By Kath Gannaway
Residents of Old Warburton are taking affirmative action, calling a public meeting on the proposed Warburton Mountain Bike Destination project, aimed, they say, at ensuring broader community consultation on the project.
The Old Warburton Residents’ Association (OWRA) was formed following the release of detailed maps of the proposed trails, the majority of which they say will be in and around ‘Old Warburton’ and have a detrimental impact on local residents.
Yarra Ranges Council have announced a number of Community Drop-in Sessions throughout June where residents will have the opportunity to speak with a number of people from the project team who can answer questions about the trails, environment, heritage and other issues.
Spokesman for OWRA Damien Flynn says however that their group believes the drop-in sessions are no substitute for a public meeting at which a broad range of issues can be brought out into the open in an open community forum.
“We feel there has not been much of an opportunity for residents to voice their grievances and our experience of the consultation so far it that it has been very poor and that (Yarra Ranges) Council is not interested in what we have to say,” he said.
“In fact, we have found they are reluctant to give us information.”
Mr Flynn said although the process was started two years ago, their members believe that a lot of people in Warburton are unaware of the scale of the project and how it will affect them.
“We want to have an open discussion between residents so we can get this out in the open.”
O’Shannassy Ward Cr Jim Child rejected the call for the Council to hold a public meeting saying they believed the drop-in sessions were a better option.
“We’re trying to get good, solid consultation and community input on this by saying here are the trails, here is what is being proposed,” he said.
“We’ve sent 100 letters out and we want everyone to have their say, so in those locations we’re having the drop in sessions were people can see all the mapping, can have one on one (discussion), or, if they want to, can have a group of people speak to all the experts.
“To me that is far better than any public meeting.”
Asked about accusations that the drop-in sessions represented a ‘divide and conquer’ strategy, Cr Child said there was ‘some commentary’, mainly from Old Warburton residents.
“They are quite entitled to have their opinion, but this is crown land that we’re investigating. We have some proposals there as far as trails are concerned and we’re seeking community input into those trails and the location.”
Cr Child reiterated the Council’s reassurance that the Old Warburton Cemetery which had previously had trail markers on it was no longer on the map, but said another area which was a registered heritage site could be managed with an appropriate management plan.
“We will have to have permission from Heritage Victoria in relation to putting that plan together and then go through an appropriate planning process,” he said.
OWRA has launched a petition to local MPs proposing that Old Warburton is not an appropriate place for mountain bike trails due to risks to the environment, likely damage to significant historic sites and loss of residents’ amenity.
The Council’s drop-in sessions are on Tuesday, 26 June at Yarra Junction Community Link at 9.30am to 11.30am; Wednesday, 27 June at Montrose Town Centre – 4.30pm to 6.30pm; Thursday, 28 June at Warburton Mechanics Hall – 5pm to 7pm; Friday, 29 June at Wesburn Park Reserve – 2pm to 4pm and Saturday, 30 June at Mac Sparke Oval in Warburton – 1pm to 3pm.
For Yarra Ranges Council information on the project visit http://www.rideyarraranges.com.au/ .
The Old Warburton Residents Association public meeting will be at the Arts Centre, Warburton, on Wednesday, 27 June, at 7 pm. The meeting is open to everyone.
For more information visit http://www.oldwarburton.com/ .