Tag Archives: open space

New Carnegie Parkland – $3.6 million for 680 sqm ($5,294/sqm)

Although GERA has some reservations re the purchase of this site, GERA welcomes  Council’s purchase of this land.  The land is in a prime location and in a seriously open space deprived, densely populated major centre.  Given Council’s poor past performance in purchasing open space (since the early 2000’s), it is a step in the right direction.

Cnr. Neerim and Koornang Roads, Carnegie

The site has the potential to enhance Council’s recently presented Concept Plans for the Carnegie Centre.  However, we question the price paid ($5,294/sqm + unknown costs of conversion to parkland) and the extent to which Council is planning to address Glen Eira’s long term shortage of parkland.

Yep, real estate opportunities need to be acted upon as and when they occur – a point GERA has made in the past.  However, Council can also plan to acquire parkland in strategic locations by applying a Parkland Acquisition Overlay (PAO) – this has rarely happened in Glen Eira.   A PAO enables Council to “tag” properties (individual and/or adjoining) for future parkland.  PAO’s do not involve forecable acquisition – they come into play when the owner opts to sell and allow Council to pay a premium (over market value) to ensure acquisition.

What concerns GERA is that Concept Plans for each major activity centre (a.k.a. Urban Village) are in the process of being presented.  The area of all centres has been expanded and show significant increases in development densities, however, none identify areas where a PAO is or could be applied.

We remind readers, that in 2008, Glen Eira was identified as having the least per capita open space in Metro Melbourne (less than half the Metro average), since that time development has further  outstripped parkland acquisitions by Council  resulting in a further decrease in the per capita statistics.  Recent opportunities have enabled Council to purchase some individual future “pocket parks” yet such purchases do little to address the increasing demand for parkland.  It appears Council has overlooked the long term potential of PAO’s to purchase and expand parkland within Glen Eira.

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Community Gardens in Glen Eira

community-gardens-2

A perennial issue in Glen Eira is residents desire for community gardens (particularly in or near the Growth Zones) and Council’s reluctance to support community gardens.  

Sure, without some organizational structure and Council support they can be difficult to establish and maintain on a long term basis. However, as has been shown in other inner and middle ring metro Melbourne municipalities, enthusiastic volunteers, guidance from various associations and Council support have created some very successful and creative community gardens, that have had a significant community impact. Checkout – 5 of the best Community Gardens in Melbourne, Melbourne community garden and Maribyrnong City Council – Community Gardens

GERA supports establishing community gardens in Glen Eira and also Glen Eira’s growing number of  “grass roots” community garden advocates.

As per the below article (to appear in this weeks Leader), GERA proposes the inclusion of community gardens in our campaign for the “opening up” of the Racecourse Centre Parkland.  In our view it’s an ideal location – easily accessible from the high density development occurring in Glen Eira and Stonnington and smack dab in the middle of an area known for an abundance of cheap fertilizer, ie. horse manure.

2016-02-14-leader-article

Come along tomorrow evening (15/02/2017) and check it out.   Details are in our previous posting

AUDITOR GENERAL’S PERFORMANCE AUDIT OF THE TRUSTEES MANAGEMENT OF THE CAULFIELD RACECOURSE RESERVE.

The Auditor General’s above Report was tabled in Parliament this morning.  In preparing the report, the Auditor General invited community groups and individuals to make submissions to the Audit.  GERA was one of those community groups. While GERA has not had time to fully digest the content of the Auditor General’s Report, for the time being it is sufficient to say that GERA agrees with the Report’s summary findings.   Same starting point, different paths taken ( determined by the AG’s direct access to Trustee and DEPI information vs. residents reliance on secondary or third hand information) yielded the same conclusion.

Subsequent GERA postings will contain comments on the details of the report.

For GERA, the big question now is, will the politicians do anything the tools are available, is the will?

BACKGROUND

The Caulfield Racecourse Reserve was created by a Crown Grant in August, 1958 “to provide a site for a Race Course Public Recreation Ground and Public Park at Caulfield” and management of the reserve, in accordance with these 3 separate yet equal purposes, was vested in a Board of Trustees.

“Fifteen trustees are appointed by the Governor in Council to manage the reserve—six each representing government and the Melbourne Racing Club and three representing Glen Eira City Council. The Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) has a role in overseeing the performance of Crown land managers”.

Both historically and currently, residents have long argued that

  • Trustees have focused on the racing purpose, to the exclusion and detriment of the public recreation and public park purposes, and
  • The Victorian Government representatives appointed as Trustees, and the overseeing Government Departments, have also focused on racing purpose to the exclusion of the other two purposes.

AUDITOR GENERAL’S FINDINGS

“The audit concluded that the trustees have not been effective in their overall management of the reserve. There is an absence of governance arrangements and management tools to effectively guide the management of the reserve, and the trustees have not established a strategic plan for land use and development of the reserve. Consequently, conflicts of interest have not been adequately managed and preference has been afforded to racing interests with insufficient attention given to use of the reserve for recreational pursuits and as a public park.

DEPI has not effectively overseen the management of the reserve by the trustees and has not intervened in significant issues that adversely affect the trustees’ management of the reserve. There is no framework established for trustees to report to DEPI, and in turn to the Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, and therefore there is a lack of accountability over the trust’s performance.”

GERA’s AUDIT SUBMISSIONS

GERA made two submissions

• A Preliminary Submission, specifically requested by the Auditor General, on the public access points to the reserve, and
• A Final Submission (which included supporting documentation in a separate Appendices)

For those interested in reading our submissions, we advise that even allowing for the inclusion of photographs they make for hefty reading.

Our thanks to the many who contributed to GERA’s submission – your significant contribution is greatly appreciated and hopefully will result in a significant change to the Reserve’s management.

Errata

The following sentence has be added to our original posting to aid clarification:.

“Same starting point, different paths taken (determined by the AG’s direct access to Trustee and DEPI information vs. residents reliance on secondary or third hand information) yielded the same conclusion.”

Apologies for any inconvenience caused.

 

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.

Planning for biodiversity in Glen Eira

The following unedited posting has been submitted by one of our members.  Given the widely recognized significance of biodiversity and the importance of maintaining it,  GERA supports our member’s view that Glen Eira Council should be proactively maintaining biodiversity in the public open spaces.

*******************

What is biodiversity? Why is it so important? Why is it so disregarded?

Biodiversity is crucial to human survival. Diverse kinds of humans have adapted to diverse habitats over evolutionary time. Our individual selves are biodiverse, consisting of numerous living things and bits of bacteria that we have accumulated along the way, although we don’t like to think of ourselves in this way. We could not survive without our gut flora, or without the scraps of genetic material from other species incorporated into our bodies. This is an ongoing process.

Our diverse natural flora and fauna provide the food we eat, the oxygen in the atmosphere we breathe, and water we drink.

Australia and Victoria, like the rest of the world is in a state of rapid species decline and extinction. At the local government level species declines and extinctions are generally not quantified, but there is good reason to believe that declines and extinctions continue.

According to a recent table published by the Port Phillip and Westernport Catchment Management Authority, Glen Eira has by far the least native vegetation of any municipality in the greater Melbourne area.*   This is striking, because in their earliest days the suburbs that now constitute Glen Eira were liberally endowed with open space, much of it containing native vegetation and wildlife. The largest early Crown reserve in Glen Eira was of 340 acres (138ha.), embracing what is now Caulfield Park, East Caulfield Park and Caulfield Racecourse and the land between.

Glen Eira Council, rather than address the issue by protecting and creating more open space and using the extra land to plant more native local vegetation, is reducing open space by putting more buildings, roads, and car parks into existing open space. Nor does council use planning laws to require and enforce adequate private open space and permeable areas for private developments.

A created wetland with native vegetation in Oakleigh’s Talbot Park

A created wetland with native vegetation in Oakleigh’s Talbot Park

Remedies that could be adopted by Glen Eira Council, and other councils, include adopting a Triple Bottom Line (TBL) accounting approach, and modifying council spending accordingly. This would require in the first instance an assessment of indigenous biodiversity in Glen Eira and how much it was functional. A survey of remnant native species would be necessary. Council could also create incentives for protection and restoration of native vegetation of local provenance on private land, and apply for State/Federal/corporate grants for remnant indigenous vegetation protection and restoration projects on public land.

Maintaining indigenous biodiversity (e.g. remnant flora, remnant fauna) where it exists is the cheapest most effective method. Functional targets could be set for public open space and indigenous vegetation (e.g. 3ha open space per 1000 residents minimum, with one third of it allocated to indigenous vegetation). Council could also restore areas of native vegetation of local provenance as street plantings. Council could use street plantings and indigenous vegetation in public open space to create links between native vegetation in those public open spaces (as recommended in Glen Eira Council’s Long Term Open Space Strategy 1998).

Streams make the best habitat corridors because they are natural corridors for migration of species, and even in urban environments can provide unrestricted pathways. There is a good case for restoring creeks to open channels as a prime means of re-establishing native habitat. Elster Creek and Murrumbeena Creek could be restored to some degree. Similarly, ponds and wetlands could be recreated with local native plants, as has been done already throughout Melbourne suburbs. Fish, and most aquatic species cannot live in concrete drains. They need open channels planted with indigenous species which provide the vegetation and insect fauna that they eat. These actions would also improve stream water quality and provide the natural food carried into Port Phillip Bay to feed the fish we eat.

* Port Phillip and Western Port Catchment Management Authority Draft Strategy 2013

LOST OPEN SPACE OPPORTUNITY – UPDATE

GERA has delayed updating our earlier postings urging Council to acquire the rare and unique 3142 sqm property at 487 Neerim Road, Murrumbeena, until Council and/or individual Councillors responded to our 15/12/2012. GERA’s 15/12/2012 was the last in a series of correspondence with Council commencing on 06/12/2012.  Regretably GERA reports no further response from Council.

RECAP

Tallow Wood

Tallow Wood – Neerim Road Entrance

Acquisition of the property (and recognised significant vegetation+ – pictures) would which have resulted in a 40-50% increase in the Riley Reserve, Murrumbeena – a reserve located equidistant from, and within easy walking distant of, the Hughesdale and Murrumbeena Housing Diversity Housing Areas (targeted as high density development areas) – for a cost more favourable than the acquisition of 2 house lots in Packer Park (acquired during the 2008-2012 Council term). On 20/12/2012, the property was auctioned and sold for development. Although the property is located in a Minimal Change Area, in 2009 (and despite receiving a significant number of objections) Council granted a planning permit for 2 two storey buildings (23 dwellings) on the site (as a result of a developer appeal to VCAT site intensity was later increased to 3 stories and 26 dwellings) – Extract from Council Meeting Minutes – 30th June, 2009.    Residents are now extremely concerned that site intensity will be further increased and that Council actively enforces vegetation protection measures lodged/proposed on the site in 2009*.

THE CONTINUING STORY

GERA’s 15/12/2012 letter was in response to Cr. Jamie Hyams letter of 14/12/2012  which, without explicitly stating that a decision not to purchase the property had been made, outlined Council’s reasons for not acquiring the 487 Neerim Road property. In addition to re-iterating the open space benefits the property presented, GERA’s  15/12/2012 letter also requested an opportunity to discuss acquisition of the property and clarification of a number of points raised by Cr. Hyams. Even though Council “responsiveness goals” includes a commitment to respond to all correspondence from residents, GERA has yet to receive a response from either Council or any individual Councillor (all Councillors were copied in all correspondence from GERA). It should be noted that although GERA’s sent copies of all it’s letters to all Councillors, Cr. Hyams’s letter does not show that copies were forwarded to each Councillor.

As mentioned in many previous posts, Glen Eira has the least amount of per capita open space in metropolitan Melbourne. Glen Eira’s per capita open space at 1.4 hectares per 1000 is half of the average for Melbourne and is falling even lower as development intensifies in Housing Diversity (high density) Areas and the expansion of pavilions and associated car parking consumes open space.

Given the significance that residents have been placing on Glen Eira’s limited open space in every community/council plan and State Government “Satisfaction Survey” since 1998, this lack of response (both from Council and individual Councillor’s) is disconcerting. This lack of response is reminiscent of Council’s adoption of silence rather than informing residents of GESAC opening delays. As result GERA must question Council’s

decision making process

o who made the decision?
o what information was provided to ensure an informed, impartial decision was made? The information presented should have been extensive and have included, but not be limited to, Council’s current and future financial position, project population growth for the Hughesdale and Murrumbeena Housing Diversity (high density), projections of future open space availability and costings across Glen Eira, potential economies in parkland maintenance, costs of purchase and rehabilitation of the property.
o did Councillors have some input into the decision or were they advised after the decision was made?

Possible acquisition of the 487 Neerim Road was not discussed at the Ordinary Council Meeting of 18/12/2012 – the property was auctioned on 20/12/2012. The Records (ie. minutes) of the Assembly+ included in the Minutes of the 18/12/2012  are prior (4/12/2012) to GERA’s initial correspondence (6/12/2012) recommending Council consider purchasing the property.

At last Tuesday’s Ordinary Council Meeting (5/02/2013) – the first for 2013 – again no mention was made of 487 Neerim Road property. Nor were any Records of Assembly, for the intervening period (05/12/2012 – 05/02/2012) presented to the meeting.

Under the wide ranging Delegations of Authority*, Councillors have given to the Administration, the decision not to purchase the property may have been made without Councillor input (who were informed after the decision had been made). Reporting to Councillors of administrative decisions made, under delegations of authority, is at the discretion of the administration.

Please note that the above questions are not only pertinent in this instance.   GERA regularly receives these questions from residents on a range of issues – from planning permit approvals, tree felling, concrete plinths in parks to traffic and parking management. Increasingly residents report feeling that decisions are made by the Administration with little or no input from Councillors.

the addition of two implied conditions to open space acquisition (neither condition being raised during any community consultation) included in Cr. Hyams response

o “New open space may well be of even greater priority than enlarging existing open space” .   Such a statement not only lacks justification but also implies a limitation on the parkland opportunities that will be considered rather than assessing each opportunity on it’s own merits.

Additionally, this emphasis placed on “new open space”, which references the Booran Road Reservoir Park (formerly the Glen Huntly Reservoir), raises a question on Council’s priorities.  Council’s at-no-cost acquisition of the land was first mooted in the late 1990’s, Council’s first community consultation on the proposed park occurred in March, 2008, yet rehabilitation works will not be commenced until 2017 and will not be completed until 2019/2020.

o “Council’s priorities will be to adopt and implement a prioritized 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 recognising the unexpected nature of real estate opportunities.

 It also adds strength to residents arguments that Council hold a specifically designated fund (eg. the Open Space Levy paid by developers – which has generated $12.8m since 2003) in reserve to enable Council to take advantage of unexpected opportunities. Residents should also note that since 2003 Council acquisition of additional parkland has been restricted to the 2011 purchase of 2 house lots abutting Packer Park for $1.9m. This purchase was an “enlarging of existing open space”.

With the impending review of Council’s Open Space Strategy (last updated in 1998) residents should

objectively evaluate Council’s performance in meeting the community’s very vocal open space objectives against the previous strategy, and

actively participate in the impending review to ensure that their objectives are truly reflected in the new strategy and that the

o manner and means for Council to achieve the objectives are clear cut and unambiguously defined.
o quantifiable unambiguously defined performance measures are included
o regular reporting of Council’s performance to residents, with defined content, is included.
o date of next review is stated

________________

* Significant Vegetation – pictures.   GERA representatives and residents confirm that the vegetation mentioned in the below extract are still exist on the site and are healthy.   Extract from above referenced June 2009 Council Minutes – “The current application seeks to retain 14 significant trees on the subject site, including 3 significant Tallow Woods and 2 Washingtonia Palms … Council’s Landscape Assessment Officer has confirmed that, subject to the careful implementation of tree protection measures, all significant trees can be retained.

… Before the commencement of the development, the owner of the land at 487 Neerim Road, Murrumbeena, must enter into an Agreement with the Responsible Authority pursuant to Section 173 of the Planning and Environment Act 1987, to the satisfaction of the Responsible Authority, with covenants relating to:
• Implementation of the Tree Management Plan during the construction phase of the development; and
• Ongoing maintenance of trees and landscaping in accordance with the Tree Management Plan by the future residents of the competed development.

… A memorandum of the Agreement is to be entered on Title and the costs of the preparation and execution of the Agreement and entry of the memorandum on Title are to be paid by the owner of the land to be developed under this permit”

+ An “Assembly of Councillors” , as defined in the Local Law, is an in camera briefing session, involving both the Administration and Councillors, to enable the Administration to report day to day activities to Councillors and inform (or highlight to) Councillors of current and future significant issues – particularly issues that are likely to be contentious. As per Local Law decisions are not permitted to be made at Assemblies, decisions can only be made at Ordinary (open) Council Meetings.

Assembly meetings are usually held every Tuesday. In the event of an Ordinary Council Meeting being held on the same day, the Assembly occurs prior to the Ordinary Council Meeting.

As the Christmas/New Year Holiday period falls within the 4/12/2012 – 05/02/2013 timeframe, it is acknowledged that Councillor Assemblies may not have been held on a regular weekly (Tuesday) basis. However, Assemblies would have been held and the absence of these records is disconcerting and, as previously mentioned, is as disconcerting as it was during the GESAC opening delays.

Although the records/minutes containing minimal information (ie. attendees and topic headings), they do advise residents that the issue was raised at the Councillor level rather than handled solely by the Administration. Unfortunately, due to the absence of Records of Assembly since 4/12/2012 to the 5/02/2013, GERA is unable to advise residents if Councillors were involved in the decision not to purchase the property or the extent of their involvement in the decision.

** Delegations of Authority – Delegations of Authority (ie. the instruments which confer on the Administration the authority to act, on behalf of the elected representatives, when undertaking the day to day administrative activities associated with the Municipality)

Will Council Listen?

At the recently well attended Community Plan Consultations the Mayor, Cr. Jamie Hyams, made a point of emphasising the importance of the Community Plan.  This Plan represents the community’s views and aspirations for Glen Eira’s future growth and development.  As such, it provides the framework for the Council Plan which outlines the means/actions Council will undertake to ensure that residents’ aspirations are achieved.

Cr. Hyams outlined the views expressed by residents at the last Community Plan Consultations (2008) and showed how Council had listened and incorporated those views in the resulting Council Plan.   To illustrate how well Council listened to residents, the example of Open Space was used. The Glen Eira Municipality has long been recognised as having the least available open space in the Melbourne Metropolitan area  (VEAC – Metropolitan Melbourne Investigation – Discussion Paper, page 185)  – as housing density grows, Glen Eira’s open space per capita continues to fall.

As per Cr. Hyams, Glen Eira Council heard the “more Open Space” and used the below points to outline what Council had achieved.  Theses actions, together with comments from GERA, are as follows:

 1.      Dog off leash area distance from play ground decreased from 50m to 20m.

GERA questions how moving a “virtual” boundary in existing parkland achieves “more open space” or improved open space.

 2.      Council and the Melbourne Racing Club (MRC) entered an agreement in which the MRC will undertake landscaping for the centre of the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve (estimated cost $1.8m).

 When Queen Victoria agreed to the creation of the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve (1885), the reserve was set aside for three equal uses – that of racecourse, public park and public recreation area.  While there may be some disagreement (thorough bred racing activities vs. public access) about some of the reserves access restrictions, the centre of the racecourse has always been a public park and recreation reserve.  Therefore the centre of the racecourse has always been legally regarded as open space. The proposed ‘development’ of the centre does not in fact add any additional open space to the city and its residents.

 Over the years (including recent years) Council has done little to ensure that the centre of the racecourse has been maintained for its intended purpose.  Indeed, the area in the centre of the racecourse has been whittled away (taken by training tracks and facilities) and much neglected.

 That the MRC has now seen fit to do something about landscaping the centre is related to Council’s approval of the MRC’s proposed development of the nearby MRC freehold land (between Station Street and Normanby Road, Caulfield North).    Housing an expected 2,500, this development, without increased open space will cause Glen Eira’s per capita open space ratio to fall further.   GERA does not believe that Council’s inclusion of landscaping the centre of the racecourse can be seen as an ‘achievement’ which expands on already existing open space.

 3.  Purchase of two house lots which jutted into Packer Park and their incorporation into parkland.  (112 & 118 Oakleigh Road, Carnegie – cost $1.92m)

 While GERA applauds this purchase, GERA is aware that Council’s original proposal to acquire the properties provided for funding the purchase by selling the former Packer Park Bowling Green (2743 sq m) for multi-unit development.  Fortunately, as a result of resident outcries and adverse publicity, Council dropped the proposed Bowling Green sale and  converted it to parkland. (Leader, 18th August, 2009).

GERA is aware also that Council is not charging multi-unit developers the full  Public Open Space Contribution/Levy.  This Contribution is capped, by the State Government, at 5% of land value (payable at the time of subdivision into separate property titles or strata titles).  This levy is to provide Councils with funding (from developers) for the acquisition of new parkland and improvements to existing parklands.

 Unlike other Councils (e.g. Port Phillip – 5% across the board since 2011, Manningham – 5% since 2006), the Glen Eira Open Space Contribution/Levy, (DPCD – Glen Eira Planning Scheme) established in 2006, is summarised as follows

  • The number of lots in the subdivision capable of containing a dwelling.

2 lots – not listed

 3 lots – 2%

4 lots – 2.5%

5 lots – 3%

6 or more lots – 3.5%

             Location increments are

  • If the site is in McKinnon, East Brighton, Ormond or Bentleigh – 0%
  • If the site is in Carnegie, Murrumbeena or East Bentleigh – 0.25%
  • If the site is in Caulfield, Caulfield North, Caulfield South, Caulfield East, Glen Huntly, Elsternwick or St Kilda East – 0.5%

 Council’s 2010-2011 Annual Report – Financials, page 146, show Open Space Contributions for 2011 as being $1.630m and 2010 $1.664m.  Conservatively, GERA estimates that had Council charged the full 5% this revenue would have doubled.

 By not changing the Open Space Contribution/Levy to 5% in 2006 and 2008, (which is a zero cost option), Council failed to listen to residents “more open space” and the result is higher profits to multi-unit developers and increased parkland acquisition and maintenance costs to ratepayers.  The cumulative lost revenue (effectively a ratepayer subsidy to developers) is mind-boggling.

 Clearly Cr. Hyams list of  ‘achievements’ needs to be seriously questioned when it comes to open space and what progress this council has made in actually ‘listening’ to residents.

The big question is will they listen any better in 2012?