Leonie Bentick of Wonthaggi wants kerb and channelling installed along Stewart Street, but fears it’s going to take years before works are underway. mm051018

Done and dusted

BASS Coast Shire residents are sick of the dirt streets, and many are looking to multi-million dollar Special Charge Schemes to seal the roads, fix the drainage and have footpaths.
But of all the dirt roads in the shire, there are residents on Stewart Street in Wonthaggi who’ve been waiting for 38 years.
And they’re tired of waiting – they want it done now. Some have put their hands up to pay for it.
“If it’s going to be done, I’m happy to pay my share,” said Stewart Street resident Leonie Bentick. “Nothing’s been done and why do us ratepayers have to put with it?”
Her husband Allan had a heart attack earlier this year. He decided many years ago to dig their own drains because the shire had not.
For every year since, they say it’s the residents who’ve been cleaning out the drains. “It’s nonsense. Someone’s going to get killed before they do something with our road,” Allan said.
There are 17 properties along the unsealed section of Stewart Street.
Last year, the couple gained support from eight properties on a petition demanding council approve works for kerb and channelling, with the residents understanding the cost could come back on them. “In winter time, there’s potholes on the road and in summer, it’s a dust bowl,” Leonie said.
“We’re all thinking seriously about what to do next and if my husband can’t maintain the road, well, why should we do it anyway?
“We all pay our rates, but what are we getting?”
At council’s recent meeting, in speaking on the petition, Cr Bruce Kent said residents should see if they can garner 70 per cent community support for the Special Charge Scheme.
That could move them up the list of priority road and drainage projects in the shire. The move was supported by Deputy Mayor Cr Brett Tessari, who said he’d help door-knock to get the support.
But Leonie, who was at the meeting with other residents, said afterwards she wasn’t going to go around door knocking.
“We just want it done. We’re sick of this dirt road. I had to hold back from having a go at the councillors at that meeting.
“Everything was in it,” she said of the petition, which cited issues around open drains, housing permits and the width of the road.
“We saw the councillors when they were candidates and they wanted our votes, but we haven’t seen them since.”
In a report, council officers said they would consider fixing Stewart Street by itself, but it’s likely it would become part of a larger project.
That project is the Dickson Street area and is 12th on the list of priority projects.
The upgrade would include: Dobson Lane, Colbert Lane, Dickson Street, Garden Street, Stewart Street, Caledonian Crescent, Tank Hill Terrace, Bell Lane, Reed Crescent, Matthew Street, Stewart Street and Broome Crescent.
Fixing the street by itself, rather than as part of a larger project, could mean it would cost more too, shire officers noted.
“Ideally, we want the shire just to write up some estimates and send them out to everyone and see if the support is there,” Leonie said.
But the shire won’t do that until they’ve got their 70 per cent support. And not everyone will support it until they know how much it will cost. It just goes around in circles.
Leonie says the upgrade could pay off too, with an increase in house values. But she fears it’ll take years before something is done.
“They’ll just have to put up a photo of the kerb and channelling on my grave,” she said.
“This is about safety. There’s a footpath at the end of Stewart Street where kids come out of and the elderly, then they come up Stewart Street.
“We have an intersection where only one car from this dirt road can get out of at a time,” she said of the Stewart, Dickson and Matthew streets intersection.
“It’s a disgrace.”
And the price wouldn’t come close to Pioneer Bay’s $4 million expense, considering residents only want their 200 metres of road sealed – compared to the kilometres of dirt roads in the Waterline community.

Timely process
The ongoing case of a Special Charge Scheme at Pioneer Bay – community information sessions of which started in May 2015 – shows how long it can take to get the scheme off the ground.
Although a Special Charge Scheme can’t go ahead without majority approval from the community, residents in Pioneer Bay were shocked when they found out the cost of the upgrade.
After Pioneer Bay residents were told of the estimated costs – between $13,800 and $52,100 in April, they were given until November 3 to think it over.
That thinking saw 52 ratepayers out of 227 properties object to the Special Charge Scheme – or 23 per cent of the community.
If more than 50 per cent of residents objected to the scheme, the council would’ve been forced to dump the scheme.
In summary, residents raised concerns around:
• The scheme being excessive and unreasonable;
• Works not providing any benefit to at least some property owners;
• Property owners can’t afford to pay the amount of the scheme;
• Property owners and occupiers preferring the roads and drainage to remain in the same condition;
• Some ratepayers consider the works or components of the works unnecessary; and
• That council should pay for all of the scheme
The shire does offer residents payment options, including paying for it over 10 years. But it is a loan, where residents are required to pay the interest the council would have to pay on the loan, plus one per cent.
Council is also contributing more than $490,000 to the scheme, bringing the cost to the community down to $4.090 million.
Ratepayers have until mid-April to submit an appeal to the Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for review of council’s decision to proceed with the scheme.
If an appeal is made, the scheme will drag out and if VCAT rules in council’s favour – it’s likely the works will start in 2018 or 2019.
However, if VCAT sides with objectors – the scheme will be abandoned, with $216,000 of ratepayers’ money down the drain.