City of Melbourne councillor: “Don’t poke the Penna bear!”

City of Melbourne councillor: “Don’t poke the Penna bear!”
Tony Penna

This was the response from Cr Rohan Leppert at the City of Melbourne’s Future Melbourne Committee meeting last month to discuss items in Southbank. I didn’t hold back in that meeting, and I make no apologies for calling them out.

As outlined in last month’s column, I was scathing of the council’s proposal to arbitrarily remove seven hectares of promulgated open space in Southbank; namely, the Citylink deck, which was central to the 2010 Southbank Structure Plan.

Instead, the council has offered one hectare of open space on Normanby Rd to replace it, which essentially, results in a net loss of six hectares.

The council thought they could just slip this onto its agenda and, with a single sentence in a motion, see the Citylink decking gone, and probably hope the community wouldn’t notice.

Well, sorry, but Southbank Residents’ Association (SRA), with its 25 years of history advocating for Southbank, was never going to let this go unnoticed.

We also learned that, apparently, the council had the Citylink deck costed in 2021 and based on that it was deemed prohibitive to its budget. SRA asked the council in April 2023 when the Citylink deck was going to be costed, and we were told the project would be delivered by the state government.

There was no mention of the council reviewing the project, nor that they did indeed have it costed. We have now asked council to explain why they weren’t forthcoming with us in April 2023 and advise at that time that the project had indeed been costed, when that was what we were asking.

We are also asking if the state government officially advised that it would not be funding the project or if the council just took it upon itself to remove the project and drop it from the Southbank agenda. Hopefully we will have some answers soon.

At that same meeting, the council also tried to claim they were providing an “update” on the City Road Master Plan, except its “update” was essentially only on the Kings Way undercroft. Yes, the master plan encompasses so much more.


Sadly, it tried to claim “Action 6” – expand the bicycle network – was complete. We called them out on this and highlighted that not a single item of the City Rd bicycle network had been touched, as per the master plan.


Cr Rohan Leppert was instrumental in amending the motion to specifically highlight that this action had yet to be completed. While it is promising we are making progress on the undercroft, it is disappointing the remainder of the City Road Master Plan appears to have fallen off the council’s radar. We will be lobbying to get this back on the agenda.

The draft budget has just been promulgated and we will be highlighting some items in there. Specifically, we note they are taking the $25 million, which was allocated to source open space in Southbank and applying that to the Normanby Rd redesign.

We feel this money should remain in the fund to source land in Southbank and instead they take funds from the open space fund to fund Normanby Rd.

Afterall, the council has indicated it was still in negotiations with two developers for two different sites in Southbank. If these funds are used on Normanby Rd, then there will be no funds to purchase those sites.

We feel leaving the money where it is will allow the council to act quickly, should negotiations become favourable, while also keeping sourcing new open space on their agenda.

Remember SRA relies on membership to allow our voice to be effective with our lobbying efforts. You can join via our website  or via our Facebook page: Southbank Residents. •

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