In Leongatha, delighted Venus Bay residents spill out of the council chambers, hugging and handshakes all round. After over a decade of efforts to convince the South Gippsland Shire Council to stop their gradual but persistent sell off of Venus Bay’s ‘open spaces’ the councillors had just voted, by a margin of one, to support a motion which would see the sale of just two of the eight blocks currently under the hammer and rezone the remaining 25 to 30 as reserves, not to be sold now or in the future.
The hard work of multiple community groups since the setting up of the 2007 ‘Save our Reserves’ campaign and the 1100 plus signatories to a community petition had been vindicated. Venus Bay’s council owned open spaces and reserves are generally small blocks set aside from the original 1960s subdivision as being unsuitable as house blocks. They are much valued by the community as flora and fauna refuges and as some respite from the increasing future density of the 1st and 2nd estates. Councillors who had voted in favour of the motion had made the right decision.
They had shown their support for the environment but also for the Venus Bay community who work tirelessly and proactively to protect and enhance their very special place within the South Gippsland Shire. Importantly, they also affirmed the importance of a functioning and collaborative relationship between council and the community they serve. Then – the ‘dummy spit’. Word came from within the council chambers that Councillor Fawcett, who had earlier spoken and voted against the decision, had put forward a motion of rescission. The original motion will now have to be voted on a second time. Our disappointment and frustration is palpable but so is our determination to see this through to a successful and permanent conclusion. We fervently trust that those good councillors who so rightly supported the Venus Bay community and voted for the environment, fairness, and adherence to council’s own policies, strategies and planning frameworks will resist the narrow economic rationalist arguments of others and defeat the motion to rescind.
Colin Suggett, President Tarwin Lower Venus Bay Association Inc.