REFORMS to improve council transparency will be rolled out before rate-payers elect the next round of councillors in Cardinia shire and state-wide.
Controversially, business and home owners who don’t live in the municipality may also be stripped of their right to vote in future elections as part of the State Government focus to clean up Victorian councils.
This year, more information about candidates seeking election will be made public to voters.
For those looking to be re-elected, their attendance record at meetings will be up for public scrutiny.
The changes are part of the State Government’s move to ‘lift standards’ of councillors across Victoria.
They follow on from mandatory code of conduct agreements Cardinia Shire and other Victorian councillors were made to sign earlier this year.
It set out a number of legally binding codes requiring councillors to act with integrity and honesty, exercise impartiality, separate personal and professional conflicts, avoid making misleading statements or using public resources for personal gain.
Additionally, a ‘municipal monitor’ was appointed to oversee Casey council which was accused of making too many decisions in secret in early July.
The only councillor who is not due to stand for re-election in Cardinia shire on Saturday 22 October is George Blenkhorn, 76.
Councillor attendances at council and town planning committing meetings 2015-16.
If attendance rates were anything to vote on, Cr David Young would get full marks having attended every meeting.
His record is closely followed by Cr Collin Ross and Leticia Wilmot who’ve attended all but one.
Cr Kate Lempriere attended the fewest meetings in the financial year. Records show she missed a third of the monthly council meetings.
Mayor Jodie Owen was also at the bottom end of the scale, but was noted as having taken off time for a private overseas holiday as well as taking off time to recover from surgery.
As for this council election, anyone can put themselves up for nomination.
Council’s Governance Manager Doug Evans said the only catch is that nominees must live in the shire to be eligible.
“They do not need to be endorsed and there is no limit to the number of candidates,” he said.
Controversially, the State Government may strip municipal stakeholders of their right to vote in council elections in future.
Rental property owners and business owners who do not live in Cardinia shire are proposed to be robbed of their voting rights as part of the State Government’s review of the Local Government Act 1989.
Commercial and industrial properties contributed 8 per cent of the shire’s overall takings in the 2015-16 budget.
They paid $4.5 million of the $61.9 million raised in rates.
The council was unable to provide information about how many homes in Cardinia Shire were occupied by renters.
Shadow Minister for Planning David Davis described the proposal as “sinister”.
“Local businesses are directly impacted by the decisions of local government. Businesses should have a right to contribute to what happens in their local communities,” he said.
Parties that are peeved with the proposal have launched a site in protest insisting there be no taxation without representation at the local government level.
Dandenong MP Gabrielle Williams said the proposal reacts to concerns about the integrity of council elections.
Nominations for the Cardinia Shire Council election will open on Thursday 15 September and close at noon on Tuesday 20 September.
The election will be a postal vote.
Anyone interested in standing for council election is invited to attend briefing sessions held in August and September, details and dates are at www.cardinia.vic.gov.au/election.
A MAGISTRATE has questioned the legality of a police search which allegedly found weapons and nearly $10,000 worth of ice in a car in Noble Park.
Tipene Phuoc Truong, 25, of no fixed abode, successfully applied for bail at Dandenong Magistrates’ Court on 25 July after spending the previous 18 days in custody.
In the hearing, police alleged Greater Dandenong CIU detectives intercepted Truong in the drivers’ seat of a Holden sedan on Corrigan Road about 1.15pm on 7 July.
Truong was in the car with two men who had been recently charged with possessing an incendiary device, nominal informant Sergeant Phillip Delaney told the court.
Truong was a suspended driver and on a community corrections order at the time, and using ice daily, the court heard.
Before searching the vehicle, police noted Truong had been charged with drug offences, the informant said.
However Truong’s lawyer disputed the accused’s priors of dangerous driving, assaults and property damage included drug offences.
In the search, detectives allegedly found a canvas bag containing two clear zip-lock bags next to the driver’s seat – one containing 41 grams of cannabis and the other with 28 grams of methamphetamine.
The cannabis was valued at $1230, and the ice about $8000, Sgt Delaney said.
Thousands of dollars was also found in a wallet believed to be Truong’s, as well as a butterfly knife, scales, five mobile phones and a dagger elsewhere in the car.
Truong told police the vehicle belonged to a “friend”, and later gave a no-comment interview.
Under law, police can search a person or vehicle without a warrant if there’s a reasonable suspicion of drugs being present.
Magistrate Jack Vandersteen said it was unclear what the basis for the search was in this case.
“All (the bail summary) said was they did a check of him and saw he had a previous for drugs. Do you have any information beyond that?
“It seems like a live issue according to the summary. There’s nothing in the summary to show what powers the police had to search the car.”
He said in the absence of the arresting detectives in court, he couldn’t ascertain what other facts led to the search, such as what Truong was doing or if he was parked in a known drug-dealing area.
Mr Vandersteen, noting Truong’s young age and that he’d spent his first time in custody, granted him CREDIT bail in conjunction with an existing community corrections order including drug treatment.
Truong was bailed subject to staying in a stable residence with family in Docklands, a night curfew and reporting to police.
SEVERAL first-time home owners’ incomplete houses are up to 50 weeks out of contract with a Langwarrin-based building company.
Some Pro-struct Property Group houses remain half-built, while others do not have so much as a concrete slab after almost two years of “excuses” and “unexplained delays”, clients say.
Residents have told the Gazette that the home and land packages were sold to them through Turnkey Homes’ display homes based in Cranbourne East, with no mention of Pro-struct until the signing of the contract.
Kieron Donoghue purchased a site in Spearwood Rise, Cranbourne West, and signed his contract in February last year.
“Throughout that whole time I’ve been paying a mortgage on that piece of land,” Mr Donoghue said.
“There were always excuses, like the council or the surveyor was holding them up. It was the same story over and over again for over a year.
“I count myself one of the lucky ones because I was able to get out before they started building. I cancelled my contract in June and am now in the process of fighting for my $9800 deposit back.
“I hung around at their office last Friday and they told me the money will be paid into my account this week. I don’t believe that for a minute.
“It’s quite scary really that they can get away with this. There’s not enough protection for owners.”
Jenny and Tony Colvin’s Henrietta Avenue site in Officer remains a shell and is yet to enter the ‘fixed’ or ‘completion’ stages of the development.
“Our house should have been completed by last August. It is still not complete and we are 48 weeks out of contract,” Ms Colvin said.
“Over the last two years we have made numerous calls to Pro-struct and sent many emails. We have repeatedly asked to speak with the directors but they have not responded.
“On the way back from my husband’s father’s funeral, we passed the site and talked to the bricklayers. About 10 minutes later, I had received an invoice for the lock-up stage, so we refused to pay because we knew it hadn’t been completed.”
Ms Colvin said Pro-struct had attributed the delays to the late land title having put them behind schedule.
“The land was due to be released and settled in May, but wasn’t until September. But all the other houses in our street started popping up. They can’t use that as an excuse. If anything, it gave them four months to get their permits up to date.”
The couple lodged a complaint against Pro-struct to Consumer Affairs in July last year, which Ms Colvin said achieved little but bi-weekly email contact with updates that she described as “inconsistent”.
Berwick resident Bridgett Scott also purchased an Officer-based home and land package through Pro-struct. She is now 49 weeks out of contract.
“I’ve been working two jobs to meet both my rent and mortgage payments, working long hours and picking up weekend shifts,” Ms Scott said.
“I have two weeks to foreclose on my loan but my 12-month construction loan expired last year. They’ve given me one month’s extension, so I don’t even know what happens after that.
“In May this year I was told that my move-in date would be 10 June but that didn’t happen. Nobody bothered to contact me. What if I’d paid for a moving truck or taken time off work to move in? There’s just no care.
“Because I’m renting at the moment, I’m supposed to give a month’s notice. But I can’t trust when Pro-struct tell me the house will be finished. I’m on my own. It’s a single income. If I did give a month’s notice, I’d be homeless.“
Ms Scott said she was aware of about 15 other people who had purchased home and land packages through Turnkey Homes and Pro-struct.
She said most had cancelled their contracts and she knew of two people who had, after much perseverance, managed to get their deposits back.
The firm’s lawyer Lance Guymer responded on behalf of Pro-struct Property Group’s directors.
“We are instructed this (Jenny Colvin’s) project is at fixing stage, our client is waiting for that payment and anticipates completion within approximately six weeks,” Mr Guymer said.
“Bridget Scott’s home is completed and the occupancy permit is about to be issued, our client expects handover to take place shortly.
“Our client Prostruct Property Group Pty Ltd has been involved in the construction of homes in Victoria for over 20 years, its directors have vast experience in the area and take pride in their work and delivering quality homes to customers.
“Unfortunately it is the nature of the industry that delays can often occur through issues which are very difficult for a builder to control, such as delays in the release of land during subdivision stage, shortages and difficulties with sub-contractors.
“The staff of our client, including site supervisor, are regularly in contact with Ms Colvin and Ms Scott.”
ALL number plates should be sold with one-way screws, according to a leading Cardinia crime prevention campaigner.
Victoria Police crime figures show that number plate thefts increased by more than 70 per cent in Cardinia over the past year, with 170 plates stolen between April 2015 and March this year.
Neighbourhood Watch Cardinia’s David Farrelly said the theft of number plates from parked cars was one of the most common crimes in Australia.
“Stolen number plates facilitate so many more crimes aside from the theft itself, like burglaries and petrol drive-offs,“ Mr Farrelly said.
“One-way screws secured to plates on cars could prevent so many crimes. And anyone can do it.
“I’ve found criminals are generally quite lazy and go for the easy target. One-way screws are extremely difficult to take off.
“Every number plate sold should be sold with one-way screws. I think we’ll see that one day. But until that does happen it will be up to individuals.“
VicRoads director of registration and licensing practice Helen Lindner said they were in discussions with Victoria Police to tackle the problem.
“VicRoads is currently working with Victoria Police to understand the complexity around the misuse of number plates in Victoria,“ Ms Lindner said.
“We have undertaken research both nationally and internationally on the use of tamper-proof plates and are also investigating other options.“
VicRoads advised that drivers should report stolen number plates immediately to Victoria Police to assist investigations.
A MALE driver has died after crashing a car on Princes Highway in Doveton on 25 July.
The man was the sole occupant of the car, which veered off the highway near Power Road and struck a tree about 7pm.
The man died at the scene, according to police, who are continuing investigations.
Any information to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or crimestoppersvic.com.au