Buckley Street Crossing Removal puts local business at risk

BY TESSA BAJAN
The Moonee Valley council and its residents claim popular Essendon hangout Rose Street will be destroyed by proposed level crossing removal plan, threatening traders and local business along the strip.

 

The state government plans to relocate busy Buckley street to beneath the railway line, transforming Rose street into a one way only road with no right turning.
Resultantly shoppers will have less parking options along the strip, and if coming off Buckley Street, will need to continue on until they can perform a u-turn.  An inconvenience local traders claim will lose them their customer base.

 

 

 

Local resident and business owner of popular “Benny & Me” café Ellen McFarlane is concerned about her customer base and feels that the design lacks safety. “A car trench crossing will provide no benefits to the local community. What is now a thriving area will become a danger zone most will try to avoid.”

Essendon resident and local business owner Ellen McFarlane feels very strongly about the council’s plans

The community claims that the proposal also lacks disability, cycling and pedestrian access and is a danger to pedestrians and children from nearby schools.

 

Dr John Stone, Lecturer in Transport Planning in Urban Planning Program at Melbourne University confirmed Mcfarlane’s concerns in a report that states “grade separations that involve putting railway above or below rail line can actually degrade other aspects of the physical, social and economic environment.. this can have negative impacts on immediately adjacent economic activity, that are very difficult, if not impossible, to rectify.”

The Essendon community has proposed an alternate “road over rail” option they claim is better for the community instead of the government’s plan that has been labelled a “cheap, quick fix”.

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A comparison of the two level crossing removal ideas

 

The community took to the streets last Sunday in a public demonstration along Buckley street. The protest included appearances by opposition MP David Hodgett and Moonee Valley Mayor Andrea Surace, in which they re-affirmed their strong alliance with the community. State labour MP Danny Pearson was noticeably absent.

Rail design engineer Andrew Binns however believes the lobbyists have not put enough thought into the technical aspects of their proposed alternative. “For the road over rail plan to be successful, the gradient of the rail way line that is currently on a slight hill will need to be completely altered for a slow decline underground; an extremely costly development that would require acquisition of over ten homes.”

“This slow decline would require a trench, which are in most cases, an eyesore.”

 

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Springvale station “eyesore” trench Binn’s refers to. photo: RMIT university

 

Despite community backlash, Pearson confirmed plans are still going ahead, proclaiming “this is a done deal” to the disgust of the hall at a council meeting in Essendon.

The contract to to remove the Buckley Street Level Crossing was awarded May 7 to be completed by 2019, however the community plans to continue the fight.

 

Post condemning Greyhound euthanasia provokes outrage on Social Media

A social media post regarding the release of documents revealing the recent death of six  greyhound puppies by a trainer has garnered the attention of many animal support groups and concern of the general public.

The post initially put up by the Barristers Animal welfare panel facebook page, claimed the puppies were put down within three weeks of ownership according to Greyhound Racing NSW’s internal records. The post condemned GR NSW for “taking no action against the man responsible because he was no longer a registered trainer” and for “not refer[ing] him to other authorities because no crime had been committed”.

 

The post has had over 160 sharers; including popular animal welfare groups Greyhound equality society, Justice for the voiceless and Gone are the dogs – speaking up for greyhounds.

 

The Barristers Animal Welfare panel is a national organisation consisting of over 100 barristers from state bars of Australia, committed to animal welfare advocacy. The chairman of BAWP is Joana Fuller whom spoke of the matter. “We cannot simply better regulate animal cruelty .. The industry should be shut down and that is immediately.” She believes the industry is full of corruption and these records are just a starting point. “I think that it’s unlikely [to be] an isolated incident when we know that 18,000 dogs are destroyed annually, and those are the records that are held by veterinarians, and obviously disposing of the dogs illegally is cheaper.”

 

The comments expressed by followers of the post were in agreement with BAWP by a vast majority, and filled with anger.

 

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commenters of initial post

 

Greyhound racing is a long running issue in Australia and has been a topic of hot debate and political turmoil, especially over the past few years (see below).

 

Brief timeline of greyhound industry

 

NSW racing has declined to comment on the post, but has released a statement regarding the documents stating “the industry has willingly committed to best practice animal welfare standards, total lifecycle management for all greyhounds and stronger regulation and is confident of a positive future.”

 

The industry relies heavily on adoption of hounds as an alternative to euthanasia. The largest agency in Victoria is known as Greyhound Adoption Program (GAP), operated by greyhound racing Victoria. Greyhounds that don’t make the grade for racing or are at the end of their racing career are trained and assessed before being matched with new owners.

 

The greyhound racing industry makes $335 million a year final

Information sourced from special commission 2009

 

Not all dogs are able to be adopted through programs such as GAP. There is an oversupply, and due to the use of live baiting to “blood” the dogs, many are rendered too dangerous for use as pets. While most figures are unavailable to public, the RSPCA estimates less than 8 per cent are rehomed.

 

Greyhound fosterer Matilda Bengtzen, regularly visits the GAP adoption shelter in Seymour, Victoria. “I love my grey. When I first got her at two years old she was emaciated and very timid, I presume from mistreatment.” She believes that the perception that greyhounds are vicious is inaccurate as most hounds she deals with are “gentle, shy and lazy creatures.”

 

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Matilda enjoying the company of her greyhound Lola. Photo taken and owned by GAP Victoria. 

 

If you are interested in adopting a greyhound, GAP has an open day this saturday.

 

 

 

Local protestors take on Helmet Law

A lobby group has made it their mission to change current helmet laws in a controversial protest to make helmets optional.

The helmet free ride organised by freestyle cyclists Australia had over 100 people riding 6 kilometres in a route through Carlton North last Saturday, with no helmet in sight.

Freestyle Cyclists president Alan Todd believes that Australian helmet law is inferior to other countries with no fine for helmet-less riding; “Internationally bike helmet laws have been almost universally rejected.  It is seen that these laws prevent the uptake of cycling while offering no significant safety benefit”.

 

In a speech made at the protest Todd claimed “Riding a bike is a safe activity when carried out at sensible speeds in decent conditions. The practice of fining people for this healthy and benign activity makes no sense”.

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President Alan Todd delivering speech before helmet free ride.

 

 

A view shared amongst many of the helmet free protestors in attendance including Carlton North local Edward Dixon is inconvenience posed by the inability to wear a hat as “Wearing a helmet means that I cannot protect my face from harmful UV rays”. He supports Todd believing that safety is not an issue – “In quiet roads with no speed limits the risk is significantly lower”.

 

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The route totalled 6 km, finishing up at Abbotsford convent.

 

There are two other countries with mandatory helmet laws; New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates, with many other countries such as Italy successfully blocking the law. Bikes can account for 5% to 50% of trips in many European cities and towns whereas according the 2015 national cycling participation survey Australia is still stuck on the 1% it has been at for twenty five years.

 

The ride has caused much controversy among the general public, among them long time cyclist Patrick Danaher whom wears his helmet religiously. A cycling accident involving a collision with a car left his helmet in pieces, and both arms with breaks.  “I would most likely be dead without a helmet. Luckily I came out of it [the accident] with a few broken bones but could have easily been much worse off … This protest is completely ridiculous and dangerous”.

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Buckle up! Danaher wears a helmet every time he rides.

 

 

Australia’s cycling death and injury toll is in fact no lower than other countries without helmet laws. Although when legislation was first introduced there was a 23 per cent reduction in head injuries throughout Victoria, in its latest annual report, the OECD found Australia and Canada were the only two countries out of 27 members to record an increase in cycling deaths between 2000 and 2011.

Despite their efforts, it’s not looking like the current law is going to change anytime soon. When pressed on helmet laws, transport minister Luke Donnellan insisted “there will be no discussion of helmets in the current review of Victoria’s cycling strategy”.

 

Leave your view in the poll below!

 

Residents against Hobson’s Bay Budget Proposal

Residents are upset over unequal suburb funding following release of 2015 Hobson’s Bay budget outlined a five per cent rate increase.

Hobson’s Bay councillors are currently in debate over whether this budget is appropriate.

Member of Hobson’s Bay resident Association Anne Palmer believes the budget is both excessive and is biased based on suburb. “It’s about power”, Palmer said. “Each MP wants the best for their ward and the ones that are willing to fight get the funding”.

The document, released April 29 is open for public comment and details how the council plans to spend their $113,950,000 of annual income over the next financial year. This year 76 per cent will be sourced from residential rates, and an additional $7.3 Million will be sourced from loan borrowings to help accelerate the $23 million capital works program. The top three sectors to receive funding are capital works, maintenance and wages.

 

For the first time ever the budget shows spending by individual projects rather than a breakdown of expenditure per suburb. Last year’s budget allocated $8 million for Williamstown (Strand Ward) , $1.6 million for Altona and Seaholme and $1 million for Laverton and Seabrook. Residents have noticed these discrepancies and in absence of a suburb breakdown for 2015 have been emailing in their objections to their local newspaper. Resident Marilyn Montgomery wrote in to the May 7 “Star Weekly” claiming budget is “unfairly distributed” and urged council to “release the details if there is nothing to hide”.

 

Williamstown has previously had $8 million spent on major renovations to its library completed in 2012, following a number of refurbishments to the Williamstown town Hall. Councillor Angela Altair, a strand ward MP for 15 years, believes it to be “a stunning design and one of the most popular and busy council facilities”.  $3 million in funding is planned for Newport library this year, $5 million less than Williamstown’s allocation.

 

On behalf of the council, Mayor Wilson responded to these claims a week ago in a press release. “Our funding priorities this year are guided by the community. Between January and March this year, the Council undertook extensive consultation through a survey and a series of community information sessions”.

Not all Hobson’s Bay councillors agree with the mayor’s opinion of the budget. During April 29 council meeting both Cnr Paul Morgan and Cnr Jason Price disagreed with the proposal, voting against the budget going ahead. Cnr Morgan believes the rise is too excessive, “We can’t keep ratcheting up the rates above CPI and expect that our ratepayers will wear that burden all the time when their incomes don’t increase accordingly”.  The rest of councillors voted for the budget, Mayor Wilson believing it to be a “sound 10 year financial plan”.

Hobson’s Bay rates have risen 91% over the last 10 years, 2015 rates and budget will be finalised June 30.

 

 

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Williamstown’s refurbished Town Hall (Left) and new Library (Right)

 

 

Article & Photograph by Tessa Bajan

Glen Eira Council pushes for government action against Trustee Board

Lack of transparency in the trustee board controlling Caulfield racecourse has Glen Eira council campaigning the state government for reform.

Glen Eira council’s new $100 mill budget “open space” strategy for local suburbs involves a major plan to increase public access to racecourse for recreational use, and to convert old parkland into better new facilities.

This has sparked a conflict of interest between the council and Melbourne Racing Club (MRC) whose intentions for 9-storey refurbishment become unattainable if racecourse is to be shared with public. MRC plans have been dismissed by the council as a “master plan to increase the commercial use of public land” in other words, labelling it a money making scheme.

Ultimately the state government has authority over this crown land and has given full control of racecourse operations to a selected reserve trustee board.  Neil Pickering, Glen Eira mayor has referred to this board as an “old gentlemen’s club” that are “all connected to the MRC in one way or another”.

These claims are based on the board’s annual Report/financial Statements and meeting minutes closed public access. The day-to-day management of the Crown Land is in the control of the Melbourne Racing Club under lease from the Trustees, the terms of that lease are neither open for general viewing.

“Bias on trustee boards are a common issue”, Caulfield resident and Council Activist Kimberly Maxwell states. “The information needs to be public to ensure an equitable approach … more public input into decision making is vital”.  Pickering shares Maxwell’s view, calling for community representation in the board in a news conference last Monday.

On the council agenda, it has been requested the Auditor General conduct a Performance Audit of the board, and that the state government investigate the board’s history, membership structure, responsibilities and current arrangement.

The success of the council’s plight requires political will and public pressure. Only with enough support will the government view this as a parliamentary issue worth dealing with.

References:

FIRE OFFICER CRITICALLY INJURED FROM SCHOOL BLAZE

FIRE OFFICER CRITICALLY INJURED FROM SCHOOL BLAZE

A fireman has been critically injured after a primary school fire in Melbourne’s inner East.

Michael Jones, 25, is in critical condition after receiving 50 per cent of burns to his body. He has been hospitalised along with two other firemen whom suffered smoke inhalation.

The fire occurred yesterday at Carlton end primary school, resulting in a 22 student evacuation and complete destruction of the newly constructed art building.  School principle Mr Scollo has advised that “all students are safe”, a relief due the initial three boys unaccounted for.

Jones is new to the fireman occupation and is expecting a child with his wife. He is recovering at the Royal Childrens hospital, this has been  a major blow to firefighting in Victoria.

It is unclear how the fire began but an electrical failing was suspected.