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Letter to the editor

17 Apr 2012

It often seems like the City of Melbourne and the State Government think they can take Southbank residents for granted. Why else would they behave as they do? Numerous issues of concern have been raised with them, by literally hundreds of residents on scores of occasions and in various forums. Yet, we see not one single positive action taken.  

Here’s the evidence.

Residents have doggedly objected to, appealed against and written about their concerns regarding the Southbank Structure Plan and C171 Amendment which targets raising our suburb’s population from its current 13,000 population to an outrageous 74,000 through high-rise massing within the suburb. Yet the process of finalising the structure plan continues relentlessly with ongoing input and support from the council and developers.

Residents have objected to the recommendations and approval of high-rise buildings which consistently violate existing built form regulations relating to loss of resident amenity, the 100 to 160 metres height restriction, and the 24 metres separation between buildings. Yet, these recommendations and approvals continue unabated.

Residents have repeatedly brought to the attention of the council and State Government that Southbank still lacks a large supermarket, resident-friendly retail strips, a medical clinic, a school, child care facilities, a post office and open spaces. Yet, there is no evidence of an iota of action on their part on any of these issues.

Residents have frequently complained about increased traffic congestion and traffic noise. However, VicRoads, the council and the State Government continue to play the blame game among themselves and nothing ever happens.

Southbank residents are tired of being taken for granted by their politicians. Consultations are indeed duly undertaken. But one gets the distinct impression that these are primarily pro-forma in nature and undertaken to enable the council or the State Government to claim that they have consulted. Residents’ points of view seem to be consistently ignored and their requests or petitions simply filed away into forgotten files.

It appears now that the tipping point is near. And coincidently, so is the October 2012 election for the council.

Southbank residents realise they need to move from a fragmented community to a more organised voice and vote for the forthcoming council elections as well for the State Government elections which are due later. They are turning to the Southbank Resident Group (SRG) to channel their concerns and persuade politicians to take their persistent requests for help seriously. A number of significant initiatives are underway by the Southbank community in co-ordination with the SRG.

A drive for resident registration is in progress. Our suburb is the source of thousands of precious votes. Every one of them is important to each of our issues and concerns and our resident community intends to mobilise every single vote to further our cause.

A recent flyer-petition campaign against the C171 Amendment and other issues affecting residents was organised and the results are encouraging. Residents have sent in signed petitions to the Minister for Planning and Lord Mayor, as well as emails and tweets.


Resident action groups

The SRG, in conjunction with some residents, has shortlisted key issues of concern and helped set up action groups for each. The issues being addressed by the action groups are – (i) Resisting C171 Amendment and the inappropriate tower-massing of Southbank; (ii) increased traffic congestion and noise; (iii) absence of a school and child care facilities; (iv) lack of police presence in the area, and (v) lack of open spaces. Each action group is in the process of developing its strategy to address its target issue and engage with politicians on these.

The Freshwater Place residents are already showing us the way with a well-organised and active campaign to resist the over development of Queensbridge St. They target high-rise development where this patently violates existing built form regulations relating to loss of resident amenity, tower height and separation, and required plot ratios. The FWP committee has linked up with the SRG.

A Southbank group has started up the Residents Without Rights website www.residentswithoutrights.com.au using it to link up all communities within the Capital City Zone to fight inappropriate development which violates existing built form regulations. You are invited to visit the website and post your comment or suggestion.

The chairs of the management committees of major buildings in Southbank and Docklands are meeting in mid-April to identify common issues of concern, and organise concerted representation and action on issues affecting both suburbs.

The Southbank Local News, this very paper, which began publication late last year, has become a powerful communication tool for Southbank residents to connect with each other and share experiences, concerns, and common goals. Hats off to our editor.   

Politicians always underestimate the power of citizens to organise. Typically, it is the well-financed interest groups (such as developers and businesses) who get pride of place at the table of consultation. These interest groups use their deep pockets to lobby the decision makers and thereby influence public policy and decisions.

We citizens do not have deep pockets. But we have one key asset that developers do not have – our votes. Politicians need our votes and we intend to persuade them that these votes are not available to them unless they are responsive to our expressed needs and concerns.

Southbank residents look forward to a more productive and fruitful relationship with our politicians, at both council and state levels, armed with the knowledge that their organised voice and votes are always available as leverage to obtain the ear of the decision makers.  No more can the excuse be that the residents are themselves unable to speak with one voice.

In case you are not as yet a member, do join the SRG to make your voice heard. Register yourself via an email to srgi2000@gmail.com, or visit the following websites to post your comments and suggestions: www.srgi3006.org.au and www.residentwithoutrights.com.au

Cedric Saldanha,
Southbank

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Comments

  • Andy Payne at 8:47am on 28/06/12

    Came across this publication by chance when searching for information on the new Boyd street community hub. Looks like an interesting project.

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