What a travesty!

What a travesty!
Tony Penna

September was a big month for SRA having held our Annual General Meeting (AGM). This is often our highlight event of the year as we will usually have an engaging and interesting guest speaker/s. This year was no exception.

We had the pleasure to hear from general manager infrastructure at the City of Melbourne Roge Teale, and supporting him was the Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece. Once again, we had a full house.

Hearing from Roger was highly anticipated as this was his promised report of a Southbank audit of all Southbank plans after our widely attended forum “Southbank: Where to from here?” in April 2021.

In that forum I referenced the Southbank Structure Plan 2010 and queried the status of many of its components. Roger, nor the other speakers, including the Deputy CEO Alison Leighton, were able to provide the answers. Roger took it on notice and promised the community a complete audit of all Southbank plans.

So, here we were … Roger started by introducing a report “Southbank Report on Projects and Priorities” which was apparently published on the City of Melbourne website late last year. I was certainly taken aback that such a significant report was not brought to the community’s attention and that it was just quietly uploaded.

Sadly, Roger didn’t go into much detail regarding the specific aspects of the Soutbank Structure Plan as I did, nor this audit report, but the big take-away was his comment that the CityLink deck was not feasible owing to the anticipated cost, somewhere around $700 million. This was massive news for Southbank.

For years SRA has been questioning the council on this initiative of the Southbank Structure Plan particularly requesting it be costed. Over those years, all these queries and requests seem to have fallen on deaf ears as we never received any official response. However, to our surprise it appeared the Greens were listening to Southbank as at the last council elections they did cost this project and had some very innovative ways in which to fund it –

credit to Cr Rohan Leppert.

The council’s open space strategy recommends 20 sqm per resident. Southbank currently sits at just over two sqm per resident. As such, the residents of Southbank are certainly feeling the impacts of a lack of open space.

SRA has particularly highlighted this to the council at each of our attempts to overturn the sale of the Boyd Park land to a developer – valuable open space which would have provided a significantly better return on council investment than the dollars grabbed from a land sale.

I can’t help but feel that maybe the reason why we are in this dilemma of open space shortage is the town planners have been using the Southbank Structure Plan to inform their planning. If so, then it is understandable why there has been no serious attempts to provide the much-needed open space to Southbank if they thought the CityLink deck was always going ahead.

Yes, the council has recently allocated $20 million in the budget to source open space for Southbank, but as I have indicated when this was announced, I don’t think there is any land available in Southbank; well, certainly not for $25 million that will meet the practical requirements for open space.

It is a real disappointment that the council was not able to be creative with how the CityLink deck could have been achieved, but worse is that a conversation wasn’t even had with the state government, let alone internally.

How do such projects even make their way into a structure plan if the council had no intention to cost them? Are they only there as a tease to residents – a carrot to silence them while they live in the clouds dreaming of their CityLink decking?

However, thank you Roger and Cr Reece for finally allowing the community to know where they truly stand with the CityLink decking and open space going forward – don’t hold your breath! •

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