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Slow news Clay

12 Jul 2016

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Editorial Comment - Sean Car

I’m not entirely sure what Fairfax’s never-ending smear campaign of Southbank and Docklands aims to achieve.

In a story this month titled ‘World’s most liveable city should be ashamed’, The Age’s reporter Clay Lucas described Southbank as a “dead zone” and a “windswept jungle of concrete”.

He elected to single out Southbank as “a model of how not to plan a suburb” as the conversations continue around planning for Melbourne’s next urban renewal precinct in Fishermans Bend.

No one denies that Southbank has been subject to poor planning over the years. It has undoubtedly been a case of development first, community planning later. The same can be said for Docklands.

However, what satisfaction does Fairfax draw from continuing to slag off a suburb, which more than 16,000 residents now call home?

Sure, it may not possess the open space and community infrastructure that your idealised suburb should. But as the Kavanagh Park development and the Southbank Boulevard, City Rd and Boyd Park master plans show, there is a lot more on the way. Southbank will be a very different place in 10 years.

I’m writing on the assumption that Clay has never lived in Southbank, or spent much time in the area for that matter. Going by his generalisations about our suburb I’d suggest this is the case.

When Fairfax wants to, it will jump on the back of the “sea of empty apartments” narrative and ride Southbank and Docklands into the ground.

Then in Clay’s article we read that Southbank is a suburb for the “upwardly mobile”, “those with no other option”, and “student pile-ins”.

He then points to the elitist example of the tent-for-rent on a balcony story, which got his newspaper’s anti-Southbank engines firing last year. By the way, if any good reporter had actually clicked onto that link, the rentable tent was actually up for grabs at an apartment on Albert Rd – South Melbourne, not Southbank.

Next, he refers to former City of Melbourne urban strategist Leanne Hodyl’s incredibly flawed and implausible Churchill Fellowship report.

As I wrote last year, Ms Hodyl’s 40-page report, which refers to Southbank on a mere three of those pages was a gross misrepresentation of our suburb.

It singled out one Southbank block (Freshwater Place), as if to suggest that this was how the rest of our suburb appears. It’s a poor representation of a suburb that has a lot more to offer than what many so-called experts choose to believe.

In large, I don’t argue with you Clay. Yes, Southbank is dense. Yes, it lacks community space and infrastructure. But to many residents, it is home for reasons far greater than what you’ve suggested.

Let’s face it. Southbank is an extension of the CBD and most residents elect to live here for that very reason. Convenience.

However, that convenience also extends to many other wonderful local assets from the Botanic Gardens and Yarra River through to our very own Boyd Community Hub and Arts Precinct.

And it’s not as if this “dead zone” you refer to is endless. Some of Southbank’s low-rise community from Dorcas St through to Southbank Boulevard has happily lived in the suburb for more than 20 years.

It is convenient and, therefore lazy, to refer to Southbank as a whole in your bake of our suburb.

If you wish to do so in the future, you’d be better to refer to “parts of Southbank”. The same could have been said for Leanne Hodyl.  

I also think the discussion around Fishermans Bend would be just as constructive without dishing out on its future neighbours.

Sure, we can learn from previous mistakes.

But for those who happily live and work in our suburb and continue to strive to make it a better place, please leave us out of your next slow news day.

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