Ceremonial Meeting of Council, Coburg Town Hall
30 October 2017
Peter Khalil, Federal Member for Wills
Dr. Samantha Ratnam – MLC for Northern Metropolitan Region and State Leader of the Greens
Former Mayors Anthony Helou, Mark Higginbotham and Meaghan Hopper
Former Councillors Jo Connellan, Alice Pryor residents and ratepayers of Moreland, family and friends;
I begin by acknowledging that the municipality of Moreland, including the land on which we are meeting tonight, is part of the traditional tribal lands of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation who cared for this land for tens of thousands of years and continue to do so. I offer my respects to their Elders past, present and future and to all other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here tonight or watching on live stream and particularly those who live in Moreland.
Being elected as Mayor is a great privilege and I am honored to have the support of my fellow Councillors. I’m aware that other Councillors have decided to forgo their ambitions to enable this to happen. I know that Cr’s Abboud and Carli-Hannan were interested in standing and I thank them for an uncontested vote.
As well as a great honour the mayoralty is also a great responsibility, and I thank my fellow Councillors for entrusting me with this role. I commit myself to serving the people of Moreland to the best of my ability with energy, pride, commitment, and above all, with integrity.
I am determined to lead Council in achieving the aspirations of our community, while acknowledging that I need to represent the collective viewpoint of our elected Councillors.
In leading this Council, I look forward to pooling our strengths and working together to serve the best interests of our community. It is my firm belief that we are at our best when we harness the collective talents of all elected Councillors and I intend to this with those who I am privileged to share this Council table with and I also commit to utilising the talents of the new Councillor who will be elected via a count back on November 22nd.
In a few minutes time the Deputy Mayor will be elected and I will work particularly closely with the person elected to this office.
I acknowledge the efforts of our current Councillors who have just completed their first year of this Council term. We have an excellent mix of newly elected Councillors and those with more experience and we have gelled into a formidable, talented and committed group. This is a credit to each individual Councillor but also is due to our outgoing Mayor Cr. Helen Davidson.
Cr Davidson has led this city in an exemplary manner over the last 12 months, she really is a person with extraordinary qualities: charming, intelligent, hardworking and courageous.
Over the course of the last 12 months she has met countless numbers of people from every facet of the Moreland community, I’m sure each and every one of them have loved their interaction with her. Moreland owes her their heartfelt thanks for a truly outstanding mayoral year and offer my sincere congratulations and thanks. Well done Helen!
I would also like to acknowledge former Councillor Samantha Ratnam, who has now taken a seat in the Victorian Legislative Council, she has worked tirelessly for Moreland over the last five years. Former Councillor Samantha Ratnam will be a powerful voice in parliament and all of the Councillors sincerely thank her and congratulate her on entering parliament and on her election as the Victorian Greens Leader.
She has an abundance of talent as evidenced by her elevation to the Victorian Parliament but one talent that I think has previously gone unrecognized is her timing, she was elected to Moreland City Council on the day that I ceased my first mayoral term and then she resigned a matter of days ago – just in to miss this, my second mayoral term! Great timing Sam! (Joke!)
I was first elected to Moreland Council in 2004 and am about to enter my fourteenth year on council. Although I have been on Council for over half of its existence I remain passionate about the opportunity that the position of Councillor affords you to do – in essence to do good. In 2011 I became the first Mayor of Moreland who was not a member of the Australian Labor Party, although I come from a very strong Labor family tradition.
My great grandfather, the son of a convict, was instrumental in the forming of the Australian Labor Party in Tasmania and Victoria in the 1880’s and 1890’s and went on become the first Federal President of the Municipal Workers Union which now is the Australian Services Union.
His son - my grandfather - was the ALP State Member for Carlton from 1932 until 1955 and was Cabinet Secretary for many years and was a State Cabinet Minister holding the portfolios of Health, Housing and Forestry.
He was simultaneously a Melbourne City Councillor from 1938 to 1955 and Leader of Council’s Labor Caucus for a long time during that period.
Obviously this is no longer allowed or Samantha Ratnam would be sitting up here on the table with us.
Granddad’s wife - my grandmother - was for many years the Honorary Secretary of Victoria’s Labor Woman’s Organising Committee. As a couple their contribution to Victoria was extraordinary and I am enormously proud.
Their daughter, my beautiful late mother, instilled in our family a commitment to community service. She believed that the political process gave ordinary people the ability to improve the lot of others. She found it difficult to understand those who were disengaged with the political process and so it’s no coincidence that my brother, Peter, became a member of the Victorian Legislative Council and another brother, Paul, was Victoria’s Lead Candidate for the Australian Democrats in the 2006 State election. Added to this, another grandchild, our cousin, Moira Kelly, has received numerous honours for her humanitarian work, most notably as the adoptive mother of previous co-joined twins, Krishna and Trishna.
We share one thing - a commitment and a passion to contribute to our community - and I hope this will be the hallmark of my term of Mayor. If it is - I will be fulfilled.
I also wish to thank my wife, Marguerita, and our four adult children; Monica, Christopher, David and Michael, for their constant love and support. Marguerita’s story is one that is common to many in Moreland. Her parents, Emil and Margarete Zagon, were post World War II refugees from Germany and Hungary. In 1954 my late mother-in-law established the first crèche in Moreland on the corner of Moore St. and De Carle St’s in Coburg.
I have been a primary school teacher for the last 35 years, the last 20 in North Fawkner and I personally highly value the 31 years of part-time work I spent working in many different service stations around Melbourne, many in Moreland.
As we enter the second year of this Council term Council is well underway in delivering the new four-year Council Plan, which has three broad aims;
Firstly, we want the people of Moreland to be part of a Connected Community –to continue to be socially cohesive and inclusive and we want to make sure that no section of the community is left behind as we grow.
Secondly, we want our citizens to live in a Progressive City – one that is affordable and sustainable as it transitions to house our growing population.
Thirdly, we want our residents to be confident in us as a responsible Council, one that delivers both outstanding customer service to you, while remaining financially sustainable and efficient.
Within these larger goals there are number of key things we want to achieve.
We want to do better when it comes to consulting you on major changes in the city before we make final decisions.
We are working on how we can continue to support our aged and disabled citizens as the Federal Government funding model of certain services changes.
We want to increase the amount of open space we have in Moreland, especially in areas that are experiencing high levels of development and that need it most.
We want to influence development further so that the broader impact of greater urban densification is taken into account, not just for immediate neighbours but also for neighbourhoods.
As our city transforms we want to find creative and sensible solutions to issues like parking, public transport and shared road and path use, and reduce overall reliance on the car.
Of course Moreland doesn’t exist in isolation and we are affected by the same issues that are impacting major cities around the globe.
Population growth in our municipality is speeding up and land value is naturally increasing. The Melbourne CBD and the inner ring of Council’s in metropolitan Melbourne is home to not only the majority of employment opportunities in the state but at the same time Melbourne’s transport and road systems are becoming much more congested.
These two factors mean that even more people will want to make their home in Moreland. The latest demographic data suggests that our population will increase by 66,000 people by 2036, which is more than a third of our current population.
Our role in guiding and shaping development has never been more important than it is right now. We know that many of our citizens simply don’t want development. We also know that Melbourne cannot endlessly expand and that State Governments of all political complexions will demand greater urban density, particularly adjacent to the CBD in areas like Moreland.
We are saying loudly to the State Government that we don’t want inappropriate development. What we do want is mandatory height limits that our community can live with.
We also want the highest design standards for apartments – including minimum sizes for apartments - so that the developments of today will last well into the future.
We are also urging the State to do more to ensure that there is affordable housing available for our citizens and we as a Council are also exploring what we can do to support our citizens in this space.
We are also delighted that after more than a decade of campaigning to get level crossings removals that removals in Glenroy on the Craigieburn train line as well as Moreland Road and Bell Street on the Upfield train line are to be removed as part of the fifty level crossing removals being carried out by the Andrews’ Government. We are working with the state government to ensure that the method they use – sky rail or trench – meets community expectations.
The previous twelve months has seen some great achievements.
The biggest infrastructure project in Moreland’s history – the redevelopment of the Oak Park Pool – is now well underway and on track to open in time for the 2018-19 summer season.
We have made great headway in our long-term strategy to reduce the municipality’s carbon footprint.
Council has reduced its corporate greenhouse gas emissions in the last financial year by 375 tonnes.
Two thousand households and 300 business have undertaken energy efficiency upgrades, many involving the installation of solar. One Coburg resident has become the first Victorian to install the latest Tesla battery system, to allow energy produced during the day by solar cells to be stored and used later, surely the shape of things to come.
Things have also improved for our youngest residents, with the upgrade of five playgrounds in Moreland.
Likewise, some of our major shopping areas have had a facelift – most notably footpath improvements in Sydney Road, Coburg and Pascoe Vale Rd., Glenroy.
Early this month, in partnership with Whittlesea and Darebin Councils, we opened a new Animal Welfare Facility at Epping to house lost pets, which is operated by the RSPCA.
Besides implementing projects, every day Council delivers services to its 170,000 + residents. We registered 14,101 dogs and cats, hosted 17,007 children at story time, had 147,594 attendances at learn to swim, processed 1,648 planning permits, cleaned 21,879 kms of streets, maintained 820 hectares of open space, collected over 7 and ½ million bins, conducted 4,516 baby immunisations and 5,116 school children and loaned 1.2 million books; to name but a few of our services.
Council staged festivals and street parties that were attended by more 90,000 people, including the Brunswick Music Festival, which featured the best of both local and international artists but the list goes on.
So what’s to come in the next twelve months?
Last year we adopted the Moreland Food Systems Strategy, and in this coming year we will start to make it real – connecting people with how food is produced and encouraging them to get their hands dirty – and enlivening and extending our already great community gardens and working to reduce food waste from our many food retailers.
We’ll upgrade another six playgrounds and continue the $1.3 million expansion of the Oxygen Youth Space.
We’ll keep up our work on seeking partnership funding from the State Government to build a new community hub in Glenroy, which will in time house a new library, maternal and child centre and a range of other community services as well as adding to open space in the heart of Glenroy.
A new Children’s Centre will soon open at the former Pentridge site in Coburg, creating more kindergarten and childcare places for our growing population.
We will complete a new community centre in Pascoe Vale, co-locating a range of early years’ services with the Sussex Neighbourhood House.
After many years of community activism the Merlynston Progress Hall will experience a rebirth with over $1million committed to its rebirth. This stemmed entirely from the tireless efforts of local residents and they are to be applauded for their campaign.
$11.9 million for roads and $2.1 million for footpath and bicycle path improvements. $4.7 million for parks, open space and streetscape improvements. For the first time there will be two hard waste collections throughout the year and thanks to the great work of Cr. Davidson a dog agility park. These are but a few of plans for the year ahead. In all a total capital works expenditure of $51.4 million and not one cent of new borrowings. And all of this in a rate capped environment!
The coming year will also present Council with some big decisions that will have long term implications.
So often I hear people stating that our elected officials lack vision for the future. I do not believe this criticism can be laid at the feet of this Council. This year will address amongst other matters:
The future of our aquatic and leisure facilitates, and how they can meet the needs of our changing community, will need to be finalised. We have sought community input early in the process and we will seek it again once we have completed a draft set of proposals.
We will need to determine the best way for Moreland to continue supporting our community after the Federal Government changes to Aged Care funding and the National Disability Insurance Scheme come into effect.
We will conclude our review of our Local Laws, to ensure that there is an appropriate balance been individual freedoms and community protection.
As previously mentioned, we are going to be creating more open space in Moreland, but to do so we need to adopt a method to decide where we should buy land so that it fair to all residents.
I encourage all of you to tune in to our Council meetings every month to watch live as we discuss current issues and make key decisions on your behalf as your representatives.
I am grateful to the Councillors who have gone before us and the legacy that they have left us. I think of the late Mike Hill the first Mayor of Moreland and those who have occupied the privileged position of Councillor over the intervening 22 years. We know that they have left us an active, progressive, engaged municipality but since the Council election 12 months ago that baton has passed onto us. I know from working closely with you all over the last 12 months that this group of people are worthy of this inheritance.
I’m reminded of the words of the arguably the greatest anthropologist of all time, Margaret Mead, when she said
‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world;
Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.’ Well Councillors we might not be able to change the entire world but we can improve, and change for the better, the world that sits within the municipality of Moreland and I look forward to playing my part, with your support, in doing so. Thankyou