Report on May 10 Moreland Council meeting

[By Sue Bolton] This is a snapshot of some of the issues voted on at the May 10 Moreland Council meeting.

Allowances for mayor & councillors
I believe that politicians’ incomes should be linked to either the median or average wage. I proposed a motion that the allowance for the mayor should be linked to the median wage ($43,836) and councillors’ allowances should be half that to reflect that the position is part-time ($21,918). I opposed the per annum allowances of $94,641 for the mayor and $29,630 for councillors, and proposed an alternative motion that the allowances should be linked to the median wage for all Australians of $43,836 for the mayor and half that for councillors ($21,918). There was no support for my alternative motion. 

Bicycle strategy
The number of cyclists in Moreland is increasing faster than the Moreland population, with the largest number of cyclists south of Gaffney Street. That is probably because there is very little cycling infrastructure in the northern part of Moreland.

The next 10 major projects are to: Finish lighting the Upfield bike path; construct the Craigieburn off-street shared path linking Moonee Ponds Creek Trail and the Glenroy Activity Centre via the Craigieburn Railway corridor; widen the Upfield path where possible, improve direction signage for bike paths; support initiatives to make cycling safer on Sydney Road; construct more on-street “Shimmy” routes; construct an on-road route linking Glenroy Activity Centre with Coburg Activity Centre via OHea Street Shared Path; construct a link between the Upfield Path and the Western Ring Road Trail, build a path linking people who live on the east of Edgars Creek with the rest of the Moreland bike network.

However, the council has only delivered 24% of all planned bike projects when we are over half-way time period for the 10-year bike strategy. There has been a poor history of not constructing all of the bike infrastructure that money gets allocated to. We passed a motion to commit to fund all the remaining projects.

Moreland food system strategy
The council voted to establish a food system strategy as a step towards trying to promote locally grown food and ensure that healthy food is affordable to everybody. The council has signed the Urban and Regional Food Declaration, which recognises that access to nutritious food is a fundamental human right. Some of the actions to be undertaken are: establish community/kitchen gardens, support for initiatives such as the Community Grocer; collaborate with the Darebin council to organise a Harvest Festival; develop resources for community groups such as My Smart Garden and Food Growing Guidelines; and investigate the feasibility of establishing a food hub.

Aquatic & Leisure Centre fees & charges
Council voted to trial reducing fees for casual gym entry, introduce off-peak membership for full memberships at year-round facilities, and extend Brunswick Baths midweek closing hours until 10pm.

Call for review of residential zones
In 2013-14 there was a statewide division of residential zones into neighbourhood residential zones, general residential and residential growth zones. The changes were gazetted by the previous state government in 2015. When the minister gazetted the zones, he went against the wishes of the council and increased the number of allowable dwellings on a site to four dwellings per lot. Some streets which should clearly be in the neighbourhood residential zone were zoned in the residential growth zone.

On May 10, Council voted to  ask the minister to be able to correct some mistakes with the zoning, for a mandatory height limit of four storeys for the residential growth zone and better controls for residents who live on the interface between the zones.

Response to redevelopment of public housing estate in Brunswick
The state government is planning to redevelop housing estates across Melbourne. Usually, redevelopments are used as an excuse to reduce the amount of public housing. Any reduction in the amount of public housing makes housing more unaffordable. Council will call on the state government to retain and increase the amount of public housing on the site, that the site remain public housing only, and that the dwellings should have a 7.5 star energy rating or better.

Public toilet access in Coburg
For many years, residents have been complaining about the lack of public toilets in Coburg. A petition of over 1000 signatures was presented to council around six years ago, and a petition with more than 800 signatures went to council. In 2016. People with disabilities, parents of young children, people with various medical conditions have an especially strong need for clean and accessible toilets. Council has no plan to increase the number of public toilets in Coburg in the next five years, despite the increasing population.

I moved a motion for council to immediately open the Coburg Library Meeting Room toilets to public access; reopen and refurbish the underground public toilets at the back of Coles; refurbish and extend the toilets within the main Coburg Library reading room; and to replace the Exceloo automatic toilets with a new public toilet block for the Coburg Shopping Centre in the Five Year Public Toilet Plan. Despite earlier indicating support, Greens Councillor Natalie Abboud amended the motion to only allow for the Coburg Library Meeting Room toilets to be opened when the library is open. The amended motion was passed so the fight goes on for adequate public toilet access for people using or passing through the Coburg shopping centre.

Acknowledgement of local athlete Peter Norman
I moved a motion for council to acknowledge the important work of local athlete Peter Norman and consider an appropriate way to mark his legacy by naming a street or location after him.

Peter Norman’s record is better known overseas than it is in Australia, because he was ostracised by Australia’s sporting establishment for taking an important human rights stand. At the 1968 Olympics, Norman won silver in the 200 metres final. At the awards ceremony, Norman wore an “Olympic Project for Human Rights” (OPHR) badge on the podium, in solidarity with the African American athletes who raised their fists in a brave stand for black rights. On his return to Australia, Norman was excluded from books on Australian athletics and not invited to the Sydney Olympics despite his Australian record still standing. Norman never regretted the stand he took because of his commitment to human rights. Norman’s record is well-known overseas but not in Australia. In 2012, the federal parliament voted to apologise for the treatment of Norman. Norman played and was a trainer for the Brunswick West football club, his athletics was based in Coburg, and he was a teacher at the Coburg Technical College.