Tag Archives: yarra city council

Are cyclists the real heroes?

Some of YCAN’s best friends are cyclists. Cycling is a fantastic way to get some exercise, zip around Yarra and do your bit to have a smaller carbon footprint. But shockingly the City of Yarra has been identified as one of five high risk municipalities for the Victorian Police’s Operation Halo which has been running over the last few weeks. It is also disappointing that the Council is being very slow to properly implement its bicycle strategy.

Operation Halo has seen about 100 police a day working across the Melbourne, Port Phillip, Yarra, Boroondara and Stonnington Police Service Areas (PSAs) during peak commuter times at high-collision locations. YCAN believes that cyclists deserve the opportunity to cycle around Yarra without running the gauntlet. Cycling deserves to be a normal part of our lives in Yarra. It takes up a tiny proportion of the space that cars do, making the roads less congested for those who have to use motor vehicles. We all want to know that the ambulance is not going to get stuck in gridlock when we call it, cyclists leave the road clearer.

Police have detected 3943 offences which could have contributed to pedestrian, cyclist and motorcycle road trauma in the first three weeks of Operation Halo.

368 pedestrian offences: that’s 9.33%
427 bicycle offences: that’s 10.82%
309 motorcycle offences: that’s 7.83%
2839 car/truck offences: that’s 72%

State Bicycle Coordinator Sergeant Arty Lavos said “This operation is about targeting road trauma involving our vulnerable road users such as cyclists, motorcycle riders and pedestrians,”

“Our road toll is currently 47 – that’s 15 higher than this time last year. Of those deaths, four have been cyclists, five pedestrians and six motorcycle riders.” Sgt Lavos said.

It isn’t surprising that motor vehicles make up the majority of the offences.

What is surprising is that means 8.5% of those deaths were cyclists. It seems a disproportionate number of cyclist have died in that period. We are not saying that it is the fault of motorists. What we are saying is that both motorists and cyclists deserve the opportunity to travel safely and that having separate bike lanes in the Copenhagen style will make travelling safer for everyone. This is a failure to provide the infrastructure that the huge increase in cyclists calls for.

The City of Yarra has a Bicycle strategy that should have meant that our community got five Copenhagen lanes per year. As yet the City of Yarra has failed to provide even one. How many people will be injured or die before Yarra Council starts to meet this modest target? Would the Police have needed to deploy one hundred officers if our community was safer for cyclists? If you are a cyclist or have someone you love who enjoys cycling then this affects you. Let’s make cycling safer. And let’s solve gridlock before it strangles our city.

It is time for Council to stop thinking that some white lines and green paint will protect the people of this city. Everyone is a winner when more people regularly cycle, unless it ends in tears.

YCAN calls on the City of Yarra to fully implement its bike strategy and show genuine leadership by becoming the highest per capita funder of cycling infrastructure in Australia.

Yarra Council split on climate stance

On Tuesday night Yarra Council voted four votes to five to reject a motion calling on the Federal Government to implement a large range of measures for achieving a safe climate future. This motion was put to council by Mayor Alison Clarke at the request of Yarra Climate Action Now and was found by a staff member to be consistent with Yarra City Council’s own climate policies.

The proposed motion expressed support for a carbon price as well as the following measures:

  • Offset the financial implications of the carbon price for households, through measures such as rebates for energy efficiency and financial assistance for low-income households, to ensure that they are not further disadvantaged by the effects of taking action on climate change.
  • Adopt a long-term zero-emissions target for the whole Australian economy, and draw up and immediately implement a plan for how to meet this target.
  • Any new power plants constructed should substantially reduce net emissions and assist in the rapid transition of our major baseload power supply from coal to renewables.
  • Invest in a just and rapid transition to less polluting industries for workers and local communities in places such as Victoria’s La Trobe Valley, based on advice that is independent and evidence-based.
  • Invest the carbon tax revenue not required for household and worker/industry compensation in renewable energy generation, including baseload solar thermal.
  • Introduce a gross national feed-in tariff, to pay a guaranteed fair price for all electricity produced by all forms of renewable energy, including baseload solar thermal.
  • Initiate a mass roll-out of energy-efficiency measures, particularly for residential and commercial buildings, in partnership with interested local governments, many of which already have considerable experience and expertise in this area.
  • Shift investment away from roads and into rail freight, walking, cycling and public transport, including urban and regional/rural public transport and high-speed rail between capital cities.
  • End the logging of carbon-dense old growth forests and broad-scale native vegetation clearing, and invest in revegetation projects.
  • Minimise administrative complexity in the carbon price mechanism, and build flexibility into it, so that the price can be adjusted in line with not only inflation but also technological change and updated scientific information about the extent and severity of climate change.

While the Greens and Cr Fristacky voted for the motion, the Labor and Socialist councillors and Cr Smedley voted against it.

YCAN would like to express our extreme disappointment with the councillors that voted against this motion as it represents a clear and comprehensive list of essential policy measures. We aren’t surprised the Labor Party councillors Funder and Barbour voted against it. While the Federal Government is working on implementing a carbon price, it is also funding the new HRL coal-fired power station, and working to expand coal and gas extraction and export. This hypocrisy and continued taxpayer support for the fossil fuel industry means that Labor Party representatives may be constrained in calling for climate action that will make a real difference. When will Labor finally stand up to the big polluters and do the right thing?

We are surprised that Councillors Jolly and Main from the Socialist Party voted against this motion. This is despite Cr Jolly campaigning for a zero emissions economy and the replacement of Hazelwood with renewable energy at the 2010 State Election. YCAN members present at the council meeting reported that the main argument used by the Socialists against the motion was that they didn’t support market-based mechanisms (carbon pricing) and it didn’t call for the re-nationalisation of the electricity sector.

This stance means throwing the baby out with the bathwater. YCAN is also ambivalent about market-based mechanisms, with evidence from Europe showing that they have achieved little in the goal of reducing emissions (although our survey found that 83% of those asked in Nth Fitzroy and Clifton Hill support a price on carbon). However, that is why this motion had a whole range of other demands and policy measures, consistent with YCAN’s own carbon price stance. The climate crisis is bearing down upon us and may require some political compromise for action to occur.

We invite the Yarra Councillors to comment below and explain their stance to YCAN members.

Democracy at Work

Last night some of YCAN’s Local Action Group went to the Yarra Council meeting at Richmond Town Hall. We were there for two reasons. Firstly, in Public Question Time, we wanted to ask if the Community Gardens Committee (which has Yarra resident members) would be continued next year. We’d heard a rumour that funding for community gardens was one of the things that the councillors who are pushing to build a $35 million indoor sports centre were keen to axe. YCAN is a strong supporter of community gardens where vegetables and fruit trees can be grown. Our second question was if Council could assist residents in approaching owners of vacant private land with a view to using it for community gardens.

The response was a masterful example of saying a lot, telling us nothing we didn’t already know, and not actually answering the questions. We’re use to it. Undaunted, we will keep a close eye on the situation with regard to community gardens in Yarra.

The second reason we were there was to support Council on their submission on the Dept. of Transport’s proposed peak hour bus lanes along Hoddle St and Victoria Pde. Council is critical of the plan which lops off some of the central median, removes parking, but doesn’t actually reduce the number of lanes available to cars.

We also wanted point out that no provision for bikes had been made in the plan. Councillors agreed that this omission should be rectified. An amendment was proposed and passed unanimously.

So job done, no opposition, all over and done with in a matter of minutes…not exactly. We arrived at 7pm as Public Question Time is early on the agenda. We had done our bit by 7.30. The Hoddle St/Victoria Parade Bus Lane was later on the agenda, much later. It was almost 11pm by the time it came up.

In between there were a couple of contentious planning issues, where passionate residents were able to voice their opinions. Councillors listened to their concerns, asked questions, debated the issues. Amendments were proposed, voted down, new ones proposed, etc. It was a long process, but a fascinating one.

We left at 11pm, but the councillors still had half of the agenda to go.

If you’ve never been to a local Council Meeting, you should go. It’s much more entertaining than CSI Alaska or My Cooking’s more Pretentious than Yours. It’s democracy at work, and you can take part in it.

We just wish the chairs were more comfortable.

Replace ALL of Hazelwood – Yarra Council takes a stand

This week Yarra City Council took a stand for sensible action on the climate crisis, passing (six votes to two) a motion calling for Hazelwood power station to be replaced with renewable energy within the next term of the Victorian parliament. The motion also called for the scrapping of the proposed HRL Dual-gas coal-fired power station, which the State Government is currently supporting. See below for the full text of the motion and background information.

Yarra Climate Action Now worked with Socialist Party councillor Steve Jolly on developing the motion, which was subsequently strengthened by Greens councillor Sam Gaylard. It was supported by the Greens, Socialist Party and independent councillors Fristacky and Smedley.  Two Labor Party councillors voted against the motion without giving any good reason for doing so, while Yarra Mayor, Jane Garrett, also a Labor Party member, was mysteriously absent from the vote.

YCAN is pleased that Yarra City Council has stood up for its residents and urged the other levels of government to urgently reduce Victoria’s greenhouse gas emissions. We congratulate the councillors that passed this motion. We would also like to express our anger and frustration with the Labor councillors who voted and argued against it. At a time when the Brumby Government is desperately trying to create some green credentials, this vote has shown that Labor is still deep in the pocket of the coal industry.

In other news, at the same council meeting, the YCAN Local Action Group had yet another win, presenting a submission to Council on the Carbon Neutral Action Plan, which received commendation from the councillors and some points of which were acted upon immediately.

Full text of motion:
12.1 Replacement of Hazelwood Power Station

Moved:  Councillor Jolly                           Seconded:  Councillor Clarke

1.         That Council:

(a)     whilst acknowledging the State Government’s Climate Change Bill 2010, sets a target to reduce emissions by 20% below 2000 levels by 2020, and key initiatives to reach that goal, it is recognised that these targets and actions are not sufficient for Victoria to play its part in avoiding runaway climate change, and are lower than Yarra City Council’s own targets;

(b)     supports the replacing of all of Hazelwood brown coal power with renewable energy within the next term of the Victorian Parliament, and In this regard, Council suggests that the State and Federal Governments adopt plans similar to those put forward by Beyond Zero Emissions or Greenpeace that provide detailed, practical and timely implementation strategies for the transition to renewable energy;

(c)     urges the State and Federal Governments to expedite policies and funding to achieve this end;

(d)     also calls upon the State Government to reject a proposal by Dual Gas to build a new coal power station in the Latrobe Valley which proposes new gasification technology which does not even meet the average emissions intensity of power plants in the OECD; and

(e)     write to the Prime Minister, Victorian Premier, Victorian and Federal Energy Ministers, and the Victorian and Federal Opposition Leaders and local members to advise its position.



Hazelwood Power Station is responsible for almost 15% of Victoria’s greenhouse gas emissions and 3% of Australia’s. It consumes 27 billion litres of drinking water per year – enough to supply Melbourne’s water needs for a month. It takes just four days for Hazelwood to cancel out the entire year’s worth of emissions saved by Victorians though the 5-star energy efficient homes program. That’s 650,000 black balloons every minute. Hazelwood is Australia’s most polluting power station and one of the most polluting in the industrialised world.

Hazelwood Power Station was due to be closed in 2009. However, after privatisation in 1996, in 2005 the State Government extended its coal allocation out into the 2030s.

The climate science is clear that there is already too much carbon in the atmosphere to prevent runaway warming. We urgently need to stop emitting carbon and remove it from the atmosphere.

There are renewable energy alternatives to coal-burning that are commercially available now. Wind and baseload solar thermal power can replace coal, and Victoria has these resources in abundance. The work of the University of Melbourne Energy Institute and Beyond Zero Emissions clearly shows that Hazelwood can be replaced with a mix of these technologies within a few years. Basing the manufacturing of these renewable energy components in the Latrobe Valley can ensure that workers in coal-burning areas can transition to other quality jobs.

Victorian greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise alarmingly. Replacing Hazelwood with renewable energy is the first step in the necessary shift to zero emissions technologies that will ensure Victoria’s energy security and productivity.

YCAN wins Yarra City Council sustainability award

Yarra Climate Action Now has won the Yarra City Council Sustainability Award for Community Action (environment group) 2010.

We are very pleased with this award and want to thank and say well done to everyone that has taken part in YCAN actions and activities in the past – you helped!

We are lucky in the City of Yarra to have so many fantastic community initiatives and we were in a tough field full of excellent groups. Thank you to the City of Yarra for recognising the importance of community action.

Yarra’s Bicycle Strategy Open for Submissions

The City of Yarra’s Draft Bicycle Strategy is open for public review and comment until 22 October.

The document includes actions that will aim to increase the mode share of cycling for trips in Yarra, with a long-term vision of making cycling the first transport choice for all short to medium distance trips.

It details actions and timelines for improvements to the on and off road bicycle network and other infrastructure (including bike parking facilities) to maximise bicycle use in Yarra.

The draft strategy sets a clear goal for Council to increase the rate of Yarra residents cycling to work from 6.4% to 15% by 2015 as well as reducing bicycle collisions and injuries. It also aims to encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to take up cycling as a mode of transport.

Increasing cycling is a major part of the necessary transition to zero emissions transport systems. If Yarra Council carries out the actions in this plan, they will most certainly help in increasing cycling and should be commended. It would be great to see other municipalities and the State/Fed Governments make similar commitments backed by tangible actions. Send submissions through to Mark Kulyk at mark.kulyk –at– yarracity.vic.gov.au or PO Box 168, Richmond, VIC, 3121.

Yarra Climate Action Now Submission to Yarra City Council

Below is YCAN’s submission to the Yarra City Council’s budget process for 2009-10. It is currently being considered by the council. If you have any feedback or would like to support the submission, we need to hear from you – email us at YarraCAN@gmail.com. We would also encourage you to write to the Yarra councillors to express your support for the submission.

YCAN Submission to the City of Yarra Council

Yarra Climate Action Now (YCAN) is a fast-growing community-based organisation committed to lobby all levels of government into taking immediate action to reduce Australia’s emissions. We currently have 180 plus members and are linked to an Australia-wide climate action network which consists of around 150 grassroots groups like ours.

We seek Council’s endorsement of our group.

Climate change is the biggest challenge facing our society. Scientists agree that without immediate and drastic action the devastating affects of a changing climate will be unstoppable. Federal and State governments are not doing enough. It’s up to local government to set the example.

The City of Yarra is a diverse municipality, with a mix of public and private housing, rental properties, as well as many restaurants, cafes, small businesses and light industrial facilities. There are opportunities to reduce the carbon footprint of all these sectors.

YCAN feels strongly that the City of Yarra Council should be a leader in sustainable local government, but instead Yarra is lagging behind other Victorian municipalities such as Moreland, Port Phillip, Manningham, Maribyrnong, and Mt Alexander shire in terms of actions. Council needs to set firm goals for 2020 with clear interim targets.

YCAN will act as an independent eye on Council, ensuring that councillors honour their election promises to make Yarra a sustainable city. Councillors have pledged to make all Council operations carbon neutral. YCAN wants to see that goal extended to the whole municipality. We are sure that residents of the City of Yarra will support this and work together for a Zero Carbon Yarra by 2020. The time for endless strategy documents is past. It is time for action.

The move towards a Zero Carbon Yarra requires a partnership between Council and residents. We believe that communication between Council and residents must be improved to effectively inform and engage the whole community in the process. YCAN wants to participate in this partnership and is ready to assist in the communication process.

YCAN calls on the Yarra Council to implement the following list of urgent actions and include funding in the 2009 budget:

1. Set up a community sustainable-action forum.
The City of Yarra needs an organisation, independent from Council, to help households, businesses and community groups reduce their emissions. Programs should include free energy and water audits for all houses (including rental properties); retrofit of energy saving light globes, shower heads and draft stoppers; advice on ways to further improve energy efficiency; bulk purchase programs for solar hot water and photovoltaic panels.

2. Harvest stormwater from street runoff for watering street trees and parklands.
Our trees are vitally important, but they are under stress and dying due to drought. At the same time urban waterways are under stress from the quantity of runoff from paved surfaces and buildings. We will continue to have less rainfall but more severe storm events. We call on Council to capture rainfall locally, build storage tanks, wetlands in parks, create permeable surfaces to carry stormwater directly to trees, and utilise technology for pumping up water from the Merri Creek and the Yarra River when they are in flood (such as the water-driven Hi-Ram pump, which requires no external power source).

3. Fast-track town planning processes for residential permits which demonstrate strong environmentally sustainable design features.
Most town planning applications in the City of Yarra take 8-12 months to be determined. YCAN calls on the Council to appoint an additional full-time town planner so that planning applications demonstrating strong environmentally sustainable design features receive priority (every second application handled by town planning staff could be an ESD application). Reducing the time taken in town planning applications would cost Council very little but offers huge savings to building owners. This would offset the expense of “green” features in the buildings. This method is being used successfully overseas in the US and Canada. City of Yarra could lead the way by being the first municipality in Australia to implement this strategy.

4. Establish one-stop recycling drop-off station(s) within the municipality for recyclables that cannot currently be put in yellow bins.
One of Council’s goals is to reduce the waste stream that goes to landfill. Many recyclable items are going into domestic waste bins because of a lack of local options for disposal. We need a Byteback-style depot for drop-off of e-waste for components to be recycled and reused. Depots could also have bins for batteries, mobile phones, fluorescent light globes, TV sets (for lead recycling), sports shoes, corks and a drop-off point for small quantities of green waste. A large amount of green waste goes into the domestic waste bins because many Yarra residents have small gardens that require regular pruning producing amounts of green waste which they feel are too small for curbside collection.

5. Encourage the use of sustainable transport and prioritise non-vehicular traffic.
Remove some curb-side car-parking spaces and replace them with multi-bike parking areas and additional street trees. Examples already exist outside Spensley St Primary School in Clifton Hill and Lygon Court in Carlton. There should be bike parks like this in every street and retail area. To make cycling and walking easy, pleasant and safe, there needs to be an audit of routes to identify and fix gaps, obstructions and lack of safe crossings. We need a clear map of cycling and walking routes in the municipality.

6. Establish a Community Environmental Advisory Committee to provide professional and community input to Council.
Council must seek advice from industry professionals and knowledgeable members of the community in order to develop sound environmental policy and strategy. To achieve our goals we need to investigate ground-breaking programs that are being used in communities around the world, such as community compost collection, local electricity generation, and a food plan to maximise local food production, such as using fruit trees as street trees and encouraging food production on public and private land.

7. Advocate for a safe climate future.
While local government is an important player in climate change action, other levels of government have their hands on crucial levers, such as the energy and tax system. Yarra City Council must pass resolutions expressing their support for science-based targets and robust policies from the State and Federal Governments. It must also actively advocate for the Municipal Association of Victoria and the Victorian Local Governance Association to do the same. A first step would be a motion condemning the Federal Government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme as being wholly inadequate (as Newcastle City Council and Canada Bay City Council already have).