Brunswick Residents Network News,
COVID-19 in Brunswick
On 22 July, Moreland municipality had 374 people diagnosed with COVID-19, including 207 ongoing cases (ranked number 6 out of 76 municipalities in Victoria).
Stay safe – if you suspect you may have COVID-19, called the 24-hour dedicated hotline on 1800 675 398.
In the meantime, here’s some local news about COVID-19 in Brunswick….
New funding for feet and bikes
Before the pandemic, a quarter of all Moreland residents used public transport to get to work. Now, with the need for physical distancing on trams and trains, there’s a problem that more people will start using their cars to get around, adding to congestion, unless there is significant investment in cycling and pedestrian infrastructure.
As we reported in last month’s newsletter, Brunswick Residents Network joined with Walk on Moreland, Be Safe Streets and Pedestrian Safety for Nicholson Street Coburg to make a joint submission on Moreland Council budget priorities, calling for support for active transport.
Great news then from the July Council meeting, where councillors approved $2.4 million of walking and cycling projects in this year’s budget. This includes $1,383,534 in the 2020-21 capital works budget for pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, to be funded by Council ($150,000 reprioritised from Transport budgets). The shortfall of money (about $570,000) will be applied for under state/federal grants.
This includes support for:
- An expanded zebra crossing program (up to $500,000);
- An expanded pedestrian threshold program (up to $500,000);
- Pop-up separated bicycle lanes on Dawson Street, Brunswick between the Upfield shared path and Barry Street ($105,000);
- Pop-up shared zones on Albert Street and Victoria Street in Brunswick East at the Fleming Park shared path ($150,000);
- Pop up separated bicycle lanes on Albion Street, Brunswick linking the Upfield shared path to detour routes around the Upfield closure due to LXRP ($40,000);
- Right hand turn bans identified in BITS 2013 to improve the safety of pedestrians and cyclists crossing at intersections, as well as tram priority ($150,000);
- Land purchase and design for the Priority Pedestrian Network missing link in Stewart Street to enable construction in 2021/2022 ($165,000); and
- Upgrades to informal detour routes around Upfield shared path closure ($390,000).
- Other initiatives in the Northern wards.
In response to this decision, BRN quickly collected suggestions for zebra crossings via our Facebook page, and submitted them to Council. See our submission, and the criteria for crossings and thresholds to be considered, brunswickresidents.wordpress.com/traffic/.
We are continuing the discussion with Council and have arranged a zoom meeting with staff member Alex Sheko tomorrow (Friday 24 July) from 6.30 to 8.00pm to discuss pedestrian-related proposals including crossings, thresholds, and shared zones. If you’d like to join this discussion, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to be sent the link (or any suggestions, if you can’t attend). You can also join our Walking Working Group, which holds a monthly zoom meeting. Please take a look at the BRN submission and the criteria for priorities, on our traffic page before the meeting.
Thanks to all those who lobbied councillors and contributed ideas for action on zebra crossings and traffic management projects, as the list above includes many items we’ve been advocating.
Mean memes for Brunswick West
On 1 July, stage three Stay at Home restrictions were re-introduced for ten postcodes in Melbourne, including Brunswick West (3055), Glenroy, Hadfield, Oak Park (3046), and Fawkner (3060).
Those of us who lived in 3056 and 3057 rather than 3055 breathed a sigh of relief, mixed with a certain amount of sorrow for our Westie counterparts, and spiced by some really mean memes. The technical term is schadenfreude, or pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune.
- The Melbourne Suburb of Brunswick West is copping a Pizzling thanks to Lockdown memes
- After 10 Victorian Postcodes Got Locked Down Again, People Made Memes to Cope
Within weeks, of course, we’re all under bloody lockdown. Let us hope that all the people north of the Murray gloating about stupid Mexicans won’t have to eat their words.
Ned Kelly wore a mask, so should you
Did you join the rush to textiles store Rathdowne Fabrics in Brunswick to stock up on fabric and elastic for mask-making? Owner Dean Sunshine had a line out the front of his Victoria Street store on Monday morning for the first time ever. “I’ve got 20 people out the front of my shop today. I have never seen that in my life,” he said.
From today, it is mandatory for everyone to wear masks or face covering when leaving their home. If you are leaving the house for any of the four reasons (essential work, exercise, shopping, medical), you must be wearing a face mask (some activities are excluded). If you do not have a mask, you can use a scarf or a cloth – any type of face covering.
Melburnians strip shelves of sewing machines, fabric to make own masks, The Age, July 2020
Community grants for COVID action
Are you part of a community group or organisation that has an idea for a project or initiative that will support our community during the COVID-19 pandemic? Moreland Council is offering new ‘Thrive Community Recovery Grants’, which focus on specific areas such as social isolation, social cohesion or community inclusion.
Grants of up to $5000 are available to non-profit community organisations for one-off projects that will benefit and engage the Moreland community. Applications close on Sunday 9 August. More info at:
Thrive Community Recovery Grants
There are also specific grants for artists, musicians and cultural workers, under Moreland’s program ‘Flourish: Arts Recovery Grants’. This is a once-off grant program to support the local cultural sector during the COVID-19 crisis. There are grants for Individual Artists (up to $5,000 for individuals, sole traders and freelancers), as well as grants for Arts Organisations (up to $10,000 for collectives, ensembles and not-for-profit businesses).
For people doing it tough in Brunswick, there are some community organisations organising food drops.
If you are struggling to afford food, the Muslim Women’s Council has secured the Coburg Town Hall kitchen to prepare meals. They give away the packs of food on Friday lunchtimes around 2pm.
For a range of other support groups and welfare organisations, you can find their contacts on the Council website
Small business grants
In BRN’s community survey on COVID-19 in April “Our Stay At Home Lives”, many of those surveyed painted a gloomy future for local businesses in Brunswick. Almost 40 per cent expressed concern for the future of local small businesses, and in particular cafes, restaurants, local shops and music venues. Another 13 per cent highlighted how shop-front closures would change our local streetscapes and change our way of life for the worse.
Now Moreland Council has launched ‘COVID-19 Community and Business Development Grants’, with $300,000 available for Moreland businesses who could do with a boost to help their business survive during this latest round of lockdowns. $250,000 is available for small-scale projects, marketing and for purchasing of e-commerce tools to help move businesses online. $50,000 of these funds are allocated to projects that will assist businesses to be more accessible to our entire community.
Applications are open now until Sunday 9 August. To learn more and to apply, see Council’s business website.
Public housing in a pandemic
The lock down of nine public housing towers in Flemington and North Melbourne has highlighted decades of under-investment in public housing in Victoria. Our state has one of the lowest levels of low-income housing stock of any state in Australia.
During the pandemic, many homeless people have been housed in empty hotels, at government expense, before being re-housed. But there’s a massive waiting list for public housing across Victoria. Public housing is where the government is the landlord, while ‘social housing’ or community housing refers to subsidised rental accommodation provided by non-profit organisations, where rent is usually capped at a proportion of a tenants’ income.
As state and federal government looks to boost economic activity during the pandemic, one obvious area for action is the construction of new public housing and the repair and renovation of existing housing stock.
According to The Age, “The Andrews government has announced a new commitment for social housing, with a $500 million package to build 168 new units and upgrade 23,000 more to bolster Victoria’s struggling economy…The biggest slice of the funding, $155 million, will go towards upgrading and repairing more than 15,000 public housing units, with a further $110 million set aside to build new kitchens and bathrooms for 2100 units.”
But note the difference between investment in public housing and in social housing. Some local residents are concerned that under Victoria’s Public Housing Renewal Program, public housing is being privatised by stealth. Given the decades-long underinvestment in public housing, government responses have been to allow existing public housing towers to quietly decay, or to demolish tower blocks while transferring public land to private ownership, with nominal increases in social housing.
In our municipality, the Gronn Place estate in Brunswick West is under the hammer. In 2017, Moreland Council voted to support redevelopment of Gronn Place, but only if it was kept in public hands and was 100 per cent public housing. Last month, the government also announced demolition of ten blocks in Ascot Vale.
Some existing public housing tenants are concerned that new social housing associations can pick and choose future tenants, with the result that the most disadvantaged people are often excluded. Beyond this, rents can be increased to levels that are unaffordable for those on low incomes. Tenants in “social housing” often lack long-term security of tenure.
The events in Flemington raise concerns for residents in other high-rise towers around Melbourne, including the public housing block in Barkly Street, Brunswick. At their July 2020 meeting, Moreland Council agreed to liaise with the State Government, so that “if any residents of the public housing tower in Brunswick tests positive to COVID-19, they be offered transfer to an approved quarantine accommodation, rather than the whole tower being closed down.”
A series of other measures are proposed in case of a lockdown for the Brunswick tower, including provision of masks and sanitiser, emergency Wi-Fi, information in community languages and an immediate rent freeze for tenants.
Council reviews transparency
Moreland Council is currently reviewing its governance, transparency and procedures, as required under new Victorian laws for local government. Brunswick Residents Network put in a submission, successfully lobbied for the closing date to be extended, and were invited to meet (online) with the Council officer responsible, Sally Curran.
Some of the points we stressed in our submission were:
On transparency – the need for a policy that has much more details about exactly how Council will be transparent, such as detailing timeframes and lines of responsibility for delivery of information. Conversely, the areas where Council will not give out information need to be narrowed, as they currently go well beyond requirements of privacy legislation.
We detailed several areas where more Council data should be published. Some of our suggestions were:
- Availability of data on traffic, such as volumes and speeds of traffic on local streets, and pedestrian and bike counts.
- A public register on meetings between developer representatives and Councillors or Council officers
- Transparency on the collection and spending of levies on developers (Developer Contribution Plan, and Open Space levies); with accessible publication of amounts and locations of collection and expenditure.
On the accessibility of information on the Council website, we noted that important information currently gets “buried” on the website. Our submission deals with the need for the website to be in plain English, not jargon; and meet international standards for access by people with communications disabilities. We noted that the creation of Conversations Moreland (listing current Council consultations) is a positive step, but that it needs to include areas of community debate, for example controversial planning applications. We were pleased to hear, in our meeting with Council staff, that it’s planned to re-vamp the main website to make information easier to find
Regarding Council meetings, the points we made addressed public access to Council meetings, including:
- Making the Agenda publicly available at least a week before the meeting, to allow citizens to read and discuss the issues under consideration. This has been the timeline in the past, but the rule now requires only 48 hours notice.
- That Council meetings revert to circulating around the municipality, and that Council purchase live streaming technology for these locations (which used to include Brunswick Town Hall).
- That proposed rules about questions by the public at monthly Council meetings be ditched, in particular the requirement for written notice of questions
- That rules that could be used to restrict debate (for example the broad confidentiality clause) should be clarified, with the default position being that information be publicly available
- Read the BRN submission
- Read the current draft proposals on Conversations Moreland
- Although public submissions have officially closed, you could email your views to the responsible Moreland Council officer Sally Curran, although it would need to be soon as a revised draft is currently being prepared for the August Council meeting, SCurran@moreland.vic.gov.au
Moreland Council elections, October 2020
Victoria’s next local government elections will be held on Saturday 24 October 2020. Elections are held around this date, every four years. Moreland’s election will be a postal ballot, because of the pandemic, and you will have to post your vote by 23 October. You are already enrolled to vote if you meet the following three criteria:
- you will be 18 years of age on election day
- you live in the City of Moreland, and
- you are on the State electoral roll for your current address.
If you are not enrolled already, you need to sign on by 28 August. You can check with the Victorian Electoral Commission whether you are enrolled, or find a link to enrol.
Already the ALP, Greens, Victorian Socialists and the Sue Bolton Moreland Team are putting together tickets or recruiting candidates, and there are usually a number of independent candidates. Victoria’s new Local Government Act 2020 includes some changes as to who can become a local council election candidate. For details, check out:
The Victorian Local Governance Association (VLGA) runs training for women considering a run for Council: you can check out their video here:
If you think you’d make a good local Councillor, nominations will open on 17 September and close on 22 September. Brunswick Residents Network is planning our traditional South Ward Candidates Forum (online or in a public venue or both, depending on the COVID situation). All candidates will be invited, so if you are planning to stand it would be helpful to let us know.
Under ‘Stay at Home’ restrictions, what campaigning is possible? This will be especially critical if the lockdown continues after August. The VLGA has written to Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton, asking what campaign activities are permitted during lockdown. They have asked whether campaigning for local government election (as the candidate) considered one of the four reasons to leave home – i.e. ‘work’? Can candidates (or their supporters) leave home to undertake campaigning activities (i.e. putting up flyers or public notices) that do not involve direct contact with the community? Answers to follow soon! Candidates have traditionally relied on enthusiastic supporters to spread the word by door-knocking and leafleting, so restricting this may benefit candidates who have money over those who have friends.
Great to see some guerrilla gardening improving the landscape around the Edward Streets and Dods Street carpark in Brunswick.
Check out more images on the Facebook page of Friends of Edward Street
Balfe park upgrade
Balfe Park is a medium-sized reserve located at 54 John Street, Brunswick East, with a sports field, play space, open space lawn with trees, public toilet and the club rooms of the Brunswick Zebras.
Moreland Council is considering plans to upgrade Balfe Park, focusing on the play space and open space areas (but not the sports field or the sports shelters).
As well as new play equipment (a Viking castle theme!), proposed works include a BBQ and picnic area, a new accessible drink fountain with a dog bowl, and bike racks. The central path will be replaced with coloured concrete with an inlaid bluestone detail. This concrete will also extend to improve access to the public toilet. To address heat concerns, Council will plant a number of extra trees in the reserve including near the play space. Additional tree planting in the main lawn area is to allow for picnics etc on the grass under shade. Funding is being sought for outdoors gym equipment.
For further information on this project, contact Moreland’s Landscape Architect Deb Piattoni through 9240 1111 or email@example.com
Toxics and Trash
Contamination concerns at Park Street
Even though the proposed tower block at 699 Park Street has bitten the dust (with plans rejected by VCAT) there are ongoing concerns about pollution and toxics on the site, which was put up for sale last month.
The EPA issued a Clean Up Notice to the owners of the site, JWLand, on 22 May 2018. This action came in response to complaints from residents about the acrid dust, fumes and odour that came from the site when the existing buildings were demolished.
The EPA identified two main groups of contaminants which had accumulated during the many years of industrial use on the site before it was acquired for re-development: lead and other heavy metals, and volatile, petrol-related substances. These contaminants were present in both the soil and the groundwater.
In response to the Clean Up Notice, about 250 cubic metres of soil was removed from the western part of the site. The groundwater has been also been cleaned up to an extent, though there is residual contamination, which is probably coming from contaminated sources adjacent to the site.
The Environmental Auditor has applied to the EPA for a determination of the site as CUTEP (clean up to the extent practicable). The application is being reviewed by the EPA and a decision is some months away. We will keep you informed as to the outcome.
Council consults on garbage
Do you have opinions about how our rubbish should be managed? Go to conversations.moreland.vic.gov.au to have your say, as the Council has opened this subject up for discussion.
BikeSpot 2020 is a crowd-mapping collaboration, inviting Victorian cyclists to mark a map with locations where you feel either safe or unsafe when riding. At the end of May, BikeSpot 2020 completed its latest round of data collection, collecting more than 31,000 submissions (spots, comments and ‘likes’) between 31 March and 31 May 2020.
The BikeSpot 2020 report highlights five key findings:
- Cyclists and drivers want dedicated space from other transport modes
- Traffic speed causes the most stress for cyclists
- Want more confident riders? Build a connected network
- Fear of car dooring is a daily concern
- Transport corridors surrounding the Melbourne CBD are the biggest issues
Looking at the map of hot spots, it’s no surprise that Sydney Road ranks as number six in the Top 10 Unsafe Spots in Melbourne. Two major roads with separated bike lanes were nominated the safest: Wellington Street in Collingwood topped the list, followed by William Street in the city. Canning Street, North Carlton ranked number 8 in safe cycling streets.
Happy birthday BUG
Moreland BUG (Bicycle Users Group) is thirty years old this year (counting from the inception of Brunswick and Coburg BUGs in 1990), so it seems as good a time as any to undertake a history project.
Lisa O’Halloran and Faith Hunter are collecting historical material and conducting interviews with people involved in the BUG and its activities over the years. If you have any photos or other material that you are happy to share, please send them to Faith at the address below. If they are not in digital form, Faith can arrange contactless pick-up to digitise them and return them to you.
Lisa and Faith will be archiving the material collected on a website and also working on a film from the materials and interviews.
Do it at home – Bike repairs made easy
With public transport patronage declining in this age of physical distancing, many people are dragging out the old bicycle and putting some oil on the chain. But how can you ensure that your old treadlie is safe to ride?
Ghostriders – produced by Ash Jones with support from the City of Melbourne – is a series of entertaining, short videos on how to service your bike from the comfort of your home, backyard… even your bathroom. The first two episodes are already online:
- Episode 1: Intro
Learn how to fix your bike without all the bike store jargon with Ghostriders, our lo-fi bike servicing series. We shot it for mobile, so you can watch and fix at the same time.
- Episode 2: Safety
Gotta stay safe out here. If you’ve tinkered with your bike, here’s what you need to check before you ride it.
Workers Art Collective
If you wander along Albert Street, just east of Sydney Road, you’ll find a small pop-up gallery for the Workers’ Art Collective. It’s a group of activists and organisers who produce artwork in solidarity with workers engaged in struggle, including Sam Davis, Tia Kass, Mary Leunig, Nicky Minus, Van Rudd and Sam Wallman. Check out some of their work online:
Workers Art Collective on Instagram
Sam Wallman website
New News for Brunswick
‘Brunswick News’ is a new online news site created by Robert Durkacz, with news and views from the neighbourhood, but extending to national and international affairs. It’s very ecumenical, with links to Greens MLA Tim Read and ALP Federal MP Peter Khalil. They even give Brunswick Residents Network a plug, which is a sign they have their finger on the pulse!
Brunswick News accepts articles and posts from the public. Posts can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or you can negotiate for a personal account where stories can be entered directly, Wikipedia style.
Please note our email address: email@example.com. And write to tell us what you think of the newsletter. We love feedback.
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.
[Wondering why this email comes to you from firstname.lastname@example.org? Our Mailchimp email service doesn’t like a gmail sender’s address, so we use a member’s address. Add this address your contacts so our emails don’t get filed as spam, but don’t write to it)
Moreland Council stuff
All Council meetings – held on the 2nd Wednesday of each month – are normally held at: Council Chamber, Moreland Civic Centre, 90 Bell Street, Coburg. 2020 dates are:
- Wednesday 12 August 2020
- Wednesday 9 September 2020
- Wednesday 14 October 2020
Meeting details are posted 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 when it’s posted on the Friday before the monthly meeting.
There is no public question time because of COVID-19 rules, but you can submit a written question through a link on the website page above.
Contacts for our local councillors
Lambros Tapinos (Mayor)
Mobile: 0433 419 075
Mobile: 0419 560 055
Mobile: 0499 807044
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 email@example.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.