In this issue: Friends of Queen Victoria Market Annual General Meeting; Tree Canopy Cover Forum (Mordialloc); Tree Canopy Cover Whitehorse; Tree Canopy Cover Darebin; VCAT win to protect native grassland; Heritage win at Moonlight Head; Concrete to be removed from Moonee Ponds Creek; Surrey Hills-Mont Albert level crossing removal project; Save Lake Knox update; Beaumaris Modern update; Preserving Mornington Peninsula Open Space; Caulfield Racecourse Update; North East Link; Roseberry Street Hawthorn Heritage Protection; Moreland Council Planning Scheme Review; Working from home; Cost of Living pressures and housing Affordability;; Heritage Protection Trade Skills.
FRIENDS OF QUEEN VICTORIA MARKET ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
THURSDAY 16 JUNE , 7.30pm, at the Multicultural Hub, Corner Franklin and Elizabeth Street, opposite Vic Market.
The Meeting will be discussing several threats to the Market. Parking – the Melbourne City Council has over-ruled its People’s Panel, which voted to retain 500 car parks on the existing market car park. Heritage – unauthorised shed restoration work which breaches the Victorian Heritage Act, and the failure to develop a discrete Queen Victoria Market masterplan. “Renewal” – Market management is focussing on “events” at the expense of the day market. Professor Charles Sowerwine (Royal Historical Society of Victoria) and Dr Jackie Watts (Australian Heritage Advocacy Alliance) are confirmed speakers.
Mary-Lou Howie from the Friends advises that more un-necessary infrastructure, building works and disruption to H and I sheds and Queen Street are planned in 2022/23. We need action to protect our market. The public and Queen Victoria market traders are welcome.
TREE CANOPY COVER FORUM
Ian Morgans has been pressing on with plans for our Tree Canopy Cover Forum. It will be held on SATURDAY 10 SEPTEMBER, 10am till 12 NOON, in the old Council Chamber at the City of Kingston Arts Centre. It’s a beautiful room, easy to find and next door to Moorabbin Station. The City of Kingston and Green Wedges are also supporting the event. Please mark it in your diaries!
The urgency of action to better protect Melbourne’s tree canopy cover is underscored by a report in The Age a week ago (29 May) titled “Chainsaws running three times a week: Melbourne’s leafy east is losing its trees”. The article quoted David Morrison from the Blackburn and District Tree Preservation Society saying “you can hear the chainsaws running two or three times a week”.
The article referred to an analysis by RMIT University which found that Melbourne’s eastern suburbs lost 2.3% of their shady trees between 2014 and 2018, with Yarra Ranges Shire faring the worst, with canopies declining by 3.8%.
Whitehorse Council, where canopy coverage declined 2.3% in the 4 years, believes one source of the problem is the VicSmart process, which requires Councils to determine applications in 10 business days, and not advertise the application to neighbours. Property owners can remove a tree through this process, and rort it by making multiple applications. Not very Smart.
In response to concerns that VicSmart is being rorted, and contributing to declining tree canopy cover, the Property Council made the bizarre claim that “it’s not ‘more trees, or more houses’”. They were contradicted by the Housing Industry Association, who complained that tree canopy targets were “aggressive and arbitrary”, and could undermine their “capacity to build for a growing population”.
TREE CANOPY COVER WHITEHORSE
Ross Gillespie, President of the Combined Residents of Whitehorse Action Group Incorporated (CROWAG) has sent me an article he has provided to the Eastsider News. He says “Our landscapes, parks, magnificent trees and understorey make a well-known contribution to animal life, cooling, and carbon retention. Despite this, they are being chopped down at an alarming rate. Street by street, block by block, all over Whitehorse, we see moonscaping.”
He says Whitehorse Council has a plan to increase tree canopy from its low of 18% in 2021 to 27% by 2031. However, it is not funding the implementation of its Urban Forest Strategy in a way that would enable the target to be met. He says that State Government infrastructure projects, VCAT decisions, VicSmart single tree at a time applications, and risk-averse arborists and decision-makers, are also part of the problem.
TREE CANOPY COVER DAREBIN
I wrote to Darebin Council on behalf of residents worried that Darebin’s tree canopy cover on private land was declining, due to the replacement of detached houses and their gardens by apartments and units. I recently received a reply from Council’s Acting Manager Parks and Open Space.
The reply advises that Council’s Urban Forest Strategy of 2013 and Open Space Strategy of 2019 have a key focus on increasing multi-layered vegetation, including canopy cover, to offset the hot and dry conditions caused by climate change. The 2013 Urban Forest Strategy is now being reviewed, with Darebin drafting a roadmap to reach 27-30% canopy cover by 2050, as recommended by the Living Melbourne Strategy.
The reply acknowledged a disparity between Darebin’s public realm and its private one. On public land there is 16.6% canopy cover, but the private realm, which is more than half of Darebin’s total area, has only 7.1% coverage. Council has a number of actions in place and in prospect to protect trees on private land – a Tree Protection on Private Property Local Law, trees protected under the Vegetation Protection Overlay Referrals for Local Law and Planning permits, and lobbying for the requirement of additional Open Space in State Planning/Building Applications.
VCAT WIN TO PROTECT NATIVE GRASSLAND
The Grassy Plains Network has achieved an excellent win at VCAT concerning 35 hectares of grassland at Ajax Road, Altona. The developer’s application to subdivide and clear all the vegetation on the northern half of the Ajax Road Grassland site has been refused.
The grassland is a vital habitat for birds, lizards, and critically endangered plants. It provides ecological connectivity, urban resilience, and is a piece of wild nature in urban Melbourne. The community around Ajax Road, the Victorian National Parks Association, and the Hobson’s Bay City Council, campaigned strongly against this application. Well done to them!
HERITAGE WIN AT MOONLIGHT HEAD
Following a campaign led by Alan McLean and local residents, which Planning Democracy supported, public access to a maritime heritage site – the monument to the shipwreck of the Fiji in 1891 off Moonlight Head – has been restored.
Parks Victoria has re-established a walking trail to the monument, which had become overgrown, and intends to erect a replica low picket fence around the monument, respecting the grave of 7 sailors buried below, and naming the other four sailors whose bodies were never found, plus Arthur Wilkinson. Congratulations to Alan and to the descendants of those involved in the brave rescue efforts of 1891, and thanks to Parks Victoria.
CONCRETE TO BE REMOVED FROM MOONEE PONDS CREEK
Ever since the Board of Works concrete lined and straightened the Moonee Ponds Creek in association with the construction of the Tullamarine Freeway, I have harboured an aspiration to see this reversed. It has been a key aim of the Friends of Moonee Ponds Creek, which I founded in 1989.
It was therefore very satisfying to attend a sod-turning ceremony on Friday June 3 to mark the commencement of works to remove a section of the concrete. This section is adjacent to the Strathmore North Primary School, and is the most upstream section of the creek which was concreted. Both Federal and State Governments have contributed funding to the project. It marks a transformation in the way that we now see urban waterways – as assets rather than liabilities. Hopefully it leads to more concrete removal further downstream in the years ahead.
SURREY HILLS-MONT ALBERT LEVEL CROSSING REMOVAL PROJECT
Greg Buchanan, President of the Surrey Hills and Mont Albert Progress Association, advises that the State Government is withholding plans for the new train station. It will sit on small residential streets and directly outside homes.
A small number of residents has seen detailed images of one of the major station buildings, but these images are not publicly available. Given the impact of the proposal on local residents in Lorne Parade and Beresford Street, including noise, spilled light, visual bulk, overshadowing, and visual clutter, there is no case for keeping these images secret.
The Progress Association, and local residents, have sponsored a petition demanding an end to the secrecy. They are calling on the government to address significant design issues.
You can sign the petition at https://www.change.org/montalbert.
SAVE LAKE KNOX UPDATE
The State Government agency Development Victoria is continuing with its disgraceful plan to build housing over Lake Knox. I am lost for words that such a nineteenth century attitude to wetlands and waterways can survive in the twenty-first century, but I’ll do my best.
Development Victoria has lodged 2 applications with Knox Council for 2 properties, 609-619 and 621 Burwood Highway. The application numbers are P/2021/6169, and P/2021/6170. The latter application relates directly to Lake Knox. Further information about the applications can be found at https://www.dropbox.com/sh/uiwwdxfwwy48csp/AAB30lwXaOZ64qn_q8Jj8wuDa?dl=0.
Anthony Bigelow and Save Lake Knox are seeking help from our supporters to lodge objections to these permit applications. For further information, visit the Save Lake Knox website.
BEAUMARIS MODERN UPDATE
Annie Price from Beaumaris Modern advises that Bayside Council are holding a delegated committee meeting over 2 nights, June 15 for homeowners and June 16 for other interested parties, regarding their Draft Post-War Modern Residential Heritage Study. Beaumaris Modern is keen to see action to protect post-war heritage. In Annie’s words, “We are tired of seeing our built, and natural, history demolished, and to add insult to injury, the incredible fixtures and fittings ending up in landfill”.
I plan to write to Council on behalf of Planning Democracy, supporting action to protect Post-War Heritage buildings, and other groups and supporters may wish to do this also. Submissions can be made from June 8. For more information see https://yoursay.bayside.vic.gov.au/post-war-heritage.
PRESERVING MORNINGTON PENINSULA OPEN SPACE
The South-Eastern Centre for Sustainability has drawn to my attention the Engage Victoria consultation concerning linked parklands from Frankston to Mornington.
Steve Karakitsos, the Centre President, points out that this is one of the best opportunities to retain the decommissioned South East Water site at 57 Kunyung Road Mount Eliza, and to create a Coastal Mount Eliza National Park.
I have written to Victorian Minister Lily D’Ambrosio in support of the State Government retaining this site as a natural public asset, noting its importance as a wildlife corridor and its landscape values. Readers will know that the Mornington Peninsula has very strong environmental and green space value, is loved by people across the metropolitan area, and is an important habitat for many wildlife species. However, it has suffered greatly from urban expansion and development, with habitat being fragmented and divided. Over 50% of its remnant vegetation is on private land. An ecologist’s report concerning the South East Water Reservoir says that a wide variety of animals are making use of the site.
The deadline for making nominations is Tuesday 28 June, and you can do so by going on to the Engage Victoria website.
CAULFIELD RACECOURSE UPDATE
Helen Fischer from the Glen Eira Climate Action Network (GECAN) advises that GECAN has recently put in a submission to the Heritage Council to support the Caulfield Racecourse being added to the Victorian Heritage Register. GECAN supports the Executive Director, Heritage Victoria’s recommendation that Caulfield Racecourse is of State-level cultural heritage significance and should be included on the Victorian Heritage Register.
Felicity Watson from the National trust, and the Glen Eira Historical Society, made similar submissions. The issue is scheduled to be the subject of a public hearing in coming months.
NORTH EAST LINK
Barry Watson has done a great deal of research into the impacts on local residents of the fabulously expensive North East Link. He believes that a number of key issues are yet to be adequately addressed, including contaminated soil, flood plain impact, road traffic noise, and air pollution.
The EPA has done a report into PFAS/PFOS contaminated soil at the Freeway Golf Course and Sports Ovals on the Yarra flood plain. Barry says the Report does not explain why 115 Lin m of trench was investigated for contamination, when 200 Lin m of trench was excavated.
The proposed Bulleen Road/Eastern Freeway interchange will impact on the pattern of floodwaters. The Bulleen area south or east of the Yarra, and the sports ovals of “The Colleges” – Trinity, Marcellin, and Carey – are known flood plain areas. Recent experiences in Queensland and New South Wales highlight the need to plan for floods.
Road traffic noise has not been adequately monitored. The EES has not monitored road traffic noise near overpasses and ramps on the Eastern Freeway. Whereas North East Link scoping requirements called for night time noise to be 40 dB(A) at night, the project is being built on the basis of 58dB(A). Existing vertical sound reflective walls should be relaced by Swiss curved acoustic walls, and acoustic treatment of tunnel portals is required.
Air pollution is a major health issue. The EES shows a more than double increase in PM2.5 on the Eastern Freeway after the North East Link is completed. Diesel fuel is the key issue, and as long as we have diesel trucks, the pollution will get worse. Barry says the PM2.5 levels will breach the State Environment Protection Policy and be a threat to human health. He is calling for a new EES to properly address these issues.
ROSEBERRY STREET HAWTHORN HERITAGE PROTECTION
The residents of Roseberry Street Hawthorn are seeking heritage protection for their homes. An historic street dating back to 1884, the street is full of 1880s workers cottages that need Council and State Government protection. Despite sitting next door to a heritage precinct that forms part of the Brickworks precinct, the street presently has no protection. Four of the Victorian-era houses have been demolished in recent years. Nearly 30% of the houses on Roseberry Street had brickworkers living there between 1886 and 1920.
Clifford Hayes, Southern Metropolitan Region Legislative Councillor, and the Boroondara Residents Heritage Group – BHGAP – are supporting this campaign.
MORELAND COUNCIL PLANNING SCHEME REVIEW
Moreland Council is undertaking a review of their Planning Scheme. The scheme is of course a legal document describing how land in an area can be used and developed. They are seeking feedback from people who have interacted with the current planning scheme. The public engagement is open till 27 June, and can be accessed via the following link –
Link: Planning Scheme Review 2022 Conversation Moreland project page.
WORKING FROM HOME
Employers are now putting increasing pressure on their staff to return to the office full-time. Research by RMIT University, reported in Macrobusiness, found that over 70% of the employees who have returned to the office full-time are dissatisfied with the arrangement. Some 71% of these workers said they would prefer to work from home at least one day a week, while more than 50% would like to work from home at least 2 days a week. Some employers see it differently. Elon Musk has said workers must return to the office full time, or “pretend to work somewhere else”.
I think the workers have a point. Some working from home is better for work-life balance, it saves time lost in travel congestion, and it saves money, at a time when cost of living pressures are increasing. Furthermore, Plan Victoria and other State and local planning documents justify urban consolidation on the basis of creating “20 minute neighbourhoods”, and reducing travel times. But there is no better chance for a “20 minute neighbourhood” than to have people working from home. Governments and planners should be applauding this trend, instead of going missing in action when it is time to genuinely support the “20 minute neighbourhood”. Their silence suggests the “20 minute neighbourhood” might not be their real motivation for backing urban consolidation at all.
COST OF LIVING PRESSURES AND HOUSING AFFORDABILITY
Unfortunately, it is likely that home ownership, a great part of living in Australia which has regrettably been in decline for the past couple of decades, is going to take a hit due to rising interest rates. These rises are in turn a consequence of rising inflation, spurred on by things such as rapidly rising global energy prices.
Not all of this is beyond our capacity to respond to. We are about the world’s largest exporter of natural gas. Every other country in the world with significant gas reserves has some measure in place to help domestic consumers and domestic manufacturers. We don’t, except in Western Australia, where the State Government some years ago sensibly put on place a Domestic Gas Reservation mechanism. As a result, their gas prices are not skyrocketing.
We should do the same on the east coast. I called for a domestic gas reservation mechanism a decade ago, when I was still in Parliament. The Federal Government now has a legal trigger, and should pull it. If it doesn’t, our manufacturing will suffer, our inflation will increase, our interest rates will go up, and our young people will continue to be denied the opportunity to have their own home.
HERITAGE PROTECTION TRADE SKILLS
One important contributor to our Heritage Protection Forum in April was Greg Spark. Greg has a background in heritage protection quantity surveying, and has worked on many important heritage buildings. He sees it as essential that we train and skill up young people in heritage protection work.
I have had discussions with Greg since then, and he has made important points about the need to preserve and enhance old buildings, rather than send in the bulldozer or build totally unsympathetic add-ons. He fears that high rise high density housing is creating slums of the future, with current apartment block buildings likely to last 50 or 60 years before developing major problems.
That’s all folks, till next time. Keep up the good work!