What’s the deal in Flemington?

FCC

Moonee Valley Council’s decision last week to reduce money specifically allocated in the long term budget for the Flemington Community Hub has caused quite a stir – and lots of confusion.

Council officers have now cancelled FNAG meetings; Councillors have vented their anger on social media and threatened to split Myrnong Ward from Moonee Valley; residents are calling for protests; and the local paper has declared a war between ‘rich’ and ‘poor’.

In fact, there is still $40m+ in the budget for the hub and park – the same as there was last year.

And there are still no endorsed plans for anything on the park, or on the DHHS land. We still don’t know exactly what the funding is for, or how much is needed for different elements.

This post sets out some of the facts we know – and some of the remaining mysteries.

What’s the budget for the Flemington Community Hub?

In 2018, Council put $40 million towards the hub and park. We know this because a Council Report in March 2019 stated this clearly:

Screen Shot 2019-06-17 at 4.29.19 pm

MVCC Agenda 26 March 2019

What was not clear was how much of this funding was for the hub itself – and how much for the park. But it was clear the $40m was for both.

Consistent with this, in April 2018, Council had said they were seeking $20m in external funding for the hub, and Council would provide the remaining $20m. I took this to mean that Council was funding $20m of a potentially $40m hub, and had another $20m in the budget for the park itself, or thereabouts. I assumed if the external funding was not forthcoming, the $40m would spread across a smaller hub and the park.

Screen Shot 2019-06-14 at 8.32.43 pm

MVCC Advocacy Strategy, April 2018

In March 2019, despite Council having put $40m in the budget for the hub and the park, Council officers reported to Council that all $40m was required for the hub. No mention of any funding for the park.

Screen Shot 2019-06-18 at 10.57.24 am

MVCC Agenda, 26 March 2019

Councillors noted this and put the proposals out for consultation. The report on the consultation is currently being written.

At the same meeting, the Advocacy Strategy was updated (see screenshot from Advocacy Strategy below) with a split of funding: $20m from Council for the hub, $20m external funding for the hub, $25m for the park – with a longer timeline now being suggested for the park.

Council still had $40m in the long term capital works budget for the hub and park, had noted $40m would be required for the hub, was seeking $20m and said $25m would be needed for the park. It was becoming a bit confusing.

Screen Shot 2019-06-14 at 8.19.03 pm

The Advocacy Strategy also said “any funds obtained will mitigate Council’s own costs” but also that “if Council is unable to secure funding, it will impact on our ability to deliver on these projects within our existing budget”.

At the meeting last week, two separate amounts of money were included in the long term  capital works budget for the hub and the park:

Screen Shot 2019-06-13 at 1.18.29 pm

MVCC Agenda 11 June 2019, Appendix C

The first item was $40m (plus 3%pa) for the hub and the fourth time in the list above was $20m+ for the park – giving Council the full $65m the officers now said was needed to develop the hub and park.

Confusingly, Council officers said they were still trying to obtain $20m in external funding. It’s not been clear whether this was to replace any of the budgeted amounts, or to supplement the $65m.

Council last week resolved to retain the $20m+ for the park in the longer term, and peg the hub funding back to $20m from Council in the 2021-2023 budgets.

Importantly:

  • the other $20m officers wanted for the hub was not reallocated (it could have been used to bring forward the park funding)
  • there is still $45m (or $40m+) funding in the budget for the hub and park
  • this is all for future budgets, so decisions are all pending
  • last year, officers ignored the Councillors’ decision that the $40m was for the hub and park and brought back a $40m hub, pushing out the park money … so if they really wanted to, they could do the same again!!

The carry-on at the Council meeting was really unfortunate and did nothing to clarify funding, or find compromises. The ward councillors could have:

  • brought forward the park money so that there was $40m in the short term for the hub and park – making it exactly the same as last year’s budget with respect to timing;
  • brokered a compromise of $30m specifically for the hub (given that we were told there was a $10m contingency in the $40m, this would seemingly have retained status quo);
  • understood the other councillors’ concerns about the blow out of the budget for the hub and worked towards securing some external funding.

Instead, the community has been led to believe the Council does not care about Flemington and that it’s impossible for a fantastic community hub and park to be provided for the $45m in the budget – pending future decisions.

In a seeming dummy-spit, council officers have cancelled FNAG meetings and sent around a video of the Council meeting to all FNAG members.

Given there are no plans for the project, no external funding, and years before any money is due to flow to the project, there are lots of opportunities to work through issues and get the funding balance right.

As an additional note, the Advocacy Strategy has been altered to now read the following suggesting Council is still seeking $20m to match with its $20m to build a hub.

Screen Shot 2019-06-19 at 1.14.29 pm

MVCC Advocacy Strategy – version 4 – screenshot 19 June, from MVCC website

What’s the location of the new community hub?

In a previous post, I have documented the history of the proposed hub. The important points are:

  • 28 March 2017: MVCC resolves to relocate the “Flemington Community Centre more proximate to Racecourse Road” – with a Council report stating the “optimum location for the community centre is proximate to Racecourse Road.”
  • June 2017: DHHS and MVCC develop a joint Structure Plan for Debney’s Precinct providing for a new multi-purpose community centre fronting Racecourse Rd, and enhanced recreation facilities and a new sports pavilion on Debney’s Park.
  • 22 August 2017: Council resolves to change the preferred location of the community centre to “adjacent to Debney’s park on DHHS land”. The Council report for this meeting notes “that DHHS has agreed to include a relocated Community Centre Facility within the DHHS land.”
  • 14 September 2017: MVCC presents a Development Plan with the Community Centre located on Council parkland to the Planning Panel even though councillors have neither seen nor endorsed this plan.
  • March 2018: Planning Panel Report is released and says “the Committee supports the proposal to include at least some of what will be necessarily expanded community facilities on the ground floor of the Racecourse Road building … it frees up valuable space within the park. The Committee considers that the creation of a community hub within the redevelopment with frontage to Racecourse Road can reinforce the sense of community … Mr Patrick considered the proposed Community Centre option adjacent to the boundary of Debney’s Park is a poor location, as it would act as a barrier to the park.”
  • February 2019: FNAG is shown plans for a new community hub on a singular location having not previously discussed the location of the hub.
  • March 2019: MVCC resolves to put three options for the community hub out for 6 weeks consultation. All three options locate the hub on Council land between the estate and the park.

Council officers decided the hub should not only cost $40m, but should be located on the southern edge Debney’s Park without any endorsement or direction from councillors.

Why have DHHS not put any money into the hub – given it was meant to be on DHHS land? What happened to the agreement with DHHS? We just don’t know.

We are currently waiting for the consultation report to know how officers and councillors will respond to concerns raised by community members about the Council’s proposed location.

What are some of the ongoing ‘unknowns’?

There’s still a lot we don’t know about the future of the area:

  • What will happen to Hopetoun Children’s Centre?
  • What will happen to Debney Meadows Primary School?
  • What will happen on the DHHS land – will all the current car parks be built on with 12-20 story buildings with underground or podium car parking, as planned?
  • Way hasn’t the DHHS offered ANY funding for the hub and park given it was meant to be on DHHS land?

And here’s another unknown that has recently come to light.

In October 2014, the linking Melbourne Authority (LMA) acquired land across Melbourne for the East West Link (EWL), including part of Debney’s Park. In 2015, when the EWL was cancelled, the land remained with the LMA.

A title search of Debney’s Park conducted yesterday shows that land directly behind the current community centre, Lot A, is owned by the Department of Transport.

 

 

So … some more questions:

  • Why was the land not returned to MVCC when the EWL was cancelled?
  • Did Moonee Valley receive compensation for this land?
  • Is this impacting the decision regarding the location of the hub?
  • What is the current arrangement between the state government and MVCC with respect to this land?
  • Why was this not raised at the Panel hearing in 2017?

These questions have been put to Moonee Valley Council and the blog will be updated when more is known.

In the meantime, the issue of the Flemington Hub is complex and we still don’t know what is the real deal in Flemington.

While some councillors are angry about the budget decision, it’s in fact an opportunity for all of us to work together to get some real answers and fantastic solutions.

 

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