Open space and elections

Tony Penna

This month we will see the City of Melbourne start the process of trying to identify new open spaces in Southbank – the direct result of a $20 million allocation in the current budget.

The council will call for EOIs from owners and agents to submit sites for potential acquisition.

As you may recall, $20 million was earmarked in the 2021/22 budget to purchase land in Southbank for open space. At the time I expressed my cynicism as I couldn’t identify any appropriate blocks that hadn’t already had a development application approved.

The only block that I thought ... suitable (which, however does does have an application approval) is the 127-129 Kavanagh St site currently being used as a car park. This site is directly opposite Boyd Park, between the purple heritage-protected, derelict, graffitied building on the corner and the power substation on the Balston St corner.

Its close proximity to the current park is ideal, but to be honest, it was really the only vacant piece of land that I could think of which if converted to open space was located where its use as community open space would be worthwhile.

However, the 63-83 Kings Way and 127-129 Kavanagh St site was the subject of a ministerial approval in 2020 for a dual tower proposal, so the prospect of buying back any land from the developer seems extremely unlikely.

So, I wonder why the council needs call for EOIs? Wouldn’t it be easier to merely reach out to the owners of those handful of vacant blocks around Southbank and have a conversation?

I guess maybe the owners are not that easily contactable and agents, such as CBRE, might be in a better position to actually make contact with these landowners and influence them to do something different with their plans.

I think it’s a long shot, but I commend the council for its efforts as Southbank open space is a hot topic and has been a massive oversight by past councils and now this council is struggling to catch up and correct the misgivings of past councils.

If these efforts are not able to translate into acquisitioning land, then I wonder what will happen with the allocated $20 million in the budget. SRA will watch these developments closely.

On another note, at a Future Melbourne Committee (FMC) meeting last month the Night Time Economy Advisory Committee (NTEAC) presented its report. SRA was gobsmacked that while the best interest of residents was mentioned in its terms of reference, the committee made no mention of how the proposed increased night-time activation might impact on local residents and what protocols would be put in place, specifically in regard to hours of operation and sound levels and what measures would be taken to ensure such protocols are respected.

I attended the FMC meeting and spoke to this agenda item to highlight to our councillors this serious oversight. This resulted in much discussion between the councillors as this oversight seemed to have been missed by them as well (despite many of them residing in the municipality).

Consequently, the chair of the advisory committee was in the audience and was asked to comment on this oversight. While the night-time economy is an important facet of Melbourne’s reactivation it is still important residents’ amenity is protected and managed. It certainly would have been desirable if the advisory committee had addressed its brief fully.

At that same meeting I presented some photographs I took of overflowing rubbish bins along the promenade during the Moomba long weekend. Sadly, every day of the long weekend the rubbish bins were overflowing, all the way to the boat sheds on the foreshore.

Once I noticed them all overflowing I deliberately monitored these bins and found there was in excess of 12 hours before they were emptied. It was disgusting and a blight on our beautiful neighbourhood.

Sadly, in my 10 years as president of SRA this is the third time we have brought this issue to the attention of the council covering the same weekend. Each time Southbank has received an apology and reassured the process will be looked into and that this won’t happen again. Not surprising I was given the same apology and reassurance again. In fact, today, the day I am writing this column, at council’s request, I have a meeting with a team to discuss this further, why it happened, and the measures they are putting in place to improve the rubbish collection.

Finally, the federal election is upon us. Please join us with our Meet the Candidates event on May 3 at Boyd Community Hub for a 6.30pm start. As usual the main candidates will make themselves available to spruik what they have to offer our electorate should they be successfully elected.

In years gone by these events have always been a full-house and without exception controversial discourse has always been a part. Don’t miss your opportunity to ask some hard-hitting questions.

If you are not a member of SRA and would like to support our work it is only $10/FY. Without our members our voice is not taken seriously or even heard. We would certainly welcome your support. You can join via our website southbankresidents.org.au

I look forward to seeing you around our neighbourhood.

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