ALGA National General Assembly 2007

The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) is the peak body representing all local councils across Australia at a Federal level. ALGA serves as a national-wide peak body and is the national equivalent of the state-based peak bodies such as the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV).

The annual National General Assembly, which was held in Darwin, provides an opportunity for member councils to discuss motions of national significance to establish the direction of AGLA in terms of influencing national government policies.

This year Maroondah proposed two motions for consideration at the assembly. The two motions were as follows:

  • That this National General Assembly call on the Federal Government to recognise the importance of public transport, provide specific funding for upgrading facilities, infrastructure and systems
  • That the National General Assembly seek a commitment by the Federal Government to review, as a matter of urgency, the practicality and equity associated with the current funding arrangements for the National Immunisation program – Australian Childhood Register as these impact on the provision of services by Local Government.

Both motions were successful and will result in ALGA advocating for policy changes with the incoming Federal Government.

Local Government is predominately responsible for providing immunisation services but cost shifting is becoming an increasing issue with service agreements not adequately reflecting the cost of delivering the service. While local councils do not object to delivering the service, it is reasonable to expect an equitable arrangement to cover the cost of the service.

In regard to public transport, the motion demonstrates that local government across Australia stands united in calling for federal leadership in examining funding models for involvement in public transport. This motion expands upon the successful motion that was adopted last year at the 2006 National General Assembly:

  • That the National General Assembly calls on the Commonwealth Government to adopt the transport recommendations as outlined in the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Heritage – Sustainable Cities Report (September 2005).

While the motion last year established a direction for ALGA, it was now timely to specify exactly what local government was requesting, namely federal funding of urban public transport infrastructure.

Issues such as the rising costs associated with traffic congestion and greenhouse emissions have national repercussions and it is therefore appropriate that the federal government be involved in solutions, such as the provision of public transport infrastructure, to assist in mitigating these concerns.

The purpose of this approach is not to shift blame from State to Federal Governments, but rather to improve governance and to ensure a national perspective on transport. This in turn can help shape State Government priorities to ensure that much needed public transport infrastructure is delivered.

The National General Assembly also included a number of speakers at the accompanying conference. Speakers included futurist Richard Neville, who spoke about the challenges facing Australia and the need for action and foresight in mitigating detrimental environmental effects.

Environmental issues were also discussed by Professor Tim Flannery, who spoke extensively about the need for action in reducing greenhouse emissions. This is the case given that the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has shown significant increases in Carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide within the atmosphere. Local government can lead by example in reducing greenhouse emissions and promoting the need for action to both the community and other levels of government.

ICLEI Breakfast Briefing

ICLEI, formerly the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives but now known as ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, is a world wide association of local governments focusing on promoting and encouraging sustainability.

This morning I attended an ICLEI breakfast briefing, which included an update of ICLEI activities. The organisation includes a number of Australian local governments, including the City of Maroondah. ICLEI includes the Cities for Climate Protection program, which focuses on water initiatives, energy conservation and other measures of sustainability, such as sustainable transport.

The briefing provided an update on sustainability initiatives being undertaken by local councils within Australia. Councils across the country are investing significantly in water and energy conservation to improve environmental sustainability. Actions included implementing water tanks, reducing water usage and installing low emission lighting, reducing greenhouse emissions and undertaking solar and wind power technology.

Environmental sustainability will remain a significant challenge, but it is an area where local government needs to demonstrate leadership.

Maroondah Journal: Experience needed

The Maroondah Journal this week included a letter from Carol Hunter on behalf of the Maroondah Residents and Ratepayers Association in regard to my decision to nominate for the position of Mayor.

The letter is included below:

IT has been suggested in the Journal (November 13) that a younger person should be mayor.
While the opinions of young people should be heard and considered, they lack the life skills and experience to properly appreciate and understand the needs of a community whose ages range up to more than 100.
Also, it requires someone whose interest and comments are not apparently limited to the issue of public transport, which is a state government, not a council responsibility.
While councils can and should present the community’s concerns to all levels of government it is more effective for the council as a whole to do so, not individual councillors.

Carol Hunter
Maroondah Residents and Ratepayers Association

While the Maroondah Residents and Ratepayers Association refused to specifically name me within the letter, it is clear that as Maroondah’s youngest councillor and someone who is passionate about sustainability, that I am the target of these ill informed comments.

While public transport advocacy is an issue that I have and will continue to be involved in, it is incorrect to assert that this is my only interest. Representatives of the Maroondah Residents and Ratepayers Association, including Carol Hunter, attend council meetings and would have heard me speak about a diverse range of topics through my delegates’ reports and in regard to council motions.

As an example, I spoke about the following as part of my delegates’ report tabled at the council meeting held on the 19th of November:

  • Enjoying Planned Retirement’s Art and Craft Exhibition
  • October’s Eastern Transport Coalition Meeting
  • Maroondah’s Forum for People with Disability and Carers
  • Meeting with Eastland Centre Management to discuss accessibility and sustainability issues
  • October’s Melbourne 2030 Councillor Reference Group meeting
  • EV’s FReeZA program
  • Campaign Enable

I will be writing a letter to the editor to challenge these remarks and the denigration of younger people within our community.

Enjoying Planned Retirement Spotlighters Performance 2007

This evening I attended the opening night of Spotlighters, a musical drama group from Enjoying Planning Retirement.

Spotlighters, is one of the over 45 activities organised by Enjoying Planned Retirement and provides an opportunity for members to be part of an amateur musical theatre production. All facets of the performance from the cast, crew, costume and stage design, lighting and sound effects are undertaken by volunteers.

EPR’s Spotlighters perform an annual performance to showcase the many talents of its members. It was great to see a performance of such high calibre and I look forwarding to seeing the Spotlighters perform again in 2008.

The talent and dedication of Spotlighers is reflective of the fun and energy that is part of Enjoying Planned Retirement, a group for retirees and senior citizens, based in Norwood Hall in Ringwood North.

Maroondah Journal: Disabled could swing election, activists warn

The Maroondah Journal has reported on the successful launch of Campaign Enable with its key theme of equal access for all.

More than 20 disability campaigners met outside Eastland shopping centre, Ringwood wearing “I have a disability and I vote” T-shirts as part of Campaign Enable.

Campaign Enable, which is being organised, managed and conducted by people with a disability, through the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations, aims to achieve three key goals in the context of the Federal election:

  • Financial help for people with a disability looking for work or trying to keep a job.
  • The development of a National Disability Employment Strategy.
  • The introduction of an Access to Premises Standard.

Maroondah councillor Alex Makin said the campaign sought to make it possible for everyone to take full part in society. This is not a campaign about special treatment – it is a campaign about ensuring that everyone has equal access and inclusiveness within society.

Accessibility issues needs to be addressed so that all people in the community can fully participate in society. While some of these issues can be addressed at a local and state level, there is also the need for Federal leadership to ensure equal access for all.

Maroondah Environment Workshop: Climate Change and the Community

Maroondah’s first environment workshop ‘All About Climate Change’ provided an introduction to the issues and challenges caused by climate change, as well as exploring potential solutions.

The workshop had a strong attendance and proved to be successful in discussing climate change. Tonight’s event served as the first part of this workshop and the second part, to be held next Tuesday evening, will examine potential solutions to climate change that can be undertaken at a local level.

I would like to thank members of the community who took the time to attend tonight’s workshop. A strong community response demonstrates that climate change is an issue within our community and one which requires a response from council.

It is anticipated that further climate change and environment events will be held throughout 2008 to ensure that Maroondah embraces urban sustainability.

As part of the proceedings, I had the pleasure of opening the workshop. Please continue reading this post to view a copy of the speech I delivered:

Continue reading “Maroondah Environment Workshop: Climate Change and the Community”

Delegates' Report: Community involvement through advocacy and participation

There are several items I wish to discuss this evening:

Firstly, I would like to congratulate Enjoying Planned Retirement for their second Art and Craft Exhibition, held on the 12th of October. The exhibition, which marked the conclusion of Maroondah’s Seniors Week, attracted approximately 500 visitors and provided an opportunity to demonstrate the fun and energetic nature of Enjoying Planned Retirement. Last year’s art and craft exhibition received a grant from council and it was great to see EPR continue the exhibition for a second year.

On the 18th of October I attended the monthly Eastern Transport Coalition meeting. I’m pleased to announce that the group appointed me as Acting Chair through to the end of this year. This will allow Maroondah to strengthen its leadership role in advocating for sustainable transport in the eastern suburbs.

On the 29th of October I attended Maroondah’s forum for people with disabilities and carers. This is a quarterly forum which provides an opportunity for attendees to raise accessibility issues directly with council. The forum continues to experience strong community involvement and I would like to thank these attendees for willingly giving their time to create a more successful and accessible municipality. Community attendance at these forums does make a difference and the outcomes produced by the Maroondah Pedestrian Strategy and the Public Footpath Trading Policy, which is listed in this council agenda tonight, are testament to this.

On the 1st of November I met with Eastland Centre Management to follow up on a number of items that were discussed at the Bar None Expo that I reported on last month. It is encouraging that Eastland has already pursued recharge points for motorised mobility aids. The Recharge Program was developed in collaboration between Maroondah’s Scoot Wheel N Move Group and traders to provide facilities for motorised scooters and wheelchairs to be recharged. This improves the level of accessibility for people with motorised mobility aids. It is great to see that Eastland, as a major retailer and shopping destination, is now part of this program.

On the 13th of November I attended as council’s delegate a meeting of the Melbourne 2030 Councillor Reference Group. As part of this meeting I delivered a presentation on the Eastern Transport Coalition and an analysis of ‘Creating a City that Works’ a report commissioned by the State Government’s Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability. The presentation focused on the key areas that the ETC is pursuing, including the need for public transport improvements to enhance the liveability of Melbourne’s eastern suburbs. While it is clear that the MAV, as the peak body for local government, sees the ETC and hence Maroondah as a leader in the advocacy for sustainable transport, this an area we need to continue expanding upon particularly if we want to ensure the very best outcomes for the Ringwood Transit City and the Croydon Activity Centre.

Also on the 13th of November I attended the graduation evening of the FReeZA program at EV’s. FReeZA is a program that provides a dozen young people with the responsibility of organising, promoting and managing musical gigs and is just one of a wide array of programs supported by Council’s Youth Services team. It was great to hear each of the graduates provide an overview of their experiences of the FReeZA and particularly with the forthrightness they delivered. While the program may have been stressful at times, each of the participants certainly did learn something from being part of FReeZA and I would like to thank Youth Services for their continued dedication and support for our youth.

On the 14th of November I attended a Heatherdale Community Action Group meeting. It is pleasing to see that the Heatherdale community appreciates the ongoing work of council in regard to issues along Heatherdale Road. These issues have involved a wide cross section of council, including environmental health officers, building inspectors, planners and corporate services and I can assure this council that these efforts are definitely appreciated by the Heatherdale community.

Lastly, I was invited to officially launch Campaign Enable on the 14th of November. This campaign, which is organised by local community members and the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations, marks a turning point in advocacy with the campaign being managed, organised and conducted by people with a disability.

The campaign currently has three central aims including:

  • Financial help for people with a disability looking for work or trying to keep a job.
  • The development of a National Disability Employment Strategy.
  • The introduction of a nation wide Access to Premises Standard.

It is important to note that these issues are required to allow people with disabilities to be able to enjoy the same of level of access experienced by members of our society. Campaign Enable, is not a campaign for special treatment – it is a campaign about ensuring that everyone has equal access and inclusiveness within society.

Campaign Enable allows all people to have a voice and I look forward to the ongoing efforts of the group.

Ringwood U3A: Kismet Revisited

The University of the Third Age (U3A) provides educational and general interest courses for retirees covering a diverse range of topics including the arts, history, literature and philosophy.

Today I attended a performance of Kismet Revisited, a production performed by Ringwood U3A, at the North Ringwood Senior Citizens Centre in Norwood Hall. The performance based on the 1953 musical Kismet provided an opportunity to showcase U3A and the range of services it provides to members.

Groups such as U3A provides an opportunity for retirees to learn and develop new skills in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. Combined with the other groups based at Norwood Hall, such as Enjoying Planned Retirement and the North Ringwood Senior Citizens, there is a comprehensive range of activities for Maroondah’s senior citizens and retirees.

Eastern Transport Coalition: November meeting

Tonight’s Eastern Transport Coalition covered a range of topics as the focus of the group begins to explore key issues that will be relevant for 2008.

The meeting included presentations from the Australian Greens and the Australian Democrats, both of whom are supportive of the need for federal involvement in urban public transport. While Family First, chose not to attend the meeting, I am aware that the Party has announced a policy supporting federal funding for public transport infrastructure.

This is significant, since each of the minor parties represented in Federal Parliament, support the notion of federal involvement in urban public transport. The discussions with the Greens and Democrats were fruitful, with both parties recognising the social, environmental and economic benefits of public transport improvements in the eastern suburbs and suggesting the use of the Senate as a method to raise awareness of the issue within Federal Parliament.

Regardless of the Federal election outcome, announcements such as the $80 million for the grade separation of Springvale Road Nunawading, provide a framework to advocate for partnerships between federal and local governments. This will allow public transport infrastructure to be included within such projects and allow both local and federal governments to hold the State government accountable for much needed public transport improvements.

The Eastern Transport Coalition has also continued its focus on the State Government with a presentation provided in regard to the Transport Legislation Review. The ETC will be authoring a submission that calls on the State Government to prioritise sustainable transport, as well as officially recognise the Government’s own target of increasing public transport modal share to 20% by the year 2020.

The current transport legislation review also draws into question the current lack of integration between VicRoads and the Public Transport Division of the Department of Infrastructure. While legislation may assist in improving outcomes, it will be hampered until physical integration between the Roads Authority (VicRoads) and the Public Transport Division is accomplished. VicRoads, as a statutory authority, enjoys a number of benefits that are not available to the public transport division which sits within the broader Department of Infrastructure.

This is clearly demonstrated in regard to the Maroondah Highway pedestrian crossing between Ringwood Station and Eastland. Despite the fact that the crossing is the most widely used within Maroondah, with over 5000 pedestrians daily, and links the Station with the retail and residential precincts of the Ringwood Transit City, VicRoads has currently been reluctant to improve the crossing.

Physical integration of government departments would follow examples in both Western Australia, with its integrated transport and planning department, and Queensland, which has a Coordinator-General’s department that as a statutory authority provides a whole of government referral authority.

The need for not just legislative integration but departmental integration is clear, with the Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability stating that “A more streamlined approach to land use and transport integration in Victoria would be possible if a single strategic authority were established.”

It is anticipated that both the Legislation Review and the VCEC Inquiry to Melbourne’s Liveability will be a significant focus for the Eastern Transport Coalition in 2008, as we continue to call on the State Government to improve public transport in the eastern suburbs.

2007 Maroondah Volunteer Recognition Function

The Maroondah Volunteer Recognition Function provides an opportunity to recognise the committed individuals who volunteer their time to neighbourhood houses, bushcare groups, sporting clubs and community groups.

The strength of our society can be measured by the number of volunteers that dedicate their time to the community. In Maroondah we are fortunate to have many volunteers within our community and today’s function provides a way of officially thanking these individuals.

Alex Makin at the 2007 Maroondah Volunteer Recognition Function

I would like to thank the ongoing dedication provided by our volunteers. I encourage everyone within Maroondah to consider volunteering their time to the many causes and groups that exist within our community.