[By Sean Brocklehurst] Moreland residents were outraged when they heard Moreland City Council had voted to cut $100,000 from its Carbon Management Plan in the council’s budget last month. This cut the budget for climate action from $525,000 to $424,000 and would have resulted in some of the council’s solar energy projects not going ahead.
The $100,000 cut came as a shock, considering the council’s previous initiatives to tackle carbon emissions. Councillor Michael Teti (Labor right) moved the controversial motion. He would have been expelled from the council if he had not attended the July meeting, having missed 10 out of 18 council meetings since June last year. The vote was tied five to five, with the deciding vote being cast by Mayor Lambros Tapinos (Labor right) in favor of the cut.
An August 7 public meeting of some 100 people organised by Climate Action Moreland carried a motion calling for the cut to be reversed. The meeting also carried a motion by Socialist Alliance councillor Sue Bolton calling for a protest outside the next council meeting on August 13.
Climate Action Moreland, Sustainable Fawkner, the Socialist Alliance and the Moreland Greens supported the protest as well as activists from the campaign against the East West Link roadway.On the night of the council meeting 25 people protested at the front of the venue as councillors entered. The group then used the 30-minute public question time to challenge the council on their action.
In response to questions, Tapinos vehemently defended the decision, saying: “Moreland council is the best council in dealing with carbon management.” He even claimed that the cut was not a cut but a reduction. He went on to make claims about how the money from the cut would be used to install better and more energy efficient lighting in the area. Greens Councillor Samantha Ratnam pointed out that the cuts had been made in order to upgrade footpaths, with the money for the lighting coming from other cuts.
The council ended up unanimously voting to proceed with all the projects in the original draft council budget for 2014/15 and for council officers to report back to council on where the money will come from for the projects. Clearly, despite his arguments, the mayor (Tapinos) changed his mind and voted for the motion. Teti was absent from the meeting as was Lita Gillies (Labor left).
Bolton explained that this experience “proves that protests do work. The other councillors would not have voted to reinstate the carbon management projects if not for the protest and the emails and phone calls received by councillors. Even the Greens councillors were going to wait until the mid-year budget review before moving a motion. The protest action which was initiated out of the Climate Action Moreland forum put enough pressure on the council to force it to backtrack.”