THE “REAL” 2013 INCREASE IN OPEN SPACE

Those of you who have been following our previous posts on the 2013 Draft Open Space Strategy will be aware that GERA has been requesting details of the strategy’s reported 11.9 ha (119,000 sqm) increase in Glen Eira’s Open Space from that reported in the 1998 Strategy.  GERA’s initial (3/12/2014) and follow-up requests do not stem from a desire to  “nitpick” but rather a belief that the practice of “good governance” (and its principles of openness, transparency and accountability) requires advising the community when a change of definitions has occurred and providing an analysis of the impact of the definitional changes when presenting documents to the community.  The significance of Glen Eira’s well documented lack of open space* and the community’s long held and well expressed governance concerns adds emphasis to this requirement in this instance.

GERA received the requested details (ie. the 1998 Open Space Strategy’s Working Paper C – Public Open Space Inventory and Inventory of Buildings within Open Space Areas last Friday (7/2/2014) and has undertaken Council’s recommended D.I.Y. (Do It Yourself) comparison/reconciliation.

The comparison/reconciliation results are very disconcerting due to the disparity of the results;  area differences are recorded for most parks (whatever the size) and those differences are often contrary to expectations.  The statement that “From these definitions it can be deduced that the 1998 strategy did not include Council leased facilities such as tennis courts, bowls clubs and croquet, etc.”  indicates a reasonable expectation of area increases in those parks with such facilities and a zero area change to  those parks without such facilities.  Yet surprisingly, and inexplicably, this is not necessarily the case.  For example, Bailey Reserve records an area decrease of 1.37 ha or 13,700 sqm, Duncan McKinnon Reserve records an area decrease of 0.27 ha or 2,700 sqm, and the Glen Rigney Memorial Reserve has doubled in area – 1998 0.03 ha or 300 sqm to 0.06 or 600 sqm in 2013.  There are numerous other such discrepancies. 

Such unexplained anomalies raise many questions re the detailed knowledge and management of Glen Eira’s extremely valuable open space assets and the validity of the data presented in both strategies.  While doubts may be readily cast on of the 1998 Strategy,  doing so legitimately raises additional questions related to the time elapsed (16 years) to identify the 1998 “errors” and the validity of park master plans (all based on the 1998 strategy and which Council indicates are strictly adhered to, eg. the recent controversial Caulfield Park tree removal).

With reference to our earlier posting querying the 11.9 ha (119,000 sqm) increase, please note the following results recorded in GERA’s comparative analysis of the 1998 and 2013 surveys

  • Mallanbool Reserve (2.21 ha or 22,100 sqm) was not included in the 1998 survey and is a valid addition to Glen Eira’s open space in the 2013 Strategy.
  • Even without detailed data,  a rough calculation that factors into the 11.9 ha (119,000 sqm) increase
    • the unexplained reduction in the Bailey (1.37 ha) and Duncan McKinnon Reserves (0.27) and East Boundary Road Reserve (2.46 ha), and
    • the addition of Mallanbool Reserve (2.21 ha), Booran Road Reservoir (1.7 ha) and Packer Park (1.99 ha**).

indicates that most of the net 11.9 ha increase is attributable to “definitional change” and  highlights the governance aspect raised above.

It also highlights GERA’s comment, included in our  submission to the 2013 Draft Open Space Strategy  that Council’s exclusion of the Centre of the Caulfield Racecourse on the grounds of “restricted public access” is fundamentally flawed when the “definitional change” allows for the inclusion of leased facilities that cumulatively approach the Centre in size yet have more restrictions to public access than does the Centre.

**  the reported increase in Packer Park (1.99 ha, 19,900 sqm) includes the purchase of two house lots and the previously leased bowls club that Council proposed to sell to raise funding for the purchase and rehabilitation of the 2 house lots.  Generously assuming that the house lots comprised 0.4 ha (4,000 sqm), the remaining 1.5 ha (10,500 sqm) of the 1.99 ha increase constituted Council owned and leased land and as such is considered to be a definitional change.  Under the revised definition of open space, had the  Bowls Club remained it would have been included in the 2013 Strategy.  Council’s rehabilitation works changed public accessibility rather than the area’s definition status.

Packer Park labelled picture T

GERA believes that, as mentioned in our previous posting, in the 16 years since 1998 little has been achieved with regards to increasing Glen Eira open space and that which has been achieved has been primarily the result of government grants and which have not been augmented by Council actively seeking purchasing opportunities.  In the past 16 years, open space acquisitions (ie. “real” rather than definitional) have been limited to the

  • Mallanbool Reserve (2.21 ha, 22,100 sqm) – Crown land (State), management rights granted to Council
  • Booran Road Reservoir (1.73 ha, 17,300 sqm) – Crown land (State), management rights granted to Council in 2010 – rehabilitation works scheduled to commence in 2015/2016.
  • 2 Packer Park house lots of unknown area (assumed to be 0.4 ha or 4000 sqm – refer above) purchased in 2011 ($1.911m).

This limited achievement comes despite residents continually expressed open space long term goals, a rapidly rising population and Council statements recognising Glen Eira’s need for increased open space and promises of active acquisition (via purchase and government grants).  The 1998 strategy’s “suggested” expenditure of the developers open space contributions as 50% split between acquisition and existing park improvements has been ignored.  Aside from the Packer Park house lots, open space contribution ($12.8m for the period 2003/4 to 2011/12) has been spent on capital works in, or maintenance of, existing parkland.  This is an imbalance that needs to be rectified.

GERA re-iterates the points made in our 2013 Open Space Strategy Submission (insert link)

  • Increased frequency of Open Space Strategy reviews
  • Open Space Contributions to be held in reserve for the purchase and rehabilitation of the purchased additional parkland.
  • Regular reporting of open space contributions – revenue received and expenditures
  • Ensure that the current maximum open space contribution rate of 5% of unimproved land value to applied to all multi unit developments within Glen Eira as a priority.
  • Council should join with other Councils currently advocating to the State Government for higher open space contribution rates to apply to Commercial and Mixed Use Zones (currently exempt from open space contributions)

In addition GERA also advocates that, in line with good governance practices, Council advises the community when definitions change and provides an analysis of the impact the changes.

 ***********

Footnote:

* Glen Eira has the least per capita open space ratio in Metropolitan Melbourne which, at 1.4 ha per 1000 population, is approximately half of the average ratio for Metro Melbourne.

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