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Planning key to Southbank vote

13 Nov 2014

Planning key to Southbank vote Image

By Scott Tibballs

Up to 50 people gathered at the Boyd Community Hub on Tuesday October 8, to quiz candidates ahead of this month’s state election.

The result was an informative, if somewhat bland, question and answer session.

“Southbank is treated like a permanent building site,” said one resident. “(We are) purely at the whim of developers.”

All three candidates, Labor’s Martin Foley MP, the Liberal’s Shannon Eeles, and the Greens’ David Collis were present for the discussion.

Southbank Residents Group president Tony Penna said he had specified on the Facebook event invitation that the forum was exclusively for Southbank residents, in order to discourage residents affected by urban renewal elsewhere from influencing discussion.

“We do not want this hijacked by residents from other parts of the electorate - they can arrange their own,” he said.

Liberal candidate Shannon Eeles had in the past dropped out of a similar forum organised by the Montague Community Alliance – a residents’ group organised specifically to fight Fishermans Bend and re-zoning.

The October 8 forum was a clash of ideologies, with Ms Eeles saying she believed any and all problems facing communities are best solved by the private sector.

Meanwhile, incumbent MP Mr Foley has constantly attacked planning Minister Matthew Guy on his free-market approach.

Mr Foley said the Liberal Party’s “small-target, market-based planning” was the reason inner-city communities were faced with apartment towers being built further and further south of the CBD, or “monsters rolling towards the bay”, as he put it.

He said it was the Government’s job to “lead planning, not leave it to the market”.

There were few opportunities for the candidates to debate these differing views, with the moderator Mr Penna, keeping the event on a tight reign.

Greens candidate David Collis threw down a challenge to his rivals - demanding they commit to ensuring Southbank planning powers would be given back to local government.

Mr Collis said that Southbank residents didn’t have the same rights as other Victorians, as they didn’t have adequate right to notice, objection, and appeal.

Freshwater Place Owners Corporation president Peter Renner responded that while he liked what Mr Collis was saying, “you’re not going to be in power”.

Mr Penna had earlier commended Mr Collis for his opposition to the development of 447 Collins Street – a mixed-use tower that would have overshadowed the Southbank Promenade.

Developer CBUS, was recently denied a permit for the proposal by Mr Guy.

Both Martin Foley and Shannon Eeles expressed their support for protecting the overshadowing prohibition, having been challenged to do so by Mr Penna.

However, Ms Eeles was unable to satisfy the Southbank residents at the forum, responding to many questions by saying all she could do was take their concerns to the Minister. “That’s my job,” she said.

Mr Penna responded that SRG had already raised issues with Mr Guy, but been ignored.

Transport was another key concern, with Ms Eeles and Mr Foley sparring on their parties’ opposing plans for new rail lines and tunnels.

Ms Eeles said the construction of a new train station at Montague and Domain, serving Fishermans Bend, would become a hub for Southbank residents.  

Mr Foley responded that Labor would prioritise building the Melbourne Metro “where people want to go”, not Fishermans Bend.  

Mr Penna said he was happy with the outcome of the forum, stating that it was clear the candidates understood that planning was the “number one issue” for Southbank, and that power needed to be returned to local government.

Scott Tibballs is a Master of Journalism student at the University of Melbourne.

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