Agriculture in the Macedon Ranges

Although this may not be or biggest industry or income directly within the shire it remains extremely important.

With the seasons getting dryer and hotter throughout Australia the Macedon Ranges remains in a relatively protected micro-climate that still experiences good rainfall and reasonably good growing seasons.

Macedon Ranges is well known for it’s local produce; wine, food, fiber, flowers, beer, cider and gin. These productions support our local restaurants, and transport their produce short distances to Melbourne diners, and also export to overseas markets.

We have fresh produce markets in nearly all our villages now and many producers work with others to create combinations that you can not achieve elsewhere.

Our agricultural landscapes are also an important part of tourism.

Watching 4corners on the ABC tonight, on Charles Massey, reminded me of how many of our farmers are embracing regenerative agriculture: restoring the land to make it more productive and better for biodiversity and the planet.

Macedon Ranges Shire Council was successful in obtain a grant to employ a staff member for 2 years to assist farmers to know more about the natural environment around them and how they can modify their practices to reduce costs and improve soil quality. They also often learn about traditional owner practices at the same time.

It has been shown that this form of farming creates better mental health for farmers, and makes them more resilient in times of stress.

I have supported the biodiversity strategy of Council, that required significant budget input. It is now helping us to create better environmental outcomes for all: our farmers, visitors, local residents, local businesses and most of all our rare and special native species.

Weeds and Pests

Only 11 percent of the shire is in public ownership. Much of the public land within the shire is under State government control, but Council either owns or manages many of our bush reserves, all of which require vigilant checking for pests and weeds. Our roadsides are also extensive and we only have limited funds each year to attend to weeds growing there.

I have successfully advocated for increased funds in Council’s budget for roadside weed management at your request. I have also continued to put the issue in front of the State and Federal government and peak organizations such as the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) to get increased funds from other sources, as it is such a big task.

Feral animals, particularly deer, are becoming an increasing problem in our Shire: damaging not only our precious native vegetation but also agricultural crops. I have continued to advocate to have a sensible Deer management strategy instituted at State level, so as to obtain adequate funding to try to eradicate deer from our shire, and have them classed as a pest animal. They also cause accidents on our roads.

I will, if re-elected, continue to advocate for State government to manage pest animals better, and for increased funding to be made available to both private and public land owners to control weeds.

It is not fair that some owners do the right thing, only to have neighbors, particularly absentee landowners, not clear up their weeds, allowing infestations to recur.

Increasing available recurrent funding from State government to support our ‘Friends of ~’ and Landcare groups, who assist council on the ground to improve native plantings and remove weeds, will also continue to be a strong focus of advocacy.

Council could still do with extra manpower on the ground in our bush reserves to assist our one current staff member to assist our volunteer groups.

Most of our bush reserves now have management plans, which have had significant input from our friends of groups. i learnt quickly that it is best to talk to those helping out on the ground to see what the priority issues are to ensure these plans are achievable, and to prioritize what can be done.

In West ward we have: Malmsbury Common, Black Hill Reserve, Bald Hill Reserve, and the Woodland Grasslands.

Through the hard work of our staff and volunteers most have greatly reduced weeds and the native vegetation has an increased chance of survival.

I encourage people,once Covid restrictions lift, to enroll in one of our many guided walks to learn more about them.

They are very popular and often book out quickly. I’ve been on quite a few they are usually free and I learn so much and meet new people.

Protecting our built heritage

In my 8 years on Macedon Ranges Shire Council, I have advocated for protecting and preserving our built heritage, as you have told me how important this is, and is something that I believe in also.

Many of the buildings in central Kyneton were built during the Gold Rush era (1850-1890) and their continuing presence is a feature that attracts residents and visitors alike to our towns.

Some heritage-value buildings are in Council ownership. Although these may have costs involved to maintain them, it is wonderful that they can remain in public ownership, to be appreciated and used by the community. Examples of these include the Bluestone Theatre (ex-Kyneton Methodist Church), Kyneton Town Hall and Kyneton Mechanics Institute, Kyneton Museum, the Malmsbury Town Hall and Mechanics Institute. Whilst these buildings have a well-used community purpose, it is worth maintaining them in community ownership. Some are owned by the State government and managed by Council, whilst others are owned by you all as the rate payers.

I have supported the investigation of the heritage of private property, to ensure we do not lose sites that form a valuable part of our history. I have supported funding over multiple budgets to perform heritage studies on both private and public sites, as well as funding for a trained heritage planner on council. There is still much work to do, but as more of our built history is acknowledged and recorded, we can apply appropriate planning scheme controls & overlays to ensure any future uses respect this historical significance. This doesn’t mean no change, but allows appreciation of the sites and guidance to current and future owners as to the forms of modification that do not destroy what makes the site significant.

Our bluestone heritage, particularly in Malmsbury and Kyneton, is an important feature of our towns. I have advocated for us to have a consistent approach to these assets when making assessments of them if they are in need of maintenance or repair.

For 8 years I have been Council’s delegate on the Macedon Ranges Heritage Council, where our volunteer heritage societies across the Shire meet with council staff and our heritage advisor to discuss current and potential future heritage concerns.

I thank the members of these heritage societies, who all give up their time voluntarily. These societies have carefully documented histories and produced books on particular topics. They also assist residents, businesses and visitors in looking into topics of interest, such as family histories. When they reopen, once the pandemic restrictions are relaxed, please go and say hello to them, and consider making a donation. Maybe even think of becoming a member yourself!

The photo on this page is the Malmsbury viaduct. It is neither a council owned nor managed asset (it is looked after by VicTrack, as part of the Bendigo railway line), but it illustrates one of my favorite heritage assets in our Shire: bluestone architecture.

Voting by Post in October 2020

Electoral rolls closed Friday the 28th of August for the Council elections.  You must submit your postal vote before October 23rd if you are eligible to vote. Ballot packs will start arriving at your nominated address from October the 5th, 2020 so you have two and a half weeks to make up your mind which three councillors you would like to represent you for the next 4 years. Look out for my flyer in your mail box around the same time. If you do not receive a ballot pack by October 16th then contact the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) for a replacement ballot pack.

Please see the official VEC website for more information on voting.

2020: same as 2016?

For the third time, I have decided to stand in the upcoming elections. I now have an even better idea about what is involved in work as a Councillor, and am well-practised in the ins and outs of how things work. Would I have done it eight years ago if I had known what was involved? That’s a hard question to answer, as it’s not a light workload if you do the work required to do the job well. However, it’s a worthwhile thing to work hard at, and has direct benefits in making where we live better than it might be were it just up to administrators and disinterested bureaucrats and politicians who are distant from local issues and concerns. I’ve been privileged to meet many interesting and public-spirited people intent on helping others to live well in their local area, and have been happy to aid and assist them in any way that I can in my time as a Councillor. I hope that I can continue to do this if you vote me in once more.

Preferences on the Ballot Paper

With the elections, not only does your first candidate supporting vote count, but so too do your preferences.

Most councillors are not elected outright, but get enough votes made up from both a primary vote, but also if you put them second or third. However, enough primary votes, a ‘quota’, will see a candidate elected.

You do not have to vote as per a candidate’s “How to vote card”, but are free to choose the order of the candidates you think would be best to be elected.

If you put a candidate last in your preferences, then they will receive no run on votes from other candidates, and are much less likely to be voted in.

Candidates will have their own reasons for choosing who they prefer to give their votes to, which may include supporting other female candidates, holding the same values, or feeling that the other person is a strong candidate, who if elected on votes before them will then be able to pass their excess votes on.

Preferences do count, so it is up to you to question your candidates about the reasons behind their preferences. Voting as per their preferences may not result in the candidates you want to be elected being elected.

This election, the Victorian Parliament have decided not to allow a list of candidate’s preferences to be distributed with the Ballot Pack, so you will have to see how the candidates recommend that you vote in their election material.