Mayor Meghan Hopperceremonial Meeting of Council, Coburg Town Hall27 October 2014

Mayor Meghan Hopperceremonial Meeting of Council, Coburg Town Hall27 October 2014

Mayor’s Speech

Mayor Meghan HopperCeremonial Meeting of Council, Coburg Town Hall27 October 2014

Honoured Guests;

Dignitaries, including Jane Garrett MP, State Member for Brunswick, and Christine Campbell MP, State Member for Pascoe Vale;

former Mayor Mark Higginbotham, former Councillor Jo Connellan, former Councillor Alice Pryor, former Councillor Andrea Sharam, former Mayor Stella Kariofyllidis, and former Mayor Joe Caputo;

fellow Councillors, Council officers, citizens of Moreland and friends.

I am deeply honoured to have been elected Mayor of this richly diverse and remarkable city. 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 whocare for this land today and tomorrow, as they have for tens of thousands of years. I offer my respects to their Elders past, present and future, and to all other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here tonight and residing in Moreland.

Being elected as Mayor is a great privilege. It is also a great responsibility. 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 and integrity. I will be difficult, but always fair; pragmatic, but always a community activist; and above all, will remain wedded to my core principles of equity and justice. I am determined to lead Council in achieving the aspirations of our community, while acknowledging that I represent the collective viewpoint of our eleven elected Councillors. I knowthat over the coming year we willwork together as an eleven-person team, pooling our individual strengths and uniting to serve the best interests of our community.

I acknowledge the efforts of our current Councillors, and thoseCouncillors who have come before us, in helping make Moreland what it is today. I want to pay special tribute to our outgoing Mayor, Councillor Lambros Tapinos, who I have had the great fortune of working alongside over the past year as Deputy Mayor. This year there have been no new statues; but Councillor Tapinos is right to be proud to have presided over a year that has seen many major achievements including the re-opening of the refurbished Brunswick Library, Moreland’s strong campaign against the East-West Link, the development of our new residential zones – which we hope to soon see implemented - and ourprogress toward grade separation. His steady perseverance, dedication to working inclusively and great love of this city have shone throughout a year that has not come without its challenges, and I congratulate Lambros on his second term as Mayor and thank him for his friendship, and his ongoing contribution to the people of Moreland.

Our municipality is changing. We are a community that is intensely proud of its history but which looks forward excitedly to a vibrant future. The latest demographic data suggests that our population will increase by 50,000 people by 2036, morethan 30 per cent over the next 22 years. It is predicted that there will be an extra 23,000 dwellings built in that time, an increase of more than a third. Just as Moreland is changing, so is the climate. The planning we do today has to help create a sustainable, livable future in a municipality that will become hotter and more densely populated. We need to make wise decisions now for the residents of tomorrow.

For my part, I have the great privilege of being part of the fourth generation of my family to call Moreland home. My great grandmother spent her young adulthood in Brunswick, on Garnet Street, and my great grandfather returned home from World War I to Station Street in Coburg. My Nana spent her youth shopping along Sydney Road and she raised her family in Oak Park, where she tended a garden full of fruit trees and chickens, while my grandfather worked at the Progress Theatre on Reynard Street, and at Pentridge Prison. My mother grew up in Oak Park and my father in Glenroy, where they each attended local public schools and played for local sporting teams. One of my father’s many brothers was a Councillor for the then-City of Coburg. And while I spent my formative years in Melbourne’s western suburbs, long afternoons spent playing in the Moonee Ponds Creek or with the elephant statue at Oak Park swimming pool are as much a part of my childhood memories as they are any local’s; and when I chose Brunswick as my home close to seven years ago, I proudly took my place in a family history of over 100 years of being Made in Moreland.

Yet I know that my family’s story is part of a rich diversity of stories, both like and unlike mine, that make up the great tapestry of stories that shape the Moreland family.

This community has always been proudly multicultural and diverse. Social and cultural pluralism will continue to be an identifying characteristic of the City of Moreland. We have placed prominent banners on public buildings saying that Moreland welcomes refugees, and just over one week ago we hosted a fantastic dinner that brought together newly-arrived asylum seekers and leaders within our community; but these gestures must be more than tokenistic ones. We must show through our actions that Moreland welcomes people seeking asylum from all over the world, and we will do what we can to provide refugees with a safe place to start a new life. We will provide support and encouragement for those who have travelled across the seas in search of Australia’s boundless plains to share, and weave these new arrivals into the fabric of Moreland life.

Within a month we will have a new or returned State government. It goes without saying that this year we have had a somewhat strained relationship with the Napthine government. In July this year, Moreland took the courageous decision to oppose the East West tunnel. This was an example of our council advocating on behalf of its residents, culminating in a court challenge which was joined by the City of Yarra and has now also received support from Moonee Valley City Council. We were told by naysayers that the East West toll-road would have no impact on Moreland, only to see an on-ramp announced for Brunswick Road. I have no doubt in my mind that we have acted and continue to act in the best interests of not just Moreland residents but all Victorians by taking this unprecedented step, and look forward to the State election providing an opportunity for our community to take part in a referendum on the East-West Link.

Whatever the political make-up of the new Victorian government, improving our relationship with them, and continuing to advocate for the many causes and commitments that have been raised throughout the campaign, must be paramount. Our preference is for cooperation rather than confrontation. However, we will continue advocating for our residents and our municipality, not just where the East-West Link is concerned, but also for badly-needed major infrastructure projects such as grade separations at dangerous level crossings and the funding of noise walls in Glenroy. This advocacy, holding other levels of Government to account, is an important function of local government.

We have great access to the community, because Council is and always has been the closest tier of Government to people. This means roads, rates and rubbish – but it also means looking after those who live in our municipality. Home and Community Care and Council’s in-house meals on wheels servicemean many older people can stay in their own homes longer. At the other end of the scale, the baby boom means that our Maternal and Child Health service is busier than ever. Immunisation, working with and advocating for youth, and providing for those with disability are all crucial functions of local government.

In this past year we have invested 1.75 million dollars into improving community safety in the south of the municipality. Our approach to community safety is one of seeing the whole picture, not just responding reactively to crime but seeking to proactively prevent it. One of our most exciting projects in 2015 will be the opening of the permanent park at the intersection of Sydney Road and Wilson Avenue, an already award-winning initiative which will proactively respond to one of Moreland’s most significant crime hotspots through the activation of space and community. In this year’s budget we have funded half a million dollars in lighting upgrades along the Sydney Road corridor, replacing old yellow lights with brighter, more energy efficient LED globes so that you can feel safer walking home from an evening out in our entertainment precinct. We are also improving lighting along the Upfield bike path and have installed illuminated taxi ranks along Sydney Road. We have implemented CCTV cameras linked to the Brunswick police station, which became fully operational at the end of September following an extensive community consultation and scoping process. And importantly, Council matched our CCTV funding in the first year with funding for a community-led safety project, initiated by our Community Safety Reference Group, which will respond to violence in the home.

Arts and learning facilities are two of Council’s services about which I feel most passionately. Our libraries and recreational facilities are heavily patronised, and the arts features amongst Moreland’s most significant industries of employment, and enjoyment. Extensive rejuvenation works at both Brunswick Library and the Brunswick Baths were completed in the past year. Ourvibrant and diverse community continues to be enhanced by the presence of the Counihan Gallery, Moreland Energy Foundation and the CERES environment park.Just yesterday I had the pleasure of formally launching MoreArt public art show, just one of the many ways in which we as a Council support local artists and Moreland’s cultural life.

The 2014 Local Government Community Satisfaction Survey showed that 87 per cent of Moreland’s residents were satisfied with the overall performance of their Council – but the areas in which residents want Council to perform better mostly relate to development and change in our suburbs. Satisfaction with Town Planning Policy and the ways in which Moreland is planning for population growth have fallen over the past two years.

After a year as Chair of Urban Planning Committee, I don’t need to be told that much of the frustration Moreland residents are expressing is in connection with medium-density and high-rise development. These concerns were reflected in Council’s submission on Residential Zoning, which we were shocked to see the Planning Minister knock back in September. The non-approval of our submission leaves Moreland without protection from overdevelopment, and this is a major concern to us as Councillors as well as to the community members we represent. We also must urgently deliver on our vision for the major corridors encapsulated in the Brunswick and Coburg Structure Plans, and we must continue to protect our most significant heritage buildings. All of this takes place in the face of increasingly hostile State Government opposition. Getting this mix right is vital not just to restore community faith in planning decisions but also because it affects the long term shape of Moreland.

Planning is of course important not just for the built environment, but for the municipality and for Council itself. To this end, we released a Council Plan and underwent extensive consultation around a Moreland Community Plan this year, both of which provide clear pathways ahead. Some progress has been made with The Coburg Initiative project, including the creation of Pentridge Boulevard. We continue to be optimistic about a major hospital development in Bell Street, along with further commercial and residential development in the Coburg local shopping area, which will not only improve amenity but also create local jobs for local people.

We are actively addressing the issues related to climate change in Moreland. Earlier this month,in conjunction with MEFL,we launched the Zero Carbon Evolution Strategy that maps out an ambitious plan to reduce carbon emissions across the Moreland community by 22 per centby 2020. It sets challenging but achievable targets. For example, in the next 12 months there will be Solar PV installed on 1200 households, 50 businesses and two schools or community group centres. There will also be energy efficiency retrofits for 1800 households and energy efficiency measures for 120 businesses. We are implementing strategies to overcome the heat island effect.

Moreland was the third Council in Australia to become carbon neutral, and our commitment to sustainability is stronger than ever, but there is still much work to be done in this area. Our carbon management strategy will see PV systems deployed on council buildings during this financial year. Our Council voted earlier this month to rule out direct investment in fossil fuels, the first council in Victoria to do so. To support sustainable transport alternatives, we will implement our $1.4 million bike strategy, as well as a $1.6 million pedestrian strategy in the next year.

Capital works and major projects continue to be high priorities. C.B. Smith Reserve in Fawkner will be completed this financial year which will deliver a multi-purpose sporting hub and valued community facilities. We have commenced trialing different methods of laying bluestones in the historical laneways of Brunswick and Coburg. These trials will provide a guide for future restoration work in our Bluestone City. We are creating public places, large and small, that people want to go to, including interventions in local shopping precincts such as Anderson Street Fawkner, Wheatsheaf Road Glenroy, and Michael Street Brunswick. We have also purchased a site in the former Pentridge precinct for the new Coburg Children’s Centre. Within the last month we have purchased an additional eighteen-thousand square metres of land from Northern Golf Club to further expand Sewell Reserve in Glenroy.

By the end of this financial year we will endeavor to have the construction of the Anne Sgro Children’s Centre completed and the Barry Beckett Children’s Centre more than two-thirds built. We will implement the Glenroy Streetscape master plan including construction on Pascoe Vale road and Morgan Court. We have set money aside to complete a detailed design for Oak Park Aquatic Centre redevelopment by June next year. In the same timeframe we will complete the construction of multi-purpose sports courts in Gowanbrae.

Within Council, It is with sadness that we will shortly farewell Moreland’s CEOPeter Brown, who is leaving us after fourteen years as CEO and as a director to pursue other projects. Peter has been a visionary chief executive at Moreland who is well known for his diligence, prudence and integrity. While no-one begrudges him the more relaxed lifestyle that comes with retirement, we will certainly miss his stewardship at Moreland and I know that during my time on Council I have valued his always approachable nature and sage guidance. Peter, on behalf of Council and all of Moreland’s residents, thank you for your service.

But we were also excited to announce in the past week the appointment of a new CEO who will join us from January 2015. Nerina di Lorenzo has worked previously with Moreland as our Director of Infrastructure, and returns home after a short but impactful period with the City of Wyndham. While we are sad to say goodbye to Peter, we await with anticipation the achievements a new era under Nerina’s leadership will usher in.

It cannot go unnoted that in 2015, for the first time in Moreland’s history, our municipality will be led by a female Mayor, Deputy Mayor, and CEO. I am honoured tonight to become not only Moreland’s 20th Mayor, but just the second woman to be elected Mayor. Stella Kariofyllidis previously held the role twice, in 2000-2001 and in 2009-10. It is a testimony to Moreland that this is a City that has never shied away from electing Councillors who are representative of its great diversity. We have represented on Council a mixture of cultural backgrounds, experiences, ages, and political persuasions, which is representative of this City’s diversity, and for the first time, we also have a majority of Councillors who are women.But for women in Council’s top leadership role, it has been too long between drinks, and tonight I thank this Council for taking this step, as well as those members of the community, friends, and family who have made tonight a possibility.

It is because of my friends at women’s leadership organisation, EMILY’s List that I have never doubted my ability to succeed in politics as a woman and I especially acknowledge the support of former Mayor of Brunswick, Glennys Romanes, of Leonie Morgan, and of former Moreland Councillor Alice Pryor.

I would like to give special thanks to my friends in the Australian Labor Party and to my family in the National Union of Workers. Many of you are here tonight but I will pay special tribute to my campaign manager Jonathan Pickering, my housemate Kate Murphy, and to my mentors, Lisa Carey at EMILY’s List, Jaala Pulford MLC, and the Mayor of the City of Monash, Councillor Geoff Lake.