About janus

British-born, schooled in Holland and Wales, I worked my journalism cadetship in the Home Counties, escaped to London, then spent a couple of years travelling before settling in Melbourne, where I have written and edited for a range of publications, including Pacific Magazines [Your Garden, Home Beautiful, New Idea] and Fairfax Community Newspapers. Now a mother of two wonderful teenagers, I write about gardening, sustainability and people, when I can drag myself away from the vegie patch and my saxophone.
Website: http://janeswrite.com
janus has written 55 articles so far, you can find them below.

Burleigh Griffin’s modern view of housing

01 Jul, 2008 05:08 PM
MANSIONS that take up too much room on a block, pollution and affordable housing may sound like modern issues.
But a new book compiling the writings of architect Walter Burley Griffin reveals his interest in those topics many decades ago.

Much has been written about the American-born architect who had a major influence on adolescent Australia as it struggled to find its own identity in the early 20th century.

The solid tome, edited by Griffin’s grand-nephew Dustin Griffin, comprises 71 passages of the architect’s writings on a range of subjects.

Apart from designing the nation’s capital city, Canberra, Griffin and his equally creative wife Marion Mahoney designed towns, public buildings, individual homes and a number of residential estates.

In the north-west suburbs, Griffin’s work can be seen in the design of Essendon’s Incinerator in Holmes Road, created as a municipal rubbish disposal unit and now converted to a vibrant arts and cultural centre.

The layout of part of Avondale Heights was also done by Griffin, originally using similar ideas to those he followed in designing Eaglemont in Melbourne’s north-east.

However, the concept of shared neighbourhood gardens was never followed through and most of the open space has since been rezoned as residential, although only two have so far been developed (both for aged-care homes).

Griffin would have been horrified. In 1923, he gave a lecture in Melbourne in which he said: “Each year more and more forests are ring-barked, fields eroded and pest-infected, rivers befouled and dredged, factory-invaded, and slashed by railways.”

In Melbourne, his work can be seen at Newman College at Melbourne University, the Capitol Theatre – and a missed opportunity to develop a vision he had for the Jolimont rail lines, a plan that is back on the drawing board.

An early student of Frank Lloyd Wright and reader of Rudolph Steiner’s philosophy, Griffin believed strongly that buildings should harmonise with their environment and was keen to use materials and colours that blended with nature.

He was keen on affordable housing and on the idea of building homes with flat roofs that could be used for gardens. In 1921 he wrote: “It will be generally admitted that the attractiveness of metropolitan Melbourne lies not so much in its famous wide pavements or more or less smoky city architecture, as in its beautiful gardens, upon which visitors from other cities always remark, and in which they find a source of pleasure.”

The Writings of Walter Burley Griffin, 512 pages, published by Cambridge University Press Australia; rrp $199.
SEE: www.cambridge.edu.au/griffin

Basalt plain grasslands get highest protection


BY JANE CANAWAY 01 Jul, 2008 05:39 PM


NATIVE grasslands on Melbourne’s basalt plains – including those in Brimbank – have been given the highest possible protection under federal law, listing the ecosystem as critically endangered under the national Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

Ecologists nominated the grasslands for inclusion at least three years ago and, finally, on June 21, it was listed – and rated at the highest of three levels – critically endangered.

Sunshine-based ecologist Simon Cropper said: “It’s a┬ábig thing because virtually every development west of Melbourne could trigger the EPBC.

“Many landowners don’t relate grasslands to native vegetation; mums and dads with rural blocks may not understand [the implications].

But “with 99.99 per cent of the basalt plains grasslands in their true form now gone,” Mr Cropper said he hoped the move would halt the decline.

In the advice to the minister listed on the department website, a block as small as 0.05ha – or 500 square metres – can be defined as grassland. Under the Act, any planned clearance will have to be referred to the Federal Government for approval. And, because there is no bilateral agreement between the state and federal governments, two separate applications must be made.

To add to the confusion, the Federal Government’s definition of what should be protected is likely to be different to that used by the Victorian Government, so land that might not qualify as remnant in Victoria might be protected under the Federal Act.

Landowners are warned not to clear any land without approval however – civil penalties of $550,000 can be levied against individuals, and up to $5.5 million for corporations, with criminal penalties of seven years’ jail and/or $46,200.

While offsets can be made to compensate for lost vegetation under state law, this is not offered under the EPBC ACT, which insists the damaged land is repaired.

Trucking giant drives eco change

11 Nov, 2008 10:19 AM
BETTER driving techniques have made great savings for freight company Linfox, putting it well on the way to reaching its goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 15 per cent over three years.
Linfox is due to move to its new headquarters in Essendon Fields by March and driver training is one aspect of the transport giant’s wide-ranging plan to cut emissions by 85 per cent of 2006-07 levels by 2010. Its ultimate goal is zero emissions.

Initiatives include getting drivers to stick to a “green line” when accelerating, not leaving trucks idling when stopped and smarter planning of pick-up and delivery routes and schedules.

“Research has found that eco-driving can deliver up to 20per cent reduction of fuel. We haven’t had that yet but we have seen 10-15 per cent,” environment group manager David McInnes said as he outlined Linfox’s progress at a forum at Victoria University.

The company believes it can achieve a 10per cent reduction in emissions without any cost at all.

However, the plan includes using more B-Triple trucks to achieve efficiencies of scale, an unpopular move in the past with residents living on or near truck routes.

Mr McInnes said “a law according to Linfox” had been laid down to combat employees’ natural resistance to change and scepticism.

The “law” recognised climate change was real, that human activities were at least partly to blame, that reducing any form of pollution could only be a good thing and reducing energy use made good business sense.

A staff group of “GreenFox environment heroes” had been formed to communicate the message within the company.

At Linfox, 80 per cent of emissions come from diesel and 13per cent from electricity, so these are its two main targets.

The first step in identifying, measuring and reducing emissions has been achieved by setting up the company’s accounting system so it can monitor emissions from each vehicle, the contract it is responsible to, the customer it has been working for, and the state it has been working in.

“From this we can set weekly KPI targets for carbon emissions for individual contracts and we hope to finally get down to setting targets for individual drivers so we can reward improved behaviour,” Mr McInnes said.

By pricing emissions per tonne, they could also see the impact of a carbon price, he said.

“That helps focus people’s attention. It also helps to know the size of the problem being addressed.”

Tip parties walk from talks: discussions fail as groups scrap over cap

25 Nov, 2008 09:56 AM

TALKS between the owners of Tullamarine tip, the community and the Environment Protection Authority have broken down, with TPI Cleanaway and the EPA both boycotting meetings.

EPA executive director regional services, Bruce Dawson, said before last week’s meeting that the authority would not attend meetings until a new independent facilitator was appointed.

On the eve of Tuesday’s meeting, community members of the Tullamarine Rehabilitation Advisory Committee led a protest on the steps of the EPA’s head office in Southbank.

Committee member Harry van Moorst said the facilitator resigned in September because she felt she did not have the committee’s full confidence.

“There was no motion of lack of confidence, but one or two people on the committee said they would prefer to have a facilitator who had more knowledge of the subject.”

Mr van Moorst said that information had been requested of the EPA, but it had not been provided and it had been her task to follow this up.

“If the EPA had provided that information, it wouldn’t have come to that.”

Community members believe the type of cap stipulated by the EPA in 2001 is now “third rate” and much higher standards are expected.

Mr Dawson said last week its website was being updated, and defended the cap. “EPA is confident that the cap design is in line with best practice.

“Past practices have resulted in a legacy issue at the site that [TPI] need to deal with. EPA requires that leachate be removed from the site and treated prior to disposal. The EPA also requires the extensive monitoring of groundwater both inside and beyond the landfill.”

TPI did not return calls by press time.

Endangered moth has its day in the sun

02 Dec, 2008 09:22 AM

IMAGINE having two days left to live to find a mate, settle down and lay some eggs to ensure your time on earth was not wasted.

It’s a tough call even by insect standards, but is made harder for the elusive golden sun moth – once common across Moonee Valley – whose life cycle revolves around ever-decreasing patches of wallaby grass and waiting for perfect weather conditions.

Researchers know that its habitat is in decline but need to know more about other factors in its life.

“Volunteer monitoring will give us a bit of a guide as to what’s going on and tell us a little bit about how long the [mating] season is – we think it varies between the years,” Caitlin Griffith said.

As Victorian National Parks Association’s NatureWatch co-ordinator, she will be leading some surveys this summer to count the critically endangered moth at a Derrimut site.

“Because there are only small areas of grasslands a long way apart it can’t travel from one to the next,” Ms Griffith said. “It can be found in Craigieburn and Delahey and Derrimut and some other scattered sites across to Nhill.”

Werribee Open Plains Zoo tried to reintroduce the moth to a four-hectare, specially planted habitat a few years ago; it took three summers to find two of the shy female moths.

“We put them in with a net over them to protect them from birds and we have waited to see if any young emerged – it can take about three years – but we have never seen any,” zoo keeper Kwai Cang-Kum said.

The Derrimut survey will be the first at this site, but a number of community surveys have been run at Craigieburn, where up to 800 moths have been seen.

Organised by the Merri Creek management committee (MCMC), the survey information has been passed on to RMIT, LaTrobe University, the federal Environment Department and Parks Victoria. MCMC technical officer Brian Bainbridge said volunteers were still needed for the two sites being surveyed this year: the grasslands at Craigieburn and another in Campbellfield.

Volunteers should register for December surveys; organisers will phone to confirm if suitable weather conditions are forecast. Contact MCMC at www.mcmc.org.au or phone 9380 8199; for Derrimut, visit www.vnpa.org.au, email caitling@vnpa.org.au or phone 9341 6513.

Countdown to a hard-earned cure

10 Mar, 2009 12:00 AM
SINCE her latest life-saving operation, Patty Carlyon counts her life in days.
When you have been told you are going to die as often as she has, every day is a blessing.

Last Wednesday, it had been 168 days since a bone marrow transplant operation – just one of too-many major operations Patty, 11, has endured since being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia in November 2005.

Everyone’s hopes were raised when Patty went into remission in mid-2006. Then, last July, her life came crashing down when the leukaemia reappeared. Determined to make the best of the bad news, her family held a huge party and sent her off to hospital in a limousine.

“I’m really well now and, if my next tests are good, I’ll be able to go off boiled water. I’m already off the ‘clean’ diet,” she said, referring to a food regime she had been on for months.

Her diet had been limited to food prepared within half an hour and boiled water to reduce the risk of food poisoning or bacteria while her immune system was low.

Of the past 168 days, about 100 were spent in hospital, so Patty was more than happy to come home in time for Christmas. She still has fortnightly blood transfusions and goes back to hospital for regular tests, adding to the strain on her parents, Kim and Ron, and family.

Sibling Elizabeth, 8, sometimes gets fed up with the extra attention Patty receives. Yet it was Elizabeth whose bone marrow was the perfect match for Patty – and she bravely endured the pain and discomfort of donating it.

“They took out a litre of bone marrow; she’s so skinny it’s hard to imagine there was a litre in her,” Ron said. “But she was so brave – she didn’t complain at all. She really wanted to do it for Patty, but they fight like cat-and-dog the rest of the time.”

Patty is proud to have played a role in improved treatment of children with leukaemia. Because she suffered massive secondary infections from cold sores when her immune system was destroyed by chemotherapy, patients are now treated for cold sores and urinary tract infections before problems set in. A heart echo test – colloquially called the ‘Patty test’ – is also given after chemotherapy to prevent the massive heart damage that nearly claimed her life three years ago. “She is the first [patient] to show that the heart can heal with the aid of a pacemaker,” Ron said.

“And I was out of the transplant [recovery] room in just 13 days,” Patty said. “That’s a new record.”

Not that it was all plain sailing. She contracted a virus and again got a cold sore infection, which spread straight to her kidney, liver and lungs, and almost killed her.

She pulled through to keep hold of two other ‘records’: the longest time spent in intensive care (eight months) and the only child to be treated on all eight floor levels at the Royal Children’s Hospital.

Patty has spent more time in hospital than at Sunbury Primary School in the past four years. She can rattle off medical terms with ease and has a mature approach to life.

Getting well still takes priority over schoolwork but she has a clear goal in mind – she wants to be a nurse. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, even before I got sick.”

For now she keeps counting the days: in 572 days, doctors can be sure her transplant is fully successful. In 1657 days, she will be officially cured.

Freeway fury

17 Mar, 2009 02:47 PM

JOE Garra thinks he has the best block of land in Bulla.
At night you can see the city lights. By day you can watch the planes fly in and out of Tullamarine.

But birdsong is about the loudest noise you’ll hear.

That will change when two freeways merge on his land, as VicRoads plans suggest they will in 10 to 20 years.

At 55, Mr Garra hopes to have sold off and retired by then – but he believes the value of his St Johns Road land dropped as soon as VicRoads released its route map for the proposed outer west ring road, which appears to go straight through his property.

In fact, he may get hit on two fronts, as the ring road appears to merge with a proposed extension to the Tullamarine Freeway on his 52-hectare farm.

“As soon as someone sees that on the Section 32 [notice giving property details] they’re not going to want to buy it,” he said.

The Elders Real Estate agent knows firsthand what the land was worth.

“My neighbour just sold his place for $2.25 million, and that’s for 26 hectares with an older house on. So mine had to be worth at least $2.4 million, and that’s being conservative.

“But anyone selling now is going to have problems.”

Mr Garra said other neighbours planning their dream home would end up with a nightmare.

“I sold a house on this street on 15 acres for $950k and the first thing they’ve done is pull it down to build a $500,000 house on it – what will it be worth with a freeway next door?

“Another house two doors down is at frame stage – they’ll end up looking at a freeway barrier.”

Mr Garra’s neighbour, Cathy Jones, is a third-generation Bulla resident. She’s philosophical but sad about the impact the road will have on her home.

“There’s not many places where you can be so close to the city and still in the country. They’ve certainly picked the best land to go through, with the [Wildwood] winery and so on, and there’s nothing on this street that sells for much less than $1 million.

“It’ll look like another Keilor Park Drive [industrial estate]. We had no plans to move, but now we have no choice – who would buy it now?”

Since Ms Jones moved to her six-hectare lifestyle block in 1983 to run horses on the land, the family has strived to improve it.

“We’ve worked hard on the weeds – there’s hardly any serrated tussock left on the place – and when I think of the trees I’ve planted and struggled with the drought to keep alive, it’s such a shame.

“But I look at the little farms on the edge of the Calder with the freeway on their doorstep and I’d rather the road went straight through the middle of our home.”

VicRoads has stated on its website that its maps are “schematic” and subject to consultation, but also that: “If your property is within this dotted line it is possible that your property would be affected”.

The authority has said that affected landowners will be contacted by mail this month and public meetings held in April, but dates have yet to be set.

A VicRoads spokeswoman said it was “too early” to make decisions about land reservation needs.

VicRoads has the power to compulsorily purchase land, but this will not happen until an exact route has been planned and the State Government approves the project, not scheduled to happen for many years.

In the meantime, Mr Garra thinks it is unlikely he will be able to sell his land.

Compensation claims can only be made once the route is confirmed.

“They may acquire it in 10 years’ time but the price probably won’t go up in that time,” Mr Garra said.

“I emailed VicRoads eight weeks ago.

“When they got back to me two weeks ago, a lady said it will take 20 years. I asked, ‘Why would you have a meeting now for something that’s going to happen in 20 years’ time?”‘

‘Railroaded’ : V/Line supporters call for rethink on rail plan

31 Mar, 2009 03:00 AM
“DOING nothing is not an option.” That is what Macedon MP Joanne Duncan told more than 500 residents who crammed into Sunbury’s Memorial Hall to discuss electrification of the rail line last Tuesday.
“Failure to tackle the problem now means busy rail lines will ‘hit the wall’,” she said.

Combined with expert opinion that electrification is the best way to solve the Sunbury line’s rail problems, it is the closest the State Government has come to declaring the plan will go ahead, despite public opposition.

The vocal crowd loudly decried those defending the plans and cheered any criticism of the Connex train service. They overwhelmingly approved a motion drafted by Sunbury Residents Association, which organised the meeting, demanding the State Government drop the $270million project and spend the money increasing the train line’s capacity instead.

A few spoke in favour of electrification.

After about two hours of debate and questions, one woman asked Ms Duncan: “Is this a done deal – are we wasting our time coming here?”

“When governments make decisions about infrastructure they don’t often do it by a plebiscite or poll,” Ms Duncan replied.

“If we don’t do this, what do we do?”

Several people left the meeting as a result.

A rail expert advising the Department of Transport, Simon Lane, said the rail line through Footscray was close to capacity at its busiest peaks, making the system “increasingly unstable”.

He said a maximum of 20 trains an hour could travel on the Footscray line, and at its busiest the system carried 17.

To carry the projected number of passengers on V/Line-style trains would mean running 22 trains an hour.

“Those sort of trains are not OK for fast, metropolitan use because it takes passengers too long to get off – we have a maximum stopping time of 30 seconds at each station,” he said.

The trains used by Connex allowed faster passenger movement, Mr Lane said.

Department of Transport director of rail projects Michelle Jackson explained the plan to the meeting, saying both Diggers Rest and Sunbury stations would be upgraded.

But when she announced 100 new parking places at Sunbury, she was jeered with calls of “Where?”

A groan went up when 500 new parking places were announced for Diggers Rest.

Ms Jackson promised double the number of weekday trains and about triple the number at weekends. Trains would start earlier and run later and also be more frequent.

“Sunbury customers will also have full access to all metropolitan train stations along the route,” Ms Jackson promised.

“We don’t want it,” came the rumble from the crowd.

Ms Jackson said V/Line trains carried only half the number of passengers of metropolitan trains.

She said the planned new service would take only three minutes longer to reach North Melbourne, and would offer passengers the benefit of going directly through the loop to Flinders Street station instead of only to Southern Cross.

“Electrification provides a long-term solution that caters for the impact of population growth.

“It will also provide Sunbury and Diggers Rest passengers with a quality transport service comparable to the rest of metropolitan Melbourne,” Ms Jackson said, to raucous laughter.

State law faulted on saving native species

07 Apr, 2009 08:30 AM

A DAMNING report by the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office on the state’s main law to protect threatened species has found it “no longer provides an effective framework” for the conservation and protection of native flora and fauna.

The findings vindicate environment groups, which have argued for nearly 20 years that the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act has failed.

The law aims to protect endangered plants and animals with action plans for their management and fines for their removal or destruction.

But the report found: “The powers in the act have not been used as intended, and parts of the act are out-of-date.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Sustainability and Environment, which administers the act, said there were two fines imposed in 2008. The offences related to the taking of protected flora.

Riddells Creek Landcare member Russell Best said the act had many weak points, including failing to automatically protect rediscovered plants that had been considered extinct.

“A geranium called ‘species 1′ was listed as extinct in about 1904 but was rediscovered in Riddells Creek a few years ago. But it’s not covered until it’s formally listed, which takes a while.”

Since the act was passed in 1988, 653 of more than 800 nominated plant and animal species, ecological communities and processes have been listed – about 37 listings a year – and many are also listed under Commonwealth legislation, which offers tougher protection.

Many species in Melbourne’s west are listed because of cats and foxes and because much of their grasslands habitat has been lost to development. These species include the eastern barred bandicoot, striped legless lizard, grasslands earless dragon, growling grass frog, Australian grayling, golden sun moth. Plants include the small scurf-pea, matted flax-lily, Sunshine diuris orchid and clover glycine.

To enforce the act, the Department of Sustainability and Environment received $4.9million in the 2008-09 state budget and $2.4million from the Federal Government. Staff working on the task were raised from six in 2004 to 12.

Environment Minister Gavin Jennings commended the Auditor-General’s Office for its “frank and helpful appraisal”. “The [department] is reviewing the FFG Act and will soon provide advice on options for improvement.

“The findings are both a pat on the back and a reminder that we must continue working to protect Victoria’s unique plants and animals.”

He has asked the department’s secretary to report back in 12 months.

Towns the missing link

07 Apr, 2009 05:56 PM

LINKING townships along growth corridors – such as Craigieburn and Wallan – is the best way to plan Melbourne’s spread, according to the head of the Growth Areas Authority, Peter Seamer.

As landowners and environmentalists await the imminent release of new boundaries for Melbourne’s urban growth, Mr Seamer said last week the GAA aimed to align growth along existing rail and road corridors.

“We strongly support urban consolidation. But in Victoria there is demand for 10,000 new homes a year across the UGB (urban growth boundary).”

The expansion will eat into Green Wedge areas, set up in 2005 to protect the city’s open spaces. But Mr Seamer said the GAA’s approach should benefit the environment and developers and be less ad hoc than in the past.

“We have mapped everything inside and even some outside of the new UGB. Areas of high value we want to set aside…developers need to know in advance what they can and cannot develop.”

Farmers, however, will have to make their own choices about how to use their land.

“Toorak used to be prime farmland too,” Mr Seamer said.

“The value of land is so high that farmers are often better off going further out, but the issue is – we believe – really around water (availability).”

Cr Drew Jessop said the environment in northern Hume needed preservation, in particular the red gum forests in Mickleham and creek and water courses such as the Merri and Kalkallo creeks.

“Our environmental assets need to be preserved and enhanced whatever the outcome. The council can’t be involved in that or manipulate the market. As long as it’s clear and consistent you have a level-playing field and you can’t argue with that.”

Cr Jessop said an outer-metropolitan ring road and an extension to the Craigieburn railway line needed to be prioritised in the infrastructure. “There needs to be good transport links. Some areas are appropriate for trains while others are for buses, pedestrians and bike trails.”

Environment groups believe there is no need to move the UGB and enough land exists within the existing zones to cater for the growth.

Green Wedge Coalition spokeswoman Arnie Azaris wrote in her submission to the review: “The Calder Highway to Sunbury was not supposed to be a growth corridor and we had guarantees from ministers Delahunty, Hulls and Madden that this would not happen.”

The coalition also argues the land release will put more homes in fire-prone pastures and woodlands.

Coalition member Jenni Bundy, who died in the Black Saturday fires, had analysed Department of Planning and Community Development figures for Urban & Regional Development and had said the projections fell well short of the promised 15 lots per hectare development rates.

“For example, Hume Council shows a yield estimate of only 9.6 lots per hectare in the 6-10 year timeframe and reduces further to 8.07 lots per hectare for land in the 11 year-plus, 2019-plus timeframe,” she wrote.

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