Thursday, September 30, 2010

A busy week!
An exciting week as our first Greens federal member of the House of Reps, Adam Bandt, gave his first (of many!) stiring speeches.
Locally, things have been very busy. We have been looking at a new policy for street art after Jane-Louise was told to remove her beautiful mural.
We are looking for a venue for a Toy Library. We are trying to finalise where we go with heritage overlays in Flemington, Ascot Vale, Moonee Ponds and Essendon. We are dealing with car parking adn the open space contribution - and a new CEO has been appointed at Moonee Valley City Council.
On Monday, I will have some exciting annoucements about the Essendon campaign. Stay tuned. And enjoy the second Grand Final.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Oromo Women and 1 Ascot Vale Rd
Today I was asked to speak at the Graduation ceremony for Oromo women who had completed a leadership course. Wingate Community Centre was its usual hub of activity, aromatic cooking, children playing and young people hanging around in their hoodies. I based my short speech to the women on Nancy Reagan's (of all people!) quote: "Women are like a tea bag: you never know how strong they are until you put them in boiling water." We talked about the boiling water that they might have been in or might find themsleves in as they start to run their own incorporated association - conflict within the group, competing commitments, badly run meetings... starting to sound a bit like Council!
Earlier in the week, I sat at VCAT listening to residents defend their neighbourhood against CBD infiltration - 20 storey proposal at 1 Ascot Vale Rd. I look forward to the time when both new and older arrivals to Australia can plan their neighbourhood together at well run meetings and have VCAT respect their vision.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

EID Festival
Eid festival at Debneys Park. Building a bigger crowd each year - but all wrong when speeches begin. next year, no specches - just dancing and serving good food and celebrating.
All the while, the residents of the housing estate invited for the party are struggling with windows that don't open or close, cockroaches, washing machins that break and mould growing where the rain falls inside.
No-one asked them if they wanted a new swipe card systme or an intercom installed. They would prefer maintenance that comes when they call and an Office of Housing office on site.
Instead -sausages and bad long speeches were on offer instead.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Solar bulk buy at Moonee Valley
I wish Julia Gillard had been at Moonee Valley last night. She could have had a Climate Change conversation with the 200 people who turned up to hear about how they could be part of a bulk purchase of solar panels. We didn't have enough chairs. People had to strain to hear and see what was on offer. People want to do their bit to use something other than dirty, brown coal. If a local government can do something about that, surely a federal government can do something more.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Public Transport Quiz - try it!
Following very good evening with Colleen Hartland talking public transport in Essendon, I invite you to take my quiz.
1. From Essendon to South Bank, which is quicker: Craigieburn train or 59 tram?
2. Major events and public transport: who is responsible for coordinating the two?
3. What is the percentage of old infrastructure that travels north and west compared to south and east?
4. Do you have to 'touch off' a Myki card on a tram?
5. Have new Clearways times improved tram travel?
6. Are new stations built with ramps, not stairs?
7. What is the average wait between trains in Melbourne?
8. How old is the Passenger Information technology in Melbourne?
9. Do five year olds have to pay for a ticket?
10. Is tram inaccessibility like apartheid?
For answers 1-9, send me your guesses. For 10, ask Greg.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

To intervene or to not intervene...
I understand that asking the Planning Minister to intervene in a local issue might sound a little strange - but this is what I did on behalf of residents in Strathmore last night at Council. The background explains why.
In 2007, the Planning Minister intervened to put an Interim Heritgae Overlay over parts of Moonee Valley. Like all Interim HO, the idea was to protect homes while consultation took place on a Heritage Planning Amendment.
Following consultation, Council decided that Strathmore did not warrant Heritage protection. But the Minister would not agree to removing the Overlay until further information was provided. Council took its time providing further information, but has finally done so. for the third time, last night we asked the Planning Minister to please remove the Interim HO.
However, rather than the Interim HO being removed through a reversal of the Intervention process, Council has been asked to go through the Amendment process - a process that normally takes months. Even with an exemption from consultation, the timeline is usually longer than the 6-8 weeks we are hoping for.
We have received verbal assurances that the Interim HO will be removed - and I am confident that these have been made in good faith and that residents will finally have the Interim HO taken off their homes.
However, there are some important lessons from this: a) all Interim HOs need to have a sunset clause that operates to remove the IHO when a decision on the HO is made; b) Ministerial interventions to achieve a positive outcome for residents are considered politically risky; c) a Minister standing for election walks a difficult path between executive responsibility and political imperative - and therefore residents miss out.
Transitioning communities
On Monday night I enjoyed listening to the ways in which we can transform urban communities to be peak-oil resilient and part of a safe climate future. Love the way the transforming communities movement (transition towns etc) has adopted the phrase "Parties not protests". The central idea is to get people together to enjoy each other's company while transforming community behaviour: through skill sharing (getting together and learning how to cook again!); through swap meets; through fruit tree planting; through chook education sessions.
So many possibilities locally. And put 10/10/10 in your diary as a day of action. Look out for lcoal events to take us to a new and more sustainable way of living in a safe climate.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Heritage Overlays -
In 2007, Interim heritage controls were put over parts of Strathmore and Nth Essendon - without any notice given to residents. The Ministerial Direction approving this amendment stated: “The interim controls will be replaced once a decision is made on Amendment C66.”
In 2008, C66 was approved implementing HO over some 16 buildings, but not the Strathmore and Nth Essendon precincts. The Interim controls were not replaced, however, and Council was asked for more justification for removing C76.
For two years, no further reasons were put forward by Council. Instead we had frustrating committees, expensive reports and resident angst. Finally, giving up on Council, residents wrote their own (excellent) report and took it to the Minister.
On Tuesday, Council will (for the third time) ask the Minister to remove C76 - this time with some reasons.
Strangely, the recommendation is to request the authorisation of an Amendment to remove the Interim Controls. The reason for this lengthy process is unclear to me at this stage. The Interim controls should ahve been replaced when the C66 was introduced in 2008.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Clear planning rules required
Another Deputations meeting at Council tonight. This application is for 14 apartments on top of a cafe/bar on Mt Road. The main issues raised by objectors include: lack of car-parks for patrons of the bar; use of a laneway for car-park entrance; amenity issues arising from bar in the adjacent residential area; construction plan; garbage plan; loading zone.
ResCode applies to applications three storeys or less. But the rules are less clear for four storeys and above. ResCode proffers standards - but these can be varied. The guidelines for higher buildings are even more discretionary.
Residents tonight asked some simple questions: how many car parks should the development have given the dual use of dwellings and bar? Three possible answers were given.
No wonder tempers flared and people shook heads wearily. This development may or may not be appropraite for the site. Without clear planning rules, it is anyone's guess and probably VCAT's decision.