July 2019 newsletter

Our July special feature details research into the failure of building construction quality controls; plus lots of news on planning and developments, traffic and transport issues, compost, trees, and events celebrating culture, history and even a footy song for Naidoc week.

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Brunswick Residents Network News,

July 2019

Early birds flock to Baths

Last December, Moreland Council launched a trial of extended weekend hours at Brunswick Baths, to see how patronage would be affected. The trials between February and April been a great success:

  • There was a 27% (905 visits) increase in attendances between the hours of 7 am–9 am on average in comparison to the same time last year.
  • Pool usage saw an increase of 31% in attendances (342 attendances).
  • Gym usage saw an increase of 36% in attendances (524 attendances).
  • Membership numbers have also comparatively increased compared to the same period in 2018, with member retention rates also increasing.

In comparison to the same 3-month period in 2018 (February–April), during the 2019 period there were on average 179 more members, bringing in an estimated $17,334 per month. So there will be limited financial impact despite the extra staffing costs.

At their July meeting, councillors agreed to continue the earlier opening time of 7 am on weekends as a permanent change, except for public holiday weekends, when the baths open at 8 am. Go to it, early birds!

In the latest Moreland budget for 2019-20, Council has also allocated $1 million to fix the indoor pool floor at Brunswick Baths – as part of the Aquatics Infrastructure Program.

Planning round-up

 

Albion Street monster goes to VCAT

VCAT will hold hearings on 19 August to discuss a proposed 6-story development on 82 Albion Street, with an underground car park next door at 80 Albion Street. The car park would have access from Eddy Street. It’s on the boundary of Moreland’s North East and South Wards. The project site is opposite the heritage-listed former Lyndhurst Hotel, now serving as a Dan Murphy liquor outlet.

When the project was first mooted, there were 43 objectors: 26 in the South Ward from Lygon, Glenmorgan and Albion Streets, and 16 from the North East Ward on Albion and Holmes Streets and Dunstan Avenue. This includes six local Lygon St businesses. The overwhelming majority, including the businesses, objected to the height and size of the project and its dwarfing of other buildings; and most recommended reducing the number of storeys. An overwhelming majority also expressed concerns regarding traffic, parking and the major cycle route along Eddy St (the East Brunswick Shimmy). Many objections related to lack of sympathy with the immediate local residential neighbourhood, together with overshadowing, privacy, and lack of green space.

No lights-on for Mirabella

Moreland Council has issued a Notice of Refusal to grant a planning permit for a major development (pictured right) proposed in Lygon Street, on the site of the Mirabella store near the corner of Lygon and Glenlyon Road.

Mirabella can now challenge this at VCAT, but residents believe that Moreland Council has issued a comprehensive refusal that covers multiple grounds. This suggests it could be quite challenging for the developers to get a favourable outcome at a VCAT hearing.

The Subby goes down

In an extraordinary decision at its June planning meeting, Moreland Council has required a developer to destroy a heritage building that he does not own, located on public land.

Council has approved a permit for the development of an 8-storey building at 2 Elm Street Brunswick, with a reduction of the car parking requirement. The application is exempt from the public notice requirements and review rights of the Planning and Environment Act 1987. Council notes “Prior to the commencement of development the substation building located within the Elm Grove road reserve and all associated structures are to be removed to the satisfaction of the Responsible Authority at the cost of the developer. The bricks are to be retained for recycling and reuse within the proposed building façade.”

Sadly, Councillors have rejected residents’ please to retain the substation and feature it as the last remnant of a rich industrial past.

This was not a decision on whether or not to retain a heritage building, but an application for a development that was incompatible with an existing adjacent structure with clear heritage value. Council officers were aware of this clash two years ago. Normally such a clash would be resolved by requiring design changes to avoid incompatibility.  In this case just minor adjustments could have avoided the clash without reducing the yield of the development and, if embraced, could have significantly enhanced amenity of the proposal.

The ornate 1934 electrical substation in Elm Grove, near the emerging ‘East Brunswick Village’ project is the last remnant of the rich industrial history of the locality.  Council independently confirmed in 2017 that it was ‘Significant’ to the heritage of Moreland, and gave an assurance of protection if this was the case. Despite this, a sequence of actions taken without scrutiny has resulted in this community asset being condemned.  Rather than supporting this opportunity to contribute to the interest, awareness and amenity of this developing new quarter, officers took a defensive approach, to persist with perpetuating an inaccurate ‘assumption’ that some form of undertaking had been given that this building would be demolished, despite it being demonstrated that this was not the case.

The sole rationale provided for this ‘expectation’ was the ‘EBV Development Plan’ approved in 2012 under the Development Plan Overlay that covers this locality.  However this Plan does not cover the land the substation sits on, so has no power to apply any decisions or actions over it.  Even if it did cover the land, the single brief reference the substation relates to services and infrastructure (electricity supply), not to heritage value.  The building would now have interim heritage protection during consideration of heritage Amendment C174, but was removed from this amendment without notification between Council resolving to commence the amendment and its public exhibition.

This has resulted in a poor and easily avoidable outcome that will now deny citizens the opportunity to experience a physical fragment conveying local history of industrial production and municipal electrical supply.

The handling of this matter adds another chapter to the lack of transparency that has characterised the EBV area, dating back to flaws in the initial rezoning materials that were severely criticised by the Panel considering Amendment C92.  It also highlights the consequences of an absence of in-house heritage expertise at Moreland Council, despite it being an inner urban Council with extensive heritage assets that is undergoing a challenging period of urban transformation.

And farewell Moreland High School

Kangan Batman De Carle Street campus – which started life as Moreland High – is to be sold off. Answering a question from Member for Brunswick Tim Read, the Education Minister replied that  “The former Bendigo Kangan TAFE Moreland campus on the corner of The Avenue and De Carle Street in Coburg has been declared surplus for Higher Education and Training requirements. The site will be disposed of in accordance with whole of government policy.”

This seems to rule out giving the campus to the Sydney Road Community School – a small government school that’s run for many years out of a former heritage-listed Wesleyan church in Sydney Road Brunswick. The school caters to a group of students who might otherwise struggle in a standard high school environment. They need to find a new home in the next couple of years as their landlords (no longer the church) want to re-develop the site.

Feature:

Researchers slate construction quality

In New South Wales, there’s been a bad run of building failures, with residents relocated at short notice after structural cracks in new apartment towers. Are standards any better in Victoria?

A new research report by Dr Nicole Johnston and Associate Professor Sasha Reid has found significant numbers of defects in newly constructed buildings in NSW, Queensland and Victoria.

The study, based on 212 building audit reports, showed 97 per cent of all apartment buildings in NSW had at least one type of defect and that the average number of types of defect (not individual incidences of the same problem) in each building was 16.

As many as 74 per cent of all buildings in Victoria had at least one type of defect and the average number per building was 11. In Queensland, where defects were found in 71 per cent of apartment buildings, the average number was 12.

The study identified defects relating to building fabric and cladding as the most prevalent, followed by fire protection, waterproofing, roof and rainwater disposal, and structural issues. Of the defects related to building fabric and cladding, one third was attributed to water penetration or moisture, most likely due to waterproofing or roof and rainwater disposal defects.

In Brunswick, it is difficult to quantify the number of poorly constructed buildings in our neighbourhood, given the lack of transparency over remediation of faults. Legal action against a builder, developer or insurer often ends with a settlement which involves a non-disclosure agreement. It’s also difficult to publicise faults in your building if you want to sell your flat, as bad publicity will undermine the value of the building. In most states, home warranty insurance cover is no longer required (or even available) for new apartments over three levels. Developers have benefited from changes to builders’ warranty insurance to exempt high rises.

The February 2018 Shergold-Weir report commissioned by the NSW government on the regulation of their building and construction sector reported that: “We have read numerous reports which identify the prevalence of serious compliance failures in recently constructed buildings. These include non-compliant cladding, water ingress leading to mould and structural compromise, structurally unsound roof construction and poorly constructed fire resisting elements. We have heard suggestions that large numbers of practitioners operating in the industry either lack competence, do not properly understand the NCC and/or have never had proper training on its implementation.”

As reported in our last newsletter, residents affected by the use of inappropriate cladding are organising to discuss the financial and safety aspects of the building crisis. The volunteer organisation known as the Builders Collective is planning a meeting at Coburg Town Hall on 11 August 2019 targeted to property owners affected by the cladding crisis. This event seeks to provide property owners with the opportunity hear from a range of expert speakers.

Traffic and Transport

Road closure trials near East Brunswick Village

At their July meeting, Moreland councillors agreed to proceed with a ‘genuine traffic diversion experiment’, by agreeing to the trial closure of two streets – Peers and Sumner – to the east of Nicholson Street, opposite the giant East Brunswick Village Project.

Residents have been campaigning since last year for the closure of these residential streets to stop rat running out of the EBV, which will host a major supermarket and shopping complex as well as residential apartments.

It’s proposed to erect temporary barriers in Sumner Street from Noel Street to a point 8 metres further west, and in Peers Street from Nicholson Street to a point 11 metres further east to block the passage of vehicles other than bicycles. To meet the purposes of the Local Government Act, the closures will be temporary, in order to “determine whether the closures are an appropriate method of protecting the local streets east of Nicholson Street from the traffic impact of the East Brunswick Village.”

Council staff will report back to councillors at their October meeting about the impact of the traffic diversion experiment, and whether there should be permanent closure.

. . .  Meanwhile, residents, cyclists and rat-runners are divided on the proposal to close John Street to through traffic at Albert Street, to the west of Nicholson. John Street is part of the East Brunswick (bicycle) shimmy; and VicRoads, in handing Nicholson Street over to cars and trams, said that they expected bikes to go down John Street. The closure would protect Albert Street and surrounding local streets from the 800+ vehicles expected to go in and out of the John Street exits from East Brunswick Village.

Council received a hefty total of 149 submissions, with 62 in favour, 75 against, and 12 neutral. Council officers have written to all those who responded; they report that “people who were in favour provided their support of the reduction of traffic in John Street to improved safety (primarily for cyclists), and improved residential amenity. People against the proposal favoured continuing to use John Street for through traffic, and were concerned about the impacts on the surrounding road network.”

  • People who made submissions regarding John Street can meet with a Council committee, to speak to their submissions, on 25 July from 6pm, and are asked to register attendance at  transport@moreland.vic.gov.au.  Council is expected to discuss the proposal at their 14 August meeting.

 

Upfield level crossings: Community Meeting

The level crossing removals from Bell Street Coburg to Moreland Road, Brunswick will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and will be infrastructure that will last for 100 years or more. A new community coalition has come together to demand the community have a greater say in their design and construction.

The Upfield Corridor Coalition is inviting the whole community plus all local politicians to ask them how they plan to ensure the State Government does not cut corners and ignore the community in building this legacy project (following their “drop-in” sessions where very little information was made available, just a map with a line drawn on it). Moreland Council have allocated $30,000 to this campaign.

  • WHAT: Upfield Corridor Town Hall Meeting – Level Crossings
  • WHEN: Sunday, July 28, 2019 at 2 PM – 4 PM
  • WHERE: Coburg Concert Hall, Moreland Civic Centre, Urquhart Street.
  • MORE DETAILS AND REGISTER: On Eventbrite. See also the Facebook event

Movement on Sydney Road re-design

VicRoads have begun a consultation process around re-designing Sydney Road to make it safer for bikes and pedestrians whilst also planning for accessible raised tram-stops. They’ve presented five options, ranging from similar-to-status-quo, to Option 3 which has a separated bike lane. Each option will make someone unhappy, as there is not nearly enough room for raised stops, parked cars, widened footpaths, a bike lane, cars, and faster trams – so something has to give. As noted above, VicRoads have re-designed Nicholson Street to prioritise cars and trams, but staff at this week’s drop in session suggested that Sydney Road was therefore to be made more bike-friendly. Have your say and view the 5 options, before Sunday afternoon via the VicRoads survey

Designing new bus routes for the inner north

One of the most densely populated and least-driving part of Melbourne is its inner-north. Trams and trains are closely spaced, all running north-south towards the city.

The wonderful blog Melbourne on Transit has designed a list of upgrades for buses in Melbourne’s inner north. They take as their starting point, a definition of a “Useful Network” – routes that are frequent enough and run over long enough hours to be useful for many trips, with at least a 20 minute frequency on weekdays and a 7 day service until 9pm. Most people in Brunswick and Coburg are in reach of a Useful Network Route, as our trams, trains and the 508 and 510 buses (Blyth/Victoria Street and Moreland Road) meet the criteria.

The author notes the gap in Useful Routes running east-west to the south of Victoria Street, and has suggested upgrades, route changes, and new routes which together with existing train and tram services would form a versatile network suitable for a wide range of trips. Please have a look at their new proposed bus routes, and send us your comments (as well as adding them on the blog)

 

Route 96 Tram Stop Upgrade

Preliminary works are underway on Nicholson Street Brunswick for the Route 96 tram upgrade, involving partial lane closures, temporary changes to parking and restricted pedestrian access on sections of Nicholson Street. PTV crews are identifying underground services (gas, telecoms, water), and removing and installing infrastructure to facilitate the new stops. Works will mostly be completed during the day, but some night works will be required.

However major works on stops 16 to 22 (between Kay Street and Brunswick Road) have been delayed and will now take place in January 2020. This is a result of feedback from local traders asking Public Transport Victoria to schedule works during the quieter trading period.

Ten minute trains on the Upfield line

The Upfield Transport Alliance represents communities living along the length of the Upfield Line who are campaigning for more trains and an end to regular train cancellations. A key solution to these problems is the duplication of the single track at the end of the line, north of Gowrie Station, to allow trains to pass each other.

Trains from Upfield run at 20 minute intervals except for morning peak. and often get terminated at Bell Street, leaving everyone stranded north of Coburg Station. The Metro Tunnel won’t solve these issues until the single track gets duplicated.

The Upfield Transport Alliance was formed in October 2018 and held its first community rally at the Upfield Train station in November. Now another rally is planned and BRN encourages Brunswick residents to join our northern neighbours.

WHAT: Community Rally for 10 minute trains on Upfield Line

WHEN: Saturday 10 August, 11am

WHERE: Gather at Bain Reserve, Merlyn St, Coburg North (opposite the Merlynston Shops)

HOW TO GET THERE: Join the Protest Train (1st Carriage) to Merlynston Station

FURTHER INFORMATION: call Sue on 0413 377 978 or Meghan on 0419 353 954.

A cyclist’s guide to biking in London

The Cities section of the Guardian newspaper has been running lots of interesting graphics on cars and cyclists. Check out a great collection of Dutch “anti-car” posters (with English explanations on the side); and great cycling cartoons from Dave Walker, a cartoonist from Langdon Hills, Essex, who often cycles in London.

Greening Brunswick

 

Increasing the urban forest canopy

With massive new development underway across Brunswick, and subdivision of the existing blocks removing gardens and trees, the urban heat island effect is a growing problem. Moreland is a municipality that is vulnerable to heat due to an increased amount of hard surfaces that absorb and radiate heat. Recent studies have shown that there are a high number of extremely hot areas and very few cool places across our suburbs, and during heatwaves most parts of Moreland can be 4 to 7 degrees warmer than surrounding areas.

At their July meeting, Moreland councillors began a process to amend the Moreland Planning Scheme to achieve greater tree canopy coverage across Moreland in medium density development on private land.

Council has prepared a background report “Canopy Tree Planting in Residential Areas”, which identifies there is significant opportunity to utilise the front setback areas and private open spaces of medium density housing to plant larger trees and maximise canopy cover. This can be done without impacting on delivery of the medium density housing necessary to house Moreland’s growing population.

Council is proposing to develop and exhibit Amendment C189 to the Moreland Planning Scheme – Canopy Trees in Moreland, which will make the necessary legal changes to the planning scheme to require more tree plantings in medium density housing. Watch this space for future developments.

Food waste can go in your green bin

It’s here: you can now put food waste in your Council Green Bin to be composted. To do this you need a Green Bin (if you haven’t got one). You can order a big 240L Green Bin if you need it. Council will also give you a plastic caddy (think Chook Bucket) to collect your food scraps.

  • Read details including bin ordering, here
  • See pamphlet with more details of what you can compost, here

If you already have a compost bin, Council wants you to keep using it – but if you eat meat or seafood, your scraps – which are not nice in home compost – can go in the Green Bin.

Repairing Australia’s housing crisis

Peter Mares is a renowned investigative journalist, commentator and author of the book “No Place like Home.” His book asks why housing policy in Australia is failing so dismally at putting an affordable roof over every head. On 8 August at the Brunswick Library, Peter will discuss the housing crisis and offer practical solutions to address homelessness and affordable housing in Australia.

Mares argues that the real problem in the property market is not falling house prices, but a lack of affordable rental accommodation for people on low incomes.

“One in every two low-income households renting in the private market is in housing stress. That is about 600,000 households spending at least 30 per cent of their disposable income, and often much more, on rent. As a result, they may skimp on essentials such as food, heating or healthcare.

“Renting today is far more than a temporary stepping stone. The private rental sector is the fastest growing segment of Australian housing. There are more people renting in middle age, more households who have been renting for longer than 10 years and more renters with young families. Yet there are not enough affordable rental properties to go around.”

Peter Mares: ‘Housing: It’s time for the lucky to share some of their good fortune’, Sydney Morning Herald, 16 September 2018

WHAT: Discussion on housing policy in Australia with Peter Mares

WHEN: Thursday 8 August, 7:45pm.

WHERE: Brunswick library, Corner Sydney Road and Dawson Street, Brunswick.

REGISTRATIONS: contact Brunswick library on 9389 8600

Pictured above: New winter socks for library bike hoops

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Community and culture

Tipungwuti plays footy

Brunswick has long been recognised as the song writing capital of Australia. Now Jack O’Connell and his brother Seamus – members of local punk band Picket Palace – have written a song celebrating the talents of Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti  and are launching it during Naidoc Week (disclosure: our editor has been a Bombers tragic since childhood).

If you can bear the thought of Brunswick punks who rhyme ‘footy’ with ‘Tipungwuti’, this song is for you!

Explore Brunswick heritage

As part of Open House weekend on Saturday July 27 and Sunday July 28, you can take a behind-the-scenes tour of heritage buildings in Brunswick to discover the historic secrets and significance of the building.

Brunswick Town Hall is the grandest building in the Sydney Road approach to Melbourne. Since 1876, the complex has provided an important political and social space for the community. Tours meet under the portico on Sydney Road – on Saturday at 10am, 11am, 12, 1pm, 2pm and 3pm and on Sunday afternoon at 2pm, 3pm and 4pm.

The Hardwick Building (pictured) at 459-475 Sydney Road Brunswick was designed by Myer Melbourne architects HW & FB Tompkins. Built in 1908, it was the first steel-constructed building in Victoria. and is an important example of American Romanesque architecture. Originally the Hooper’s Department Store, the building has been home to many different occupations over the last 110 years including more recently, wedding-dress makers Hardwick Bridal, and as the creative home to over eight creative studios.

The studio upstairs will be open on Saturday 27 July between 10am–2pm, with a presentation at 12pm by Archier Studio directors, Chris Haddad and Jon Kaitler.

Open House Melbourne opens up a range of public and private dwellings and businesses for public inspection. More than 200 significant commercial and civic buildings, private homes, infrastructure and landscape projects are open, demonstrating some of Melbourne’s most progressive historical, contemporary and future-facing ideas in architecture and city-making. Some require bookings.

 

Faces behind the scene

This week is the last chance to check out “Faces behind the scenes”, a photography exhibition located in shop windows along Sydney road between Victoria Street and Albion Street.

The photos depict local business owners and staff, with their skills and trade, showing the humans of Sydney Road and the faces behind the scenes. Over 60 photographers & businesses are taking part so stroll along Sydney road to see the exhibition!

Sights Unseen

Starting on 27 July, the Counihan Gallery will begin exhibiting recent Acquisitions from the Moreland Art Collection not previously exhibited at the gallery. Comprising photography, painting, drawing, prints, collage, artists books and mixed media the artworks reflect a diverse range of contemporary practice as well as some fascinating historical offerings – a trove of cultural heritage for the City of Moreland.

WHAT: Sights Unseen: Recent Acquisitions from the Moreland Art Collection

WHEN: Saturday 27 July 2019 to Sunday 18 August 2019 (Gallery open Wednesday to Saturday, 11 am – 5 pm. Open Sundays, 1 – 5 pm).

WHERE: Counihan Gallery, Brunswick Town Hall, 233 Sydney Road, Brunswick

CONTACT: 03 9389 8622 or email: counihangallery@moreland.vic.gov.au

Term 3 at Brunswick Neighborhood House

Enrolments are now open for Semester Two for courses and groups – ranging from English language to Wednesday walks. New classes this term include a 10 week Fashion Illustration course, additional pottery courses and much more. Term starts on 15 July.

Please visit www.bnhc.vic.edu.au for regular updates.

  • FREE community lunches are held at BNH’s De Carle St venue on the 3rd Thursday of the month. (The next lunch will be Thursday July 18th)

BRN volunteers

If you are able to offer some time to volunteer to help organise our campaigns, and support our work, please get in contact. Our work includes organising meetings, leafleting and letter boxing, graphic design and publicity, and research; on planning, greening Brunswick and traffic management.

In particular we have some new mini-flyers and business cards so if you’d like some to share with your neighbours, let us know and we’ll drop them off.

Next Moreland Council meetings

All Council meetings – held on the 2nd Wednesday of each month –  are normally held at: Council Chamber, Moreland Civic Centre, 90 Bell Street*, Coburg.

Council meetings for the remainder of 2019 are scheduled for:

  • Wednesday 14 August 2019
  • Wednesday 11 September 2019
  • Monday 23 September 2019 – 6 pm – Consider the Draft Annual Report
  • Wednesday 9 October 2019
  • Monday 28 October 2019 – Ceremonial Council Meeting
  • Wednesday 13 November 2019
  • Wednesday 11 December 2019

The next Council planning meeting is:

  • Wednesday 24 July 2019

Dates sometimes change, so check for all meeting details at the Council website. Council meetings can be watched online, either live, or later – you can find details here along with the agenda for the next 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 local councillors

Mark Riley (Deputy Mayor)

Mobile: 0499 807044

Email: mriley@moreland.org.au

Lambros Tapinos

Mobile: 0433 419 075

Email: ltapinos@moreland.org.au

Jess Dorney

Mobile: 0419 560 055

Email: jdorney@moreland.org.au

MAILING LIST AND FURTHER INFORMATION

Welcome to new readers! To contact organisers of the Brunswick Residents’ Network, or to offer help with future activities, please email albertstreet2020@gmail.com. (This gmail is our preferred address, rather than replying to this email).

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 http://eepurl.com/VX4a9.

For meeting details, survey and newsletter archives, go to: https://brunswickresidents.wordpress.com

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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