The lack of open space in Glen Eira is well known. So well known in fact that the 1998 strategy made no bones about the need for council to increase and improve its open space planning and to ensure that it was funded appropriately. Now, 15 years down the track, there is a new hefty document that to a very great degree regurgitates what has been known for the last decade and a half. That, of course, leads onto questioning:

  • Why have so few of the 1998 recommendations been carried out, or alternatively, been completely ignored?
  • What guarantee do residents have that the ‘high priority’ items of the 2013 strategy won’t go the same way as the recommendations of the previous plan?
  • To what extent has this new draft policy been ‘reverse-engineered’ by administrators to basically present only what they want to present? In other words – how autonomous were the consultants?

On this last point we note that this company has done strategies for numerous other councils. In some of these the consultation methodology involved community forums and/or focus groups BEFORE the release of any draft. Not in Glen Eira. Here the familiar top down approach is sacrosanct.

Perusing the draft document there are countless caveats and disclaimers that somehow manage to appear in the Glen Eira version, but which are significantly absent from other work produced by this company. For example: the phrase ‘where feasible’ appears nearly 50 times in the Glen Eira document. The term is totally absent in the Whitehorse strategy and in the Moonee Valley document it appears only 6 times and in Boroondara 7 times. The phrase ‘where feasible’ is thus a wonderful escape clause from doing anything. Who decides what is, or isn’t ‘feasible’ is another issue completely and we know, don’t we, what the answer to that is!

The 1998 strategy listed 14 specific and overarching criteria against which recommendations were to be assessed. The 2013 version has reduced this to a mere 6. Significantly, what is missing from the 2013 effort are such fundamental aspects as ‘management plan’, ‘community involvement’ and the emphases on structured and unstructured open space. In 1998 we were told how much open space was devoted to sport (53%). No such figures appear now.

We raise all these issues not to decry the 2013 effort as ‘useless’ but for residents to be aware of the pitfalls and the need for them to insist that councillors do their homework and commit to firm priorities. When a document lists 30 or 40 desirable actions, then prioritising is essential, a strict management plan is essential, and a financial plan together with a solid time line absolutely crucial. Mere waffle about a possible 4 to 5% open space levy contribution from developers does not address these questions. Given the lack of open space, will council impose a higher levy on businesses? On specific areas? And why wasn’t this option included together with the C110 Amendment as other councils are now doing? Instead Glen Eira will now have to go through an amendment process which, as Hyams always likes to tell us, could take years! That is not ‘strategic’ and timely planning in our view.

More on the open space strategy in the weeks ahead!