People often ask me about:
Political Party Affiliation
My answer is very simple to me, but I thought it worth explaining in a bit more detail if anyone is interested.
I am a progressive, green (Climate Crisis, not Greens) independent candidate.
As a well-educated and connected Zoomer, I refuse to see problems or define situations using concepts and language invented in the Industrial Revolution. I believe that human beings can develop solutions to their own problems, that an empowered community has the capacity and resilience to solve many of its own problems if allowed and I believe this community can achieve its vision and goals within a framework defined by themselves. In short, I reject the Left/ Right, Labor/ Liberal, Socialist/ Conservative paradigm and the parties which espouse them. I'm interested in new answers to old problems, Millennial Era solutions to Industrial Era problems. I’ll consider any suggested solution regardless of its origin and if data proves it to be useful then I’ll implement it. I believe in the escalating capacity of technology to solve problems and provide opportunities we are as yet unaware of, and I believe that emerging technologies have made and will make an immediate, profound improvement across the Shire. Change, I believe, is good and I am excited and challenged by it, not scared or intimidated.
I agree with the Shire that it is a Climate Emergency and we need to respond with emergency measures. Our environment is the most valuable thing that we have as a community and l will always prioritise the health of that environment before other concerns. I will not support any Council action which does not lead to a 100% Carbon Neutral Bass Coast by 2030. To that extent I am a green candidate. I am not however a member of the Greens Party nor do I have any association with them.
I am not and have never been a member of a Political Party nor am I running in conjunction with any other candidate. I am indebted to no one and answerable only to the community I am elected by. I am unaware of Party Politics ever infecting the Council Chamber at Bass Coast, unlike in many other Municipalities, and I firmly believe this must continue to be the case. Membership of a Political Party or indeed any other organization must be put aside at the Chamber door to ensure decision making in the interest of the entire community. I can and will work with anyone regardless of their political leanings if it is my community's interests for me to do so.
Dogs On Beaches:
I'm a dog owner. I frequently take my dog to both on-lead and off-lead beaches.
Having grown up in Cowes, I didn't see a problem there, and after living the past several years on the South Coast of the island, I haven't seen a problem which requires dogs to be restricted more than they already are.
I think problematic dog owners are best dealt with individually rather than by penalising all dog owners by restricting their access to beaches and/or elsewhere.
Responsible dog owners don't need any further restriction.
Furthermore, I believe that irresponsible dog ownership is not purposeful in most cases--I would argue that a lot of that comes from a lack of knowledge about the confusing local dog laws. I propose that the Phillip Island Dog Owners Association and Bass Coast Shire work together to form a community network with the sole purpose of Responsible Dog Ownership Education.
A list could be compiled of voluntary local dog owners, specifically members of the PIDOA, that could be given to recently-moved members of the community when they register their dogs. These volunteers could then be contacted, and the new community members would then have access to not only relevant information on the do's and don't's of dog ownership in Bass Coast but also a community network of dog owners, meaning that both our community and our furry companions can make new friends and go on great adventures all over the Island and further.
Bike Paths. Let’s Look at a Bigger Picture.
Since beginning my campaign in July, I have been overwhelmed by the calls from across the Island for more bike paths, improvements to the existing paths, and upgrades to bicycle infrastructure generally. Many Islanders have commented that every Council candidate says they will improve bike paths but once elected their commitment seems to evaporate. I’ve been asked to explain what I can do that others can’t or won’t. The best way to answer that question is to more fully outline my vision for Cycling in Bass Coast and the steps I would take to more rapidly and efficiently deliver improved cycling facilities.
It is 2030 on the Island. Our population has grown by another few thousand as existing subdivisions are filled with new homes. Daily traffic is heavier and slower due to the lowered speed limits across the Island. (Speed Limits were lowered in the early 2020’s to reduce Roadkill.) Traffic generated during Peak tourism times, particularly around NYE and the Easter weekend, often exceeds the capacity of our roads and long seasonal traffic jams have become normal. The cost of fuel, increasing traffic and the imperatives of Climate Change have led many Islanders to use their cars only when essential, relying instead on cycling as their normal day-to-day transport.
All the Estates are linked by off road shared pathways. Recognizing that the cost of 2.5-metre-wide sealed pathways is significant the community welcomed a new Pathways Strategy in 2021 which saw pathways developed and upgraded sequentially. New tracks were initially cut as single-track along the nature strips, by volunteers from the community, along lines surveyed and marked by the Shire’s infrastructure team who also supervised the work. This rapidly linked all the estates with a rideable off-road path. Based on usage single-track was then upgraded to a dirt shared pathway. These are in turn upgraded to 2.5 metre gravelled Shared Pathways and finally, in areas indicated by demand, the pathways are sealed as Council Funds or Government Grants become available. Bollards and barriers are no longer a feature of the main pathways and non-standard sized bicycles are finally able to utilize the shared path network.
At major trailheads and points of interest Rest Stops are provided. Rest stops have water available, restrooms if they can be co-located readily, basic bench and table seating, and clearly marked You-Are-Here style Map Boards. In all townships Fast Charging Stations for e-bike batteries are provided and Hire Bicycles are available at seasonal locations on the South Coast as well as in Cowes. Bike Racks, not the simple hoops so common today but proper racks, are provided in large numbers in every commercial centre and beachhead carpark. The adoption in 2022 of the Bass Coast Pay to Park Scheme, which provided free parking to locals but charged everybody else to park, encouraged many seasonal visitors to get about the Island on bicycles rather than pay to park. This critical mass of bicycle owners required a few new, small businesses selling and servicing bikes and a real Cycling Culture began to develop.
The creation of the Bass Coast Trailbuilders Team in late 2021 and the rapid roll out of new pathways enabled Council to promote Bass Coast as a Cycling Tourism destination. Local cafes began to focus on attracting cycle tourists and our Caravan Parks and B&B’s got in on the act providing accommodation to family groups and bikepackers alike.
The first project completed by the Trailbuilders, the Cross-Country Tracks weaving through the Gap Road Forest (which is what a properly designed Carbon Sink becomes) has become well known amongst recreational and competition Mountain Bikers alike. When MotoGP champions and Supercar drivers began to rave about the Training benefits of the Cross-Country network across the road from the GP Circuit, Tourism numbers from interstate and internationally began to increase. As the BMX facility and North Shore style skinnies, bridges and see saws were developed at the Carnival Sports Fields the numbers of people cycling for transport and recreation increased exponentially, greatly benefitting our tourist industry with the All-Seasons viability of our cycling network.
Combatting Climate Change requires new solutions to old problems. Last Mile Logistics is one area where small and micro-businesses can make a significant difference to their Carbon Footprint. Following trends established in Europe and North America local Courier and Delivery operators began to switch their vehicles from diesel powered vans to E-Cargo bikes. These range from long wheelbase bicycles through to E-Trikes, recumbent Quads and powered cargo trailers, all sustainably powered by renewable electricity generated locally, requiring no Licenses, no Registration, no Insurances, able to use Bicycle Paths and Shared Pathways and so immune to seasonal traffic Jams. Pedicabs and Food Bikes, common throughout Europe and Asia became a common sight, servicing beach crowds, festivals and private functions.
Council reached an agreement with Vinfast, the owners of the Lang Lang Proving Ground, to allow their road network to be used as a Test and Development Centre for the State’s nascent Cycle-building industry and the High Speed Loop began to host Human Powered Vehicle Grands Prix. Students from local schools all had opportunity to develop their STEM skills, experience teamwork, meet deadlines and understand logistics as they took advantage of the new possibilities offered by regular HPV Races. Some locals, inspired by the HPV’s, acquire Velomobiles and the sight of the brightly coloured torpedo shaped streamliners no longer raises eyebrows. Over time almost everyone in the community, regardless of their physical fitness, adopted the laid back cycling culture that the Shire has become famous for.
By 2030 Bass Coast can become a Cycling Destination of global significance, with a range of truly sustainable cost effective recreational, commercial and daily transport options for locals, Holiday Homeowners and tourists alike, bringing truly sustainable Green Tourism to the Shire all year round. A vision, this Vison, isn’t a dream. It’s a reality, if we want it to be. The only requirements are a handful of passionate community volunteers, commitment to a long project and the loud support of local cyclists.
From a Vision to a Reality
The future I outlined won’t achieve itself. These are the steps I will take to make it happen.
I will organize a Cycling Summit, an online event which will be Livestreamed and enable anyone with an interest to feed in their own ideas. Through this process we will develop a Cycling Strategy
I will submit this Cycling Plan to Council Staff for relevant advice in relation to relevant standards, integration with existing Policy, Costings and related matters.
Council Staff will then prepare a report which, along with the Plan, will then be submitted to Council for consideration and adoption.
While the report is being prepared, I will call for volunteers to establish a Bass Coast Peak Cycling Advisory Group to commence the work of identifying routes for new pathways and organizing local volunteers to monitor existing pathways for defects and arranging repairs when needed.
If Council adopts the Plan – which will depend on loud, assertive, continual lobbying of all the Councillors - then their HR Unit can commence the process of creating the Bass Coast Trailbuilders Team.
Upon adoption of the Plan I will seek the support of the Council to commence negotiations with Vinfast for access to the Proving Grounds.
I have been hearing about the Car Ferry for my entire life. If the State Government wants to build one, it is up to them to find a site and design that is acceptable to the community and furthermore, to pay for it in it's entirety. Bass Coast Shire shouldn't contribute a single cent.
Special Charge Schemes
It is a historical fact that Councils have only ever made residential roads using Special Charge Schemes. In Melbourne suburbs, this dates back to at least the 1950's.
Whilst everybody wants their roads made, not everyone wants to pay, and few find it easy to pay because the costs have grown to be significant per property.
It is unfair, I believe, to expect people who paid for their own road to then pay for somebody else's. I also believe that the controversy, time and costs involved in Council trying to implement a Special Charge Scheme means that it should not proceed in my view without overwhelming support from the community in question.
If people are happy to live on dirt roads without adequate drainage in return for not paying, then they have the right to make that choice as a community, as a group of neighbours.
Some have asked me about my 'lack of a youth policy', but that isn't entirely accurate.
All of my Policies have an emphasis on future-proofing and future-planning. You can't do either of those things without focusing on the needs of young people.
A thriving Events Strategy will give young people not just work opportunities, but also something different to do.
Prioritising the environment will ensure that young people can enjoy this beautiful place we live in for longer.
Expanding our economy will give our young people job opportunities that mean they don't have to move to Melbourne to find employment.
In order to address the wide and various needs of young people, we need to have a wide and varied mandate that is both achievable and comprehensive.
Generally though, I am very concerned that many current councillors think of young people in very unrealistic, stereotypical terms. Some current Island councillors cannot believe that some young people might in interested in something other than sport, which is and always has been just about the only youth policy commonly presented to Council.
I hope that my age will inspire more young people to get involved, and start taking action to achieve their goals. I look forward to working with them in the future.
AGL Gas Terminal in Western Port Bay
I find it amusing that after reading my website, people still ask me whether or not I support an AGL Gas Terminal in Western Port Bay.
Let me be absolutely clear: I do not support any gas terminal built anywhere on the planet.
I am aware of the economic impact of accelerated closure of the Fossil Fuel Industry. The economic impact of runaway Climate Change is exponentially greater and ongoing. A hit to our GDP while we restructure our economy and retrain and reemploy its workforce in new sectors of our economy is the better alternative, in my view.
It should therefore go without saying that I am opposed to any Fossil Fuel Infrastructure or operations anywhere in Western Port.
The Extinction Crisis
In response to your questions in relation to the Extinction Crisis here in Bass Coast I make the following observations.
Over the course of my lifetime the development boom on Phillip Island occurred, resulting in numerous new subdivisions dramatically changing the nature and “feel” of the Island and of Cowes in particular. This in turn has meant increasing pressure on wildlife as remnant vegetation is cleared for development, traffic increases resulting in more wildlife slaughter on our roads and placing even greater importance on what little indigenous ecosystems remain. Our economic dependence on high tourist numbers will not change, which further increases the need for greater protection of remnant habitat.
If elected in the 2020 Election:
I will oppose any industrial development in Westernport or its catchments.
The strategic indicator to revegetate 1.5% of the Shire PA will be made tangible by implementing my proposal to create a Carbon Sink on recently acquired land on the corner of Back Beach Rd. and Gap Rd. Please note this would not be a plantation but would instead be a restoration of the habitat which was there before European occupation.
Council’s GIS system can be used to identify farmland which is not capable of supporting profitable farming due to land degradation. I propose that Council develop and implement a process for Public Acquisition of these degraded parcels of land which can then be restored by the community, creating new habitat and leading to ecologically rich, safe-transit bio-links.
I am concerned that increasing traffic is causing our roads to resemble a charnel house. This has at times led to obscene calls for a Wallaby cull on the Island. (This proposal was sadly supported by PINP, who seem to have no regard whatever for species of animals or plants they can’t charge you to see.) We need to urgently consider ways to develop Safe Wildlife Crossings, using whatever combination of tunnels, bridges and high chain-link fences are necessary. Although expensive and sometimes visually intrusive, such approaches have been used successfully in other countries and it is beyond necessary to adopt similar approaches here.
I believe we need to continue to develop our walking and cycling pathway networks and infrastructure. This reduces the need to travel in a car to only those occasions when bad weather makes a car necessary. Well designed pathway networks would include significant single-track, dirt pathways linking the far-flung parts of the Shire. Environmental and habitat restoration will be part of the work as these pathways can become obvious habitat bio-links.
I believe in rigid, uncompromising enforcement of all Laws, Regulations and Local Laws which relate in any way to protecting the environment. I believe in significant increases in fines for illegal vegetation removal or other areas of environmental vandalism.
The Cat Curfew on Phillip Island is not working. I support Local Laws requiring all cats to be kept indoors or in a fully caged outdoor space 24 hours a day in order to prevent feline predation.
I was the first person in the community to publicly call for the Public Acquisition of the Lang Lang Proving Ground. Please read the article here: https://www.basscoastpost.com/mikhaela-barlow/not-so-fast-gm I will support any endeavor to protect the Grantville Grasstree Forest and indeed any remnant or newly restored indigenous ecosystems.
The single greatest variable leading to extinction is Climate Change. It has been my intention since the 2016 election to stand as a Climate Crisis Candidate. The Covid-19 Pandemic has however required me to focus more on business support than I would ever otherwise have considered. My Pandemic Recovery Plan diverts funds from major Capital Works projects into small events and Capex works which have an immediate tourism benefit. This would include an expanded Pathways program, which I hope would require the employment of a small crew to undertake this work on an ongoing basis.
When our economy has recovered enough for Capital Works Projects to resume, I will only support buildings which are 100% Carbon Neutral from day one. I will be demanding that achievable, measurable targets are identified and achieved leading us to a totally Carbon Neutral 2030. Anything less is unacceptable.
Cowes Arts and Crafts Gallery - Reply to the Phillip Island Arts and Crafts Gallery Inc.
When I saw the Concept Designs for the Cowes Cultural Centre I assumed that the Gallery was the dedicated space for you. Now that I know the truth I’m both appalled and outraged. Even if you had not asked for my support you would have had it because I cannot conceive of a Cultural Centre without the little shop.
I can’t recall how many times I’ve just passed through the spaces round the Hall at the Cultural Centre and smiled because of something lovely in the shop window, and I can’t count how many times my mood has been completely lifted by going in and looking at the beautiful work in there. I would be heartbroken if such an asset to the community was discarded.
You’re right when you say that I don’t believe the CCCC should be redeveloped just yet, but it is now clear to me that there are multiple reasons for doing for putting the brakes on. Not only is it the wrong time economically, we also clearly don’t have a plan! Or at least, not a plan which is acceptable to the two busiest “retail” operations in the Centre, which is your shop and the Library.
I’m going to disagree with you slightly on the importance of a café; but allow me also to explain why.
My vision for the Cowes Cultural Centre is not too dissimilar to that proposed and passed by the Council in 2012. That redevelopment revolved around the Library and all other building users with an interest in “passing trade”. In that vision a larger and more visible Library would have an active street frontage onto Thompson Avenue. The Gallery would be immediately adjacent to the Library, perhaps with permeable (or openable) interior walls to encourage cross flow of traffic, creating the effect that the Gallery is in the Library and the Library is in the Gallery. It would be likely that a limited café would be located somewhere nearby, encouraging people to remain longer and visit more often. Ideally the Historical Society Museum would function in a similar way in integrating their operations more fully within the Library. I imagine that in a redevelopment of this sort that your available retail space including wall space would significantly increase. It is an outcome like this that I will be demanding.
It is very clear from their presentation of the Concept Plans that the Architects chosen by Council have never built a Library before and have no real idea of the importance of a Library in a technologically advanced, cosmopolitan community the Island is becoming. It is now, thanks to your email, also clear that my suspicion that no meaningful community consultation had been undertaken is also correct.
Regardless of whether or not I am elected I will be delighted to join you all in your very reasonable and just campaign to have your own space – your own retail space – in the Cowes Cultural and Community Centre. Please contact me if there is anything I can do to assist you further at this time. Once the election is over you have my word that no development will occur without satisfactory resolution of this issue.