Council Beat: November 2023 Meeting

Baby steps: Council voted to seek a new lease on the land the Old Methodist Church sits on. Photograph supplied


ALMOST every topic seemed to be the matter of debate at the Latrobe City Council meeting last Monday, November 6 at the Gippsland Performing Arts Centre.

All councillors were in attendance at the GPAC meeting room with a full 60-person capacity gallery.

It was a gruelling session as the meeting ran the clock for five hours.

Mayor Kellie O’Callaghan, joked that perhaps the council should’ve organised catering amid the lengthy discussions.

Traralgon Golf Course members flocked to speak and listen to council’s decision on the Traralgon West development plan after there were concerns that Council was considering rezoning the golf club’s land, but the topic was eventually deferred until the December meeting.


Mayoral election

The November meeting was Cr O’Callaghan’s last as Mayor as of Monday, November 13.

Council elected Darren Howe as the new the Mayor of Latrobe City, with Tracie Lund appointed as the new Deputy.

Howe will look forward to lead the council into the new year.

More to come in next week’s Latrobe Valley Express.


Old Methodist Church future up to VicTrack

The council unanimously voted to approach VicTrack and seek a new lease on the land the Old Methodist Church sits on.

“After a long process, tonight we’re here to put in place the first steps of saving and restoring the Old Methodist Church,” Cr Darren Howe said.

Earlier this year the council allocated $86,000 for the future of the church after collecting 21 submissions with suggestions on potential purposes of the building.

Community groups rallied together to save the historic building for community use, with some suggesting it should house a museum.

The Council thanked the community for its aid in consultation and will now wait for VicTrack to get on board with the lease.


Letter to state government to review capital improved value assessments of properties on the outskirts

Cr Melissa Ferguson’s notice of motion on the capital improved values of properties on the outskirts of Latrobe City was passed.

Following concern from ratepayers about the uninformed valuations of their homes, the Council will write to the Valuer-General of Victoria and the Minister responsible for the Department of Transport and Planning.

The letter will request a review of the valuation process and criteria used to determine the Capital Improved Value (CIV) for Latrobe Valley outskirt properties.

The review will take into account the unique characteristics, economic conditions, and market dynamics of these areas to ensure the valuation process is conducted in a fair manner.


New policies

Cr Melissa Ferguson declared a conflict of interest and was not present at the vote to adopt the draft Youth Policy.

The policy outlines Council’s commitment to young people aged 12 to 25 years – providing guidance around the programs, projects, participation and engagement across the region.

Much discussion took place on gendered restrooms and change rooms in Council facilities due to speaker Tayla Ling, who expressed personal concerns about the issue.

Cr Sharon Gibson’s alternative motion was to defer the vote until some clarity was found on transgender and public restrooms.

Cr Clancey said, “We’re talking about a Youth Policy and a Youth Policy has nothing to do with change rooms”.

“I think the conversation you’re having here, we’ve had it before when we had our public toilet policy,” he said.

Cr Clancey said the youth leaders of the City were ready to engage and should not be held back for a month deferral as Cr Gibson would propose.

Despite lengthy debate, the council unanimously voted to defer the vote for next month’s council meeting.

The Council’s Prevention of Sexual Harassment policy debate again brought out an issue for Cr Gibson in regard to sexual harassment, transgender people and public facilities usage.

While debate was extensive with Crs Gibson and Harriman pushing for an alternative to defer the vote, the other councillors, except for Cr Ferguson who abstained, agreed to adopt the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Policy.

The policy is available online on the Council website.

Council also adopted the Child Safe Policy 2023, superseding all other versions despite a request for deferral on the policy.


Draft Community Gardens guidelines

The council endorsed the Community Gardens Guidelines to help advise on future community garden projects.

With multiple community-organised gardens across the municipality, Cr Tracie Lund said community gardens were becoming increasingly popular, and with the community ‘buy in’, they can really improve health and wellbeing.

The draft guidelines will be accessible on the Council’s website.


Flood mapping update

Council will conduct further community consultation before re-exhibiting Amendment C131 (flood mapping update).

The peer review report made several recommendations that have resulted in changes to the mapping of the overlays, including:

Removing the overlay from land where stormwater flooding is identified as the cause of flooding, not riverine flooding;

Remove the overlays from land where no flood study or an incomplete flood study has been used to justify the mapping;

Update the mapping for the Latrobe River to include the climate change scenario that was available, and;

Proceed with the mapping of the other flood studies that did not include a climate change scenario as they are the ‘best available information’.

Council will look to this matter at a future meeting.


Black Spot Program applications

Council will seek funding from the Australian government’s 2024/2025 Black Spot Program.

Reviewing crash data, Council officers have identified the Valley’s most dangerous local roads.

Franklin Street and McNairn Street in Traralgon, Saviges Road in Moe and Vincent Road in Morwell have been identified as four locations that require funding to improve safety.

With a fatality occurring on McNairn St and multiple serious injuries occurring on these roads since 2017, Council will endorse applications for funding.

The Black Spot Program is a road safety program administered by the Australian government to fix dangerous roads by treating road locations where motor vehicle accidents are more common.


Diversity and inclusion plans

The Cultural Diversity Advisory Committee will be dissolved in favour of a Cultural Diversity Community Engagement Group.

Stakeholders and relevant committee members will be notified and Council will work to develop the new diversity engagement group.

The Council has also moved to extend the terms of the reconciliation action plan that was originally made from October 2020 to 2022, and now will be active until October 2026.

Furthermore, Council tabled and noted the extensive Gippsland Pride iniative, the Rainbow Brick Road report.


Tourism and Major Events Advisory

Three major events will continue in Gippsland after the council approved the recommendations from the Tourism and Major Events Advisory Committee.

Council has approved to fund the Australian Club Championship Inline Hockey Tournament for three more years, allocating $10,000 per year.

The 2024 Tennis Men’s and Women’s Pro Tour Double Header Tournament recieved $20,000 in funding.

Lastly, continuing Latrobe City’s National Basketball League links, the council will have the Deakin Melbourne Boomers women’s team play in the region for another two years.

A funding allocation of $25,000 has been put aside for the Boomers’ matches.


Quarterly Budget report

Council received and noted the budget report for the quarter ending September 30.

The “Comprehensive Income Statement” report forecasts a surplus for the full financial year of $15.7 million, which is $7m more than the original budget.

Council maintains a strong liquidity position with $184.8m in current assets compared to $27.5m current liabilities (a liquidity ratio of 6.7:1).