-short meeting: “Matter
that council considers would prejudice council
or any persons (section 89(2)(h)) – notice of re-
scission number 690 – council meeting 16 De-
cember, 2015 agenda item F.1 strategic review
of landholdings – appointment of councillors to
special committee to consider, hear and deter-
But the item, which was to be a Notice of Mo-
tion lodged by Cr Kieran Kennedy, was with-
Cr Kennedy explains why:
“It was a Special Meeting of Council to hear
a Notice of Motion about the 223 process ad-
opted for the land sales which I subsequently
Cr Kennedy said it was his intention, given the
public interest in the issue, to get the council to
discuss the land sales in public “as it had done
with the Leongatha railway land”.
Only problem is, council was looking to buy,
not sell the rail land.
“People want to know what’s going on,” he
Cr Kennedy said it wasn’t just at Venus Bay, a
town he represents, that there had been concern
expressed about the proposed sale of land.
“In Venus Bay’s case, we’ve had a 30-year
battle to stop the shire disposing of part of the
one per cent open space land we have left in the
“But I’ve also had calls from people in other
areas concerned about the shire’s plans to sell
“They are concerned about the sale of these 23
allotments but also about what might happen in
the future. What’s going to be sold next?”
Cr Kennedy said the ruling, under Section 89
of the Local Government Act, was that it was a
contractual matter and therefore should be held
in camera, but Cr Kennedy said he felt it was up
to council’s discretion.
He said he believed council could discuss as-
pects of the land sales in open council.
He said there were several reasons why coun-
cil might go into closed session for discussion
“A council or special committee may resolve
that the meeting be closed to members of the
public if the meeting is discussing any of the fol-
lowing: personnel matters; the personal hard-
ship of any resident or ratepayer; industrial
matters; contractual matters; proposed devel-
opments; legal advice or matters affecting the se-
curity of council property, and any other matter
which the council or special committee consid-
ers would prejudice the council or any person.”
“At the December meeting of council, a com-
mittee of council was appointed to hear sub-
missions on the proposed sale of 23 pieces of
council land and to make recommendations to
“Their report will come back to council al-
though I imagine they’ll also want to receive it in
camera as well.”
Cr Kennedy said he also had concern about
where the proceeds from land sales would go.
“It must be used to create new open space or
to improve existing open space but that might
mean improving the area around shire owned
assets or even be spent on Stage II and III of
Splash, you don’t know.
“We’ve got 1600 houses in Venus Bay and
people are moving to the area to retire in steady
“We’ve also got something like 2370 allot-
ments in the town and 29 pocket parks.
“We need all the public open space we can get.”
Cr Kennedy said the council land retained
areas of native grasses and were frequented by
He said they should be protected not sold to
raise revenue. Cr Kennedy was, however, mind-
ful of the fact that council’s finances will be tight
because of the state government’s decision to
cap rates to a 2.5 per cent increase.
Cr Kieran Kennedy’s attempt to open
up debate on the proposed sale of coun-
cil- owned land didn’t get to first base last
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