Brunswick Residents News, April 2021

Welcome to our April 2021 newsletter. Scroll down to read, or read it on Mailchimp for nicest formatting.

Feature: Police raid on Councillor highlights accountability concerns. Plus planning, culture, parks, walking, and big ideas
A big welcome to all our new readers! And remember, we love to hear your feedback.

Walking: final call for survey

We’ve had a wonderful response to our survey on walking in Brunswick. So far, more than 760 people have responded to our online survey for local residents. These numbers – from people in Brunswick East, West and Central – will give a comprehensive overview of how residents find walking around our suburbs, moving beyond anecdote to solid evidence.

In coming weeks we’ll be collating the results, but there’s still time to have your say! What makes walking enjoyable for you? Are there times or places you avoid? Is it easier moving around, or getting harder? What will make it better? Have your say now!

If you can help stick up a poster, drop off a flyer, or take paper copies to your neighbours, please download copies from our website, or email us. We’ve had the survey translated into Greek and Italian – please email us for copies if you can distribute the survey at your church or community group. Or download copies from our website.  You can also share from our Facebook page.

The final report will present a picture of community attitudes and priorities across Brunswick east to west, on what’s needed to improve mobility and safety for pedestrians of all ages.

This survey in part of our broader campaign to make walking in Moreland safer and more enjoyable. BRN is working with Walk on Moreland and local community groups and we hold a monthly Working Group meeting to co-ordinate activities. Our meetings are scheduled for the second Tuesday of each month. All welcome!

  • If you’d like to get involved, please register in advance to receive the link to our 2021 online monthly meetings. Next one is tomorrow, Tuesday 13 April, at 6.30pm.

Feature article – Corruption, accountability and performance

How can councillors and council staff be made more accountable, at a time that police are investigating last year’s rorting of Council elections in the North-West Ward? 

What measures can the local community take to share information about what’s going on in local government, at a time that developers are driving planning policy across the state? How well is Moreland Council performing, and what are the greatest challenges for our municipality in coming years?

Here are a few stories about corruption, accountability and performance in our municipality:

Rorting the 2020 Council elections

As reported in our November 2020 newsletter, Victoria Police’s fraud and extortion squad has been investigating the 2020 Moreland Council election, after an alleged voting scam was reported in the North-West Ward. The Victorian Electoral Commission called in police after discovering that a significant number of people appeared to have voted twice after requesting a new ballot, implying voting papers may have been stolen from letter boxes and fraudulently filled in before the real voter had a chance to act.

The Age newspaper now reports that fraud squad detectives executed a search warrant on the home of Moreland councillor Milad El-Halabi last month, and arrested him on suspicion of vote tampering. Victoria Police have not released a formal statement on the raid or possible charges.

Despite a hearings session last month, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) is still to rule on whether a new by-election should be held for the North-West Ward. In the meantime, all four candidates elected last year in this ward – Oscar Yildiz and Helen Davidson (independents), Angelica Panopoulos (Greens) and Milad El-Halabi (ALP) – have been participating in Council meetings and committees since November 2020.

The Local Government Inspectorate confirms that a councillor can be stood down if they are charged with an offence under the Local Government Act that carries the risk of a 12-month jail term.

A register for developer meetings?

After the alleged rorting of the 2020 Council elections, BRN called for bans on developer funding to candidates, transparent and real-time information on campaign contributions and the introduction of stricter donor caps. We also proposed that 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.

Last December, Moreland councillors called for a report from Council staff regarding transparency of relationships with developers. The initial report was presented to last month’s Council meeting, but any action was deferred until the next meeting on Wednesday 14 April.

There are already some accountability measures for councillors. Official minutes of Council meetings include disclosures of conflicts of interest, and other material is available on the Moreland Council website, including: a summary of Personal Interest Returns; a register of gifts, benefits and hospitality; and a summary of Election Campaign Donation Returns.

Other states have more extensive requirements for local government, though only Western Australia requires a formal register of Councillor contact with developers, donors and lobbyists. In New South Wales, the obligation remains with Councillors to protect themselves from any allegations of impropriety through their own record keeping and conduct. Queensland councils are required to have a policy to govern conduct relating to developers and lobbyists.

In light of the ongoing corruption allegations in the City of Casey, other councils in Victoria are looking at boosting accountability: Stonnington City Council is currently considering a lobbying policy, while Port Phillip and Geelong councils have looked at the establishment of a developer register.

However in their report to March’s Council meeting, Moreland Council staff did not recommend setting up a register of developer meetings, arguing that “what should be included in a register of Councillor contacts or relationships with developers would be difficult to define and a register cumbersome to maintain.” They argue that “the requirements for a register of meetings with developers would need to be articulated to ensure it could be properly administrated and did not deter developer interests or confidence in investing in Moreland.”

For the debate at this week’s meeting, Council staff recommend nothing new beyond existing accountability measures, proposing the resolution: “That Council notes the existing requirements and policies to support transparency in decision making outlined in this report, including the Governance Rules, Councillor and Employee Codes of Conduct, Councillor and Council Staff Interaction Protocol and Urban Planning delegates reports procedure.”

Despite this, BRN still believes the scandal over voting for Moreland Council’s 2020 election and ongoing reports of corruption at Casey Council show the need for greater transparency and accountability amongst councillors and staff. This is especially true as Brunswick, with so many disused factory and other industrial sites, is the location for many major planning applications.

We also remain concerned the ALP State Government is forcing Moreland Council to replace its multi-member wards with single-member constituencies for the next Council elections. Having just one councillor for a ward with many major re-development projects, as in Brunswick East, will expose that person to significant pressure from developers – and just imagine if you end up with a dud councillor!

How do ratepayers rate Moreland’s performance?

Moreland City Council has a way to go to win community support, according to the findings of the Community Satisfaction Survey for 2020. The key objectives of the annual survey are to assess the performance of Council across a range of sectors, to seek ways to provide improved or more effective service delivery and to assist reporting under the Local Government Act.

The indexed score for Council’s overall performance is 61% in 2020, with only one in five people thinking that Council’s performance improved compared to 2019. Most areas that received majority support were in the 50-65% range. Areas of strong performance include library services (which received 78% approval), supporting the diversity of the Moreland community (75%) and providing arts and cultural opportunities (71%). Less than half of those surveyed gave support for Council’s work on traffic management (49%), Council’s general town planning policy (46%), planning for population growth in the area (45%) and parking facilities (45%).

Respondents are most likely to give a negative rating of Council’s performance on planning for population growth due to concerns about high-density and high-rise development in the municipality, coupled with perceptions of crowding and too much housing development (73%).

Despite recent initiatives and staff appointments, Council’s performance on consultation and engagement still leaves much to be desired. The dominant reason given by respondents for a negative rating is that there is no consultation, or that they never hear from the Council (40%). Nearly a fifth (19%) of those asked the reason for their negative rating stated that Council does not listen or makes decisions regardless of residents’ concerns. Survey respondents also stated a need for more consultation and communication (13%), while others indicated a lack of awareness of consultation or need to publicise consultation activities (12%).

Respondents were asked about the biggest challenge that Council faces in delivering services to the Moreland community. Population growth is perceived as the biggest challenge, mentioned by a quarter of respondents. This is followed by over-development (12%) and community consultation and communication (12%).

Pay rise for councillors?

Debate over accountability in local government comes at a time where Moreland City councillors are proposing a pay increase – for themselves!

At last month’s Moreland Council meeting, councillors (with the exception of Cr Sue Bolton) agreed to give public notice of a review of Mayoral and Councillor allowances. Moreland Council is proposing its intention to set the allowances at the upper limit of the allowable range (currently in Victoria, a Mayoral allowance can be up to $100,434 with a $9,541 superannuation contribution; with Councillor allowance set at $31,444 with a $2,987 superannuation contribution).

Many councillors work hard for the community, but this pay review provides an opportunity to have your say. Should a pay increase be tied to greater measures of transparency and accountability for councillors? Should councillors have an obligation to improve feedback of Council decisions to the local community? What more do you want from your elected representative?

New Moreland media

One of the best ways to improve local government in Victoria is to share information about what’s going on at the community level, with local reporting of councillor activities and debates over the best ways to transform our suburb.

Local paper Moreland Leader ended its print edition a year ago, with News Corp then standing down dedicated local journalists in May 2020 (though one local journo was reappointed last month). The effective demise of the Leader has seen a drop off in local reporting, with the few available stories –  mostly crime and sport clickbait – now hidden behind a Herald Sun paywall. As well, Moreland Council received a low satisfaction score for communications and consultation in its annual customer satisfaction survey (reported above).

Ironically, the demise of Murdoch’s Leader has led to some interesting initiatives around community media and citizen journalism, to keep track of what’s happening in Moreland.

Moreland Council is currently investigating a local news initiative from the Inner North Community Foundation (INCF), which is working to develop a sustainable social-enterprise business model. This is a concept for a community-owned and localised digital news service, with sustainability through membership, subscription and advertising – the intent being to create a self-sustaining business model that does not rely on ongoing funding.

In the meantime, there are some new community initiatives worthy of your support and attention:

Brunswick Voice is “a new hyperlocal publication bringing you news, views and long-form journalism from the vibrant, diverse and eclectic inner-Melbourne suburb of Brunswick.” It has a range of articles on a website and Facebook page, with reports on local development, arts reviews and photos of our suburb.

The Moreland Star is a new community platform “to connect, engage, share news / ideas and participate in constructive discussions about what’s happening across our community.”

Through its Facebook page, Moreland Star provides information on local events, community groups, local businesses, arts and council initiatives that may impact the community. If you have any news, events or have a story you wish to post, please can contact the editor on: morelandstar@yahoo.com

The Coburg Meddler is run by “Coburg locals who want to report on, investigate into and generally meddle in Coburg’s business.” They welcome contributions, feedback and criticisms at email: thecoburgmeddler@gmail.com 

In the latest staff report to Council, we’re honoured that the Brunswick Residents Network Newsletter rates a mention as a local source of “controversial news related to Council, community and neighbourhood news” (we’ll take ‘controversial’ as a compliment!). The first BRN Newsletter was circulated in September 2010, and since then we’ve been publishing this (nearly) monthly report to the community, with contributions and tips from local residents, renters and businesses.

Transport and traffic

Save the fences (and nearby children)

Dozens of car crashes on the same stretch of road in Brunswick East should be enough to trigger action to make it safer, but instead local residents are frustrated by years of buck-passing by Moreland Council and the state government.

The bend where Nicholson Street turns into Albion Street is notorious as a sharp turn where motorists frequently approach too fast and lose control, leaving residents to pick up the pieces of their smashed front fences (one house, pictured here by Brunswick Voice, has lost its front fence seven times!). A barrier protecting the footpath was removed after it was damaged, and not replaced. Locals are calling for redesign of the bend and speed calming measures.

On 24 March, the Herald Sun headlined: “Crash Course. . .Suburban street like an F1 racetrack”; however both Moreland City Council and Department of Transport refused to comment for the article (As residents say on their Facebook site, “Maybe shame got the better of them?”).

The Department of Transport (formerly VicRoads) is responsible for the road, but Council is responsible for the footpaths and the side streets (including east of the bend which does not have a safe, accessible footpath). Time for some action by the State Government!

Back to the drawing board for MITS

A major agenda item for this week’s Council meeting on Wednesday night is the adoption of a revised parking policy and associated initiatives under the Moreland Integrated Transport Strategy (MITS).

As our December 2020 BRN newsletter reported, the incoming councillors elected last year ditched key elements of the MITS, which had been adopted in March 2019 and was designed to “facilitate a demonstrable mode shift to more sustainable modes of transport that also targets a long-term reduction in car use.”

At their meeting last December, Council agreed to abandon the planning scheme amendment proposed in the MITS, which would have allowed the removal of minimum car parking rates in developments and the setting of maximum car parking requirements in activity centres. They also halted proposed parking restrictions arising from the MITS. As noted at the time, “the key implementation pathways to achieve the ambitious mode shift targets in the MITS have now been abandoned, leaving the policy without a meaningful implementation pathway to achieve its ambitious targets. Without an implementation pathway, the Strategy will almost certainly fail.”

After this major reversal of policy, Moreland transport staff have redrafted the parking policy and added lots of new paperwork, as demanded by ALP members and groups like Fair Parking Moreland, including a human rights impact statement, gender impact statement etcetera.

Shared zone trial to slow traffic

It’s only been eleven years since the idea was proposed for the Brunswick Integrated Transport Strategy, but the trial shared zones next to Fleming Park have finally been rolled out.

It’s great to see the trial of shared zones being implemented in Victoria Street and Albert Street, adjacent to Fleming Park. These zones aim to improve safety for all road users: pedestrians, cyclists and car occupants, as the speed limit reduces to 20kph for the shared zone and pedestrians have priority. Brunswick artist and photographer Carla Gottgens has created a pattern of bouncing balls, inspired by various sports played throughout the history of Fleming Park, along with signage and tree planters, to improve access for pedestrians and cyclists and reduce traffic on surrounding residential streets.

We think it will be much safer and easier for families, dog walkers and the elderly accessing Fleming Park and safer for people on bikes using the East Brunswick Shimmy. If traffic is slowed sufficiently, this may also put people off rat-running down Hutchinson Street. Importantly, slower speeds in this precinct will stop the speed-based algorithms on navigation apps from sending people our way.

It will take some time for drivers and pedestrians to get used to the concept, but chatting to nearby cafe owners, the good news is that more extreme speedsters already seem to be slowing down. Initial feedback is positive, but there are still a couple of signs to fix – one 20kph sign, heading east on Albert Street, is obscured by an old 40kph street sign). And the speed hump in the middle of the Albert Street zone still has a yellow ‘slow to 30kph’ sign, which sort of clashes with the reduction to 20kph!

Thanks to Lee, Sri, Kris and the Moreland transport team for this initiative. You can give feedback to Moreland Council’s traffic staff through email (covidtransport@moreland.vic.gov.au), or join the public discussion on the Conversations Moreland website: https://conversations.moreland.vic.gov.au/transport-projects

Sumner Street closure

In July 2019, Moreland Council agreed to erect temporary barriers in Sumner Street and Peers Street, Brunswick East, as a trial to prevent traffic from the East Brunswick Village (EBV) project rat running through local streets east of Nicholson Street.

After a successful trial, Council has now begun the formal process to permanently block the passage of vehicles, other than bicycles, by placing barriers in Sumner Street from Nicholson Street. It’s a great initiative, keeping traffic out of residential streets and on the main arterial thoroughfares. It’s worth a walk down there to see how quiet and pleasant local streets can be made.

You can make submissions on the proposed closure to a sub-committee headed by Cr. Mark Riley. There’s a public notice on Council’s website and notices have been sent to owners and occupiers of all properties in the Glenlyon Road-King Street-Albert Street-Nicholson Street area.

Latest plans for Wilson Avenue

Moreland Council has released a new concept plan for the revitalisation of Wilson Avenue, which runs from Sydney Road to the entrance of Jewell Station on the Upfield rail line. There are plans for more shady trees, street furniture and new lighting. Check out the proposal and have your say before the final design is signed off later this month.

Streets are for everyone

A broad coalition of advocacy, health promotion, transport and research groups in Victoria has issued “Streets are for everyone”, a consensus statement to support more walking and bike riding for Victorians as part of the post-COVID recovery.

The statement is endorsed by a dozen organisations and networks, including: health promotion groups like the Heart Foundation and VicHealth; cycling and pedestrian organisations; the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria; and local government networks like the Municipal Association of Victoria.

The statement outlines the benefits of walking and bike riding to the economy and the health and wellbeing of Victorians; highlights barriers to the vision; and gives three practical recommendations for implementation by the Victorian Government:

  1. Include walking and bike riding as an essential part of integrated transport planning.
  2. Prioritise streets for people in residential areas, around schools and shopping strips.
  3. Upgrade cities, regional centres and local neighbourhoods by improving footpaths, bike lanes, crossing opportunities and completing missing links.

Planning news

State government rams through planning changes

In a major centralisation of planning powers and denial of community rights, the State Government has rammed through significant changes to Victoria Planning Provisions. The new Amendment VC 194, gazetted by State Planning Minister Dick Wynne, creates new permit exemptions for any State Government-led or funded project, or projects carried out on Crown land.

Two new provisions are now added into the Victoria Planning Provisions and all planning schemes – including the Moreland Planning Scheme – to “facilitate the timely delivery of state and local government infrastructure projects to support Victoria’s social and economic recovery from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.”

Dick Wynne announced: “I have decided to exercise my powers to exempt myself from all the requirements of sections 17, 18 and 19 of the Act and the regulations in respect of Amendment VC194 to the Victoria Planning Provisions and all planning schemes in Victoria”.

According to the explanatory note for Amendment VC 194: “The provisions provide exemptions from planning scheme and planning permit requirements, and exemptions from notice and review requirements for state and local government infrastructure projects, subject to meeting specified conditions”.

If the Minister declares a project a “state project,” having decided that it will “support Victoria’s economic recovery from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic,” the usual requirements of the planning scheme (including any prohibitions on use and development) don’t apply. Without the need for planning permits, or amendments to the planning schemes to facilitate a particular project, any third party rights are also extinguished. Consultation must merely be carried out “to the satisfaction of the Minister,” but this requirement can itself be waived. These provisions for state projects will expire on 30 June 2025.

The State has also exempted Councils from requiring planning permission for public projects valued under $10 million (with a few exceptions). There is no expiry on these provisions.

Design scorecard

Moreland Council has voted 8–3 to continue with a trial of a controversial planning “scorecard” until September 2021, despite criticism that it removes residents’ rights from planning decisions.

Under the “Design excellence scorecard”, developers can fast-track applications if they meet benchmarks on environmental impact, building design and materials used, accessibility and community benefit.

Council believes the quickest way to speed up the planning process is to remove residents from the planning loop. At the time it was introduced in 2019, then Acting Director City Futures, Phillip Priest acknowledged that: “The only way to fast track the system is to remove public consultation”. When the community is excluded from planning decisions, and they are made by staff under delegation rather than by elected councillors, Council staff usually “trade off’ features of design (such as height and setbacks) that are important to objectors.

We critiqued the Scorecard in our March 2019 BRN newsletter, noting: “The scorecard once again takes decision making within the planning industry bubble – the closed circuit of developers, architectural firms, consultants and council staff. We believe that planning should be more democratic, and must engage people who have to live with the consequences after the consultants and builders have moved on to greener pastures”.

Another problem is that an individual “scorecard” building may have some design merit in its own right, but will set a precedent on height, setbacks or heritage that other developers will use in VCAT appeals.

Since the trial was first begun in 2019, only six developments have met the requirements of the scorecard. The trial of the scorecard has already been extended twice – the last time in August 2020, when some additional requirements were added (requiring extra public notification by planning applicants, and enhanced rights for objectors).

Transparency and rezoning in Brunswick  

At a time where there are major construction applications in the pipeline for Brunswick, many developers are focused on more profitable residential projects rather than providing commercial space for jobs. This has implications for employment in our municipality – in 2019, there were only 46 local jobs for every 100 residents, the third lowest rate in Greater Melbourne.

Over the last few years, Moreland Council’s planning staff have been working to boost commercial space through re-zoning of old industrial land. However Brunswick Residents Network is concerned about the way in which these changes are being managed. Once again, this process makes changes certain for developers, but muddies the process of community involvement by limiting opportunities for locals to have a say in the transformation of our suburb.

In last month’s newsletter, BRN raised concerns over Amendment c193 to the Moreland Planning Scheme, which addresses ‘Brunswick Activity Centre Industrial Land Rezoning’. This amendment process, to introduce the Commercial 3 Zone to 55 industrial sites in the Brunswick Activity Centre, came after a Council resolution in October 2019.

At next Wednesday’s Council meeting, however, planning staff have recommended that councillors now “withdraw the request to seek authorisation from the Minister for Planning to prepare Amendment C193 to the Moreland Planning Scheme” and “undertake consultation to inform preparation of a draft Activity Centre Zone (ACZ) schedule for the Brunswick Activity Centre”.

There are 2000 or so sites in the Major Activity Centre (MAC), of which around 50 are flagged for Commercial 3 (C3) zoning. BRN understands that some landowners from this relatively small group of industrial sites have argued it was unfair to expect them to carry the floor space necessary for future jobs. Most of the other sites in the MAC have already ‘up-zoned’ to what the planning industry considers ‘highest and best use’ – the Commercial 1 zone (C1). C1 developments are for high density housing, but are required to have a shop or restaurant downstairs. The C1 zoning was often the former ‘Business 1 zone’ along main corridors, but former industrial sites around Brunswick have also up-zoned.

BRN questions why Moreland Council could not have kept Amendment C193 alive and – through the exhibition process – adjusted the percentage of floorspace in the C3 up to 75%. Council can still put ‘C3 properties’ with more commercial floorspace into the ACZ for various sites. But the problem remains: the landowners and developers are not happy, because whoever gets a larger floorspace requirement than another developer will feel they are carrying the cost for the previous Council shortcomings and the market drive to profit off apartments rather than office space.

We agree it is government’s role to step in to ensure past mistakes are not repeated. But the current proposal – to withdraw C193 and create a new Activity Centre Zone – is aimed at trying to get another level or two of commercial floorspace out of developers (even those in the C1zone). We suspect there will be massive opposition from C1 owners, and the process will ultimately backfire. The floor space requirements will not be mandatory, and if they can’t be enforced, industrial sites that could have stayed workforce productive may become housing-heavy.

Last year, Moreland Council planning staff commissioned research from the consultancy firm ‘.id Consulting’ to prepare “A Job in Moreland: The employment floorspace we need now and in the future” (AJIM).

The AJIM report was commissioned partly to assist Council to better understand how to support employment in Moreland, but mainly to justify inserting greater floorspace requirements into local planning law than currently exist. Developers are only required to provide ground floor retail/office spaces into many large developments and this is resulting in less jobs than are needed.

The report highlights the challenge of job creation in the municipality: “Over the past decade, the number of jobs in Moreland grew by 6,859 jobs or by around 1.6% per year. This growth has been largely driven by local population growth which has generated demand for local services. However, the number of employed residents (living in Moreland) grew by 3.5% per year meaning that job growth is not keeping up with population growth. In 2019, Employment Self-Sufficiency was 46%, meaning that there were only 46 local jobs for every 100 residents, the third lowest rate in Greater Melbourne.”

This research process was initiated by staff, not councillors, under Covid State Emergency measures. It was not put to elected representatives, and thus did not follow due democratic process. The .id Consulting research did not tap the expertise of local businesses or residents.

In our February newsletter, BRN argued: “In the interests of transparency, we believe the initial interim finding of this review should be released to the councillors and to the wider public. Furthermore BRN believes the Terms of Reference (TOR) for .id Consulting – developed last year by staff – should also be made available. We think that councillors are entitled to see the TOR and initial findings before deciding to proceed with changes.”

It’s good to see the AJIM report has now been included in the papers for the April Council meeting (though still without the original terms of reference).

In response to our concerns, Moreland Council’s Director of City Futures Kirsten Coster has promptly responded to BRN, acknowledging that the AJIM report “included technical market sounding interviews and Think Tank workshops with developers, researchers and planning experts.” She says, however, that “Stage 2 will include targeted engagement with Brunswick business and resident groups to add to the understanding of the issues an ACZ for Brunswick is seeking to address”, followed by broader community consultation on a draft ACZ and the statutory exhibition process.

For a Council that has pledged better community engagement and consultation, could we humbly suggest that Moreland was remiss in not including residents adjoining and abutting the remnant industrial sites at the same time developers were interviewed! The first priority should be to talk to residents, ratepayers and local businesses about their concerns, priorities and visions, before the technical experts are brought in to bash their ideas into shape.  Neighbours getting involved early on in changes like this help avoid Bunnings style application popping-up unexpectedly and placing appeal burdens on community members (the application for the proposed Bunnings Warehouse, on C3 land in Glenlyon Road, has attracted more than 500 objections, especially from people living immediately adjacent to the industrial site).

Finally, a small point on transparency – it’s interesting to note that Amendment C193 from 2019 will likely be withdrawn this week, even though it’s not listed on the “Current Amendments” page on the Moreland Council website! Residents, renters, ratepayers and local businesses deserve better information, instead of the planning priesthood deciding what’s good for us.

Rezoning land alongside Clifton Park

As part of a wider process of rezoning industrial sites to commercial zone, Moreland Council is advertising amendment C180 to a property at 430-436 Victoria Street and 7 Gardiner Street, Brunswick, alongside Clifton Park. The Amendment, for the Oceania Universal site and former metal recyclers, is designed to “provide greater flexibility in the type of commercial uses permissible on the land.”

The Amendment proposes to rezone the site from an Industrial 1 Zone to a Commercial 2 Zone, apply a Design and Development Overlay and Environment Audit Overlay to the land.

Given the amount of development around Gilpin and Clifton Parks, together with the proposed “Albert Fields” project, there are important questions about whether new commercial buildings will be designed (height, setbacks, mass and bulk) to limit overshadowing and visual impacts to Clifton Park.

Any submissions about the amendment must be sent by 23 April 2021 to the Strategic Planning Unit at Moreland City Council (email strategicplanning@moreland.vic.gov.au).

Affordable housing study

At a time of steadily increasing housing prices, Moreland Council proposes to develop a four-year Affordable Housing Action Plan, aiming to finish the study by May 2022.

Moreland Council already had an Affordable Housing plan for 2019–20, but the impact of the pandemic has changed the terrain for owners, renters and investors. Council will extend its current initiatives for 2021–22, until the new four-year plan can be finalised in time for the 2022–23 budget.

At last month’s Council meeting, it was agreed that Moreland Council continue to monitor and advocate for emergency housing availability in the municipality, and ensure that modifications to open space and public areas do not exclude homeless people.

Bunnings Glenlyon Road

The future of the planning application to build a Bunnings Warehouse at 145 Glenlyon Road now depends on the outcome of an 8-day VCAT hearing beginning late April. Residents continue to fund-raising to pay for expert witnesses to support the community case for outright rejection.

Urban design ideas

Solar powered rubbish bins

Melbourne has joined cities around the world to add smart bins to the streetscape. Around town, you may notice that some bins have solar panels on top. These new bins in busy locations allow for compacting of rubbish, to reduce the number of trucks required to empty them, with information shared through networks to allow real-time decisions on clearing away the rubbish. Check out these videos on a smart piece of urban design:

Mapping Melbourne’s public transport

While Public Transport Victoria publishes local maps for particular areas that show all public transport modes, there is no publicly available equivalent to cover the whole city – until now.

Transport planner and cartographer Philip Mallis has produced an updated version of his comprehensive map showing all public transport routes in Greater Melbourne and Geelong. It’s a great resource to look at connections between bus, tram and train.

Philip runs a great website promoting public transport, with a blog to delight the heart of every transport nerd (for example, did you know that Christoforidis Lane in Brunswick shares equal top place in the longest single word in any road name, excluding hyphens?). He makes lots of great maps about cycling and public transport routes in Melbourne and regional centres like Geelong and Bendigo (past, present and future – check out his vision about what a great rail network in Melbourne might look like in 2050).

Artful apartment

A new work at the National Gallery of Victoria will make many apartment dwellers feel like they’ve taken a wrong turn. ‘Speculative architecture’ group BTVV drew on images of more than 1,000 new Melbourne apartments to design a walk-in artwork for the NGV Triennial — the gallery’s international art and design expo.

Designed to look like a display suite, the artwork consists of two connected rooms. But look again and you’ll notice that there’s something not quite right: the toilet is gargantuan, there’s a bedroom hidden under the kitchen island, and the open-plan living area narrows to a vanishing point.

Urban development from a girl’s perspective

Although cities are supposed to be built for everyone, they are often planned and designed by men. Research shows that girls and women do not use a city’s public spaces to the same extent as boys or men. A lack of knowledge in participatory urban planning and design is contributing to widening the gender gap in urban development processes.

Now, a new planning tool “Her City” supports urban development from a girl’s perspective.

A team of urban planners have designed digital tools for municipal professionals and local decision-makers that involves girls and young women in urban planning and design. “Her City” is promoted as a “Digital Toolbox for Sustainable, Equal and Inclusive Cities.” Launched on International Women’s Day 2021, this guide for urban planning and design is a collaborative effort between UN-Habitat and Global Utmaning, the Swedish independent think tank.

Brunswick green spaces

New parklet opposite Brunswick Town Hall


As part of Moreland’s “A Park Close to Home” program, Council has purchased the property of 260 Sydney Road, opposite the Brunswick Town Hall, facing Sydney Road. Over the next two years, Council will open a temporary pop up park to test what works, before deciding on permanent features for the site.

Preliminary plans for the temporary space show lots of concrete and not enough shady trees, but it’s a great location to do more. Your ideas please! Join the discussion on Conversations Moreland.

The first open space under the Park Close to Home program – Bulleke-bek Park at West / Breese Streets, Brunswick – opened earlier this year. Construction at nearby Garrong Park (55 – 61 Tinning Street, Brunswick) is well underway, but there have been delays in building the proposed toilet building, which will not be completed until May.

At the March 2021 Council meeting, councillors resolved to defer any decision on play equipment at Garrong Park until after the park is opened, following completion of the toilet building. In the meantime, the perimeter construction fence has been removed so the main areas of the park are accessible, despite the ongoing construction.

At their March meeting, councillors also called for a staff report about establishing a new play space on the Park Street Linear Park, which borders Brunswick South Primary School at the southern end of the municipality. These reports should also identify options for greening the northern stretch of Rathdowne Street, between Brunswick Road and the Park Street Linear Park, to mitigate the urban heat island effect. Hopefully this work will include reducing the large expanse of heat-attracting bitumen in the dead-end section of Park Street, near Princes Hill Primary School.

For more information, concept plans and proposed timelines for park construction, go to Conversations Moreland:

Saxon Street (Siteworks) moves ahead

For some time, Moreland Council has been working on a masterplan for the great community facilities at 33 Saxon Street, Brunswick (just north of Dawson Street, across the road from the Brunswick Library).

Last July, Council endorsed a concept plan for the site, known as Siteworks, and is now beginning the public procurement process to seek a partner organisation as a site manager, “to deliver the vision and objectives at the redeveloped 33 Saxon Street as a creative and community facility”.

For some time, Council has been working towards an agreement with Brunswick Neighbourhood House (BNH) for relocation of their services to Saxon Street. BNH was established in 1980 at 18 Garden Street, Brunswick, a venue they still operate today. In 2001, Moreland City Council gave BNH the management and sole use of 43a De Carle St as a secondary site. Bringing these facilities together near the Town Hall / Library / Brunswick Baths / Mechanics Institute will add to a real community hub in the heart of the suburb. We look forward to hearing the plans for future community use of the existing BNH buildings.

Birdwatching on Merri Creek

On Sunday 2 May (COVID-19 restrictions permitting), Friends of Merri Creek will organise bird surveys at seven sites along Merri Creek. There are two sites in Brunswick:

  • CERES – Moreland Rd: Meet at the seats on Merri Path by 8:45 AM, at rear of CERES, East Brunswick (Melway 30 B7).
  • Merri Park and Phillips Reserve: Meet at end of Victoria St, East Brunswick, by 8:45 AM, at the BBQ shelter (Melway 30 B8).

Registration is not required and beginners welcome. BYO binoculars if possible, but no dogs please, as they reduce the number and variety of birds to be seen. The contact for all Birdwatch events is Ann McGregor 0429 386 102.  

No Nazis

Last week a neo-Nazi group painted a huge ‘Hitler’ sign on the Upfield Shared Path – right in the middle of tolerant, diverse Brunswick. It was quickly painted out. Let’s send a message to neo-Nazis that Moreland has no room for racism and hatred.

Culture Corner


Shaun Tan is one of the best-known Brunswick-based artists. You can see his latest exhibition at Beinart Gallery, 307 Victoria Street Brunswick. The popular writer, illustrator and artist will be signing books (some available at the gallery) from 2 to 5pm this Sunday, 18 April.

Brunswick Residents Network needs your help

We’d love some help from readers with technical skills in:

  • Modifying (and demystifying) our Mailchimp templates
  • Working out how a smooth transfer for our newsletter from Mailchimp to a WordPress post
  • Laying out our Walking Survey (when complete, in May)

Please email us at brunswickresidentsnetwork@gmail.com

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.

Dates advertised for the rest of 2021 are:

  • 14 April
  • 12 May
  • 9 June
  • 14 July
  • 11 August
  • 8 September
  • 13 October
  • 10 November
  • 15 November – Mayoral Election
  • 8 December

Meeting details are normally posted at the Council website. Coming meetings are expected to be live at the Council Chamber, rather than just online – but check  to make sure. The link above also has a form to ask questions, but we should expect live questions to be possible with live meetings.

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. You can register there to receive an alert when the agenda is posted. Recent meetings have also been live-streamed on the Council Facebook page.

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

Mark Riley (Deputy Mayor)
Mobile: 0499 807044
Email: mriley@moreland.vic.gov.au

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

James Conlan
Mobile: 0409 279 335
Email: JConlan@moreland.vic.gov.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 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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