Brunswick Residents Network News, October 2021

This month’s newsletter includes a feature on why we should ditch Moreland’s planning scorecard; reminder for tomorrow’s Walking in Brunswick report launch; news on cats, Covid, churches, and much more. Read on, or check the online fully formatted version.

 

 

 

Feature: ‘Ditch the Scorecard’; Tuesday “Walking in Brunswick” launch; colourful cycling history; cats, Covid, churches, weeds, Olympians and more

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Brunswick Residents Network Newsletter,
October 2021

 

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Walking report launch: Tuesday evening

Walking in Brunswick:
How to make walking in Brunswick safer and more enjoyable

This year, Brunswick Residents Network has worked with other community groups to conduct a major survey of local residents about walking in Brunswick. We’ll be launching our report by Zoom tomorrow (5 October) and hope you can join us. 
Date and Time: Tuesday 5 October, 2021, 7.30–8.30 PM

RSVP: Please click here to let us know you are coming (important as we need to pay to have over 100): 
brunswickresidentsnetwork@gmail.com

Facebook Event to share: https://fb.me/e/XgQqaZIl

Zoom direct link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89540063300?pwd=R3ROMHR3Sjk1Uk1rR0lDeEQ5bGl5UT09   
(OR) Zoom by Meeting ID – 
Meeting ID: 895 4006 3300
Passcode: Strolling

Speakers:

  • Special guest speaker: Rhydian Cowley, Australian walker at 2021 Tokyo Olympics
  • MC: Dan Ziffer
  • Key findings from the report: highlights of our findings, presented by Nancy Atkin and the survey team
  • Comment: Victoria Walks

A massive 922 Brunswick residents took the survey. They told us how much they walk (more than we expected); and, in great detail, what would make walking safer and more enjoyable. This big sample has given an insight into why, when and where people of all ages walk in Brunswick – and when and where they don’t walk. With lots of colourful quotes bringing the statistics alive, we think the report has important insights. It’s a great read! We’ll be using it to inform and we hope to shape Council and State Government priorities. 

The report will be available at the time of the launch on Tuesday evening: at https://brunswickresidents.wordpress.com and linked from our Facebook page (Brunswick Residents Network)

 

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Bandt bites into Brunswick

The Federal electorate of Melbourne – currently held by Greens leader Adam Bandt MP – will take a bite out of Brunswick East, as the Electoral Boundaries Commission (EBC) finalises redistribution of federal constituency boundaries.
 
3,189 people living in Brunswick East – south of Glenlyon Road and east of Lygon Street – will now vote in the seat of Melbourne for the 2022 Federal elections (see map linked below). This electoral redivision moves them out of the seat of Wills (currently held by the ALP’s Peter Khalil MP).
 
The changes come because Wills has increasing number of residents and is estimated to rise from the current tally of 108,904 voters to 116,877 by January 2025. Given that polling booths in Brunswick East have recently favoured the Greens, this shift may benefit both the ALP and Greens (with a number of East Brunswickians likely to reinforce Adam Bandt’s dominant position in Melbourne). 

 

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Cat curfew for Brunswick?

For some months, the cat population of Brunswick have suffered the indignity of having their peace and quiet disrupted by a bunch of people who claim they have the right to work from home. Now, in a further blow to feline rights, Moreland Council is likely to introduce a cat curfew next year, in a bid to keep the 6,656 registered cats in the municipality off the streets at night.
 
The proposed night-time curfew is contained within Moreland’s draft domestic animal management plan for the next four years, which was adopted by councillors earlier this month and is now open for public comment. Many residents are surprised to hear that there is not already a curfew, whilst others – taking the part of native wildlife – argue that cats should never be allowed out alone.

 

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Covid help

Lost your job during the pandemic?

 
Many people around our municipality, young and old, have lost work or jobs during the pandemic. If you’re having trouble finding work or need information about retraining, Jobs Victoria Advocates are working with Moreland Council to assist people during these difficult times.
 
If you need help to put together a resume or job application, to find training or education courses or just connect to local services, you can call Jobs Victoria on 9240 2275 or email jobsadvocates@moreland.vic.gov.au

COVID testing in Brunswick

 
If you need a free COVID test, you can drive, ride or walk into the convenient testing site run by 4Cyte Pathology, which operates in Brunswick East between 8am- 5pm.
 
The test site is located in an old factory at 20C Leinster Grove (turn into Leinster off Glenlyon Road, and follow your nose to the carpark at the end). Don’t forget your Medicare card and smartphone, which you’ll need to fill in a short questionnaire before the test.
 
If you, your family or neighbours need information about COVID-19 in languages other than English, you can download the latest factsheets from the State government coronavirus website, or from SBS, which has information sheets in 60 languages. 

 

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Planning and property

Putting the church to good use

 
If you drive along Sydney Road, you can’t miss the classical splendour of the former Wesleyan Church at 340-350 Sydney Road, just north of Savers.
 
Over many years, the old Church and Sunday School have been used for a variety of purposes, and in recent times have hosted the Brunswick Community School. With the School moving to another site in Glenlyon Road at the end of 2022, however, the long-term future of the church is unclear.
 
A number of people want to continue to use the site as a community asset, and have established ‘The Friends of the Former Wesleyan Church and Model Sunday School Brunswick’ as an incorporated association, “to help preserve, protect, and promote these remarkable pieces of social and architectural history.”
 
The association wants to encourage renewed public purposes for the buildings that also preserve their architectural integrity. Lots of possibilities (community resource centre, theatre, music school or just an urban oasis), but they’re eager to get your ideas.

Transforming Ballarat Street

If you walk across Sydney Road from Tiba’s Lebanese restaurant, you’ll find Ballarat Street, Brunswick. This narrow street runs from Sydney Road to the Upfield rail line, just north of Sparta Place. Now three industrial sites in this small street are scheduled to be transformed into massive, multi-storey “build to rent” apartment towers.
 
At number 4 Ballarat Street, developers Assemble sold out the first release of Rent-to-Buy apartments in May 2021, with construction expected to begin later this year. Assemble’s model allows people to move in and rent the apartment for five years, while saving to buy it.
 
At number 8, a concrete monolith to be known as “Brunswick Yard” is proposed by Carr Architecture, who are aiming for a 141-apartment, eight-storey complex.
 
Now international real estate firm Hines is planning to build a 250-apartment build-to-rent complex at number 10 Ballarat Street, after spending $16.5 million on the 4,242 square metre industrial site. Hines is a US-based corporation that manages $160 billion worth of real estate across 27 countries. The Ballarat Street site was sold to Hines by Goal Property, which paid nearly $12 million for the location in 2017, and had already obtained a permit for an eight storey tower with 163 dwellings.
 
In a few years’ time, Tiba’s are going to be selling a lot more falafel! 

Cypriot Club goes to VCAT

Local residents are fundraising to hire expert witnesses for a hearing at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) over a multi-storey project proposal in Lygon Street.
 
The Cypriot Club in Lygon Street, Brunswick initially applied to Moreland Council for a ten storey development at 495-511 Lygon Street, which was then revised down to seven storeys. At Moreland Council’s Planning and Related Matters meeting, local residents mobilised to call for amendments to the plan and Council approved a planning application for five storeys. Now the developer is appealing this decision at VCAT, trying to get more storeys.
 
The “Save Lygon Street North” legal campaign has launched a GoFundMe campaign – if you can contribute, please support their initiative to improve planning outcomes at the northern end of Lygon Street and Albion Street. For further information, email: help@savelygonstnorth.org

 

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Feature article:
Ditch the scorecard

For the past two years, Moreland Council has been trialling a “Design Excellence Scorecard”, giving Council staff the authority to fast track certain planning applications that meet design criteria, by cutting our elected councillors out of decision making.
 
At their next monthly meeting on Wednesday 13 October, Moreland councillors are due to consider whether to make the Scorecard a permanent part of the Moreland Planning Scheme. Alongside many other local groups, Brunswick Residents Network believes that councillors should not continue with the Scorecard as a mechanism to determine planning applications. 
 
We urge all residents to contact their elected representative before the next Moreland Council meeting: tell them they should not integrate the Scorecard into the Moreland Planning Scheme and should abandon the current trial. Here’s why….
 
Background

Staff at Moreland Council decide the vast majority of planning applications under delegation. Many residents are frustrated that this has crept up over the years to more than 95% of all permit applications, as successive councillors have delegated more and more decision-making powers to staff.

But under Moreland’s Guidelines for the Exercise of Delegation for Planning Applications 2019, various exemptions apply that mean the Council (not staff) must make the decision. These guidelines give elected councillors back their right to decide on major and controversial development proposals. For instance, the guidelines state if at “least two councillors so request” or “ten or more objections are received”, an application must be voted on by Council. Crucially, however, applications through the Scorecard are exempt from giving councillors their right to decide. 

Delegates and officers usually make their assessment of applications against the objectives of the Moreland Planning Scheme (MPS). As the scheme is void of any mandated ‘desirable’ features such as quality materials, environmental sustainability, affordability, or accessible housing, developers can use the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) to appeal against decisions on those things.  
 
The Scorecard first came before Moreland Council in 2017 as the “Fast Track program”, with the objective of fast tracking development projects of “architectural and environmental” merit.  Free kicks to developers included multiple meetings with council staff and guaranteed permit decision by officers (not at a public council meeting). Benchmark areas are: building design and materials, sustainability, accessibility and community benefit.
 
The fast-track development program was again brought before Council in early 2018 as the “Quality Design Scorecard” and finally adopted as the “Design Excellence Scorecard”, which was approved at the Council meeting in February 2019. It has been under trial since then.
 
Community opposition
 
From the beginning, a majority of councillors have ignored community concerns over this fast-tracking of planning applications.
 
On 18 September, BRN co-sponsored an online meeting with Fawkner Residents Association and the North East Brunswick Responsible Development Group, to examine the use of the Scorecard so far, and discuss why it should be rejected as a planning mechanism. 
 
More than 55 people joined the meeting and heard a keynote address from Steven Rowley, an urban planner who is a leading expert on the Victorian planning scheme (indeed, he literally wrote the book ‘The Victorian Planning System, Practice, Problems and Prospects’ to discuss the transformation of our urban environment in Melbourne). Other speakers included Joanna Stanley from BRN and community members Tim Glanville from Brunswick North and Salvatore Carta from Coburg.
 
You can watch their presentations online, which highlight a number of problems with the Scorecard that disadvantage community members from having a say about the development of our suburbs:  

Problems with the Scorecard 
 
With the Scorecard, Moreland Council is offering a rapid processing system – by cutting councillors out of the decision-making loop – supposedly to gain these other benefits that are not in the planning scheme. 
 
But this relies on firm guarantees of certainty to developers: if they meet the criteria of the Scorecard, planning staff must guarantee that the application will not be called in for decision by councillors. Our elected representatives must surrender their decision-making power.
 
As Stephen Rowley noted in his presentation: “Planning powers are democratically vested powers…. It is, in my view, a fundamental starting principle that it is inappropriate for councillors to be surrendering their democratically vested powers to planning officials, no matter how well they might go about that task.” 
 
In this way, the Scorecard is a fundamental overreach by Moreland Council. By trading away the democratic powers of councillors, it overrides the checks and balances built into the planning scheme. It is a fundamental principle that affected residents should have a say in their transformation of their community – Moreland must involve both professionals and community in making decisions about the transformation of our lived environment.
 
BRN is concerned that when the community and councillors are excluded from planning decisions, there is usually a “trade-off’ of design features (such as height) that are important to objectors. We think the Scorecard lacks fundamental criteria that are important, such as amenity impacts on neighbouring properties or preferred heights that are included in the Brunswick Structure Plan. Many standards like “amenity” are subjective and open to interpretation, so councillors are abdicating their responsibility to represent diverse community views when they hand over authority to staff.
 
Another problem is that an individual Scorecard building may have some design merit in its own right, but will set a precedents that developers will use in VCAT appeals. We often see officer and delegate reports approve buildings that do not numerically meet design clauses in the scheme. These include heights, setbacks, balcony size and internal amenity (room size and functional layout). Staff justify the design failures on other traded-off features such as rooftop gardens or green walled lightwells. 
 
In her presentation to the recent webinar, Jo Stanley says that a recent Scorecard delegate report includes a justification for apartments with tiny balconies and living rooms narrower than 3 metres: “These are greenwashed hotel-rooms, being passed-off as apartments in Brunswick.”
 
Consultation theatre 

The Scorecard operates behind closed doors at pre-application meetings between the developer and council staff – but then there‘s no way back from that, because Councillors do not get a say. Scorecard compliance must be certified by planning staff before there is any public notification about the project, locking the Council into a fixed position before any possible objectors can have a say. 
 
If residents, councillors and the developer later attend a Planning and Information Discussion on a project, it is meaningless because councillors cannot call the project in for decision – their presence is a sham. Moreland already has a poor reputation for “consultation theatre”, where staff go through the motions of seeking community opinion. This process will only further anger residents concerned about controversial projects!
 
During the webinar, Salvatore Carta outlined the horrific experience of residents at Linda Street and White Street, Coburg, where a developer switched a planning permit application from the normal process into the Scorecard mechanism during the current trial. Even Council staff now acknowledge this was a stuff-up, admitting “A learning from this case is that the permit applicant did not seek to redesign the proposal and meet the Scorecard until faced with significant community objection…it would be preferable that these improvements are achieved by meeting the Scorecard at the outset, together with earlier consultation with surrounding residents.”
 
Ditch the scorecard
 
While Scorecard projects have been under close scrutiny during the current trial, there is a danger that the process will be a “tick and flick” exercise in the future. Over-burdened or inexperienced planners may not have the time or inclination to look carefully at all aspects of a project that affect community amenity or neighbourhood character.
 
The whole point of this exercise is to get benefits from developers that are not legally required in the planning scheme. But can Moreland Council guarantee these benefits if developers later appeal to VCAT to override them? This might not even be the original developer who struck a deal – a common problem is when a new landholder comes on board who doesn’t want to honour the original permit commitments. 
 
As a planning mechanism, Moreland Council’s Design Excellence Scorecard is fundamentally ill-conceived. It should be abandoned NOW by Moreland councillors.

 

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Open space, parks and greenery

Weed management trial in Brunswick

In a program to develop non-toxic weed control systems, Moreland Council is running a trial to use non-glyphosate weedicides and other weed management strategies (including heat treatment and manual weeding) in a large area of Brunswick. 
 
The program, comparing the trial area in Brunswick West with two neighbouring control areas, will run for two years until June 2023. The intention is to evaluate the effectiveness of alternative methods of weed control using metrics including worker hours, equipment hours, material costs and community feedback.
 
For maps of the test areas, trial details and to make comments on the plan before 31 October, go to the Conversations Moreland page: 

Gardening together

Many people have had extra time at home during lockdown and rediscovered the benefits of gardening for health and well-being.

Merri Health runs a gardening group that promotes “horticulture therapy” and they’d like you to get involved. On Wednesday 20 October, Grace Webster from Merri Community Health will run an online Zoom to “connect and garden together.” To get the zoom link, register through the contacts below.
 
What: Zoom call on gardening and togetherness
When: Wednesday 20 October, 11:30 AM.
Register: Moreland.Vic.gov.au/libraries
Further information: 9353 4000 or email libraryevents@moreland.vic.gov.au

Land use in Northern Metro

The State Government has prepared a draft Northern Metro Land Use Framework Plan to help shape the future priorities for the region. Starting in Darebin and Moreland and heading north into Hume, Mitchell, Moreland, Nillumbik and Whittlesea, the Northern Metro region extends from the inner suburbs of Brunswick, Coburg, Preston, Northcote, Heidelberg and Ivanhoe to some of the city’s newest communities in Sunbury, Craigieburn, Mernda and Wallan.
 
The Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) is using the Framework Plan to outline land use in the north over a 30-year period. The draft looks at diverse issues such as: population and industry growth; service and infrastructure development; environmental resilience; housing, integrated transport and liveability.
 
You can complete a short online survey to comment on the plan, or community groups can submit more detailed submissions before 24 October. 

 

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Sports news: Brunswick Olympians 

Congratulations to former Brunswick high school student Isis Holt, who returns home from Japan with two Paralympics silver medals.
 
The 20-year-old – a graduate of Brunswick Secondary College in 2019 – lives with cerebral palsy. Competing against her arch rival Xia Zhou of China, Holt set personal bests for both the T35 100m and 200m track events, winning silver in each race. Next stop, Paris 2024.
 
Three former members of the Brunswick Cycling Club, Catalina Soto, Luke Plapp and Sarah Gigante also competed at the Tokyo games.

 

And that’s not to forget far-north-Brunswick (Fawkner) resident Rhydian Cowley who came 8th, with a personal best time, in the 50km (yes, kilometres) walking race in Tokyo. Rhydian is guest speaker at tomorrow’s Walking in Brunswick launch (see top story).   

 

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History corner: Austral Avenue

Bikes, betting and builders

 
At 3pm on 5 October 1907, a grand sale was held to auction off lots on Austral Avenue – a small Brunswick thoroughfare that still runs south off Albion Street, parallel to Sydney Road. 
 
The Argus newspaper of 21 September 1907 included an advertisement from contractor John Carey, announcing the auction of fifty building lots, “with frontages to Albion and Sutherland Streets and Austral Avenue, BRUNSWICK, (Close to the Sydney-road Terminus).” The lots to be sold on 5 October had “frontages from 35ft. to 46ft each, all with good depths. The streets are formed, channelised, and metalled. Terms £10 deposit, balance quarterly up to 12 months, interest 5 per cent. per annum.”
 
Carey made a tidy sum on the sale, and went on to purchase land for other properties in Brunswick and Preston. But where did Austral Avenue get its name?
 
It comes from the Austral Wheel Race – the oldest track bicycle race in the world, which began in 1887 (the Austral is still being held today, managed by Cycling Victoria).
 
Around the turn of last century, the Austral was surrounded by allegations of corruption and race fixing. In 1901, there were a lot of questions about the victory of American rider, ‘Plugger’ Bill Martin, who competed in cycle races in every Australian colony between 1895 and 1901, reputedly winning 249 races. 
 
As a top cyclist, Martin had a bad habit of beating up critics of his performances. According to the Australian Dictionary of Biography: “In 1896, Martin had been suspended for two months after an assault on another cyclist in Adelaide. In Sydney next year, he responded to abuse from a spectator by jumping off his bicycle, pursuing the man through the crowd and beating him. He again ran into trouble during the 1897 Adelaide carnival … where he administered a thrashing to a member of the committee that had banned him the previous year. For this he was sentenced to fourteen days gaol.” 

At age 41, Martin famously won the December 1901 Austral Wheel Race, a two-mile handicap, but the event was marred by allegations of race fixing.  Enormous sums were wagered on the event, and there were rumours of bribery and intimidation by notorious inner-city businessman come gangster John Wren.
 
In 1907, the Lone Hand magazine, citing Martin’s trainer from 1901, reported that Wren and Martin had ensured fellow competitors were encouraged to throw the race: “Bribes were laid out in piles of notes and sovereigns upon Martin’s bed at the Albion Hotel, Melbourne. One by one the cyclists were admitted to the bedroom, and Martin, who had a loaded revolver beside him, addressed each successive visitor by name in a loud voice, and stated the terms of their contract.”
 
Of his nineteen opponents in the Austral, the Lone Hand alleged that all but two or three ran dead. ‘Plugger’ later acknowledged that Wren had backed him to win £7000.
 
The incident became one element of the 1951 criminal libel case launched by Wren’s son against Frank Hardy, the communist author of the great Melbourne novel “Power Without Glory.” Defending his mother’s honour, Wren Junior alleged that the book’s depiction of the rise and fall of ‘John West’ was a thinly disguised portrait of his father (Hardy was later acquitted by the jury).
 
In “Power Without Glory”, John West wagers £60,000 on the 1901 Austral, backing ‘Plugger Pete Manson’. West tells one of his cronies: “Do you think I’d have spent 1,000 quid, and laid odds to nothing to officials, if I thought he could win with a field of triers? … We won’t strike trouble anyway. I gave a donation of £500 to the club last week. I got most of the officials fixed.” 
 
The suggestion that Austral Wheel Race officials could be bribed was based on another scandal around the 1902 race, which had a massive prize of more than 1,000 gold sovereigns. The Age newspaper reported that “one of the judges appointed to officiate at the Austral Wheel meeting was called upon to resign, because he had a monetary interest in the result of the Austral Wheel Race.”  
 
Mr. G.S. Geddes had wagered on the rider D.J. Walker, even though he was a judge for the event! According to The Age of 17 January 1903, “because of his long connection with the club, Mister Geddes was treated leniently in being asked to resign, instead of being subjected to the ignominy of being removed from office.” 
 
And so to John Carey, builder, contractor and man about town. In 1906, Carey won a significant sum betting on the Austral Wheel Race, which was won by Harry Thomas, despite his 20 yard handicap. Now, we wouldn’t want to suggest that there was any skulduggery in his betting coup, but Carey earned enough money to buy and sell a swag of land along the Brunswick thoroughfare he named Austral Avenue!

 

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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:

  • 13 October (online)
  • 10 November 
  • 15 November – Mayoral Election
  • 8 December

Meeting details are available on the Council website
 
Council meetings can be watched online, either live, or later – you can find details here along with the agenda for the next Council meeting when it’s posted on the Friday before the monthly meeting. You can register there to receive an alert when the agenda is posted. 

 

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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.

 

 

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