Monthly Archives: December 2012

OPEN SPACE – OPPORTUNITY LOST FOREVER

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As much as GERA would like to report that Glen Eira Council acquired the rare and unique 3142 sqm open space opportunity at 487 Neerim Road, Murrumbeena, we are unable to.  Regrettably, the property went under the hammer at 6.30 tonight and was passed in at $2.6m with the vendor’s representative being confident the property would be sold later this evening – presumably for high density multi-unit dwellings.  Council was noticeably absent.

Although at less than 20% higher than the top of the quoted sale price of $2.2m, the final negotiated sale price should be well within Council’s range (given the almost $2m paid for 2 Packer Park house lots which were considerably smaller than the Neerim Road property, lacked mature native vegetation and required demolition and rehabilitation works).

Despite GERA lobbying Council and individual Councillors (refer to the two postings below) and a Leader Article on the sale (18/12/2012)

Leader Article 18/12/2002

acquisition of the property was not mentioned at last Tuesday’s (18/12/2012) Council Meeting (nor was it discussed at any previous ordinary Council Meeting).  Council’s only response has been a letter, from Mayor Hyams (refer to our earlier posting below), outlining the reasons why Council was not considering purchasing property.   No individual Councillor responded.

Council’s failure to consider purchasing the property is another instance where Council’s encouraging words are not matched with corresponding actions.  Since 1998, residents have continually expressed concern over Glen Eira’s lack of public open space and the need to acquire additional open space in both the Community/Council Plan and the State Governments Satisfaction Survey.

In evaluating how well Council has responded to residents clearly expressed and well documented wishes residents should consider the following:

  • At last Tuesday’s Council Meeting a Public Question (Council Minutes 18/12/2012 – Section 11.4) re the value of revenue collected from the Open Space Levy paid by developers over the past 10 years and how it was spent (parkland acquisition vs maintenance/development of existing parks) was asked.

Council’s response was that for the period “2003/4 to 2011/12 … During those nine years Council received $12,769,669. … Council spent $1.911m acquiring the properties abutting Packer Park”.

It is interesting to note

      • that Council’s original proposal for funding of the acquisition of the 2 Packer Park properties was to sell the former Packer Park bowling club rather than using Open Space Levies paid by developers.  
      • linking the acquisition of the Packer Park house lots with the open space levy is somewhat redundant since these house lots are in fact the only additional parkland purchased by Glen Eira in the past 9 years.
      • The 1998 Open Space Strategy recommended that there be “a 50% split between acquisitions and improvements”.  Based on the figures presented above, which show an 86:14 split, Council has not complied with the recommendation in their own strategy.
  • The Open Space Levy is legislated by the State Government to provide Council with funding for the purchase of additional open space or maintenance of existing open space.  The Open Space Levy is currently set at a maximum of 5% of the land value at the time of subdivision.   Unlike other Council’s
    • Glen Eira open space levy rates vary across the municipality and rarely is the full 5% charged.  (Glen Eira Planning Scheme – Open Space Levy Rates).   Most Council’s charge an across the board 5% (ie for all areas within their municipality).
    • While other Council’s set aside the open space levy revenue for the specific purpose of purchasing new/additional parkland rather than parkland maintenance, Glen Eira does not.  Consequently, when unexpected open space opportunities arise other Council’s have funds readily available to act on the opportunities, Glen Eira does not.

The Recreation Land Fund, which was previously created (circa 1998) to set aside funds for parkland purchases is no longer included in Glen Eira accounts.

  • The 2012 Glen Eira Community Plan (Theme 5- Recreation and Open Space), includes the statement that “Council will actively seek new opportunities to increase and optimise open space for residents.”    Yet, in outlining Council’s reasons for not considering the purchase of the Neerim Road property, Council has apparently added two additional restrictive stipulations which have not been endorsed by the residents
    • “New open space may well be of even greater priority than enlarging existing open space” .   Such a statement implies a limitation on the parkland opportunities that will be considered rather assessing each opportunity on it’s own merits  – size, cost (acquisition and rehabilitation), the localities expected population growth etc. are some, but not all, factors that should be considered.
    • Council’s priorities will be to adopt and implement a prioritised and costed plan to meet the communities need for public open space”.   Such a statement lacks clarity as it implies focus on events that can be planned and costed (eg maintenance of existing parkland, pavilion developments) rather than recognition of the unexpected nature of parkland opportunities.
  • The current Glen Eira Open Space Strategy is dated 1998.  As mentioned previously, Glen Eira residents have been voicing the need to increase open space since this time.   The Open Space Strategy is a strategy that should have been regularly monitored and reviewed to ensure that the policy continually meets the needs of the community, particularly when the community is experiencing dramatic population growth and high density multi-unit developments.  Unfortunately this has not happened and the strategy is now the subject of a major re-write.

With the impending new Open Space Strategy review and community consultation residents should again be vocal about their wishes and actively ensure Council adheres to the strategy in coming years.  Unique opportunities such as this particular property should not be let go – they should be actively sought and secured for current and future residents.

UPDATE – 21/12/2012

The Sold sticker was on the property’s real estate sign this morning.

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OPEN SPACE – ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY LOST?

Late yesterday, GERA received a letter, from Mayor Jamie Hyams,  in response to our letter (6/12/2012 refer below posting) which

  • alerted Council to the opportunity to purchase 3142 sqms of cleared open space abutting Riley Reserve, Murrumbeena (namely 487 Neerim Road, Murrumbeena)
  • outlined the benefits of acquiring the property, located within easy walking distance of the Murrumbeena, Hughesdale and Dandenong Road Housing Diversity (high density) areas.

Unfortunately, Council has decided not to purchase 487 Neerim Road, Murrumbeena.   Although located in a minimal change area and a rare opportunity to acquire a sizeable addition to the Municipality’s open space (at approximately 50% of the Melbourne Metropolitan average per capita open space, Glen Eira has the least open space in the metro area), Council argues financial considerations prevent the acquisition of this property.  Hence a valuable open space opportunity will be lost forever to high density development (as emphasised in the below sale advertising material)

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The following is GERA’s response, dated 15/12/2012, to the Mayor’s letter.  The response has been forwarded, via email, to all Glen Eira Councillors.

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Dear Mayor Hyams,

Thank you for your 14th December, 2012, response to our recent letter (6/12/2012) alerting Council to a rare opportunity to acquire additional parkland (487 Neerim Road, Murrumbeena).  While GERA accepts that Council (like every organisation and individual) has finite resources and needs to prioritise those resources, Council (like every organisation and individual) also needs to retain a degree of flexibility so that unexpected/unplanned opportunities can be capitalised.  For the reasons outlined in our above mentioned letter (copy attached), GERA believes that acquisition of 487 Neerim Road is one such unexpected/unplanned opportunity and requests Council reconsider it’s decision not to purchase the property.

In a point by point response, to your letter (14/12/2012) GERA respectfully submits the following

  •  Packer Park Acquisition  

While GERA does not contest the distinction between our wording of the 2 house lots “adjoining Packer Park” vs. your wording of “jutted in to the park”, GERA points out that the property at 487 Neerim Road is considerably larger than the 2 house lots, has the added benefit of possessing mature native vegetation and additionally is not encumbered by the presence of buildings.  The Neerim Road property estimated price of $2.2m+ therefore compares favourably with the Packer Park house lots (almost $2m) which required demolition and rehabilitation works.  Since the former bowls green at Packer Park was Council property (which it is noted Council originally proposed to sell to fund the acquisition of the 2 house lots), no acquisition costs were incurred.

  • Former Glen Huntly Reservoir (also known as the Booran Road Reservoir) 

In the period 2006/8, the Glen Huntly Reservoir was declared surplus to South East Water requirements and an “ïn principle” agreement to transfer the land to Glen Eira Council for conversion to public open space was made.  In March, 2008 (prior to the November, 2008 Council elections) Council held a public consultation on proposed usage at which residents voted overwhelmingly against selling the reservoir site for development and in favour of conversion to parkland.   In 2010, the wheels of government moving slowly, management responsibility (not ownership) for the land was officially transferred to Glen Eira.

Council’s 2012 10 year Strategic Resource Plan includes the following budgeted amounts for reservoir conversion – 2017/18 $4m, 2018/2019 $3.5m.

While GERA welcomes the addition of this new park, particularly as it is located in the Glenhuntly Housing Diversity (high density) area, GERA recognises that, unlike 487 Neerim Road, acquisition of the reservoir site is a planned opportunity and that the proposed new park will not become a reality for some considerable time.

  •  Council Advocacy

GERA supports Council’s advocacy for the Caulfield Racecourse Centre and the Elsternwick Plaza.  However, it is noted that neither are new parks, or involve additional parkland.  Additionally, Council advocacy for these two parks is not new – Council advocacy for the two was included in the soon to be replaced 1998 Open Space Strategy.

 In relation to the centre of the Caulfield Racecourse, Council’s 2011 agreement with the Melbourne Racing Club appears to have stalled since improvements (eg. removal of the Queens Avenue palisade fencing) have failed to meet their scheduled completion date.

  • New Open Space Strategy

As with Council Advocacy, GERA welcomes and supports the proposed new Open Space Strategy.  Replacement of Council’s 1998 Open Space Strategy is long overdue as, over the past 14 years, the policy has failed to keep pace with Glen Eira’s population growth and the changing needs (re parkland requirements and parkland usage) that accompanies such dramatic population growth.

While GERA notes that the 2012 Community Plan includes the broad statement that “Council will actively seek new opportunities to increase and optimise open space for residents”, GERA is concerned that your statement that “New open space may well be of even greater priority than enlarging existing open space” may imply a limitation on which open space opportunities will be considered.  Admittedly, the open space is not evenly distributed across the municipality and open space opportunities should be pursued in those areas with little or no open space.  However, this should not preclude significant open space opportunities in other better served areas, particularly when

      • those areas are zoned for dramatic current and future population growth and
      • open space accessibility, within the area or suburb, is restricted by railway lines.

GERA would welcome the opportunity to further discuss this issue, and the related issue of funding of future open space acquisitions, with Council.

  •  Open Space Improvements 

GERA acknowledges that Glen Eira’s limited open space is well maintained and that open space maintenance involves considerable expense.  It should be noted that residents question some of Council’s maintenance decisions (e.g. installation of concrete plinths, pavilion expansions), particularly when the expenses incurred by those decisions are seen to prevent or limit acquisition of additional open space.

 The need for flexibility and willingness to take advantage of unexpected open space opportunities, is reflected and highlighted by your mention of the $1.1m Murrumbeena Play Space Project   The Murrumbeena Play Space Project experienced a “leap forward” in the priority list when the unexpected State Government Grant ($259K) was announced and Council was able to unexpectedly provide the additional $850K required.

  •  Council Borrowings

Repayment of the GESAC loan (budgeted to be $23.4m at the end of the 2012/13 financial year) should be an issue for Council.   However, given

      • Council’s confidence that GESAC revenues will rise to cover not only running costs but also interest and principal repayments and
      •  the currently budgeted 2012/13 financial year surplus of $6.87m

brings into question Council’s focus on GESAC debt reduction at the expense of acquisition the 487 Neerim Road property.

  • Defined Benefit Fund

GERA seeks clarification on the $7.1m fund shortfall and its impending payment mentioned in your letter.

The July 2012 fund shortfall announcement was featured in a Glen Eira Leader Article dated 14th August, 2012.  In this article Council spokesman Paul Burke said “Council directors had identified the shortfall risk last year, and had put $3 million into its 10-year Strategic Resource Plan” … He said “$4.1 million now had to be found with the shortfall paid over 15 years

The clarification GERA seeks is the related to reconciling the significance and urgency applicable to payment of the Defined Benefit Fund shortfall as outlined in your letter and the Leader Article.

  • Rates

In order to remain focussed on relevant issues, GERA will refrain from commenting on the past election campaign matters raised in your letter.  Suffice it to say, that unexpected/unplanned open space acquisitions should not be seen to automatically result in increased rates or rate increases that are higher than expected – particularly in light of the following points:

      • with a budgeted 2012/13 financial year surplus of $6.87m,
      • the impending success of GESAC and
      • a 10 year Strategic Plan that provides for annual rates increases of 5-6%

As mentioned in this letters introduction, Council also needs to retain a degree of flexibility so that unexpected/unplanned opportunities can be capitalised. The closing comment that “Council’s priorities will be to adopt and implement a prioritised and costed plan to meet the communities need for public open space” does not reflect the community’s open space aspirations included in the 2012 Community Plan nor does it reflect unplanned/unexpected nature of open space opportunities.   Without the flexibility and willingness to take advantage of open space opportunities as they become available, Council’s vision is incomplete and the community’s needs will never be met.

As time is of the essence (487 Neerim Road, Murrumbeena is to be auctioned 20/12/2012) GERA urges Council to

  • consider the acquisition advantages outlined in our 6/12/2012 letter,
  • consider the points raised above and to
  • reconsider it’s decision not to purchase 487 Neerim Road.

GERA looks forward to receiving Council’s response to this letter.

Yours sincerely,

Don Dunstan,

President,  Glen Eira Residents Association (Reg. No. A00390820L)

Box 212 Elsternwick, Post Office, 3185 Victoria

Cc:  All Councillors via Email, Glen Eira Residents via GERA website posting

OPEN SPACE – ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY?

The following is the content of a formal letter, delivered today to Mayor Jamie Hyams, alerting Council to an opportunity to acquire a significant parcel of cleared land (3142 sqm) which abuts Riley Reserve, Murrumbeena, and could readily be incorporated into the Reserve.

The self-explanatory letter, which has also been emailed to each Councillor, outlines the benefits and advantages that GERA sees arising from the acquisition of the property located at 487 Neerim Road, Murrumbeena.  The letter is also in line with residents aspirations for increased open space as expressed in “The Glen Eira Community Plan, 2012” (Theme 5- Recreation and Open Space, page 25), which includes the following statements

“Open space is a vital community asset that provides benefit for the whole community … The immediate benefits of open space are well documented … The City of Glen Eira has the lowest amount of open space of any city in Melbourne and Council will actively seek new opportunities to increase and optimise open space for residents.”  Council “invests a significant amount in providing facilities that meet the needs and aspirations of a growing and dynamic community”

As the property’s auction date is 20th December, 2012, GERA realises time is of the essence (as is typical of unexpected or unplanned opportunities) and trusts that Council will undertake actions to acquire the property.  GERA and Glen Eira residents look forward to Council’s response which will be posted on this website. 

Residents may wish to make their own representations to Councillors re the acquisition of the land.

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Letter

Dear Jamie,

Re:  Opportunity to purchase additional Parkland

We are writing to alert Council to a rare and unique opportunity to purchase a large property (3142 sqm) at 487 Neerim Road, Murrumbeena which adjoins Riley Reserve and would be a significant addition to Glen Eira’s parklands.  The following advertisement re the sale of this property appeared in “The Weekly Review”, dated 28th November, 2012.   Additional details from the Agents Website are provided as an attachment.

487 Neerim Road, Murrumbeenaa

GERA strongly advocates that Council give appropriate consideration to acquiring the property for the purposes of increasing Glen Eira’s limited public open space (on a per capita basis, Glen Eira has the least open space in metropolitan Melbourne – Glen Eira 4 hectares per 1000, average for Metro Melbourne 7 hectares per 1000).

The advantages of acquiring this property are

  • Adjoins existing Riley Reserve and at 3142 sqm would be a significant addition to the reserve
  • The property has been cleared of previously existing dwellings while significant mature vegetation has been retained.  Therefore, costs of converting the property to public open space would be minimal.
  • The top estimated price for the property is $2.2m which favourably compares to the $2m Council paid for 2 house lots adjoining Packer Park in 2011.  The 487 Neerim Road property is approximately 25% larger than the 2 Packer Park house lots and, unlike the 2 Packer Park lots, does not require demolition works.
  • The property is located in a minimal change area and acquiring the property for parkland would add significantly to local amenity and retention of the neighbourhood character and streetscape.
  • The property is conveniently located close to the Chadstone Shopping Centre and the Murrumbeena, Hughesdale, Dandenong Road Housing Diversity (high density) areas.  All three housing diversity areas are undergoing rapid transformation from being predominantly single/dual occupancy and 1-2 storey dwellings to becoming high rise (minimum 3-4 stories) multiple unit dwellings with limited private or communal open space.  Such developments will result in demand for public open space far exceeding the provision of open space in the area.
  • It is noted that in 2009 against substantial opposition from local residents, Council approved a development application for the site (23 double storey residences).  This application was later appealed at VCAT and a much larger development (3 stories, 28 residences) was approved.  VCAT considered proximity (within 500 metres) to the Murrumbeena Housing Diversity Area outweighed any minimal change or neighbourhood character considerations. VCAT’s 2009 decision effectively set a precedent for high density “creep” into this minimal change area.  Council acquisition of the property for parkland would prevent this “creep” and secure a substantial addition to parkland in an area with a high demand for parkland.
  • Funding (even if the purchase price is higher than the quoted $2.2m) for the purchase should be available from the State Government legislated Open Space Contribution Levy, paid by developers (a maximum 5% of land value at time of subdivision) should enable Council to fund both the acquisition and costs to convert the vacant land to public parkland.

In view of the above advantages, GERA strongly advocates that Council avail themselves of this rare opportunity to make a substantial addition to Glen Eira’s well-known lack of public parkland.

Cc:       Via email –  all Councillors, Via website posting – Glen Eira Residents

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Attachment – Ex Hocking Stuart Website – 5th December, 2012

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AGM UPDATE – THREATS TO OPEN SPACE

Many thanks to our guest speaker (Julieanne Bell, Protectors of Public Lands*) and our many members who attended the successful GERA Annual General Meeting (21/11/2012).

Julieanne Bell commenced her informal presentation with an outline of the well documented benefits of open space and the recognised threats to open space before opening the forum to a discussion of the threats.  Julieanne stated that the primary source of all threats to public open space and natural habitat is population growth.  Population growth is outstripping provision of open space and natural habitats.

From population growth stem the following issues which are increasingly recognised as serious threats to open space and natural habitats

  • Competition for available land from developers
  • Competition for park usage (passive vs active)
  • Loading up of infrastructure
  • No open space strategy
  • No master plan for planting and revegetation
  • Liquor sales for fundraising by sport clubs
  • Sale of Land or parts of land

In the informal discussion, the above threats were highlighted by examples by AGM attendees

  •  Competition for available land from developers – especially applicable in established inner and middle ring municipalities such as Glen Eira.  Available suitable land is in scarce supply and demand for development lots result in rising prices.  As urban intensification (particularly high rise, mulit-unit, boundary to boundary developments) is focussed along all hard rail routes, transport and retail/commercial hubs so too is the need/demand for public open space within, or in close proximity, to these areas.  This has been a long standing issue, which the State Government recognised years ago when it introduced the Open Space Levy (along the lines of  “make the developer pay”, the levy is a maximum of 5% of land value at the time of subdivision payable by developers to Local Councils) as a means of providing Councils with the funding to acquire and develop additional land for parkland.   Council’s should be levying the maximum 5% and funds should be “held in trust” to ensure they are available when acquisition opportunities, which are mostly unexpected, arise. 

GERA Note:  Glen Eira Council reported receiving $1.63m and $1.66 from the Open Space Levy in 2010 and 2011.  An estimated $1.9 m is anticipated in 2012/13.  Glen Eira does not charge the maximum 5% Open Space Levy and the Levy payable varies across the municipality. (insert link)

  • Competition for park usage (passive vs active usage).  The need for, and the benefits of, parks providing grounds for active participative sports (commonly referred to as organised sport) is well accepted.  Equally accepted is the need for, and the benefits of, parks providing passive recreation opportunities (i.e. picnics, dog walking, informal sports, running and walking).  Historically, provision of active sporting facilities (ovals, associated pavilions and parking requirements) have been given greater significance than providing for passive recreation.  However, this emphasis is shifting towards passive recreation as it is increasingly being recognised that active sporting facilities
    • cater for a smaller population segment than passive recreation which caters for all ages and abilities
    • involve significant land requirements (for ovals, pavilions and parking) yet are used by relatively few people (players/umpires) for significant periods (eg. game duration).  On the other hand passive recreation involves less open space consuming facilities and available open space can be shared by many people at any time.
  • Loading up of infrastructure – Infrastructure includes multi-purpose pavilions (and their ancillary car parking and vehicle access requirements), BBQ and Picnic Rotundas, public toilets, concrete paving etc.  While infrastructure can enhance parkland, improve  accessibility and encourage parkland usage it also consumes open space and therefore needs a balanced well planned approach.  Unfortunately, many local Councils are focussing on “bigger is better” multi-purpose facilities which are under-utilised.  In the case of Glen Eira, attendees raised the issue of the Caulfield Park Pavilion, GESAC (and it’s increasing car parking requirements), the Packer Park Pavilion replacement and expansion and the location of the Glen Eira Parks Depot in Caulfield Park as notable infrastructure loading examples.
  • No open space strategy – An Open Space Strategy is a long term strategic plan for the future provision of sport and recreation infrastructure, facilities, services, trails and open spaces. Such strategies include identifying and confirming the community’s sport and recreation needs, developing a strategic and coordinated approach (that includes funding strategies and open space management arrangements) to meet those needs. 

Residents commented that the current Glen Eira Open Space Strategy is dated 1998 and over the past 14 years the policy has failed to keep pace with Glen Eira’s population growth and its changing needs (re parkland requirements and parkland usage).  Despite Glen Eira residents consistently ranking open space as a major issue, in both the Community Plan and the annual State Government Council Satisfaction Survey,  the Strategy that should have been regularly monitored and reviewed to ensure that it meets the needs of the community has lapsed. 

  • No master plan for planting and revegetation – Sitting under Open Space Strategy, a master plan for planting and revegetation (focussing on tree protection, native vegetation cultural and heritage significant of plantings and maintenance) should be developed for each public park within the municipality to ensure that open space and natural habitats remain inviting, healthy and safe (for both residents and vegetation). 

Residents referred to the September, 2011, removal of 178 cypress trees along the eastern and southern borders of McKinnon Reserve as indicative of Glen Eira’s lack of Planting and Revegetation Master Plans.  In a  Melbourne Bayside Weekly article on the cypress tree removal Glen Eira spokesman Paul Burke said an independent arborist had identified the need to remove the eastern (Tucker Rd) and southern rows of trees.   He said the trees were in poor condition with branches falling and had to be felled to “eliminate the risk to people, powerlines and property”.  …   New trees will be planted later this year, though the species and the exact timeframe are yet to be determined, Mr Burke said.” 

  • Liquor sales – for fundraising by sport clubs require secure areas to control the sale and consumption of alcohol.  Management Plans are required to ensure the sale and consumption of alcohol does not impact other park or facility users, particularly children.   In the case new or multi-purpose facilities such plans should be in place before any liquor license agreement is decided.
  • Sale of Land or parts of land – The 2009 proposed sale of the disused Packer Park lawn bowls club to finance the purchase of two house lots in Packer Park was presented as an example of a significant threat to open space.  In the Packer Park case, the public outcry (the Protectors of Public Lands joined residents in objecting to the sale) was such that Council retained and converted the lawn bowls club to parkland.  Unfortunately, residents did not achieve the same result with the earlier sale of the bowls club that adjoined the Hopetoun Gardens in Glen Huntly Road, Elsternwick.

Despite achieving mixed results and experiencing seemingly limitless frustration, Julieanne Bell, believes residents should be active in preserving and enlarging Glen Eira’s limited open space.  Open Space lost is lost forever.

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* Julieanne Bell is the convenor of the Protectors of Public Lands, Victoria.  The Protectors of Public Lands (Vic) was established in 2004 and is an organisation comprising over 80 environmental, community, heritage and residents groups and is affiliated with N.S.W. and S.A. branches of the Protectors of Public Lands as well as other action groups (Save our Suburbs, Planning Backlash, Sustainable Population Australia, Green Wedges Coalition).  The aim of the Protectors of Public Lands is the protection and preservation of public lands in public ownership for present and future generations (ie National, State, Local Government and Government Agencies (eg. Melbourne Water, VicRail) lands are lands held in trust for the people).   Public land, once sold, is land lost to the people forever.