Monday, December 16, 2013

First video from Blade 350QX quadcopter Highfield Park

I have been wanting to take some aerial video for a few years now but I never got the confidence to fly my Blade 400 helicopter - its tricky to fly and too easy to crash.

Quadcopters have changed all that.  With GPS guidance, "safe mode" and return to base they are much easier to fly.

I bought the Blade 350QX and a GoPro camera to go with it.

Here is my first video, taken in Highfield Park in Surrey Hills.

Its quite a buzz flying this quadcopter platform.   Down the track I will have a go with FPV (First Person Vision) goggles to get a real flying experience.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Don't tax the sun - petition

Dear Prime Minister, State Premiers and Energy Ministers,

Recently, the Australian Energy Market Commission recommended increasing penalties and tariffs to solar owners – in effect, taxing the sun.

This sun tax is outrageous – over 1 million families in Australia have made the move to solar to take control of their energy production and reduce their energy bills. It’s unfair that families who have done the right thing would be penalised in any way.

Solar is not what is driving up electricity costs. Investment in poles, wires and dying technologies are. Instead of a sun tax, you should look at the best way to deal with those network costs, which are, in truth, the real costs increases that are hurting all Australians.

Solar energy is the energy production of the future, growing internationally and rising rapidly here in Australia. We should be increasing investment in solar – not penalising families and letting big power companies dictate our energy future.


You can sign this online petition [here]

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Lies and deception: The East West Tunnel won't reduce congestion

When Denis Napthine took over from Ted Baillieu as Premier of Victoria in March 2013 he took charge of government that many thought had lost its way.

Napthine set about creating a new "firm leadership" persona to distance himself from his predecessor.  Undoubtedly he was also influenced by Liberal Party strategists working on the campaign for the Liberal-National coalition government to be re-elected in 2014.

Unfortunately, after policy announcements during the 2012 Victorian election campaign about providing better public transport, including studies for Doncaster and Melbourne Airport railway lines, Denis Napthine recommitted the government to building the "East West Link" in two stages.

Source: Prof Graham Currie (PDF)

Stage 1 (committed)
  • Part 1: a 4 to 6 km road tunnel to connect the Eastern Freeway in Collingwood to the City Link Tollway in Parkville ($6 to $8 billion)
  • Part 2. a connection south to Footscray Road and the Port of Melbourne
Stage 2 (2014 election pledge)
  • Connection to Western Metropolitan Ring Rd
The total cost of both stages is estimated at $15 to $17 billion.

The reasons provided by the Napthine Government for the east west tunnel are that it will:
  • Cut congestion
  • Slash travel times
  • Drive growth
  • Create jobs

Unfortunately, the first two of these are falsehoods and the second two are highly questionable.

1. Cutting congestion

Transport studies have shown that 95% of traffic travelling in on the Eastern Freeway is destined to a location other than along the route of the proposed tunnel.  This traffic is destined to the Melbourne CBD or to the south of Melbourne.  Much of this traffic exits onto Hoddle Street which turns into Punt Road.  This route is frequently gridlocked by very heavy traffic, which also impedes the passage of public transport buses.

Source: Prof Graham Currie (PDF)

The Napthine Government is advertising their East West Link on billboards positioned along Punt Road and stating that congestion will be reduced and car commuter travel times will decrease.

While the Trains Not Tollroads campaign also has billboards along Punt Road challenging these claims.

It is quite clear that the proposed East West Tunnel would do nothing to reduce congestion on Hoddle Street, Punt Road, Nicholson Street, Brunswick Street and other inner Melbourne car commuter routes.

2. Reducing travel times

"Reduced travel time" is the main benefit that Napthine Government claims the East West Tunnell will provide.  However, as the vast majority of traffic coming in on the Eastern Freeway will still have to queue to get out tunnel exits onto inner Melbourne car commuter routes, cars will bring tunnel traffic (3 lanes each way) to a stand still.  The long "tailback" of cars on the Eastern Freeway will still occur.

Building more road infrastructure, and not providing fast and effective public transport options, will encourage more people to commute in their cars.  The minor increase in road capacity provided by the East West tunnel will be simply swamped by additional car users.  There is clear evidence of this on the Monash Tollway and City Link tunnels under the Yarra River.  These are brought to a standstill nearly every morning by heavy commuter traffic.

The proposed East West Tunnel will do nothing to reduce travel times for people driving in along the Eastern Freeway.  

3. Driving growth

A lot of public money will be spent on the East West Road Tunnel/Link if it proceeds.  The assumption that "economic growth will result" is predicated on the project actually reducing congestion and improving transport of people and goods.  

As congestion won't reduce and transport times won't improve, the project won't drive growth.

Economic growth resulting from spending the money would be equivalent if it were spent on rail projects such as the Doncaster rail line.

4. Creating jobs

This is a furphy. 

The project would create jobs during design and construction, but no more jobs than building new railway lines would create.

Other impacts
Other impacts that the East West Link project will have include:
  • Rat running: A toll road inevitably results in toll avoidance which will lead to rat-running in local suburbs including Collingwood, Fitzroy, Parkville, Flemington, Ascot Vale and Moonee Ponds.
  • Connectivity for pedestrians and cyclists will be seriously impeded by the environment created by flyovers, and increased number of traffic lanes at Hoddle St and Flemington Road.
  • Liveability: The increased space and priority devoted in this project to motor vehicle traffic is contrary to sustainable transport practices and the direction of most modern cities across the world including Los Angeles, Washingon D.C. and Naples. A liveable city prioritises investment in public transport, not tollways in the middle of the city.
  • Impacts on residences close to proposed flyovers and new freeway routes, with greatly reduced amenity and without compensation have not been addressed.
  • Historic shot tower: The view and prominence of the historic shot tower on Alexandra Parade will be impeded by a flyover.
  • Increased noise: Adding two lanes to the existing Eastern Freeway from Hoddle Street to Tram Road will increase traffic and associated noise.
  • Royal Park degradation: The large scale removal of mature trees and the removal of wetlands and open space in Park Royal are unacceptable in terms of native vegetation, habitat and biodiversity loss. The loss of sports grounds and recreational space will have a negative impact on community health and well being.
  • The visual impact of widened roads, tunnel exits and flyovers on Park Royal is unacceptable.
  • Climate change. The toll road will encourage increased car use and therefore increase pollution and contribute to global warming.

Why the Napthine Government is so committed to the East West Tunnel

With no real benefits, massive expenditure and no confirmed "business case" I speculate on the motives of the Napthine Government.

The project, if it proceeds, will also have huge negative impacts on Melbourne, including:
  • Destruction of large parts of Royal Park
  • Demolition of a lot of residential housing
  • Increased traffic flows on already busy inner Melbourne transit roads
  • Increased greenhouse gas emissions through increased use of motor vehicles for commuter trips
  • Increased requirements for parking throughout Melbourne's inner suburbs and CBD
I think the project has been promoted to and targeted to people who already commute by car from Melbourne's outer eastern and south eastern suburbs, including Franskton and beyond.  There are several marginal seats in this area.  If the Napthine Government can convince enough people that there transit times will reduce (even though they won't) then they think have an election winner.

The people who live in inner Melbourne suburbs and electorates such as Northcote, Richmond, Melbourne and Brunswick have been written off by the Napthine Government as they live in Labor-Green seats that the Liberals will not win.  Resident's lifestyles, life quality and air quality will be just collateral damage to the Napthine government.

One possible reason that the "business case" for the proposed East West Tunnel has not been released is that it would not withstand scrutiny.

The Napthine government is placing full page advertisements in newspapers to "sell the benefits" of the East West tunnel.  Unfortunately, they are just pedaling lies.

Building a road tunnel that will become an $8 billion underground car park is a very expensive election stunt.


The Victorian Auditor-General’s Office reported recently that in Victoria there is:
  • Longstanding failure to deliver infrastructure and services needed in growth areas
  • No clear plan for managing traffic congestion and travel demand
  • Weak capability to manage public transport growth and performance
  • Total cost of all infrastructure needed in greenfields over next 30 years is $36 billion
Clearly, there is a need to improve planning and decision-making for the delivery of improved public transport infrastructure and services 

If new railways were built road traffic would reduce. Many people would "mode shift" from road to rail. One train line can carry the same amount of people as 20 lanes of roads.  This would reduce congestion and improve travel times for those who still choose to commute in their cars.

Safe cycle paths separated from cars would encourage more people to "mode shift" from cars to bicycles for commuting.

A congestion tax levied on people commuting in cars to inner Melbourne and the CBD would reduce traffic and ease congestion.  This would also free up road space for freight transport that cannot be conveyed by rail.

A referendum on the East West Tunnel vs Doncaster Rail would allow Victorians to vote on what they think the best project is.  That would be true democracy.  

What can you do? 

Consider writing a letter to your local state Members of Parliament (upper and lower houses), the Premier Dennis Napthine and Transport Minister Terry Mulder.

You can also make a submission to the East West Link Comprehensive Impact Statement.

Will sanity prevail?

The Labor government notionally opposes the East West Tunnel, but will most likely continue with the project if they win the next state election.

Victorian politicians have demonstrated that they are incapable of making appropriate, well consider decisions on providing transport infrastructure.  We need a mechanism to separate these major decisions from political interference and election campaigning.

Efficient and sustainable transport solutions will only occur if enough people apply political pressure to both the Liberal/National and Labor political parties.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Ambassador Morozov, please free 30 activists held by Russian authorities

Open letter to Russian Ambassador to Australia, Morozov

On the morning of Wednesday 18 September two activists from Greenpeace International were arrested as they took peaceful action towards Gazprom’s off-shore oil platform Prirazlomnaya, to stop the company conducting oil drilling operations in the Arctic waters of the Pechora Sea. The following day, September 19, the Russian Coast Guard illegally boarded the Greenpeace International ship Arctic Sunrise while in international waters and arrested 30 activists on board at gunpoint. We are demanding the immediate release of all the activists detained and an end to the Coast Guard’s unwarranted aggression against our ship and peaceful protest.

Greenpeace International is in the Russian Arctic to bear witness and express non-violent opposition towards oil companies’ destructive and reckless oil drilling plans. Our peaceful protest was met with extreme and disproportionate force from the Russian Coast Guard, who fired 11 warning shots at our ship, the MY Arctic Sunrise, and threatened our activists with knives and guns. Now 30 of our activists are being held by the Russian Coast Guard against their will and without legal representation.

Today we are conducting a peaceful solidarity protest outside this embassy in support of our activists to demand that they are freed by the Russian authorities. We urge you to transfer our requests to the Russian government without delay.

We ask that you:

- Free the 30 activists who have been detained on board the Arctic Sunrise, and order the Russian Coast Guard to holster their guns and withdraw immediately from our ship.

- Prioritise investigation into the destructive activities of oil companies in the Arctic, and not aggressive intimidation of peaceful protesters.

- Ban offshore oil drilling in the Arctic for good.

The real threat to the Arctic comes not from Greenpeace International but from oil companies like Gazprom. In contempt of the urgent need to protect the Arctic for all life on earth, Gazprom is determined to drill in its remote, frozen seas for more fossil fuels that are warming our planet and melting the ice. In the Arctic an oil spill would be irrecoverable. Such an event would devastate the local environment.

We urge you to transfer these requests to the Russian government in Moscow immediately to assist us in the swift release of our activists from the custody of the Russian authorities, and put a end to the unwarranted aggression and repression of our peaceful protest against Arctic oil drilling.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Campbell

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Bookies give election to Abbott

I just has a look at an online betting site (no free ads on my blog!).  Based on their odds Coalition 1.3 Labor 11.50, they seem certain that Tony Abbott will win the election.

Some other seats of interest in Victoria are:

Melbourne Ports: Labor 1.08 Coalition 6.50
Charles Danby retains the seat but the Coalition odds are lowish.

Melbourne: Labor 1.22 Green 3.75
The Greens incumbent Adam Bandt loses to Labor's Cath Bowtell

McEwen: Labor 1.53 Coalition 2.40

Indi: Coalition 1.25 Any other 3.50
Sophie Mirabella is being challenged by independent Cathy McGowan

Deakin: Coalition 1.05 Labor 8.00
A key marginal seat currently held by Labor

Corangamite: Coalition 1.05 Labor 8.00
A key marginal seat currently held by Labor

Batman: Labor 1.001 Any other 11.00
The Greens Alex Bhathal is running in this safe Labor seat.

Time will tell.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Open letter to Melbourne City Councillors on the proposed East West link toll-road tunnel

Melbourne City Councillors,

I understand that you are considering whether to support the Napthine Government's proposed "East West Link Tunnel" at a Council meeting tonight (Agenda Item 6.7 East West Link and Royal Park).

I strongly believe this proposal should not proceed for the following reasons:
  • The main premise for the project - that it will solve traffic congestion problems on Hoddle St, Punt Rd and the Eastern Freeway - is not correct.  There is no evidence that it will have any effect on reducing traffic congestion.
  • The tunnel construction will destroy large sections of public land, including Royal Park
  • The tunnel will encouraged increased motor vehicle traffic through the city with attendant increase in health risks due to pollution and traffic
  • The $8b required to build the tunnel will prevent investment in transport solutions such as the Doncaster rail line.  One railway line carries the same amount of people as 20 lanes of toll roads.
  • The clear majority of traffic coming along the Eastern Freeway does so to access Melbourne's CBD rather than connecting through to City Link and the Tullamarine toll road.  The proposed EW tunnel will not service the vast majority of these commuters.
  • The EW tunnel will seriously disrupt and impede cycling transport and access to the CBD.

I strongly urge you to support Doncaster Rail and oppose the East West toll tunnel.

Regards, Peter Campbell

Post script:  

At the Council meeting on Tuesday 27 August, the following Melbourne City Councillors supported the East West tunnel: Robert Doyle, Susan Riley, Kevin Louey, Ken Ong, Beverley Pinder-Mortimer.

I have asked them why and am awaiting their response.

However, Melbourne City Council will oppose the east-west link in its current form after a narrow 6-5 vote by councillors. The resolution of the Council re the East West Link is Clause 1.6 which reads as follows:

[Melbourne City Council] "Resolves that, given the City of Melbourne does not yet have the data at hand to fully assess the East-West Link and given that the need for further dialogue with LMA (Linking Melbourne Authority) and the State Government. the City of Melbourne does not support the East-West Link project as announced."

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Why Labor will lose the election

Watching the Labor party tear themselves to bits over the last 3 years has not been a pretty sight.  Alarm bells sounded for me when I listened to Kevn Rudd's election night speech in 2007 - I thought he talked too much, didn't thank enough people and was too focused on himself.

In government he did OK for a while.  The apology to stolen generations of indigenous Australians was a high point.

However the Australia 2020 Summit became just another talkfest with all the usual suspects invited.

The Rudd government's action on climate change was at first encouraging, but the climate change white paper and green paper signalled a direction towards emissions trading.

But the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, pushed hard by Penny Wong, was fatally flawed.  It included several policies that the Garnaut Report had specifically advised against, including gifting free emissions permits to polluting industries.

All this time, Kevin Rudd refused to talk to the Greens.  Instead, he stitched up a deal with Malcolm Turnbull (then leader of the opposition) to pass the CPRS.  However, when Turnbull was rolled by Abbott, this bipartisan support evaporated and it was game on.

Rudd lost his nerve though and shelved his CPRS, an action he himself had previously castigated Brendan Nelson for.  Rudd's public support dropped.  When he wobbled on the Mining Tax after a barrage from the mining industry, his support dropped further.

This wasn't why he was deposed by Labor as Prime Minister though.  He was voted out of the job by the Labor Caucus because it had become apparent he was very difficult to work with and not capable of delegating to or even trusting his ministers.  He was operating as a cell within the Labor Party, surrounded and informed by a close advisers, but disconnected from the rest of the Party and presumably a lot of the Executive arm of government too.  Rudd is now running the election campaign in a similar manner.

Julia Gillard replaced him as Prime Minister and immediately did what Rudd could not - she formed a minority government by negotiating with the 4 independents (Katter, Oakeshott, Windsor and Wilkie) and Adam Bandt from the Greens.

The Gillard government was one of the most successful in Australia's history in terms of passing legislation through Parliament and much of it was good.  Putting a price on pollution provided incentives for Australian industry to reduce carbon emissions (which happened!) and also provided funds to invest in clean renewable energy.

But Gillard sound dull and wooden to the electorate.  She made a few big mistakes too, like "ruling out a carbon tax" during the 2010 federal election, drastically reducing payments to single parents and significantly cutting funding to Universities - a measure that Gonski had not recommended and in fact opposed.

Tony Abbott relentlessly criticised and attacked Gillard and had considerable success tarnishing her government's reputation and her personal integrity.  Tony Abbott turned the Australian Parliament into the Punch and Judy show.

Gillard was also undermined by Rudd and his supporters for her entire term of office.  She may have lost the next election without this undermining, but it certainly did not help matters.   Much of this played out in public, with open shows of disloyalty by ministers like Joel Fitzgibbon and Kim Carr, who were then demoted and went to the back bench.

The Australia Democrats had a similar period of brawling in public and they were decimated in the next election.

In the end, Labor's poor polling and continued destabilisation by Rudd resulted in the Labor caucus vote him back in as Prime Minister, and Julia Gillard out.

But Rudd is not the messiah, he is just a naughty boy.

Rudd's acolytes came in from the cold and were rewarded with ministries (e.g. Kim Carr, Chris Bowen and Joel Fitzgibbon).  But many of quality people have stood down from leadership roles including Greg Combet and Craig Emerson.

Rudd has won the booby prize - an election that cannot be won - with his previous destabilisation and leaks a major contributing factor to their now inevitable loss.

Labor is now deeply divided and has lost of lot of good people.  It will be hard to see them bounce back after what is likely to be a large defeat.

Tony Abbot will repeal the carbon tax and slash funding for clean energy.  He will sack thousands of public servants so government services will suffer.  It is likely he will further reduce funding for government schools.  He will not "stop the boats", but he will continue to trash Australia's international reputation on human rights.

I think political parties have had their day.  No political party truly represents its own members, and their elected members don't even pretend to represent everyone in their electorate.  Democratic representation is a farce.  No independent candidate can match the resources or funding of party political candidates.

Things apparently have to get worse before they will get better.

Post script:
While the environment has not featured much in the election campaign so far, 61 per cent of Australians believe the Government should do more to tackle global warming.  Coalition Australians want more action on climate change, split along party lines 82% Greens, 71% Labor, 24% Coaltion.

Vote Compass: Australians want more action on climate change - ABC News

Monday, July 15, 2013

Kevin Rudd, please don't weaken Australia's policies for tackling climate change

Open letter to Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister of Australia
CC:  Mark Butler, Anthony Albanese, Penny Wong, Chris Bowen

Dear Prime Minister,

I support your government’s efforts to introduce a price on pollution and am working in my community for stronger action on climate change and a renewables-powered future.

I am concerned that your government might be about to weaken the carbon price package. The price on pollution is working, is lowering emissions, and along with other programs like the Renewable Energy Target is driving transformation of our power supply. If it ain’t broke why fix it?

If you do decide to change the scheme, please keep the following things in mind:
  1. We need to increase ambition on climate change and adopt a higher pollution reduction target than our current 5% target;
  2. Moving to a floating price early will have budgetary implications. I’d support cutting polluter handouts like the unnecessary billions going to brown coal generators or polluting diesel subsidies for miners. But cutting important programs like the Clean Energy Finance Corporation or the Biodiversity Fund would be inexcusable.
  3. We’re still missing really important planks of climate change policy. We need a legislated National Energy Efficiency scheme, we need longer term and higher renewable energy targets; we need to reduce and ultimately phase out coal and gas exports; we need to remove fossil fuel subsidies and we need a plan for climate change adaptation. We’ve only just begun the critical journey of decarbonising our economy.
  4. We need to protect Australia's remaining native forests for their natural values and to preserve the carbon they store.
I understand what’s at stake this Federal election and that there’s an important choice before Australians. That’s why I urge you to be the leader we need on climate change.

You are tasked as Members of Parliament with representing your local constituents and the Australian People.  I urge to to avoid doing deals with big business that will weaken Australia's policies on climate change and the reduction of carbon emissions.  The Carbon Price has proven to be effective.  Please do not weaken it.

External links

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Sam Bear is closing, the end of an era

I called by Sam Bear, the great clothing and footwear shop located at 225 Russell Street near Latrobe Street in Melbourne.  The shop has been operated by Trevor Bear for many years, but the building - a rare single story in this part of town - is being renovated.

Trevor has been selling off his remaining stock as he prepares to move out.

He has been offered retail space when the building works are completed, but he is not sure he will return after several decades in retail.

The shop was established in 1972 and is a Melbourne icon.  I will be very sorry to see it go.

Trevor paid for some advertising in the 1981 edition of "Rocks in the Head", the Latrobe University Mountaineering Club journal that I edited while at Latrobe Uni.

Over the years, I have bought work cloths, boots, bags and camping equipment from the shop. I even bought a Drizabone coat for my dog Sam, which he still enjoys wearing in the winter.

Trevor told me that retail in Melbourne is getting harder as many online businesses are operated out of garages and don't pay expensive rent.

Trevor has employed a lot of people over the years in his shop.

Drop by to get a bargain.  You might never have another chance.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Make national parks and reserves a matter of national environmental significance

Open letter to Tony Burke MP, Minister for Environment

Dear Tony,

Please ensure our National Parks are protected from destructive practices such as mining, logging and grazing across Australia.  This is an issue of critical importance.

National parks are the cornerstone of our conservation effort. They protect not just native plants and animals, but whole ecosystems. They also provide clean water, air and opportunities for rest, recreation and respite for millions of Australians and visitors alike.

But despite their title, the national (Australian) government has very little to do with most national parks at present.

State governments across Australia are talking about offering up our national parks for logging, grazing, mining, large-scale tourism developments and other destructive practices for short-term political or commercial gain.

The damage this would cause would last for generations. The Federal Government needs to act now, in this session of Parliament, to protect our national parks and reserves system.

I ask that as a matter of urgency and in order to stop destructive logging, grazing and mining in national parks, that you please table the necessary legislation under the EPBC Act to make national parks and reserves a matter of national environmental significance.

This would be a truly great legacy for nature and national parks.

External links

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Napthine Government plans $8b underground carpark

Denis Napthine, Michael O'Brien and the Liberal government have just made a disastrous and very expensive mistake.

They announced that their priority "transport" project for Melbourne was to spend $8b digging a tunnel to connect the Eastern Freeway with the Tullamarine Freeway.

After 80 years for constructing hundreds of kilometres of high volume roads (freeways and tollways) across Victoria and into Melbourne, we still have chronic congestion.

During this period:
  • no new passenger railway lines have been constructed in Melbourne since the Glen Waverley line was built in 1930.  
  • Melbourne has grown from a city of 1 million to nearly 5 million in 2013.
Denis Napthine (Premier), Michael O'Brien (Treasurer) and Terry Mulder (Transport Minister) don't seem to realise that cars and roads cannot provided a workable mass transport system.  A visit to Los Angeles proves this beyond doubt.  They are now building a metro rail network in that big city.

Simple mathematics eludes our politicians:
  • One train of 8 carriages can carry 1000 people.  A train line can move 50,000 people an hour.
  • One freeway/tollway lane can move 2,500 people an hour.
  • Four freeway/tollway lanes can move 10,000 people an hour.
  • One train line moves the same number of people as twenty freeway lanes
The RACV have gleefully announced that the Napthine Government is "investing in critical transport infrastructure".  It is clear that their lobbying has been very effective, as always.

Michael O'Brien said "this is nation-building infrastructure - just look at CityLink".  O'Brien obviously hasn't looked at the stationary cars and trucks on City Link trying to get through the Burnley Tunnel, or the traffic jams on every major "freeway/tollway" the commuters try to use to get to Melbourne.

Denis Napthine has challenged the Federal Labor government to provide funds for this project, even though there is no business case for it.  Tony Abbot has announced he will commit $1.5b to the project if he becomes prime minister.

Foolish politics politics is condemning Melbourne to ongoing chronic traffic congestion and providing people with no viable transport alternative.

These people also don't seem to understand that the destination of over 90% of the people driving on the Eastern Freeway is inner Melbourne so they won't benefit from a tunnel link to the Tullamarine Freeway/Tollway.

If this "East-West tunnel" is built it too will block up with cars and become the world's most expensive underground car park.

The Melbourne Metro Rail Tunnel is a rail project that formed out of recommendations in the Eddington Report.  The Napthine Government has only funded ongoing "planning" for this.  The Federal Labor Government has allocated $3 billion to this project, contingent on the Napthine Government also allocating $3 billion, which they have refused to do.  Tony Abbott has also ruled out providing funding for the rail project.

However, I am not convinced that the Melbourne Metro Rail Tunnel - that would provide an underground rail line from Foostcray to Caulfield - is the best rail option for Melbourne.  The authors of the Eddington Report, including Peter Newman, claim this project is "required to increase capacity in the existing rail network to allow new suburban rail lines to be built".  But they did not do an holistic study of Melbourne's rail network - their brief was only to assess "east west transport needs".

Personally, I think we need, in priority order the:
  1. Rowville line, also connecting Monash University.  Shuttle service to the Dandenong line with a people interchange
  2. Doncaster line, connecting near Clifton Hill
  3. Melbourne Airport line, connecting Melbourne Airport to Southern Cross station
  4. Melbourne outer loop underground - a circle line connecting South Melbourne, South Yarra, Richmond, Fitzroy, Carlton, Melbourne University, Docklands and Southern Cross.
Unfortunately, all we will get for the coming decades are more clogged roads that will become underground car parks.

Golding, The Age

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Boroondara Councillors oppose Darebin Bridge

I attended the Boroondara Urban Planning Special Committee meeting held on Monday 22 April.

I was keen to speak to the meeting about the need to extend the planning permit for construction of the Darebin Bridge.  Here is what I said at the meeting [link].

This bridge has been needed and requested for nearly two decades.  Two years ago all necessary approvals were provided by local councils and the Victorian State Government  but unfortunately the bridge was still not constructed.

Now the planning permit granted by VCAT for works to progress on the Boroondara side of the Yarra is about to lapse so the Urban Planning Special Committee was considering whether to extend the permit.

The meeting agenda and the Council Officers Report on this ("UPC4 27 Willow Grove, Kew East")  can be downloaded from here:
From the report:

The Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) in conjunction with VicRoads and the Department of Planning and Community Development (DPCD) have applied for an extension of time to the planning permit that allows the construction of a shared trail that connects the Darebin Creek Shared Trail with the Main Yarra Trail, via Willsmere Park. 

The following tests were identified by the Supreme Court and are the established principles in deciding whether to extend a permit: 
  • Whether there has been a change in planning policy or zoning; 
  • Whether the owner of the land is seeking to 'warehouse' the permit; 
  • Any intervening circumstances; 
  • The total elapse of time; 
  • Whether the time limit originally imposed was adequate in all the circumstances; 
  • The economic burden cast by a permit on the land owner; 
  • The probability that a fresh application, if made, would be granted a permit. 
Officer's response
This request for an extension of time does not create an opportunity for parties to reopen the debate on issues such as consideration of alternative alignments of the shared trail. The tests established by the Supreme Court are all met. None of the changes made to the planning scheme since 2009 preclude or discourage the development. The State Government have affirmed their commitment to the project, allocating funding and announcing a new policy document, Cycling into the Future 2012-23, which lists this development as a priority project.

Here is my summary of the Councillor's statements about the extension and their vote.

Cr Phillip Healy (meeting chair)
  • There is a better location for the bridge
  • Willsmere Park must be protected so the bridge to it and bike path across it must not be built 
  • Vote: against
Cr Jack Wegman
  • No comments made
  • Vote: against
Cr Jane Addis
  • The election of a new council was a significant factor and there were concerns about the bridge.
  • Vote: against
Cr Coral Ross
  • The debate about the bridge alignment should not be reopened as per the Council Officers report.
  • There are no grounds to oppose the extension of the permit
  • Vote: for
Cr Phillip Mallis
  • Supported the Council Officers report and recommendation
  • Vote: for
Cr Judith Voce
  • Declared a conflict of interest relating to her previous statements on the Darebin Bridge and was excused from the meeting.  Did not vote.
Cr Kevin Chow
  • Supported the bridge and the extension, but noted that vote was going to go against the extension so he would change his vote to also oppose it.
  • Vote: against
Cr Steve Hurd
  • Had visited the park and appreciated hearing nature and some bird calls
  • Mentioned that he cycles occasionally on the rear of a tandem.
  • Stated that he thinks the Chandler Highway bridge crossing is safe and convenient for cyclists and there are no problems for cyclists using it
  • Vote: against
Cr Heinz Kreutz
  • The Darebin Bridge has been needed for some time and its construction is well overdue
  • Commended the speakers from the community (17) who addressed the meeting and supported the extension of planning permit
  • The procedural matter to be decided was the extension of the permit, other locations are not up for debate, despite some speakers opposing the extension raising other location options.
  • Vote: for
Cr Jim Parke
  • The Council and Planning Committee does have the power to vote on the matter
  • The Council is not bound by decisions made by the previous Council
  • Provided no reasons for opposing the extension
  • Vote: against
So the proposal to extend the planning permit for the Darebin Bridge was defeated - 6 against, 3 for.  

This was not a good outcome, considering the very significant community need and support for the bridge, the State Government recently announced funding for it as a priority projects, VicRoads is doing detailed planning and construction of the bike path route connection has commenced on the north side of the Yarra.

Following the vote, the Cr Phillip Healey from the chair addressed those present and said:

"You environmentalists should be ashamed of yourselves. I am protecting the (Willsmere) park, you wish to destroy it"

This was an extraordinary outburst delivered in a very angry manner.  I thought it was quite inappropriate.

My concerns about the meeting are: 
  • The Council Officers report was ignored by those who voted against the proposal
  • None of the Councillors who voted against provided a valid reason for not extending the planning permit
  • Some Councillors canvassed alternative locations for the bridge - which was not a matter for discussion or decision at the meeting
  • Councillors should vote on the merits of a proposal - not change their vote to align themselves with a majority position.
  • Input from 17 people from the community in support of the extensions was ignored by a majority of the Councillors at the meeting.
  • The meeting chair did not stop objectors canvassing alternative locations for the bridge, despite this clearly not being relevant to the proposal.
  • None of the opposing Councillors said they were representing the views of constituents from their respective wards.  They appeared to vote based on their personal opinions.
  • The meeting chair had a clear and serious conflict of interest on the issue as he has made strident statements over a period of several years opposing the proposed location of the bridge.
  • The meeting chair should not make comments that belittle or demean members of the community who choose to address Council meetings. This would appear to be in breach of the Council's Code of Conduct for Councillors.
  • Council has a duty of care for Boroondara residents - forcing cyclists to use the Chandler Highway bridge and associated road crossings creates significant risk of collision with motor vehicles resulting in serious injuries or deaths.
It is not clear how the construction of the bridge will now proceed.  The State Government and or VAT apparently will need to make a ruling on the matter and override Boroondara Councillors refusal to extend the planning permit.  This will be a waste of taxpayers money and further delay construction of the bridge.

Here is a list of most of those who addressed the meeting to support the proposal and the Darebin Bridge:
  • Graeme Martin, Co-ordinator Community Coalition for the Darebin-Yarra Link 
  • Julia Blunden, Boroondara Bicycle User Group representative on the Community Coalition.
  • David Farrow, Boroondara BUG member and retired traffic engineer 
  • David Hall, Whitehorse Cyclist representative on the Community Coalition and retired engineer 
  • Chris Ashe, Boroondara Bushwalker Representative on the Community 
  • Robin Gallagher, Darebin BUG Representative on the Community Coalition 
  • Jenny Henty, Member Lighter Footprints and Boroondara BUG
  • Mike Taylor, former Whitehorse Cyclists president
  • Glennys Jones, Boroondara BUG member and Bike Ed volunteer.
  • Alan Ball, Manningham BUG 
  • Dr Steve Rockman, parent with child/ren travelling across the river to Kew High School
  • Maurie Abbott, Co-ordinator Banyule BUG 
  • Roger Thornton, Secretary Boroondara Bushwalkers 
  • John Parker, Boroondara BUG 
  • Peter Campbell, Boroondara BUG 
  • James Thyer, Community Coalition member
  • Gary Brennan, Bicycle Network Victoria
  • Michael Nolan, local resident
Crash statistics for the Chandler Highway
  • Crashes involving bicycles on the Chandler Hwy include 2 serious injury and 5 other injury crashes.
  • The route is a black length for cyclists which would qualify for road safety funding. 
  • Most (4 or 5) of the accidents including the 2 serious accidents are on the Yarra side of the river. 
  • These are very serious numbers noting that bicycle numbers are high.
See also

Monday, April 22, 2013

We need the Darebin Bridge for cyclists and pedestrians

Presentation to Boroondara Council on the Darebin Bridge
Peter Campbell, Monday 22 April 2013

Thanks Mr Chairperson and Councillors.

I am a local resident in Boroondara, I live in Durham Road, Surrey Hills.  I am a member of the Boroondara Bicycle Users Group.

We regularly go on family bike rides to visit Melbourne's wonderful natural places such as our creeks, rivers and the bayside.

My daughter Chloe is now seven and is riding a bike but she is not confident on the roads, including bike lanes.  We go to Anniversary Trail, the Gardiners Creek Trail and other trails with other families so that all the children can learn to ride safely and appreciate our natural environment.

For example, on a recent outing of two families there were two adults and three children all on bikes. We drove to the Gardiners Creek Trail and cycled part of the way into the city. We stopped at a section of parkland for a rest and explore then returned.

As a family, we have also traveled across to the Darebin and Capital City Trails and have found the current bike route crossing at Chandler Highway to be both inconvenient and dangerous.

As our children get more confident on their bikes, we will extend our trips along available trails.  The Darebin Bridge will provide a valuable and safe link between the north and south of the Yarra, and will also greatly improve the access to Willsmere Park.

This improved access will benefit many others, including pedestrians and people with disabilities.  Combined with some environmental improvements such as removal of weed infestations, Willsmere Park will be enhanced as a location for local children to learn to ride their bikes, and for walks, picnics and enjoying nature.

I commend the Victorian State Government and the Boroondara, Yarra, Darebin and Banyule Councils for supporting this great improvement that has been planned for over 15 years.

I am sure that many residents in families in Boroondara and surrounding Council areas will greatly appreciate and enjoy the bridge when it is constructed.

I certainly hope we will see the bridge built within my daughters lifetime.

See also

Monday, April 15, 2013

Please rule out retailing bioenergy derived from Australia’s native forests

Open letter.

Dear prospective retailer of bioenergy derived from Australia’s native forests,

As the world responds to climate change and seeks clean energy sources, proposals to use Australian native forest biomass to produce electricity or biofuels threaten our surviving forest heritage and actually exacerbate climate change.

Such proposals rely upon continuing industrial logging of our outstanding forests, which degrades their values by damaging biodiversity, terrestrial carbon stocks, clean air and water.

Logging to supply the export woodchip trade has attracted much controversy. Biomass for bioenergy will be the same. It will use exactly the same forest material as does native forest woodchipping, in massive volumes. The claim that this is ‘waste’ when in reality it constitutes 85% of wood coming out of the forests is nonsensical greenwash.

Using native forests for electricity or biofuels is not carbon neutral. A growing body of scientific evidence shows that it creates a large carbon debt, whereas ceasing to log reduces large emissions immediately.

Public native forests should be permanently protected for climate, water, wildlife, and the enjoyment of ordinary people.

Given the fraught and continually changing political environment surrounding both forest and climate policy in Australia, bioenergy is a risky investment and is heavily reliant on government grants, subsidies and tax breaks.

Genuinely clean, renewable energy sources may be displaced or undermined by native forest based bioenergy, but wind, solar and geothermal projects are the ones that we desire to be supported.

Please rule out retailing native forest derived bioenergy. Australians have already been indicating for years that they will not accept it. I will refuse to buy it because I want to buy real clean energy.

I look forward to your support for genuine clean and renewable energy sources.

For more information please visit

Yours sincerely,

Peter Campbell

Online petition

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Nice cycle tour around Williamstown

Lena, Chloe and I had a really nice cycle tour down to and around Williamstown. We caught the train to Southern Cross then headed down to Fishermens Bends.  The route followed some roads with cars but the traffic was not heavy.

We stopped a the Pier 35 Marina for a look then continued along the concrete shared bike and pedestrian trail to the punt that carries bikes across the Yarra.  The punt arrived just as we got there so we headed across travelling under the Westgate Bridge.

On the other side the bike path follows the bank for the Yarra and goes past "The Warmies" where lots of people were fishing.  This is the location of the outlet from the gas fired power station.

There were lots of people promenading in Williamstown. We continued on to the foreshore on the Bay, stopping to watch a large flock of Pelicans, Terns and Seagulls feeding on schools of fish right next to the shore at Point Gellibrand.

The bike trail continues on to the quiet Williamstown Beach which is a lovely location for a rest and a swim.  The trail then follows the coast for some great views out across the Bay and to Altona.  It passes a quaint little boat mooring then meanders along past some wetlands and the new houses at the Rifle Range Estate.

It was getting late so we headed back to The Strand for some great fish and chips, then followed the bike path back through Footscray to Southern Cross.  Chloe likes the Bike Friday tandem and contributes well to the pedalling, but its tricky to fit it on a crowded train.

All in all, a great short cycle tour.

Next time, we will go on to Altona and beyond.

At Chatham Station

Pier 35 Marina

Pier 35 Marina

The bike punt under the Westgate Bridge

Waiting for the bike punt

The bike punt

On the bike punt

Fishermen at the Warmies

Williamstown swing moorings

Sea birds feeding of Battery Road

Battery Road, Point Gellibrand

Williamstown beach

Bayview Street Harbour