Category Archives: Community Consultation

FIRST ORDINARY COUNCIL MEETING – GOOD JOB COUNCIL

The first Ordinary Council Meeting of the new 2016 – 2020 Council was held last night and, within the first week of taking office, positive changes that encourage public participation at Council Meetings have been made.  Further changes are being planned for the future.

cheering

As promised, by Mayor Delahunty during her Mayoral Acceptance Speech, a motion was presented to suspend meeting Standing Orders (Local Law) and to enable an impromptu Q&A session to occur at the start of the meeting.  The gallery was permitted to submit written questions (Request to Address Council Form) to Council – these questions being in addition to the formal public questions presented at the end of the meeting.   The motion passed 7 to 2 (Crs. Hyams and Esakoff dissenting).

A number of residents took advantage of the Q&A session.  The questions discussed, within a necessary 15 min. timeframe, related to

  • Ormond Sky Tower (2 questions)
  • Glen Eira Council collaborating with neighbouring Councils to cost effectively provide services to residents.
  • The further “opening up” of Council Meetings via implementing live streaming.
  • Extending the public question time limit (from 15 mins to 30 mins) and changing their sequence (ie. bringing forward) in the agenda.

Questions not able to be answered within the timeframe were discussed with individuals after the meeting closed.   The answers to questions were positive, appropriate and open.  Indeed, in response to the 2nd Ormond Sky Tower question, the Mayor and CEO, revealed  a new and welcome initiative – Council is to undertake strategic work and public engagement on enlivening the smaller “convenience” shopping strips located outside Glen Eira’s 3 major activity centres.

The gallery was clearly appreciative of Council’s

  • suspension of Standing Orders (which recognised that Local Law is made by Council and, therefore, can be changed by Council), and their
  • decision to allow impromptu questions at the start of the meeting.

Residents were also enthusiastically supportive of another departure from previous Meeting practices.   Rather than each Councillor speaking to each agenda item, Councillors only spoke to those items which held a specific interest for them.  This made for a succinct and relevant discussion of the issue/s (and sometimes humorous interaction between Councillors and Executive Officers).

Since, there were no in-camera items on the agenda (not usually the case), after the close of the meeting, all Councillors and the CEO entered into informal discussions with the gallery.  Another well received divergence from past practices.

In short, GERA’s summation of the first Ordinary Council Meeting of the newly elected Council is “Good Job Council”.

Some food for thought

In order to ensure the change momentum continues into the future (particularly when the contentious planning issues arise), it is essential that residents continue to engage with Council.   Residents have just elected a Council that is showing all the previously missing signs of being representative and receptive, residents now need to give Council a community that actively participates and works with them.

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PETITION – REQUEST FOR ZONE IMPLEMENTATION REVIEW

In conjunction with GERA, the various residents groups emerging across the municipality are joining together and organising a petition to Council as follows

“Request GE Council to review its current planning scheme (incl a public consultation process as part of that review) & seek amendments to the planning scheme as a result of that review.”

To sign the petition

  • Electronically, Glen Eira Petition – Change.org  or
  • Manually, email geresidents@hotmail.com and a copy will be forwarded to you.   Return completed petitions to:  GERA, P.O. Box 212, Elsternwick 3185

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This petition arises from Council’s August, 2013 Planning Zone Implementation, which  the then Mayor (Jamie Hyams) described as being ”the biggest single planning change in Glen Eira’s history” 

  • yet was undertaken without any community consultation (“extensive” consultation having occurred 3 years prior, i.e. 2010), and
  • was retrospectively approved by all current Glen Eira Councillors on 13/8/2013 (with gazettal, ie. legal enactment, expected on 15/8/2013). Glen Eira’s official Zone Implementation media release is dated 5/8/2013.

Under the Planning and Environment Act, 1987, all Councils are required to review their Planning Scheme every 4 years.   While it may be argued Glen Eira’s zone implementation constituted a review, that review did not involve the community.

Four years on from the last Planning Scheme review that involved community consultation and 12 months on from the zone implementation, there is broad and growing dissatisfaction with Glen Eira’s zone implementation.   GERA believes that the petition’s request for a planning scheme review, which includes community consultation is

GERA, therefore, both supports the petition and urges residents to also support the petition.

 

TRANSPORT FORUM – Will transport promises make the grade?

Header Picture

The Melbourne Transport Forum (which represents 23 Melbourne metro Councils) and Leader Newspapers have jointly organised a series of town hall style forums to discuss transport issues in various Metro Melbourne municipalities. The forums, to be facilitated by the Mayor, are an opportunity for the public to meet 3 local candidates, standing in the upcoming (November) state election, face-to-face and ask questions about transport issues. The local election candidates, from the major political parties, will address the forum and take questions from the public.  Details for the Glen Eira forum are as follows

Glen Eira Forum Details

 SPEAKERS

David Southwick, MLA for Caulfield (Liberal)
Nick Staikos, ALP Candidate for Bentleigh (Legislative Assembly)
Sean Mulcahy, Greens candidate for Bentleigh (Legislative Assembly)

 WHEN                       September 10, 2014 at 7pm – 8:15pm

WHERE                     Glen Eira Town Hall

RSVP                                  RSVP to the Glen Eira Forum

RAISE AN ISSUE     Raise a question to be discussed at the forum

 

GERA believes that the long standing issue of providing adequate public transport to a dramatically increasing population is yet to be addressed or firmly committed to.

For the past 15 – 20 years,

  • improved public transport election promises have abounded (and are doing so again as the November state election approaches) and
  • planning policies have focussed increased housing supply around public transport service points
  • while much transport planning has occurred (and continues to occur – Pakenham-Cranebourne Rail Corridor Project), few actual improvements to the public transport system have occurred.

The many and varied issues arising from housing planning (predicated on the provision of adequate public transport) outstripping the provision of that public transport are well documented and impact us all. Glen Eira, being a middle ring municipality crossed by the rail (3), tram (4)* and various bus networks, is experiencing all of these issues.

Although biographical information on the public transport background of the speakers is scant (Southwick, Staikos and Mulcahy) the speakers may well become our State representatives in November. Therefore, GERA encourages residents to raise issues to be discussed at the forum and to attend the forum to hear what’s being offered and voice their concerns.

 

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* Glen Eira hard rail public transport services

 Train Lines

 

Tram routes

  • Route 3 – East Malvern to Melbourne University which travels along Waverley Rd, Balaclava Rd, Carlisle St before proceeding along St Kilda Rd into the Central Business District
  • Route 16 – Kew to St Kilda and Melbourne University which travels along Glenferrie Rd, Hawthorn Rd and Balaclava Rd, Carlisle St, The Esplanade, Fitzroy St before proceeding along St Kilda Rd into the Central Business District
  • Route 64 – East Brighton to Melbourne University which runs along Hawthorn Rd and Dandenong Rd, before proceeding along St Kilda Rd into the Central Business District
  • Route 67 – Carnegie to Melbourne University which runs along Glen Huntly Rd and Brighton Rd, before proceeding along St Kilda Rd into the Central Business District

 Source: Wikipedia

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.

ANOTHER “FAIT ACCOMPLI” – CAULFIELD PARK TREES

Below is an email GERA has sent to each Councillor re yesterday’s early removal of trees in Caulfield Park. For the past month, the Friends of Caulfield Park (FoCP) have been campaigning against the removal of 39 (later reduced to 21) trees in the park to allow for the expansion of sporting ovals.   Full details of FoCP’s campaign are available on Facebook and their website

Although works were scheduled to start in January, 2014, and Council was fully aware of community opposition to the removal of the trees (including this morning’s presentation of a petition to State Parliament) Council removed the trees yesterday morning.  Leader Article 10/12/2013

IMG_9185 T

Each dirt mound represents a lost tree.

Email from GERA to Councillors (10/12/2013)

Below are two self explanatory emails,

  1. the first from GERA to our members and associates, commenting today’s removal of  trees in Caulfield Park and Council’s stated goal of encouraging community participation in the decision making process.
  2. the second from Friends of Caulfield Park (FoCP), which in addition to commenting on Council’s arguments for the tree removal also comments on their assessment of Councils performance.

 Could you please comment on

  1. your opinion of, and justification for, the original proposal – removal of 39 tree for the expansion of 2 sporting ovals (no need to comment on the spurious arguments already disputed by the FoC, unless you disagree with their “spurious” nature)
  2. your opinion of, and justification for, Council’s alternate proposal of saving some trees and the “possible” relocation of 13 others (an alternative not included in the original proposal – yet which arguably should have been)
  3. your opinion of the alternate proposal presented by the FoCP – pros and cons
  4. Your position (i.e. vote) on the removal of the trees today as reported by Mayor Pilling and the date of the meeting at which this voting occurred

Email from GERA to Members and Associates (10/12/2013)

GERA has received the below email from the Friends of Caulfield Park re the removal of 39 parkland trees to provide for the expansion of 2 sporting ovals.

Scheduled to commence in January, 2014,  in the midst of much, extremely vocal, community opposition and presentation of an alternate plan and on the eve of the presentation of a petition (signed by 500+) to the State Government (Caulfield Park is Crown Land, managed by Council), the trees were cut down this morning (10/12/2013).

At a social function early last week, I along with other residents, raised the Caulfield Park 39 tree removal proposal with newly elected Greens Mayor Neil Pilling.    Mayor Pilling recognized that it had become a bigger issue than was expected but believed a compromise solution would be found.  Given the Council’s actions today, it is needless to say that GERA is not only appalled but does not disagree with FoCP’s assessment of Council performance against Council’s stated goal of encouraging community participation in the decision making process.

GERA joins FoCP in urging members to contact Councillors to voice their dissatisfaction.

Email from Friends of Caulfield Park advising tree removal (10/12/2013)

Council “thumbs it nose” at the Community

 Like storm troopers, the secret executioners gathered in the early hours of this morning and, instructed by the administration and its officers, swooped on the 39 trees and cut them down.

 The mayor said all the Councillors were behind this move.

 He said there was nothing wrong with this action.

 We disagree.

 We know not all the Councillors were behind him and were kept in the dark about this destruction.

 We believe that the Mayor and the administration realised that the FoCP petition of over 500 names (gathered in less than a week) would be presented to Parliament tomorrow and that their plan to cut down the trees would be in jeopardy.   They thought once cut down they were gone and they could proceed with their ill-conceived plan in peace.  With the Festive Season upon us we would all forget their contemptuous action and let them get on with it.  This is bureaucracy at its arrogant worst in overriding community wishes.

We have shown how their justifications for cutting down the trees are fabrications.  So what is the real reason for their determination to proceed, no matter what the community thinks?

 If anyone knows the background to their hidden agenda, please drop a note to PO Box 2511 Caulfield Junction 3161.  It appears that they are somehow beholden to sports clubs above all other interests.  Something is rotten in the City of Glen Eira

 David Wilde is handing in the Petition on the Parliament steps tomorrow at 9 am and would like others to join him.  …… We realise this is short notice, but please do your best.

 What next?  The Council thinks it can thumb its nose at us.  They need to learn that the community is not impressed with their anti-social, anti-community behaviour.  There are two issues here. The one is the loss of the trees, and the other is the Council’s total disregard for the expressed concern of the community about this matter.

 Let the Council know what you think of them.  Here are their contact details.  Email, message and phone them and tell them their behaviour is no longer acceptable.  Tell them we want those trees replaced with mature trees where those that were cut down previously stood, and that they cannot spurn the community in this way.

NEW PLANNING ZONES – THE “FAIT ACCOMPLI” CONSULTATION APPROACH

Since the 5th August, 2013, announcement of Glen Eira’s  introduction of the new planning zone (the first Council to do so) much has been said/written in the State and Local Media and on various social networking sites – commentaries on the zones have been both  positive and negative.

When the new planning zones were first announced  in September, 2012,  GERA made a submission to the Minister and website comments (GERA website “New Planning Zones”).  Since then Glen Eira Council’s continued silence (despite repeated requests from residents and in contrast the majority of other Councils) on the implementation of the zones has made meaningful comment impossible.  The information released by Council since 5th August is scant and includes “before and after maps” which are difficult to compare (street identification) and inadequately identified commercial zones (same colour as parks and schools).

BEFORE (download full page map)

Minimal Change Picture

AFTER ( download full page map)

New Zones Picture

The 5th August announcement makes it apparent that the assumption that Council was working on the zoning changes and would present them for community consultation prior to seeking the customary Ministerial Approval was flawed.  Residents will not be given the opportunity to have input into the zones (boundaries or content) that they deserve and have a right to expect – Council is presenting residents with a fait accompli. 

Full details of the planning zones are scheduled for release tomorrow (23/8/2013) – after gazettal ( ie. legal enactment).  Shortly thereafter GERA will comment on the zones (boundaries and content).  This current posting will therefore concentrate on Council’s implementation of the zones interspersed with some background details.  Please note that, in line with our September 2012 posting, GERA expects that there will be both positive and negative aspects within the zones.  Residents in the former minimal change areas that are now designated as Neighbourhood Residential Zone are likely to be grateful while residents in the formerly designated Minimal Change or Housing Diversity areas that are now designated General Residential or Residential Growth Zones are less likely to be grateful.

To revert to Glen Eira’s zone consultations – the new zones were first proposed in September, 2012, and were formally enacted in July, 2013.  On enactment, Councils were provided with a 12 month window (i.e. until June, 2014) for community consultation and formal drafting their zone designations and schedules.   Unlike previous zoning (ie. Minimal Change/Housing Diversity/Activity Centres etc.) which related to areas, the new zones and schedules enable Councils to plan for the development of their municipality in much greater detail (eg. street by street, lot by lot).  The content of the zones was prescribed by the Minister and the Schedules, attached to the zone, provided Council with discretionary control options (eg. set backs – hence the Glen Eira’s two divisions of the General Residential Zone).

Glen Eira, like all Councils is required, under the Planning and Environment Act 1987,  to review their Planning Scheme every 4 years.  Glen Eira’s last review of the planning scheme involved community consultation end of 2009/beginning 2010, with review results being formally published and submitted to the Minister in August, 2010.

Please note that

  • Since the last planning scheme consultation, significant developmental and demographic changes that have occurred in Glen Eira
  • The zones provide much greater level of detail than previously allowed
  • Council was legally bound to review the Planning Scheme in 2014
  • Zone implementation provides Councils with a 12 month drafting and consultation opportunity

The above indicates that Council had a unique, timely opportunity to consult the community at a detailed level by either delaying zone implementation or bringing for the scheduled (and budgeted planning scheme review).  Yet, despite the Mayor describing the zone implementation as being the “biggest planning change in Glen Eira’s history” and other Councils actively informing and involving residents, rather than consulting Glen Eira Council opted, under Section 20 of the Planning and Act, to apply for a community consultation exemption and a Ministerial Amendment (C110) to the Glen Eira Planning Scheme.    The next opportunity for residents to comment on the planning scheme will be 2017/18.

The Local Law requires Council decisions, unless those decisions are covered by Councillor approved delegations of authority to Administrative staff, to be made at open Council Meetings.  (Delegations of Authority being intended to provide the Administration with the necessary authority to conduct the day to day activities of the municipality).   The decision to apply for a Section 20 exemption was not made at an open Council Meeting, nor is any discussion on the Section 20 exemption recorded in the Councillor Assembly Records.  This raises serious governance issues re Council decision making (who made the decision – it is hard to argue that such a major change to the planning scheme fits within delegations of authority) and how Councillors can request a Section 20 exemption to consult the community (those most impacted) without it being discussed at an open Council Meeting.

At the 13th August, 2013 Council Meeting (the first open discussion of the zones since September, 2012), no mention was made of the Council’s Section 20 Application.   As for the lack of community consultation, only Councillors Okotel and Delahunty expressed concern, all other Councillors who spoke indicated it wasn’t a significant issue as

  • The Minimal Change/Housing Diversity policy has been in place for over 10 years and is well understood by residents.  The new zones are a direct translation.
  • Council undertook extensive community consultation during the 2009/2010 Planning Scheme Review and is aware of what resident aspirations.
  • Undertaking community consultation would not have resulted in any significant difference in zone application outcomes.

While it is possible to dispute all above points in detail on many grounds (eg. current level of detail, residents understanding, number of participants, exclusion of post 2009 residents and existing residents who didn’t participate etc.) , suffice it to say that residents can form their own views as to the quality of the above arguments, Councillor performance of their legal and moral obligations and how re-assuring residents find Council’s claims of openness, transparency, responsiveness and “working together to achieve the best possible outcome”  

To re-iterate a point made earlier residents have advised GERA of many requests made to Council, and individual Councillors, regarding zone implementation and community consultation.  While we cannot repeat all of them, attached is a dated extract of public questions  asked by residents (which Council is legally bound to answer, not merely respond to). While being fully aware of how slowly that the wheels of government move, GERA again leaves it to residents for form their own views on the timing/quality/semantics of the responses and to note references to Ministerial Direction without mention of Council’s Section 20 application for that direction.  For those interested in verifying the public questions a link to the relevant full Council Minutes is provided in the foot notes.

GERA’s position on the new zones is that, in line with our initial objection lodged with the Minister, while there are some aspects of the new zones (eg. mandatory height limits, greater detail) that are welcomed there are also some adverse offsets (eg. creep of commercial activities into  Neighbourhood Residential Zones, restricted third party rights of appeal) which will be the subject of a later post.  GERA believes the community should not only have been informed of the zones, schedules and their implications, they should also have been given the opportunity to review and provide input into Council’s introduction of the zones.  Council denied residents that opportunity by lodging a Section 20 exemption from consultation and request for a Ministerial Amendment.  Council has also delayed making full zoning details available to residents until after the zones are enacted.  It is a  fait accompli approach to consultation.

Please note:  All residents should pay careful attention to the information provided tomorrow.  The new zones are not a direct translation of the previous Minimal Change/Housing Diversity Areas, nor have the “transitional” General Residential Zone 2 (GRZ2) been “carved” out of Housing Diversity Areas rather than Minimal Change Areas.   An example is Ercildoune Street, Caulfield North, in close proximity to the Alma Village Local Centre – previously the street was designated minimal change.  Under the new zones, the Alma Village Centre has been expaned to include Ercildoune’s western side (now zoned GRZ2) while the eastern side is designated NRZ1 (ie. minimal change).

FOOTNOTES

Full Council Meeting Minutes – July 02 2013 – Public Questions Item 11.4

Full Council Meeting Minutes – July 23 2013 – Public Questions Item 11.4

Full Council Meeting Minutes – August 13 2013 – Public Questions Item 11.4

COMMUNITY PLAN – THEY DIDN’T LISTEN

The Community Plan represents the community’s views and aspirations for Glen Eira’s future growth and development over the next 4 years.   As such, it provides the framework for the Council Plan/Strategic Resources plan which outlines how Council will allocate resources to meet the community’s aspirations expressed in the Community Plan.  The Budget is a detailed allocation of resources for the first year of the Council Plan/Strategic Resources Plan.

GERA has, therefore, focussed on the Community Plan, since it is the cornerstone for the subsequent Council Plan/Strategic Resources Plan and the Budget.  Obviously, shortcomings in the cornerstone will flow on to the subsequent plans.  In making this submission GERA has concentrated efforts on the four major interrelated issues raised by residents at the community forums.

The GERA submission follows.

+++++++

Introduction

Our submission focuses on the four major areas which are of concern to residents:

  1. Traffic management & Parking
  2. Inappropriate development & general planning
  3. Open space, and
  4. Governance & community participation

1.      Traffic Management/Parking 

1(a) Traffic

The stated strategic objective is “to promote the safe movement of pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle traffic by effectively managing and improving roads, footpath and bicycle lanes together with balancing car parking opportunities”.  The first strategy is “improve safety and movement of road users and provide a fair and equitable balance of parking”.   This is not a strategy and does not provide any meaningful information on what mechanism will be used to achieve the objective or how it can be monitored.   What is missing in this strategy is the clear enunciation of the mechanisms that will be used to achieve the objective and which clearly establishes how the outcomes of the objective can be measured.

Council proclaims that ‘safety’ of all road users is a priority. Yet, the Actions proposed do not address safety clearly enough. Far more is needed than the placing of a ‘speed trailer’ in a few streets or even 40 ‘community consultations’. What is required is the total integration of the Bicycle Plan, the Transport Plan and expenditure. The Action Plan does not achieve this integration and the suggested measures provide no quantifiable means of assessing whether ‘safety’ per se has been achieved. Thus it is impossible to determine how rates have been expended.

Sadly, Glen Eira does not possess a separate ‘walking/pedestrian’ policy, even though its statements place pedestrians first. If our suburbs are to be made ‘safe’ for pedestrians, then there is nothing in the community plan which is geared towards ensuring this. Current international best practice is to manage roads via what is called a Road User Hierarchy. Basically, this ranks the most vulnerable road users (pedestrians and cyclists) as the number 1 priority with the last priority being a single occupant vehicle.   Given Council’s long standing focus on main roads, rather than local streets, one can’t assume that Glen Eira, unlike other Councils eg. Stonnington and Port Phillip, has adopted this philosophy.  Further these councils have implemented various road treatments which fully support such a strategy – ie. creating speed humps which are incorporated into footpaths to ensure safer pedestrian transition across roads. These councils also erect barriers on corners to protect pedestrians. Hence the vision of these councils is matched via practical strategies and funding. This is lacking in Glen Eira.

1(b) Parking

 Council makes the statement that “parking demand outstripped parking supply within Glen Eira many years ago”. Council introduced a Residential Parking Permit Scheme to address these issues, yet Council’s application of this scheme is ad hoc and random at best. Residents are continually faced with both medium and high rise developments on major roads which have been granted parking permits in the nearest adjacent local residential streets. These streets are already ill equipped to cater for the existing parking demand much less the increased burden imposed by developments. If Council is serious about addressing this problem then it must ensure that the Residential Parking Permit Scheme is applied rigorously across the entire municipality and that any development that will increase the number of dwellings per lot is excluded from this scheme.

 2.      Inappropriate Development & General Planning

 This is the most disappointing aspect of both the Community Plan and the budget. Residents have long made it clear that their concerns cover the entire municipality rather than only select neighbourhoods. They have also made it clear that they expect council to hold to its MSS to protect the social and environmental amenity of the entire municipality. The proposed strategies and measures do not come close to achieving any of this.

Even the recent Planisphere report consistently refers to ‘over-development’ that is not sympathetic to the neighbourhood character. Council’s approach to this entire area is piecemeal and unco-ordinated. Further, residents have never been told why Glen Eira does not possess, or has NOT even attempted to introduce and develop many of the following:

    • Glen Eira does not have structure plans
    • Glen Eira does not have interim or permanent height controls
    • Glen Eira does not have any development contributions levies
    • Glen Eira does not have a transitions ZONE for dwellings bordering Housing Diversity Areas
    • Glen Eira does not have clearly defined Housing Diversity Areas that are mapped and publically available/accessible
    • Glen Eira does not have a Commercial Centres Policy
    • Glen Eira does not have a Parking Precinct Plan
    • Glen Eira does not have a Public Realm strategy
    • Glen Eira’s public open space policy dates back to 1996
    • Glen Eira’s Neighbourhood centre policy relies on data from the early 90’s
    • Glen Eira’s policies are inequitable where it is claimed that 20% of the municipality should bear the burden of the majority of developments
    • Glen Eira’s delegatory powers largely exclude councillors and cede all control to unelected officials when it comes to planning decisions
    • Glen Eira rarely uses ‘experts’ to support residents at VCAT ( in contrast to other councils)

As per the previous strategies and measures for the Traffic and Parking section, the proposals for the strategies in the Planning section are also deficient in that they fail to provide clear, measurable outcomes which will assist in achieving the strategic objectives.

3.      Open Space

Primarily, the introduction to this “theme” relates to the significant benefits of open space (both for a community and individuals) and how little Glen Eira has (i.e. lowest amount of open space per capita of any Melbourne Municipality).  This is in line with the issues residents have raised for many, many years and are issues which will continue to remain for many years as the number of high density developments explodes and subdivisions decrease the amount of private open space in minimal change areas.

Glen Eira’s record in the acquisition of public open space is not commensurate with residents’ aspirations. In fact, over the years Glen Eira has probably sold more than it has acquired. What little open space remains is being further eroded via the ‘redevelopments’ of pavilion after pavilion which increases the buildings’ footprints, often necessitates expansions of car parks and access roads, and in the end, are probably under-utilised. Again, residents are never provided with data that would support the contention that such ‘developments’ are valuable ‘community hubs’ rather than a drain on limited resources.

It it also worth making the point that Council includes such buildings as part of its capital assets (as are roads) but they remain non-realisable assets. Millions upon millions has been expended on such projects at the expense of basic infrastructure such as roads, traffic calming, drainage, and other essentials (which are also capital assets). Expenditure on most of these ‘essentials’ has in fact declined in recent years.

Council claims to collect over $1 million dollars in open space levies. Yet this money is not employed in the purchase of further open space. Rather it is skewed towards more and more sporting grounds and facilities, instead of passive recreational use. The prime example of this is the failure to introduce community gardens which residents have raised for years and years. Even  this budget  and the potential use of the Booran Rd Reservoir ignores this possibility and offers designs which in large part are geared to more sporting ventures.

The centre of the Racecourse ‘development’ is another case in point where Council has successfully minimised publicly available open space for Racecourse usage.

It is indicative perhaps of Council’s attitude to the importance of open space as the foundation of planning, that its extant policy dates back to 1996. Nor does council have a public realm strategy which places the issues of open space as central to all planning activities and which was brought out clearly in the recent community consultations.

In all of the strategies and measures included in the Community/Council Plan, open space is inextricably linked to ‘sporting facility upgrades’. This is a limited and deficient interpretation of what open space should entail and its importance to the community.

4.  Governance & Community Participation 

The Good Governance Guide  defines good governance as

    • Participatory
    • Consensus oriented
    • Accountable
    • Transparent
    • Responsive
    • Effect and efficient
    • Equitable and inclusive
    • Law abiding

How well are any of these standards incorporated into the community plan? And how well are the strategies that will achieve these outcomes enunciated? We believe that very few of these standards have been addressed in the draft Plan. For example, informing the community is not a substitute for real participation, consultation, or even transparency. Nor does it guarantee ‘efficiency’ and ‘inclusiveness’ – all of which are a continual source of frustration to residents.

Most of the measures cited are either legal requirements, or simply confirm actions which are already in place. There is nothing innovative, or which addresses the issues of real consultation and participation. For example: agendas and minutes have been available on council’s website for years; as has the reporting function of Council’s quarterly reports. It would be far more useful if such reports were clear, accurate, comprehensive and informative.

GERA would also like to make the comment that whilst the Community Plan notes many council policies such as the Asset Management Strategy, Open Space etc, many of these policies are not featured on council’s website. Many that do, are remain hopelessly out of date. It is most unfortunate that when council proclaims its adherence to various policies and how well they are working, that residents are denied access to these vital documents. All policies should be available and easily accessible.