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The conversation begins

06 Jun 2017

The conversation begins Image

By Sean Car

Last month’s inaugural Montague Community Forum marked the beginning of an important discussion regarding the transitional development of the Montague Precinct.

Some 40 local residents, business owners and community representatives attended the forum held at the Golden Fleece Hotel on May 16, which focused on traffic management in the precinct.

Sponsored by Southbank Local News and hosted by the Montague Community Alliance (MCA), the forum covered many important current day issues affecting residents and businesses.

Local Member for Albert Park and State Minister for housing, ageing and disability, mental health, creative industries and equality, Martin Foley, was part of a distinguished panel that led the discussion.

Other panelists included City of Port Phillip Mayor Bernadene Voss, Fishermans Bend Ministerial Advisory Committee chair Meredith Sussex, VicRoads director of planning and traffic David Teague and South Melbourne Primary School principal Noel Creece.

Montague is the first of five Fishermans Bend precincts to experience a major flurry of development approvals and applications, following former planning minister Matthew Guy’s decision to rezone Australia’s biggest ever urban renewal area as capital city zone.

While the Labor Government’s recast vision for Fishermans Bend sets out important strategies for addressing the future, Montague residents and business owners are facing more immediate challenges.

With a school and two residential towers currently under construction and many more on the way, daily increases and changes in traffic flows throughout the precinct are already causing issues.

Mayor Voss got the forum underway with a presentation on the precinct, which featured detailed diagrams and an overview of current planning approvals and applications.

Each panelist gave a short presentation, before MCA convener Trisha Avery moderated a Q&A with the audience.  

South Port Urban Responsible Renewal (SPURR) convener Rowan Grove asked the first question of the night, which reflected the current frustrations of many living and working in the precinct.

“There’s a lot of emphasis about what it’s going to look like in 2050 but what is it going to look like next year? How is the day-to-day planning going to come together for the people around here in the short term?” he asked the panel.

Unsurprisingly, David Teague from VicRoads bore the brunt of many of the questions, addressing a number of issues including traffic modeling for development and changes to traffic controls in the precinct.

While he said VicRoads was constantly undertaking many initiatives to help improve traffic flows and ease congestion in and around the precinct, he said a number of different solutions would be required.

“The modeling considers a future vision of Melbourne, which incorporates all of the planning changes and all of the density that we know about at that time and that’s regularly updated and considered on the highest level,” he said.

“We need some of those trips into the city to be made through public transport to help out because there is no silver bullet to fix congestion. It’s just not possible in that way.”

Dissected by busy Montague St, and surrounded by City Rd and major freeway entrances, the current lack of public transport provision in the area makes it difficult to transition to a pedestrian-focused precinct in the short term.

While Mayor Voss said tram stops for routes 96 and 109 would soon be upgraded, the government’s blueprints for Melbourne Metro 2 don’t earmark a train to Fishermans Bend for at least 18 years.

In the meantime, Meredith Sussex told the forum that plans for public transport, cycling and catering for pedestrianism would need to be transformational.

“In the context of the transport and traffic we all know that if 80,000 residents and 40,000 workers live in this area and they all tried to use cars no one would be moving anywhere,” he said.

“We know that in the long term. We know that we have to look at how we transition into a different way of doing things and that’s really hard.”

The desire to narrow streets and remove car parking was also questioned by some, as was the possibility of heightening the Montague St Bridge to improve access to the precinct. However, Martin Foley dismissed this idea.

“I take the view that the bridge acts as a bit of a filter of what can and can’t come into this community,” he said.

“I would be a little less enthusiastic about changing that area because that then forces in a systems-wide debate, which is what we’re having here, to provide a more accurate vision and managing the system from a local perspective.”

Other issues raised by participants included parking permits, construction and subsequent safety along Boundary and Gladstone streets, as well as managing construction in harmony with residents, businesses and the future school.

David Teague confirmed some immediate changes would soon come into effect, including installing traffic lights at the intersection of Montague and Buckhurst streets, and opening the Ferrars St and City Rd intersection to two-way traffic.

The City of Port Phillip is currently in discussions with the MCA about devising a neighbourhood agreement between all local stakeholders, while Minister Foley said he hoped the forum could lead to the formation of a local panel.

The Southbank Local News and the MCA will host its next community forum in August. A date and forum topic will be announced in the newspaper closer to the event.

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