pen-and-padBy Gav Ross

HISTORY is doomed to repeat itself at Sunset Strip.
Despite reassurances that they’re listening and taking the very cautious approach of asking the community (not once, but twice) whether they’re willing to fork out big bucks for a road and drainage upgrade, Bass Coast Shire Council appears hell bent on pursuing another special charge scheme.
Still running with the inexplicable theory that those who don’t respond to surveys must be in favour of whatever was asked, even if they never read the letter or know it exists, the infrastructure department will now waste $69,000 coming up with concept plans for a scheme residents don’t want to pay for.
Of the 220 property owners who responded to the most recent survey, 72 per cent said they’re not willing to open their wallets and contribute.
On top of that, around 45 per cent clearly stated that if a scheme was forced upon them they’d need financial assistance (ie a payment plan) in order to be able to afford it.
These aren’t the percentages the council will spout, of course, because we’re forgetting the ‘no response’ people haven’t said anything yet.
So here we are, with Sunset Strip ratepayers stressed to the gills over whether they’re going to need to work $14,000-plus into their budgets in the near future.
The failed Cape Paterson scheme last year seemed like a turning point.
Over $250,000 was flushed down the toilet and some councillors were left shaking their heads, wondering what went wrong.
Then they started talking about how everything will become clearer once a new Urban Roads and Drainage Improvement Policy is implemented.
Oh, but wait….that policy has been delayed and apparently Sunset Strip doesn’t make the cut anyway because some preliminary work has already been undertaken.
Councillors decided last week to put their best foot forward and allow council officers to begin work on presenting three road and drainage alternatives to the community once the new plans are complete.
Guess what?
It doesn’t matter whether there are three, 30 or 300 alternatives – the community doesn’t want to pay for it.
The alternative they like is the one where council, VicRoads and Melbourne Water work together to come up with a solution that doesn’t involve people re-mortgaging their homes.
Do Sunset Strip residents really need to resort to the entire process of campaigning and speaking out at a bunch of public meetings to get this obvious point across?
There is no doubt there are drainage issues at Sunset Strip, but squandering yet more money on a series of reports with pictures to show everyone how pretty urbanised roads on Phillip Island can look is not the answer.
Cr Jordan Crugnale summed up the absurdity of the entire Sunset Strip process perfectly at last week’s meeting.
Unfortunately, her colleagues didn’t listen.
She queried why council is asking for the opinions of property owners twice through a survey and then asking them yet again when concept plans are on the table.
“It’s kind of pretty clear cut to me,” she said.
“I’m voting against this because the community has said they really, really don’t want it.”
Spot on, Cr Crugnale, they really, really, (one more time?) really don’t.