Family Fun Day

Come and join the Ardeer and Sunshine West Community and show your support for putting the powerlines underground. Sunday 7th November 1pm, Ardeer Community Park, Forrest St. Click here for more information.


MP representations

One of the Ombudsman's recommendations to Brimbank Council was to develop a method of recording representations made to councillors by MP's....what about the representations made by developers and real estate agents?
Councillor information requests

Council meetings now document the requests for information made by a councillor. This does not include meetings organised by staff but rather information requested by councillors in the carrying out of their role.
Sunvale deception

I am very concerned that Council's postcard campaign is a deception.

Members of our community have been signing the Sunvale petition that Council has been promoting because they thought what they were signing was a call for "community use".

Community use to most people means parks and community facilities...not a sell off to developers!

We need to immediately call on council to change its position and demand that the land remain 100% in public hands for open space and community facilities


Albion Explosives Factory Fallout

Cairnlea business park coming soon - is what the sign says on Ballarat Rd. This is a new sign put on a site that is currently zoned Commonwealth Land!

If VicUrban haven't even got planning permission, why are they so sure that a business park is coming soon?

This site is still contaminated land according to the Department of Defence. Apparently it is one that has not been cleaned up and yet the site is not properly fenced off to the public and there are houses within a stones throw. What happens to the kids who experiment with wandering onto the site?

Secondly, who is going to pay for the clean up?


Road Threatens Homes

The state government have today called for tenders for a new road to link the Maribyrnong Tunnel with the Western Ring Road. While they have refused to say what the preferred alignment is, it is clear they have one and it is clear it will head down Sunshine Road and Wright St. It is also clear that this is an enormous road that is several lanes wide on each side and will take up a huge amount of land that currently has homes on it.

This disastrous road was planned as part of the Eddington Tunnel and now the Victorian Transport Plan and will destroy quiet West Sunshine, quite possibly destroy parts of Buckingham reserve and consume massive amounts of fossil fuels in its production. It will also shift the truck problem from Yarraville to Sunshine.

The Brimbank Transport Action Group together with other concerned residents including the Greens, will campaign to stop this road.

If you would like to help in this campaign, please call Debbi Woods on 04389185
Rooming House Campaign

Council has moved to support this very important Victorian Local Governance Assoc Rooming House campaign.

It was apparent that there is much we can do to improve the way we respond to unsafe rooming houses and to make the unscrupulous owners more accountable as both an individual council and as a sector

At a council level officers at Brimbank have been quick to recognise that we need an integrated response that involves all the relevant areas of council including:
Building services
City compliance
Environmental health
housing support services
community health services
Fire services
And the homeless persons programme

As a sector there is a need to lobby for:
Increased registration and policing of rooming houses
Encourage the reporting of unregistered rooming houses
Licensing of the RH operators
Increased penalties for unlicensed premises
And to encourage 3rd party complaints against these operators

It became clear to me though that this is also an important campaign not only because it highlights the plight of the most marginalised in our community who are stuck in unsafe rooming houses, but because the issue cannot be divorced from the issue of access to affordable housing more generally

The discussion at the VLGA highlighted that unsafe rooming houses are a failure of the private housing market to deliver affordable housing. This is not a new issue or a cyclical problem. This is a problem of capitalism. It is a problem of the private housing market. When times are good for the housing industry and they are building houses hand over fist, the supply increases and the problem is not so acute, but when the market dries up the few who drop off the edge become a large number indeed. And it has nothing to do with the actual number of houses built, but everything to do with the fact that people on low incomes cannot access the houses

So rather than an aberration, it is actually a function of the private market

We have been told by the state gvt that there is a massive housing shortage and this is used to justify the massive roll out of housing construction

Is there really a shortage or is this a move to prop up a struggling industry and their profits

Forgive me for being cynical but I have just discovered that ABS data shows there is in fact more than enough vacant dwellings in victoria to house the entire Victorian population

I repeat, there is enough dwellings to house the entire Victorian population

At the heart of the problem lies the fact that housing is not built to match actual need Instead we have system that is just trying to produce as many houses as it can for profit. The irony is that Many of these properties are actually being paid for by the tax payer thru negative but we never own them

Even if we plough ahead and build all these new houses and destroy huge tracts of grasslands. Guess what we will still have a rooming house problem, and we will still have poor people who cant afford housing, we will still have homeless people

If we are serious about addressing this issue we need to look at providing housing differently. We need to increase the public ownership of housing and we need to be able to match up vacant houses with families. We can only do that if we own it
Errington Reserve - good news!

At last night's council meeting, we heard feedback from the recent community forums that Council conducted as a PR exercise to convince the community of the business case for a new municipal office. Consultants Capire and market researcher Nexus Research presented feedback from the forums and from telephone interviews conducted over the last few weeks. It was clear from these consultations that the community does not want a municipal office on Errington Reserve and that the community questions the priority of a civic centre above other community projects such as parks, and local community facilities.

Again, I put forward an alternative recommendation to abandon the civic centre proposal

While this was not supported, an amended recommendation (put by Cr Stuart Miller) that Errington Reserve be removed from the draft business case and that Council reaffirm pubic open space as per the wishes of the late Alice Errington was supported - Hooray for common sense! is launched!
Yes, after four solid months of blogging I've opened up this blog to the wonderful world wide web.

I've found it to be a very simple and immediate way to communicate to the community my motivations and interpretations of what Council is, and could be, achieving. And I'm serious about finding new ways to engage our residents with Council activities and decision-making. I sincerely hope this blog contributes to rescuing the political process in Brimbank.

I'm feeling absolutely inspired after last week's community meeting regarding the Ombudsman Victoria report. And I'll endeavour to keep up this alternative public record for anyone looking for an alternative perspective on what's important to Brimbank.


Please note my motions put to the Chamber can be found here:
and media releases here:
Sunvale PS - a small victory
Council voted last night to support part of my motion for the immediate consultation with the Sunshine Community!

Council has recently decided it will work with the Sunshine community via a new online petition and the post card campaign and I am very concerned that this campaign is not genuine.

While the petition and postcards are calling for Sunvale to be kept for community use, Council's position has not altered. Council's position remains that it supports affordable/social housing and 0.8 hectare for open space. While genuine affordable housing (ie public housing) might be important for our commuity, 'affordable housing' usually means a sell off to developers for cheap and nasty housing.

I think my definition of 'community use' is probably like most people's . When I think of community use I think of parks, playgrounds and community facilities.... I don't think of a sell off to developers.

The Sunshine community deserves to have a say on what it wants for this site. When the issue first arose, the community was promised discussion and consultation and yet Council have yet to ask our community what they want for Sunvale.

In light of this Council campaign, I again put forward a motion that Council resolves to:
1. advocate for the Sunvale PS site to remain 100% in public hands
2. begin immediate consultation with the Sunshine community about the its wishes for the development for the site

And Council voted last night to support the immediate consultation with the Sunshine Community
While they would not support the call to keep the site 100% in public hands, I have no doubt that this is what the Sunshine community will call for during the consultation.

At last, Council is prepared to listen to the views of the community! Lets hope they keep listening...


Community meeting at Sunshine Masonic Hall: well attended and children-friendly (above)

Community Meeting
In recent months, Brimbank City Council has been rocked by allegations of misconduct. Following the release of the Ombudsman's Report into alleged misconduct, I put forward a motion that Council conduct a community meeting to allow the community to have full and proper discussion of the issues. Not one Councillor would support that motion. Because of this I went ahead with local Greens and organised a public meeting on Wednesday19th August in Sunshine.

About 50 people turned out to a very successful community meeting. It was an opportunity for the community to discuss the key points of the report, and freely raise concerns over issues such as Sunvale PS, Parsons Reserve, the Civic Centre proposal, affordable housing, lack of public open space funding and inappropriate development.

The meeting resolved to pass a couple of motions. One was a request to Bill Scales to attend a community meeting in the next 6 weeks to update the community on his progress. Further the community requested Mr Scales to provide Council with a monthly update of his progress. We await his answer.

The meeting was well attended and there were so many valuable contributions. Hopefully this signals the start of our community becoming more organised and inspired to take up the struggle for a better Sunshine!

Former Greens Brimbank Councillor, Miles Dymott addressing the meeting (below)


more trees please!

Council has just recommended that the street tree infill programme be continued for another 3 years.

This is a very important programme that has a high level of community support. Nevertheless it is important that council does more work with community members to help them take ownership of the new trees to ensure their survival.

While the contractor is responsible for trees that fail, community members in some areas are working with council to adopt a tree and are helping exisiting and new trees by providing some extra watering.

There are also a number of species that can be negotiated in this programme. So if you would like to see some more species variety, let Council know of your preference.
Retrofitting the West
Council is participating in a fantastic initiative led by the City of Maribyrnong to supply, and install a suite of residential retrofit services to maximise state and fed rebates currently available eg. solar hot water, free energy/waste/water assessments/green loans info/insulation etc

Aboriginal Artefacts in Brimbank
After many months of trying to get Council to facilitate contact with Aboriginal Affairs to acknowledge a local resident (in my ward) who has discovered aboriginal stone tools along our local section of creek, Aboriginal Affairs are finally coming to Brimbank to take a look next week!

Community meeting
I have called a community meeting for this Wednesday night with our local Greens branch to discuss the Ombudsman’s report and other local emerging issues in Brimbank. This will be the first time the community has had a chance to discuss these important issues in a public forum like this.

Sunvale PS site
This is a complex issue that on the face of it looks like it supports increased housing development in an area that is close to a train station etc and would be in line with Greens policy. I have opposed the Council’s position on this development because on closer inspection it is simply supporting a sell off of the primary school site to developers. There has been no consultation with the Sunshine community over the development of this site but the community have been continually asking for it. When community members became aware of the possible sale, SUNRAA wrote on their behalf to both the Minister and Brimbank Council CEO Nick Foa to outline what they thought the site should be used for. When Council conducted the ‘Creating Better Parks’ community consultations the participants were unequivocal about the need for more open space and community meeting facilities.
Now that Council has decided it will work with the Sunshine community to advocate to the State Government to keep the Sunvale site for community use, I believe we need to ensure that Council’s desire for a partnership is genuine.
We will not be successful in this campaign if we cannot work together and genuinely listen to the needs of our community. When community members became aware of the possible sale, they were led to believe a separate discussion on the development of the site would take place. This has not happened.
Nevertheless when Council conducted the 'Creating Better Parks' community consultations the community said loud and clear that it needs more open space and community meeting facilities
They did not say they wanted a sell off to developers.
Even though councils current position says its preferred option is 0.8 of a hectare retained for public open space, it also says it is open to negotiation and it does not stress the importance of us getting a better deal because of severe disadvantage
It also concerns me that the report is saying we advocate for affordable housing without specifying what that is.
We all know that affordable housing/social housing can mean a multitude of things – none of which have been properly discussed with our community. It can mean a sell off to developers who are going to build what they can most cheaply to maximise their profit. It can mean social housing with tenants that are in supported accommodation. It can mean public housing and it can mean housing that is owned by welfare groups.
The only genuine affordable housing is public housing. But again if this is what we want there needs to be proper consultation - because we all know it has been done very badly in the past .
And if it was going to be public housing, it has to be a project of high quality, attractive, environmentally sensitive houses that you and I would like to live in and that ensures a mix of people live there.
If we push this through as it is we will be missing an opportunity to work with our community and together lobby the state government for a fantastic opportunity to have a great community asset Ecoliving centre support Council recently voted to support the construction of a CERES of the west by VU on council land (for a peppercorn rent).

Watergardens Priority Development Panel (PDP)
Recently Minister Madden has given the building approval process back to Council! We can only hope he is feeling the pressure from community groups all over Victoria...and there will be more of this happening in the immediate future. This step has meant that Council has been able to renegotiate a land deal for community hub/youth space and because of this we look like getting a much better position for the space.
Unfortunately prior to this, the PDP has worked hard to push Council to support increased retail floor space for this gross and unsustainable development. At the last meeting of Council we adopted a recommendation to accept that increase in the retail floor space at Watergardens Shopping Centre. The increase is something the developer, QIC, have been wanting badly as it has enabled them to secure a Myer department store.
While it might sound great to shoppers to have a new Myer in the area, developments like these are not good for local jobs or for the sustainability (walk-ability or liveability) of a neighbourhood. They mean that the shopping centre is 'inward looking' (i.e. an inside development that you have to drive to) rather than being a real town centre that interacts with the local neighbourhood and provides truly local services.
The Sunshine community is very well aware of what happened to its vibrant shopping strip in Hampshire Rd when Council allowed the development of the 2 monstrous shopping centres to be built along the edge of the precinct - and we are now faced with more of the same poor development decisions at Watergardens.


Lakes Reserve opening

I attended the opening of the beautiful lakeside playground created as one of the regional parks in Brimbank.

Even though the day was blustery, many families turned out to enjoy the BBQ, music and to explore the fantastic new imaginative playspace.


Housing shortage a myth
Councillors participated in a very wide ranging discussion that quite clearly explained that it is a failure of the private market to deliver affordable housing. This is not a new issue, nor is it a cyclical problem. This is a problem of the private market and always has been. There has been growth in rooming houses because of an increase in the sub-residency model and illegal building works.

Some of the key issues covered included:
The need for registration and policing of rooming houses
Unregistered rooming houses
Fire safety issues
The coordination of council departments in the policing of registered and unregistered premises
- Need for the licensing of rooming house operators
- Need for an increase in the penalities for unlicensed premises
- Need for third party complaints against operators
- Need for the government to use their own data.

ABS data shows that there is currently enough vacant housing to house all Victorians but policies such as capital gains tax and negative gearing act to encourage landlords to sit on vacant properties

Climate change and social justice – what does this mean?
The VLGA has decided that its response to the State Government's Climate Change Green Paper* will essentially be framed in terms of the impact of climate change and strategies to address climate change on equity and health.

There are many ways climate change will affect the community disproportionately and this is directly linked to capitalism. Until such time as we deal with this structural inequality we will not be able to share the shrinking resources equitably and fairly. We do not have a society that distributes wealth or health equitably.

There is an urgent need for local governments to start addressing this inequality. And when it comes to climate change there are many worrying examples of how those on low incomes are going to be affected far more greatly by climate change impacts than those who are well off.

For example, many people are probably not aware that more people were killed in the heatwave leading up to Black Saturday than in Black Saturday itself.

Another example is that we will soon have to pay more for water because of the desalination plant. Those on low incomes will find these increased costs the most difficult to absorb and will certainly be in a much more difficult position compared to those on higher incomes who have already been able to afford to install water tanks and water efficient appliances. A more equitable response would be to support households to achieve water independence through water tanks, storm water harvester and cheap water saving measures

Those on low incomes and those who are older or with disabilities will also find the extreme heat more difficult. While those on higher incomes can afford passive solar design for their houses, insulation, weather sealing, cooling units and holidays to cooler parts of the world, while those on low incomes cannot.

Other examples of vulnerability to climate change include: the higher price of foodstuffs due to changing climate, aging, access to services, and rising prices for energy use and petrol to run cars.

Councils are in the unique position being closest to the people and we can deliver or lobby for projects that will reorient services and supports to those most disadvantaged. We can tax big businesses (this is constrained in local government) to offset service provision to those most vulnerable instead of allowing the gap to widen.

* A 'green paper' is draft policy document and discussion paper, usually provided for public comment


Green Wedges
The State Government released plans last week, which show a draft expanded Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) around new growth areas. These plans pose the most serious threat to the green wedges since the Bracks Government introduced an UGB to protect them in 2002 and possibly since the green wedges were introduced by the Hamer Government in 1971.

The green wedges are, as successive premiers and planning ministers have said, the lungs of Melbourne. "They safeguard agricultural uses and preserve rural and scenic landscapes, non-renewable resources and natural areas including water catchments" (DPCD website). With a city already gasping for breath, Melbourne's lungs are about to be choked with urban sprawl. This government land grab will be a cancer, not just in the proposed new growth corridors but in surrounding areas, where developers are expected to buy up environmentally and agriculturally significant grasslands.

Once known as brown wedges, the work of ecologists has shown that the biodiversity of our western plains grasslands rivals Kakadu. Native grasslands, Victoria’s prairies, once stretched from the western edge of Melbourne nearly to the South Australian border, but now only a tiny percentage remains. They were ablaze with wildflowers in spring and supported many different species of marsupials and reptiles including Striped Legless Lizard and Fat-tailed Dunnart. The Werribee and Melton Plains support the largest remaining areas of Victoria’s Basalt Plains Grasslands and are one of Australia’s 15 Biodiversity Hotspots.

Grassland remnants are scattered across the plains, with the largest continuous area extending westwards from Werribee nearly to the YouYangs, and a substantial block are also located on the eastern slopes of Mt Cotterell. However many of the high quality remnants lie scattered close to or within the urban areas of Werribee, Laverton, Deer Park and Caroline Springs.

The proposed extensions to the western growth corridors will potentially destroy over 3000 ha of the environmentally significant grasslands. This destruction is unnecessary as an analysis by Jenni Bundy of the Green Wedge Protection Group demonstrates that the Government has miscalculated its land supply figures and that there is enough land within the current UGB to last until 2030. Increasing the development density in urban growth areas would also make housing more affordable. Instead, the Government is prepared to hand green wedge land that makes Melbourne a liveable city to developers for McMansions and suburban sprawl and the destruction of our precious remnant grasslands

We need to call on the government to call off this plan for gross unnecessary destruction of the environment.
Gambling in Brimbank Reaches All Time High
Here is more reason for councillors to have supported the motion on pokies that I put to the chamber in February 2009 to increase the differential rate on commercial gaming venues in Brimbank.

It has been revealed that Brimbank has hit number one in poker machine losses to the state and the misery and tragedy are enormous and increasing.

Gaming is a significant community problem now in Brimbank and affects the entire community, not just problem gamblers. As we all know Gambling related problems are mainly associated with Electronic Gaming Machines (better known as pokies). According to our Council 2006 Policy, Brimbank is ranked third on the SEIFA scale of disadvantage in Victoria (click here to view Policy). And despite a low density rank of 7.3 pokies per 1000 adults, gaming losses are significantly higher than areas with higher machine densities and are now the most severe of any municipality in the state with $58 million spent on its 953 poker machines in the first five months of the 2008-09 financial year.

Council's Gambling Policy Statement and Gambling Action Plan 2006-2009 recognises that while gambling is a legitimate form of leisure and entertainment, it is also can have terrible consequences for people, their families and the broader community. The Policy seeks to integrate this policy position into all key plans and strategies.

A differential rate levied on commercial gaming venues would be one method of integrating Council’s policy position into our strategies, making it less attractive for venues to profit from pokies in our municipality.

Moreland City Council has recently introduced such a rate (click here to see what they've achieved). And I had hoped to see overwhelming support behind this idea here in Brimbank. Unfortunately it was not supported and Council instead moved to seek a briefing from officers on
the possibility of a differential rate for commercial gaming properties and
the possibility of the rate being levied at twice the commercial industrial rate.

But I must say I'm getting tired of my fellow councillors deferring for yet another briefing, instead of informing themselves on such critical issues prior to council meetings. Time and again they have effectively deferred the No Vote until a later date, allowing a public decision to be removed from its currency and context.

See recent story in The Brimbank Leader, 'Brimbank pokies raining millions' 04/08/2009

Perhaps for the sake of contrasting it to the responsible and responsive leadership that Moreland City Council have demonstrated
'Pokies tax plan for Moreland', Moreland Leader 18/05/2009

The motion on pokies that I put to the chamber in February 2009 sadly did not yield a seconder.


Click on picture to enlarge view

Sunvale Primary School Site - future development
All of a sudden postcards have appeared on the Council internet home page ( and now an online petition! (see screen shot above)
If Council wishes to support the community on this issue, that is great, however it needs to learn to how to consult its community properly. Council launches into such a campaign and has yet to notify councillors of the design, rationale or evaluative processes. Where did this overnight campaign come from? What should the signatories of the online petition expect from signing on?

Council, the organisation, is clearly unable to see the need to build community trust, nor invite open consultation with the community. I want to see every community consultation from Council be an active-listening and trust-building exercise. It's the least we need to build good governance and good community outcomes, and attract the most active and community-minded people to contribute (to join and balance out the valuable contributions of the loud, angry ones).

I will again put forward a motion I have put forward previously calling for immediate consultation with the Sunshine community on this issue so that Council can form a genuine partnership in its approach to this campaign.

We will not be successful in this campaign if we cannot work together and genuinely listen to the needs of our community.