David Risstrom - Greens Melbourne City Councillor 1999-2004
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Rosa and Dave's News + Views Oct-Dec 2003; Jul-Sep 2003; Apr-Jun 2003; Jan-Mar 2003

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Through Green Coloured Glasses 2003; 2002

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Victorian Local Government Elections 2008: 2005: 2004



2003 Through Green Coloured Glasses' is a reminder to website's visitors of some of the major events that have shaped this year and what they have meant for the people of the City of Melbourne.

January 2003 began with hot weather, water restrictions, cricket games, tennis and the good people of Melbourne entrusting me as their Deputy Lord Mayor. I enjoyed the thought of cycling down Swanston Street dodging buses, busy minded pedestrians, and the occasional horse, with almost complete anonymity. Electronic anonymity escaped me however, when having sent a copy of a web page article from 2001 about two anti-Nike activists being pinged with a $500 on the spot fine for peacefully handing out leaflets without a permit, I was met with the message 'You have sent an e-mail that has been flagged as possibly containing inappropriate images or text.’ On further investigation, the message had been intercepted because it contained the word 'war' contained in the clauses 'anti-war' and 'against the Vietnam War.' Perhaps this was just a warm-up exercise for the passage of the ASIO Bill later in 2003?

February was no less cooler, with a little bit of green creating an incredibly disproportionate amount of heat. Council adopted Growing Green, the 50-year plan for environmental sustainability for Melbourne Parks, Gardens and Open Spaces, that I initiated in 2002. The idea that Australian flora may be appropriate in an Australian landscape proved too radical for some. Herald Sun columnist, Andrew Bolt, kindly described me as an ‘eco-fascist’ while the Melbourne Age took a more considered view, making some valid observations about the importance of people's sense of place, and the debate that the release of Growing Green facilitated.

Changing parks and our sense of place: The Age editorial, February 7 2003

Given that trees may take decades to mature and live for centuries, Melbourne's public gardens are a legacy from our predecessors. Similarly, future generations will thank us for wise choices in our plantings. Melbourne City Council has adopted a 50-year plan to use more native plants in a way that would transform the city's gardens and street plantings. In time, the cost of tending European-style gardens in a city with increasing demands on limited water resources is likely to force the issue. The environmental value of native plants is cited as another benefit, but Cr. David Risstrom's call to "start work on making Melbourne Australian" (is the city not Australian?) is a reminder that there are other debates to be had. Melbourne's gardens may hark back to another place and time, but they are a defining feature. Hastily remaking some gardens - Treasury Gardens is slated to become wholly indigenous - would change the city's character in a way that many people could not easily accept. This is not simply a matter of aesthetic tastes. Anyone who strolls through a city park on a sunny day will see how many people value a green lawn under shady trees. And as part of our Victorian heritage, parks such as the Fitzroy Gardens clearly merit preservation along with the finest buildings of that era. Yet we accept that architecture changes, and so should horticulture.

The city has in many ways changed more than its great gardens since these were established in the mid-1800s. As a result, our idea of a public garden is based on the 19th-century sensibilities that led in the first place to the importation of plants, animals and attitudes from another continent. What we tend to see as appropriate is an old horticultural vision that imitated mother England's grand estate gardens, which both drew from and influenced English landscape art. When European artists first came to Australia, they struggled to appreciate the landscape and vegetation; to modern eyes, their depictions are bizarrely Europeanised. Today, few of us have any difficulty accepting the beauty of the landscape and Australian artistic renderings of it, but this transformation of attitudes took place over generations. It is to the council's credit that it is looking ahead to managing the transformation of the city's green areas in a gradual and, one hopes, consultative manner. The creation of natural green spaces such as the popular Studley and Yarra Bend parks can help persuade the public, but this will not happen overnight or by "education" if this turns out to be a euphemism for bureaucratic edicts. The difficulties are illustrated by the debate over replacing the ageing poplars of Peel Street, North Melbourne - and what of the city's elm avenues, which rank among the world's finest remaining examples? Only a balanced and patient approach, over many years if need be, will win public acceptance for the "Australianising" of our public parks.

Peace finally did break out in the streets of Melbourne, amidst war calls of a more serious tenor, with peace rallies in Melbourne. Hundreds of thousands of Victorians marched down Swanston St. to show our government and our people their opposition to the war on Iraq. The march from the State library to Federation Square was a light of hope in one of the darkest days of Australia's modern history. John Howard confirmed his position as the worst Prime Minister Australia has had, with our government’s supplication to an aggressive United States administration placing world peace at jeopardy, further dividing our country and placing Australia, Australians and many others at grave risk through an ill-considered and illegal invasion of Iraq.

February also saw the MAPS-ICLEI Local Government Green Purchasing Pilot take off, which I initiated from my roles as Melbourne City Councillor, as director of the municipal purchasing company MAPS Ltd. and as an executive member of ICLEI International. In conjunction with ICLEI and MAPS, 10 Australian Councils are participating in the pilot including Brisbane City Council and Maroochy Shire Council in Queensland; Adelaide, Marion, Onkaparinga, Burnside and West Torrens City Councils in South Australia, Hornsby City Council in New South Wales and, Whittlesea and Melbourne City Councils in Victoria.

The Sustainable Living Fair, which I helped bring down from Hanging Rock to the City of Melbourne, was a great success over the weekend of 21-22 February, with an ever increasing number of stalls and people passing through on their way to a more sustainable life.

‘F’ is for February and farewells. My father was farewelled from Boroondara City Council. Eric Risstrom, my father, and formerly National Director of the Australian Taxpayers Association and Boroondara City Councillor, whose first term began, I think, the year I was born, was hit harder by an onset of Parkinsons Disease than seems fair. Now living in a hostel near me, Eric has contributed an incredible amount to public life at great cost. Mike Hill of VLGA fame was also farewelled at St. Kilda Town Hall, after a long distinguished career and long distinguished valedictory speech (now available in paperback)!

Unfortunately, at the Council meeting of 27 February 2003, a majority of 6 to 3 Councillors attempted to suffocate the rights of public participation of Falun Dafa members by excluding them from Moomba. In a VCAT decision subsequently handed down on 23 December 2003, Judge Bowman noted "the MCC’s somewhat shabby conduct in relation to the 2003 Parade" and the fact that "the green light suddenly turned red" as MCC announced it was excluding Falun Dafa on the basis of its strong political associations. Here is to a greener light on 2004!

Culminating from much hard work in 2002, Melbourne Affordable Housing grew out of the merger of the Inner City Social Housing Company and Ecumenical Community Housing in March 2003. As Chair of the Company, it has been really pleasing to see the scope of social housing projects grow from the initial $1 million entrusted by the City of Melbourne to nearly $10 million in active property provision and management.

March was a very good Green month on a number of other fronts, bringing the election of two more excellent female Green Councillors in Janet Rice and Colleen Hartland on Maribyrnong City Council. Both have proven themselves to be hard working, involved and strong contributors to their community.

Yarra Greens Councillor, Greg Barber, became the first (and best) Green Mayor in Australia, and with the assistance of his Council, made strong inroads into financial management, other traditional Green issues and remedial classes for the State Government on ownership of Victoria Park football oval. Some members of the State Government apparently wanted to announce the future development of Victoria Park, without telling the Council, and without checking that the Council was in effect the owner. As Greg allegedly intimated in an e-mail concerning the issue, ‘friends come and go but … [Torrens title doesn’t].

Having read Peter Singer's book 'One World: The Ethics of Globalisation', in April I responded to his ethical challenge with a policy called 1% For Humanity. This policy involves calling on the citizens of Melbourne and beyond donating 1% of their taxable income to an organisation of their choice that assists developing countries.

In June, following extensive community consultation and expert advice, Council passed WaterMark. Melbourne City Council adopted water conservation reduction targets that will result in an absolute water consumption reduction of 12% between 1999 and 2020. With population and activity increases, the 12% absolute target will be achieved by reductions of 40% across the residential, commercial and industrial sectors and the City of Melbourne itself. The targets are being pursued as part of Melbourne City Council's membership of the ICLEI water campaign, through a partnership between ICLEI, the City of Melbourne and Melbourne Water.

July 3 2003 was a big one, turning 40, with my partner Carolynne organising a surprise birthday party. I was so vague I didn’t even recognise my own mother dressed up as a suffragette ahead of me on the way in.

The long awaited Northern Central City Corridor Study draft recommendations were released in August. Rumours are that the delays were due to a defective train at Flinders St. but when I asked for the rumours to be validated, there were no conductors to set me straight. The study's draft recommendations practically rule out a tunnel linking the Eastern Freeway, which is fantastic news for air breathing inhabitants of the inner north. The Greens responded quickly, organising public meetings and seeking government commitments to real transport alternatives to motor vehicle traffic sewers, by giving the green light to a light or heavy rail connection to the Hurstbridge-Epping line train, rather than proposing a bus interchange on Alexandra Parade at Nicholson St as a poor compromise.

Talking transport, I introduced a target for Council's car fleet of 8 litres per 100 km or less by June 2005 or earlier, investigation of alternative fuel vehicles and a raft of other measures involving fuel savings through salary sacrifice linked to fuel economy.

On the downside, September saw another AFL Grand Final tightrope, with Collingwood deciding to generously donate the Cup to the Brisbane Lions in a gesture of increasingly characteristic kindness.

October gave me the good fortune to be re-elected to the Council of the Australian Conservation Foundation, and the opportunity to be involved in the ‘Going Further’ Future Leaders program. As part of the program, a group of us developed a Sustainability Board Game, which involved me e-mailing over 1,000 people to ask them to contribute questions, answers and profiled from all over the world. Your contributions are still welcome.

October also brought the ‘Ride to Work Day’ where the City of Melbourne hosted thousands of cyclists in Federation Square for breakfast, with the opportunity helping me to secure a new policy of 10,000 bicycle parks in the City by 2010.

October 12 brought the historic joining of the Greens (Western Australia) and the Australian Greens into the national party, following an 80% 'yes' vote in a referendum of Western Australian party members making it a truly national party.

On matters environmental, the 6th edition of the Melbourne Environmental Indicators Bulletin was released on October 22, with a few snapshots being:
• Air Quality: While overall Melbourne's air quality is improving, emissions from the growing number of private motor vehicles continue to pollute the air, with five of the six common pollutants (CO, NOx, SO2, lead and ozone, particulates) within acceptable limits, while ozone and airborne particles became the greatest concern in Melbourne.
• Biodiversity: 32% of Melbourne's original vegetation remains today, mainly as forest in the outer water catchment areas; In Melbourne the condition of streams has declined over this century, which is reflected by a decrease in the diversity of stream macro invertebrates; Melbourne has over 470 community groups actively involved with councils and state and federal governments to restore remnant vegetation and protect threatened species.
• Green Buildings: City of Melbourne is leading the way in sustainable building design. The planned new Council office building, CH2, incorporates revolutionary technology that will set a new standard internationally in sustainable office development, with plans for the building have recently been awarded a six-star rating – world leader status – by the Green Building Council; Installation of photovoltaic panels at Queen Victorian Market, is believed to be the largest grid-connected solar photovoltaic installation in the Southern Hemisphere and the world’s only solar panel installation of its size constructed on a heritage building
• Council Priorities and Community Concerns: Melbourne councils are active in environmental management programs and strategies at the local level, with local communities indicated that councils are generally performing adequately in advocacy and in public engagement in decision-making.
• Litter: Cigarette butts remain the most littered item, with Victorian councils and shires spent $42 million in 2002-03 on litter collection and prevention programs.
• Transport: Between 1996 and 2001, in the inner area, use of cars for travel to work decreased and the use of public transport increased, while the use of cars for travel to work increased in the middle and outer areas of Melbourne. Overall car use remained as the dominant mode of travel to work, ranging from 70% in the inner to 90% in the outer area; Between 1997 and 2003, the number of cyclists generally increased on inner city roads, especially in and out of the CBD, where the number has doubled. Cycling as a mode of travel for travel to work decreased in middle and outer suburbs.

George Bush spoiled a good October for me. Watching the special sitting of Parliament called to hear Presidents Bush and Hu 23 October, I was so unsettled by the self congratulatory back slapping of Australia's national leaders, I typed and sent off this short letter to The Age, even prior to Bob Brown and Kerry Nettle having their say in our otherwise muffled parliamentary democracy.

Listening to today’s special sitting of Parliament, it was disturbing to me that fighting and war appeared so strong a focus of Australia’s and America’s elected leaders, when so much might be gained by the mending of bridges and the ability to consider the world through others eyes: David Risstrom.

As Executive Committee and Management Committee Member of ICLEI, I attended the 2003 ICLEI World Congress in Athens from 3-7 November 2003. The theme of the World Congress was Local Action 21, an ICLEI motto that evolved during the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development to describe the history of action emerging from Local Agenda 21 programs ICLEI helped establish at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. During the Congress, Johannesburg Mayor, Amos Masondo was elected President, and I was elected as the Vice President of ICLEI International.

One of the exciting developments emerging from the 2003 ICLEI World Congress was an initiative called the Athens Call for Greening Events, which was adopted following negotiations between ICLEI and a coalition of 21 local Greek Councils known as OTA 21 hosting the World Congress. Greening events involves making a commitment to reducing the environmental impact of an event. This idea was pursued in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, monitored, and advanced by the Green Games Watch program. It is my intention to approach organisations such as the AFL and MCC, and other major sporting bodies to see if advances can be made in greening the events they manage.

Our Australian Government was up to its old tricks at the ranch again, eagerly involving us in closed-door negotiations with the United States to strike an Australian - US Free Trade Agreement that has the real likelihood of crippling many of the community, social, environmental and economic security gains made in Australia. While the issue may seem technical and distant, the consequences are extensive and personal. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which the US - Australia agreement may follow, a private United States company is currently suing the Canadian Postal Service based on the claim it is an unfair monopoly. Australia Post, Telstra and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme face uncertain futures under the threatened Australia - US Free Trade Agreement, with the tentacles and suckers of a likely deal entangling all spheres of government and the Australian people.

December could have been quieter, but who needs to go Christmas shopping before Christmas Eve? December saw Point Nepean move a little closer to being one of Victoria’s great national parks, when sanity seeped into decision making and the Queensland developer-led resort proposal was finally put to rest.

On the issue of things heating up amidst federal shortcomings, the 10 December release of a Federal Government climate change report finding that Australia is vulnerable to changes in temperature and precipitation for the next 50 years. This is in stark contrast to the incredibly short sighted decision to ignore overwhelming public opinion by refusing to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. The report concludes that Australia is vulnerable to changes in temperature and precipitation projected for the next 50 to 100 years, because it already has extensive arid and semi-arid areas, relatively high rainfall variability from year to year, and existing pressures on water supply in many areas. In addition, vulnerability arises due to high fire risk, Australian ecosystems sensitive to climate change, and invasion by exotic animal and plant species introduced by human activity. Australia also has a high concentration of population in coastal areas, an economy strongly dependent on world commodity prices, tourism dependent on the health of the Great Barrier Reef and other fragile ecosystems, and economically and socially disadvantaged groups of people. Impacts of climate change will be complex and to some degree uncertain, but increased foresight would enable us to optimise the future through planned adaptation and mitigation. Mitigation can reduce the ultimate extent of climate change and its impacts, but is a global problem requiring co-operative global solutions. Adaptation is essential to cope with unavoidable climate changes, and in this country is essentially a task to be performed by Australians for Australians in each local situation.

Real progress was made on establishing an Indigenous Unit at Melbourne City Council, which I initially kicked off in a unanimously accepted Notice of Motion to Council in August 2002. Two new senior employees will head the Unit beginning early next year, which will confirm the importance of indigenous issues within the Melbourne City Council.

Following an exhaustive preselection process of written application, panel interview, public meetings, straw polls and ultimately vote of all members, the Victorian Greens elected me and Richard Di Natale as lead Senate candidates for the 2004 federal election. I am really looking forward to contributing to Federal politics and to translate some of the energy the Greens have put into Melbourne City Council onto a broader canvas. I will remain on Council until an election is called, which if after November 2004, will be after I end my term on Council.

In conclusion, looking back through 2003 with Green coloured glasses has been a good reminder of how much energy is required to maintain what I once thought were immovable advances. It is part of what I am now aware of as the need to not only achieve democracy, but maintain it. Roll on 2004, and thanks for being part of the journey.



Cool Green Tip Of The Week -

23 April 2017: Only those who decline to scramble up the career ladder are interesting as human beings. Nothing is more boring than a man with a career: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918 -1956.

This site is written, authorised and maintained by David Risstrom , 377 Little Bourke St. Melbourne, Australiaand had more than 1,003,082 visitors and 3,052,017 hits when updated on Sun 23 April 2017.