’Independents’ shy on Green Wedge

Tim Dark, Keysborough

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

Self-described independents sharing a bright campaign ‘look’ are coy to reveal their positions on the Green Wedge and property interests.

A Star Journal candidate survey sought transparency in answers sent out to all candidates in an effort to expose the genuine candidates from those who may be propping up another’s campaign.

But some Greater Dandenong candidates – sharing a distinctive banner of mainly yellow-and-azure blue – left several blanks.

Green Wedge development, property and business interests, campaign budget and campaign donors were generally the no-go zones.

Greater Dandenong sitting councillor and Liberal “financial member” Tim Dark did not declare the above – except for his attitude to the Green Wedge.

He says he is running as an independent in a “purely self-funded” campaign in Keysborough Ward.

He was unaware of an alliance or team of candidates though there was a common design theme, he said.

The same campaign design is shared by William PJ Billings and Giorgio Migliaccio, who are preferencing each other in Springvale South Ward.

Yaz Jugo and Matt Pond in Noble Park Ward also share this campaign design style and have exchanged preferences.

Bob Milkovic, who is running in Dandenong North Ward, Brad Woodford in Noble Park North, Jeruisha Williams in Keysborough South and Jet Saliu in Yarraman also have similar design themes.

Two of the candidates, Cr Dark and Mr Milkovic, are real estate agents. A third, Mr Saliu, was a former real estate agent up until early August, he said.

Some are taking on ALP-member sitting councillors Sophie Tan, Maria Sampey and Loi Truong, one has not declared whether they’re preferencing Cr Zaynoun Melhem and one is preferencing ALP member and business owner Stephen Fanous.

On the Green Wedge, Cr Dark and Mr Fanous share common views on “activating” the area, despite their different political allegiances.

“The Green Wedge needs to be activated, I believe uses that we see in Bangholme such as the water sports centre and wineries for people to enjoy would be a good option,” Cr Dark stated

In the same survey, Mr Fanous stated: “I would also like to see more activation in the Keysborough end of the Green Wedge with a winery or other uses like we have in Bangholme.”

Heads were recently turned when Cr Dark’s election sign was installed in front of Mr Fanous’s house in Keysborough.

It was the result of a bungle by a Carrum Downs signboard company that was being hired by both candidates, Cr Dark said.

“They accidentally had my face on his front fence, when my board was meant to be installed around the corner.”

It was removed after 24 hours when the mistake was realised, Cr Dark said.

When asked if he was collaborating with Cr Dark or other Greater Dandenong candidates, Mr Fanous said: “We’re just focused on running my own campaign.”

‘Yellow-and-blue’ independent Ms Williams is preferencing Mr Fanous and his three possible running mates in the council election.

Ms Williams’s material is authorised by Paul Peulich, a former Kingston mayor and son of Liberal ex-MP Inga Peulich.

Ms Williams, who says she’s not a member of a political party, struck the preference deal because it was to her benefit.

“I guess (rival candidates) Ramy (El-Sukkari), Rhonda (Garad) and Jessica (Halliday) are preferencing each other.

“So I worked out with my team what was to my benefit.”

She had spoken with Cr Dark, who lived in the same estate as her parents. But he wasn’t collaborating on her campaign, she said.

In a high-production campaign video, Mr Fanous was enthusiastically endorsed by Greater Dandenong mayor Jim Memeti – an ALP member who is also open to rural residential development in the Green Wedge.

Of other sitting councillors, ALP member Zaynoun Melhem in Dandenong North stated in the Star Journal survey that the Green Wedge provided “important relief” but it couldn’t become a “wasteland”.

Noble Park Ward candidate and ALP member Cr Sophie Tan said: “My decision is based on the merit of the development.”

Cr Sean O’Reilly, an ALP member running for Springvale North, said “there should be no change to the existing Green Wedge rules”.

Labor member Loi Truong, in Springvale South, did not answer the Green Wedge survey question.

Crs Angela Long and Maria Sampey, both of the ALP, did not provide survey responses.

Keysborough Ward candidate and ALP member Sri Samy was concerned that several respondents had “refused to be transparent” on “such an important issue“.

“I hope people see through them and make their decisions on their own.”

In a South East Climate Action Network (SECAN) survey, all 23 candidate respondents supported either protection of the Green Wedge from development or community facilities only. None supported rezoning areas for property development. See story on page 4.

Cr O’Reilly was the only incumbent councillor seeking re-election to respond to the SECAN survey.

Forty-four candidates didn’t respond.