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Welcome to the FRA's FitzTalk

On behalf of the FRA committee, welcome to this April 2022 edition of FitzTalk. The year has got off to a similar start to last year with continuing COVID-19 concerns and consideration of actions needed to build back better.
The inaugural FitzTalk in the Pub was held last month to begin a conversation by members and friends as to the opportunities and challenges that do confront the Yarra City Council and us as members of the community. 
Our next PubTalk will be later in the year and will seek to engage residents on local planning issues and the ways we can protect and promote what is best about Fitzroy, its neighbourhoods, buildings, streets and laneways.  
The next Committee meeting will be held via Zoom, and FRA members can join the meeting to discuss an issue. If you wish to attend the next online Committee meeting on Sunday 24 April at 5pm please contact us by email (
Martin Brennan

FitzTalk in the Pub held Sunday 20 March

The FRA held its inaugural PubTalk for members and friends on the topic ‘Living through COVID’. Our panellists, Mayor Cr Sophie Wade, Unit Manager, Arts, Culture, Venues and Events, Siu Chan and People of Gertrude Street activist PK were invited to provide their perspective on ‘Living through COVID-19’ with a focus on building back better our shopping strips and Yarra's cultural and arts identity and activities.
COVID-19 has resulted in multi-layered impacts – personal, professional, political and across diverse communities, neighbourhoods and streets.  It has required responses that address the impacts and the future for our communities. This is due to both what we have experienced and also what we can expect on a climate changing planet.

Our Shopping Strips 

It is good to know how our shopping strips (or “activity centres”) are travelling through and out of the impact of COVID-19. You can check out how your shopping strips are doing here

Current Planning Issues

The FRA has objected to the following proposed developments and awaits the applications being considered by the Planning and Development Committee.

84–104 Johnston Street, Fitzroy 

What’s our role if it’s not to……

The FRA believes that the revised Councillor Code of Conduct and the Councillors’ Social Media Policy (tabled and adopted at Council Meeting of 8 March 2022) should have been deferred pending community consultation.

While the Council Officers Report indicates the ‘extensive discussion and a number of workshops with Councillors’ there was, we believe, the need to seek a community response given that the elected councillors are ultimately responsible to the electors of the City of Yarra. More information on the Councillor Code of Conduct and the Councillors’ Social Media Policy can be found here

Yarra City Council in Session

You can watch Council meetings from your home. IT is a good way to see how councillors and the council as a whole reach decisions that impact on you!

If members want to present at Council on issues please contact us.

New CEO for Yarra City Council 

Following the departure of Vijaya Vaidyanath after 10 years, Yarra Council has appointed a new CEO. Sue Wilkinson is currently CEO at Darebin Council and has extensive experience in local government and town planning. Ms Wilkinson will commence at the end of June 2022.
More information about the appointment is available here
Chris Leivers is Yarra City Council's Acting Chief Executive Officer.

World Heritage Strategy 2022 to 2025 and Heritage Advisory Committee (HAC)

A planning consultation is live on Engage Victoria and submissions have been extended to 22 April 2022. The link is  The FRA applauds the strategy and our HAC member (Greg Chenhall) sent additional points to Yarra’s Senior Heritage Advisor to consider for Council’s submission. The additional points are: to complete the review with relevant Planning Scheme amendments as well as to investigate inclusion of the strategies and plans as incorporated documents in relevant planning schemes.

Yarra City Budget 2022–2023

Mayor Cr Sophie Wade noted the $50m budget gap at the FRA’s recent FitzTalk in the Pub event. This budget shortfall is and will be a huge challenge for Council and the community. A draft Yarra Budget is noted for release and feedback during April/May as per the update at YourSay site here
Council has many excellent adopted Strategies and Plans developed with community engagement over the years for which funding is adequate to achieve the outcomes. An example of an underfunded strategy is the 2019 Yarra Heritage Strategy which does not appear to have been resourced adequately over the last few years to achieve its actions. An example of an underfunded plan is the Brunswick Street Master plan.

Planning Amendment C269 Update

It is expected that the revised high level (and long term) draft Yarra Planning Policies, which guide Design Development Overlay (DDO) work, will come back to Council on the 19 April 2022.
An Independent Planning Panel received submissions from various groups on the Planning Policies which include Heritage Policy Clause 15.01-2LThe FRA propose that all the Panel’s recommendations be adopted and the amendment process continue.
Key Recommendations:

  • Neighbourhood shopping-strips to keep their low-rise character until a DDO process establishes any change (or not) for appropriate heights (note that Major Activity Centres or Shopping Strips such as Brunswick Street have DDO processes underway.)
  • A DDO process needs to be underpinned by both a neighbourhood character study as well as community consultation.
  • Affordable housing is mandatory, not just preferred, when land is rezoned.
  • The Merri Creek, Darebin Creek and Yarra River have tighter, clearer rules protecting public access, as well as natural landscape buffers.
  • Some improvements to the Heritage Clause are recommended by the Panel.

Tagging Vigilance

The rise in tagging during COVID-19 continues in some areas and is costly to clean and manage. Cleaning tagging costs the city around $800,000 a year. Getting on top of new tags quickly appears to help calm the issue. 
The People of Gertrude Street is trialling green wall approaches in key commercial spots assisted by Council. 
Yarra Council’s 2020 framework includes two no-charge tagging removals per residential address each year via the Council contractor. Removal kits and paint vouchers are also available also for residents to use. See page for the information and reporting links.
Concerned residents can also have graffiti removed from neighbouring buildings to ensure that their precinct/street remains clean. If this is not your own property, owner approvals are sought and generally these will be on record.
You can also phone Yarra City Council on 9205 5555 to lodge a removal request. The tagging removal service is open to properties that have heritage sensitive surfaces. The contractor can provide advice and will provide cleaning of these surfaces.
If you think there are continuing issues with the task being concluded (for whatever reason), please report this to the FRA.  What underpins all of this is the community needs to be vigilant.
Heavily tagged areas can make people feel unsafe at night and hence the issue intersects with Yarra’s Draft Transport Policy 2022 (in that some are likely to use cars rather than choose public transport).
Perhaps one way forward is for residents to group together to remove tagging in their street regularly to augment the Council and individual cleaning efforts.

Yarra's Draft Transport Strategy Consultation

Have Your Say on Yarra's draft Transport Strategy. Submissions and YourSay site feedback at are due 25 April 2022. If you have a keen interest in local transport feel free to contact us about that asap.

Rainbow Advisory Committee (RAC) Update

FRA member Jamie Gardiner is a member of the Rainbow Advisory Comittee. He recently raised the issues of RAC input for the Yarra LGBTIQA+ Strategy Year 2 action plan as well as whether Council funded aged care services could work toward Rainbow Tick accreditation. The Yarra LGBTIQA+ Strategy Year 2 action plan is expected be tabled at a Council meeting in April.

Consultative Statutory Planning

A major change (through a revised Instrument of Delegation for Statutory Planning) was adopted by Yarra Council on 8 March 2022. It gives council officers more authority to make the final Yarra Council decision about future statutory planning developments. 
Councillors Jolly, O’Brien and Stone voted against the item as tabled, seeking community consultation. The change reduces councillor decision making and the community’s voice in decisions about new development proposals. One of the many changes is the need more than 15 objections (up from 6) for a matter to be reviewed by Councillors at a Planning Decisions Committee (PDC) Meeting. More detail on the many changes will be posted to the FRA website over the coming month.
The FRA was one of many Yarra residents groups to sign a letter (as part of a group of groups) seeking community input into the changes, and the FRA independently emailed Councillors before the 8 March 2022 changes seeking a deferment for consultation.
The changes were passed by the majority of councillors on 8 March and a rescission motion put forward at the council meeting on Tuesday 29 March was defeated despite further correspondence from a wide range of residents from across the City.

We Need You!

Members and Friends, would you like to be more active in the community and assist the work of the FRA?  Please contact us to offer your expertise and local community interests at

Compiled by:  Martin Brennan & Greg Chenhall
For additional information on any of the items in FitzTalk please email
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