Open Letter to Brunswick

Brunswick is Nonna hosing the garden with her apron on. Brunswick is the townhouse veggie garden, carefully pruned. Brunswick is the young family in their first home, toddler in one hand, scooter in the other as they head to the park. Brunswick is young people starting their careers at the hospitals or travelling into the city. Brunswick is students in share-houses (lounge on the balcony included). Brunswick is the tradespeople, working around the corner on rebuilding homes whilst maintaining the heritage facade. It is artists and small business owners from all parts of the world. It is the traditional owners of the land. It is East and West. It is people and progress. 


Brunswick is home. 


But Brunswick is also getting crowded. I catch the 58 tram on Grantham St to work and (pre-COVID) it is standing-room only from 7am. Sydney Road is gridlocked for cars and unsafe for cyclists. The density of cars and people in Brunswick East continues to rise as development increases. Hard rubbish and litter piles up on our streets. Small businesses are closing. 


The  population of Moreland is expected to hit 200,000 by 2030. Services and infrastructure cannot meet demand and Moreland Council has not planned well for population growth. In 2019, 41% of residents thought Council’s planning for population growth was  ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’. Things will get worse as Moreland continues to grow. 


In my experience, most people don’t care about politics. People care about services and issues that improve their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Local issues are also complex. People might support increased bike lanes but still need somewhere to park when they go and get groceries. People want to support increased services in the area but also want to make sure their rates are well spent, just like we all do when looking at grocery and electricity bills. 


In 2019, 25% of residents rated Council’s engagement and consultation as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’. That result is too high and indicates outcomes that are based on an agenda rather than engagement. For example, consider the approach to development and parking in Brunswick East that does not consider young families; the proposals for the bike lane on Sydney Road that don’t consider small business; or the Council rate rise in 2020, during a pandemic. Were you engaged and are you clear on the reasons behind the decision? 


Councillors vote along party lines, leaving no room for meaningful community engagement. Their views are predetermined based on party affiliation. In Moreland, a clear voting bloc exists and significant parts of the community have been left behind or unheard. 


Elections for Moreland Council will be held by post in October. Three spots are available in the South Ward and you should include an Independent in your vote. 


Postal voting significantly favours established parties and incumbents over Independent candidates. It is unlikely door-knocking or public campaigning will be allowed. Amongst other things, Labor and Greens Party candidates will have access to calling diallers, member lists, website creation, state MP endorsements, party funds and donors. 


If you elect an Independent, you will be adding checks and balances on the current party politics. You will be helping to prevent a voting bloc in either direction and ensure a return to evidence-based decisions on the issues. At the same time, an Independent won’t prevent good policies that are supported by both parties, who will likely maintain a majority overall. 


To prepare for the future of our local area, we must demand better planning of services and infrastructure, and better community consultation. We should bring all residents on the journey. This needs smart people who can handle complex problems and have experience across the spectrum. COVID makes engagement and planning all the more important. 


I know I’m not alone in this view, but I do not see it represented in our local government. That is why I am running as an Independent for Moreland. My professional experience as a lawyer and as a compliance professional, is balanced with my history of running pubs through uni. My volunteer work is rounded to include refugee services, promoting STEM for children and environmental causes. 


More than my resume, I am a product of my environment and my family. Like a lot of you, my parents moved to Australia to create opportunities. This is one I am willing to put my hand up for. 


After all, isn’t that what Brunswick is all about. 


If people, planning and progress matter to you please join me. 


John Durrant

Independent Candidate for Moreland - South Ward

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Authorised by John Durrant, Centennial Avenue, Brunswick West 3055

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