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Southbank Residents Group

21 Sep 2014

Southbank residents sold-out by councillors

I have come a step closer to trying to understand the politics of Melbourne City Council, although I feel I am just more confused.

Some might say, welcome to politics, but for so long I felt our councillors were doing such a great job and were listening to the community (I must add there are a few that I feel still do).

Over the last month, I have come to realise there is a lot more going on behind the scenes than I had initially thought. However, the performance of the last month, I feel their credibility has plummeted and my cynicism has grown. In short, I am disgusted with council at present.

Many are aware there was a proposal for a up-market design and gourmet food market to be held weekly on the ACCA forecourt on Sturt St.

It was anticipated this would become a hub for upcoming artists to showcase their wares and evolve into a Melbourne institutional market.

A small number of residents, predominately in the Melburnian and Sovereign apartments, which are in the immediate vicinity of the market site, made objections (some that I saw were food smells that may waft onto balconies and market patrons possibly urinating on fences).

There were some 550+ letters of support from Southbank community residents, a number of Melbourne organisations (such as Arts Victoria), and the council’s own planning officers supporting the application, yet the councillors voted against the application seven to three citing many poor excuses such as concerns for children and pets around a busy St Kilda Rd (Cr Pinder-Mortimer), but mainly that the impact on the amenity of the immediate residents was too great for a one day a week operation.

At the meeting I argued that this market correlates precisely with the recommendations of no less than three council reports over the last 10 years and the most recent being the Arts Precinct blueprint.

The market is exactly what these council-endorsed reports stated was required to assist with activating that space. It makes one wonder where councillors get their guidance from.

I certainly don’t think it is from all the reports they commission as when querying one councillor days before the meeting about their view on the market in relation to the Arts Precinct blueprint I got the response that “I am only a part-time Councillor and haven’t got time to read everything”. I nearly fell over.

I wanted to respond with that I am only a part-time community representative, yet I manage to find the time to read all the reports! How did some of these councillors get their seats on this Council?

So a week later at the same meeting there is an application for an amendment to the planning scheme to allow a developer to build a massive building on Collins St which would cast a 25 metre wide shadow across the Yarra onto the Crown promenade and move across the balconies of Freshwater Place podium and through to the public open space of Queensbridge Square.

There is a prohibition for shadow to cross the Yarra onto the south bank, hence the application by the developer.

Well after my experience only the week before and the councillors arguing that it was of utmost importance to protect the amenity of the Southbank residents I thought this would be an easier argument to win and objected to the amendment accordingly.

I also recalled the Lord Mayor clearly stating only four weeks prior, in the same meeting, that the rule against overshadowing the Yarra is a line in the sand and “sacrosanct”. The developer got its approval from the council with seven for and two against.

Where is council’s consistency with their arguments for protecting the community amenity only the week before? How can the Lord Mayor imply shadowing the Yarra is something this council won’t consider, yet he goes against this a month later? I am frustrated and disgusted!

Right, now that I have that out my system, for the lead-up to the election I have arranged a community “Meet the Candidates” Q&A session to be held at Boyd Community Hub on October 27.

Also, if you are not a member of Southbank Residents Group, please consider joining, as membership is what gives us a voice.

It is only $10 per financial year. Or maybe you might like a position on the committee?

Tony Penna

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