[By Sue Bolton] Issues that were discussed at the April 12 council meeting included:
Toxic site in Fawkner: A development application has been lodged to build warehouses on a toxic site in Fawkner (102 McBryde St). Corporate giant Nufarm used to produce dioxins and other dangerous chemicals on 100 & 102 McBryde St from 1957-1974. The Fawkner Broadmeadows Progress Association fought to have the factory closed down. They eventually succeeded but then had to wage an almost 20-year battle to get the site cleaned up. The discovery of a cancer cluster in the area was what finally got the EPA to do an environmental audit and order clean-up notices. The factory was demolished, with some contaminated soil removed and the site was capped but illegal building work has occurred on the site over the years. Residents are concerned that construction work would have to penetrate the clay cap and that this would release the toxins again.
I moved a simple motion for an independent EPA audit of the site. This ended up being controversial with three councillors (John Kavanagh, Ali Irfanli and Mayor Helen Davidson) voting against an independent EPA audit and councillor Lambros Tapinos abstaining. Councillor Ali Irfanli stated that the developer’s environmental assessment was “good enough for me”. The motion ended up passing but it was disturbing that no other councillor voiced concerns about the site.
Draft Urban Forest Strategy: In 2014 I moved a motion for the council to develop an Urban Forest Strategy in order for Moreland to increase its tree canopy cover to help people cope with extreme heat (known as the Urban Heat Island Effect). It is well-known that the leafy eastern suburbs are 2-3 degrees cooler on very hot days. Councillors voted for a Draft Urban Forest Strategy that is based on planting more mature trees and doing better maintenance of the trees so that they survive. Currently, up to 40% of newly planted street trees don’t survive. The other issue is that as fast as councils plant street trees, the developers rip out trees on private land for developments. This means that the overall amount of tree canopy isn’t increasing, despite the efforts of council to plant trees. Public consultation on the Urban Forest Strategy will begin in May.
Cycling safety on Gaffney Street, Coburg North, between the Craigieburn & Upfield train lines: After I raised this issue earlier this year, council voted to ask Vic Roads to build Copenhagen style bike lanes on Gaffney Street. Copenhagen lanes are like the lanes on parts of Swanston Street & La Trobe Street in the Melbourne CBD where the bike lane is separated from the car lanes and the parking. If Vic Roads agrees to this proposal, it would really improve east-west bike safety. One of the big issues for cyclists is having safe routes to access the bike paths.
Bus Shelters: Council voted on a program to install new bus shelters. This is a long overdue issue with many bus stops not having bus shelters or even bus seats. I had a year long email exchange with council staff to get just two bus seats installed at a stop in Major Road, Fawkner that was used by a lot of elderly and some people with disabilities. Better bus services and all bus stops having a bus shelter would be a major improvement to public transport.
Moreland Toy Library: The Moreland Toy Library is a non-profit member-owned and operated community organisation that has been lending toys to Moreland families for 25 years. Currently the Toy Library operates from the Scout Hall in Jacobs Reserve West Brunswick. The Toy Library has recognised the need to be more accessible to families in the north of Moreland. Council voted to provide the Moreland Toy Library with regular access to the Pascoe Vale Neighbourhood Facility Hall in Prospect Terrace Pascoe Vale.
Public Notice for Planning Permit applications: After hearing of 3-4 development applications earlier this year when only around five people were notified of the development, I moved for council to consider increasing the number of people notified of a development that will have a big impact on a neighbourhood. I receive many complaints about the fact that people have not been aware of an impending development. The Planning & Environment Act only requires adjoining properties to be notified but it is at the discretion of council officers to notify properties further away.
Council voted to accept the current situation where it is at the discretion of council staff whether to notify beyond the adjoining properties. I tried to amend the resolution to increase the number of properties which have to be notified of a development application but didn’t get a seconder for the motion so it lapsed.
Safer crossing on Sydney Road to access Gowrie Train Station: I moved a motion for council to contact Vic Roads about creating a safer pedestrian crossing for people from the northern part of Fawkner to safely cross Sydney Road to access Gowrie Station. Currently, people have to jay walk across a 6-lane highway to get to the station.
Coburg public toilets: A petition was presented for more public toilets in the centre of Coburg. This brings the total of the number of signatures on petitions on this issue to well over 700. The previous council was unsympathetic to the plight of residents who need access to public toilets in Coburg. Hopefully the new council will be more sympathetic and provide residents with adequate public toilet facilities. Currently, central Coburg has the fewest public toilets of any of the major shopping centres in Moreland.