Southbankers issue report card on budget

Southbankers issue report card on budget
David Schout

Locals have their say on how the council planned to allocate funds over the next 12 months.

Southbankers have had their say on the latest City of Melbourne budget and annual plan, giving the thumbs up to some projects and asking key questions of others.

The council assessed public feedback received prior to and at the June 20 special Future Melbourne Committee meeting before endorsing the 2023-24 annual plan and budget a week later.

The period allowed all residents from across the municipality to have their say on how the council would be allocating funds during the next 12 months. 

Representatives from the area’s two residents’ groups, Southbank Residents’ Association (SRA) and Southbank3006, plus other locals, addressed councillors on June 20.

There was strong support for the $1.5 million allocated to renew the forecourt at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), the allocation of $250,000 for Queensbridge Square initiation and planning, and the overall commitment to deliver 1.1ha of new public open space in Southbank.

In its submission, SRA said it was “great to finally see some movement on projects that have been long neglected in Southbank”, including plans to look deeper into a decking over CityLink (Burnley Tunnel).

There was also a further commitment of $250,000 to Southbank Boulevard and Southbank Promenade.

One of the key items the City of Melbourne changed in its 2023-24 budget as a result of strong public feedback was the decision to introduce a new $207 fee for buskers using “dangerous goods”, and a fee hike from $30 to $50 for all general busking permits. Several Southbank buskers pushed back against the move, including local resident Luth Wolff.

“Introducing this fee is going to have two significant and unintended consequences,” Ms Wolff, also the secretary of Street Performance Australia, told councillors. “International acts will simply avoid visiting Melbourne altogether, and barriers to access for emerging and diverse artists will be put in place.”

The council backed down and agreed to absorb the fee.

While the commitment to further open space in Southbank was welcomed, SRA president Tony Penna expressed scepticism.

“Of course, we support the plans to deliver new public open space in Southbank. We’ve been hearing about this for years; yes, money has been allocated for years. But seriously, are we ever going to see any additional public open space. The money’s there, but I think it’s a legitimate question,” he said. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there was across-the-board frustration regarding the lack of progress on the City Road masterplan, which was originally due to begin in 2016. 

Southbank3006 vice president Jannine Pattison questioned its future viability. 

“We need to ask the question: Is the City Rd masterplan still relevant? Has it gone by the way of the dinosaurs? Probably. What we need is a comprehensive, holistic approach to a traffic management strategy for the whole of Southbank, not just the City Rd, Power St and Kavanagh St main street block,” she said at the June 20 meeting. 

Ms Pattison called for a reset, and greater vision by local leaders.

“A traffic management plan for the whole of Southbank is a great starting point. Without a plan, without a strategy, it will mean wandering aimlessly waiting for an accident or worse to occur.”

Finally, there was no pushback on the council’s move to increase rates by 3.5 per cent, in line with a cap imposed by the Victorian Government.

Mr Hamilton said the rate increase was “appropriate”. •

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