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A Green pledge for park over CityLink

06 Oct 2020

A Green pledge for park over CityLink Image

By Sean Car

Illusive plans for a 2.5-hectare elevated park linking the two halves of Southbank over CityLink would be kickstarted under an elected Greens leadership team at the upcoming City of Melbourne council elections.

First flagged in the council’s Southbank Structure Plan in 2010, the cost and coordination of bridging the gap between the tops of Balston and Power streets over the freeway to Miles and Sturt streets with green space has prevented any progress of the vision to date.

But The Greens, led by Lord Mayoral candidate Apsara Sabaratnam and two-term councillor Rohan Leppert, have pledged to give the project the attention it deserves if elected on October 24, sharing their plans exclusively with Southbank News.

But irrespective of Ms Sabaratnam winning Lord Mayoralty, Mr Leppert, who is all but guaranteed to win a third term on council, said he would push for the City of Melbourne to progress financing and feasibility options with the state government and CityLink operator Transurban.

As the headline project of its “Parks for Everyone” policy initiative, The Greens have costed the project at $385 million over 10 years, proposing a mixture of funding streams from the council, state government and Transurban.

With Southbank still by far lowest in the City of Melbourne’s rankings of open space per individual at 0.62 sqm, compared with Parkville at 180 sqm, Mr Leppert said the proposal represented the only opportunity to rectify the shortfall.

“Our policy for the creation of new open space focuses on the areas of greatest need,” he said.

“The Southbank Structure Plan 2010 found that ‘the approach to the CityLink tunnel has created a large void in Southbank. This fragments Southbank into disparate pieces and tends to blight the immediately surrounding uses.’”

“The proposal at the time was to ‘stitch together the northern and southern fragmented ‘halves’ of Southbank by decking over the void with new development to create a connected and continuous mixed-use area and provide the opportunity for new public open space.’”

“We disagree. To bring green open space in Southbank up to a level approaching the World Health Organisation’s recommended minimum of 9sqm per individual, let alone the recommended ideal rate of 50 sqm, all of this space should be green parkland for public use.”

“The City of Melbourne’s Open Space Strategy 2012 moved in this direction, but the sheer expense and challenge of multi-level governmental coordination has prevented this project from being explored.”

“It is well past time that this idea is taken seriously, budgeted for and progressed. Our proposal will connect the two halves of Southbank and lift green open space rates per capita greatly. There is no other space in Southbank able to cater for new public open space at this scale.”

Appearing at the site this month with Ms Sabaratnam and local Southbank candidate Nakita Thomson, who is running fifth on The Greens councillor ticket in this election (read more in this month’s Southbanker profile), Mr Leppert said the new park would connect Melbourne Square to Habitat Filter on Miles and Sturt streets.

Representing 1.6 per cent of the total area of Southbank, the park would require decking over the section of CityLink freeway approaching the Domain Tunnel abutting Power St.

The plan would also require that the offramp from CityLink westbound join the Miles and Moore street intersection, rather than Power St.

“Over time we will further throttle traffic where possible to limit heavy truck movements through the local area, without creating a liability for ratepayers by removing the CityLink traffic guarantee that the state government has agreed to,” Mr Leppert said.

While 48 per cent of the open space would be on ground, 52 per cent would be built on decking. Mr Leppert also flagged the possibility of the triangular parcel of land between Power and Sturt streets being decked in the future to allow for mixed and community uses.

Its $385 million project costing over 10 years would include $65 million and $30 million from the council’s open space reserve and capital works contributions, respectively, as well as a $290 million contribution from the state government, which Mr Leppert said could be recouped over time from Transurban by extending the CityLink concession deed by nine months from January 2045 to November 2045.

“Absolutely it’s a longer-term project but we need to start somewhere,” Mr Leppert said.

“It’s nearly two per cent of the suburb. No other site in Southbank can deliver this degree of open space.”

“The tolls from CityLink are pretty extraordinary and it’s well time we draw some contributions from Transurban.”

A spokesperson for Transurban said that while it was always open to working with the community to improve areas along CityLink, it wasn’t appropriate to comment on policies put forth by different candidates during the election •

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