Brunswick Residents News, July 2021

Welcome to our July 2021 newsletter. Our special feature is a short history of Sydney Road cinemas. Plus we’ve got our regular round-up of planning horrors; some NAIDOC week culture; at least one joke, plus traffic and transport news (especially for tram travellers and bike riders), and some news on local democracy.  Scroll down, or read on Mailchimp in a less clunky format.

Feature: Sydney Road movie houses. Plus Brunswick Parklands Action Group, fixing the cladding disaster, vote-rigging, slow cities and more in a bumper edition…

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Brunswick Residents Network Newsletter,
July 2021

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Brunswick boundaries to change?

The State parliamentary seat of Brunswick – currently held by Greens MLA Tim Read – will have significant boundary changes for the next Victorian election, if proposed revisions are adopted by Victoria’s Electoral Boundaries Commission (EBC).

On 30 June, the EBC released its proposed revision of State electoral boundaries for public feedback. After the public consultation, final boundaries will be published in October this year, to apply at the next State general election in November 2022. The aim of this electoral redivision is to restore all electorates to approximate equality in numbers of electors, while taking account of other legislated factors such as ‘communities of interest’ and likely population changes.

Trying to keep district sizes within a 10% variance, the EBC report notes that the inner city as a whole has sufficient electors for an additional district: “The inner urban districts of Brunswick, Melbourne and Richmond are best treated together. Each of them has high enrolment as a result of high-density development. Brunswick District and Richmond District are outside the 10% tolerance at 12.09% and 13.4% above quota respectively. Melbourne District is currently 7.11% above the average, and is projected to grow above the 10% threshold. This means all these districts must shed electors to neighbouring districts.”

The EBC website (www.ebc.vic.gov.au) includes this map with the proposed new boundaries in red. This would transfer 6,608 electors living in Carlton North and Princes Hill from the seat of Melbourne to Brunswick. This increased area to the south will be counterbalanced by the loss of West Parkville, and southern Coburg, north of Moreland Road (see map). For state elections, Brunswick will include Princes Park, Edinburgh Gardens and the Melbourne General Cemetery (Candidates will no doubt be pleased this latter location will increase the number of residents who never complain, but can be counted on to vote at election time – see next item in the newsletter about our local tradition of vote rigging).

You can check out our BRN Facebook page for some interesting debate on the political implications of the proposed changes. Former Brunswick MLA Carlo Carli notes: “Based on the last election, the Greens two-party preferred margin over Labor under the new boundaries would increase from 0.6 to 2.1%.”

However, the gentrification of suburbs south of Park Street changes the “community of interest” in the inner north, with one Facebook contributor noting: “North Carlton is another universe entirely compared to one block away north of Brunswick Road (as much as that has been changing and gentrifying). North Carlton in that particular oblong is arguably the most expensive residential real estate within City of Melbourne (although nobody really knows, because those people never sell).”

Over to you – members of the public can lodge written comments about the proposed boundary changes until 5pm on Wednesday 30 July, through the EBC website:

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Moreland Council

Council vote rigging case drags on

The investigation of alleged vote-rigging in the North-West Ward during last year’s Moreland Council elections is slowly wending its way forward. Last month, The Age newspaper reported that police are preparing to lay charges over suspected fraud during last October’s local government elections, after gathering DNA and fingerprint tests on suspicious ballot papers.

The four North-West Ward councillors – independents Oscar Yildiz and Helen Davidson, Greens’ candidate Angelica Panopoulos and ALP member Milad El-Halabi – all took their seats on Council in November 2020. They have voted on Council issues ever since, in areas such as planning permits, budget allocations and issuing of tenders to council contractors.

Councillor El-Halabi was arrested and interviewed by detectives in March after they searched his Pascoe Vale home, but no charges were laid at the time. Victoria Police’s fraud and extortion squad have said they may lay charges “in coming months” (possibly just in time for the first anniversary of the elections!).

Moreland Council’s new website

For many years, BRN has been critical of the Moreland Council website, which was a rat’s nest of hidden information and ugly design. So we’re overjoyed that Council has rolled out a new site, as part of its revived commitment to transparency and engagement with the community.

The new website has much neater design and layout, with a similar feel to “Conversations Moreland”, another site for communications and feedback on Council initiatives (especially the ones that don’t involve any controversary).

Congrats to those who’ve re-designed the website! A great initiative, but we reckon there are still plenty of tweaks needed to make it more user friendly.

As one example, the front page has a prominent button for “Contact us”, taking you to a page with ways to contact Moreland Council. But on this page, there’s no contact details for our elected Councillors, and you have to dig much deeper to find them (Home – Contact us – My Council – About Council – Councillors – Mayor and Councillors – click on the individual councillor to find their phone number). Could we suggest the main contacts page be updated to include the email address and phone number of our elected representatives, making them more accessible to residents who have concerns?

We’d encourage BRN newsletter readers to email any comments and suggestions for further improvements to info@moreland.vic.gov.au

Electing women to council

Moreland has a strong track record of electing women to Council – five of eleven Moreland councillors are women, including Mayor Annalivia Carli Hannan who is currently on maternity leave. However around Australia, nearly two-thirds of local government Councillors are men (and our South ward is currently represented by three blokes!).

A new report looks at how changes to council elections could help with gender parity in local government. Prepared by former City of Boroondara councillor Coral Ross as part of her 2018 Churchill Fellowship, the report looks at international best practice, based on visits to the United States, Canada, England, Sweden, and Germany.

Ross notes common factors across these different countries that impact on gender parity: “The importance of culture, structures like the electoral system, the party system (if any), legislation, and the importance of a champion . . .  It also became evident that there was not a silver bullet to increase women’s representation but rather a suite of initiatives that need to be implemented for change to occur. And there is a growing view that rather than ‘fixing women’, the political system itself needs to be fixed.”

She also notes: “A growing problem in every country was sexual harassment, harassment, bullying and online abuse of politicians and candidates. It also became apparent that this was a huge deterrent preventing women from putting themselves forward for election or re-standing for election.”

Local government says no nukes!

At its National General Assembly in Canberra, the Australian Local Government Association has unanimously passed a motion calling on Australia to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

The Treaty is the first to comprehensively outlaw the production, stockpiling, transfer, hosting, use, threat of use of nuclear weapons, as well as assistance with any of the prohibited acts. With 86 signatories and 54 states parties, the Treaty entered into force in January this year. While Australia currently opposes the Treaty, New Zealand and nine Pacific neighbours are already parties and the ALP has pledged to sign it, if they can win government next year.

This is the first time Australia’s peak body of local government representatives has passed such a motion. The motion was moved by Darebin City Council and seconded by councils from Victoria, WA, NSW and Queensland. The push for the ALGA to endorse the Treaty came after 35 Australian councils publicly declared their support for it, along with more than 400 cities worldwide.

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Feature article:
The glory days of movies in Brunswick

In 2017, cinema owner Eddie Tamir announced plans to build a movie palace near Barkly Square in Brunswick. Despite obtaining a permit from Moreland Council, the project never took off and Tamir reportedly took a financial hit selling off the site in 2019.

Today, Brunswick residents can catch the number 19 tram northwards to Coburg, to the new Pentridge cinema complex, located at the heart of the former Melbourne jail. If you don’t mind the ghost of Ronald Ryan, you can luxuriate in the comfy seats of 15 separate cinemas. Owners Palace Cinemas are reportedly planning a smaller complex in Puckle Street, Moonee Ponds, which highlights the need for a better bus service across the creek from Brunswick (currently the 506 buses don’t operate between 6pm Saturday and Monday morning)

In the heyday of the movies, however, you didn’t have to leave our suburb. Throughout the 20th century, before colour TV and Netflix, Brunswick was host to a number of cinemas, strung out along Sydney Road and Lygon Street.

Some were luxurious picture palaces like the Empire Theatre (294 Sydney Road, pictured above) or the Hoyts Padua Theatre (624 Sydney Road). Others were flea pits like the Alhambra Theatre (828 Sydney Road). You could enjoy Hollywood blockbusters or Saturday afternoon matinees at the Padua, or stroll along Sydney Road to check out what else was screening.

As TV took hold in the 1960s, some cinemas converted to foreign language films for the large Greek and Italian communities in Brunswick and Coburg. Many post-war factory workers lived in the area, employed in local industries such as Craig and Seeley, Holeproof Hosiery, Lincoln Mills, Millers Ropeworks and Gordon Brothers. Others opened delicatessens, cafes, fruit shops, or shops that sold bonbonniere and clothes.

Around Sydney Road 

One of the first early silent movie screens in Brunswick was an open amphitheatre called Pictureland. Opened in 1908, it was located next to the Retreat Hotel on Sydney Road, just north of Glenlyon Road. When Pictureland’s owners went off to form Amalgamated Pictures (the forerunner of Greater Union cinemas), their projectionist Neil Gow took over the lease and the site was renamed Neil Gow’s Open Air Theatre. By 1912, however, Brunswick’s leading real estate agent Thomas Crisp took over the operation and formed ‘The Empire Picture Theatre Company.’ The Empire Theatre opened to a huge crowd on 27 June 1912, with the ceremony officiated by the Mayor of Brunswick. In 1929, the Empire was the first Brunswick theatre to install ‘talkies.’

The Lyric Theatre (203 Sydney Road, on the corner of Michael Street) opened in 1911 and was used as a cinema until 1938. The building was later converted into the Casino Dance Hall and Brunswick Club (originally a private organisation comprising businessmen, councillors and Brunswick Council officials, which moved to rooms at the Lyric in 1927). Today the Brunswick Club continues to operate at the same site as a snooker hall, TAB and bar (indeed, the very location where crime patriarch Lewis Moran was shot dead in March 2004, but that’s a story for another day).

According to the Moreland Thematic History (p125), the Lyric Theatre was “an uncomfortable venue known as the ‘Louso’ because of its fleas, but it still drew huge audiences until it closed after failing to adapt to new ‘talkie’ movies. Those with even fewer pennies to spend could see regular films in the less gracious Penders’ Horseshoe Nail factory behind Sydney Road in Tinning Street (later renamed the Oxford Cinema, demolished in 1983).”

Community halls attached to these theatres were widely used by the working class movement in Brunswick during the 1930s Depression. The rooms above the original Brunswick Club served as the headquarters for the local branch of the Communist Party, formed in 1931. The Unemployed Workers Movement met at the old boxing gymnasium at the Lyric Hall, while the International Class War Prisoners Aid gathered at the billiard room at the old Empire Theatre.

Ticket box PaduaThe jewel of Brunswick movie houses was The Padua, a beautiful 1,800-seat cinema built and operated by the Hoyts Theatres chain. It opened on 24 July 1937 with a screening of ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’, starring Errol Flynn. There were different prices for the stalls or dress circle, and you bought tickets from a fabulous space-age ticket box in the foyer that looked like a rocket ship (pictured left). The Padua was also used for stage shows and featured a Hammond electric organ and bandstand which could revolve on the stage.

The day before the official opening of the Padua, The Argus newspaper reported: “One more link in the chain of Hoyts theatres will be completed tonight with the opening of the ‘Padua’ in Sydney Road, Brunswick. Strikingly modern in appearance and equipment, it is a splendid example of the strides made recently in design of places of entertainment. It is simple and luxurious and every suitable device of science has been used to add to the comfort of its patrons. Soft, padded chairs and foot warmers are provided for 2,000 persons, the building is air-conditioned, and there is a ‘crying room’ for very young children.”

Hoyts Theatre closed the Padua in June 1968, but the cinema was then leased out to Tony and Franco Zeccola, who reopened it in August 1969 as the Metropolitan Theatre, screening Italian language films for Brunswick’s large Italian community. The Zeccolas continued to operate the Metropolitan until December 1981. Sadly the Art Deco building was demolished in February the following year (today, an IGA supermarket sits on the site, just north of Stewart Street).

The Alhambra Theatre at 828 Sydney Road was another brainchild of estate agent Thomas Crisp. The Alhambra operated as a cinema from 1922 until 1960, when it was converted into an ice skating rink (the site was later used as a tyre sales business). Ken Roe of Cinema Treasures reports: “The Alhambra Theatre was opened in 1922 by the Crisp and Smith chain. It was soon taken over by Hoyts Theatres. It was a very basic cinema (some would say it was a ‘flea-pit’), which had the steel roof beams exposed in the auditorium, exposing the corrugated iron sheeting which was the roof! Seating was provided in stalls and circle levels. In later years it was modernised and given an Art Deco style.”

Church halls were also used to screen films, such as St. Ambrose Hall, built by the Catholic Archdiocese in 1891 (the hall still stands strong in Dawson Street, just west of the Brunswick Library). Under the banner of Cosmopolitan Motion Pictures, the Cosmopolitan Theatre began operating as a cinema for the Greek community between November 1961 and January 1966. It operated from a hall owned by the Christ Church in Glenlyon Road (today, this location is the home of Christ Church Op Shop and the Anglican parish office and is planned to house the Sydney Road Community School from 2023). The theatre continued profitably until Cosmopolitan purchased the much larger Empire Theatre on Sydney Road, with a grand opening on 4 February 1966. They continued screening Greek language films until audiences dropped away with the spread of television. The cinema closed in 1975 and the following year, the Empire Theatre was destroyed by fire.

So next time you head to Carlton or Coburg for a choc top, remember the glory days of Brunswick cinema! We haven’t looked at Lygon Street (or Tinning!) but you can find plenty more via the links.

Photos of the Padua come from the Harold Paynting Collection at the State Library of Victoria. Thanks to Michael Pryor (@michaeljpryor) for pointing us in the direction of these wonderful images, and to Ken Roe of ‘Cinema Treasures’ and the great local historian Laurie Cunningham for their historical research.

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Traffic and transport

Bike riders, PLEASE take our super-short survey: Fleming Park shared zones

Have you ridden a bike through the trial “shared zones” that lower the speed limit to 20kph on the corner of John Street and Albert Street, or on the other side of the park, where the bike path and Ellesbury Street meet Victoria Street?  We want to find out whether it’s making a difference to your bike-riding safety or enjoyment (we plan to talk to pedestrian park-users separately).

We promise it will take a maximum of 2 minutes. Please, bike riders of all shapes and sizes and bike riding habits, take our very short survey now and share the survey with family and friends.

Big new trams for Brunswick West

The Department of Transport and Yarra Trams are beginning a project to roll out E Class trams on Route 58, which passes along Melville Road, Dawson Street and Grantham Streets in Brunswick West.

To allow the use of these larger, high capacity trams, Moreland Council is proposing to modify parking arrangements at 30 tram stops along Route 58, with some stops being relocated. This will result in a net loss of 34 parking spaces. Note that Council powers are limited, as the road space is managed by the Department of Transport.

  • If you are a regular Route 58 tram user or run a business along these streets, you can check out maps of the proposed parking changes at pp 246-260 of this week’s July 2021 Council agenda

Safer truck designs?

Bicycle Network reports that the Federal Government is considering adopting European-standard safer design features for trucks. In particular these would include the crucially important side underrun protection on trucks and trailers to prevent riders going under the wheels of heavy vehicles. This would have saved to life of cyclist Alberto Paulon, who died on Sydney Road in 2015 when an opening car door pushed him under a truck. The European standards also feature much better mirror placement, including cameras and sensors to detect bikes and pedestrians when in the blind spots of trucks.

Vote to name Kingfisher Gardens bridge

Last year, Moreland and Darebin Councils worked together to construct a fantastic cable bridge that suspends over the Merri Creek and connects Beavers Road, Northcote to Kingfisher Gardens, Brunswick East. The bridge project was initiated after a petition to both councils from local residents and community groups, asking for a safe and accessible crossing point for pedestrians and cyclists over the Merri Creek. It was opened to the public on 16 September last year.

Now, Darebin Council have now launched a process to choose a new name for the bridge. In the fine tradition of inter-council co-operation, Moreland residents can also have a say!

Darebin consulted the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation, who proposed names to be considered for the new bridge. There are now two shortlisted options to choose from:

  • Bindjirru Parren Bridge (meaning ‘Two Way’ in WoiWurrung language)
  • Warrk-warrk Bridge (meaning ‘Nimble’ in Woi Wurrung language).

Cast your vote by Monday 2 August 2021.

Slowing traffic to 40 or 30?

After lobbying by BRN and other resident groups, Moreland Council transport staff approached VicRoads in 2012, who approved the introduction of 40km/h restrictions on most residential streets in the area bounded by Nicholson Street, Sydney Road, Blyth Street and Glenlyon Road. At the time, this area was beloved by rat-runners, because most east-west residential streets were 50km/h while Lygon Street and Sydney Road had 40km/h limits!

This reduction to 40km/h was the direct result of resident campaigns to address the hazards to cyclists, pedestrians and parked cars from speeding traffic in quiet residential streets. Since then, Moreland Council has continued to work with the re-badged Department of Transport to finish the long process of rolling out 40km/h speed limits in residential streets across the municipality.

However a number of municipalities in Australia – and around the world – are now debating the introduction of 30 km/h limits in some streets, as a way of limiting pedestrian deaths and injury (as reported in our May edition, a pedestrian hit by a motor vehicle is at least twice as likely to survive if the vehicle is travelling at 30 instead of 40).

Despite loads of evidence of improved safety, there’s a lot of pushback against this idea. Busy parents and delivery vehicles are worried new speed limits will cause delays in their schedules. Others are concerned that lower limits will further clog up peak hour congestion, despite such measures being focussed on residential areas, not main arterial routes (and pre-COVID, it was often faster to walk down Sydney Road than drive at peak hour!).

In 2018, in one of their silliest decisions, a majority of Moreland councillors voted to censor the draft Moreland Integrated Traffic Strategy (MITS) before it went out to community consultation. They removed action proposals that would consider 30km/h speed limits in some residential streets. Even paragraphs referencing the evidence base for this change were edited out of the MITS! Despite this, the final MITS does include proposals for two trials of 30 km/h streets, and Council is currently developing guidelines and indicators for a trial that will allow the Department of Transport to measure safety changes.

Despite our State government fixation on new roadworks, the City of Melbourne, Yarra Council and other inner city municipalities are now debating this issue, catching up with cities around the world that are much further advanced in traffic planning (see next story).

Slow cities

The “Slow Cities” movement aims to address the great paradox of urban life in modern times: the faster we go, the less time we have. Can more time can be saved by slowing city transport than by speeding it up?

Paul Tranter and Rodney Tolley, authors of the book ‘Slow Cities’, ask: “How do people behave when faster travel becomes possible in cities? We assume they get to destinations faster and ‘save’ time. But the sprawl that comes with speed means more time is spent on travel, and people have to work longer hours to pay for all the health, safety and environmental costs of speed.”

They suggest: “Instead of ‘mobility’ (how far you can go in a given time), the goal of the ‘slow city’ is accessibility (how much you can get to in that time). Planning for speed and mobility focuses on saving time, which is rarely achieved in practice. Planning for accessibility focuses on time well spent.”

Around the world, there are many examples of major cities slowing traffic, to address safety, pollution and the urban effects of climate change.

Bilbao in Spain was the first large city in the world to limit traffic on all of its streets to 30km/h. Now Paris will impose a speed limit of 30km/h on nearly all streets by late August this year, in a bid to reduce accidents and noise pollution while adapting the city against climate change.

Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo has pledged to reduce the amount of public space dedicated to cars in one of Europe’s densest cities. Already around 60 percent of the capital’s streets have 30 km/h limits, and since Hidalgo took office in 2016 many others have been reduced to single lanes or turned over entirely to pedestrians.

Since 2007, the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana has been redesigning its city centre so that certain areas are reserved exclusively for pedestrians and cyclists. The idea of a car-free city centre began with the renovation of some of the city’s infrastructure on streets and squares with heavy tourist footfall. The aim was to give more space to pedestrians, with wider sidewalks and gradual closure to motorised vehicle traffic. Now, in these zones, only delivery vehicles are allowed, for a few hours in the morning.

Should we go to 30km/h in some streets? Can the European experience be translated to Australian cities? What are the benefits of a ‘slow city’? Let us know your thoughts on the BRN Facebook page . . .

Poisoning childcare centres?

Victoria’s Environment Protection Authority says air pollution levels are double the acceptable rate on a truck-heavy corner where a childcare centre is set to be built in Melbourne’s inner-west.

The Age reports that “The finding by the state’s environmental watchdog comes amid calls for planning rules to prohibit building childcare centres in polluted areas and a rethink of council policies pushing for centres to be built on arterial roads to avoid “cheesing off” residents in smaller streets.”

Interesting to note that there are two childcare centres in Glenlyon Road, Brunswick, not far from the proposed Bunnings Warehouse, which will pump thousands of vehicle movements a day into the same area. Traffic safety is a central issue currently in dispute between Bunnings and local residents at an ongoing VCAT hearing.

A relevant topic for discussion, as this month’s Moreland Council meeting will decide on a new “Kindergarten Infrastructure and Service Plan.”

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Parklands: community vs developers

Brunswick Parklands Action Group

A growing number of community minded residents and park users have formed the Brunswick Parklands Action Group, in response to planning permit applications for two separate high-rise projects at 429 and 395 Albert Street, Brunswick. The proposed eight- and ten-storey apartment blocks are adjacent to each other on privately owned industrial land between Gilpin Park on Albert Street and Clifton Park on Victoria Street.

As we reported in our May newsletter, major developers Stockland and Mirvac BTR have purchased most of the single level industrial properties and some houses directly opposite Gilpin Park. These sites are surrounded by parklands.

From 1981 onwards, Brunswick Council led the way on major reclamation projects to turn old brick quarry pits into public parkland. This whole area has become the Central Brunswick Parklands, forming 19 hectares of connected parks. The parkland stretches from Hope Street in the north to the Hoffman’s Brickworks housing development in Dawson Street. It includes the areas known as Gilpin Park, Clifton Park, Raeburn Reserve and Gillon Oval.

This green corridor has become a magnet during COVID lockdowns. It features busy sporting grounds, picnic areas, playgrounds, open woodland, wide sky vistas, an events pavilion, walking and bike tracks, well-established trees supporting a diverse native bird population, a large dog ‘off-leash’ space, an enclosed dog play area and many places to sit and watch the world go by. Gilpin Park was used as a ‘safe’ outdoors concert venue during the 2021 Brunswick Music Festival, demonstrating its potential as an ideal sunny site for outdoor entertainment post-COVID.

Moreland Council has long targeted this stretch of Albert Street for apartment construction, but allowing high-rise developments in breach of current planning guidelines will cause significant loss of amenity. Overshadowing the park will impact on current users’ access, creating a visual barrier to the present connected parkway. Objectors to the permit applications are amazed that such projects are under consideration at the same time that Council’s ‘Conversations Moreland’ is blithely asking residents: “What is your vision for the Central Brunswick parklands?”

More than 400 objections to the separate proposals have been registered so far. Both developers Stockland and Mirvac BTR have already listed their application with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), with hearings scheduled for September 2021 and March 2022. Residents and park lovers have come together as the Brunswick Parklands Action Group, aiming to unify and increase vocal public support prior to the VCAT hearings. Through the action group, residents will coordinate and engage with the diverse range of objectors who are submitting to VCAT.

Want more info? Email lindab34@gmail.com or rodney_spark@yahoo.com

Rotary Club of Brunswick donates 100 oak trees

To commemorate 100 years of service within the community, the Rotary Club of Brunswick-Tullamarine has donated 100 oak trees to Moreland City Council.

Celebrated at a special ceremony at Brunswick Park, the trees will be planted throughout Brunswick Central parklands precinct over the next two years. Council states: “Increasing tree canopy in the city is one of Moreland’s strategies to tackle climate change. The donation of these beautiful trees will contribute to Council’s vision of doubling public tree canopy by 2050.”

No park for Edward Street?

Back in November 2014, Moreland councillors voted to “conduct a feasibility study for the proposal for a park at the site of the current Edward Street carpark in Brunswick.”

In the years since, community group Friends of Edward Street have lobbied for this change and even organised a trial pop-up park in the carpark. Council has also developed “A Place Close to Home” as a framework for strategic purchases of land, to create small parks in areas where there is increased housing density and no green open space.

In Brunswick, the last few years has seen re-development of land for new parks such as Bulleke-bek Park (West Street) and Garrong Park (Tinning Street). More pocket parks are still under development at Frith Street, at 260 Sydney Road opposite Brunswick Town Hall, and at the Siteworks complex at 33 Saxon Street. There is also new open space south of Moreland Road under the elevated Upfield rail line, created by the Level Crossing Removal Project.

However Council staff seem to have put the kibosh on the development of parks at Edward Street and Black Street carparks in Brunswick. In their recommendation to councillors for this week’s Council meeting, staff identify these sites as “complex projects, owing in part to special rate car parking, significant financial investment required and multi stakeholder dependencies.”

The staff report states: “Due to these site constraints and significant encumbrances, officers do not recommend investing officer time, re-provisioning existing budgets, and raising community expectations by undertaking formal consultation to develop a vision for parks in these locations.”

We think that means “No park for you”!

Re-verging the nature strip

There’s lots of dead, wasted space in our urban environment, but also many interesting examples of how we can green the concrete jungle. One example comes from the UK city of Leicester, which is installing a new network of “bee bus stops”. Dubbed the “living roof”, the network consists of 30 bus stops that have been topped with a mix of wildflowers and sedum plants, a favourite among pollination insects whose numbers have been in decline in recent years.

If you’re looking for ideas about transforming the nature strip in front of your house or a nearby easement, you can check out the Facebook page of Verge Garden Projects Australia (“Verge” is what they call a nature strip in other states.) Lots of interesting ideas, challenges, successes and quandaries . . .

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Planning and housing

Cladding removal in Brunswick

The Lacrosse apartments fire in Docklands and London’s Grenfell Tower tragedy highlighted the hazard of combustible cladding. In recent years, many developers and builders have cut corners by using cheaper cladding that has a higher risk of catching fire, such as expanded polystyrene (EPS) or aluminium composite panels (ACP) with a polyethylene core.

In 2019, the State Government approved $600 million of taxpayers’ funds to start remedying buildings identified as a fire hazard from inappropriate cladding. In June 2019, State Minister for Planning Dick Wynne said the number of affected buildings was well over 900. Some 71 of those were classified as “extreme risk”, 368 as “high risk”, 342 as “moderate risk” and 150 had a “low-risk” rating. However it was only in February this year that Wynne formally announced a prohibition on the use of EPS and ACP combustible external wall cladding.

Some 3,200 buildings in Melbourne have now been checked (although only apartment buildings of three or more storeys built after March 1997 are being audited). The audit process was disrupted during last year’s COVID lockdowns but on 27 March 2021, after several weeks of discussions, the Statewide Cladding Audit (SCA) resumed inspections for combustible cladding and essential safety measures.

According to state government data, 172 buildings requiring cladding repair are located in Moreland municipality, as of 1 April 2021. At the start of this process, the Anstey Square apartments in Sydney Road, Brunswick and the Equus apartments on Lygon Street near Victoria Street were named amongst the first 15 buildings to be repaired using public funds.

More work has continued since then in our neighbourhood – Cladding Safety Victoria logos have been spotted on hoardings in Weston Street and Little Miller Street in Brunswick East. As we go to press, workers are removing flammable cladding from the five-story apartments at 201-207 Albert Street, on the corner of Beith Street: this job so far has taken more than five weeks.

Another problem is that most owners cannot draw on the public funds from the State Government and must pay for the removal themselves. Tenants are also at risk when an audit requires urgent action: in May, a bayside apartment building in St Kilda was evacuated over safety fears due to combustible cladding and other fire safety hazards. Residents of the apartment building were told to leave within two weeks.

If you’re concerned about cladding on your apartment tower, or want to find out what’s involved in rectifying a building, check out the Victorian Building Authority website, where you can also find useful resources and fire safety tips.
“Affordable”, “social” and “public” housing?

Moreland Council is proposing to sell off part of a council-owned carpark at 2–12 Wilkinson Street, Brunswick to build “affordable and social housing.” They’re asking for community feedback on the deal, before finalising an agreement with Moreland Affordable Housing Ltd (MAH), a not-for-profit company set up by Council in 2018.

If the deal goes ahead, it will require an agreement with MAH that 85% of the proposed 34 apartments developed on the site must be affordable housing; at least half of these will be provided as social housing (Any agreement should also require that they remain as low-cost housing into the future, rather than be sold at market rates in the first tenant moves on). To attract a developer, this current plan means that 15% of the apartments will be sold at market rates. In order for the sale to be finalised, MAH will need to have obtained a planning permit and demonstrate the development is financed.

As we’ve argued in previous newsletters, it’s important to develop more housing for low-income and vulnerable families, such as providing housing options for survivors of violence in the home and family. However it’s important to distinguish between “affordable”, “social” and “public” housing. Public housing advocates argue that their tenants often have clearer rights and greater control over their housing, in contrast to social housing projects, which are usually managed by a non-profit corporation or association. The term “affordable” can also mean different things to different people, and is often used to greenwash a project that involves the transfer of public space to a private developer.

You can find more information on this project on the Conversations Moreland site at:
https://conversations.moreland.vic.gov.au/Wilkinson

If you want to comment on this proposal, you have until 5pm on Monday 9 August. You can use this Conversations Moreland page or send a written submission marked “Submission – Proposed Sale of Land at 2-12 Wilkinson St, Brunswick” to Moreland City Council, Locked Bag 10, Moreland, 3058 (email affordablehousing@moreland.vic.gov.au).

Bunnings hearings should end this week

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) hearing over the proposed Bunnings warehouse in Glenlyon Road, Brunswick, is continuing, and it will be some time before a VCAT ruling. The case hearings have been extended for a third time, with the final day of evidence and submissions on traffic issues now scheduled for this Wednesday 14 July.  To find out about resident concerns and get the latest updates, have a look at the Facebook page of the Stop Bunnings Glenlyon campaign, or check their website.

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Kulcha Korner: NAIDOC + more

Indigenous Story Time

To follow NAIDOC week, the Brunswick Neighbourhood House (BNH) is organising a special event for preschool children, with an Indigenous Story Time presented by the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation.

This activity will take place on Wednesday 14 July at 10.30 am, as part of the BNH Occasional Childcare program. Newcomers are welcome! Places are limited, so call 9387 9901 to reserve your place.

WHAT: Indigenous Story Time
WHERE: Brunswick Neighbourhood House, 18 Garden Street, Brunswick
WHEN: Wednesday 14 July 2021, 10:30am – 11:30am
BOOKINGS: Phone 9387 9901
INFO: https://www.bnhc.vic.edu.au/

Banj Banj/nawnta at Counihan Gallery

‘Banj Banj/nawnta’ exhibits vibrant paintings from a long-standing friendship between Thelma Beeton (Palawa people) & Stacey (Taungurong/Boon Wurrung peoples). The two women met during their incarceration together at Dame Phyllis Frost Centre, Victoria’s women’s prison, and have continued their collaboration as artists. Their Banj Banj/nawnta (sisters) art exhibition is coming up at the Counihan Gallery, from Saturday 24 July.

For children, there will also be an Aboriginal Storytime at the gallery, at 11.30am on Tuesday 10 August (for COVID safety, registration essential at 9359 8622).

WHAT: Banj Banj/nawnta exhibition
WHERE: Counihan Gallery, Brunswick Town Hall, 233 Sydney Road
WHEN: Saturday 24 July to Sunday 5 September
INFO: 9359 8622 or email: counihangallery@moreland.vic.gov.au
Bear Grylls
Brunswick memes

Some people in Brunswick East have a sense of humour, as shown at the intersection of Balmer and Grylls Streets (left).  Any other wits out there – more photos please!

‘Escape from Lockdown!

Libraries across Moreland are running a short story competition on the theme “Escape from lockdown”. For creatives young or old, you can write a 500 word story or record and/or film a story of 5 minutes in length or less, around the theme.

There are four categories: up to 8 years old, 9 – 12 years old, 13 – 17 years old and Adult. Have a go for great prizes including Lego packs, book and music vouchers (sorry adults, you aren’t eligible to win the Lego). Get moving – submissions must be made by 5 pm, Sunday 18 July 2021.

The Body in Comics

Enjoy a good comic strip? Come along to Brunswick Library on Thursday 12 August, to hear from local illustrators, comic artists and storytellers Bernard Calleo, Andrew Weldon, Ele Jenkins and Rachel Ang.

WHAT: The body in Comics
WHERE: Brunswick Library, Dawson Street, Brunswick
WHEN: Thursday 12 August 2021, 7,45pm
BOOKINGS: Phone 9389 8600 or libraryevents@moreland.vic.gov.au

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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:

  • 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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