Brunswick Residents Network Newsletter, January 2022

Welcome to our January 2022 newsletter. Scroll down  for all our news, or read with nicer formatting here .

Summer special: walking tours, park designs for comment, plus our regular transport and planning updates

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Brunswick Residents Network Newsletter,
January 2022

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Moreland Council welcomes walking report

One of the major projects initiated by Brunswick Residents Network in 2021 was a survey of walking in Brunswick. With more than 920 survey responses, our report highlighted a number of areas for further action by the State Government and Moreland Council, to improve safety, accessibility and mobility for pedestrians.

At their December 2021 meeting, Moreland Council unanimously passed a resolution welcoming BRN’s Walking in Brunswick report and acknowledging that “this report provides strong evidence for increased infrastructure investment, the greening of streets, for addressing safety concerns, and for coordination between council departments.”

The resolution calls for a future report from Council staff on their work to revise the Moreland Integrated Transport Strategy (MITS 2019), to incorporate the matters listed here:

a) Ensures that in promoting its services, Council does not assume universal car ownership and carries out research to assess how many Moreland residents and households do not have access to a car.
b) Develop strategy to promote and encourage walking – especially walking for transport, where it could replace a trip by car and assess pedestrian impacts and opportunities during the assessment of planning applications, park design and infrastructure projects, to maximise walkability.
c) Strategies for increased greening and shade to encourage and enable walking. These include expansion of the current tree-planting and upkeep program, ensuring priority to greenery and beauty in park design, identifying excess road space that can be re-allocated to
greening, encouraging and resourcing road-side and nature strip community garden projects.
d) Report on options to increase developer contributions for footpaths and other pedestrian amenity including where parking requirements have been reduced. Ensure that developers pay through developer contributions for wider footpaths, awnings, shared zones, permeability
and other nearby pedestrian amenity.
e) Develop rules to prevent builders impeding walking (and other active transport) during construction. The City of Melbourne is releasing a new Code of Practice for Construction Sites in November, review this and consider a similar Moreland code.
f) Investigate innovative sources of funding for a program to upgrade footpath quality in Brunswick. In addition to existing audits and maintenance, develop a program of identifying priority footpaths in higher-density areas, requiring upgraded and widening.
g) Improve walking amenity by slowing down traffic volumes in residential streets, reduce traffic speeds, identify accident hotspots with the community and relevant Dept of Transport and VicRail staff, to identify problems and solutions.
h) Revive short-term and longer-term plans for Sydney Road upgrade. Short-term can include aspects under Council control i.e. clearing and upgrading footpaths, re-allocating parking spaces to outdoor dining and greenery, removing graffiti and encouraging beautification.
i) Use the survey evidence to develop a priority list to improve lighting and perceptions of safety on routes home from public transport.

Please contact us at email: brunswickresidentsnetwork@gmail.com, with any questions about the report, or if you’d like a speaker from our Walking Working group to talk to your community group.

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Sunday COVID jabs at Town Hall

Moreland Council is offering walk-up vaccinations at a Brunswick Town Hall pop-up vaccination clinic

Where: Brunswick Town Hall, 233 Sydney Road:

  • Every Sunday from 23 January to 13 February from 10.00am to 4.00pm
  • This pop-up will be running during public holidays

Art work from a Brunswick street poster.

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Sign the petition – Ditch the Scorecard

There’s still time to sign the petition calling on Moreland Council to scrap its Design Excellence Scorecard – please sign today!

Delayed from last year, councillors will soon vote on whether to include the Scorecard permanently in the Moreland Planning Scheme. BRN and other residents’ groups are concerned the Moreland community is in danger of losing its right to have a say over controversial developments using the Scorecard mechanism.

For more detailed information, listen to local residents and a presentation by planning expert Stephen Rowley, explaining why large controversial developments should be decided by our elected representatives, and not by unelected officials behind closed doors.

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Brunswick parks: have your say

New playground for Gilpin Park?

Even as developers are planning major multi-storey developments on the edge of Gilpin Park in Brunswick, Moreland Council has been conducting community surveys on improving facilities in the park.

Based on the first round of feedback, they report: “Most people said they enjoy the natural feel of the park and do not want to see significant change. We did receive clear requests to renew the playground, provide a public toilet, improve picnic facilities and increase tree canopy and planting for habitat. We also received strong support for introducing more water into the park.”

A draft concept plan for the renewed playground and picnic area has been prepared and Council is seeking your feedback on the design. You can comment on the Conversations Moreland website before 23 January 2022.

Otherwise, Council staff will hold a face-to-face session (COVID permitting) on Saturday 22 January 2022 between 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm, where you can share your comments on the draft Concept Plan.

WHAT: Gilpin Park Pop Up Session
WHEN: Saturday 22 January 2022, 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm
WHERE: Gilpin Park playground, Albert Street, Brunswick (west of the Upfield rail line)
CONTACT:  Open Space Planner Alex English at AEnglish@moreland.vic.gov.au

“Scale it Down” campaign update

Gilpin and Clifton Parks, Brunswick’s largest parklands, remain under threat as VCAT will complete the final day of Mirvac (10-11 storeys, pictured left) and Stockland (8-9 storeys) hearings on 2 February 2022.

Local community campaign Scale it Down has received strong support from many donors, allowing the campaign to engage town planning experts. Six teams of objectors, representing 370 individual objectors, have been at VCAT for 16 full days since November, presenting strong cases against overshadowing of parklands, visual bulk and scale impacts on the parks and neighbourhood, increased traffic and parking issues, and increased urban heat island impacts. The teams gained first hand experience with current planning processes. These overwhelmingly privilege developers with time and paid expertise provided by large teams of lawyers and architects, supported by urban design, landscaping, traffic, and environmental sustainability experts. Thankfully, on many points, Moreland Council and community objectors were in agreement.

These two cases are also significant as they will set precedents for future developments impacting on Brunswick Central Parklands, including the working industrial properties abutting Gilpin and Clifton Parks.

Inquiry into Victoria’s planning system

As VCAT weighs up its decision in these two cases, The Environment and Planning Committee of Victoria’s Legislative Council is holding an inquiry into Victoria’s planning system. In particular, the Committee is seeking community views on:

  • the high cost of housing in the context of the planning system
  • environmental sustainability and vegetation protection within the planning framework
  • delivering certainty and fairness in planning decisions for communities
  • protecting heritage in Victoria.

If you have opinions these issues, including the unfairness of the VCAT system, this is a chance to have your views considered.

  • Submissions close Monday 31 January 2022. Details here.

Two more park consultations:

Dunstan Park raingarden

Council is planning to create a dry creek bed, raingarden and water harvesting system, to improve the landscape, irrigate the sports fields and reduce pollution entering waterways.

Jacobs Reserve toilet location

Following the narrowly averted Methven Park Toiletgate catastrophe of 2018 (where a toilet was to be plonked in the middle of a lawn), West Brunswickians please check out the three proposed sites for new toilets at Jacobs Reserve and give your opinions to Council.

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Mould and ventilation fixes

One of the major problems with modern apartment construction, especially with concrete tilt-slabs, is how to control leakage and mould. Many people who have bought or rented an apartment in the concrete monoliths dotting Brunswick face a constant battle with mould, due to water leakage and poor ventilation.

In this webinar with designer Roger Joyner of Passivhaus Perth, you can find some background to the challenges of ventilation and possible technical solutions to your mould problems.

Let us know of local examples of poor construction and how builders, landlords and developers have responded to your concerns, at email: brunswickresidentsnetwork@gmail.com

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Feature article:
Planning rules updated for safer transport

Before Christmas, with little publicity, the Victorian State Government gazetted significant changes to the state’s planning scheme, with revisions addressing safety and sustainability in transport policy.

On 9 December 2021, the State Government gazetted changes to the Victorian state-wide planning policy through Amendment VC204, which entering into force on that date. The amendment updates clause 18 (Transport provisions) in the Victoria Planning Provisions (VPP) and all planning schemes (including the Moreland Planning Scheme).

Key elements of amendment VC204 include:

  • a clarified and expanded definition of the State Transport System;
  • an increased emphasis on safety as a central theme of the revised policy;
  • emphasis on encouraging mode shift away from cars, prioritising walking, cycling and public transport;
  • an emphasis on protecting the operation of the public transport system during land use planning.

In a municipality like Moreland, there are a large number of major projects that have significant impacts on our road network. These latest changes to Victoria’s planning provisions provide valuable and welcome recognition of the need for safe and sustainable transport across our community.

Through Amendment VC204, the changes include an expanded definition of the “State Transport System”, which prioritises cycling and public transport. There is new language explicitly stating the State Transport System includes the Principal Bicycle Network and Principal Public Transport Network:

  • “Principal Bicycle Network: Existing and future high quality cycling routes that provide access to major destinations and facilitate cycling for transport, sport, recreation and fitness.”
  • “Principal Public Transport Network: Existing and future high quality public transport routes in the Melbourne metropolitan area.”

Under changes to clause 18, there are now separate sections for Walking and Cycling, highlighting their significance for the transport network. These revisions give clear policy direction to protect safe and efficient movement in these modes in the State Transport Network, such as clauses to: “Protect and develop the Principal Bicycle Network to provide high-quality cycling routes that are direct and connected, to and between key destinations including activity centres, public transport interchanges, employment areas, urban renewal precincts and major attractions.”

There is also a welcome focus on safety in transport systems. The explanatory report for VC204, issued by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DEWLP), is explicit. It states that that the revised clause 18 places “much greater emphasis on safety and sustainability.” It stresses: “Policy introduced by the amendment prioritises safety, with multiple strategies and objectives seeking to ensure the safe functioning and use of the transport system”. Under the heading “Safety and health and wellbeing”, the explanatory report says “The updated policy includes consideration of safety, and is expected to lead to improvements to the safety of the network for all users.”

These changes to the Victorian planning scheme prioritise efficient and safe walking, cycling, and the use of public transport, in that order, over cars, in changes to the urban environment and land use.  This road hierarchy is given greater prominence in the new clause 18, and the prioritisation of these alternative modes over cars is now much more explicit.

For example, the previous legislation provided support for “sustainable personal transport”, but the revised clause 18 has the explicit objective “to facilitate an efficient and safe walking network and increase the proportion of trips made by walking.” There is also a new, explicit objective “to facilitate an efficient and safe public transport network and increase the proportion of trips made by public transport.”

The DEWLP explanatory report, under the heading “Environmental Effects”, states: “The updated policy introduced by the amendment encourages environmental sustainability, including walking, cycling and public transport objectives which aim to increase the share of trips by sustainable modes of transport and reduce vehicle emissions and road traffic congestion.”

Under clauses related to “Sustainable and Safe Transport”, the policy objective is to “facilitate an environmentally sustainable transport system that is safe and supports health and wellbeing.” This clause explicitly highlights the need for “Design development to promote walking, cycling and the use of public transport, in that order, and minimise car dependency” (emphasis added).

The new policy change under VC204 includes consideration of land use policy and how the design of neighbourhoods should better support active living, encourage mode shift towards public transport, and increase safety.

The revised clause 18 has significant language to protect existing transport infrastructure from “encroachment or detriment” that would impact on the current or future function of the transport system. For example, the direction to “Locate higher density and increased development on or close to the Principal Public Transport Network” is explicitly constrained by the subsequent words, which state “in a way that does not compromise the efficiency of the Principal Public Transport Network.”  (emphasis added).

Another strategy requires planners to “Plan the use of land adjacent to the transport system having regard to the current and future development and operation of the transport system.” (the reference to ‘future’ operation of transport raises the bar for forward-looking horizon planning). The strategy explicitly calls for “Separating pedestrians, bicycles and motor vehicles, where practicable” and “Reducing the need for cyclists to mix with other road users.”

While these broad planning principles will need to be interpreted by local government and VCAT in the context of specific planning permit applications, this is a welcome focus on safety, sustainability, walking, cycling and public transport – issues that Brunswick Residents Network has highlighted over many years (check our latest report on ‘Walking In Brunswick’ here, where more than 920 people surveyed highlighted safety, accessibility and environmental awareness).

These changes have already begun to be considered in the planning process: on 10 December, the day after the changes were gazetted, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) issued an order to all participants in the long-running and unresolved hearings over plans for a new Bunnings warehouse in Glenlyon Road, Brunswick. The VCAT order requested submissions “addressing the relevance, if any, of the recent Amendment VC204 to the consideration of the merits of the proposal.” Brunswick Residents Network, whose prior submissions had focused on detriment to pedestrians, cyclists, and nearby residents, argued that the changes are very relevant to our concerns. Months after the end of the VCAT hearings, we await the final ruling in this crucial case.

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Understanding the planning process

Confused by planning jargon? Worried about the difference between a DDO and a PO?  Concerned that one of those acronyms is made up? This video is for you!

Last November, staff of the Moreland Council planning team ran an hour-long webinar to introduce the basics of the planning process. We think it doesn’t accurately capture the realities of the adversarial contest between developers and community, it greenwashes Moreland’s active role on pushing the boundaries of urban re-development and also underplays the unbalanced nature of the contest before VCAT. Despite this, the webinar is a useful primer for anyone wanting to get their heads around basic principles, the complex jargon of the planning industry and how to lodge an objection to a planning permit application.

Council staff are gauging interest for further face-to-face information sessions on planning in early 2022 (public health restrictions permitting). Let them know you’re interested by filling out the short form on the Conversations Moreland website.

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Traffic and transport
 

Cool transport

If only public transport was promoted the same way as four-wheel drive SUVs: – have a look at this hilarious ad from Denmark: Making PT look sexy – The Bus

Walking and health

Our future monarch Prince Charlie has always been a bit of a greenie, so it’s interesting to see the Prince’s Foundation has launched a report compiling evidence on links between walking, accessibility and health.

The report “Walkability, accessibility and health” argues that new urban development needs to be designed around those three principles. The evidence detailed in the report suggests that our health and wellbeing are majorly affected by the environment in which we live. Well-designed, walkable, mixed-use neighbourhoods can have a positive effect on both our mental and physical health.

Ride and Stride program

Great initiative last year from Moreland Council to encourage parents and children to ride to school. Council provided 16 families the opportunity to trial an electric cargo bike. The bikes were issued from Lug & Carrie, a local e-bike subscription provider, for a free, two week trial.

Before the trial, 75% of these families drove to school. However during the trial, 72% of participants said they used the bike more than once a day. They used it not only for the school run but also to ride to work, for grocery trips and leisure rides. 83% of the surveyed families now plan to ride to school and 92% of participants would highly recommend it to other parents.

Moreland Council is now planning to offer more e-bike trials for families as part of the Ride & Stride program in 2022, And for those of us who can’t afford an electric bike, there’s always pedal power and riding in groups (see next story)!

Barcelona bike bus

You’ve heard of walking buses, but a new initiative is the bike bus – organising hordes of children to cycle to school together in safety.

Bicibús – the Barcelona bike bus – started last September, and is thought to be one of the largest safe travel initiatives in Europe. With Bicibús, the children take to the streets every Friday in the city’s Eixample, picking up other kids along the circuit and dropping them off at their schools, as a traditional bus route would work. The roads are closed to traffic to make sure the young riders’ neighbourhoods are safe, and parents often join in, sometimes carrying younger children in bike seats.

There are other, longer established schemes like @cyclebus in Knocknacarra in Galway, Ireland. In the UK, there is the @CyclingBusOX3 in Headington, Oxford, and @BikeBusEdin in Edinburgh.

Ideas for public transport improvements

A great blog piece on ideas to improve public transport from the incomparable Peter Parker (not Spiderman, the other one!). Hints for a checklist for people planning to run for the seat of Brunswick in the 2022 state elections?

  1. Understand the area and the services that are there already, to identify where gaps might be.
  2. Develop a local transport package will likely include measures across all modes.
  3. Look out for ‘small infrastructure’ opportunities like short missing walking and cycling links, that Moreland Council can deliver.
  4. Support rail extensions or new stations on the Upfield line.
  5. Advocate new and extended bus routes where there are logical new destinations.
  6. Champion upgrades of frequency and operating hours for public transport, especially on popular lines and routes.

The dangerous Bell Street bridge

As reported in recent BRN newsletters, local residents along Nicholson Street, Brunswick and Coburg, are campaigning for safer streets, after a series of crashes along this major arterial road. At their December 2021 meeting, Moreland Council received a petition with 1,283 signatures, requesting that Ben Carroll, Minister for Roads and Road Safety, take action to stop more accidents and prevent injury and fatality on the Bell Street bridge.

Here’s a short video showing the starting point of the problem, with the Bell Street Bridge at the intersection with Nicholson Street: Is it too much to ask? The dangerous Bell St bridge (video, 4 minutes)

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Culture corner

Warrk-warrk Bridge

One of the best bits of urban infrastructure in our municipality is the pedestrian and cycling bridge over the Merri Creek, now known officially as the Warrk-warrk Bridge.

Built as a partnership between Darebin Council and Moreland Council in response to a community campaign, the bridge suspends over the Merri Creek, connecting Beavers Road, Northcote to Kingfisher Gardens, Brunswick East.

The naming of the bridge came about after receiving 700 submissions from the community, with the final choice being Warrk-warrk, which means ‘Nimble’ in Woi-Wurrung language. This name has been endorsed by Geographic Names and Warrk-warrk Bridge has been included in the Victorian Government Gazette.

People’s History of Brunswick

If you’ve been wandering the streets of Brunswick during the pandemic, you may have stumbled across signs of our neighbourhood’s radical labour history – from plaques marking Prime Minister John Curtain’s Fallon Street home, to the spot outside Brunswick Town Hall where radical artist Noel Counihan locked himself in a cage, to avoid arrest during the 1930s free speech fights.

The economic depression of the 1930s saw mass unemployment across Australia, with working class areas like Brunswick hardest hit. These depredations did not go unopposed. Across our suburb, there were pickets, occupations and protests to demand jobs and welfare, as well as disrupt the evictions of unemployed people.

In co-operation with community radio 3CR, Brunswick Library has developed two walking tours that capture some of this local history. Using your smartphone, you can explore the streets of Brunswick with these audio walking tours.

There are two self-guided audio tours:

  • Historian and archivist Melinda Barrie takes you in the footsteps of Noel Counihan and the 1930s Brunswick free speech fight. From the theatres and soap-boxes; to riding atop street-cars and Counihan locking himself in a cage to escape arrest, Brunswick was a place of organising and dissent.
  • Historian and author Iain McIntyre presents ‘Lock Out The Landlords’, taking listeners on a tour of unemployed workers organising and anti-eviction resistance during the Depression – from urban communes to storming the Brunswick Town Hall and defending working-class families from eviction.

The walks were originally recorded and edited by Nicole Hurtubise, produced by Jane Curtis and Community Radio 3CR.

To access the programs, you can use the Echoes app (download from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store; create an account, log in and search for ‘People’s History of Brunswick.’). If you don’t have a child or tech nerd to help you access the app, you can also visit Brunswick Library for assistance during opening hours.

Want a shop-front but can’t afford it?

Are you an artist, designer, maker, entrepreneur or small business in Moreland but don’t have a physical shopfront? Council’s free MoreSpace program helps promote and celebrate your products by creating bespoke QR-shoppable window displays in vacant shops. Contact business@moreland.vic.gov.au for details and application.

Summer reading: Brunswick Voice 2021 stories

“Brunswick Voice” has been a welcome addition to the local news scene over the past year.

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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.

The first meeting for 2022 will be held on 9 February. Future dates are:

  • 9 March
  • 13 April
  • 11 May
  • 8 June
  • 13 July
  • 10 August
  • 14 September
  • 12 October
  • 9 November
  • 29 November – Mayoral Election (Tuesday)
  • 7 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.

Election commentary authorised by N. Maclellan, c/- 135 Albert Street, Brunswick, Victoria 3056

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