Vote for our Drinking water Fountains in Shopping Strips Community Submission to Merri-bek Council capital works 2023/24

February 19, 2023 at 2:26 pm Leave a comment

We have made a submission for Merri-bek Council Community Budget engagement focussed on provision of public drinking water fountains in Merri-bek’s shopping centres. It is one of 26 projects that is being put to the community to vote up. People have 3 votes to allocate among the projects. Voting closes 12 March 2023 at 11.59pm. Merri-bek Community Budget submission projects

Last year Merribek Council opened up for community submission projects for the 2022/23 Capital Works program, setting aside a limited portion of funds for the projects voted up by the community.

We have provided some essential background reading in this blog on our interactions with Council on campaigning for more public water fountains, since a Council Resolution initially raised the issue in 2014. This is a small but important piece of climate adaptation to public infrastructure to meet the challenge of staying healthy and hydrated as temperatures warm due to climate change and we experience more extreme heat days and heatwaves in our urban environment.

Climate Action Merri-bek submission:

Drinking Fountains in Shopping Strips

Estimated cost: $50,000

There are very few drinking fountains in Merri-bek’s shopping strips. They are mainly in the parks. Access to free, convenient and hygienic drinking water is important for our health and wellbeing. As our urban areas become hotter due to climate change, this need will increase.

We would like drinking fountains in every shopping strip in our Neighbourhood Centres. In the Brunswick, Coburg and Glenroy Activity Centres we would like drinking fountains located every few hundred metres. This would benefit all residents. We would all have access to free drinking water where we shop and meet friends.

This aligns with the Council Plan 2021-25:

  • It reduces plastic waste (theme 1)
  • It encourages us to walk and ride to the shops (theme 2)
  • It helps keep us hydrated and healthy (theme 3)
  • It makes our shopping strips more welcoming, attracting shoppers (theme 4).

The Urban Heat Island Effect Action Plan (2016/2017 – 2025/2026) also prioritises Activity Centres and Neighbourhood Centres.

Merri-bek Community Budget submission projects

Other Projects

All the community projects are worthy to be completed. But from a climate and sustainablility perspective we would particularly like to highlight these three as worthy of support as well as our own project:

  • Double Annual Delivery of Shade Structures for Playgrounds and Parks 23/24 (Estimated cost: $80,000)
  • Installation of nesting boxes (Estimated cost: $10,000)
  • Accessible Community Noticeboards at Community Gardens (Estimated cost: $20,000)

Shade Structures for Playgrounds: Delivery of Shade superstructures in playgrounds seems important to us. We have blogged on this issue in November 2020: Taking the temperature of Moreland Playgrounds and surfaces; and September 2022: Addressing urban heat and burn risk in Playgrounds.

Nesting Boxes: In June 2020 we made a Submission: Moreland Nature Plan needs to recognise existential threat to biodiversity. Most of Merri-bek’s urban forest is still quite young with many trees less than 100 years old. Trees over 100 years old usually have more natural nesting burrows for small mammals and birds. The Nesting box proposal assists species in providing nesting habitat while our urban forest is still aging and not able to provide natural breeding habitats. Many of these species provide pollination or prey on insects (like mosquitos). Just read Donna Louise Treby’s 2014 Doctoral thesis on Hollow-Bearing Trees as a Habitat Resource along an Urbanisation Gradient for extensive discussion on Nest Boxes and use in urban environments (as against offsets for forest environments) (See link in Refs)

Community noticeboards: are an important alternative communication for events and activities at places already with social activity and engagement. It promotes participation and community engagement.

Council have allocated up to $250,000 for community budget ideas this financial year. Instead of allocating 3 votes per person we suggest Council could allow people to nominate in priority order projects up to the value of the limit set. An idea to be considered for future voting on community Budget submissions.

Background to Water Fountains in Merri-bek

October 2014: Drinking Fountain Strategy ordered. A multipart motion by Cr Bolton passes Council to adopt measures for heatwave response. Included was “Develop a Drinking Fountain Strategy to ensure adequate access to free water in the public domain.” – CAM Moreland Council increases Heatwave response strategy

February 2018: Discovered Drinking Fountain Strategy not actioned due to Council Officer bureacratic error in followup meetings with Council officers, Mayor and Deputy Mayor on Council Heatwave response measures. Public question on Drinking Fountain Strategy at 14 February Council meeting taken on notice. CAM – Promoting heat respite at Council offices and Chasing up Moreland’s Heatwave response from October 2014

14 March 2018 – Response to Question on Notice on Drinking Fountain Strategy. Work commenced to determine gaps in public water fountain provision. Current program to include as part of all Open Space and park upgrades/renewals. Reply included in Council Governance Report 14 April 2018 Council Meeting

March 29, 2018: Provision of drinking fountains discussed in a meeting with Director of City Infrastructure who said provision of water fountains is being progressed in current work, such as the Cooling the Upfield Corridor Action Plan. Also discussed were Council Heat Plan and extension of Upfield Bike Path beyond Box Forest Road. (Email)

May 2018: Climate Action Merri-bek submission to the Cooling the Upfield Action Plan. One of our key recommendations was “Drinking Fountains: Greatly extend the availability of drinking fountains at regular intervals where appropriate within the corridor.” CAM – Cooling the Upfield Corridor – Our Submission

October 2018: Council adopts Cooling the Upfield Corridor Action Plan but public drinking fountains unfunded. Access to Drinking Water was one of 13 actions which came under Theme 6, noted as without funding. “Theme 6: Additional Interventions – potential projects requiring new funding which harness opportunities to cool/green the corridor.” CAM – Cooling the Upfield Corridor – Moreland Council adopts plan mitigating Urban heat

November 2018 Council requests water fountain inventory in a resolution on Preparations for extreme heat in the 2018/2019 summer. Second point states: “Conducts an inventory of the water fountains in parks and public streets and squares to assess any gaps where water fountains are needed.

May 2022: Question to Council meeting, taken on Notice from John Englart on Drinking Fountains Inventory. “In 2014 Moreland Council passed a motion to develop a Water Drinking Fountain strategy as part of urban heat response, but was not actioned (slipped through the gaps of council processes). This was never reversed in a council decision, although when highlighted it had not been actioned in 2018, Council staff said drinking water fountains installation would be done as needed as part of Council capital works projects. A motion in November 2018 addressed the issue with doing an inventory of water fountains to identify gaps in the network of public water fountains. What is the progress on this water fountain inventory? Can the inventory be made available?

28 June 2022: written response to Question provided by the Director of City Infrastructure. Although some relevant information was provided, it did not address the specific questions asked. A follow up email was sent by John Englart to Council on 29 June asking for the questions to be properly responded to.

Late in the afternoon of 29 June 2022 a Council officer had an extensive phone conversation with Climate Action Merribek Convenor John Englart on rhe rollout of drinking fountains, and later forwarded the Council inventory of public drinking fountains. This effectively answered the questions put to Council. The information provided included (as at June 2022):

  • Most of Merri-bek’s drinking fountains are in municipal parks with four listed in road reserves across the municipality
  • Need for an audit as two maps which show drinking fountain locations are missing about 12 fountains (as at June 2022)
  • Both the Council maps and current fountain list highlight a real gap in service delivery (as at June 2022)
  • Council’s Sustainability team advocate for sporting clubs and Council’s Recreation Unit to include bottle fillers and drinking fountains as part of the plastic wise program. There is a current challenge convincing sporting clubs and council’s Recreation and Building Facilities Units to install a $2.5k public bottle filler or drinking fountain but running off Sports Clubs water supply. Approximate annual cost of water supply is estimated at $10 annually. If Council has to install a new separate water line and infrastructure for a public drinking fountain the cost blows out to over $12k. It highlights the inconsistency of often major subsidies to Sports Clubs while these clubs have the veto to refuse to consider a public water bottle filler station that can be used at minimal cost to the Sports Club, and would probably be used mostly by their own members.
  • Council are developing mapping tools to create a walkability, catchment and gap area assessment including accessible routes based on topography, thermal comfort, and DELWP 2018 social vulnerability and heat maps. This will provide gap information for siting of new public water fountains.This is being progressed through the Open Space Strategy refresh currently underway in 2023.

As you can see Climate Action Merri-bek has followed the provision of public water fountains through from Cr Bolton’s original motion in 2014, as part of climate adaptation in helping people stay well hydrated in warm weather.

Work on the Open Space Strategy in 2023 to identify gaps in public water availability along walking and cycling routes, thermal comfort and heat vulnerability will be important going forward.

We think our project to roll out public drinking water fountains in the shopping strips around the municipality fills many strategic goals of Council and is worthy of your support. Visit the Conversations Merri-bek Community Budget Stage 2 Support page to allocate your three votes.

Public Drinking Water fountain map of Merri-bek (Feb 2020)


Entry filed under: health, heatwave, Merri-bek Council, news, submission. Tags: , , , , .

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