Release of Montague plans delayed

By Sean Car

City of Port Phillip Mayor Bernadene Voss has called on the state government to release the the precinct plans for Montague, which she said were “done” and ready for public consultation.

It comes after City of Port Phillip CEO Peter Smith informed councillors on July 1 that the release of the plans had been delayed by the state government until after the local government elections in October.

The CEO’s report on July 1 stated that the release of the Montague Precinct Plan had “been approved” and that the council was to be updated with a detailed review of the precinct plan in early July.

The timing of the release for community engagement was scheduled for August, but the state government has since decided to delay the release in response to COVID-19.

Mayor Bernadene Voss, who sits on the Mayor’s Forum for Fishermans Bend and has been central to the council’s efforts in helping deliver the precinct for many years, has questioned the delays.

Having publicly announced that she would not be running again in the October 24 elections, she said that starting the consultation process with a new group of councillors would be detrimental to the engagement process with the Montague community.

She said that the plans were “fantastic” and that there was no reason to hold them back from the community.

But a spokesperson for the state government said that the precinct plan for Montague was yet to be finalised.

“The Montague Precinct Implementation Plan is yet to be finalised. The Victorian Government is continuing to work in partnership with the City of Port Phillip on progressing the Plan and its completion remains a priority,” the spokesperson said.

“The precinct has a pipeline of potential future development, serviced by existing public transport infrastructure and investment in community facilities which provides an opportunity to contribute to Victoria’s economic recovery.”

While a strategic plan for Montague already exists within the planning framework for Fishermans Bend, along with the other four precincts, the next stage of precinct planning maps out the detailed implementation arrangements, including key community infrastructure.

The existing strategic frameworks are also already supported by planning controls, which was finalised by Minister for Planning Richard Wynne back in October 2018.

Fishermans Bend Development Board chair Meredith Sussex said that while releasing the implementation plans was of high importance, the challenges of COVID-19 meant that implementation in Fishermans Bend was currently the Board’s major priority.

“While seeking public feedback on the Montague Precinct Plans is of great importance, the current focus of the Board is about implementation and working on the ‘nitty-gritty’ of delivering on development in Fishermans Bend,” she said.

“The importance of implementation has been elevated in response to the economic pressures of COVID-19, and while the detailed precinct planning is a priority, there are more pressing priorities in Fishermans Bend at present.” 

“The governance structures, through various committees and the Mayor’s Forum, are working better than ever, and the Board looks forward to revisiting this important work in Montague with all stakeholders at the appropriate time.”

Montague Community Alliance convener Trisha Avery said the release of the plans were long overdue.

“The Montague Community Alliance is mindful that the Fishermans Bend Development Board and Taskforce are fully engaged in responding to the current pandemic. We are grateful for their hard work,” she said.

“However, we the community, have been waiting seven years for a precinct plan ... a plan that would provide some certainty of how our living and working situations for the residential, business and development community will be affected.”

“We don’t need less certainty during this difficult time, we need more and we also need clear communication about the plans that we know are near, or are completed.” •

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