Brunswick Residents News, May 2021

Welcome to our May 2021 newsletter, with in-depth articles on housing trends and financing, Council budget, saving our streets from dangerous traffic, and lots more local news ranging from green spaces to garbage. Scroll down (sorry if the layout is a bit clunky) or read here on Mailchimp for a smoother experience.

Feature: Border closures hit off-shore investors. Housing trends and controversies. Council rejects Clifton Park towers. Merri Creek safety.

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Brunswick Residents Network News,
May 2021

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A big welcome to all our new readers, and thanks to those who took our walking survey. Remember, we love feedback.

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COVID, lockdown, and Brunswick

With new community transition of the Sars-Cov-2 coronavirus in the northern suburbs, two sites in Brunswick have now been listed as tier 2 exposure sites (you should get tested immediately and isolate until you get your result):

  • Futsal Brunswick (409 Victoria Street, Brunswick). If you or a family member attended Futsal between 9am and 10am on Sunday 23 May 2021, please get a COVID test and isolate. For any indoor footie fans in Brunswick, please pass the word to friends, family and teammates.
  • NOTE UPDATE FOR Barkly Square shopping centre on Saturday 22 May. Between 1.15 and 2.30pm, with the person walking through the centre and visiting Priceline pharmacy, OPSM, KMart and Woollies. An additional alert for OPSM, as the case returned there between 3.45 aand 4.15 pm.
  • (Almost Brunswick): Melbourne Swordcraft at the Ransford Oval, Park Street, between on Friday 21st May.

Other sites nearby include The Nicholson coffee shop just north of Moreland Road, Highpoint shopping centre, and sites in Coburg, North Fitzroy and Thornbury among other nearby suburbs. Check out the full list, with dates and times, on the Health Department listing.

Vaccination is one of the reasons permitted for leaving home. Mass vaccination sites not too far away, include the Exhibition Buildings (take the Nicholson Street tram to the door); and the Merri Health site, in the Uniting Church opposite the Coburg library, close to Coburg Station and the No 19 tram.

People aged 40-49 years can now receive a Pfizer vaccine. You must book an appointment by calling the Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398 – and can do so now – this is essential as not all vaccination centres will have the Pfizer vaccine available. 50-plus people can try their luck as a walk-up, or book ahead on the same number, for Astra-Zeneca.

Hang in there and let’s hope our lockdown is just for a week!

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Disaffected Nightingale sings

As we go to press, The Urban Developer, highlights a major dispute within the Nightingale Housing group. Nightingale arose from The Commons sustainable housing project, and has now moved onto larger developments in Brunswick. Their website says that “Nightingale Housing provides apartments that are socially, financially and environmentally sustainable. We believe that homes should be built for people, not profit.”

Extracts from the The Urban Developer story:

“A brutal war of words has spilled over on social media as the Nightingale Housing organisation has a very public split from one of its founders. Nightingale Housing has launched a claim of defamation against co-founder and former board member Andrew Maynard following a scathing attack on the recently-listed not-for-profit group.

“The Austin Maynard architect claimed it was ‘another green-washed developer’ and that one person had now taken control of the ‘Nightingale brand.’

“In a post to Instagram Maynard said ‘one person … built off the charity and goodwill of some of Australia’s best architects and collaborators, now owns the incredibly valuable Nightingale brand. The brand we were all building for the community is now controlled by one person’.”

“Nightingale was founded in 2016 with its first ground-breaking project Nightingale 1.0. Breathe Architecture put the call out to some of the best architects in Melbourne to help launch the disrupting concept, creating a developer’s toolkit to allow architects to build communities and tackle the affordability crisis.

“Architecture Architecture, Austin Maynard, Clare Cousins, MRTN Architects, Wolveridge and Six Degrees put up seed capital to help launch Nightingale 1.0 and according to Nightingale Housing chairperson Angela Perry it was ‘an inspiring paradigm shift in the industry’.”

“Dwellings are sold ‘at cost’, which factors in the price of procurement, design, management and construction, with no profit margin added. They are sold with a caveat that cost savings be passed on to the next owners. But a source recently told The Urban Developer a number of Nightingale 1.0 apartments had been sold at record-breaking prices in Brunswick.”

Read the full story at:
Co-Founder Kicked out of Nightingale’s Nest, The Urban Developer, 26 May 2021
https://www.theurbandeveloper.com/articles/architect-kicked-out-of-nightingales-nest

This reported dispute may have significant implications for Brunswick, as Moreland councillors have worked closely with Nightingale people to promote its model across our suburb, from the original Commons building in Florence Street, Brunswick to Nightingale 1 and other initiatives, including a major multi-building redevelopment in Duckett Street, Brunswick.

BRN will report more on this story in the next newsletter.

Nightingale website
https://nightingalehousing.org/

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Feature article:
Border closures hit serviced apartments

Operators of serviced apartments and short term rentals across Melbourne have been hit hard by a series of shocks, from the 2019 bushfires, the collapse of domestic and international travel and the departure of many overseas students during the pandemic. These crises haven’t helped those businesses in Brunswick and the CBD that have acquired spaces within larger apartment complexes to use as short stay accommodation.

Late last year, Apartments of Melbourne – the operator of 160 luxury serviced apartments across Melbourne’s CBD – was placed into liquidation after being hit by the collapse of business travel together with a flood of vacancies on Airbnb.

Another large project that has previously hosted short term accommodation in serviced apartments is the three residential towers located at 284-292 Albert Street, Brunswick.

Over many years, the BRN newsletter has reported on this shopping, residential and commercial complex, located next to Woolworths between Sydney Road and the Upfield railway line. The original issuance of the permit for this project in 2010 by Council staff – not elected Councillors – was the subject of an enquiry by the Local Government Inspectorate (and local outrage sparked the birth of Brunswick Residents Network). Moreland Council then repeatedly extended the permit, when successive developers failed to begin construction and the site was flipped (re-sold).

In 2014, the CBD Development Group started selling one and two bedroom apartments off the plan for the complex, dubbed “Brunswick Heart” and later re-badged as “288 Albert.” The CBD Development Group was founded in 2011 by a group of Melbourne businessmen originally from Fuzhou, China, led by director Chen Guo Jing, who stayed in Australia after the 1989 Tiananmen massacre.

Today, property website Domain estimates that up to 30 per cent of properties in the three Albert Street towers are rental apartments rather than owner/occupied.

Now, two separate parcels within 288 Albert are up for sale next month:

  • The first parcel includes nine separately titled commercial/retail areas, together with onsite parking. This includes the seven ground floor shops, as well as two first floor office suites.
  • The second parcel includes 41 separately titled one- and two-bedroom apartments, in the separate seven storey building, one of the three towers that make up the complex. Details of the sale are at: 284-294 Albert Street, Brunswick, VIC, 3056

The 41 serviced apartments have been trading as Adara Hotels since 2018. However the operating company of Adara was bought in 2019 by Melbourne-based investor Zank & Co, a wealth management company specialising in property funds. Zank’s Managing Director Conghan Hu studied at the University of Melbourne between 2009-14, before moving into funds management, focused expressly on the Chinese market.

The company’s website claims that “our team has extensive experience within the banking and finance industry with strong ties to China. Combining our advanced diversified investment strategy with a strict risk control, Zank and Co. continuously strives to create an accumulate wealth for our global clients.”

In recent years, some property developers have turned to non-bank “third tier” lenders, including some who are facilitating Chinese investors. In 2019, the Australian Financial Review reported on Zank’s move into hotels, noting that “wealthy Chinese investors….are quickly moving into hotel and apartment management to tap into the lucrative Chinese tourism short-term accommodation business, as exemplified by groups such as Sydney-based Solomon Capital, which has packaged unsold apartments as hotels.”

Since their purchase, Zank has held Adara’s four sites (Brunswick, Richmond, St Kilda and CBD) within its Australia Hospitality Management Fund. Today, however, the Adara apartments at 288 Brunswick are up for sale. Has this model of re-packaging apartments as short-stay hotels, now been affected by the COVID lockdown of borders? What has been the impact of the decline of inter-state and international tourism and increasingly tense Australia-China relations?

With a number of large apartment projects in the pipeline across Brunswick and the inner city, the ongoing COVID crisis has significant implications for the property market in our suburb.

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Looming battle over Clifton Park towers

In recent months, residents have been mobilising to oppose a major construction project at 429 Albert Street, Brunswick, near Clifton Park to the west of the Upfield railway line. Now, Moreland Council has recommended against the proposal (application No. MPS/2020/674) and will contest it at VCAT on a number of grounds.

The project involves construction of two eight-storey buildings (with roof top terraces) and 10 three-storey dwellings over two basement levels. The site is located in a Mixed Use Zone (MUZ), under Design and Development Overlay 26 (DDO26).

The project has already received 162 objections, with locals concerned about the visual bulk and height of the proposed building, the lack of setbacks to residential land, Clifton park and Albert Street, as well as ongoing concerns around parking and traffic management.

On 29 April 2021, Moreland Council organised a Planning Information and Discussion (PID) meeting to facilitate discussions between the developer, objectors and Council staff. It was attended by 43 objectors, along with Deputy Mayor Cr Mark Riley and Cr James Conlan. The applicant did not agree to any changes but there was a robust exchange of views.

At the monthly council planning meeting on 26 May, Moreland Council staff recommended “that Council’s submission to VCAT be that no planning permit should be issued for the proposal”, based on a number of breaches of the Moreland Planning Scheme, including:

  • Unacceptable visual bulk to Clifton Park and the rear of properties fronting Albert and Pearson Streets
  • Inconsistency with built form requirements and design objectives of DDO26
  • On and off site amenity impacts

In their report to councillors, Moreland planning officers note: “The proposal fails to comply with the design objectives, built form requirements and decision guidelines of the Design and Development Overlay (Schedule 26) of the Moreland Planning Scheme and will not adequately respond to the preferred future character for the area.”

Land to the west of the site contains single storey Victorian and Edwardian era housing fronting Albert Street and Pearson Street, which are within a Heritage Overlay (HO56 Daly Street Precinct). To the immediate north, land has been developed with four and five storey apartment buildings at 460 Victoria Street.

VCAT’s ruling on this application will be important, because it is one of many projects in the pipeline for the ‘Albert Street Urban Renewal Precinct’, an area bounded by Clifton Park to the north and east, Albert Street and Gilpin Park across Albert Street to the south.

As we reported in detail in last December’s BRN newsletter, this precinct is covered by a planning amendment introduced by Victorian Planning Minister Dick Wynne. These changes abandoned amendment C161 introducing mandatory height controls proposed by Moreland Council for this area, instead applying a discretionary eight-storey height limit across the precinct.

If we end up with a lot of crappy eight-storey buildings overshadowing Clifton Park, it’s yet another example of Victoria’s broken planning system, which will not mandate appropriate controls over environmental sustainability and quality in this type of high density housing projects.

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“New private/community models for social housing

Victoria currently has the lowest proportion of public housing per capita compared to other Australian states, and the state government has transferred more public housing stock to the community housing sector than any other state.

In past BRN newsletters, we’ve reported on the difference between public housing, social housing and affordable housing. In contrast to public housing, “social housing” is price-controlled housing administered by nongovernment housing associations, which are not required to give tenants the same rights as they enjoy in government-run public housing.

The government is investing significant funding to transform public housing estates (such as Gronn Place in Brunswick), but most of these estates will be turned into private complexes, with just a fraction of the land set aside to construct new “social” housing. Even with new social housing initiatives by the State Government, there is still a long queue of homeless and low-income people desperate for cheap rental accommodation or long term housing.

In Brunswick, there are also examples where private developers are working with housing associations to develop homes more accessible to more people, by mixing social housing with “rent-to-buy” expensive apartments. One example is the proposed apartment complex at 4 Ballarat Street, Brunswick initiated by Assemble Futures (located just off Sydney Road near Sparta Place).

Formed in 2010, Assemble Communities is a developer and community management company. They develop affordable housing options using the model branded “Assemble Futures”. They have a privately funded rental housing portfolio valued at more than $3 billion, featuring 5,000 dwellings across 10 sites.

Due to start construction later this year, for completion by 2023, the Ballarat Street complex will include 171 apartments (ranging from studio apartments to three-bedroom units) on the site of an existing factory. The Brunswick project is the third “rent-with-the-option-to-buy” development initiated by the Victorian-based developer after gaining financial backing from AustralianSuper last year (AustralianSuper bought a 25 per cent stake in Assemble Communities in June 2020). As they describe it, you sign up to rent the property for five years once it is built, giving you time to save, then have the option to buy it with rental and sale price agreed in advance.

Early this month, Assemble’s first release of apartments for its ‘rent-with-the-option-to-buy’ project at Ballarat Street sold out in a weekend.

Assemble recently partnered with Housing Choices Australia (HCA) to manage community housing across future build-to-rent projects and to provide more than 3300 dwellings for low and moderate-income households.

Established in 2008, HCA has merged a number of community housing associations across Australia, reporting: “We are one of the largest community housing providers in Australia, with operations in Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, New South Wales and Western Australia. We currently own and/or manage more than 7,000 properties, accommodate over 8,500 tenants, with assets nearing $900 million, annual revenue of over $70 million and more than 200 staff members across five states.”

Ballarat Street is a model project where Housing Choices Australia will manage and allocate tenants within the low-income housing component of the complex, comprising at least 20 per cent of the dwellings delivered. The balance will be delivered by Assemble as affordable rental housing. Despite this, the project will still appears to involve Brunswick prices (with a one bedroom apartment advertised as costing $467,500 and a three bedroom going at $1,325,000 to rent for $880 a week!).

Interesting model, but there are still questions about the rights for public tenants who might be housed in such private/community projects. HCA will determine which former public housing tenants are “suitable” to take up low income housing at Ballarat Street, with Assemble’s managing director Kris Daff noting that they want to make sure that these “people are cohesive members of our community.”

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Bunnings hearing extended

We don’t have the final outcome of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) hearing over the proposed Bunnings warehouse in Glenlyon Road, Brunswick, because the case has been pushed out into late June.

Even though the case has already had eight days of formal hearings online, there are still more issues to be reviewed, as well as closing arguments. As part of the hearing, the two VCAT members have visited the site and many surrounding properties, as well as witnessing traffic in Glenlyon Road and Lygon Street. Three more days of hearings between June 21-23 will discuss traffic management around the site.

About 50 local residents are parties to the VCAT case, with most working together in four groups that are being led by selected residents. BRN members are also parties to the case and have made submissions, especially around traffic management, cyclist and pedestrian safety and impacts on local residential streets near the proposed site. Residents are supported by a planning advocate, Stephen Rowley, who has been making the case for rejecting the permit application. The extra days of the hearing add a financial burden to community objectors.

Moreland Council is also opposing the development and is represented by a barrister, while Bunnings as the permit applicant is represented by a Senior Counsel, a junior barrister and four expert witnesses (an urban design expert, a planning expert and two traffic experts).

As the case is continuing, we will save any commentary for future newsletters, but you can access updates from the website or Facebook page of the Stop Bunnings Glenlyon campaign (email info@stopbunningsglenlyon.org).

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Council news

Moreland joins inner-city M9 Network

Moreland Council is set to join a new network of inner-city councils, to collaborate on issues around employment, housing or homelessness.

Created in 2005, the Inner Melbourne Action Plan (IMAP) group has been a collaborative partnership between the Cities of Melbourne, Port Phillip, Stonnington, Yarra and Maribyrnong.

When it was established, Moreland refused to join IMAP, although it is a member of three networks of councils in Melbourne’s northern suburbs:

  • The Northern Councils Alliance (NCA) includes seven councils in Melbourne’s north (Moreland, Hume, Whittlesea, Darebin, Nillumbik, Banyule and Mitchell Shire).
  • Established in 1995, NORTHLink is a business network and regional economic development advocacy group for Melbourne’s northern region, which combines the NCA councils with local tertiary institutions and industry (including La Trobe University, Melbourne Airport, Northern Hospital, DPV Health and the Melbourne Market Authority).
  • The Northern Alliance for Greenhouse Action (NAGA) was formed in 2002 to share information, advocate for change, and conduct research and development of innovative climate projects.

Now Moreland City Council is set to join in a new inner-city collaboration as IMAP expands into M9. In a critical review of IMAP, the City of Melbourne reports that “it is a relatively small group, focused on coordinating internal projects rather than representing inner Melbourne to external parties. It lacks media and political influence. There is unanimous agreement that the primary focus of IMAP moving forward should be advocacy, with a sharp focus on three to five key strategic issues. These issues could include affordable housing and homelessness, economic recovery and job creation, subject to engagement with members.”

The new M9 network is proposed as an inner-city advocacy group, comprising the nine innermost councils – the cities of Melbourne, Darebin, Hobson Bay, Maribyrnong, Moonee Valley, Port Phillip, Stonnington and Yarra. For Brunswickians, this new network has some real possibilities, as the South Ward of Moreland has many issues in common with Yarra and the CBD, from public transport and cycling to better design for housing density.

Budget and rates

It’s your last chance to have a say on Moreland Council’s proposed 4-year Budget 2021-2025 budget for 2021-22 – feedback under the 14-day public exhibition period can be made until 5pm on 31 May 2021.

For Brunswick, the big ticket items include $6.5 million towards the construction of the $11.3 million Fleming Park redevelopment, and a $3.5 million parks fund, with the start of work on the Frith Street park in Brunswick, as well as “Park Close to Home’ parks in Glenroy and Coburg. However, under Special projects, the Saxon Street Redevelopment has been postponed to 2022-2024.

More than $5 million will go to operating budgets, including funds for Library Books and Library Collection ($1.0 million); footpaths and bike paths ($7.1 million); and roads and carparks ($8.9 million). Zero Carbon Moreland and Council’s Urban Forest Strategy carve up $1 million.

You can also look at Council’s rates strategy. Average rates in 2021-22 will increase by 1.5 per cent, in line with the rate cap set by the Victorian Government under the Fair Go Rates System. The 2021-22 Budget proposes an increase in the charge for an 80-litre garbage bin by 94 cents per week or $48.72 per year, because of the proposed increase to the landfill levy increase imposed by the State Government, the replacement of waste trucks and the continued uptake in Food Organics and Garden Organics (FOGO).

You can find a copy of the budget on the Conversations Moreland website and hard copies are available at the three civic centres and all libraries. Make your comments online before next Monday 31 May or join a Community Feedback Forum scheduled for 2 June.

Council’s 4 year budget
https://conversations.moreland.vic.gov.au/4yearbudget

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Parks, open space and green stuff

Merri Creek Community Safety

After a shocking sexual assault occurred on the Merri Creek trail in December 2019, the Moreland Mayor at the time, Cr Lambros Tapinos, called for a safety audit on the Merri Creek corridor.  The 2019 attack occurred in daytime along a popular walking trail just north of Harding Street, Coburg and received widespread media and public attention. This incident (and others in the recent past) highlight community concerns regarding safety in general and the Merri Creek area in particular.

In 2020 Moreland Council collaborated on a Merri Creek Safety Audit with XYX Lab, a team of design researchers at Monash University exploring gender-sensitive design practices and theory in urban spaces.

The research drew on previous XYX Lab studies that seek to go beyond “obvious” responses, such as brighter lighting, more CCTV cameras and more police and authority figures. Past research into unsafe “hotspots” has found women’s perceptions of urban safety do not simply correlate with the most brightly lit spaces. In the open and often tree-lined spaces along the creek, it’s difficult to guarantee security around the clock.

A summary of the findings from the survey, and from an interactive map, can be seen on the Council’s Conversations Moreland. The comments on the map can be viewed. A quick sampling shows that many focus on infrastructure (muddy spots, bridges); on hazards from dogs and cyclists, with many positive comments about the natural environment.

The XYX Lab “Merri Creek Community Safety Audit Report” has now been completed and will soon be available on the council website. It highlights the need for action in three key areas:

  • Building Communities
  • Communication and engagement (for example, emphasising participation rates and developing mechanisms for encouraging feedback and experiences)
  • Infrastructure and Maintenance along the creek.

Brunswick Residents’ Network is currently analysing results from our 2021 survey on walking in Brunswick. With more than 920 responses, our report, due in July, will certainly give some further insights into perceptions of safety, and possibly some solutions. However surveys do not deal with the underlying issue of the male behaviour which is the core of women’s safety fears.

Waste not, want not

If you’re drowning in waste or concerned about how much crap is going to landfill, worry no more! Here are some useful links to council and community initiatives:

A to Z guide of waste and recycling 
https://www.moreland.vic.gov.au/environment-bins/recycling-a-z/

Eco active (recycling service)
https://www.ecoactiv.com.au/moreland-city-council/

Food storage chart
https://www.moreland.vic.gov.au/globalassets/areas/waste-services/food-storage-chart.pdf

Moreland Compost Community (Rebates on compost bins, etcetera, for Moreland residents)
https://www.compostcommunity.com.au/moreland.html

Share waste  (connects neighbours with foodscraps, with a nearby compost bin or chook)
https://sharewaste.com/

Redcycle (soft plastics recycling)
https://www.redcycle.net.au/

Detox your home (household chemicals)
https://www.sustainability.vic.gov.au/detoxyourhome

Love Food Hate Waste (cut your food waste)
https://www.sustainability.vic.gov.au/love-food-hate-waste

Visy Recycling (Quizzes, posters and labels)
https://www.visy.com.au/recycling/education

Moreland Council is developing a new draft Kerbside Waste Services and Charges Policy, to be presented to residents later in 2021. If you want to find out what residents want to do with hard rubbish, too many bins or food and organic waste, check out the reports at Conversations Moreland on the 4-bin waste consultation.

Moreland Zero Carbon campaign also puts out an Eco E-newsletter: Sign up

Community compost crate: In a practical community initiative, Seeds Communal Garden have a community compost crate out the front of their site at 331 Albert Street, Brunswick. They haven’t put up signage yet, but you’re welcome to use it. It’s a swap and go system, just grab an empty bucket from the crate and return full.

For more on collecting food and garden organics, there’s a handy guide for local government areas:
Introducing a kerbside food and garden organics collection service – a guide for local government

Enjoy the Grandstand

It’s done – you can now enjoy the reconstructed grandstand next to the Fleming Park footie oval. Some people loved the grandstand, some would rather have had a tree. Whatever our reservations, the new grandstand looks beautiful and at this time of the year is a fine spot to sit on a sunny day and watch the dog-walkers on the oval.

Now for the rest – a Request for Tender for the main construction of other facilities was issued in January 2021, with works scheduled to begin in July (as noted in our budget story, the new 2021-24 council budget includes $6.5 million towards the construction of the $11.3 million Fleming Park redevelopment).

Mike Hill Fellowship 

Congratulations to Daisy Day, recipient of the 2021 Mike Hill Fellowship, a joint initiative of Moreland Council and the Australian Energy Foundation (AEF). Daisy will work on two energy innovation pilot projects in 2021, as part of the Moreland Energy Innovation Lab (MEIL):

  • Developing In-Home Displays, so residents can see and monitor their energy usage over the day
  • A Plumbing Industry Engagement program, encouraging plumbers to replace hot water systems from inefficient gas and electric to more efficient systems such as hot water heat pumps.

The fellowship is named after Mike Hill, a former Mayor of Brunswick and the inaugural Mayor of Moreland. Mike was a community leader and activist, who oversaw the founding of CERES environment park, and Australia’s first kerbside recycling scheme. He was also a founder of the Moreland Energy Foundation (now AEF), which will work with Council to continue the fellowship in future years as a contribution to the Zero Carbon Moreland program.

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Traffic!

Trialling 30 km/h and shared zones

Going back more than a decade, all surveys conducted by Brunswick Residents Network include one common feature: the call for all levels of government to work for safer, quieter streets.

State and local government need to increase investment to allow better separation between cyclists, cars, trucks, and public transport along major arterial roads like Sydney Road, Lygon Street or Glenlyon Road. However in quieter residential streets that are places for people as well as cars, residents have long lobbied for more traffic calming and safety measures, including pedestrian crossings, speed humps or chicanes, mid-road traffic islands and the rollout of 40km/h limits on all local roads across the municipality.

More and more, however, traffic safety experts and international authorities are suggesting that 30 km/h is a safer limit for normally quiet, residential streets. The medical evidence is very clear: the chance of a pedestrian surviving when hit by a car skyrockets when the car’s speed is reduced. Recent research shows 30km/h speed limits on local residential streets could reduce the Australian road death toll by 13 per cent.

This research is now making its way into Department of Transport guidelines around Australia. In April 2020, there were changes to the Austroad’s Guide to Traffic Management (Part 4: Network Management strategies), which now say: “In a vehicle- pedestrian collision, the probability of survival for the pedestrian decreases dramatically at impact speeds above about 30 km/h.”

This claim is now backed up by extensive global research. The UN General Assembly has endorsed a decade of action on road safety to reduce road deaths and injuries by 50% by 2030. After the 3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety in February 2020, the UNGA endorsed the Stockholm Declaration, which endorses commitments around speed management including “the strengthening of law enforcement to prevent speeding and mandate a maximum road travel speed of 30 km/h in areas where vulnerable road users and vehicles mix.”

A number of rural communities in Australia are looking at lower speed limits to address safety and amenity for the mix of road users. The city of Wollongong is trying to promote itself as a cycling haven and the introduction of new speed limits is part of the package. Aireys Inlet community recently asked Surf Coast Shire to lower speed limits on town streets to 40 or preferably 30km/h as local streets are gravel, shared with pedestrians, cyclists and horses with bushy verges and few footpaths.

In the crowded streets of Moreland’s South ward, speed limits are a growing concern. In response, the 2019 Moreland Integrated Transport Strategy (MITS), committed Moreland Council to “conduct a 12-month trial of 30km/h limits in selected areas.”

Apart from the pandemic, however, these trials have been delayed because the State government Department of Transport has no existing guidelines on when to change a street from 40km/h to 30 km/h! BRN has been informed by Moreland Council staff that council still plans to conduct a 30 km/h trial, but with specific speed zoning guidelines that the Department of Transport could consider as a valid trial.

The idea of 30 km/h has many critics, especially from motorists with busy lives and delivery drivers who increasingly use residential streets to deliver the flood of parcels from online shopping. However campaigners in Australia and overseas are developing plenty of evidence to knock down the many myths around reducing speed limits: that 30 km/h limits don’t make a difference; 30 km/h limits aren’t popular; 30 km/h limits increase journey times; 30 km/h limits are anti-motorist; and 30 km/h limits are about revenue-raising.

For extensive links to myth-busting evidence and research about 30 km/h restrictions, have a look at these local and international sites:

Other commitments in the Moreland Integrated Transport Strategy include strategic road closures and trials of shared zones (which involve roads with limits of 10 km/h or 20 km/h that can be shared by motorists, cyclists and pedestrians in the same space). Moreland Council has already successfully closed residential streets to the east of Nicholson Street with great success, and commenced a trial of a shared zone next to Fleming Park in Brunswick East.

The idea of shared zones is catching on with neighbouring councils. The City of Yarra is now proposing to turn Rose Street into a shared zone, with a speed limit of 10km an hour, between Brunswick Street and Spring Street. As with the zone next to Fleming Park, Yarra are proposing a range of changes to identify the zone, including road pavement art by Otis Hope Carey along Rose Street between the shared zone, installation of new seating and placement of planters. The area will also get six more bicycle hoops and a new bike pumping station to assist cyclists.

What do you think about 30 km/h speed limits in quiet residential streets (NOT major roads)? Do you have any suggestions for areas where this might be trialled in our neighbourhood? We welcome your feedback through the Brunswick Residents Network Facebook page or by emailing brunswickresidentsnetwork@gmail.com

More buses for Brunswick West?

Announcing transport commitments in the State Budget this month, the Premier’s Office announced new funding for bus connections: “Many Victorian communities rely on strong local bus connections – and the Budget will invest $74.3 million to reform the state’s bus network, continue vital passenger and school bus services and deliver new services in growing areas.”

It looks likes residents in Brunswick West will benefit, with the inclusion of bus route 505 between Moonee Ponds and Melbourne University in the new reforms. Running more buses on route 505 would cut the numbers joining the regular morning traffic jam, and would only cost the Government an extra $200,000 for five extra services: two in the morning and three in the afternoon during peak times, as well as paying for a couple of bus shelters.

Brunswick MP Tim Read has long advocated for an improvement to this route, telling Parliament in 2020:

“I want to single out in particular the 505 bus serving Parkville Gardens, which is an area that is unique, this former Commonwealth Games village, for being so close to the CBD and yet so poorly served by public transport. I want to make a particular plug here for the 505 bus because one bus an hour to this area, stuck in a traffic jam as it is, is insufficient.”

His lobbying appears to have paid off with the Moonee Ponds to Melbourne University route specifically mentioned for improvement in the latest Victorian budget papers, which commit to “additional services between Moonee Ponds and Melbourne University.”

Rolling out capital works across Moreland

The aim of Moreland’s Pedestrian Program is “to encourage more people to walk and use public transport, and to address safety concerns on the network. The program continues to implement upgrades to the pedestrian network by installing crossing upgrades, refuge islands, pedestrian operated traffic signals, and threshold treatments.”

The aim of the council’s Bicycle Program is to get more people cycling and to increase the safety of cycling. MITS 2019 states Council will continue to improve the safety and accessibility of cycling routes, including through the provision of infrastructure.

Brunswick Residents Network has joined Walk on Moreland, Moreland Bicycle Users Group and other small community networks to lobby for increased funds and more timely implementation of safety and infrastructure projects. At their May meeting, Council adopted updated 10-Year Capital Works Programs for both pedestrians and cyclists.

Since July 2020, the Pedestrian Program has delivered a few initiatives including:
a) raised thresholds at Albion Street and Westbourne Street, as well as David Street and Glenlyon Road, Brunswick;
b) New shared paths at the end of Kingfisher Gardens, Brunswick East (from CERES to the new Merri Creek bridge);
c) A refuge island for the Upfield Shared Path at Union Street Brunswick.

The 10 year capital works program in 2021-22 includes commitment for both design work and construction. Some projects for our part of the world include:

Construction projects in 2021-22:
a) New shared zone in Railway Place, Brunswick to improve the Upfield shared path ($100,000)
b) Speed humps (locations to be determined based on most recent traffic data)
c) Raised pedestrian thresholds

  • James Street and Hope Street, Brunswick West (St Joseph’s School) ($70,000)
  • Lygon Street and Jarvie street, Brunswick ($80,000)
  • Cross Street and Albert Street, Brunswick ($75,000)
  • Cross Street and Victoria Street, Brunswick ($75,000)

Design work proposals (current and new) for 2021-22:
a) Upfield shared path widening and lighting upgrade, Park Street to Brunswick Road, Brunswick ($40,000)
b) Merri Creek boardwalk for flood mitigation and new bridge – Sumner Park to Capital City Trail (additional $170,000 funds in 2021/22)
c) Breese Street and Albion Street raised threshold design ($15,000)
d) Improved connection from Lygon Street bicycle lanes to Capital City Trail – Park Street to Brunswick Road, Brunswick East ($15,000)
e) Flood mitigation works and a new bridge at Merri Creek near Sumner Park, Brunswick East
f) New footpath at Stewart Street, Brunswick East

Council has also agreed to undertake consultation on separated bicycle lanes on Dawson Street / Glenlyon Road, Brunswick / Brunswick East, and Munro Street / Harding Street, Coburg, as part of next year’s more in-depth consultation of the 10 Year Capital Works Programs, using public meetings, interactive maps, and the use of Conversations Moreland webpage. Let’s just hope that the ongoing VCAT hearing knocks back the proposed Bunnings warehouse in Glenlyon Road that will scuttle this safety initiative for cyclists!

However in council’s current draft budget, there is a massive reduction in funding for the Brunswick Activity Centre, from the  $1,804,000 which was allocated for 2020-21, to $70,000.

Two projects planned for 2021-22 have been deferred for 2 years: Pitt/Lygon and Wilson Ave. Both have been deferred due to development applications. A proposal for traffic management at the intersection of Pitt Street and Lygon Street has been delayed until 2022-23 due to the Bunnings application currently before VCAT (see above).  Another project for Wilson Avenue has also been delayed due to a development proposal at 1-7 Wilson Avenue that was approved by VCAT in 2018.

It’s a worrying sign that schedules community projects are being delayed because of developers ruining the timetable for roll-out of much needed initiatives!

Join our Walking Working Group

BRN campaigns for safer and more enjoyable walking, and we have a Walking Working Group together with Walk on Moreland. For the rest of 2021, we will meet at Siteworks in 33 Saxon Street, at 6.30pm on the 3rd Tuesday of each month. Email brunswickresidentsnetwork@gmail.com to receive the agenda and the gate entry code.

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Mosaic recalls prisoners of conscience

In 2014, people from Brunswick and Coburg came together to plan ways to commemorate the many local people who campaigned against Australia’s involvement in World War 1, and the proposal to conscript soldiers which failed to win approval at two referendums. Moreland Council supported a raft of activities put forward by the community, including the street opera “Serenading Adela”, and a major conference

The final project, just completed, is a mosaic, Freedom Flock, by well-known artists Enver Camdal and Helen Bodycomb. Outside Pentridge, it commemorates those who have been imprisoned for their anti-conscription activities.

The mosaic will be launched in June by the Major, Anna-Livia Carli Hannan (whose great-grandparents were among those opposing WW1). Professor Michael Hamel-Green, who as a draft resistor was imprisoned in Pentridge during the Vietnam War, will speak. The Serenading Adela Choir will sing “Ghosts Don’t Lie”: a song by Stephen Taberner, drawing on stories of how Australia’s wars affected local families; with soloist Lisa-Marie Parker.

WHAT: Launch of Freedom Flock mural
WHERE: Warden’s Walk, Pentridge prison (Behind Glass Den cafe. Enter via Urquhart Street).
When: 11AM, Tuesday 15 June

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Nerds of the month

In February, we encouraged you to check out Wongm’s Rail Gallery, 2,307 pages of train love from around Victoria. This month, you can enhance your appreciation of signs and signage, through the Facebook page of the Australian and NZ Traffic Sign, Signal & Street Directory Appreciation Group, featuring a mixture good and bad signage along with some history and entertainment.

ANZ Traffic Sign, Signal & Street Directory Appreciation Group
https://www.facebook.com/groups/385062571524194/

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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

Please email us at brunswickresidentsnetwork@gmail.com

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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:

  • 9 June
  • 24 June, 6pm (Special budget meeting)
  • 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.

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.

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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)

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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

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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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