Socialist councillor: ‘If you don’t fight, you never win’

The Sue Bolton Moreland Team.

Moreland socialist councillor Sue Bolton has worked hard to save public land along Merri Creek and Moonee Ponds Creek from being sold off to developers.

“The open space along our creeks isn’t any old open space. It is important for maintaining the veins of Melbourne, and also as a place of natural bushland in our bustling city,” Bolton told Green Left.

Bolton has a proud history of fighting alongside the Fawkner Residents Association, Friends of Merri Creek and others from Reservoir, Brunswick, Coburg and the Broadmeadows Progress Association to stop the sale of precious open space beside Merri Creek in Fawkner from being eradicated.

These “veins” are used by many communities to relax, walk their dogs and have their picnics. “There are too few public spaces left in the inner city, and the climate emergency should be mandating protection for these green spaces,” Bolton said.

It is not just about maintaining shade and amenity, green space is critical for people’s sense of well-being, Bolton said.

Bolton has a long history of standing up for green space, most recently the fight to save the Gandolfo Gardens.

In June, she instigated an amendment to council’s procurement policy which excludes it from dealing with companies involved with coal corporations. This came after 5 months of campaigning by Climate Action Moreland and Stop Adani Moreland.

Bolton was one of the initiators of a broad-based climate action group which organised a protest march in the centre of Melbourne as part of a February 22 national day of action on the climate and bushfire crisis.

She is convinced that broad-based movements are critical to forcing shifts in policy, saying in January that just like the Equal Marriage campaign took years of “consistent mobilisations and patient and hard work to build the necessary alliances” to continue with organising mass mobilisations and alliance building. These are the things that change people’s minds, she said.

Bolton was also instrumental in  on council in 2014 when residents discovered that the budget for climate action had been cut by $100,000, threatening the council’s solar energy projects.

A hastily-organised public meeting called with community groups Climate Action Moreland, Sustainable Fawkner, the Socialist Alliance and the Moreland Greens led to council unanimously returning to the original draft council budget for that year. Even opponents changed their minds.

Bolton concluded then, and she maintains the same today, that “protests do work”. “The other councillors, including the Greens, would not have voted to reinstate the carbon management projects if not for the protest, the emails and phone calls.”

Last year, when Public Transport Victoria (PTV) decided to build a substation just 20 centimetres from a family’s bedrooms, Bolton was the first councillor to respond to residents’ concerns.

Initially, council had dismissed them and it wasn’t until Bolton sought independent advice and starting moving motions that the PTV paused the project and agreed to shift the substation.

“I am a single voice on council, sometimes failing to get a seconder for my motions. But I can help make change by supporting communities prepared to mobilise to gain something important. On that basis, I can say I’ve been able to be on the winning side of many struggles.”

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