July Council meeting: Labor councillors vote to strip $100,000 from Climate action

[By Sue Bolton] The big story from the July council meeting was the Labor councillors voting to strip $100,000 from Climate action in the proposed budget. This amendment was moved by Michael Teti and carried on the casting vote of the mayor.

The councillors who voted to strip the money out of the climate budget were: Lambros Tapinos, Michael Teti (he moved the motion), Oscar Yildiz, Lita Gillies and Meghan Hopper. Councillors who voted against were: myself (Sue Bolton, Sam Ratnam, Lenka Thomspon and Helen Davidson. The ironic thing is that the Labor councillors who voted to strip money out of the climate budget, had voted earlier in the meeting for a motion to investigate possible action to address the heat island effect.

Council budget

I voted against the council budget because of the stripping of money out of climate action, the funding of CCTV cameras and the 4.5% increase in rates when most low-income earners’ incomes haven’t increased by that amount.

I would rather see the council stop spending money on junkets to conferences and stop spending money on sending councillors and council directors to resorts for councillor planning days and forgoing the next increase to councillors’ pay than take money out of climate action.

East West Link

I moved a motion to reaffirm council’s opposition to the East West Link in response to the announcement by the planning minister Matthew Guy on June 30 that he had given approval for the eastern section of the East West Link

In my motion, I included a request for the CEO to seek independent legal advice about options council may have to challenge the minister’s decision.

It was very lucky that I included the request for legal advice because that led to Moreland Council voting on June 18 to initiate a legal challenge against the government’s decision to ignore the recommendations of the assessment committee and give the green light for the eastern section.

The motion also included a call for no contracts to be signed for the East West Link prior to the state election so that people have a chance to vote on the project.

Solar panels and planning issues

Recent VCAT cases have highlighted a gap on planning provisions with solar panels. The overshadowing provisions only deal with overshadowing of neighbouring private open space areas, not solar panels.

With no specific guidance in the planning scheme, council officers are currently guided by past VCAT decisions which have resolved a reduced efficiency of solar panels of more than 50% being considered unacceptable but a reduced efficiency of less than 25-50% being considered acceptable by VCAT.

This will become a bigger problem as more people install rooftop solar at the same time as there is more intensive development.

Councillor Sam Ratnam called for council officers to produce a report on the issue and I amended her motion to recommend changes to the relevant sections of the planning scheme to prevent overshadowing of solar panels.

Car share: Is it just another big business con?

Every second council meeting seems to have a resolution to reserve one or several car parking spots for car share. The car share companies are all owned by big car hire companies such as Hertz.

One of the residents who came to the last council meeting told me that he thinks the car share that the council is advocating are really just car hire schemes. He disputes the council’s figures regarding car share schemes replacing lots of car trips. This resident believes that these schemes are actually promoting the use of cars and shouldn’t be located near public transport because it detracts from people catching public transport.

Even the peer-to-peer car shares, which are preferable to the ones owned by the big companies, have a private company operating the booking system. But at least the peer to peer schemes are more genuine in reducing the number of cars on the road, compared to the car share companies owned by the big hire car companies.