Hopes to save family home

Natalie Guest at her Kalorama property. Picture: ON FILE 290422_03

By Callum Ludwig

An amendment discussed at the Tuesday 12 September Yarra Council meeting to Council’s Planning Scheme could help a local family return to their home if approved by an independent Planning Panel, appointed by the Minister for Planning.

After submissions were received from an exhibition of the amendment (Amendment C217), councillors voted unanimously to support the motion.

Kalorama resident Natalie Guest spoke at the meeting and said her family have fully supported preparing an amendment to update the current Yarra Ranges Council Planning Scheme.

“My family lost our home in Kalorama 825 days ago on 9 June 2021 in a devastating windstorm, our insurance company informed us after the inspection of our ruins that this was deemed a catastrophic event and my family and I are in our third rental property since the loss of our home,” she said.

“The accommodation funds provided by our insurer were for the two years coverage of our policy, this means we currently pay $1325 per week to keep a roof over our family’s head, the cost being rent and a mortgage on our non-existent home.”

Amendment C217 will simplify the structure of the Erosion Management Overlay Schedule 1 (EMO1) to create new exemptions for minor buildings and works and vegetation removal as well as change the tolerable risk criteria from Low to Medium in particular circumstances, which would allow the Guest family to rebuild on their property.

Ms Guest said under the current Yarra Range Planning Scheme, they would have to walk away from not only their family home and community but gain a huge financial loss.

“I’ve personally collected 488 signatures in support of this change, we have been continually updated by the planning team throughout the past year,” she said.

“The three of us are craving some positivity, some shining light on what has been the most devastating time of our lives,”

“We look forward to receiving Council’s continued support and advocacy throughout the rest of this process, it will not go unnoticed by your thousands of Hills and Yarra Ranges constituents.”

Residents whose properties are within an Erosion Management Overlay will have been sent a letter to advise them of the amendment.

Streeton Ward Councillor Andrew Fullagar and Lyster Ward Councillor Johanna Skelton thanked Ms Guest for her bravery, perseverance and advocacy on the issue.

Chandler Ward Councillor David Eastham put a question to Yarra Ranges Council’s Director of Planning and Sustainable Futures Kath McClusky if there is anything the Council can do to expedite the process.

“The key thing we can do is advocacy, we’ve got some preset panel dates, so the panel hearing will happen pretty quickly. As soon as we get the panel report, we will make sure that we bring that back to the Chamber as quickly as possible so we can do everything at our end to get it into the minister’s office,” Ms McClusky said.

“I think there are some joint advocacy efforts we can have with local members to push this as a matter of priority so that it can be approved and I believe the minister’s office is aware of this amendment as well, so hopefully that will help us in this instance.”

Within the Yarra Ranges, large parts of Mt Evelyn, Monbulk, Wandin East, Warburton, Kalorama, Kallista, Sassafras, Ferny Creek, Upper Ferntree Gully, Upwey, Tecoma, Belgrave, Selby, Tremont and Mount Dandenong and small parts of Montrose, Seville, Launching Place and Millgrove are subject to an EMO.

Cr Fullagar said the planning scheme is obviously a huge beast and it travels slowly.

“800 days is an extraordinary amount of time and let’s hope it’s not another 800 days, we don’t want that so let’s get this motion through and I’ll ask other councillors to support it,” he said.

Cr Skelton said she feels very comfortable that this is going to lead to a very balanced and very responsible outcome for the ability to live in our area of the hills particularly.

“Those who’ve been through it this time you know, it’s cold comfort for them I’m sure, but if we get this through and happening, it is going to mean that the next time we don’t have a bunch of people that can’t rebuild and that is worth its weight in gold.”