Current Advocacy Projects

Advocacy is taking action to influence stakeholders with the government, political or economic power to implement public projects and policies that benefit our community. The following projects are currently being actively pursued and deemed as a priority after consultation with the community during the development of the Council Plan 2013-2017.

We are encouraging local people to have their say on a proposal by La Trobe University to develop a new vision for the future use of the Strathallan Golf Course site.

The University is inviting ideas and input into how future use or development of the site might respond to the needs of the community.

We are committed to protecting open space within Darebin and today the land, which has been leased by the Strathallan Golf Club from La Trobe University since 1996, serves as a valuable buffer for a nearby wildlife reserve, providing sanctuary for native animals.

To have your say, please visit: http://strathallansfuture.engagementhq.com/.

We want to help local sports clubs end their unhealthy relationship with gambling to boost overall community health and wellbeing in the municipality.

Local sports clubs do a great job promoting public health and wellbeing in our community but when they rely on gambling funds they are also causing harm. They are in fact relying on the poorest and most vulnerable to prop up their finances and council wants to put an end to this situation. 

The harms associated with gambling include poverty, stress, reduced work performance and family violence. People experience a lower quality of life compared to the Australian population and are twice as likely to suffer anxiety and depression.

We think this is fundamentally wrong and it is time that they hung up the boots and ended their unhealthy relationship with gambling.

Council invests a significant amount of ratepayers’ money to support local clubs and provide access to sporting facilities.

That means we can’t turn a blind eye and continue to allow our resources to support activities that undermine our work to promote great health in our community.

We are also concerned that the gambling industry is reaching into clubs with junior teams to recruit the next generation of gamblers.

Research commissioned by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation shows the prevalence of gambling is growing among 15 to 25 year olds1 .

Council will consider a future report exploring options to help clubs develop transition plans which will be informed by AFL team North Melbourne which has already divested from electronic gaming machines.

Council will write to local MPs (state and federal, upper and lower houses) and the Ministers for Gambling Regulation, Sports and Recreation, Local Government, Health and the Prevention of Family Violence. The letters will seek their public support for Council's approach and a matched commitment by the Victorian and Commonwealth Governments to ensure that taxpayer funds are not provided to groups, clubs, organisations or associations involved in EGMs or benefitting from EGM revenue.

Responses from the above organisations and ministers will be published here for your information.

To view the latest research on the harm cause by gambling, visit:

1 Gen Bet: Has Gambling Gate crashed our teens? March, 2017.

We are an active participant in two major advocacy forums to advocate for reforms and to reduce the harms associated with gambling.

Every year for the last 20 years residents in Darebin have lost $69M by gambling on Electronic Gaming Machines (EGM’s). Most of these losses occur in our most disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

Councils regulatory capacity to reduce these losses is weak as the current legislation and regulation provisions privilege EGM operators and maximise tax revenue for the State Government.

We recognise that advocacy provides the main avenue for EGM reform and to reduce the harms associated with gambling. We are an active participant in two major advocacy forums;

The Local Government Working Group on Gambling (LGWGOG) and the Victorian Local Governance Association (VLGA). This group is represented by Councils, community based agencies, advocacy groups and churches.

The LGWGOG advocacy actions include:

  • Introduction of maximum bets of $1 per spin
  • Review and reform the current ‘Capping’ system to further reduce the number of EGM’s in Victoria
  • To develop Australia wide consistent legislation and regulation
  • Greater intervention of venues to reduce harms to problem gamblers
The National Alliance for Gambling Reform is represented by Australian Councils and Community based agencies with a view to developing harm minimisation strategies tailored to Councils.The advocacy actions include:
  • High profile State wide media campaign called ‘Enough Pokies’ to influence Victorian State Government election
  • Research by Monash University that analysed those decisions made by the Victorian Commission on Gambling and Liquor (VGCLR)
  •  Regulation with regards to those EGM planning appeals lodged by Victorian Councils
  • Reform the definition and application of Community Benefits so that operators pay their fair share towards addressing gambling harms
  • Prevent saturation of EGM’s in areas of high disadvantage
  • Give Councils (as the Planning Authority) greater powers under the Act with regards to EGM’s
  • Contribution to ‘Ka Ching’, a documentary that raises awareness about the poker machine industry

For further information on Community Support and Wellbeing, read the Darebin Electronic Gaming Machine Policy and Strategic Action Plan 2014-2017 or contact the Darebin Community Planner, Monday to Thursday, on 8470 8635 or email Nick.Matteo@darebin.vic.gov.au.

The Municipal Association of Victoria has further information on the Pokies Play You website.

Housing affordability is a real challenge for Council and the community-housing sector. We are seeking to increase the level of affordable ‘bricks and mortar’ accommodation across the city.

Low-income families and individuals continue to be ‘priced out’ of Darebin due to urgent lack of affordable housing. Rental and housing subsidies by the State and Federal Government have not kept up with escalating housing costs. Public housing is being sold as waiting lists for public housing get longer.

Council often sees firsthand, the increasing urgency of individuals, family and communities in ‘housing stress’ - who are being forced to ‘trade off’ between housing costs and costs for food, education and health.

In response, Council is seeking to increase the level of affordable ‘bricks and mortar’ accommodation across the city.  Our advocacy actions includes:

  • Engaging in an active partnership with the State Government to protect and increase public housing, include affordable housing in all private and public property development opportunities and develop social and affordable housing on Council owned land.
  • Increasing the level of safe and affordable rooming houses by being an active member of the Melbourne Metropolitan Rooming House Working Group.
  • Exploring innovative financial models such as Superannuation funds for building affordable housing by using the collective influence of Local Government Mayors.
  • Advocating for public policy and structural change  such as making a formal submission to Australian Senate’s Inquiry into Affordable Housing.
  • Contributing to improving local government practice around Homelessness research and policy through quarterly magazine ‘Parity’.
  • Being an active member on the Housing and Local Government Network to develop collective advocacy campaigns.
  • Continuing to convene Darebin Housing Advisory Committee to provide Council with an accurate barometer of current housing issues and emerging trends.

For further information visit the Community Support and Wellbeing page and read the Social and Affordable Housing Action Plan, or contact the Darebin Community Planner, Monday to Thursday on 8470 8635 or email Nick.Matteo@darebin.vic.gov.au.

An Open Letter about Public Housing in Darebin

Council views public housing as a serious community issue and believes politics should never get in the way of genuine solutions to the current supply crisis.

Research from around the world shows quality housing delivers significant social and economic benefits and we believe disadvantaged public housing tenants deserve the best accommodation possible.

That’s why, with more than 7000 local families and individuals on an ever growing waiting list for public housing, improving quality and supply is a big priority for Council.

You may be aware that Council, together with local residents, had a number of concerns about plans for a poorly designed public housing development at the Stokes/Penola site in Preston that would result in substandard living conditions.

The planning application from the Department of Health and Human Services was rejected by Council on this basis and I subsequently met with the Minister for Housing to discuss these concerns. At the meeting I reaffirmed our commitment to public housing and it was agreed that we would work with the Department to develop a master plan for the entire site in consultation with the community.

We are pleased that through the subsequent VCAT process, the Department agreed to amend their plans and redesign the buildings to a better quality standard, having taken on board feedback from both residents and Council.

The fact is the Stokes/Penola site has plenty of land available to build many more units than what’s currently proposed by the Department. We agree with the Ministers’ position that the site is ideally situated for public housing and call on him to use much more of the site for public housing, rather than selling off the rest of the land to private developers. We encourage the local Federal Member, David Feeney, to back our call.

With the Department confirming it has identified another public housing site for redevelopment in Walker Street Northcote, it is absolutely crucial we continue to set the bar high to secure the best outcome for existing residents and future public housing tenants.

We will keep you updated as new information comes to hand.

We recognise that level crossings are problematic for our community. They cause traffic congestion, vehicle accidents, personal injury and limit how frequently rail services can run.

One Integrated Project: Four Level Crossing Removals

In January 2016, the Victorian Government announced it would remove 50 level crossings from Victoria's metropolitan rail system, including three crossings in Darebin at Grange Road, Alphington; High Street, Reservoir; and Bell Street, Preston.

Evidence-based Study: Planning ahead for a growing population

The boom gates at Bell Street are currently closed about 50 per cent of the time during the morning and evening peak.

With Public Transport Victoria predicting train services will double during the next 20 years, this level crossing must be removed or you can see a point in the future when the boom gates will never open.

The population is predicted to continue to grow and local congestion is expected to increase 80 per cent during the next 20 years. Keeping people moving will require significant investment in pedestrian, bus and cycling infrastructure.

We believe the Victorian Government's project presents a once in a lifetime opportunity to address these problems by also removing three level crossings located adjacent to Bell Street at Murray Road, Cramer Street and Oakover Road. This approach would make a serious dent in local traffic congestion and enable greater urban renewal and better community outcomes.

Doing our homework:

Council's role on these projects is as a stakeholder, not a decision maker. That's why we asked experts to undertake an evidence-based study to identify potential community benefits and how they could be maximised.

The study examined the community and economic benefits and consequences of each engineering solution to remove the Bell Street crossing, and what additional benefits would be achieved by expanding the Bell Street project to remove three level additional crossings in Preston.

Key Findings: Realistic options for removing four crossings, not just one

The key findings of the study present a compelling argument for removing four crossings at once using an elevated rail solution. We will use this information as part of Council's own submission to the Victorian Government and we hope you find it useful to inform your own views.

The study initially looked at local topography which constrains how grade separations can be achieved from an engineering perspective.

It found the cost of tunnelling (sometimes referred to as 'cut and cover') is not financially viable. This means the Government will only consider either an elevated or open trench solution.

The evidence presented in the study clearly shows that an elevated rail bridge by far produces the best outcomes for the local community. It is the only feasible way to remove four crossings as one integrated project. And it's the only way to future-proof Preston's rail corridor.

Figure 1 - Section view showing Bell Street Preston level crossing removed through elevated rail.

Connecting Preston - Figure 1 - Section view showing Bell Street Preston level crossing removed through elevated rail

 

The Evidence: What convinced Council that elevated rail is the best solution?

A rail under solution does not mean a tunnel. It means a wide trench protected by a wire fence. It will divide our city in half, making it harder to get from one side of the city to the other.

It also means the level crossings at Murray and Cramer Road can never feasibly be removed, which in time will effectively turn them into dead ends.

An elevated rail solution, however, enables the removal of four level crossings, not just one. This could create a new linear green heart for Preston estimated to be the equivalent to two MCG's in size. Council has put its hand up to manage this space, which could be transformed into parks with pedestrian and cycling paths.

Figure 2 - Section diagram of rail under solution showing large area of open trenching and fencing that would be required

Connecting Preston - Figure 2 - Section diagram of rail under solution showing large area of open trenching and fencing that would be required

Open Up New Space: An area about two MCGs in size could be reclaimed for open space

Elevated rail compared to a trench has many benefits. It:

  • Frees up two MCG's worth of new open space.
  • Makes space for improved public transport connections between bus and rail services.
  • Enables people to travel in all directions more safely and quickly.
  • Improves safety.
  • Reduces noise, making it quieter for people nearby
  • Minimises construction disruption
  • Is more cost effective
  • Will result in two brand new rail stations
  • Removes Preston's east/west divide.
Figure 3 - Imagine the possibilities

Connecting Preston - Figure 3 - Imagine the possibilities

A trench does not enable these benefits and would leave Preston with:

  • A kilometre long, eight metre deep trench dividing the community forever
  • Limited footbridges restricting east west travel
  • A 2.2 metre high safety fence
  • Level crossings at Murray Road and Cramer Street unable to be feasibly removed in future.
Figure 4 - By comparison, an open trench achieves none of this

Connecting Preston - Figure 4 - By comparison, an open trench achieves none of this

Have Your Say: We're Having Our Say And Encourage You To Have Yours

We have asked the Victorian Government to expand their project to remove the Bell Street level crossing to include the removal of three additional level crossings at Oakover Road, Cramer Street and Murray Road.

Our Council Report and feasibility study is available on our website at 3 April Meeting Agenda and Feasibility study or by calling customer service on 8470 8888.

Level Crossing Removal Authority
Make sure you get involved in the Victorian Government's consultation activities to make your preference clear to them. Register your details atyour.levelcrossings.vic.gov.au/bell-street-preston or call 1800 762 667. For languages other than English, please call 131 450.

The Victorian Government's Level Crossing Removal Authority (LXRA) has already asked local people what they felt was most important about the Bell Street level crossing project in Preston. That initial round of consultation ended on 18 November, 2016. The LXRA is now reviewing the feedback. If you would like to see what the community told the LXRA, visit your.levelcrossings.vic.gov.au/bell-street-preston/maps/bellstplacesmap.

The next opportunity to have your say is coming up

The LXRA will present concept designs for the feasible level crossing removal options to the community and invite feedback on those options through:

  • community drop-in sessions
  • pop-ups at local train stations
  • online information
  • visits to local businesses.

A printable version of this document is available here, Connecting Preston.

We have been contacted by members of the community confused about the future of the St Georges Road vehicle cross over points, which have been temporarily closed to enable Melbourne Water to complete its project to replace the M40 water pipeline. Here are the current facts.

St Georges Road is managed by VicRoads and they make all decisions about it, not Darebin Council.

Back in 2013, Council commissioned a safety audit of the St Georges Road shared path. VicRoads took part in this safety audit and was provided with the final report which identified that the median openings were the highest safety risk along the corridor.

With the accident rate occurring at these openings continuing to climb, Council commissioned another report to identify appropriate options for the median openings in 2015.

This report was provided to VicRoads. It identified that improvements works would dramatically improve safety. The economic benefit is also very strong with the cost benefit calculated to be a return of $27 for every dollar invested. Subsequently, in July last year, the former Council informed VicRoads that they advocated for: "the fast tracking of the permanent closures of non-signalised crossings as part of the M40 project".

A new Council was elected in November 2016 and in February 2017 they adopted a different position to the one taken by the former Council in July 2016. The new Council asked VicRoads to: "undertake a comprehensive and inclusive community engagement process for the redesign of St Georges Road to ensure safety and accessibility for cyclists, pedestrians, public transport users, motorists, local residents and traders".

Council expects VicRoads to create a traffic management solution for St Georges Road that is safe and convenient for people regardless of whether they are travelling by foot, on bike, public transport or by car.

It is understood that VicRoads currently plans to re-open the crossings when the Melbourne Water works currently underway finish. At the same time they will continue to work with the community and Council to determine the best long-term solution for the crossings.

Council has asked VicRoads to complete their works in tandem with the Melbourne Water project to minimise disruption to the local community and travelling public.

Council will soon meet with the Regional Manager of VicRoads, who is responsible for this project, to ensure that these expectations are clearly understood.

Please refer to the Darebin Mayor's letter to VicRoads re St Georges Road Shared Path Upgrade letter for more information. We will keep you up to date on this matter here.

Updated 26 May 2017.

Preston Market is one of the most-loved, iconic features of our city and we share our community's deep interest in its long-term future.

On 27 February 2017, Council unanimously voted to refuse two town planning permit applications from Preston Market Developments. The applications were to build three residential apartment towers containing 300 dwellings and 2900 square metres of additional retail floor space on the Preston Market site.

Our job was to assess the planning applications against the requirements of the Darebin Planning Scheme. The Scheme includes a specific development strategy for the Market site, which is called the Preston Market Incorporated Plan. We decided there were aspects of the two applications which didn’t sufficiently comply with the Planning Scheme and the Preston Market Incorporated Plan. We’ve taken a strong stance on this application because we want to secure the Market’s future.

Our decision to refuse these applications can of course be appealed to the Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) and the owners of the Market may decide to lodge an appeal against our decision.

Knowing this, at the same Council Meeting we also decided to ask the Hon Richard Wynne MP, Minister for Planning, to exercise his powers to ‘call in’ these planning permit applications and any other applications we might receive for the market site in the near future.

To support this request we are currently compiling a detailed submission to the Minister that demonstrates the social, cultural and economic significance of the Market site to broader northern metropolitan Melbourne. If the Minister agrees to our request the Victorian Government will become the Responsible Authority for town planning decisions for this development.

We have decided on this course of action because, as far as Council’s planning powers are concerned, we are not convinced that existing controls provide a level of protection that secures the long-term future of the fresh food market.

Council maintains our long-held position that the site is ripe for appropriate redevelopment into a thriving residential and retail precinct. While we share the owner’s view that much more should be done on this site to create a vibrant community hub, we need stronger planning controls that secure a prosperous economic future for the Market.

We will keep you updated as new information about the Market development comes to hand.

Council is currently working with a number of stakeholders including State and Federal governments to make this facility a reality.

On 21 September 2015 Council endorsed the construction of a regional Multi-Sport Stadium (MSS).

This key piece of sporting infrastructure will provide much needed facilities for a range of court-sports including netball, basketball, volleyball and badminton. One of the key outcomes expected from this project is to increase participation in sport and physical activity, in particular women who experience a lack of access to quality sports facilities in Darebin.

For further information visit the Multi Sports Stadium information page.