Part III: The final boundaries - Bentleigh East
- In terms of volume of submissions Bentleigh East was the epicentre of the redivision, with 247 residents vehemently objecting in writing to the proposed boundaries. In this area, the EBC proposed to transfer the rectangle bounded by Warrigal, North, Mackie and Centre Roads from Bentleigh district to the new Clarinda district, to ensure that Clarinda would continue to have enough electors.
- Many objectors quoted a letter by Cr Jim Magee of Glen Eira City Council:
The Electoral Boundaries should follow the natural boundary. In the mid-90s the electoral commission moved the municipal boundary for East Bentleigh from Mackie Rd to Warrigal Rd saying that “Mackie Rd was not the natural boundary”. Overnight we all went from South Oakleigh to East Bentleigh. We now have the same organization telling us that Warrigal Rd is not the natural boundary for the proposed electoral boundary of Bentleigh and wanting to move it back to Mackie Rd. The current municipal boundaries of Glen Eira and the State electoral boundary of Bentleigh have been in place for many years and work well. We need to keep our city intact, I want our current municipal and State electoral boundary for Bentleigh to remain.
A leaflet distributed to residents proclaimed:
Most objectors were convinced that a change to the State electoral boundary would bring with it changes to residents’ municipality, suburb, postcode and school zone. They feared that the consequences would be steep drops in property values, endless inconvenience in communicating changes of address, and the exclusion of their children from local schools. At the 13 August public hearing, Cr Magee stated that he had been misquoted and that he had spoken against misinformation, though he did maintain that the change to the electoral boundary would result in a change to the zone boundary of Coatesville Primary School (located on Mackie Road), forcing students who lived east of Mackie Road to cross the dangerous Warrigal Road to get to school.
- In fact changes to State electoral boundaries have no effect on municipal, suburb, postcode or school zone boundaries. The Geographic Place Names Act 1998, which governs Victorian place names in general, explicitly provides that the Act does not apply to the naming of an electoral region or district34. The EBC had nothing to do with the setting of municipal and suburb boundaries in the mid-1990s – or at any other time. It is unfortunate that the irresponsible spreading of false statements has unnecessarily alarmed so many residents of Bentleigh East.
- There are relevant grounds for objecting to the proposed change to Bentleigh’s electoral boundary. The existing boundary – Warrigal Road – is a major arterial highway, and coincides with municipal and suburb boundaries. It is a much stronger boundary than Mackie Road, which is a local feeder road in Bentleigh East. Many written objections and two speakers at the 13 August public hearing emphasized their identification with Bentleigh East, which was the centre of their social, retail, educational and recreational activities, and their complete lack of commonality with the suburbs on the other side of Warrigal Road. Some were concerned that the member for Clarinda district would not represent them. Mr David Painter argued on the numbers: on the proposed boundaries, Clarinda’s deviation from the average was +3.8 per cent and Bentleigh’s was -2.8 per cent, while without the proposed change Clarinda’s deviation would be -2.8 per cent and Bentleigh’s would be +3.8 per cent. “Both of these scenarios produce identical results, so why is change even being considered?”
- The EBC proposed the boundary change not because of current enrolment numbers, but because, without this area, Clarinda’s enrolment is predicted to fall below the 10 per cent tolerance by 2018. The EBC considers that in this case, likely changes in elector numbers outweigh a perfect adherence to communities of interest. It should be pointed out that the Warrigal Road boundary has not been set in stone. From 1992 to 2002, the next big block to the south, bounded by Warrigal, Centre, Bignell and South Roads, was in Clayton district. Before then, the eastern boundary of Bentleigh district was further west, though still splitting Bentleigh East. It is also uncertain that Bentleigh East is completely cut off from the suburbs to the east, as a new supermarket on the east side of Warrigal Road probably attracts customers from Bentleigh East.
- The EBC considered possible alternatives to the Mackie Road boundary. At the public hearing, Cr Magee suggested transferring the area south of South Road to Clarinda, but this is an industrial area almost devoid of electors and so would not solve Clarinda’s numbers problem. The Bignell Road block is a worse candidate for transfer than the Mackie Road area, because Warrigal Road is an even bigger road in this area, and because the Yarra Yarra Golf Club grounds act as another barrier between the Bignell Road electors and the east. Therefore, while conceding that the Mackie Road boundary is not entirely ideal on community of interest grounds, the EBC has concluded that the proposed boundary should stand.
Geographic Place Names Act 1998, s. 4.×