CAULFIELD PARK CONSERVATORY – Gone???

Conservatory

CONSERVATORY UPDATE – 25/5/2014

Last week’s Council Meeting (20/5/2014) saw some 35+ residents protest against Council’s decision  to demolish the conservatory and return it to open space. The decision (a 4 to 3 split decision) to remove the conservatory (Council Meeting 29/4/2014), came some 7 months after the previous unanimous decision to (24/9/2013) to restore and replant the landmark Conservatory.

The protest involved residents entering the Council Chamber towards the start of the meeting and chanting, for some 4-5 minutes “SAVE OUR CONSERVATORY”,  then departing.

As stated in our below posting, the 24/9/2013 decision to restore and replant  the conservatory, reflected the view, clearly and consistently, expressed by residents in 4 consultations over a 5 year period (a period in which Conservatory neglect continued).  The last consultation (July, 2013) being an extensive mail out and telephone survey in which residents were asked to rank the various alternative uses – the unambiguous survey results were

  • Most preferred option – restore and replant (49% of respondents)
  • Least preferred option – remove (50% of respondents)

The 20/5/2014 decision to remove is primarily based on Council’s estimated cost of restoring and replanting ($120K) being lower than the average cost ($297K) of structural restoration tenders received (an amount of questionable significance in terms of Council’s annual $73+m budget).   Re the removal decision – no community consultation occurred and no information was provided in support of Council’s $120K (restoration and replanting) cost estimate.   Additionally, the comment  “that if residents were aware of the cost when surveyed, the outcome would most likely have been different” (Leader Article 21/5/2014)  lacks foundation and does not acknowledge that, although residents requested cost estimates be provided for the various 2013 survey options presented, none were provided.

GERA maintains it’s view that Council’s decision to remove the conservatory is inconsistent with

  • Council’s goal of incorporating community input into its decision making process
  • The principles of good governance

 

INITIAL POSTING – 19/5/2014

The issue of what to do with the  Caulfield Park Conservatory (subject to a Heritage Overlay) has been raised 4 times in the past 4 years. Predominantly the options presented to the community have been restore, remove or convert to café.   Although, each time the community has voted for restore, the conservatory has remained neglected.

The last community consultation was held in July, 2013.   In addition to the usual Council consultation announcements (ie Council’s website, Glen Eira News and Local Media),  Council also undertook

o a 3200+ mail out of a pictured survey brochure, which requested residents rank the below alternative options in order of preference

Café – indoor/outdoor – capacity 50
 Café/Tearooms – indoor/outdoor – capacity 80-100
 Children’s garden/playspace, environmental education hub
 Community Rooms
 Native/sustainable garden
 Plant Nursery
 Recreational/exercise area
 Remove Conservatory and return to open space
 Retain the Conservatory, repair, restore and replant garden
 Other

o a telephone survey of 300 residents and
o promoted the survey in prominent locations within Caulfield Park.

Although residents, and the Friends of Caulfield Park, requested cost estimates be provided to enable residents to make informed decisions on the various options, none were provided.

The results of the returned surveys (24/9/2013 Council Meeting Minutes – Item 9.14) were

• the most preferred options

o the Conservatory to be repaired and restored, with its gardens replanted (49%)
o the second most preferred option being that the Conservatory be used for a native/sustainable garden (31%).

• the least preferred options

o remove the Conservatory and return the area to open space (50%)
o used as café/tearooms – with an indoor/outdoor seating capacity of 80-100 people (44%)

As a result, Council passed the following motion

That Council:
(a) Note feedback received during consultation process,
(b) Repair and restore the Conservatory and replant its gardens,
(c) Investigate options for community involvement in the restored
Conservatory.

At the last Council Meeting 29/4/2014  (Council Meeting Minutes – Item 9.8), the Caulfield Park Conservatory was raised once again. The Officers Report presented states that the Council Budget provided $120k for restoration of the conservatory and the average of the tenders received for the restoration of the conservatory was $297K.   The explanation for this cost over run was that in “The process of preparing the tender specification and the tender process itself identified additional issues”*, which we believe are predominantly structural and brings into question the costing exercise undertaken to determine the budgeted $120K.

The options presented at the last Council meeting (29/4/2014) were

“Options include, but are not limited to:

a. select a tender for the restoration of the conservatory and accept the significantly increased cost;
b. remove the conservatory and return the area to open space including new plantings of exotic species – estimated cost $75k;
c. remove the conservatory and amphitheatre and return both areas to open space including new plantings of exotic species –estimated cost $140k;
d. undertake consultation on alternative proposals;
e. other action as directed.”

The motion passed by Council (Moved by Cr. Lipshutz, Seconded by Cr. Delahunty) was

“That Council remove the conservatory and amphitheatre and return both
areas to open space including new plantings with exotic species with an
estimated cost of $140,000”.

Voting for the motion – Crs. Delahunty, Esakoff, Lipshutz and Pilling
Voting against the motion – Crs. Lobo, Magee, Sounness.

Following on from the recent well-publicized and highly contentious removal of trees from Caulfield Park, the Friends of Caulfield Park are understandably aggrieved at Council’s decision to overturn (within 7 months) the 24/9/2013 decision to restore and replant – a unanimous decision that was based on extensive community consultation. The split decision to overturn was made without any community consultation and on a questionable budget estimate.

GERA supports the Friends of Caulfield Park in their objection to the decision to demolish the conservatory and their request for Council to reverse their decision to demolish the Conservatory.   The decision to demolish the conservatory is

  • contrary to the repeatedly expressed wishes of the community,
  • contrary to Council’s frequent claims incorporating community input into its decision making process
  • contrary to the principles of good governance (GERA 2011 Governance Posting).  Such principles do not support overturning a previous decision, that was based on an extensive community consultation, due to an underestimated budgeted amount.

 

For those interested, we also highlight that Council’s DRAFT 2014 Community Engagement Strategy has been published and is available for community consultation (submissions to be lodged 21/5/2014). We encourage all residents to review and make a submission. As per this Draft Strategy,

“Community engagement is about enabling the community and other interested parties to be informed and invited to contribute to Council services, events, strategic plans, issues and projects. Engagement strengthens the community by involving citizens in the democratic process and providing them with opportunities to express their points of view. Participation in civic life is recognised as being central to good health, developing strong and supportive networks and creating a positive community spirit.

By engaging with the community, Council acknowledges the right of citizens to have their say and get involved with local issues that affect them, their family and their community. It also enables Council to meet the needs of the community by ensuring that planning and decision making is based on an understanding of the needs and aspirations of community members”.

________________

* Additional issues identified during the tender process

• A significant area of the roof structure was found to be supported by the
windows.
• New lintels and steel columns would be required to support the roof.
• Much of the polycarbonate roof sheeting, windows and doors need to be
replaced.
• Existing steel trusses also need structural reinforcement.

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