[By Sue Bolton] The 9 December 2015 council meeting was lively with quite a few petitions and questions from residents. Residents presented petitions calling on council to build more public toilets in Coburg and a public toilet outside the Fawkner Library, calling for a heritage house in The Avenue Coburg to be preserved, calling for the Merlynston Linear Park to be funded and calling for council to make Moreland plastic-bag-free Moreland.
Questions were asked about the need for missing link in the Upfield bike path between the Fawkner cemetary and the Western Ring Road to be funded and built. Other questions were about Moreland’s outdoor swimming pools not being open often enough, especially for people who work full time.
I tried to get a motion up to review council’s practice of inviting only some objectors to some planning consultations between residents and developers. In a recent such meeting, only one objector was invited for a development which involved a car stacker. Often residents are intimidated by having to face a meeting with the council, the developer and the developer’s consultants. My motion failed because none of the other councillors seconded the motion. I intend to bring another motion back to council on this issue.
Upfield bike path north of Bell St
Earlier this year, I moved for a report on priority safety projects for the Upfield Bike Path north of Bell St. The outcome is that at the December meeting, councillors addressed a priority list of projects for improving safety in the north. We also voted to resume discussions with VicRoads to seek funding assistance to design and build the Upfield Path “missing link” between Box Forest Road and the Western Ring Path as a critical part of the State Government’s Principal Bicycle Network. Thanks to Fawkner residents for resuming campaigning around this issue.
Merlynston Progress Hall
Councillors approved an expression of interest process to seek funding partners for the Merlynston Progress Hall restoration and operation and report back to council by October 2016. The site is contaminated with lead so there will be a report on the level of risk and measures to deal with the contamination at the February meeting. An alternative resolution to allocate $500,000 to the restoration of Merlynston Hall wasn’t voted on. Merlynston Progress Hall was fundraised for and built by the local community in the 1920s then handed to the council in the 1970s. For the last 10 years, the community has not had access to the hall which has been used by council to store its Christmas decorations. The local community has campaigned for the last eight years for the council to restore the hall to preserve the heritage and also so that they have access to a secular hall for community activities. The motion adopted by council is a step forward. It will keep alive the project to restore the hall for another 12 months, but at some point the council has to take the plunge and invest in the hall. The resolution initially was looking at purely commercial partners. I managed to get the reference to only commercial partners knocked out because my worry with commercial partners is that the hall might get saved but the community might be denied access to it.
Car share policy
A new car share policy was adopted which enables car share bays beyond 50 metres from intersections in areas where there are high levels of car share memberships. Car share companies will get a reduction in fees for the areas north of Bell St to promote car share and reduce the number of private cars. It’s a positive step to have a policy which promotes car share because we need to find a way of addressing traffic congestion, but it would be even better if car share schemes were public car share schemes rather than being privately owned. Both car share and public transport should be publicly-owned. Most of the car share companies are owned by the really big car hire companies such as Hertz.
Council voted on a number of actions to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the anti-conscription referendums (there were two anti-conscription referendums – 1916 and 1917 – and Brunswick was the heart of the campaign in Melbourne with many anti-conscription and anti-war activists jailed in Pentridge Prison). The council voted for a major library display, for a series of talks in Moreland’s libraries about the issues raised in the anti-conscription campaign, walking tours of the sites of the anti-war and anti-conscription debates, a commemorative artwork, a partnership with local schools culminating in a mock trial or anti-conscription debate at St Ambrose Hall, and the installation of plaques commemorating the roles of important anti-conscription campaigners. I initially proposed that council commemorate the anniversary because in Australia the issue of World War 1 and conscription were very contentious. Australia was the only country which had a democratic vote on conscription. The entire elite including the media supported conscription. It was the actions of the trade unions, the socialist movement and the women’s movement which played the critical roles in defeating conscription. The Catholic church and the Irish community also played an important role.
Timor Sea Justice campaign
I moved a motion passed calling on the Australian Government to immediately commence negotiations on permanent maritime boundaries with Timor-Leste, using a median line approach and to call on the Australian Government to resubmit to the maritime boundary jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice and the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea, so that the boundaries can be settled by an independent body if necessary. The motion only just scraped through on the casting vote of the mayor. Given that Moreland Council has had a relationship with the District of Ailieu since 2000 with visits by the mayor and council officers, it is shocking that Moreland has never previously expressed any support for Timor Leste’s call for the establishment of fair and permanent boundaries. Moreland’s relationship is pretty superficial if it doesn’t take a position on such a fundamental issue. Australia is currently exploiting gas fields just 150 km from Timor Leste’s shore. If another country tried to do a similar thing to Australia, there would be outrage. Australia needs to right this injustice. Councillors Rob Thompson, John Kavanagh, Oscar Yildiz and Helen Davidson voted against.
Merri Creek bridge
My got a motion passed for council to consider a report on a jointly-funded feasibility study with Darebin council into the building of a footbridge across the Merri Creek in the vicinity of Kingfisher Gardens/CERES, East Brunswick and Beavers Rd Northcote. Such a bridge would make it safer for school children travelling to their locally zoned primary school in Brunswick and their locally zoned high school in Northcote. It would also provide a safe active transport route for children with intellectual disabilities at Croxton School, link bicycle routes east to west and improve access to the #19 tram.
Sale of a council lane at 91 South St, Hadfield
Council officers recommended the sale of the land under adverse possession law to the adjoining property owner at 91 South St, Hadfield, noting that the owner of 91 South St had “exclusively occupied the road for a sufficient period of time to claim the land via an adverse possession claim”. The report justified the recommendation to sell the land on the basis that the road was no longer used for public access because there was a wire gate across the road. The road finishes at the back of a retirement village. It is quite possible that a public-access road in this area would be very useful for emergency services vehicles. The vote was deferred in the end, but I am strongly opposed to selling public land just because a private person or company decides to put a fence across public land to deny access to the public and then to legitimise this with adverse possession law.