Edition 3: November 2023
From the Mayors: transport priorities panel discussion
Launching the NCA’s Community Electric Vehicle Action Plan gave Mayors from the seven Councils an opportunity to provide details on how issues with transport impact their communities.
Led by moderator Brett Luxford, CEO of Mitchell Shire Council, the panel discussion covered a wide range of transport-related topics – from the challenges of congestion, delays and accessibility to opportunities offered by active transport and electric vehicles.
Cr Peter Castaldo, Mayor of Banyule, led the way with his enthusiasm for
electric cars. As a Tesla owner, he knows how important it is to have the right
infrastructure in place to meet growing community needs.
“Some people say that electric vehicles are the future, but they’re not. They’re
here now,” he said. “The only impediment to rapid rollout is policy. We have to
get those policies right, and that’s what our new plan aims to do.”
Being able to move people around the region will be the key to allowing all
residents to access employment, health services and education services.
The importance of connectivity and key precincts across the region was taken up by Cr Julie Williams, Mayor of Darebin.
“Transport connectivity, particularly to and between major hubs and activity centres, is difficult in Melbourne’s north,” she noted. “What takes 10 minutes in a car can take more than an hour by public transport. Connections are not efficient. We need to do things in a different way.”
With Mitchell Shire being one of the fastest growing regions in Australia, Cr Fiona Stevens, Mayor of Mitchell, pointed out how a lack of transport infrastructure was affecting her entire community.
“We expect to have more than 181,000 people in our shire in the next 20 years, more than triple the number of residents we have today. That’s immense growth by any standards,” she explained. “If we don’t take a long-term view to strategic planning and investment, we’ll be playing catch up forever and that will be to the detriment of people who choose to live in our wonderful part of the world.”
The Bus Network Study, also part of the NCA’s advocacy priorities, highlights the importance of establishing direct public transport connections to key employment areas and the new suburbs that will need bus services. Cr Ben Rancharam, Mayor of Nillumbik, noted the need for buses across and beyond Nillumbik, as his residents rely on neighbouring municipalities for services like hospitals.
“We don’t need extra infrastructure to put buses into our transport network. It’s something we can do fast. I think it’s a matter of urgency to look at that entire network from a regional perspective, as we’ve laid out in our Bus Network Study,
to make sure the bus network is really meeting our needs.”
Cr Angelica Panopoulos, Mayor of Merri-bek City Council, clarified why maximising rail options is important in Melbourne’s north. In particular, she highlighted the need for effective rail networks to connect people to jobs and services and alleviate congestion on key roads.
“The point of being elected to Council is to make things better for the community,” she explained. “If you’re backed in by evidence, we’ll take that evidence and advice seriously and see how we can enact things. That includes advocacy for key transport improvements.”
With Whittlesea bordering five NCA municipalities, Ms Lydia Wilson,
Chair of Administrators at the City of Whittlesea, noted that access to
precincts and employment is an issue for Melbourne’s north.
“As Councils we have a privileged role, in that we can advocate to government on issues that include seeking funding for the transition to electric vehicles, and also for statewide and local planning scheme amendments where required to support precinct development,” she said.
The importance of active transport is also a key feature of the Community Electric Vehicle Action Plan, which outlines how
a network of integrated trails would benefit the whole region.
The panel discussion was rounded out by Cr Joseph Haweil, Chair of the
NCA and Mayor of the City of Hume, who praised his colleagues for their
commitment to regional engagement.
“If we don’t do something differently when we have the opportunity to do so
then we’re going to condemn future generations to education poverty, lived
experience poverty and worse healthcare outcomes. We can certainly do
better. But it takes collaboration, and that’s more than just a buzz word.
"Presenting a unified regional voice to state and federal governments maximises opportunities for our entire region.”