Questions to and answers from Mik Aidt

What qualities makes someone a good Councillor?

What should we do about…
public transport
heavy vehicles driving through the city
cycling in Geelong
climate change

What qualities makes someone a good Councillor?

A person who knows what is going on in the community and who, based on that knowledge, genuinely is able to make the best decisions for the broader community. In order to know and understand what is going on, the Councillor needs to give priority and find the time to hold face-to-face meetings, to listen and to ask the right questions.

In a Council of 11 people, it is important to be able to collaborate with others across differences of political stance and of opinions. Sometimes that means being able to accept a compromise, or to advocate for one.


Public transport

Public transport in Geelong needs a kick in the butt. Why don’t Australians experiment more with the collective transport opportunities? We are still fatiguing with plans for more asphalt for wider roads and more passenger cars, as if we were in the happy 1960s or something. Meanwhile, China builds a train which is four times faster than an airliner. And the Danes are testing self-driving shuttle-busses which circulate in the city with four-minutes intervals, free of charge to enter for the citizens who want to get from A to B within the CBD.

Who wants to sit around and wait for an old, polluting bus that comes every hour and may or may not show up? Who wants to sit in a train that is so crowded that you can’t even find a seat to sit on – and where there is no wifi or even mobile phone connection? Not me, anyway.

Public transport’s got to be more convenient and smart than driving yourself, otherwise it will always remain a fringe activity and a last resort, as it is for most people in Geelong. If we can’t achieve that, as a city, we are missing the point.


Heavy vehicles driving through the city

Heavy trucks need to get out of Ryrie Street. We have been saying this for years but nothing is happening! Will you make it happen?
L. & J.

The long-term vision paper for Geelong states on page 18 that in 30 years’ time, we will have a “diversion of road traffic around urban centres”.

In other words, assuming voters elect a group of councillors who will be taking this vision paper seriously, it is not a question whether heavy vehicles should be going through the city or not. Heavy vehicles are to be diverted out on a ring road, going around the city through non-residential zones, as it is done in any modern city around the world.

The only question is when this will happen, and that depends primarily on financing.

Looking 30 years back, it is a pity those who came before us didn’t make proper plans for a bypass road. Since the city keeps growing, it gets more and more expensive to construct such a ring road the longer we wait.

The main streets trucks use to cut through Geelong are VicRoads’ domain. We will have to keep advocating and negotiating with VicRoads to get that situation fixed, and yes, should I get elected, this something you can count on that I will be doing. From where I am coming from, it makes very little sense to me that a Council has no influence on what happens in the streets of the city it governs.

There has been a trial restriction of heavy vehicle movements in Mercer and Malop Streets. VicRoads commissioned an evaluation of the first stage of the project, which is currently underway. So the trial has a second stage, and concerned citizens need to keep a close eye on this – and keep speaking up about this issue.


Cycling in Geelong

Bicycle Users Geelong asked:
“Rideable, walkable, people friendly streets for this city in Spain. Achieved with parking restrictions, removing on streetparking, shared streets, 30km/hr speeds, redirecting cross town routes and installing a bunch of raised pedestrian crossings… Can our next mayor do this? Mik Aidt Eddy Kontelj”

» Cityschope – 30 August 2017:
How a city in Spain got rid of its cars

The new ‘Clever and Creative Future’ 30-year vision, which was launched last week, states that “the measures of success are that in 30 years, 50 per cent of journeys to work are made by public transport, walking or cycling.”

This will happen when a majority of the community wants it to happen. No mayor or council can force it through if Geelongians aren’t ready for it.

So in Geelong, I think we need to know more in detail what the community thinks about it. Not only asking “Who is for and who is against?”, but “If you consider so and so, what do you think of such and such changes?”

Once we know that, we will also know how much more information, communication and public debate is required before we are able begin the journey of transformation which many of us can’t wait to see happening this city. Personally I can say I think our city is SO ready for this, and I hear many people agreeing with me on this.

Some basic infrastructural safety improvements will have to be rolled out first, so everyone has a chance to experience how it can make a difference. This is already under way, for instance the new ‘Copenhagen-style’ bike path from Belmont to the Waterfront, which is scheduled and financed to be constructed very soon, as far as I understand it.

This is not just some vague dream. Ballarat City Council, for instance, has taken some very positive steps in this direction recently, adopting a new bike plan aimed to get more people on bikes in the regional city between now and 2025.

 And so has Melbourne.
» See: Ballarat boosts bikes

Bike safety first

When Ballarat can do it, surely the fresh new Council in Geelong, which you will be helping getting voted in, can do it too.

According to the new Council vision paper, which surveyed 16,000 Geelongians, “the Greater Geelong community values are sustainable, connected and networked walking, cycling and public transport services that allow all abilities access into and across the city-region.”

The long-term vision paper also states on page 18 that in 30 years time, we will have a “diversion of road traffic around urban centres”, and cycling will have become “a credible and safe on-road commuter option.”


Climate change

We see the signs of emergency in Florida, Texas, California, Bangladesh, Italy… We saw them in Queensland not so long ago. Devastating destruction from hurricanes and flooding, from bush fires and draught.

All the way through an entire century, we have chosen to ignore the warnings from the scientific community that this is what will happen when we continue treating the planet’s atmosphere as it was an open sever.

If there would be anything to be scared of, it would be those cynical people who decided to make this safety threat part of their business model. It is not ‘climate change’, and not ‘nature’, that puts our safety and future at risk. It is human beings. People with names and addresses.

Once we understand this, the good news is that humans have always been quick to respond to a threat. We can act. And that is what is happening already.

With its new Climate Emergency Plan, Darebin City Council shows what responsible leadership in 2017 looks like.

In the introduction to its 84-page plan, Darebin City Council writes:

“Council recognises that we are in a state of climate emergency. Unless we restore a safe climate at emergency speed, there will be dramatic and negative impacts on our community and around the world. In Australia we are already seeing more intense and frequent heatwaves, heavy rainfall and flooding, the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef and extreme weather leading to more bushfires.

Around the world, ecological tipping points are being reached. The vast ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland have started to melt, with the potential to raise sea levels enough to flood some major cities and the river deltas where much of the world’s food is grown.

Climate change has the potential to contribute to conflicts and mass migrations, as natural disasters and scarcity of food and water increase. There is therefore an urgent need to take action on climate change to ensure safety for ourselves, our future and all other life on the planet. Darebin Council is committed to taking action to preserve a liveable planet for our children and the generations to follow.”
~ Excerpt from Darebin City Council’s Climate Emergency Plan

Darebin’s new Climate Emergency Plan provides a tangible and action-oriented framework for the entire community – homes, business, organisations or community groups – which the new Geelong Council can look towards, learn from and then launch its own Geelong-version of.

Already, Geelong Council is not far behind, having endorsed the One Planet Living framework with its Zero Carbon principle, and by already having committed to achieving zero carbon emissions for council operations.

» Geelong Council’s Zero Carbon Emissions Strategy 2017-2020

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“It is actually quite simple…”

Whether we want to solve the problem with rising global temperatures because of our air pollution from coal, oil and gas is entirely up to us. Don’t blame your neighbour, it is not going to help. When our oldest son Alex was eight years old, he understood this. As we were walking home from school one day, he told me with clarity and conviction how we will solve the climate crisis. “It is actually quite simple…” he told me. In its essence, his story was about the transformational snowball-effect that optimism and the right attitude can have.

I published Alex’s idea as a little shortstory, entitled ‘The Solution – A Vision for Our City’