Saturday, March 24, 2012

Altona Beach Festival 2012

Altona Beach Festival 2013 Program

The Altona Beach Festival or its predecessor the Altona Bayside Festival is traditionally held in March, one week after the Labor Day long weekend. This year it is held a week earlier on the 10th of March 2012, concurrently with the Moomba Festival. With only localized and limited publicity, I thought this scheduling may affect the turnout as some people may opt to visit the much more renowned Moomba Festival.



When I arrived at Logan Reserve at around 10.45 a.m., the sky was downcast and there was only a handful of patrons. But with the sky clearing by midday, the number of visitors started to swell as indicated by a continuous stream of cars along Queen Street. I think the turnout is not affected by the Moomba Festival and the number of visitors is just right. There are a lot of people but there are still ample spaces to move around. We also do not need to wait very long for popular activities such as the Giant Slide.

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In contrast, when we visited the Birdman Rally the following day, we found Princes Bridge to be so thronged with people that one could only move forwards at snail pace. By the time we reached the south bank of the Yarra River in Alexandra Gardens opposite the Birdman's stage at 1.30 p.m., the rally had ended earlier than it was scheduled. Hence, the Altona Beach Festival can provide a good alternative to the Moomba Festival for people, especially those living in the west, to spend the long weekend. There are not as many people and without the queues and crowds, we get to enjoy the activities more.

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Frankly speaking, the Beach Festival is a greatly scaled-down version of the Bayside Festival which was held over 3 days. This is an inevitable consequence of tighter council budget. To offset the cost, the local “Summer Sounds” concert featuring the Black Sorrows was incorporated into the Festival (Ref 1). The Bayside Festival was held across two main venues, at Grant Reserve near Cherry Lake and at Logan Reserve while the Beach Festival was located primarily at Logan Reserve. Both arrangements have their pros and cons. The Bayside Festival would have appeared grander as it involves more activities in more locations. However, due to the considerable walking distance between Logan Reserve and Grant Reserve, visitors became scattered between the two locations. The Altona Beach Festival concentrates the activities at one location, which helps to pool the resources together and enables easy accessibility to all activities. Consequently, the focal point becomes stronger and a larger crowd contributing to the festive atmosphere can be sustained throughout the day. The beach also provides a great backdrop, particularly for those first-time visitors to Altona.

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However, this approach also brings about a number of problems. First of all, there are a lot of unpaved parking spaces around Grant Reserve. This is not so near Logan Reserve, presenting difficulties of finding parking spaces for those who come by cars. Secondly, Logan Reserve itself is restricted in space so unlike Grant Reserve, it cannot accommodate monstrous-sized children play stations. You may have observed that the two large-scale children play equipments were chosen to overcome the space constraints. The Climbing Wall extends vertically while the Giant Slide while long is narrow. Hence, both could be shifted to the Esplanade where they fit perfectly. Two other key elements of the Festival, that is, the Classic Car Show and the Street Parade also face similar space constraints. While the Grant Reserve is sufficiently large to accommodate dozens of classic cars, it is impossible to put these cars into or around Logan Reserve. The solution is to host the Classic Car Show separately at Apex Park. Apex Park being very large, does not impose space constraints. An unexpected consequence of this decision is the dramatic increase in the number of participating cars. I would say the Classic Car Show has grown faster than the Festival. I will elaborate on the Classic Car Show at a later post with more photos. Here is a video for your preview.



A large number of groups had participated in the Grand Parade at previous Bayside Festivals. A logistics issue is where to assemble large number of contingents before the parade and disperse them in an orderly manner at the end. This is not so much a problem with the old route, where the parade starts off at Logan Reserve along Pier St and ends at Grant Reserve/Cherry Lake, which has large grounds and ample parking spaces for the participating vehicles. The best vantage point is at the Civic Pde/Pier St roundabout in front of the Council Civic Chambers. After the parade, the street audience will then proceed to the festive ground at Grant Reserve for other activities.



Sticking with this route will not be feasible with the Beach Festival. Festival goers will be required to walk a considerable distance from the southern end of Pier St at Logan Reserve to the northern end at the Civic Pde roundabout to have the best view of the Parade and then walk back to Logan Reserve to partake in other activities. The parade participants will have to do likewise. Hence, the street parade route is changed to the Esplanade starting from Ransom Reserve (where there are ample grounds and parking lots) and ending at Logan Reserve. However, Logan Reserve does not have enough parking spaces for the participating vehicles. Hence, we can see that there is a drastic reduction in the number of participating teams, in particular vehicles. The parking lots fronting Logan Reserve across the beach were reserved for these vehicles.

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The timing of the parade is also changed from noon (around 11 a.m.) to about 5.30-6 p.m. This allows the Climbing Wall, Giant Slide and other stalls to operate on the Esplanade until about 4 p.m., after which they are dismantled to make way for the Parade. I wish to make suggestions about the Parade. First, the direction is wrong. With the Parade coming from the west, we are looking directly into the setting sun, which is really uncomfortable and could not see the Parade clearly. The organizer may wish to consider assembling the Parade at Cresser Reserve on the east (there are also ample spaces there) and marching westwards to Pier St along the Esplanade. This is however a longer route. I also miss the grandeur of the old Parade so I hope it will be restored to its former scale.

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Bendigo Bank has always been a strong supporter of community events. Every year, it sponsors the Cobb & Co and Cinderella horse wagon rides during Australia Day as well as the Historic Double Decker Bus Tours of Altona during the Altona Beach Festival. I wish to compliment the Bus Tour event this year. I am pleasantly surprised to discover the tour journey time has substantially increased compared to past years, extending to Altona Coastal Park at the eastern end and to Apex Park at the western end. My little son has enjoyed the bus ride so much that he refused to get down.

What makes the Altona Beach Festival and other local events so attractive to us is their focus on family activities. There are so many activities catered towards children. Besides the Giant Slide and Climbing Wall, there is the very interesting and innovative "robotic animal feeding farm" or whatever it is called, which features an one-eyed monster and a gigantic pile of mobile cow dung. There are also children arts workshops in the Senior Citizens Club and free balloon sculptures. The food stalls are quite interesting as well. We have tried the Dutch pancakes and something called the Twisty Pud shown in the photo below.

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The Festival ended with a spectacular display of fireworks over Altona Beach.



According to this news report, the Hobsons Bay Council said that it has allocated $20,000 to Altona Beach Festival, $20,000 to Williamstown Festival, $10,000 to Laverton Festival and a shared pool of $45,000 for all 3 festivals. It said that it could not afford to operate the Altona Beach Festival as an annual event. Hence, the Altona Beach Festival faces an uncertain future, despite its popularity. One strategy is to follow the example of other festivals in seeking more commercial sponsorships (outside of the local area) to support the continued viability of the Festival.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Innova Toxic Soil Facility

Read this about EPA's track records

NSW-based company Innova Soil Technology first announced in July 2009, its plans to build a treatment plant at the Dow Chemical site in Kororoit Creek Rd for recycling contaminated soil from old industrial and building sites, gas works and petrol stations across Victoria. Trucks would bring the harmful soil to an enclosed facility, where it would be heated and cleaned indoors (Ref 1, 2, 3, 4). This $50 million facility is named the "Centre for Soil Remediation" but is better known as the "Toxic Soil Facility" by local communities and newspapers.

Technology

To support its business case, Innova made a number of claims highlighting its credentials and advantage. First, its technology known as Direct-heated Fast-quenched Thermal Desorption (DFTD), is the only one of its kind in Australia and is patented in several countries. However, being the first does not necessarily mean it is the best. A competitor Renex has laid claim to a more superior technology (Ref 5).

Safety

Secondly, its operations are completely safe with no harmful emissions. Its operations manager Dr Nick Ebrill said the polluted soil would be transported to the site in EPA-registered covered trucks, designed not to leak and unloaded in an air-locked building with dust and odour filters. The trucks will only travel 1.2 km from the Princes Highway along Grieve Pde and Kororoit Creek Rd to the site and would not pass through residential areas. The plant would have no impact on surrounding properties (Ref 3, 2). I am sure the BP offshore oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan, the Chernoby nuclear plant in Ukraine and the Union Carbide plant in India were all designed against accidents. Closer at home, spills occurred at the Altona Mobil Refinery from time to time, with a major explosion in 1991 (Ref 6). I had mentioned in an earlier post that both the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) and Casey Council had to pay a collective $13.5 million compensation to residents of Brookland Greens estate due to methane leaks from a nearby landfill. I am now reiterating points from that post because this has direct bearing to the Innova's venture.

In 2010, a Victorian Auditor-General report found that EPA inadequately regulated management of hazardous waste - including potentially explosive, toxic, radioactive and infectious material - at about 10,000 sites across the state (Ref 7). In 2008-09, the EPA made 46% fewer inspections of sites licensed to deal with hazardous waste than 4 years earlier, in part because it had adopted a policy of ''greater self-regulation'' by business. The EPA said this was part of a decision to ''redirect effort to focus on other priorities''. But the Auditor-General's Office found that EPA could not name the new priorities, nor explain why they were more important than monitoring compliance with the law.

Acting Auditor-General Peter Frost said the EPA's monitoring and inspection lacked coherence, purpose and co-ordination. He found its records were unreliable, with information on hazardous waste spread across 9 databases, some of them incomplete. As a consequence, there is little assurance that hazardous waste is stored and disposed of appropriately.

Other findings included:
  • While the EPA once inspected all vehicles carrying hazardous waste, it now approved 95% of permit applications based on basic paperwork.
  • Recycled waste was not monitored, prompting fears it may be stockpiled or dumped.
  • Hazardous waste licence holders were not required to guarantee they could pay to clean up potential breaches, exposing the state to significant financial risk.

When I read all these, my heart sank. Does having an EPA stamp on trucks matter if EPA does not conduct regular checks? Do we feel adequately protected under the auspices of EPA's approval? I had called EPA a few times regarding plastics-burning odours emanating from the Qenos plant. I always get the standard response that somebody will return me a call to answer my concerns but I never receive a followup call. So in the end I gave up trying. EPA held an open house on 20 Oct 2010 at the Finnish Hall in Pier Street. I specifically went there to seek the answer and I was told to contact either Qenos or the Altona Complex Neighborhood Consultative Group (ACNCCG). I cannot help but feel that EPA is just passing the buck around.

Of personal concern to me is the truck route along Grieve Parade which will pass by a childcare centre at the Westgate Sports & Leisure Centre, where I send my two kids to.

The safety assurances were weakened through several separate incidences. The submissions to EPA contain many highly technical questions that require a fair bit of knowledge regarding Innova's technology, operations and history, which I myself being outside of this field will not be able to raise. This leads me to think there are considerable concerns from the "experts". Innova had answered all the questions as required but we do not know whether the persons who raised these questions are satisfied with the response. The report does not have provisions for individuals to seek further clarifications on the replies given. Neither do we know if EPA follows up on the responses (e.g. validating them) or if this submission process is merely an administrative procedure for compliance with legislation and has no real significant controls and checks. For example, one person was concerned about the financial state of Innova. I doubt if EPA checks the balance sheet or cashflow of Innova. If it really has an estimated annual sales of $183,653 according to online data, then this is not much. Once a major hazard facility is being established, it will be very expensive to remove. Hence, this concern is of high relevance and importance in ensuring that we are not saddled with an unsustainable legacy in the future.

There are at least two publicly-known independent sources of "expert" opinions that question the safety standards.  Geoff Mitchelmore, a former chief chemist with Gas and Fuel Corporation of Victoria and the current president of the Friends of Lower Kororoit Creek, has investigated soil remediation sites overseas. He was concerned about the potential for the soil to include toxic chemicals and consequent exposure to dust containing heavy metals. He said:
"I disagree with putting a dusty environment anywhere near the residential areas in Hobsons Bay. It’s the beginning of the end. They’ll bring in everything they can. Long term, we are going to be recipients of all these unwanted soils and what’s in them. It’s totally wrong to have all of Victoria’s waste dumped here.” (Ref 2, 5, 8
A Dandenong-based soil treatment company Renex is appealing to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) to overturn the approval EPA gave Innova in May 2011 for the Altona plant. It questions whether Innova's proposal constitutes best practice and states that, unlike Innova's planned operations, the Renex plant would be in a fully enclosed building, is better equipped to manage emissions and will like to treat all Victoria's toxic soil at its Dandenong South site. Renex faces similar strong objections from local communities including the environmental group RATWISE (Residents Against Toxic Waste in the South East). Renex turned to VCAT after Dandenong Council refused to grant a permit because of the risk of untreated emissions and other concerns. After gaining approvals from both EPA and VCAT, Renex is able to establish its plant at Dandenong South (Ref 59 , 10, 11).

There appears to be much money to be made from soil remediation for Renex had just received a $20 million investment from Cleantech Ventures and an institutional investor (Ref 12), and another waste company SITA Environmental Solutions had also made an application (Ref 10). It is no wonder that Renex wants the cake all to itself. Likewise, it is not unreasonable to speculate that Innova will aim to expand beyond servicing the west to all parts of Victoria in the future although Innova spokesman Ken Davis had said he suspected Innova might be servicing only the west (Ref 5).

Innova itself has refrained from making promises. At a public meeting hosted by EPA, a resident asked Innova CEO Associate Professor John Lucas if he could guarantee the soil contaminants being processed would not be responsible for cancers in the future. “We once thought asbestos was safe,” she said. He replied that the utmost care would be employed when transporting and processing the soil. I think the reason why he did not make a guarantee is that he simply does not have the answer (Ref 18). This slip, which would unlikely to have occurred in a written response, probably reflects Innova's reservations about its own confidence to foresee and prevent any incidence, accident or adverse effects.


Community Consultations

Innova has made repeated public claims that it has widespread support for the facility. On 21 Aug 2009, it claimed the following on its now defunct "Bang the Table" website (a snapshot is available here):
Innova Soil Technology has been delighted and encouraged by the community response to our proposal to clean contaminated soil within the City of Hobsons Bay. The opportunity to cleanse soil from local polluted sites in the area - returning them to light industrial, commercial or housing development, even parklands, recreation reserves or sporting facilities in some instances - has met with strong support. The legacy of previous generations needs to be addressed now and not left to future generations. (Ref 14).
In a letter to the City Council, Innova stated:
… community, environmental groups and local business have generally responded very positively to the proposal. Indeed environmental groups are enthusiastic about the possibility of cleaning up … sites in the West.” (Ref 17)
A letter from the Hobsons Bay Residents' Association to the City Council reveals that Innova had hired a consultant, disguised as a resident member of the Altona Complex Neighbourhood Consultative Group (ACNCG), to approach residents to sign a petition in support of the proposal. These residents were told that the application was merely to clean up local contaminated sites and were not told that this is a permanent facility to serve the whole of Victoria. They were also unaware that the petition was commissioned by the developer. The petition is more a refiection of Innova's resolve to gain the appearance of community support rather than actual community support.

Local newspapers had reported about ACNCG setting up a stall in Pier Street on 1 Dec 2009 during the Beach Market to garner support for Innova's proposal (Ref 1, 8). The OAM Deputy Chair of ACNCG Judy Hindle said the group spoke to about 100 residents and 99% of them endorsed the proposal.
We’ve got really big issues, especially in Hobsons Bay with contaminated sites and I think we need to move forward to protect our kids and grandkids.... People were so inspired a company had the initiative to come into Hobsons Bay and do something."
She said Innova would be answerable to residents if they didn’t adhere to strict guidelines.
People are going to watch this company very closely and they would need to have their act together.
To boost her credibility as an independent voice, she said she had fought against similar proposals in the past.
I was first to lobby against a project that was to be done at the BP site in Altona from years ago. That’s because I didn’t believe it was an appropriate process. This one I just really believe that it’s all inside a building, the trucks are securely covered."
Another ACCG member Maureen Short said she was excited at the prospect of the contaminated sites in Hobsons Bay being cleaned.
“(Innova) are very transparent, and I think we can all feel self-assured they can do a great job.”
The latest ACCG newsletter (last published in June 2011) or previous issues did not list Maureen Short as an ACCG member. She is possibly the paid consultant referred to by the Hobsons Bay Residents' Association, as mentioned by the current Mayor Tony Briffa in this article:
"Ms Short shamefully failed to mention that she was a paid consultant to the developer [Innova] behind the application for the facility in Altona and had worked for the petrochemical industry for decades."
Maureen Short who previously worked for Mobil and Qenos, had made the local newspapers' headlines last year when she was embroiled in heated exchanges with Tony Briffa.

Innova held an open day at the Dow complex on 5 Dec 2009 after the community called for it (Ref 16, 17, 18). The Hobsons Bay Residents' Association noted that the open day was carefully orchestrated and was only advertised a week earlier. The day consisted of carefully-scripted powerpoint presentation for groups of 15-20 residents punctuated by comments from Innova's public relations consultants. Innova had failed to provide answers to many questions (Ref 19).

Annoyed at accusations that it is a spin doctor, Innova said it had the support of 3 groups (Ref 20):
  • ACNCG - hardly a neutral party.
  • EnviroWest - an anti-landfill group based in Werribee.
  • Habitat Trust - which was created with the aim of bringing together a network of highly qualified specialists with proven track record in the construction industry to deliver high quality and cost effective services/projects.

Community Voices

Resident groups across the west and 3500 residents who signed a petition, have condemned the proposal and EPA for granting Innova approval to proceed. Residents say it will make Hobsons Bay the "toxic dump capital of Victoria", in addition to being the state's "asthma capital" (Ref  5, 21).

Colin Palmer, head of the Hobsons Bay Residents Association, said he was disgusted.
"The community was very opposed to the application, as seen by our petition of 3500 residents, and they [the EPA] haven't even responded to a lot of the community's concerns. Why should we have a permanent facility in Altona to clean up the state's toxic soil? It seems like the west is always treated like the state's dumping ground." (Ref 22)
Current Hobsons Bay Mayor Tony Briffa was scathing in his criticism.
"The EPA is supposed to be the defender of our environment. Today they've shown they're the defenders of industry over the environment and the wishes of the community." (Ref 22) “Innova’s repeated claims the community are largely in support of their proposed contaminated soil facility in Altona are misleading at best.” (Ref 17)
Geoff Mitchelmore, President of the Friends of Lower Kororoit Creek group said the proposal was alarming.
The site where they are suggesting to put this in is bounded by residential areas on all sides. This is going to have a major impact on the residents of Hobsons Bay. We don’t want a toxic waste dump in our municipality and we’re going to fight this to the bitter end" (Ref 3) "How can they make such a claim when there has not been public consultation to date and their briefings so far have been to a very limited audience?" (Ref 14)
Sunshine Residents and Ratepayers Association President Darlene Reilly said the government and EPA were already grappling with environmental pollution on the troubled Brooklyn estate, which adjoins residential areas of Hobsons Bay, Maribyrnong and Brimbank. She said it didn't make sense to bring toxic soil to be treated in the middle of Australia's biggest growth corridor.
"They're playing with people's lives, their health. It shouldn't be anywhere near houses and homes. The west is the fastest-growing area - whatever population you have, double it. And you're going to have a toxic dump next to it? Those sort of industries should be totally on the outer where no one is ever going to build." (Ref 5)
Les Twentyman, a prominent youth outreach worker and one of Victoria's best known social campaigners, said it was another example of contempt for the west.
"Again it shows how disenfranchised the western suburbs residents are, even though the most powerful person in the land lives there." (Ref 5)
Sophia Szostakowski, who lives about a kilometre from the proposed site, has collected 400 objections from residents.
We are concerned the plant is going to be 24-hours and noisy and will create odours. We are concerned about dust emissions, about bringing the soil through streets to Altona. If a truck breaks down, how do they move the soil from one truck to another? There are environmental issues to resolve, too, and health issues.” (Ref 1)

VCAT Ruling on Planning Permit 

Hobsons Bay City Council has claimed Innova was trying to sidestep planning procedures. Innova contends that it does not need to apply for a planning permit from the Council as its operation is located at the Dow site which is in a Special Use 3 Zone (SU3Z) and thus would qualify as a form of petrochemical industry. So it just requires an EPA works approval to start operations. But the Council said a planning permit is required as the operation is best defined as industrial and does not fit into the SU3Z, designed for the operation and expansion of the state’s petrochemical industries.  (Ref 17, 21)

With the Council and Innova locked in a dispute whether a planning permit is required or not, a proceeding was lodged with VCAT to decide on the land usage (Ref 4, 16). In October 2010, the VCAT tribunal found in the council’s favour and ruled that the facility requires a town planning permit because it is not a petrochemical industry (Ref 1, 7).

Tony Briffa was pleased with VCAT's decision but was unhappy with how Innova dealt with the situation.
Innova has avoided going through the council's planning processes and refused to allow the community to have a say about whether they want a soil decontamination facility in Altona. Innova's gamble of going to VCAT to defend their claim that their soil remediation proposal was a petrochemical use was ill-advised. This decision means Innova will have to apply to the council for a planning permit if they still want to go ahead with a soil decontamination facility in Altona. This will include the community consultation they have so strenuously sought to avoid.” (Ref 7)
Innova lodged a formal application with the Council for a planning permit in October 2011 (Ref 1).


Statewide Review of Toxic Soil Treatment

There is currently an apparent lack of state policies governing the management of soil treatment facilities. At the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) state conference on 28 Oct 2011, Hobsons Bay Council won support from other Victorian councils for a statewide review into the siting and operation of soil treatment facilities. MAV will urge the state government to establish a policy that identifies sites for treating contaminated soil and to set environmental performance targets for operators (Ref 5, 21).

Hobsons Bay's organization development director Chris Eddy wrote a letter dated 4 May 2011 to Environment Minister Ryan Smith and Planning Minister Matthew Guy, requesting a meeting to discuss plans to treat toxic soil at Altona. Mr. Smith replied that he had not thought such a meeting "necessary at this time". The MAV resolved at the Dec 2011 board meeting to write to Mr Guy requesting the consideration of current and future siting and provision of soil treatment sites. Mr Guy said he was not aware of any letters from the council or MAV.
"If they've written to me, I haven't seen the letter. They haven't come to me on that and I gotta be honest, that's the first time anyone's actually raised that with me."
Asked how he would feel about toxic soil being treated near his Preston home, Mr Guy replied:
"Obviously, it's preferably not near people's homes, but it's something that if the council and the MAV are keen to have a chat on I'd be very, very keen to sit down with them to have that conversation and ascertain their points of view on it." (Ref 21)

Onsite Soil Remediation

It sounds as if Innova has no alternative but to site the soil treatment plant in Altona, which is within 1 km of people's homes (Ref 23). However, it does have an option. It has been doing mostly onsite soil remediations except for two projects in which soil was transported from the contaminated site to a treatment facility at another location. This includes trucking the soil at AGL’s former Clyde St Gasworks site in Hamilton North, Newcastle on a 2.9 km or 5 minutes journey to its treatment facility at the former BHP Steelworks site in Mayfield.

In fact, Innova has regarded the ability of its technology to carry out onsite remediation as a key strength as this is repetitively emphasized on its website:
Innova Soil Technology Ltd, has developed an innovative Thermal Desorption Process to allow safe, reliable and efficient on-site treatment of all hydrocarbon contaminated soils....The thermal desorption process is fully relocatable to allow onsite treatment of contaminants at the source....The treatment facility is fully mobile allowing on-site treatment of contaminated soil with subsequent beneficial reuse of treated soil on-site.... (Ref 24, 24a)
A significant advantage of the Innova solution is that it is fully mobile, being transported on five or six semi-trailers from site to site. The plant, some 12 x 30 metres, is set up on-site, treats the problem and then moves on. There is no need for off-site transportation of hazardous wastes on public roads or establishing a management facility in a particular community (Ref 24b). It may still be possible to obtain a transcript of Dr. John Lucas' past statement/speech in November 2002. But this is 10 years back so he may have changed his thinking.
Tony Briffa was spot on when he highlighted this particular core capability of Innova:
A facility like this should be built further away from the metropolitan area. Innova has shown it is possible to decontaminate soil in situ via a temporary, mobile facility. That being the case, there is no need to establish a permanent facility to process the state’s contaminated soil here in Altona.” (Ref 1)
In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States had advocated the use of in-situ or onsite treatment over ex-situ treatment:
"Compared to excavation and ex situ treatment, the use of these technologies offers several benefits, such as addressing deep contamination and gener­ally costing less." (Ref 25)
Innova had explained that the treatment equipment is large, will not fit on small sites and is unable to use the regular domestic gas supply. I presume the gas supply problem had been overcome in its previous onsite remediation projects. The Aero petrol station in Pier St North, Altona is one of the smaller petrol stations and measures roughly 45 x 46 m. Innova's plant, which is 12 x 30 m, should be able to fit into most petrol stations.

The requirement for a permanent off-site facility indicates that there are still limitations with its technology.  If Innova is serious in aiming to export its technology overseas, it should do more work in its R & D so that space will not become a constraining and limiting factor. For example, it should work on how to make its equipment smaller or to break down a single equipment/process into several modules. I believe that Innova will encounter community resistance to a permanent treatment facility anywhere it goes. Hence, in-situ remediation should be the way forward. It may not be forced to strive for improvements in the absence of pressure to do so.

I think the real motive in Innova's push for a permanent treatment facility is to cut down costs and increase its profits. If the Altona plant goes ahead, it will no longer carry out any onsite soil remediation in Victoria. Instead, it will depend solely on transporting contaminated soils to the Altona plant for treatment as this will translate to massive cost savings. Doing away with onsite remediation and consolidating operations at one site means:
  • soils from different sites can be combined and stockpiled to a sufficiently large quantity before treatment to achieve economy of scale.
  • it is not necessary to build and dismantle infrastructure at each temporary site.
  • probably there are less administrative work, application procedures and bureaucratic approvals involved if you are simply trucking soils away from a contaminated site rather than installing heavy machinery on the site.

Current Status

Before it can operate, Innova needs both a town planning permit (under the Planning and Environment Act) and a Works Approval which was approved by EPA.

Hobsons Bay Council will be considering the town planning permit application at a Special Planning Committee Meeting to be held at the Council Chambers at 115 Civic Pde, Altona on 22 March 2012, 6 p.m. The public can attend this meeting and have a 5 minutes opportunity to address the Committe prior to a decision being made. Once the Council has determined its position, it will advise VCAT. The matter will then be decided at a 10-day hearing that VCAT has set on 12 November 2012.

VCAT will also determine the appeal by Renex regarding the Work Approval that was issued by the EPA. That hearing has been listed for a 5-day hearing from 30 April to 4 May 2012.

Hence, it is VCAT that holds the final decision whether Innova can operate or not.  This will also depend on whether Renex is successful in appealing to VCAT to overturn EPA's approval for Innova's facility. The case is not optimistic for Hobsons Bay residents as VCAT had overturned Dandenong Council's decision not to grant approval to Renex's facility.

Innova's assurances on safety standards may not be so convincing and reassuring after all based on the conduct of its proposal:
  • It has shown dishonesty and lack of integrity repetitively in claiming widespread community support, particularly with the use of some ACNCG members to mislead the residents into signing a petition to support its facility.
  • It is of great concern that Innova has strenuously sought to avoid applying for a planning permit from the Council, thinking that it can get away with it under the SU3Z protected status of the Dow Chemical site (Ref 16). This contempt for proper planning process makes us suspect whether it will adhere to strict safety standards in the absence of adequate monitoring under EPA's policy of greater self-regulation by industries.
  • It has not shown sincerity in wanting genuine consultations with local communities, as seen from the holding of a carefully orchestrated open day only after pressure from the community. On 20 Aug 2009, Innova hosted a so-called independent consultation forum (innovacleansoilproposal.com.au) onBang the Table” site for residents to voice their concerns. This site is either shelved or has gone into hibernation (Ref 26).

There is an element of how much truth should we believe in what Innova has told us. I hope that VCAT will take into account the above factors when arriving at a decision and not merely rely on technical criteria. Some residents are banking on interference by the Planning Minister Matthew Guy (Ref 27). But let us not pin too much hope on this as we still do not know when the meeting that Mr. Guy has agreed to would take place. Innova has employed the services of professional lobbyists such as Clifton Consulting and FordComm Consulting (Ref 27, 28, 29, 30). This may be one option for Hobsons Bay residents but they probably do not have the deep pockets to do likewise.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Getting to work on Labour Day

Labour Day is a work day for me as it is not treated as a public holiday by my employer, the University of Melbourne.

I immediately felt the difference when I arrived at Westona train station in the morning on Labour Day. There were only two cars parked at the station and the trains run according to a Saturday timetable.

Most if not all suburbs see reduced services on weekends relative to weekdays. However, for the residents in Altona and Seaholme, weekend and night trains are equivalent to better services. This is because these services are spared the changes introduced last year. They run more frequently and proceed beyond Newport or Laverton. With these services, Altona passengers do not need to connect trains at Newport or Laverton and can reach their destinations in a much shorter time. How long this state would remain is unknown as it appears that Altona is always picked as the sacrificial lamb on the chopping board to effect new changes that will bring benefits to other parts of Melbourne.

Anyway, when I reached North Melbourne station, I was pleasantly surprised to see four Route 401 buses waiting for me. On some days, there is such a long queue of passengers that I need to wait until the 4th bus to get a boarding space.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Logan Reserve Going Wireless!


Free internet access in Altona?

 

Yes!

 

No kidding?

 

  Yep!
@ Logan Reserve Central


As a result of an initiative driven by Hobsons Bay Mayor Tony Briffa under his 2012 Mayoral Program, we will be able to enjoy free Wi-Fi internet access at Logan Reserve in the hub of Altona.  This program was launched by Cr Briffa at Logan Reserve on Thursday 8th March 2012, 12.00 p.m., with the objective of strengthening community engagement.

Free internet access will be available to WiFi-enabled mobile devices such as mobile phones, laptops and iPads. You do not need a password for internet access. Users will share bandwidth and be subjected to a legal disclaimer. A firewall will enforce security policies, preventing access to restricted websites.

I think this will be really exciting as it may open up many possibilities on the productive and innovative usage of open space in Altona. This may mark the start of new recreational, social and community activities in Logan Reserve. Some of the stuff that come straight to my mind include:
  • Self and group study
  • Leisure reading 
  • Professional and hobbies meetups
  • Alternative work areas e.g. for people wanting escapes from the confines of their offices or people whose inspirational and creative juices are stimulated by a natural surrounding.
  • Outdoor/alfresco teaching
  • Educational tours
  • Tourist information and eating/shopping guides from portable devices
  • Attracting more people to Altona will benefit local traders through increased retail spending.
  • Mobile dating (under the Moreton Bay Fig Trees?)
  • A place where online and real-world social networking converges.
  • Remote live entertainment e.g. connecting to entertainment activities elsewhere and projecting them on a big movie screen for outdoor events.
  • Teleconferencing and interviews

Of course, some of these activities will not happen if left to evolve on their own. The council can make use of the opportunities presented by new technology to make Altona and Hobsons Bay a much better place to live. It can in fact pioneer new visions and approaches which may become a model for other municipalities to follow.


THANKS to Tony for taking Altona a step ahead in technology!

Analysis of Train Performance Indicators

Other articles on public transport

To avoid any penalty, the train operator Metro only needs to meet two Key Performance Indicators (KPIs):
  • % Delivery - 98% of services must be delivered as scheduled.
  • % Punctuality - 88% of trains must be run within 5 minutes of scheduled time.

However, there are many other factors of no less importance than these 2 metrics. These may include the items listed in the following table based on the perspective of the train passengers. I consider these consumer-focused targets to be far more important than the operational targets being tracked by Metro such as the coverage of train journey in kilometres (Ref 1a).

Performance IndicatorUsing Altona Loop as an Example
Waiting time or service frequencyTrain every 22 min during peak hours.
Convenience & no. of connections to destination2 connections or 3 trains to get to a City Loop station during non-peak hours, compared to just 1 train in the past.
Connectivity between train services or with other public transport modes (bus/tram)Poor, 6-22 min or more from 1 train to the next connecting train, especially if you are travelling between Werribee and Altona during peak hours.
Duration of train journeyAbout 25 min to get to a City Loop station during non-peak hours in the past but this is extended to as long as 1 hour 15 min under current timetable.
Ease of understanding and using the systemThere are 5 timeslots daily (early morning, morning peak, interpeak, evening peak, night) during which trains operate differently. Things also change during the weekends e.g. trains run through the City Loop during weekends but not on weekdays.  Will be a great problem for certain groups of users e.g. occasional users, visitors, elderly, etc. A quote from PTUA President Daniel Bowen: "the timetable is impossible to memorize'' (Ref 1).
Passenger loadWhether there is overcrowding, affecting the ability to board a packed train, to have comfortable standing space and to obtain a seat at some points of the journey.
Maintenance of trains and train stations e.g. cleanliness, comfortNow I have to travel twice weekly on the Lilydale line. I envy the newer and well-maintained trains used on this line. Probably these will eventually be transferred to the western suburbs after Metro receives its new train stock.
Quality of customer serviceThese include:
  • keeping customers informed of changes to services such as cancellations, disruptions, scheduled maintenance, etc.
  • timely alternative arrangements in the event of service cancellations and disruptions.
  • providing timely, accurate and relevant information, advice and response to customers' requests and feedback.

The punctuality and delivery indicators alone are highly inadequate to reflect and benchmark the quality of train services. Train passengers may still receive very poor services even when the train operator delivers way above the 2 performance targets simply because many factors that matter a lot to passengers (such as those shown in the above table) are not taken into the computation.

Furthermore, the current 2 KPIs can be easily but cosmetically enhanced through a number of shortcuts. The most apparent and talked-about "quick-fix" is giving Metro the authority to redefine the standards through addition of 2-5 minutes, the so-called "slack", to a train journey on various lines  (Ref 1, 2, 3). This strategy is so successful in producing results that the same proven formula will be repeated under the impending timetable change (Ref 4, 5, 6). Making the journey time more realistic is an ingenious but camouflaged way of saying "let us lower the bar to make it easier to climb over it". Having been a teacher under the performance-based pay system in Singapore, I wish I could have the power to modify the grading scheme such that my students score a distinction if they obtain 50 marks or more.

I believe the 2 KPIs are based on daily averages and heavier weightings are not given to peak hours when services are most sought after. The peak hours will be the period most difficult to achieve punctuality, due to large number of commuters boarding and alighting trains at each station, resulting in cumulative delays. The second strategy will be to increase the proportion of more "reliable" or "manageable" services, that is, those with lower passenger traffic, while maintaining more or less the same number of peak hour services. This can be achieved through the following "tricks":
  1. Having more express services making stops at fewer stations.
  2. Reducing the length of the journey e.g. terminating at Laverton instead of proceeding all the way to Werribee (Ref 7) and making trains go direct to Flinders Street rather than through the City Loop.
  3. Creating new short-distance services e.g. the Altona Loop Shuttle which covers only 5 stations (Ref 8).
  4. Having more services during non-peak period e.g. Altona Loop trains run at 22 minutes intervals during peak hours but at 20 minutes intervals during non-peak hours. According to this article, Laburnum has lost 10 morning peak services, Camberwell 10 and Glenferrie 6, under the last timetable change. It will be interesting to see for the impending timetable change, whether the increase in services primarily occur during the peak or non-peak hours.
  5. Running more trains in the less busy directions during peak hours e.g. away from the City in the morning and towards the City in the evening peak hours.
  6. Avoiding rather than solving bottlenecks e.g. bypassing the single-tracks in the Altona Loop through the use of shuttle services. There may be 2 tactical reasons why the shuttle services are implemented during interpeak rather than peak hours (which do not appear logical if you think along the line that it will make more sense to remove bottlenecks during peak hours). Firstly, having shuttle services at peak hours will attract too much community objection. Secondly, there are far more train services during the interpeak hours relative to the peak hours. Hence, it will be a priority to ensure the Werribee train services are unhindered by the Altona single tracks during this long interpeak period as this is a key instrument in increasing the proportion of more reliable services.
    As it is much easier to run the above-mentioned services on time, this will inevitably lead to better measure of the KPIs. However, merely fiddling with these 2 KPIs will not lead to fundamental improvement in train services. A recent survey shows that customer satisfaction is at the highest level in 5 years (Ref 9) but I do not think having an index score of 64 is something to be proud of. There still exists a chasm between customer satisfaction and KPIs that need to be bridged, particularly for the Seaholme-Werribee line segment which has the lowest customer satisfaction for the Oct-Dec 2011 quarter (Ref 10, 11)

    Customer Satisfaction for Melbourne Train Lines - Oct-Dec2011

    The train operator has a number of unique characteristics which differentiate it from either a public service or a private business, which I will elaborate as follows:
    • Having no competitors, it enjoys a monopoly and faces no pressure to satisfy and attract customers for its subsistence. Essentially, it is not operating in a consumer-driven free market.
    • A long 8-year contract means that you are forced to stick with it for this duration of time even if you are not satisfied with its performance. This is unlike governments which are elected on a 4-year cycle on the basis of popular support.
    • It is a commercial company, whose motivations lie in maximizing profits to its shareholders so it will adopt any measure to achieve this end. I may be wrong - it may not be held to account in the same way as government bodies.
    • Separation of responsibilities between train operation (Metro), rail infrastructure (VicTrack), train stock (Dept of Transport), ticketing (Transport Ticketing Authority), marketing (Metlink) and security (Police) makes it easier for blame-shifting.
    As taxpayers are paying an enormous amount to the tune of more than $1 billion a year for Melbourne's privatised train and trams (Ref 12), it is imperative that we are getting the maximum value out of the contract. The contract must be well-designed, will cover all scenarios and protect the interests of the consumers.

    I feel that there is a need for a composite performance metric that does not depend exclusively on service delivery and punctuality but also include a range of other equally important criteria such as what I have earlier discussed. The Department of Transport could involve local and overseas public transport academics and experts in developing such a comprehensive metric.


    16/03/2012 update: Recent statistics appear to lend weight to the hypotheses raised in this post. Quoting from this news article: "The overhaul of Melbourne's train timetable last year has done almost nothing to ease the peak-hour commuter crush, a passenger count has revealed.....The only thing the new timetable has been good for is Metro's bottom line.......Metro, the metropolitan train operator, has received $4.21 million in incentive payments since May for running its trains on time following a sweeping timetable change that increased journey times on some lines but improved reliability......No improvements were recorded on the Werribee, Epping and Hurstbridge lines......."

    25/05/2012 update: From The Age's article - Metro has resorted to skipping stations and running unscheduled short services since its new timetable was introduced last month, stranding passengers so its trains will run on time. It has happened at least four times a day on average. Drivers say the rate at which they have been ordered to alter a service mid-journey suddenly became ''prolific'' when a new train timetable was introduced on April 22......the rail operator has been accused of reaching its targets by running ''half-services''.

    Monday, March 5, 2012

    Altona Beach Festival 2012 Program

    Beautiful Altona Blog: http://altonabeauty.blogspot.com
    Note: The Altona Beach Festival replaces the Altona Bayside Festival last held in 2010. But its future is uncertain due to budget constraints (Ref 1).

    Last updated 10/3/2012

    The 2012 Altona Beach Festival, organized by Hobsons Bay City Council, will be held this coming Saturday 10 Mar from 10 am to 8.30 pm. Like last year, the theme is Sky, Sea and Community.

    The following table and Google Map show the details and locations of the various activities respectively and will be updated when required.

    DateTimeActivityVenue

    9/03/2012
    10/03/2012
    11/03/2012
    12/03/2012
    7 pm launch
    9am-8pm
    12am-4pm
    12am-4pm
    Creative Spirit Exhibition, organized by Hobsons Bay Arts SocietyLouis Joel Arts & Community Centre, 5 Sargood St, Altona
    9/03/2012
    10/03/2012
    11/03/2012
    Other dates
    7.30pm
    2pm
    2pm

    The Adventures of Aladdin, the Rock Pantomine run by Altona City TheatreAltona City Theatre, 115 Civic Pde, Altona
    9/03/20127.15pmAltona Primary School Swimming CarnivalBayfit Leisure Centre, 257 Mason St, Altona North
    10/03/20129.40am
    10am
    10.10am
    10.45am
    11.00am
    11.30am
    12.00pm
    12.30pm
    12.50pm
    1.20pm
    1.40pm
    2.10pm
    2.30pm
    3.00pm
    3.20pm
    3.30pm
    4.00pm
    4.15pm
    5.30pm
    6.15pm
    7.00pm
    7.15pm
    Welcome to Country Aunty Carolyn Biggs
    Official opening by Mayor Tony Briffa
    Hobsons Bay City Band
    MC Kim Walsh
    Sing Australia
    Spirit of Finland Choir & Folkdancing
    Altona City Theatre presents Aladdin
    Mambourin Sings Loud
    Dance Lane Performing Arts
    Dramarwerkz Performance
    Pride of the Cook Islands Performance
    St. Mary's Primary School, Altona
    Elenya Performing Arts Centre
    Liptarik Slovak Folkdance
    Dramawerkz
    Jen Sue Dancers
    RAAF Museum Aerobatics Display (Beach)
    Hyde Street Youth band
    Twilight Street Parade (along Esplanade)
    Nga Manu Waiata Performing Arts
    Announcement of Street Parade winners
    The Black Sorrows
    Logan Reserve
    Main Stage & under the Moreton Bay Fig Tree

    Free Wifi Internet Access for laptops, mobiles, iPads (No password required)
    10/03/201210am-4pm
    • Children's inflatable rides
    • Craft activities & interactive art display
    • Storytelling
    • Drama workshops
    • Sport Clinic by Latitude
    • My Smart Garden workshop with Transition Hobsons Bay demonstrating plant propagation
    • Community & sports clubs including a  Mölkky demonstration by Finnish Society
    • Information booths
    • Food stalls 
    • City West Water fountain
      Logan Reserve
      10/03/201210am-4pmGiant Slide & Climbing WallEsplanade
      10/03/201210am-4pmPacific Women's Weaving Circle Demonstrations & WorkshopsAltona Beach
      10/03/201210am-4pmCraft Market & Food StallsWeaver Reserve (opposite Logan Reserve)
      10/03/201210am-4pmHistoric double-decker bus (Epsy) tours of Altona sponsored by Bendigo Bank, departs half-hourly from Louis Joel Arts & Community CentreIn front of Louis Joel Centre
      10/03/20123pmSpaghetti Eating Contest, run by Numero Uno. Register by 2.30pm. $5 special deal pizza from 10am.Numero Uno Pizza Parlour, 20 Pier St, Altona
      10/03/201210am-4pmClassic Car & Bike Show, run by Hobsons Bay Men's Shed, exhibiting vintage and classic cars and bikes.Apex Park (from Queen St, west of Maidstone St)
      10/03/201210am-5pmAltona Homestead Open Day
      Devonshire Tea
      Altona Homestead, 128 Queen Street, Altona
      10/03/201210.30am-11.30amAltona Fruit & Vegetable Swap Meet, organized by Transition Hobsons Bay Playground at Logan Reserve
      10/03/201210am-4pmHands-on, Hand-made ActivitiesSenior Citizen Centre & Louis Joel Centre
      10/03/20125.30pm Along Esplanade from Ransom Reserve to Logan Reserve
      10/03/20128.30pmFireworksAltona Beach

      Print a copy of the above programme. Email this to your friend or share it on Facebook. Import this event into your calendar (Outlook, Google, Mac's iCal, etc).

      Click a placemark on the Google Map below to view details of an activity. Use the zoom in (+) and zoom out (-) buttons to enlarge/reduce the map. Drag the map around or use the navigation buttons (up, down, left, right arrows) to move around and close up on any particular area. Click the link below the map if you want to view a larger map. The route of the Twilight Parade is indicated by the blue line along the Esplanade, from Ransom Reserve to Logan Reserve.


      View Altona Beach Festival 2012 in a larger map

      If you are planning to visit the Altona Beach Festival by public transport, the nearest train station is the Zone 1 Altona Station (on the Werribee line during weekends). Except for Apex Park (the site for the Classic Car Show at the far western end of Altona), it is a very short 6-7 minutes walk from the train station to Logan Reserve and the Esplanade, where the majority of the Festival's activities are held. You can take the free Historic Double-Decker Bus which departs every 30 minutes from the front of Louis Joel Arts & Community Centre, which will drop you off at Apex Park for the Classic Car Show. This means you can cover all locations of the Festival by public transport and walking alone, without the need to drive!

      Here is the contact information for those who wish to enter the competition for the Classic Car Show. The competition details can be found here

      You can plan your journey using the following journey planner from Metlink.



      If you are coming by car, the GPS coordinates of Logan Reserve are S37° 52' 10", E144° 49' 47", Apex Park are S37° 52' 29'', E144° 48' 44'' and Ransom Reserve are S37° 52' 23'', E144° 49' 02''.

      According to the weather forecast, it appears to be good this Saturday.



      Friday, March 2, 2012

      The Peril of the Modern Toilet

      We brought our kids to the playground at Cherry Lake one evening after dinner. Our parking location is almost always at the northern end of Fresno Street rather than the carpark off Millers Road. This location is nearer to our house and we enjoy walking the scenic meandering trail to the playground. Now, the Millers Road carpark is closed for major improvement works so more cars are using the parking space around Fresno Street's roundabout terminus.

      There is a toilet block just beyond this parking space which was upgraded last year from a green-coloured timber toilet to a modern, automated toilet. This is shown in the photo below.

      Fresno St Carpark

      Presumably, the modern toilet is easier to maintain and offers better lighting and security. My two kids are very fond of pressing buttons such as the buttons at traffic light junctions. My 2-year old son immediately ran to the toilet, pressed the button, went inside and locked himself inside the toilet. This happened so fast that we could not stop him. We tried pressing the external button and looked for other alternatives to no avail - the door just refused to open. It was 7 p.m. on a Sunday so nobody will be around at the Council's office to respond to emergencies. Just when we started panicking, the door opened. My son had managed to release himself by pressing the button inside the toilet. This is a lesson we have learnt that we must be extra vigilant in the future when in the proximity of a modern toilet.

      On a side note, I was first introduced to the modern toilet last year by a 5-6 year old kid. This toilet is also at Cherry Lake but near the barbeque facilities at the carpark off Millers Road. We were attempting our first barbeque with our friends. When I walked to the toilet, this kid quickly ran before me and eagerly gave me a demonstration of how to open and close the door, flush the toilet and use the water. My wife told me when she first used the modern toilet, she could not figure out where to open the water tap to wash her hands. It was my 4-year daughter who taught her how to do so.

      Thursday, March 1, 2012

      Infill Developments in Altona and Hobsons Bay

      Related article

      Just like most other Melbourne suburbs, the property price in Altona experiences a downturn in the past one year. But I notice something is happening quietly but on a considerable scale. Infill developments are gathering momentum in Altona. Old houses are being demolished and lands subdivided to make way for denser residential developments, such as townhouses. I can see a flurry of such activities taking place along the major roads such as Civic Parade and Maidstone Street that I often drive through. This is in stark contrast to 2-4 years ago when most properties were just exchanging hands, with far less redevelopments.

      I wish to put forward a hypothesis to explain why infill developments are gaining traction in Altona at the moment. Firstly, there may exist a reluctance of home owners in Altona to sell their properties in a weak market, as evidenced by a low number of transactions. The construction costs may be lower currently or contractors more enthusiastic in taking on smaller projects due to subdued demand for new housing (I am just postulating as I do not have the statistics). People may be taking advantage of these factors during a quiescent period to add value to their properties and enhance their resale premiums. Most significant of all, Altona is primed for infill developments. Altona (and Altona North) have large land lots and old dwelling stocks with substantial number of weatherboard houses and few heritage overlays, which are conditions ideal for subdivisions and rejuvenations.

      There are no greenfield sites in Altona but it does have extensive parks and open-space reserves, which should be protected from developments. I feel that one should not rule out the use of brownfield sites in the future. I am not talking about heavy industries such as the likes of Mobil Refinery, Qenos and Dow Chemicals, whose sites will take a long time for remediation to a standard qualified for habitation.  Altona has many vacant industrial lands that are on the sales and rental market for a long time (since I moved to Altona in 2007) that have no takers. I do not know the reasons for these long-term vacancies but this is a free market so presumably either the cost, location or other factors are not attractive enough to woo suitors. These lands are practically never used before so they will not require expensive decontamination and it is possible they could be rezoned to residential uses in the future when circumstances change. I suspect some people are land banking with this intention. One such possibility is the huge area bounded by Harcourt Rd, Merton St and the Victorian Baseball and Softball Centre. The land parcels there are small enough (about 700 m2) to be affordable to small investors.

      Map 1: Planning Permit Activity for Hobsons Bay (1/7/2010 - 30/7/2011)

      Hobsons Bay Planning Permits
      Source: Dept of Planning & Community Development

      The above map shows the distribution of the approved planning permits in Hobsons Bay for the last financial year 1 Jul 2010 to 30 Jun 2011. It shows the most infill developments (primarily of values less than $500K) are taking place in Altona North. In contrast, there are very few developments in Altona Meadows for reasons which will be elaborated later in this post. There are only two investments valuing $10m to $50m, which I am certain are industrial investments, one probably sited northwest of Cherry Lake and the other besides Grieve Pde, north of Kororoit Creek Rd. There are 18 developments in the $1m to $10m range, of which I think 5 are in Altona and may include the 2 apartment-retail complexes in Pier Street North (the larger development on the old Mitre-10 site is marketed as Bayside Park). You can see from the map a number of redevelopments along the Esplanade and Civic Parade in Altona.

      Table 1: Change in No. of Dwellings from 2006 to 2031 by Suburbs

      Suburb 2006 2031 Change 2006 to 2031
      No. % No. %
      Altona Meadows 7,313 21.1 7,976 18.8 663
      Altona North 4,456 12.9 7,025 16.5 2,569
      Altona - Seaholme (3018) 5,384 15.5 6,466 15.2 1,082
      Williamstown 4,606 13.3 5,270 12.4 664
      Newport West 3,129 9 3,604 8.5 475
      Williamstown North 1,748 5 2,886 6.8 1,138
      Spotswood - South Kingsville 1,863 5.4 2,627 6.2 764
      Laverton 1,827 5.3 2,090 4.9 263
      Newport East 1,785 5.1 1,880 4.4 95
      Seabrook 1,827 5.3 1,836 4.3 9
      Brooklyn 734 2.1 845 2 111
      Hobsons Bay City 34,672 100 42,505 100 7,833

      Based on the 2006 population census, id.com has forecasted the number of dwellings in Hobsons Bay to increase by 7,833 by 2031. Altona Meadows will retain its top spot of hosting the most number of dwellings in Hobsons Bay. But the increase of 663 to 7976 dwellings in 2031 is modest for 3 reasons: (1) it already has high density now, (2) the land lot size is small, averaging 400 m2 and (3) the housing stock is newer relative to other more established suburbs in Hobsons Bay.

      Altona North will overtake Altona as the suburb with the second most number of dwellings in Hobsons Bay, increasing by 2569 dwellings.  This is because Altona North has bigger land lots than Altona, allowing even greater subdivisions. Altona-Seaholme (postcode 3018) will rank third, increasing by 1082 dwellings and making up 15.2% of the dwellings in Hobsons Bay. Together, Altona, Altona Meadows and Altona North will account for the bulk of the housing (50.5%) in Hobsons Bay by 2031.

      Williamstown is a gem in Hobsons Bay, prized for its rich history and an abundance of heritage-protected Victorian, Edwardian, Interwar and Postwar housing. The proposed Woollen Mills site redevelopment (if it proceeds) will represent the greatest increase in residential units in Williamstown. I do not know if this development was included at the time id.com made its forecast.  Developments in other parts of Williamstown will be highly limited by the strong desire of the local community in preserving its current neighbourhood character, including the low-lying form of the architecture on the Williamstown peninsula.

      Williamstown North will grow faster than Williamstown. Of great interest is the current application to rezone the brownfield sites at Precinct 13 (a large area of land bounded by the rail track to the north, Kororoit Creek Rd to the south, Maddox Rd to the west and Hygeia Ave to the east for residential developments (Ref 1). This bid faces intense objection from the Mobil Refinery on the basis that the site is within 2 km of the buffer zone.

      The map below shows the distribution of the dwellings in Hobsons Bay by 2031, with darker blue areas representing more dwellings.

      Forecast Dwellings & Development in Hobsons Bay 2031
      Source: id.com

      id.com has made some interesting predictions of the change in demographics in Hobsons Bay. There will be 3 distinct demographic areas. Williamstown, Newport and South Kingsville will see more young adults and tertiary students, which I believe will live in rented apartments for how could they afford to buy the expensive houses in that area. Altona-Seaholme and Williamstown North will attract established and mature families, due to their housing stock, amenities and attractiveness. Young couples and families will predominate in the more affordable Altona Meadows and Seabrook in the far west of the municipality.