Council Meeting 26 February

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Photomontage produced by Pointalism

Firstly, from 6-8 March, I will be representing the Flemington Association at VCAT as they object to the proposal pictured – a seven storey, 66-room hotel in Racecourse Rd.

Here’s a report of last night’s Council meeting. The highlights include:

  • MV Council agreeing (4/3) to the federal government’s stipulation that a Citizenship Ceremony be held on 26 January as an Australia Day event. Several councillors criticised the officer’s report for not providing details about this requirement;
  • a 30 minute debate on an urgent motion to ensure MVCC’s International Women’s Day events have only women speakers (6/1); and
  • the seemingly common-place governance debates.

Apologies and Leave of Absence:  Cr Cusack and Cr Surace sent apologies (wishing them both speedy recoveries).

Confirmation of Minutes: 12 February 2019 – Done.

Declarations of Conflict of Interest: Cr Byrne declared an indirect COI in 10.4 re community facilities update due to workplace.

Presentations: condolences for a former resident; also mention is made of an exhibition of Indigenous Women who have fought for justice and equal rights and continue to celebrate culture.

Petitions and Joint Letters: Cr Lawrence presents a 140-signature petition re a pedestrian crossing at Buckley Street, Essendon, near St Columba’s College and the Essendon Baptist Church. 80 signatures have not been counted as they were not in line with Council’s petition rules. Carried unanimously.

Public Question Time

  1. Verica, Clarence St, Flemington: Will Council support my request that the plans be revised to meet ResCode standards re wall heights and wall length? Answer: the av. wall height allowable is 3.2m with no part higher than 3.6m. The wall complies due to the slope of the land. The wall length does not comply (at 16.4m – the limit is 13m). However, the standard can be varied if the length reduces the impact on the amenity on adjoining properties. A variation is considered acceptable here.
  2. The plans do not meet the requirements for private open space.Will the Council support my request to make sure POV meets requirements?Answer: The current requirement of 40m2 is met. 25m2 should be secluded with access from the living room. There is 16.5m2 in the front yard as well as 39m2 at the rear.
  3. Tony: Council have announced paid car parking around Maribyrnong River and the Boulevard. Why was this site chosen? Answer: A range of sites were chosen for a $1 per hour fee to encourage turn-over and this area was chosen b/c of high demand.
  4. Given this will impact on sports user, how do we ensure this does not proceed? Answer: Council does not consider this will impact users. The Council resolution is to trial the $1 per hour parking for 6 months and report back.

Reports

579-591 Mt Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds – Construction of a multi-storey building

Cr Marshall moves with three additional conditions including the removal of anything over the 20m height limit. Cr Nation seconds.

The proposal is for 6 storeys with retail at the lowest level. The site is in the central part of the Activity Centre and fronts both Ascot Vale Rd and Mt Alexander Rd. Cr Marshall says Council needs to apply the height limits strictly. She says she like the Mt Road design, and the upper levels are set back and won’t detract from the lower level design. She says the area will need Council’s attention with respect to street beautification.

Cr Nation says the application is satisfactory for its location within the Activity Centre Zone (ACZ). Cr Lawrence says the proposal improves on the existing building and will improve the “drab” state of the street.

Carried unanimously.

15 Clarence Street, Flemington

Cr Marshall moves the officer’s recommendation with some amendments related to the walls on boundaries, wall heights, and set-backs. Cr Nation seconds.

Cr Marshall says the consultation meeting was positive and the plans were amended to meet some fo the concerns raised re neighbourhood character and impact on adjoining properties (resulting from the small size of the site). The materials were changed, and upper level set-backs and pitched roof designs. Cr Marshall says Council has had significant success at VCAT defending neighbourhood character and concerns about variations from ResCode.

“I am very mindful about how VCAT has viewed this precinct and I think we need to be mindful of those decisions in our own decision making,” she says.

I am glad to hear this reflection from Cr Marshall – as she has previously written that planning doesn’t rely on the concept of precedent (as that term is ordinarily understood), and that decisions at VCAT often depart from previous decisions. I have argued elsewhere on the Blog that Council decisions sometimes don’t appear to take account of previous VCAT decisions. Glad we now appear to be on the same page 🙂

Cr Nation does not speak. Carried unanimously.

Citizenship Ceremony

Cr Lawrence moves the officer’s recommendation which is:

Screen Shot 2019-02-27 at 1.56.05 pm

Image from Council Meeting Agenda Tuesday 26 February, 2019. Link here.

The federal government has revised the Citizenship Ceremonies Code with the following requirement:

Screen Shot 2019-02-27 at 2.07.52 pm

The Code can be found here: https://immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/citizenship/ceremony

Cr Lawrence says he welcomes the importance placed on citizenship. He notes that this year 17 September falls on a Tuesday. There is also a new dress Code. He mentions the Citizenship Ceremony being held on 26 January in conjunction with a sensitive Healing Ceremony. “We’ve led the way,” he says.

Cr Nation says he is a little confused by the report and the lack of information in the report. He says there is key information not in the report: including that the initial request for feedback was a letter addressed to the Mayor asking for feedback by 28 Feb. There is no mention of this in the report and the correspondence is not included.

He also says the report does not include the most contentious element of the Code which is the compulsion to hold a ceremony on 26 January.

(You can find an SBS article explaining this controversy here: https://www.sbs.com.au/news/bizarre-heavy-handed-councils-push-back-on-changes-to-australia-day-citizenship-ceremonies

There are no excerpts of the revised Code, and there is no summary, and the attachment does not include the Code. Therefore, he says, it is hard as a Council to formulate a view on something that is not provided.

He refers to the VLGA’s response – which can be found here: https://www.vlga.org.au/news/vlga-response-australian-citizenship-ceremonies-code-code

He says Cr Sipek is on the Board of the VLGA and he commends the response of the VLGA which addresses the difficult issues in the Code: including the requirement for Council to consult with all MPs and not hold citizenship ceremonies on any Parliamentary Sitting Day.

He is critical of the report’s subjective statement that MVCC holds “the best ceremonies”.

Cr Marshall also speaks against the motion. She says she is frustrated, and makes similar criticisms to Cr Nation. She says she has never seen anyone dress in a way that is not befitting of the occasion. She says the dress code is unnecessary.

She says this is making the day about politicians, not citizens. She also criticises the changes as potentially shutting down the debate about the best date to celebrate Australia Day.

The Mayor says that the discussion is about “the Citizenship Code” not Australia Day.

Cr Marshall points out that the Code is about holding a ceremony on 26 January as Australia Day.  Cr Nation also comments.

Cr Marshall says when we are considering whether Council should be required to hold a citizenship ceremony on 26 Jan as Australia Day, Council should consider whether the day is celebrated equally by all.

Cr Nation foreshadows an alternative motion. Cr Lawrence says he agrees with the statement in the report that this year “Council held what many considered to be one of the best ever held at Moonee Valley”. He says the dress code is important, and that it raises the bar.

FOR: Lawrence, Sipek, Sharpe, Gauci Maurici

AGST: Byrne, Marshall, Nation

Carried.

Community Facility Management Policy Update

Cr Gauci Maurici moves. She says that there have been lengthy conversations about how to open up access for community groups to facilities – with numerous discounts – and opening up pavilions for broader use. She says the policy is how we make this possible.

Cr Sipek says he agrees that a lot of facilities and halls should be used by multiple users. He says existing users would maintain what they have, and that more women’s sporting groups will place greater demand on facilities.

Cr Marshall says some reservations about impacts on groups have been alleviated. She agrees that part of the process is about looking at the facilities in a different way to ensure multi-million dollar facilities are more widely used and shared.

Carried unanimously.

Shuter St update

Cr Gauci Maurici moves. Cr Lawrence seconds. Cr Gauci Maurici says this report just corrects an error in the previous report with respect to the legation referred to.

Carried unanimously.

Notices of Motion Quarterly Report

Cr Lawrence moves. Cr Byrne seconds. No questions. Nothing really said. Carried unanimously.

Assemblies of Councillors

Cr Nation moves a motion with some amendments re locations and attendance or non-attendance at meetings. Cr Gauci Maurici points out the time going into preparing the budget. Carried unanimously.

Notices of Motion: None

Urgent Business

Cr Byrne: “I would like to move…” … she is cut off.

The Mayor says the question of whether the matter is urgent must first be considered. The Mayor asks for advice as to how to manage the motion.

Cr Byrne provides a brief outline of the urgent business: international women’s day and this year’s event and speakers.

Cr Lawrence seeks clarification about which event. Cr Byrne asks whether she should just read the resolution.

Cr Marshall, the Mayor and Cr Byrne all try to decide whether Cr Byrne should just read the motion.

The Mayor seeks further advice. Cr Byrne is advised to read the motion – to be followed by debate on whether that item qualifies as urgent business.

Cr Byrne reads her motion which is to only have only women speakers, excluding Mayor of the day if applicable, at international women’s day events – including 2019 events.

The Mayor seeks further advice on how to conduct debate on whether the matter is urgent.

The Mayor calls for a motion from a Councillor. Cr Nation says there is a motion on a floor that we receive urgent business. Someone offers to second it (actually I don’t think a motion has been moved yet that it be considered urgent business … it’s pretty simple guys and gals … come on!!).

The Mayor goes back to her request for a motion (I’ve listened to the ‘debate’ again and the Mayor is right – there hasn’t yet been a motion requesting the matter be considered as urgent business).

“Cr Byrne moved that,” says the Mayor. “I’m asking if councillors have a mind to believe this is an item of urgent business”…  finally Cr Gauci Maurici moves and Cr Marshall seconds that the matter be considered as urgent.

Cr Gauci Maurici and Cr Marshall both argue this is an urgent matter. Cr Nation agrees that it meets the criteria read out by the Mayor. Cr Lawrence asks for further clarity – “is this just for 2019?” He is told that question does not go to whether the matter is urgent.

The motion to consider the matter as urgent is supported by all councillors except the Mayor. Previously, the motion to consider as urgent needed to be agreed to by all councillors (carried unanimously). This has been changed.

Cr Byrne re-reads her substantive motion. Cr Gauci Maurici seconds. Cr Byrne says this year International Women’s Day falls on 7th March – hence the urgency. Cr Byrne says Cr Cusack started an event years ago to have a breakfast, often attended by school children.

She says it is a shame to have to bring this up – that it should be self-evident that women are the speakers at IWD events – particularly this event.

Cr Gauci Maurici says the audience for the event is school students and the intent is to inspire and empower young women. It is, therefore, appropriate to have woman speakers at the IWD breakfast event.

Cr Marshall says she is disappointed that on the day the ‘fearless girl’ statue was unveiled at Fed Square, that there is a necessity to specify that the speaker on the day is a woman.

Cr Nation says it is disappointing this couldn’t be resolved without bringing it to the chamber. He refers to the pictures of Indigenous women in the council chamber. “One would hope these sort of motions won’t be needed, but sadly they still are.”

Cr Sipek suggests changing the word “only” to “predominantly” in case  there are men who might be the only people who could speak about a woman who has died. “I just don’t want to exclude everyone.”

The Mayor asks for a formal amendment. She reads what the formal amendment would say. Cr Nation asks for the actual mover to read the amendment. The Mayor ignores his request and calls for a seconder. Cr Lawrence seconds. Cr Sipek says “Just don’t close the door on everybody.”

Cr Lawrence says he agrees with the sentiment of the whole motion – but disagrees that men cannot inspire women. He takes exception to that: “I think it’s true that men can inspire women … it works both ways.”

Cr Gauci Maurici speaks to the amendment saying, with some anger, that this is the one day that is “all about women”. Cr Nation says the amendment negates the point of bringing the motion into the agenda. Cr Marshall speaks against the amendment.

FOR: Lawrence, Sipek

AGST: All others

Back to the substantive motion. The Mayor adds some thoughts. She says the theme for this year’s IWD is about the role men and women play to advance women – with reference to the UN theme of ‘More power together’.

Cr Byrne says the IWD theme is Balance for Better. The Mayor corrects her: “I’m actually correct – thank you.” Cr Byrne closes.

For: All except the Mayor – motion is carried.

Meeting is closed

 

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