Category Archives: news

Wash up from the Coolaroo fire: class action and pollution of Merlynston Creek

Photo by MFB

On 13th July a mountain of fire erupted in bales of recycled plastics and paper at the SKM Recycling facility in Maffra Street, Coolaroo producing voluminous smoke and fumes. Sadly, the extensive water employed by the Fire Brigade to try and bring the fire under control made it’s way with contaminants into local waterways, primarily Merlynston Creek.

Smoke and fumes from the mountain of burning plastic and paper in the SKM recycling plant in Coolaroo caused several hundred people to evacuate from their homes in the immediate area. At least 110 homes in the immediate area were door knocked for evacuation on the Thursday evening due to very poor air quality readings.

Even the Upfield train line was closed down for a time on July 14, with buses replacing trains from North Melbourne to Upfield.

The smoke plume and fumes spread over and affected residents and workers in a wide area including the suburbs of Meadow Heights, Dallas, Broadmeadows, Campbellfield, Coburg, Fawkner, Glenroy, Pascoe Value, Roxburgh Park, Strathmore and Westmeadows.
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Fawkner Toxic site Moreland Leader story jumps to conclusions to soon

Jumping to conclusions too soon is bad reporting. The following story was run by the Moreland Leader on Monday 17th July yet we are still awaiting the results of tests for furins and dioxins from Germany from the EPA test samples.

Residents have also queried the methodology for the EPA test samples, being limited to surface water samples only from behind the factory and from Merri Creek, offering only a very limited assessment of surface signs of contamination associated with the whole area. The EPA April tests did not take any samples from 100 or 102 McBryde street for testing.

The news report also does not take into account that the owners agents raised at the Planning information and discussion meeting on 29 June that they have drilled some holes to test the depth of the clay cap at 102 McBryde street, and their limited testing of the soil beneath the cap found it was still contaminated at a level consistent with the 1995 environmental audit report.
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Question in Parliament on Fawkner Toxic Site

Just for the record, this question was asked in State Parliament on 8th June by Greens MLC Colleen Hartland covering both reform of the EPA and the management plan for the Fawkner Toxic site.

The EPA conducted tests in April. I understand these tests amounted to surface water from behind 100-102 McBryde Street and water in Merri Creek. The question needs to be asked: were these tests sufficient to report “no contamination beyond the site”? We don’t know the exact location where these samples were undertaken. We are still waiting for test results from Germany regarding furans and dioxins.

See below for a 1990 map indicating the possible extent of contamination:

1990 map of toxic zone area to be fenced off in Fawkner

We do know that the owners have drilled some holes to test the depth of the clay cap at 102 McBryde street, and their limited testing of the soil beneath the cap found it was still contaminated at a level consistent with the 1995 environmental audit report.

You can access the 1995 Environmental Audit report at the EPA Interaction Portal. (Enter Transaction #: 8000314 for Audit Report, Executive Summary and Appendices)
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Upgrade for Merri Creek Park at Campbellfield while connecting cycling paths remain missing

Panorama of Merri Creek and Merri Gorge, Campbellfield

The State Government announced $1.7 million upgrade to develop visitor infrastructure, including 6km of new bike and walking paths, at Merri Creek Park in Campbellfield. But we are still to see any commitment to build important bicycle shared use paths in Campbellfield: the extension of Merri Creek Trail and Extension of the Upfield bike path to Barry Road at Upfield.

The Money for the Merri Creek Park facilities comes from the Growth Areas Infrastructure Contribution (GAIC) fund. The 6 km of new paths will improve some community access to the 650 hectare green space in Campbellfield, which hosts nationally significant native grasslands. It is a real pity there is no public commitment from state MPs to fund the missing links that would help connect the park and local residential suburbs.

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Consultation on Camp Road Level Crossing Removal (implications for Upfield bike path)

Looking north up the railway line at Camp Rd Level Crossing

Loomking north up the railway line at Camp Rd Level Crossing

Today I went on a scouting trip along the Upfield railway line to Camp Road, the site of a level crossing removal to start in the later part of 2017 and be completed by 2019.

I have come to the conclusion:

The Upgrade of the Camp Road level crossing needs to include either a tunnel for cyclists as part of the railway in trench design, or pedestrian lights to allow cyclists to cross Camp Road in safety.

The consultation and community engagement is at The Meadows Greyhound Racing track.

  • Monday 6 February 2017, 6:00pm to 8:00pm. The Meadows, 80 Northcorp Boulevard, Broadmeadows.
  • Saturday 11 February 2017, 10:00am to 12 noon. The Meadows, 80 Northcorp Boulevard, Broadmeadows

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Upfield Bike path: shared use upgrade to cemetery footpath does not go far enough for cyclists

This footpath from Lynch Rd will be shared use

This footpath from Lynch Rd will be shared use


One of the anomalies facing cyclists accessing the Upfield Bike Path from central Fawkner was either using Sydney Road in a 70km zone or riding on the footpath next to the cemetery, an illegal act unless accompanying children.

Sustainable Fawkner suggested and lobbied candidates as a quick fix the footpath next to the cemetery from Box Forest Rd to the police station should be made a shared use path. (see End of Post)

We have just heard from our new Councillor Ali Irfanli (Facebook) that the footpath along Sydney Rd near the cemetery will be re-designated a shared path between Lorne St and Lynch Rd.

It will be signposted as such in the next 4 – 6 weeks. The costs of these works has been assessed as minor and is managed within the existing Council budget.

While we appreciate this change, it does not go nearly far enough to resolving an anomalous legal and safety issue for Fawkner cyclists.
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Our Man in Marrakech at COP22 UN climate talks

John Englart in Marrakech

John Englart in Marrakech


It’s a long way between Marrakech and Moreland, but Fawkner resident and member of Sustainable Fawkner has made the journey to attend the United Nations climate talks.

Before he left he organised a brief interview with the Moreland Leader, which was published on 7 November.

Moreland Leader 7 November 2016.

Moreland Leader 7 November 2016.

John will be attending some of the negotiating sessions as an official observer on behalf of Climate Action Moreland. He was at the opening plenary session on Monday.

He will also be attending briefing sessions with the Australian lead negotiator Patrick Suckling, various side events and forums that are organised as part of the conference, and perhaps an opportunity to meet Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Energy and Environment minister Josh Frydenberg.

His attendance at the conference was accredited through the Climate Action Network Australia, one of the regional nodes of the global Climate Action Network. He is working with other CAN activists from around the world at the conference in articulating stronger action on climate change at the global level.

It is also an opportunity for John to catch up in person with other grassroots and policy activists that he corresponds and interacts with.

Here is a picture of John with Irish environmental scientist Dr Cara Augustenborg at COP22 discussing climate and politics in Ireland and Australia (and the US election). The smiley earth ball was used in the opening ceremony of the conference.

John Englart & Dr Cara Augustenborg

John Englart & Dr Cara Augustenborg

He attended the press conference of NGO groups responding to the surprise election of Donald Trump. The mood was more somber and more determined after the election results, that action on climate, if anything, needs to be increased as climate impacts of extreme weather become more apparent.

One of the interesting insights he has seen in Marrakech is the integration of urban agriculture in the city landscape, with olives, date palms, and citrus trees adorning many of the streets and parks. Perhaps that is one idea worthy of investigation in Moreland Council’s upcoming urban food strategy.

Brunswick: Montfort Park alienation from the public realm

Fencing out the public Montfort Park, Brunswick

Fencing out the public
Montfort Park, Brunswick

The issue of open space and Montfort Park in Brunswick has been raised by the initiation of a community petition and Facebook Group. Although I live in Fawkner, I care about open space and environmental issues across the municipality. This is also a park that I used to use so there is a personal connection.

Montfort Park is at the corner of Henkel St and Wendel St in Brunswick. The park, and the old scout hall next to it, were sold to a community group by Council in 2003, but with conditions on the use of the open space land, that it’s title of Montfort Park continue and that the park and it’s facilities be developed as a basketball court or similar and remain accessible to the public.

It is now all concrete, a basketball court and open space, and surrounded by a 3 metre steel fence. Local residents argue it is seldom used and remains inaccessible for public use.
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Who is standing for NE ward of Moreland Council in 2016?

neward-posters-500w

For Moreland Council North East ward, which Fawkner is a part of, 4 Councillors are to be elected, from 20 candidates standing. See VEC Moreland City Council 2016 Nominations. The following is the list of candidates as they will appear on the ballot paper. Climate Action Moreland have done a simple survey of candidates on climate and sustainability policies which are worth checking out. Two candidate forums have been organised so far for North East Ward.

The election is on Saturday 22 October. See the election results.

Candidate Forums

Fawkner Community House have invited North–East Ward Council candidates to a community forum with Fawkner residents about how candidates will represent the interests of people in Fawkner if they are elected at the council election this month.
When: Sunday 9 October 2pm to 5pm
Where: 95-97 Major Road Fawkner
Details: Fawkner Community House

Save Coburg and Pentridge Action Group are organising a candidates forum to hear from candidates and ask them questions.
When: Thursday, October 13 at 7 PM – 9:30 PM
Where: Coburg Uniting Church on the corner of Louisa St & Victoria St, Coburg
Registration: Facebook Event details
Storify Report: Urban Development in spotlight at NE Ward #MorelandVotes candidates forum

Pentridge Community Action Group reported: “Show of Hands from Candidates present at the Moreland Council NE Ward Forum re question posed by Prof Hamel-Green on opposing > 4 storey development in the Pentridge Precinct. Candidates with hands raised are George Georgiou, Sue Bolton, David Nunns, Antonio Bonifazio, and Imogen Jubb. A late response was made by Francesco Timpano”.

A third candidates forum organised at Merlynston.
When: Tuesday 18 October 7.30pm to 9pm
Details: Facebook event

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Level Crossing Removal at Camp Road Campbellfield should incorporate Upfield path extension

Sydney RD and M80 intersection. Photo from Western Ring Rd path

Sydney RD and M80 intersection. Photo from Western Ring Rd path

I understand the the Victorian Government has brought forward 11 level crossing removals, two of which – Buckley Street in Essendon and Camp Road in Campbellfield – will be fast-tracked with work commencing next year and complete by 2019.

Camp Rd railway level crossing is just 300 metres along the road from the Campbellfield shopping centre. It is this Level Crossing upgrade which concerns me the most here.

The 11 level crossings have been split into two packages with both now out to tender, according to this report in Urban Melbourne. My check of the Level Crossings removal website shows the Upfield line crossing removals as at 27 September, 2016 are currently under tender.

The “North Western” package has five sites. As well as the two fast-tracked projects, the package includes Glenroy Road in Glenroy, Bell Street in Coburg and Moreland Road in Brunswick.

The Upfield shared bike path parallels the Upfield railway line. It provides a relatively safe off-street bike path running down the spine of the municipality of Moreland. It connects people in Moreland with local schools, shops and businesses, and links with the Capital City trail in the south and routes into the Melbourne CBD.

But the problem in the north is the gap connecting shared bike paths: the Upfield path stops at Box Forest Road and does not connect to the Western Ring Road Path that borders the northern boundary of the municipality.

For those Fawkner residents wanting to shop by bicycle at Campbellfield there are presently two options: attempting to brave the horror of the Sydney Rd and Western Ring Road intersection, or the pedestrian bridge over the Western Ring Road a 100 metres east of this intersection. If you take the Pedestrian bridge, then once across Mahoney’s Rd at the Pedestrian lights there is a problem of lack of a path to cycle to the Campbellfield Plaza.

Upgrading level crossings at Moreland Road, Bell Street and Camp Road is an opportunity to also clear bottlenecks and give priority to the increase in cycling in the municipality.

I believe the Munro Street crossing may be included when the Bell Street Crossing is upgraded. (This needs to be verified)

The level crossing at Camp Road especially, needs to incorporate facility for cyclists to cross, and have the shared path extended down to Box Forest Road. This is important as the intersection of Sydney Road and Western Ring Road is simply not safe for cyclists to navigate across. VicRoads have provided no on-road or off-road facility for cycling through this intersection.

Extending the Upfield shared Bike path could connect with a path to the Campbellfield shops providing a safe route to cycle north for people from Hadfield and Fawkner and further afield.

The railway bridge across the Western Ring Road was built with a capacity to take a second railway line and also with enough space for a shared path to extend the Upfield Bike path further north.

But it is imperative that level crossing removal at Camp Street should also include works incorporating a cycle crossing.

Now is also the time the State Government should join City of Moreland and City of Hume in extending the Upfield shared bike path at least up to Camp road with a vision of extending it further north and incorporate a short path to the Campbellfield shopping plaza.

Providing off-road cycling facilities is a sure way to get more people cycling more often. It makes our communities more sustainable, and more climate friendly, while providing health benefits to individuals and society as a whole.

Outer suburbs like Fawkner, Hadfield and Campbellfield need cycle friendly infrastructure just as much as inner suburbs. Indeed, because there is more of a culture built around roads and the car, it can be argued more cycling infrastructure might be needed in these suburbs to get people transitioning to lower emission transport and to change transport behaviours.

There are other problems for cyclists from Fawkner, especially in the northern end around Anderson Rd, in finding a safe route to access the existing Upfield Path. These perhaps need to be considered in depth at Council and Vicroads level for resolution. For middle Fawkner the footpath on the western side of Sydney Rd next to the cenetery really needs to be declared a shared path, as Sydney Road has a speed limit of 70km per hour and is unsafe to cycle on, to access the Upfield path.

So how about better bike facilities and extending the Upfield bike path further as part of the Camp Road Level Crossing Removal, Frank Maguire (Facebook), Member for Broadmeadows, and Lizzie Blandthorn (facebook), Member for Pascoe Vale?

Horror intersection for cyclists

Horror intersection for cyclists