Residents beware! Council is pretending to undergo a ‘community consultation’ process on the Caulfield Park Conservatory. Despite the fact that the ill-named Community Plan endorses and emphasises the need for multiple methods of consultation, all that is being done in this case is a ‘survey’ with preset and predetermined questions. Far from being a ‘neutral’ set of questions, here we have questions that are not placed in context and completely fail to provide residents with the information that is essential in order for them to ‘prioritise’ a single thing. Grandiose statements such as “Council is asking residents to express their views via a survey” (from website) ignores the simple fact that there simply is no avenue for residents to write a single word about their views. It is all ‘tick the box’ approach to a predetermined and slanted set of questions.

Following a few demographic questions such as what use do you make of the park and whether the respondent is a resident or trader, the heart of the issue is presented as a series of ‘options’ that residents are requested to grade from 1 (most preferred) to 10 (least preferred). How convenient that ‘cafe’ is first in the alphabet and ‘repair/restore’ comes last!

Here are the relevant questions in the order they are presented:

Please list your preferred options for the Conservatory from 1 to 10 (1=most preferred to 10=least preferred).

  1. Cafe – indoor/outdoor – capacity 50
  2. Cafe/tearooms – indoor/outdoor – capacity 80-100
  3. Children’s garden/playspace
  4. Community room/s
  5. Native/sustainable garden/environmental education hub
  6. Plant nursery
  7. Recreational/exercise area
  8. Remove Conservatory and return to open space
  9. Repair, restore and replant gardens
  10. Other

No real definition of anything is provided nor the implications. If the ‘capacity’ of 80 -100 is chosen as Number 1, then what does this mean in terms of ‘footprint’ of the ‘café’. How much open space will be lost to accommodate this number since it is certain that the current conservatory size will never be capable of seating this number within its walls. And exactly what is a ‘café’? Will full meals be served? Will the place remain open until late at night? Will there be a liquor license? And what of toilets/sewerage, kitchens, loading bays, parking and general access? Will we have roads built into the park to enable access for all service deliveries? How much more land will be lost? How many trees will be placed in jeopardy?

Asking residents to ‘prioritise’ when they have absolutely no idea of what it is they are prioritising is devious, deceptive, and deliberately misleading. Yet, council has no qualms in spending ratepayers’ money on glossy, meaningless ‘surveys’ if they know it will get the Lipshutz’s of this world the result that he and the other ‘conservatives’ want!

Another issue – apart from the question of using public open space for commercial purposes – : who will pay for this ‘redevelopment’? Will council outfit the place and then simply lease it to some commercial operator as it has done with the café at GESAC for the princely sum of over $300,000? Will Council and therefore ratepayers pay for sewerage connections? Will we pay for access roads or will the lessee have to cover ALL the costs?

We reiterate! None of the answers to these questions have been included in the bogus ‘survey’. It is akin to asking people to vote on something that they have no idea of what they’re voting for. Only when residents can evaluate the options based on a full understanding of what they actually mean can we call this ‘consultation’. Only when residents are offered the opportunity to actually express their individual views as they wish, can we have any faith in any of the ‘consultation process’ that this council introduces.