Council Meeting July 14

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Back to covering MVCC meetings, although I’m just going to cover a few aspects of this meeting.

Many resolutions involved signing off on a range of petitions that had been lodged at council over the past two years. There are also new governance laws being released for consultation following the passage of the new Local Government Act in March.

Here are two other important issues.

Cost of rebranding Council’s pools

A few weeks ago, residents noticed a site asking for feedback on the rebranding of Council’s three swimming pools and the golf course: https://yoursay.mvcc.vic.gov.au/renamingleisurecentres

The Blog covered it here. The feedback page is still open – closing this week.

Residents were bemused by the proposals that seemed to barely alter the names of facilities.

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Questions were put about the cost to Council of the rebranding exercise involving new signage and other marketing. This question was answered tonight: the cost of the rebranding exercise is $100,000, with some of these funds carried over from last year’s budget.

MVCC allocated only $65,000 towards the climate emergency in the 2020/21 budget, but has allocated 160% of this amount towards new signage for its swimming pools and golf course. At least, during the climate emergency, we’ll all know the direction to the pool.

Flemington Community Hub Location

The location of the Flemington Community Hub was also unanimously approved.

Progressing with a new facility including community rooms and sporting change-rooms is a high priority for many Flemington residents – particularly those living on the estate, and those who make use of the only green open space in Flemington.

The process for the construction of the Hub has caused many concerns over many years – including an alteration to the budget last year that caused great distress.

The decision tonight also seems procedurally questionable, and is likely to cause further distress.

Following consultation last year, when many residents asked for the Hub to be moved closer to the existing centre, a new location was endorsed by councillors. This was in response to concerns to preserve the park’s open space and ensure sporting facilities are near the sports grounds (a major flaw in the previous proposal).

The location endorsed in February was not revealed to residents at the time, but was the pink space below.

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Tonight, councillors voted on another new location prior to releasing plans of the Hub for community feedback. The plans for the two-storey building are below:

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The reasons for the second new location was reportedly that additional geotechnical investigations found a “an unmarked Melbourne Water Sewer Line running through the specific location endorsed by Council on 25 February 2020. This asset was not previously identified by Melbourne Water as it is deemed as not in current use. It is through the consulting team’s diligence that this asset was identified at this stage of the project.”

So the revelation of a major drain line has required councillors to quickly redraw plans and vote on these without any consultation with community members.

Council has been working on these plans for close to two years and has only recently become aware of a major drain. I’m no engineer, however, a five minute inquiry on the ‘Dial before you Dig’ website clearly shows this drain. How did MVCC not know about this drain? It is the bright orange dotted line below (that matches the blue line above).

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What should be a brilliant project has been marred at so many turns. Now a proposal has been endorsed by Council without even a phone call to any residents who had been involved in lengthy stakeholder negotiations – including dozens of residents on the estate for whom the timing of this latest decision is incredibly difficult.

A new sporting pavilion and community hub is undeniably needed – and fast! Last week, we also saw how the design of the new hub needs to consider conversion to an emergency incident response centre for the 1300 residents currently living on the estate. The new design does not appear to consider this reality in any way.

So why, having made a major bungle over the location endorsed in February, rush through a new location without any consultation right now?

Because the plans have presumably already been submitted to the State Government in the hope of receiving a $10 million grant for a shovel ready project.

The report to council states that “Should Council defer a decision on the preferred location the current application for State Government funding of $10 million would need to be withdrawn as timelines would not be achievable.”

Surely the State Government, having relied on the current centre as an Incident Response Centre last week, would allow MVCC extra time to ensure the new community centre is fit-for-purpose as an emergency response centre.

The councillors clearly want an outcome and are working within what they see are the limitations and constraints to meet objections to the original location – and get as much bang for their bucks as possible with the facilities. Applying for extra funding is saving money in a time of budgetary constraints and the community benefit derived from the proposed hub is at the heart of the decision-making.

There is a sensible solution to this – which would be to separate the pavilion from the community centre allowing sports teams to have purpose built facilities as soon as possible and access close to the sports grounds, and enable a separate community centre to be designed to do what it needs to do for any future emergency – as well as provide for residents for the next 50 years – and to be located such that green open space is not lost.

It’s possible for everyone to be happy with the outcome!

Councillors cited costs as the prohibitive barrier against this logical solution. However, the past week makes it abundantly clear that the State Government relies on this facility and needs to make a substantial contribution to it.

Additionally, the State Government grant for which MVCC has applied is a savings, rather than additional money. But, surely, the savings made through the grant should be put back into Flemington allowing for the project to be enhanced further.

(Maybe saving $100,000 on the rebranding of pools could be part of savings elsewhere to get this project right!!)

Having made a mistake regarding the drain, some quick thinking by Council could ensure that this incredibly important project for Flemington is designed to suit everyone – and preserve the important green playing space for 1300 residents living in cramped conditions on the estate.

Consultation was mentioned, and hopefully that will take place soon. It’s never too late to get a $20 million plus project right.

Here are some pictures of the green space that is the hub’s new endorsed location.

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Images above from various MVCC documents available @ mvcc.vic.gov.au.

Photos by Rose Iser. And Zoom pic via Zoom.

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