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Boulevard of broken dreams

Southbank Residents’ Group

17 Apr 2012

The recent hosting of the international Formula 1 Grand Prix, its cost to the taxpayer and the use of Albert Park public park with the associated noise and inconvenience has raised a doubt of what value this event has to Melbourne, Victoria and even Australia.

We at Southbank, without doubt, reap a considerable tourist dollar and international exposure from this activity and are therefore inclined to believe it is a good thing for us and particularly our commercial and business associates.

Some would say this is the taxpayer subsidising the sport of an elite few and their minders.  Doesn’t this apply to all our so called “sports”? The contribution we made this year is said to be in the vicinity of $40 million plus the inconvenience to the Albert Park patrons has to be assessed.

But let us get this into some perspective. The total national expenditure, by us the taxpayer on the last figure I can find, the period 2000-01 was $2.4 billion, yes, $2.4 billion. The mind boggles and that was 12 years ago. What it is now is anybody’s guess. I have trawled through the internet for more recent information without success but it will no doubt by now be near the $3 billion.

Let’s list just a few of our major local expenditures on sport and sporting facilities.  Melbourne Park development $363 million.  AAMI Park $267.5 million. Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre $116 million.  Rod Laver Arena $94 million. MCG upgrade $77 million just to mention a few.

Those listed are within the Melbourne precinct and are only a representation of how money is spent on sport.  Add to that the hectares of our public parks that have been seconded to house these buildings and associated car parking.

So talk of the grand prix as a venue for the rich and famous can also be applied to most of our modern sporting events. At least Albert Park was returned to us usually in a better order than we gave it to them for the three or four weeks of restricted access. Not so the rest – locked away from us the general public, try kicking a football on the centre of the MCG or any other permanent major fixture. No outcry by the general public here.

What about Southbank? Where are our sporting facilities? Where is some of that $2.4 plus billion dollars spent to serve our proposed 74,000 inhabitants? Sorry to say not a cent. We give but do not receive, so don’t deny us a few days of a tourist invasion to support our local businesses.

A few weeks ago there was a picture in a Melbourne newspaper of State Government Minister Guy surveying Melbourne from about 40 + storeys.  He was acting like a modern day Napoleon Bonaparte, scanning the skyline, revelling in a future Melbourne as a metropolis of high-rise buildings as far as the eye could see.

I think he may have had a bout of hypoxia and I suggest he return to ground level and walk among our high-rise developments in Southbank, but only if he doesn’t suffer from claustrophobia.

How he and his past ministers of all persuasions can visit our area and not squirm at the effect of their decision-making is beyond us.  When will they halt this unregulated development until sensible planning is promulgated, and that includes putting VCAT on notice until they show some recognition at the growing difficulties of residents due to their sometimes incomprehensible decisions?

Another interesting observation was the announcement by Mayor Doyle of a 40-storey building to be built on one third of the open space of the Boyd Girls School site. This structure will, in part, be low-cost housing for our socially and physically disadvantaged.  

At no time did he suggest where the children of these residents were to go to school, or the medical clinics, or the banks, or the post office, or the playgrounds, or the sporting venues or the open space for mothers, aged or disabled to relax from their high rise residences. It’s called the “cart before the horse” syndrome.

The recently-retired and current collection of politicians and their bureaucrats seem unable to apply their acquired knowledge, logic or common sense in the development and preservation of a community be it Southbank, Docklands or anywhere else.

Why they decided to enter or be appointed to the policy-making arena without the appropriate skills is beyond us. We can only hope the current well-educated Y and even Z generation will take over and somehow correct the errors and give us a balanced environment that is compatible with the needs of the people. I suggest they start with Southbank.

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