Victorians now have a new weapon in the war on waste and pollution.

Environment Protection Authority Victoria last week launched a new, streamlined mobile phone app to enable witnesses to dob in a litterbug.

Acting chief executive Katrina McKenzie said public help sending in litter reports was essential to the EPA’s efforts to prevent both land and water pollution around the state.

“We need more Victorians to become litter reporters,” Ms McKenzie said, citing a clean-up bill of $78 million every year in Victoria.

“When you see litter being thrown from a vehicle or dropped by a driver or passenger before or after getting into or out of their vehicle, you can report using this new app.

“You are still also able to report on EPA’s website, by calling 1300 EPA VIC or via mail.”

The EPA has the power to issue an infringement or fine to the owner of the registered vehicle if they are seen throwing litter out of it. Fines range from $288.72 for rubbish or an unlit cigarette to $577.44 for a lit cigarette.

The app is available on iTunes and PlayStore.

vThe tale of a Melbourne man’s 13-year companionship with his $60 pet sheep has ended in Australia’s highest court – with a $200,000 legal bill.

Vu Ho has been battling Greater Dandenong Council for the right to keep Baa in his suburban backyard.

But Mr Ho’s two-year legal quest, which he says will cost him about $200,000, looks doomed after the High Court refused him leave to appeal.

The decision follows on from a Victorian Court of Appeal ruling in June, which upheld an earlier Supreme Court order for Baa’s removal from the Springvale home.

Mr Ho paid $60 for Baa, but has spent a fortune trying to keep him.

The Court of Appeal ordered him to pay the Greater Dandenong Council’s legal costs.

Mr Ho has said he is unemployed with no money or property and will declare bankruptcy if he is forced to pay the costs.

The council ordered Baa from Mr Ho’s property in 2011, under a local law prohibiting livestock on land under half a hectare.

City of Greater Dandenong acting chief executive Jody Bosman welcomed the High Court decision.

“Council will now consider the options available to it and will seek to work closely with Mr Ho for the best possible outcome,” she said.

“These laws are essential for the protection of public amenity and the good governance of local communities.

“The decision by the High Court reinforces the validity of our local laws, and the previous decisions made by various courts in the judicial system.”

Mr Ho had argued the council had no authority to take away Baa and represented himself in the Court of Appeal hearing.

But the High Court on Friday found no reason to doubt the Court of Appeal decision and said Mr Ho’s appeal had no realistic chance of success.

SPECIAL: Go wild in the Bay this summer

Wildlife abounds in and around Port Phillip Bay, from Point Lonsdale to Point Nepean – 264 kilometres of fascinating and diverse coastline.

Swimming with the dolphins has to be one of life’s great experiences. Like whale-watching, it is exhilarating – and, yes, just a little bit scary (damn those Jaws movies).

The bay has a permanent population of bottlenose dolphins and common dolphins that come in from Bass Strait. Cruises operate out of Sorrento and Queenscliff. If you prefer to sightsee from the comfort of the cruise boat, no problem. (Passengers on the Sorrento-Queenscliff ferry regularly see frolicking dolphins and seals, too.)

PICTURE GALLERY: Animal encounters in the Bay

Cruises also take you to the seal “Taj Mahal” known as Chinaman’s Hat, a timber structure off Portsea and Sorrento, and nearby Pope’s Eye (an uncompleted fort) where Australian fur seals also love to hang out. Pope’s Eye is a popular diving and snorkelling spot.

Also fascinating – and popular with local snorkellers – are the beautiful weedy seadragons, which are found only in southern and eastern Australia. These tiny, elegant creatures love piers, so the underwater garden at Rye Pier, the pier and rocks at Portsea, piers at Blairgowrie and Mornington, and Flinders pier in Western Port Bay are ideal snorkelling and diving spots to see them. (You can also see baby seahorses at the Melbourne Aquarium – without getting wet.)

The piers are also good for stingray spotting. Rays of all sizes are plentiful in the bay and can be spotted with a little effort; but be wary of their barbs and stay well clear. For the best dive and snorkelling locations around the bay, visit

Closer to Melbourne, the marine sanctuaries at Point Cooke, nearby Jawbone Marine Sanctuary at Williamstown and Ricketts Point at Beaumaris are popular with snorkellers and kayakers, as is beautiful Swan Bay at Queenscliff.

The bay’s incredible birdlife is one of its richest assets and a twitchers’ paradise.

Its coastline and natural and man-made islands are important feeding and breeding grounds for hundreds of species of local and migratory birds, including large colonies of Australasian gannets (that breed at Pope’s Eye), black swans, which feed on seagrass at Swan Bay and Ricketts Point, and the majestic Australian pelican, which breeds on Mud Islands.

Mud Islands, off Sorrento, are among the bay’s best-kept secrets, accessible only by boat. South Bay Eco Adventures runs charters from Queenscliff, and occasionally Sorrento, to the islands, where you can be dropped off for a private picnic and nature walk or you can join a bird-watching tour (visit It’s worth doing.

But if you’re a true landlubber, cute wildlife is right on your doorstep. Visiting Phillip Island to see the fairy penguins is almost a rite of passage for Melburnians, but there’s no need to travel that far (although it’s always worth a trip). St Kilda breakwater has its own fairy (or little) penguin colony, where volunteer guides run sunset tours between October and April (visit

Melbourne Aquarium is home to cheeky gentoo and mighty king penguins, and Melbourne Zoo has a small population of little penguins if a trek to our glorious bay isn’t possible.

But try to explore at least part of it if you can: we’re blessed to have such a marine wonderland.

Shark tales: Is it safe to swim in the Bay?

Did you know the last shark attack in Melbourne was in March 2012? Don’t panic – it was at the Melbourne Aquarium, where a 40-centimetre shark bit a staff member on the face during feeding time.

Anyone brave enough to dive with huge sharks and stingrays in the aquarium’s 2.2-million-litre oceanarium can feel safe knowing these monsters are well fed before you don the wetsuit, and that they prefer much smaller prey. Getting up close with grey nurse, sevengill and sandbar whaler sharks is an experience you won’t forget in a hurry.

It may be the only time you’ll ever see a shark in Melbourne waters as these days shark encounters are few and far between in Port Phillip Bay.

Potential man-eaters do enter the bay, including the occasional great white (a three-metre juvenile was filmed off Altona in 2011), but the last shark attack in the bay was in 1965 near Station Pier in Port Melbourne. The last fatal attacks were way back in the 1930s, including one at Middle Brighton pier.

Regular bay visitors include bronze whalers (February-March), thresher sharks and harmless Port Jacksons, which breed in the bay. If you’re lucky you might see some PJs while snorkelling or diving off Ricketts Point in Beaumaris, Jawbone Marine Sanctuary off Williamstown and nearby Point Cooke Marine Sanctuary.

The best chance of a wild shark encounter, if you really want one, is in 30-plus metres of water at Nepean Wall in the Rip, where the sevengill shark hunts in packs looking for stingrays and small sharks. Angel sharks, which for a small shark can have quite an attitude, can be found out at night at Rye Pier hunting crustaceans.

QUE SERA: Ready to face the facts in 2014

Having signalled the need to go outside, the dog was back at the door seeking re-admission in next to no time.

That didn’t take long, I mused, mostly to myself.

But somebody was already way ahead.

“21 seconds,” intoned a voice from the recliner.


“Camels and dogs take the same amount of time to empty their bladder – 21 seconds.”

What about people?

“I don’t know.”

You don’t know!!!?

The next day there’s a stream of facts about urination across the species in my email inbox. This will be followed by a link to a learned scientific study on how dogs prefer to defecate, body aligned on the north-south axis in accordance with the earth’s magnetic field.

Ahh!! I hear dog owners among you exclaim, at last possessing an answer to that strange circling … they poo to polar north.

The next instalment brings worrying news, though.

Climate change may be hastening the reversal of the earth’s magnetic poles with magnetic north migrating towards Russia at a rate of 64 kilometres a year – faster than at any time in human history.

You see, my male informant will seize any opportunity, no matter how spurious, to whiffle out truffles of information.

Logging on each day, there is almost always a surprise waiting for me gleaned from the dozens of sources he subscribes to, ranging from WiseGeek, LifeHacker, Neatorama and The Futility Closet to respected journals like The Atlantic.

Recent offerings include:

Why superheroes wear their underwear on the outside? A: Because the first ones, dating from the ’30s, were modelled on the trapeze artists of the day.

Why car-makers historically insisted on male crash-test dummies? A: Because it would cost more to produce cars with design and safety standards reflecting both genders.

How lost wallet contents influence returns? A: Wallets containing photographs of a baby are returned 90 per cent of the time; wallets including pictures of puppies are returned in more than 50 per cent of cases, while wallets with no photos have a 20 per cent return rate.

Why would Prince Charles have more success talking to plants if he grew up in a council house in Tyneside? A: Because scientific studies show plants grow faster if you speak to them with a Geordie accent.

And finally, when do women look their oldest? A: At 3.30pm on Wednesday – a time when work stress levels commonly peak and energy levels plummet.

It’s not always such a random collection.

Sometimes the flurry of facts follows a conversation or observation. After pointing out a punchy newspaper crime story which began thus: “The mother of a teenage girl who was apparently murdered and turned into kebab meat was stalked by a man who became obsessed with her daughter’s killing” …

The learned man parried with: “When a hitman pulled up beside Florian Homm’s limousine and shot him in the chest, [Florian] did what any self-respecting hedge fund tycoon would have done: stuffed his wound with $100 bills and called his wife with a dying message – sell.”

Some women may prefer flowers.

But the average cut rose will last only a week, though a white one will almost always outlast a red one.

My daily bouquet of weird and wonderful facts just keeps bloomin’ on and on.

BOOKS: Crap dates and motorbike loans

I was recently visiting my newfound love, the online bookstore, and something caught my eye just as I was about to hand over my credit-card details. Admittedly, I do know them off by heart so there is not a lot of time between punching in the numbers, hitting confirm and high-fiving myself for organising the speedy (and free!) delivery of yet another selection of books I do not have the time to read.

But there it was, causing a rare pause in my Pavlovian book-purchase response – a hardcover called Crap Dates. Just like the Summer Roll impulse buy at the checkout, I knew this baby had to be mine.

And so it was.

A few days later, it arrived and I found myself stirring my chicken soup while chuckling over succinct recollections of the worst dates in history. Succinct because they come from an idea from Twitter to convey the most appalling date stories in history in just 140 characters. Irresistible. Here’s what I would have contributed. (All names have been changed to protect the unhinged.)

He thought saying he killed a robber with his own boot would impress me. So I agreed to another date because my friends begged me.

I’d met Kade through a friend and he seemed okay. A bit ruddy and greasy-looking, which I liked at the time because it indicated he had a fondness for wine, and in my late 20s this was as important as an ability to breathe. He was kind of annoying but his compulsive lying was so entertaining and I had no one else on the radar, so I saw him three or four times.

Dates would start at a restaurant and usually end up at my place so he could lie to me uninterrupted while I frantically tried to remember all the ridiculous things he’d say. My friends would religiously call me the next morning for a debrief.

The lies were fairly standard: he was the adopted son of the Ansell condom king; he was dropped on their doorstep with a $10 note attached to his romper suit. You know, Fibs 101. He had also been an SAS soldier, which came in really handy, as it turned out, when he had to pin down a robber at his local milk bar with his army-issue boot until the thief expired. I’m sure it would have been spooky if it weren’t so darn HILARIOUS.

What he didn’t count on, though, was that I was really listening. He mentioned the milk bar where this heinous (and strangely unreported crime) was committed and, to his horror, I knew the place.

I get my milk and Helga’s from Dave, the owner, every day. “What are the odds!?” I said. “I’ll bring it up next time I see him!”

At this, Pinocchio got twitchy. He quickly suggested I shouldn’t mention it because it was so traumatic that Dave’s memory would have deleted
any recollection of it for his own good.

Really, Kade? Or here’s another theory, Kade. Maybe Dave wouldn’t recall the fact that someone had died in front of his mixed-lollies cabinet from a boot to the throat because, I don’t know … it didn’t happen.

That was the last time I saw him, much to the great sadness of my friends. The best news about this “relationship” ending, though, was that it put the next one into perspective.

Knowing I was vegetarian, he took me to a meat-pie shop. But not before visiting a bank to apply for a loan for a motorbike. While I waited.

This one was a ripper! Jimmy looked like Tim Finn, a look I’d long admired. He had a nervous habit of twirling his curly fringe into something resembling the hair that plumbers have to extract in one long piece from shower drainpipes. He picked me up and said he just had to pop into the bank.

“Score!” I thought. “We’re not going Dutch!” I waited, fixing my hair and readjusting the pale-blue Wayfarer knock-offs I’d bought from Target.

After an hour, I started to empathise with those dogs you sometimes see tied to trolley barriers while their owners do the supermarket shopping. Will he ever come back? Why are all these people patting my head? Where is my water bowl?

After 90 full minutes, he returned to the car thrilled to the back teeth because he’d been approved for a motorbike loan. By that stage, I was too busy snapping at my itchy bits like a flea-ridden dog to care.

It’s easy to pass these off as what they undeniably are: crap dates. They stink of disrespect and deceit. But are bad dates a waste of time? Not at all. I’d go on them all again (and, dear reader, there are MANY more stories where these come from).

They’re funny. I love that the world is full of people not like me. And sometimes we have them in our living room and, yes, even in our bed.

My gran always used to say “every pot has its lid”, and it’s true. And as pots, we have to enjoy trying on as many lids as we can, even if sometimes they’re square and we’re round, or we’re teapots and they’re, well … crackpots.