Strathmore residents have been told today that close to $1.4m will be available for a pocket park in the Essendon electorate if Labor wins this month’s state election.
“We’re getting a pocket park,” Labor candidate for Essendon, Danny Pearson, told a small group of residents gathered at Strathaird Reserve.
Victorian Labor announced yesterday that, should it win the 24 November state election, $35m would be available to acquire land for 25 small parks in built-up areas. Mr Pearson said the land known as Strathaird Reserve was an “ideal candidate” for the funding in Essendon.
Strathmore residents have been fighting for close to two years to save the park in Strathaird Street from being sold by VicRoads for residential development for upwards of $1.3m.
Moonee Valley Council has twice voted not to purchase the land from VicRoads arguing the land should be gifted to Council that has cared for and maintained the parkland for decades.
Mr Pearson said the funding promise by Labor meant that “I’ve got funding to have a pocket park in the electorate”.
Mr Pearson said he wasn’t yet clear how the funding would be managed and provided, or whether the council or state government would have ongoing ownership of the park.
It’s possible one department of the state government will provide $1.4m to Moonee Valley Council to pay another department of the state government, VicRoads, $1.4m for the land – meaning the funding promise is revenue neutral for the state government.
Local resident, Sharon Mumford, who has campaigned for several years to maintain the land as open space, asked if another political stalemate were possible, if Moonee Valley Council were again reluctant to purchase the park.
Mr Pearson said he wanted to have “conversations with Council” about the park “sooner rather than later”.
Ms Mumford queried whether discussions with Essendon Airport about initiatives for the site, and noise levels might help to reduce the price of the land.
Mr Pearson committed to “pursuing those conversations with Essendon Fields as well”.
James Williams, Greens candidate for Essendon, was sceptical about the electoral promises, and thought time had been wasted over the two years since the playground was removed and the land slated for sale.
Residents joked about whether any livestock had been threatening the former playground site that has remained fenced for two summers.
Moonee Valley Council CEO, Bryan Lancaster, told the MVBlog that he has not discussed the announcement with Mr Pearson, so had no comment to make at this time.