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Ferntree Gully


Mail Covering the Dandenongs in the Yarra Ranges & Cardinia Shires

Road worries

4 Tuesday, 24 January, 2017

Reserve destruction


A Mail News Group publication


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Opportunity is knocking The Fernlea Op Shop in Emerald is encouraging op-shoppers to check out their fantastic new premises at 15 Kilvington Drive, which officially opened last week. The volunteers say the larger building will encourage further community engagement, which they believe will be a great coup for the town. Regular volunteers Mary Padman and Aleisha McDonald (from left) are pictured in front of the building’s historic facade. See fully story on page 5. 164017 Picture: PETER DOUGLAS

Thomas tanked

A group of Gembrook residents is calling for a re-think on ‘Day Out with Thomas’ events being held at the township. Late last year, Puffing Billy Railway (PBR) moved the successful Thomas the Tank Engine-themed events from Emerald to Gembrook, but residents have spoken out about “incessant loud noise” and “overcrowded car parking”. The events have attracted strong crowds throughout the warmer months, regularly attracting thousands of additional visitors to the town, particularly families. To help address residents’ concerns, PBR convened a meeting at the Gembrook station on Wednesday 11 January, which an estimated 100 people attended. Among the attendees were Cardinia Shire Mayor Brett Owen and Ranges

Ward councillor, Jeff Springfield, as well as PBR marketing manager Matt Collopy. According to attendee and local broadcaster, Judy-Ann Steed, Mr Collopy went through Puffing Billy’s schedule, before taking questions for more than one hour. Ms Steed said residents were keen to voice their concerns. “Several residents who live in the immediate vicinity told of their discomfort, often suffering headaches as Puffing Billy’s sound system ... penetrated inside their homes,” she said. Ms Steed said a group of concerned citizens met before Christmas to discuss the master plan and Thomas events, before attending the 11 January meeting. While no structure is in place as a group, expressions of interest are being sought to form a township group

for Gembrook, which could advocate for the town. Among those driving to create the group is resident Joan Pepi, who said while many were not totally against Puffing Billy, they wanted to see a better outcome for the town. It’s clear discontent runs deep for many. Gembrook resident Carey Williams told the ‘Mail’ he believed the tourist drawcard was ruining the town. “The impact of Puffing Billy Railway on our sensitive Dandenong Ranges environment is destructive,” he said. “Noise, traffic congestion, smoke from coal, hooting whistles ... and visual impact of structures are all factors unpalatable to residents. “Do it somewhere else ... I live here and don’t want a circus in town almost every weekend.”




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Much of the discontent seems to have emerged after the release of the Puffing Billy Master Plan 2016, which was released in September last year. The master plan documents key investment opportunities and land-use enhancements. The other proposals include a multi-storey visitor information centre, which has drawn criticism from many in the community. PBR Chief Executive Officer John Robinson said they prided themselves on transparency. “We are consulting with the community and will continue to consult,” he said. “We’re not turning our back on this and won’t snub the community. “We’re trying to positively address concerns ... we’ve listened to concerns about noise and the PA system and have taken steps to change that around.”

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Mr Robinson said PBR would look at ways of improving traffic management and car parking at the site. He said concerns over a multistorey visitor information might prove premature, with plenty of time left for consultation. “The final design is years away ... there is nothing set in concrete and there is a long way to go before any detailed planning is confirmed,” he said. Cr Jeff Springfield said the issue was only in its infancy. “We’d just like to see a balanced outcome for Puffing Billy and the residents,” he said. “It’s only early days, but hopefully a balanced outcome can be reached.” Anyone interested in helping to form a township group for Gembrook can email Joan on

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By Peter Douglas

Mail - Ferntree Gully Mail - 24th January 2017