May 2017 Newsletter

Read our newsletter online, looking nice, with pictures:
This month's e-news includes: Tree strategy– comment now; Methven Park battle; Feature on consultation;   planning rules slashed and fast-tracked; transport updates . . .

** More trees for Brunswick? Have your say!
Moreland Council's Draft Urban Forest Strategy shows that our trees are vanishing, as new plantings don't keep up with the loss of trees bulldozed for new buildings.  Meanwhile hotter summers, and more people walking in our streets, make tree cover more important.

What's to be done? Council has prepared a draft strategy but wants to hear from you. Have a look, and comment by this weekend.

One question is whether you would prefer 3500 trees that are looked after, or 5000 that are left to look after themselves. We suggest you tick the first option.

The online survey closes on Monday 29 May. Emailed responses will be accepted until Wednesday.
* Read the strategy document (  and fill out the online form.
* Email responses can be sent to Council's Head Tree Guy, Alex English, at ( . He really does read them!

Pictured: Elm avenue at Methven Park: more on Methven, below.

** The Battle of Methven Park
Methven Park
Methven Park is an oasis of green space in an area under massive redevelopment. When construction fencing was erected in the middle of one of the grass areas of the 100 year old Park on Tuesday 9 May, residents posted a photo to the Moreland City Council Facebook page. The request was simple, asking Council not to dig up precious green space to build a toilet.

After raising the issue at a Moreland Council meeting the following day, six Moreland councillors voted to continue the works and not pause to seek proper consultation with park users as well as local residents. Before deciding to relocate a toilet block into the middle of the park, you’d think that Moreland Council would engage with the wide range of people using the park, as well as people living next to the park! As one commentator in the media noted: “it seems Council is either lacking in imagination or it thinks it really is the politburo.”

There are a range of technical issues to be considered, from visual aspects to tree roots, power lines and the number of potential clientele. But you only have to go down to the park and look at the proposed location for the new dunnies to wonder why they’re called planners!

In response, the Friends of Methven Park group was formed. In just four days, their petition gained 1,200 signatures and hundreds of comments about the ridiculous proposal to tear up green space. They heard from residents who lived 40 metres from the park that had never been consulted. They heard from residents whose queries and objections were never replied to and not recorded by council.

With 24 hours’ notice, they had a gathering of over 200 people in the park, including journalists from The Age. This evolved into a picket line to prevent works from going ahead. Residents met with independent experts including a town planner, an arborist and a heritage consultant; they tracked down a supervisor from Citipower to find out about underground easements.

With support from Councillors Lambros Tapinos and Sue Bolton, they managed to halt construction and schedule a meeting with Dr Nerida Di Lorenzo, Moreland Council's CEO to discuss alternative locations. For now, the works will not proceed in the same location. . . watch this space!

This saga raises a number of wider concerns:
* Once again, Moreland Council has fumbled its engagement with the community. Despite Council claims, they have neglected basic principles of notification and community involvement (see our item below for discussion on ways to improve public participation in local government decision making).
* Council and councillors often spout rhetoric on the importance of green open space. But recent proposals for change to Fleming Park and Methven Park have failed to properly engage with the wide range of people who use these crucial parks – even as nearly 1,000 new apartments are being built within a kilometre of both sites.
* Some residents are concerned that repeated 6-5 votes on Council are driven by the Greens/Labor division and bloc voting by the four Greens, as much as an investigation of the merits of the issue. At a time that the Greens are assaulting Labor strongholds in the inner-city of Melbourne and Sydney, these divisions are likely to sharpen – especially as both ALP and Greens Councillors are past or potential candidates for State and Federal seats.
* Councillors claim to be acting in the interest of future as well as current residents, by not locating the toilet along a side of the park that is ripe for re-development.  Can we ask – what consultation has been undertaken with the owners or potential developers for that site?
* Recent Council in-camera discussions about the sale of Council-owned land at 276 Barkly Street, Brunswick also raises issues of transparency in decision-making. Many residents have made proposals to convert carparks into green open spaces, or alternatively to use carparks to allow for the relocation of car parking off Sydney Road. Why sell off this car-park to a private developer?

For media commentary, see:
* Where's the toilet?, Crikey (
* Pave paradise and put up a toilet block: Sit-in planned over Brunswick dunny plan,
The Age, 12 May 2017 (
* Methven Park - ABC 774 Jon Faine (
* Methven Park - ABC 774 Raf Epstein (

** Feature article:
Consult, engage, or participate?

Moreland City Council has a poor track record on community engagement. Brunswick Residents Network has long argued that one-off consultations, conducted with a small group of people, do not constitute adequate engagement that can lead to good decision making. There are many examples where poor decisions based on inadequate engagement has led to significant community anger and delayed implementation (Remember bluestone lanes, Respite Care, East Brunswick Village, and now Methven Park).

These problems are compounded by restrictions in the planning scheme, which restrict residents’ rights to notification, appeal and review, to the benefit of developers who have the time, money and staff to interact with Council planners and decision makers.

This issue has been on the radar for the State Government, with the Victorian Auditor General’s Office (VAGO) recently issuing reports on public participation. The first VAGO Better Practice Guide issued in 2015 has been followed by a report issued this month, looking specifically at participation in local government.  Last December, the Victorian Ombudsman also reported on its investigation into the transparency of local government decision making.

(As we send this email, there is a problem opening the VAGO links, we hope this will soon be fixed)
* VAGO: Public Participation in Government Decision-making - Better Practice Guide, January 2015 (  )
* VAGO: Public Participation and Community Engagement: Local Government Sector, May 2017 (
* Ombudsman: Investigation into the transparency of local government decision making, December 2016 (

Ignore the jargon, and have a look at the key findings – the VAGO’s latest study reinforces the importance of public participation in local government:

“The real-life experiences of community stakeholders can make a valuable contribution to decision-making, and an open and deliberative process can enhance stakeholders’ perceptions of the credibility of a decision. Conversely, inadequate public participation can alienate sections of the community and undermine trust, and is more likely to result in poorly informed decisions.”

“Public participation is a critical input to government activity, and developing effective strategies, programs and projects. Failing to adequately engage the public risks alienating the community and creating negative impacts through poorly informed and implemented decisions.”

VAGO audited six councils in 2016 looking at public participation and community engagement. All six councils had Public Participation Policies – unlike Moreland, which does not have a publicly available policy. Moreland’s consultation model seems to use several inconsistent in-house protocols, or committees that rarely report back to the community.

In contrast, check this example of a public participation policy published by Maroondah City Council in 2015 ( . It details ways that Maroondah Council meets its commitment to “engaging effectively with its community in a meaningful, accountable, responsive and equitable way”:

In the wake of the Methven Park fiasco, Brunswick Residents Network is joining with other local community groups to discuss this issue with Moreland Council’s CEO Nerida di Lorenzo.

We’d welcome your suggestions – please send us your ideas about how Council can better communicate with renters, residents, local businesses and other people passing through our community.  How can Council improve use of advertising and social media? What can they do to improve notification of key planning changes? Does Council have ways to engage with the diverse members of the community: transient renters, long term residents, people with limited literacy and English skills etc? How should Council define who is “affected”, beyond people who live in adjoining properties? What sort of changes should be made to the way consultation is undertaken with affected community members?

Please send your ideas to: ( , or join the conversation at the Brunswick Residents Network ( Facebook page.

** Big changes to planning laws

In March, the State Government released major changes to the planning laws. The release of Plan Melbourne 2017-50 was accompanied by changes to residential zones; and by the VicSmart scheme, to fast track planning applications. As we detail here, this is having immediate impacts on Brunswick.
* Plan Melbourne means 180,000 new dwellings in the north

On 31 March 2017, the new metropolitan planning strategy was released by the State Government, requiring changes to all local Planning Schemes in Victoria. Plan Melbourne 2017-2050 updates and revises the previous Plan Melbourne released in 2014 (Plan Melbourne in turn replaced previous metropolitan strategies Melbourne 2030 and Melbourne@5 million).

The strategies set out in Plan Melbourne 2017-2050 include an intention to constrain the outward spread of the urban area and to focus employment, services and development in national employment and innovation clusters, urban renewal precincts and activity centres linked by public transport. The strategy includes revisions that are more specifically aimed at increasing the supply of social and affordable housing. (One significant change since Plan Melbourne 2014 is that the Brunswick to Batman Station corridor and Jewell Station are no longer identified as urban renewal areas).

It is anticipated that Melbourne will require an additional 1.6 million homes by 2050 and that the northern region, which includes Moreland, will need to accommodate approximately 175-180,000 new dwellings in established areas and another 180,000 additional located in greenfield growth areas.

Over four years between 2011-15, the estimated resident population of Melbourne’s northern region grew from 853,000 (2011) to 912,000 (2015) – an increase of 59,000. Under proposals in the State Government study Victoria in Future (VIF) 2016, the north will grow to 1,282,000 people by 2031 and 1,742,000 by 2050. That’s a projected growth of 830,000 people in the north from 2015-51!

Much of this change will be focussed in Brunswick and Coburg. In their May 2017 report to councillors, Moreland planning staff note: “Moreland receives the second highest number of planning applications in Victoria and one of, if not the, highest numbers of more complex medium and high density dwelling applications loads, all of which require public notice and consultation to address objector concerns.”

In 2016, the number of subdivision applications received by Council was the highest number ever recorded for the municipality.  In just one month (December 2016), 19 applications were received for buildings with works valued at more than $1 million.

As detailed in the story below, the new changes outlined in Plan Melbourne are already affecting Brunswick, with a crucial VCAT ruling on the Stewart Street re-development on 9 May.
1. Plan Melbourne 2017-2050 (
2. Visual map of changes in Moreland and northern region (

* Wynne guts residential zones

From his refusal to grant mandatory controls for inner-city suburbs like Brunswick, to his decision to allow apartment construction with no minimum floor size, State Planning Minister Dick Wynne is beloved by developers across the state.

Now the State ALP government has substantially altered the previous Liberal-Coalition government’s residential zones. These changes come despite years of community debate over the allocation within each municipality of Neighbourhood (NRZ), General (GRZ) and let-it-rip Residential Growth (RGZ) zones.

The Neighbourhood Residential Zone (NRZ) covers 12 per cent of land in Melbourne and much of the city’s heritage housing. Under changes announced in March, the NRZ is substantially weakened by allowing multi-unit construction and raising the mandatory maximum height from 8 to 9 metres.

The law setting out six purposes of the NRZ have been changed, to remove the following two purposes:
* ‘To limit opportunities for increased residential development’;
* ‘To implement neighbourhood character policy and adopted neighbourhood character guidelines.’

The General Residential Zone (GRZ), the main residential zone, is also weakened. A discretionary 9 metre height limit becomes a mandatory limit of 11 metres. However, many Councils had already introduced mandatory schedules of 9 metres, so the increased height often weakens the zone.

A new Garden Area must be set aside, reserving between 25-35 per cent of a lot as garden upon subdivision. But this only applies to new lots above 400 sq. metres. Most new multi-unit lots in Brunswick will be less than this size, so the requirement for garden areas will not apply.

Amendment VC110, issued on 27 March, has been written in such a way that the previous limitation of four dwellings per lot has been removed. Residential lots in Brunswick can now have any number of units on them, and properties in the General zone (GRZ) can build to three levels plus roof deck - essentially four levels. This is a radical removal of protections in the residential zones.

* Fast track approvals for residential areas?

VicSmart is a system for fast-track planning approvals, requiring assessment within 10 days. In opposition, the ALP originally opposed its introduction. Now, the State Government proposes to double its use, from the current 7 per cent of all applications! The system is being put out to tender and over time, more than 30 per cent of all planning applications will be fast-tracked using the scheme. More and more permit requirements will be removed, supposedly to ‘streamline’ the planning system.

In March, the government introduced an extension to VicSmart through Amendment VC135. VicSmart can now be used for extensions include building and works up to $1 million in industrial areas and up to $500,000 in commercial and some special purpose areas. It can also fast track decisions on subdivision, advertising signs and car parking. These changes have now been incorporated into planning schemes across the state, with information sent to local councils.
* VicSmart information for councils (

The government also announced in March that a further VicSmart extension into residential zones will occur. If approved, the VicSmart fast track process will be used for a single storey extension to a single dwelling where specific design criteria are met. It may also be used for buildings and works up to $100,000 in residential zones, where not associated with a dwelling.

At a time that Councils have limited notification and transparency about planning, this is one more way that re-development is being allowed without any community engagement.

Inner-city residents from Fitzroy, Darebin and Moonee Valley are planning a rally on the steps of Parliament on Thursday 8 June, to protest about these changes to planning and development laws. Citizens from across Melbourne are being asked to attend.

WHEN: Thursday 8 June, 1 pm,
WHERE:  Parliament House, Spring Street Melbourne

** Merri Bridge update
Merri bridge site
Residents living near the Merri Creek have been campaigning for a safer bridge over the creek, to connect East Brunswick and Northcote near CERES. The campaign continues apace, and needs support to get Moreland Council to prioritise funding for the initiative in this year’s budget.

Pedestrians, cyclists and local residents are calling for a safer crossing as an alternative to the busy road bridges at Arthurton Road (Blyth St) and Normanby Ave (Moreland Rd). More than 1400 people signed a petition in late 2015 calling for a new bridge.

An independent feasibility study in 2016 confirmed that a bridge is viable and identified the optimum bridge alignment between Beavers Road, Northcote and Kingfisher Gardens (near CERES) in East Brunswick. As detailed in the feasibility study, the bridge needs to meet a number of requirements: to be high enough to meet Melbourne Water's one-in-100-year flood level; to be steel rather than timber (to contain future maintenance costs); and to comply with accessibility requirements in the Disability Act.  The bridge will also be located at a wide section of the creek.

Darebin and Moreland Councils have co-funded the initial design of the bridge, and appointed Nuttall Engineering to complete the design by July. But the bridge construction - estimated at $1.165 million per council - is yet to be funded.

Now is a critical time - the Merri Creek Bridge Group have asked Moreland and Darebin Councils to fund the construction in their 2017-18 capital works budget, which is currently under consideration. Darebin Council have agreed, and Moreland are considering the proposal.  Funding secured now means the bridge could be built within two years.
* Letters, emails and phone calls to Moreland Councillors supporting funding the bridge in the budget now being considered, will help show this is a priority for local communities who want safe infrastructure that supports active transport. Local Councillor addresses are at the foot of this email.
*  For more info, contact Helen McDonald on 0401 999 152, join the Facebook group, or email (

** Getting around in Brunswick
Concerns about tram changes: In Lygon Street, the No 6 now travels from Moreland Depot and eventually goes along High Street through Prahran, Windsor, Armadale, and Malvern to Glen Iris. Lygon Street has lost its Toorak destination: the Melville Road tram, the new No 58, now goes to Toorak.

Council is concerned that peak hour service frequencies have been reduced on routes 58, 19 (Sydney Road) and 96 (Nicholson Street), while welcoming preparation for larger trams and improved disability access on Nos 19 and 58.  Council will write to Minister Jacinta Allen and has allocated funds to campaign for improved services, including frequency.
A fancy new website (pictured) shows you all the local bus routes in an interactive map. Did you know that you can come home from the city at 3am, by nightrider bus, to Lygon Street? (Or continue on to Mernda!)

Westgate tunnel toll road: Read how this project will make traffic worse, and if you wish, sign a petition:

Sydney Road traders are campaigning against plans – now supported by the RACV as well as Brunswick Council – to remove parking from Sydney Road, as part of a broad strategy to make Sydney Road safe and functional. Tell them whether or not you need to park right on Sydney Road, in their survey – there's a prize offered for a lucky participant.

** 'Neighbourhood character' overriden by new density rule

The importance of changes made in Plan Melbourne 2017-2050 is already seen in Brunswick. On 9 May, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) made a crucial planning decision overriding Moreland Council to approve a project in Hardy and Stewart Streets, Brunswick. VCAT has issued this as a ‘Red Dot’ ruling meaning the ruling has importance for the wider planning scheme.
* Ronge v Moreland CC (Red Dot) [2017] VCAT 550 (9 May 2017) (

The Hardy Street industrial site (31-37 Stewart Street and 12-20 Hardy Street, Brunswick)  is located in a minimal housing growth area and Neighbourhood Residential Zone (NRZ). The project involves partial demolition of existing industrial buildings and a dwelling, construction of 59 two and three storey townhouses along with associated car parking, communal open space and landscaping.

Original objections highlighted:
*  the adverse impact of a reduction car parking on residentially zoned on-street parking
* the three storey scale failing to respect the prevailing fine grain double and single storey houses of Stewart and Hardy Streets
* the impact of shadowing etc for abutting properties

VCAT’s decision this month is driven by the state-wide strategy for 1.6 million new houses in Melbourne, arguing: “Whilst many, if not most, of these strategies are not new, they emphasise that the whole metropolitan area will be subject to change, even outside urban renewal areas and activity centres which are to be the focus for higher density development. Large redundant industrial sites, such as the one we are considering in Stewart and Hardy Streets, cannot be quarantined from significant development simply because they are surrounded by single and double storey dwellings, mostly built in times past when Melbourne was facing different economic, social and environmental circumstances and different community expectations.”

VCAT’s ruling shows clearly that local protection of heritage and neighbourhood character in residential areas will be overridden by state planning policy to meet rising population needs. The deletion last month to remove protection of neighbourhood character and controls for density as requirements in Neighbourhood Residential Zones is already taking effect. VCAT openly says: “the deletion of the two purposes cited above has lessened both the emphasis on neighbourhood character and on limiting increases in new dwellings. It has shifted the balance in favour of allowing more dwellings in recognition of the necessity to provide additional housing in order to meet the need for the projected 1.6 million new dwellings by 2050.”

** Bad luck for students who need light to study
We’re seeing increasing numbers of disputes between developers in rapidly changing precincts, like Breathe Architecture’s fights with its neighbours in Florence Street, or the latest dispute in Hope Street, Brunswick.
* Hope St Student Accommodation Pty Ltd & Galbuwti Pty Ltd v Moreland CC [2017]
VCAT 348 (8 March 2017) (

The five storey building at 6 Hope Street, approved in 2012, is just 7.33 metres wide. It was developed as 'student housing', which VCAT describes as “a form of housing that can have lower amenity standards as compared to permanent housing” [They’re too polite to call it a dog box!]. Former residents tell us that tenants they met were not students. The building at 6 Hope Street has just two light courts as the only source of daylight, sunlight, ventilation and outlook for three units on each floor.

Now the owners of no.6 are complaining that even this limited light will be blocked by the new 5-storey project next door at no. 8!

VCAT is quite open about the failure of planning in this precinct: “I must say that the design employed for 6 Hope Street is a poor one . . . I diverge from my decision making task here for a moment to wonder whether it is in the best interests of planning for our future, particularly the future amenity of residences in activity centres, that individual narrow sites like these are permitted to be developed individually.”

The tribunal ruling notes that Moreland Council is its own worst enemy, approving one crappy building, then having to clean up the mess when a neighbouring project is proposed: “. . .  while the development . . . is a poor choice of design by its design and development team, it is also a poor design that has very recently been facilitated by the planning system. That is, this proposal was scrutinised and considered very thoroughly by the Responsible Authority, as evidenced by the size of their Council report, and supported on its planning merits.”

** Enhancing "ambience" . . .
It’s hard to define, but oh so important. New research identifies why “ambience” is important to a main street: to manage light and noise pollution, and traffic volumes, and to enhance liveability, safety and air quality. There are lots of ways to transform streets, through traffic management, screening, greenery, illumination, aesthetic interest, surfaces for sitting, surfaces for play, places to meet and wait, street-level food, drink and entertainment, and human activity. What are your priorities for Brunswick streetscapes?  This article makes some suggestions.
* Unlocking the secrets of street “ambience”

** Federal MP says "No" to Adani

Federal MP for Wills, Peter Khalil – our rep in Canberra – has come out in opposition to the proposed Carmichael coal project in Queensland, after lobbying by Climate Action Moreland (CAM) and other concerned Moreland residents.

In correspondence with CAM, he states “that given the environmental and commercial question marks, I do not think this mine will go ahead, nor should go ahead, and that Coalition government should absolutely not be subsidising it with tax payer funds to the tune of $1 billion.”

At a time the Labor Party in Queensland is strongly supporting the Adani project, it’s important for ALP MPs to make a strong public stand. Well done Peter!

Jim Barry, the Head of BlackRock, the world's largest investment company, has recently said: "It's been amusing sitting back and watching Australia from afar because in effect it's been denying gravity. Coal is dead. . . anyone who's looking to take beyond a 10-year view on coal is gambling very significantly."
* Wills MP Peter Khalil states that Adani mine should not go ahead (

** Watch out for this . . .
* The Mirabella family are planning to re-develop their large Lygon Street property – which includes the lighting shop with those massive chandeliers – just south of Glenlyon Road. Plans are being finalised. Warburton Street residents are watching this development – we are happy to put you in touch with them if you email us.
* Ewing Street still dangerous.  This major pedestrian and bike route for children attending Princes Hill Primary, as well as city-bound bike commuters, desperately needs traffic management, in particular at roundabouts, as was shown just last week when a cyclist with a child on the back, was run into by a car, with the adult suffering broken bones.  Although the Glenlyon Road crossing has been completed, there is no sign yet of the rest of the traffic management approved and funded for the street. Council traffic engineers Darryl Bosely and Phoebe Hollins, whose excellent rapport with residents kept this project moving, have both left Moreland Council. We wish them well and hope that their departure is not responsible for any delay.
* In our June edition we will also be following up on proposals for: Frith Street beer park; Park Street tower; Sarah Sands tower; East Brunswick Village; and results from the annual Moreland bike count.

** Brunswick history
Barry Jones
Remembering Brunswick in WW1
Last weekend a highly successful conference "Democratic opposition to war" was held by the Brunswick-Coburg Anti-Conscription Commemoration Campaign.

Barry Jones – historian, local resident, former parliamentarian and much more – opened the day, leading a host of well-known speakers, among them Professor Stuart Macintyre who reflected on Brunswick's history during WW1.

The speeches were professionally recorded by Radio 3CR, and will be posted this Sunday on the BCACCC WordPress site ( .
* Details:
or email

Our Italian History
CO.AS.IT. will discuss local Italian history with photos and other materials from their extensive archives.
WHEN: 2pm Friday 2 June
WHERE: Coburg library
BOOK: or 9353 4000

** Have your say on Council budget priorities

On 22 May, Moreland City Council endorsed the 2017-20 Council Plan and the 2017-18 Council Budget, which are now open for public response and submissions. At the same meeting, Council endorsed the Rating Strategy 2017-18 and fees and charges for 2017-18.
* You can find all these documents on the Council website and can make a submission: due by 5 pm on Tuesday 20 June 2017: Proposed Council Plan and Proposed Budget (

** Next Moreland Council meetings
All Council meetings – held on the 2nd Wednesday of each month – and Urban Planning Committee meetings – held on the 4th Wednesday of each month – are now held at: Council Chamber, Moreland Civic Centre, 90 Bell Street, Coburg. Council meetings are on:
* Monday 22 May 2017 (Consider Council Plan, Strategic Resource Plan and Budget - 6.30 pm start time)
* Wednesday 14 June 2017
* Monday 3 July 2017 (Hear Budget Submissions)
* Wednesday 12 July 2017
* Monday 24 July 2017 (Adopt the Council Council Plan, Strategic Resource Plan and Budget)
* Wednesday 9 August 2017

Check for all meeting details at the Council website ( . Council meetings can now be watched online, either live, or later - you can find details here ( along with the agenda for this week's Council meeting.
* Hint: If you go to an evening meeting at 90 Bell Street and find the doors locked, you can probably get in through the back door via Urquhart Street.

** Contacts for our three local councillors:
Deputy Mayor Samantha Ratnam
Mobile: 0433 275 434
Email: (

Mark Riley
Mobile: 0499 807044
Email: (

Lambros Tapinos
Mobile: 0433 419 075
Email: (

Welcome to new readers! To contact organisers of the Brunswick Residents’ Network, or to offer help with future activities, please email ( . (This gmail is our preferred address – but we have changed our "from" address on Mailchimp's advice to avoid your email bouncing).

Please forward this e-letter to other Moreland neighbours who’d like a say in the way their community is changing. It's easy to sign on, or edit your details to include your interests - just go to

For meeting details, survey and newsletter archives, go to:

Check out our Facebook page for a range of lively discussions: Brunswick Residents Network ( . Help us reach more people by liking our page, commenting, forwarding this newsletter, and tweeting it using the links below.

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