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Montague Community Alliance

03 Mar 2020

Does that make me crazy?

… with apologies to Gnarls Barkley!

As you would assume dear readers, I have numerous conversations with Montague residents and workers about all sorts of things in our precinct.

And as we are now fully back into the working year, many, many developments have begun. In fact, the most construction we have experienced yet and this, it seems, is the topic of choice for the neighbourhood. That is - how are we being affected by living and working with constant construction? Those conversations have got me thinking a lot about how living or working around numerous developments affects people’s quality of life and, in particular, their mental health.

I know many people are affected by constant noise, those of you living and working in Southbank know exactly what we mean. But does living in a long-term construction zone have an effect on mental health? I’ve been trying to find some research about this, but the data seems to be more about mental health and built forms, or mental health and city-living e.g. loneliness, isolation, etc.

As Fishermans Bend is the largest urban renewal area in Australia, the development and construction will be constant for at least the next few decades. We in Montague, as the first precinct to be developed, are already experiencing this phenomena. Completely anecdotally, these discussions with local Montaguans, seem to suggest that there may well be a mental health effect. This appears to be manifested in people having raised anxiety about the noise they experience each day. This anxiety seems to have a performance effect on workers and increased stress levels for residents. There appears to be a frustration, which some have said “has become like depression” about not knowing what is happening next, or what building is going to be pulled down next.

Out of hours working in some areas has made residents angry and in one case (only) a person said they got so angry about that, that it affected their family’s life. We are aware of one resident who has had significant mental health challenges due to a significant construction close to her home. She sadly required hospitalisation. And there are a small number of workers who have chosen to leave jobs due to the impact of the construction on their working life.

One of the other factors, that could add to people’s anxiety and frustration is the traffic movement around the precinct. Every week there are some roads closed or partially closed to accommodate the trucks and cranes and last month both major arterials, Montague St and City Rd were closed, along with parts of Boundary, Gladstone and Thistlethwaite streets. Essentially, the precinct was closed!

So, having said of all this, what is the solution? Well firstly, if anyone is aware of research in this area please let us know and secondly, planners at all levels of government need to consider the mental health effects on residents and businesses in long-term construction areas.

VicRoads, along with the Fishermans Bend Taskforce and the City of Port Phillip, must consider how to co-ordinate with state infrastructure, developers and builders regarding road closures. This affects not just the locals but those using these arterials to access the freeways and the city. It must be attended to as soon as possible, so we don’t drive everyone crazy!

We would love to hear from you with any comments or suggestions.

Thank you •

Trisha Avery

Convener - Montague Community Alliance

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