Council Report – March 2022

Hello all! It is time for a meeting update, and we just had a Council meeting on Monday 28th March. You can also read my latest supporters email, and sign up for these here.

There were a number of items on the agenda for March, which you can read here. Those on which I had something to say were:

  • The Graffiti Policy
  • Petitions on Housing Affordability and the new “demolition by neglect” legislation
  • Draft Cultural Diversity and Inclusion Plan

I’ve included my comments on the Graffiti Policy and the Petitions. If you’d like to watch a replay of the meeting you can do so here.

Graffiti Policy

This item was to endorse (or not) the Graffiti Policy, which had been in draft form for a while as it as developed, and as the City sought consultation. I think we need such a policy, but I voted against it for a few reasons concerning the lack of consultation and the fact that our Public Art policies are not yet finalised. Here are a few of my comments:

It has the likely effect of simply chilling legitimate street art that is not “authorised”. Bendigo has much so-called “unauthorised” street art that has now crossed over into commercially and artistically successful art. Would that have happened with this policy in place? I don’t think so.

In addition, the consultation on this policy is inadequate. Would we design a policy for sporting groups with consulting people who play sport? Would we design a policy for planning without consulting developers? God forbid. Yet, we have designed a policy for graffiti without consulting anyone who engages in it…

Lastly, I would be much more comfortable affirming this policy if I was convinced that the City was serious about encouraging public street art. This is proposed to happen through the Temporary Public Art Policy, and Permanent Public Art Policy. However, both of these Policies are under review. I would much prefer that we defer this policy until those policies are finalised.

Petitions on housing and heritage

The first petition was from the Bendigo Uniting Churches Social Justice Group, who want Council to advocate for what is called “inclusionary zoning”. Essentially, the idea is that social or affordable housing would have to be included by developers if they built in this zone, thereby increasing the amount of housing available for people with low incomes. I said:

In our Affordable Housing Action Plan, action 2.1.5 states that the Statutory Planning Unit of council will “Advocate to State Government to mandate inclusionary zoning in the Planning Scheme, to ensure that a proportion of housing in a development is set aside for affordable housing.” I look forward to a report from council officers that includes that progress that has been made on this action item.

The second petition was from the National Trust of Australia (Bendigo branch) calling for Council to incorporate new powers into our planning scheme which allow us to deter owners of buildings from allowing them to degrade through neglect, to the point where they can only be demolished. Unfortunately, exactly how to enforcing these powers is not particularly clear, so I am looking forward to the report.

It is notable that both of the petitions tonight relate to complex and intractable problems, and both relate to physical structures. I don’t say this as a pessimistic comment – it actually gives me hope that ordinary members of our community are engaged with some of the real problems of our time, namely “How do we preserve our built heritage in the face of untrammelled development?”, and “How do we ensure all people have a home?”

On this petition’s subject matter, that of the new demolition by neglect legislation, I acknowledge the complex nature of the implementation. We are not voting except to table this petition and receive a report, but can I say that the State Government needs to come to the party on this. They have prepared a piece of legislation in response to a real problem – so far so good. Yet, there is no guidance for local governments on how to implement it.