Brunswick Residents Newsletter, November 2020

Welcome to our latest newsletter, with a special feature on political skulduggery and its implications, plus lots of updates on planning issues, traffic woes, local culture, and of course the Council election results. Read here (cut and paste from Mailchimp), or read here for nicer formatting.

Election results under a cloud; Bunnings goes to VCAT; BRN argues resident rights at VCAT; COVID recovery, parks, happy walking, falling buildings, and much more
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Brunswick Residents Network News,
November 2020

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Congratulations Brunswick – we have zero Covid cases, with none of Victoria’s remaining active cases nearby. Thanks to all those who continue to remain cautious and follow health advice on social distancing and mask-wearing.

Cloud over Council election results

Following the recent postal ballot, the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) declared eleven candidates elected across Moreland City Council’s three wards on 5 November. However, as detailed below, Victoria Police and the Local Government Inspectorate are investigating allegations that hundreds of fraudulent ballots were lodged in the North-West ward, which may lead to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) calling a by-election for the ward next year.

Full results of the 2020 poll, with first preferences and spreadsheets on preference allocation, can be found at the Victorian Election Commission, Moreland City Council results. If you have a moment, it’s fascinating to go through the spreadsheet to see how the preferential system works. This is notable in the South ward where first preference votes were widely spread, so all candidates relied on preferences to get elected. It’s clear that most voters did not follow party or candidates’ tickets in choosing their voting preferences.

North-West ward recorded a return rate of postal ballots at 80.8% of the total enrolment, North-East ward 79.2% and the South ward 73.50%. Postal voting was expected to produce higher voting rates, and in fact all three wards had substantial increases in votes returned, together with fewer informal votes. The increased voting return was strongest in the South ward, where it jumped by 17.8 percent of enrolments.

All eleven Councillors were sworn in on Tuesday 17 November with the new Mayor and Deputy Mayor to be elected on Friday 20 November.

In the South ward, two previous councillors were re-elected: outgoing Mayor Lambros Tapinos (ALP) and Mark Riley (Greens). The third spot in the South went to James Conlan, who ran on the Greens ticket. The South Ward result is interesting: although the final result maintains the status quo in electing two Greens and one Labor member, first preference votes dropped for both major parties. This fall was most dramatic for the Greens: in 2016, Samantha Ratnam won with 50.5% of total votes, while this year Mark Riley and James Conlan between them won 26.7% of votes. The Reason Party’s Rachel Payne (8.72%), and independent John Durrant (7.83%) both attracted substantial votes but in the end it was the Victorian Socialists’ Nahui Jiminez, with 10% of first preferences, who was next in line to be elected.

In both the North-East and North-West wards, two sitting councillors were returned and there are two new faces in each ward.

In the North-East, Annalivia Carli Hannan (ALP) and Sue Bolton (Sue Bolton for Moreland) were re-elected, while Adam Pulford replaces retiring Nathalie Abboud as a Greens representative. Independent Helen Pavlidis-Mihalakos, a former employee of Moreland Council now working for Boroondara Council, took the fourth spot.

The North-West ward however is up in the air, after allegations of vote tampering. Four councillors have been declared elected. All attended and were sworn in at this week’s special Council meeting – sitting councillors Oscar Yildiz (formerly ALP, now independent) and Helen Davidson (independent) followed by Angelica Panopolous (Greens) and Milad El-Halabi (ALP). However the VEC has referred the election results in the North-West Ward to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

VCAT held a directions hearing on 9 November and determined a timeline for submission of evidence about vote-rigging in the ward. VCAT will hold a further directions hearing in December. VCAT can call for a new election in the ward but is not expected to make a final determination on the North-West Ward election until next year. A separate investigation is underway by Victoria Police, to see if criminal charges should be laid.

The Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) called in police after hundreds of ballot papers in Moreland’s North-West Ward were allegedly removed from letterboxes, allegedly filled in fraudulently and then posted to the commission.

VEC commissioner Warwick Gately has stated that “at least a few hundred” suspicious ballots had been discovered, after election officials noted a high number of requests for replacement ballot papers. Gately said: “By law, the VEC must proceed with finalising the count and declaring the result of this election, but I will lodge an application to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for an inquiry into the election for North-West Ward as soon as the result is declared.”

The Victorian Government Solicitor’s Office has informed candidates in the ward that Victoria Police are now investigating the rorting of the postal vote, stating: “The fraud and extortion squad, finance and cybercrime division [and] crime command has commenced an investigation in relation to alleged offences, including, but not limited to, making false documents, multiple voting and tampering with Victorian Electoral Commission ballot papers.”

The VEC has not named any candidate connected with the vote rigging attempt, and BRN awaits formal findings from VCAT, Victoria Police and the Local Government Inspectorate.

Feature article:
Skulduggery in Moreland Council

The latest allegations of vote-rigging in Moreland draw attention to concerns about good governance in local councils across Victoria. There are worrying examples where local government is scarred by the influence of developers in council decision making (highlighted by the ongoing inquiry into allegations of corruption in the City of Casey).

BRN is not affiliated with any party, and readers of this newsletter will know we have criticised or supported policies advanced by councillors regardless of their party affiliation. Normally, we ignore the inner-party disputes that are common in the inner north (such as the Greens battle over Alex Bhathal’s position in Cooper; former Brunswick MP Jane Garrett helping forge the new Industrial Left faction to take on the Socialist Left in the ALP; or the fight to choose a candidate to replace Kelvin Thompson for the Federal seat of Wills). That’s politics.

As we go to press, no person or group has been named as responsible for alleged vote rigging in Moreland. These allegations, however, are serious, and part of broader challenges to transparency and accountability in local government.

Changes to the Local Government Act were introduced earlier this year, driven by former Local Government Minister Adem Somyurek (now disgraced and resigned from the ALP after branch stacking allegations). Despite these reforms, the State Government has failed to introduce effective, comprehensive systems to restrict rorting in local government.

In previous years, the ALP has not formally endorsed candidates for local government elections, but in 2020, the party ran a ticket across Moreland after endorsing candidates (Other parties or coalitions also ran a formal ticket, including The Greens, Victorian Socialists and the Sue Bolton for Moreland ticket).  However there have been serious disputes in choosing members of this year’s Moreland Labor Team .

The Age and Herald Sun newspapers have both reported on current political disputes involving ALP councillor Milad El-Halabi, who was the fourth person elected in the North-West ward. On 4 November, The Age reported that within the ALP, “Mr El-Halabi’s candidacy was opposed internally, amid claims his work as a developer would pose a conflict of interest to his role as a member of council. A party committee vetted Mr El-Halabi and chose not to endorse him as a candidate, a decision that was overturned by the ALP’s powerful administrative committee. It was one of the last meetings of that committee before the party’s national executive intervened in the Victorian branch, after The Age and 60 Minutes revealed systematic branch stacking allegations.”

At a time senior ALP figures Steve Bracks and Jenny Macklin are now moving to expel hundreds of people from the party due to involvement in branch-stacking, there are significant disputes within local ALP branches across Moreland. On the website promoting the Moreland ALP campaign, promising “open and accountable government”, Milad El-Halabi is no longer listed as a member of the “Moreland Labor Team.”. However on his own Facebook page for the Council elections, Mr. El-Halabi shows posters, leaflets and billboards with the Victorian Labor logo, describing himself as “Your Labor candidate for Moreland Council North West ward.”
A quick scan of past media stories about Peter Khalil’s pre-selection victory in Wills shows some familiar faces in the current disputes amongst Labor Right factions in Moreland.
Last year, now disgraced Local Government Minister Adem Somyurek drove through significant changes to the Local Government Act. The revised Act includes some positive changes (including mandatory candidate training and codes of conduct). However, despite these positive changes, BRN believes that the final legislation includes a number of retrograde provisions.

As we argued in our newsletter last June: “The original reforms proposed a cap on electoral campaign donations and gifts, but this reform disappeared from the final Act. There is a need for all parties – at local, state and federal levels – to support legislation for transparent and real-time information on campaign contributions and the introduction of donor caps.”

All Victorian council candidates are now required to submit financial returns to the Local Government Inspectorate – listing donations above a $500 threshold towards their campaign – within 40 days of a general election (You can see the list of donors to Moreland Council candidates for the 2016 elections at:
https://www.moreland.vic.gov.au/about-us/your-council/council-elections/election-campaign-donations/).

In May 2019,  David Nunns, a candidate for the North-East Ward in the 2016 Moreland Council elections, received a six month good behaviour bond and no conviction for non-disclosure of campaign funding. Nunns, a member of the ALP, was ordered to pay $1,500 towards prosecution legal costs. On his campaign donation return, Nunns failed to declare a $3,000 gift from the Municipal Employees Union Fund, which is associated with his employer, the Australian Services Union (ASU).

David O’Brien was a South Ward candidate in the 2016 Moreland elections and failed to submit a campaign donation return by deadline. At the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on 10 August 2018, O’Brien was fined $100 and ordered to pay $2,500 in prosecution legal costs as well as submit a return within 14 days.

The latest furore over alleged vote-rigging in Moreland highlights another negative element of Somyurek’s local government reforms: the introduction of single member wards for council elections (which will be introduced in Moreland for the next elections in 2024). Brunswick Residents Network believes that Moreland should stay with multi-member wards in future elections. This is in line with VEC policy, which has consistently recommended that councils move to multi-member ward systems over single-member wards. The State Government should review this provision of the Act, returning Moreland to multi-member wards for the 2024 elections.

It seems that for the current council elections in Victoria, Moreland is the only municipality in Melbourne where this level of vote-rigging has occurred. This has to stop. There is a danger that badly managed councils can end up in administration, leading to a loss of rights for residents, ratepayers and local businesses.

We believe there should be bans on developer funding to candidates, transparent and real-time information on campaign contributions and the introduction of stricter donor caps.

We urge Moreland Council to look at implementing recommendations in a new report from the Local Government Inspectorate on Councillor allowances and expenses, which aims “to improve the transparency of processes surrounding expense reimbursement and to create greater accountability for councillors making expenses claims.”

Councillor expenses and allowances: equitable treatment and enhanced integrity, Local Government Inspectorate, September 2020

Beyond this, we believe Moreland Council should introduce a public register of meetings between councillors, council staff and developers (or their representatives), to increase accountability around the planning process in a municipality that is undergoing significant change.

What changes would you like to see in local government accountability?
Join the discussion on the BRN Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/Brunswick.Residents.Network/
or write to us at brunswickresidentsnetwork@gmail.com

Bunnings avoids Councillors, goes straight to VCAT

Even before newly elected Councillors have the opportunity to consider a planning permit application for a new Bunnings Warehouse at 145 Glenlyon Road, Brunswick, the company has gone straight to VCAT to obtain a permit (VCAT case P1683/2020).

Bunnings was entitled to file against Moreland Council at VCAT under a section of the Planning and Environment Act known as ‘failure to decide within 60-days.’ The company filed at VCAT on 28 September, just ten days after the public notification period ended. Even though Bunnings had lodged its plans with Moreland Council on 24 July, Council did not inform adjoining residents until late August, when a sign was placed at the Glenlyon Road site. This public notification was delayed by roughly a month compared to usual practice.

BRN understands that Council staff made the decision to delay public notification at the site due to the Vic Stage 4 Covid-19 restrictions potentially affecting the putting up of notices (though the application was lodged in July, before the start of the second lockdown in August). We don’t know why adjoining neighbours were not advised in writing soon after the application was lodged.

Residents had two weeks from notification to officially lodge objections by 16 September (with an extra three days added to the normal sixty day period to account for the delay). BRN understands that Council’s original aim was to make a decision on the planning permit at its October meeting, before entering caretaker period for the elections. However the large number of community objections led to a further hold up in assessing the application. In our view, this large number was only to be expected, considering this major development will have significant impacts on the neighbourhood.

There have been 537 objections to the proposed project to date, because of its adverse impact on neighbouring properties, as well as the proposed location near bus and tram routes and a major intersection with Lygon Street. Local residents are calling for the company to find another location for the mega-store.

Stop Bunnings Glenlyon

The traffic assessment submitted as part of the planning application makes no attempt to look at the precinct as a whole, and makes basic errors (like misrepresenting the speed limit in Glenlyon Road!). BRN has conducted a survey of residents near the proposed site. This survey provides plenty of evidence to counter the absurd claim in the traffic assessment that “the additional traffic generated by the proposed Bunnings Warehouse will have no impact on the road network and any queueing that occurs is relatively short in length.”

A formal Planning Information and Discussion meeting (PID) will be held online at 6pm on Thursday 26 November, as a forum for applicants, objectors and Council officers to clarify issues and to be better informed of each party’s views prior to an assessment being made.

Early objectors have been sent an invitation with details on how to get the zoom link, and you can still join the PID by emailing pagmcd@moreland.vic.gov.au no later than Monday November 23. Subject heading: “PID response: 145 Glenlyon Road, Brunswick VIC 3056, 6 Pitt Street, BRUNSWICK VIC 3056.  In the email include your name, address and preferred email address.

Stop Press: Bunnings leaflets Brunswick

Nearby residents today received a circular from Bunnings, saying that they are committed to the community; and that the design (see picture) is unique, not a typical Bunnings Warehouse, with shop-front style window glazing, life-style products, and bike parking. They say that the “comprehensive traffic management plan” has been carefully considered. This doesn’t sound like the plans we’ve seen, where the traffic plan was based on a store half the size in a Fairfield non-residential area; and a few bike parks were mainly on the footpath!.

Panel hearing on C190 subdivisions

Last month, BRN members Joanna Stanley and Nic Maclellan participated in a two-day hearing by a Planning Panel into the proposed Amendment C190 to the Moreland Planning Scheme. C190 aims to introduce an additional class of application into the state government’s ‘VicSmart’ planning provisions, covering two dwellings on a lot.

This amendment will introduce provisions for people planning to replace one dwelling with two units or townhouses. If C190 is adopted, an application for two dwellings on a lot will go through a VicSmart amendment pathway, which means that neighbours will not be notified about the project and will have no right to appeal to VCAT.

Speaking to the Panel, BRN argued that Moreland City Council is not justified in having the Victorian Minister for Planning approve the amendment. The lauding of the amendment by private planners as being a “real game changer for the development industry” reinforces our concern that the amendment is not in the common interest, given it pioneers the removal of community rights in planning two-unit developments in Moreland’s two key residential zones: the Neighbourhood Residential Zone (NRZ) and the General Residential Zone (GRZ).

A central element of Moreland Council’s submission to the Planning Panel is that the right to notification, review and appeal do not add value to the planning process for dual occupancy projects, which are the major form of planning application in the northern wards of the municipality.

While Victorian planning law allows for the removal of notification, review and appeal provisions in certain circumstances, BRN does not believe that this change is appropriate in this case. BRN submitted: “We believe that this attitude is short-sighted, and that the removal of notification and review provisions will have un-intended consequences. Indeed, there is a danger that it will create more, not less disputes…The removal of notice has potential to generate increase bad blood between neighbours, as objectors feel they have no say in a change that may affect their amenity.”

Moreland receives more than twice the metropolitan average of multi dwelling planning permit applications, so these changes will affect properties across the municipality – especially in the two northern wards. We submitted to the Panel that residents can bring local knowledge to the planning process and endorsed the statement by another expert witness: “Objectors help to guard against errors. They spot mistakes in plans and alert officers to issues they might otherwise not be aware of. They give insights into parts of the adjoining sites that are not readily accessible. They prod planners and question their assumptions.”

In their formal response after two days of hearings, Moreland Council planners responded to BRN by stating: “At Moreland, none of our systems or practices rely on residents ‘doing our job’ for us. We don’t ask that residents invest time and energy picking up errors or noting site particulars. These things are the job of the officer. In the statutory planning space, we want to engage with our community on much more important things, like the more complex or larger developments, where the potential impacts are greater. That’s where everyone’s efforts are best directed.”

BRN is concerned that Moreland Council is seeking progressively to remove a range of resident third party rights in the planning process, as a way of improving development outcomes. There is a “trade-off” culture that does not sit well: a culture of always seeking ways to incentivise developers at residents’ expense, and by taking away clarity and adding confusion to residents’ understanding of how planning works in Moreland.

We await the final Planning Panel report, which will then be considered again by Moreland Council. Keep an eye on C190, as it will affect residential streets across the municipality.

Community engagement: Council reports back

After months of discussion, Moreland Council has finalised a draft Community Engagement Policy and Implementation Plan, which will be presented for adoption at the next council meeting on 9 December. According to Council, “the draft Policy explains our commitment to public participation including when, who and how we will engage on different matters. The draft Implementation Plan provides a road map for us to put our new policy into action.”

In comparison to many other councils, Moreland Council is notorious for its poor systems of community engagement and customer service. Recently, there have been positive initiatives to address this problem, such as the creation of the ‘Conversations Moreland’ website and the appointment of a public participation team. We’ve welcomed the opportunity for recent meetings between BRN, residents and Council staff on traffic planning in our ward.

But Council never seems to learn, as shown by the recent debacle over plans to install synthetic or hybrid pitches on the football oval on Hosken Reserve. On ‘Conversations Moreland’, Council staff have ‘fessed up to this mess, noting: “We are aware and completely acknowledge that some mistakes were made with Hoskin (sic) Reserve… In the case of Hoskin Reserve, community engagement occurred on this project a very long time ago. Council made the mistake in thinking that it would not have to engage the community again about it.” (Adding insult to injury, they misspell the name of the reserve in their confession!)

A recent Moreland Council report on community feedback about the engagement policy points to a fundamental flaw in Council practice: “The overriding issue for people engaged was that they were generally asked to engage on topics of interest to Council, rather than ones that were of interest to them” (Community Engagement Policy, Outcomes of Phase 1 Consultation Report, September 2020, p4-5). ‘Conversations Moreland’ rarely asks for community feedback on controversial issues.

This report also noted: “There was a general belief that engagement should take place within the community and that staff should go to the people”, instead of dragging residents up to Coburg Town Hall.

The new draft policy documents are now available for public viewing, and will be presented to the December Council meeting.

Brunswick’s Covid recovery

Brunswick jobs hit hard by pandemic

New research on the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic show that Brunswick, Brunswick East and Brunswick West were amongst the hardest hit suburbs across Melbourne.

The Taylor Fry COVID-19 Financial Impact Index provides a weekly snapshot of the financial impact of COVID-19 on the Australian population, relative to pre-pandemic levels. This impact is determined by calculating a substantial reduction in income relative to an individual’s baseline expenses.

Despite the media image of Brunswick as a hipster paradise, and the visible growth of an affluent middle class, working people in postcodes 3055, 3056, and 3057 all suffered “extreme impacts”, the highest rate shown on the Taylor Fry interactive map. Brunswick East 3057 ranked number 7 in the top 10 hardest hit Victorian municipalities. In Brunswick, all people earning under $52,000 went backwards from mid-April, while those earning more than this amount had small increases (due to Jobkeeper etcetera).

As the ABC News reported: “There are some surprises in the data — such as the severe impact on incomes and employment in inner Melbourne ‘hipster’ suburbs around Brunswick, St Kilda, and Abbotsford — heavily geared toward the hospitality, retail, and entertainment industries, and also desirable places to live for the young people who work in them.”

Social housing boosted

In our July newsletter, we featured the debate over tenants’ rights in public housing, in contrast to social or community housing. (“Social housing” is price-controlled housing usually administered by nongovernment housing associations, which are not required to give tenants the same rights as they enjoy in public housing).

Victoria currently has the lowest proportion of public housing per capita compared to other Australian states, making up just 1.9 per cent of Victoria’s total housing stock. From 2014, Victorian recurrent net expenditure on public housing fell annually until 2018-19. Today, there are less Victorian public housing dwellings than a decade ago, while the state has transferred more public housing stock to the community housing sector than any other state.

In response to the need to drive post-pandemic jobs creation, the State Government has announced a comprehensive $5.3 billion social housing package that will create 12,000 new homes over the next four years in Melbourne and regional Victoria. It will also establish a new statutory authority to develop and oversee a 10-year public and community housing growth plan.

The proposed initiative, to be confirmed in the State budget on 24 November, aims to deliver 9,300 new homes, as well as the replacement of 1,100 existing public housing units. Victorian Council of Social Service CEO Emma King said. “A single investment of this scale has not been seen in many decades, if ever. It’s a gamechanger.”

However this decision reinforces the existing trend in government policy, shifting from public to social housing and reducing rights for some tenants.

Previously, the Andrews government had earmarked 11 government-owned housing estates for demolition under the ‘Public Housing Renewal Scheme’, to be sold to private developers who will then build new estates. Planning documents show that most of the public housing estates will be turned into massive private housing complexes, with just a fraction of the land set aside to construct new “social” housing. Public housing tenants were concerned that this plan meant that developers would rebuild the existing public housing without any requirement that these new dwellings possess the same rooms or amenities as the old ones.

Walking, riding and driving 

Upgrading Stewart Street

Until 30 November, Moreland Council is conducting an initial community consultation on ideas to improve the eastern-most section of Stewart Street, Brunswick – an important connection for pedestrians and cyclists from Nicholson Street through to CERES Community Environment Park (Off Stewart Street, you can also link to the Merri Creek path via Kingfisher gardens, and now to Northcote via the new Merri bridge).

Council wants to improve the pedestrian amenity, walk-ability and presentation of Stewart Street between Nicholson Street and CERES/Roberts Street. They are looking for your ideas on footpaths, trees and landscape, seating, pedestrian and cyclist safety and other issues.

Currently, this section of Stewart Street is a nightmare. The footpaths, where they exist, are narrow and cracked. Since the new tramstop was built north of Blyth Street, numerous cars rat-run at speed to avoid the Blyth-Nicholson corner. Soon there will be hundreds of new residents (and their vehicles) coming in and out of Stewart Street from the new apartment complex next to CERES. The road is used as part of a turning loop for the Albion Street bus. School children (in normal times) arrive daily in busloads at CERES.

Some serious options should be considered for this major pedestrian and bicycle link. At a minimum, wide footpaths and a separated bike path should be installed. And seating! Other options could be a 10 KpH shared zone, or a road closure at some point to prevent rat-running. Plus some seating (see next item). It’s a chance to turn a currently unattractive stretch of road into something beautiful! Please give it some thought, and jump online in the next few days to have your say.

The first stage of consultation until 30 November will be followed by the development of a draft design for the improvements, which Council will share with the public between 25 January-22 February 2021, aiming to start construction next July.

Stewart Street Improvements
https://conversations.moreland.vic.gov.au/stewart-street

Inbox: More on-street seating needed

Thanks to Marianne Isaacs for this interesting note. BRN supported the roll-out of seating on residential streets several years ago. We can see the seats are regularly used, particularly by older people on the way to the shops, as Marianne notes below. But we need a lot more!

She writes: “I work as a physiotherapist. A lot of my work is with conditioning people who have become debilitated due to a decline in physical activity, for many varied reasons. We follow the recommendations of the US Surgeon-General for exercise to achieve an active healthier older age.”

“This includes walking for a minimum of 30 minutes per day either as a continuous 30 minutes, or in 3 x10 minute blocks of brisk walking. The latter option is very useful for people who have pain or are quite unfit. It would be enhanced by having regular seating to facilitate 10 minute intervals of walking with a rest under a shade tree, as a encouragement to achieve the full 30 minutes. Initially putting seats in ares where there is a hill, as well as pairing them with a street tree, would be a great starting point. Seats could also be sited on the route to small local shopping centres or coffee shops to facilitate local shopping and patronage of local businesses.”

“I hope these ideas provoke some discussion, as maintaining fitness into old age requires active engagement in physical activity and the rewards to the community and individuals are huge.” 

Road safety updates in Moreland

Victoria’s overall number of road deaths has been decreasing over the last decade, but pedestrian deaths have remained reasonably constant and have increased in each of the last three years: 31 (2017), 37 (2018) and 48 (2019). Last year, pedestrians represented 18% of all people killed, the highest proportion of pedestrian deaths in a decade. Half of these people were 60 years or older.

Brunswick Residents Network, Walk on Moreland and Victoria Walks were amongst the 150+ individuals and organisations that have prepared submissions on this issue to the Victorian Parliament’s current inquiry into the increase in Victoria’s road toll.  On behalf of Walk on Moreland, Dr Andrea Bunting and Carmel Boyce also gave testimony to the inquiry in September, highlighting that “Moreland is actually Victoria’s second-worst municipality for pedestrian road trauma after the City of Melbourne, and our pedestrian fatality rate is nearly double the state’s average.”

The committee was supposed to report in December, but with delays due to the lockdown, the reporting date for this inquiry has been extended to 31 March 2021.

Food for thought: October road deaths by speed
This October graph of Australia-wide deaths, in the monthly report by the Australian Government’s Department of Infrastructure, Transport and more, shows just why speed limits are important, with only one death recorded where the speed limit is 40KpH or below, compared to 29 at 100KpH!

Low traffic neighbourhoods: for the middle classes?
Worth checking: a recent Guardian article  which gives a thoughtful challenge to this view, while arguing that consultation is a key ingredient in good traffic planning.

BUG AGM

Moreland Bicycle Users Group (BUG) will hold their Annual General Meeting on Sunday 29 November.

Check on their website closer to the day, to see if the AGM will be held online (due to COVID restrictions on numbers) or at Harmony Park in Coburg.

  • Moreland Bug has begun an excellent monthly newsletter – you can subscribe here.

What: Moreland BUG AGM
When: Sunday 29 November, 3pm – 4pm
Where:  Harmony Park 187-191 Gaffney Street, Coburg VIC 3058, Australia
Info: Faith Hunter, email: postcardsfromthenorth@gmail.com

Upfield rail line

With the State Government planning major spending on infrastructure in this month’s State Budget, Northern suburbs residents are urging Premier Daniel Andrews and Treasurer Tim Pallas to include duplication of the Upfield line as a “shovel ready” project in the budget. The 4 kilometres of single track between Gowrie and Upfield stations limits the service, which currently runs through Brunswick at 20-minute intervals, including during peak hours.

The State Government has already committed resources to remove four level crossings on the Upfield line – the crossings at Bell Street, Munro Street and Reynard Street in Coburg and Moreland Road in Brunswick were removed in early November, with trains now travelling on the new rail bridge. However new stations at Coburg and Moreland are still under construction, and will remain closed until mid-December (Trains will run express through Coburg and Moreland until this time.)

A shuttle bus is operating between Brunswick and Batman stations from first service to 9.30am and again from 3.30pm to last service, and on weekends, to connect passengers to train services. Catch Route 19 trams on Sydney Road if you’re travelling on weekdays between 9.30am and 3.30pm.

Works will go on at the Moreland Road, Brunswick level crossing from 7pm Friday 27 November to 6am Wednesday 2 December, with closure of the crossing (access maintained via Brunswick Road, Grantham Street, Dawson Street, Melville Road and Moreland Road, or via Melville Road, Bell Street and Sydney Road).

With ongoing works, a section of the Upfield Shared Path between O’Hea Street in Coburg and Albion Street in Brunswick, will remain closed until mid-2021.

Traffic plans needed

Many major development projects require a traffic management plan, detailing access and exit points for vehicles entering and leaving the site, and impacts on the immediate surrounds. However these plans are often thrown together by consultants, ignoring the reality of traffic movements that are well understood by local residents.

Travel plans have been required as a condition of planning approval for selected land use developments in Victoria over the past 10-15 years. Their purpose is to manage car use and support the use of more sustainable forms of transport (public transport, walking, cycling). To achieve this, they contain a set of tailored measures for the development, such as restricted car parking supply, additional bicycle parking, free public transport tickets, access to car share vehicles, and information about local transport options.

A new study in the journal ‘Case Studies on Transport Policy’ (and a summary in the October 2020 edition of Planning News Victoria) look at VCAT decisions on travel plans for new developments, and whether they meet key principles of planning permit conditions, such as relevance, reasonableness and certainty.

The authors found 178 VCAT hearings between 2005 to 2016 which discussed the traffic / travel report for the project: in this period, only 12% of travel plan requirements were rejected, resulting in an average acceptance rate of 88%.

The study highlights key issues, including “limited confidence in the ability to successfully implement travel plans at new developments, a lack of monitoring and enforcement due to insufficient resources within local government, and a varying level of quality in travel plans that are submitted for planning approval.”

Last call: walk to school survey

If you have primary school children, and haven’t yet filled in this short survey about walking to school from local Member of Parliament for Brunswick, Tim Read, please take a moment to do so pass it on, to maximise the results and their impact.

Culture vulture corner

More art on the Upfield path

MoreArt 2020 is a new exhibition of temporary public art works at the northern end of the Upfield shared path. Walk or ride along the path, north of Batman station, until 29 November.

There are tangible artworks such as Michael Prior’s kinetic, solar powered sculptures, Patrick Pound’s path posters and Adam John Cullen’s sculptural intervention in the Fawkner Memorial Park. Other works include the binaural sound work by Sarah Walker, Mira Oosterweghel’s web-based poem and collages, the walking tour by Emma Gibson, or spoken word works by Catherine Clover and Timmah Ball with Liquid Architecture – all activated digitally.

MoreArt 2020
https://conversations.moreland.vic.gov.au/moreart

A brief history of Brunswick building collapses

 

Sayon’s panel beaters at 28 Hope Street  is the latest in a series of older buildings damaged during the construction of neighbouring Brunswick building projects. The east wall and roof are being rebuilt after a wall collapsed, apparently due to construction work on the new Nightingale building site next door.

There have been several similar examples reported in recent years, the most dramatic being the collapse of popular GP Dr Seham Mostafa’s two storey medical clinic in Sydney Road in 2009 after a deep hole was dug right next door.

News reports also document the fate of a car repair workshop in Nicholson Street. In 2015 the block next door was having soil removed when the wall and roof collapsed, and the ABC report says that workers ran for their lives.  According to our Facebook reader, several cars inside were written off, and the business didn’t return, as the owner sadly predicted on the day:  “We’re destroyed. Our livelihood’s buggered,” he said.

Another cause of building collapses is “demolition by neglect”, often to get around heritage protection rulings. Last month Victoria’s Legislative Council voted to hold an inquiry into our planning and heritage systems. Let’s hope this is the start of a process to address major problems in both planning and heritage systems!

Moreland Council stuff

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

The next scheduled meeting date is Wednesday 9 December 2020, but with the special meeting to elect the Mayor, tomorrow night (Friday 20 November).

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 has been no public question time because of COVID-19 rules, but if this is not restored by December you can submit a written question through a link on the website page above.

Email us!

Please note our email address:  brunswickresidentsnetwork@gmail.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 nfip@optusnet.com.au? 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)

Contacts for our local councillors

Lambros Tapinos
Mobile: 0433 419 075
Email: ltapinos@moreland.org.au

Mark Riley
Mobile: 0499 807044
Email: mriley@moreland.org.au

We’ll include details for incoming councillor James Conlan in our next edition.

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 brunswickresidentsnetwork@gmail.com. (This gmail is our preferred address, rather than replying to this email). Thanks to those who have contributed to this edition.

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.

Election comment in this issue authorised by N. Maclellan, c/- 135 Albert Street, Brunswick 3056.

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