The last council meeting was fascinating in what it revealed about the (hidden) agendas for control within council. On one side we have officers and their councillor disciples, and opposed, on one particular issue, the old gang plus Okotel. The trigger for this ‘battle’ is the McKinnon Bowls Club and their attempt to survive by turning one of their bowling greens into a small soccer pitch that will be run by the same people who run the Caulfield Park small soccer pitch and who pay the bowls clubs for the privilege.

We wish to state at the outset:

  • We lament the demise of any community group or sporting club
  • We believe that Council should do everything in its power to ensure the viability of such clubs
  • We do not pass judgement however, on the merits of the McKinnon Bowls club position or objectives. All we are concerned with is the manner in which this issue is playing out and why it is the focus of so much time, cost, and effort by all concerned.

What we unconditionally denounce is the following:

  • That the issue should have taken up so much time when we believe that council has far greater priorities to attend to and that these have been given short shrift by all concerned. For example: last council meeting the ‘discussion’ on this item went for approximately 40 minutes. ‘Discussions’ on major planning applications were lucky to get 5 to 10 minutes each.
  • The continued hypocrisy and half baked information that is provided in officer reports and the overall inconsistency between arguments presented in various agenda items. We will comment on this in greater detail below.
  • Once again the report outstrips in length anything that would go into an officer’s planning report for council. We also get copies of correspondence, company records, etc. – all there to bolster up a very one sided argument.

Our take on the entire issue is:

  • Newton and Burke’s attempt to assert and maintain their control. This is revisiting the Ajax Senior Football club’s attempt to gain access to Princes Park. It would be anathema for Newton and Burke to allow clubs themselves to ensure their future, and god forbid, enter into any agreement which might benefit themselves and the local community. Allowing such events to happen is to diminish and erode the autocratic power, and continued ‘influence’ of officers. It also gives unprecedented power to the community whilst sidelining officers – another ‘no-no’ in Glen Eira
  • It is striking that at the last meeting this was the first time we can recall any member of the gang actually criticising an officer’s report. Esakoff really went to town. The pity is that such concern for community is not carried through on all sub-standard officer reports, or on issues of importance to the community by this enclave.
  • We can only speculate on the motives for this rear guard action against Newton and Burke by Hyams, Lipshutz, Esakoff and Okotel.

That is the background to this battle – or at least how we perceive it. For this council meeting we have another officer report (unnamed of course) but readers are directed to make ‘enquiries’ of the CEO.

The report is a wonderful piece of sleight of hand but entirely manipulative. Why? Because once again councillors are meant to make a decision when all of the information is not presented to them. The most important document that would compare the arrangements at Caulfield Park will NOT BE PRESENTED UNTIL THE NEXT COUNCIL MEETING NEXT YEAR! But it is expected that councillors decide on Tuesday night! As we’ve stated, since Caulfield Park Bowls Club has what the McKinnon Bowls Club wishes to introduce, surely such a document would be vital to any informed decision making? But no – it is held back.

We also have to comment on the utter inconsistency and hypocrisy of this report. Here are some quotes:

There has been no public consultation to date on the proposed change of use of Council land from bowls to a licence between the tenant and Powerleague Pty Ltd to provide small sided soccer on a commercial basis.

As noted above, the most recent consultation in 2002 resulted in community opposition. Council has a Community Consultation Policy. If Council contemplates any changes at Joyce Park at some point in the future, the Policy should be followed.

Suddenly, community consultation becomes essential to any decision making it would seem. Strange then, that in item 9.13 on Community Consultation For Pedestrian Crossing Locations, we get the following nonsense:

In Glen Eira’s case the community has had an opportunity to nominate locations when the walking strategy was being developed. Asking the community again to nominate locations would likely either cause confusion or unfairly raise community expectations that Council has the funds and will treat all nominated locations.

Additional community consultation now may also undermine the Walking Strategy as the community would have expectations that locations they raise would be treated above those indicated in the strategy. If locations in the strategy are put aside to address the new community nominated locations the strategy action to treat at least two locations each year may not be achieved and the identified priority walking routes would simply be delayed or not occur

The Strategy is a live document which will be reviewed in 2017. It is considered that it would be preferable to re-consult the community along the lines suggested in the request for this report as a prelude to the next revised Walking Strategy.

We simply love the ‘live document’ bit when history tells us that so few ‘policies’ ever see the light of day again and are allowed to gather dust (ie Road Safety Strategy, Review of Heritage, etc. etc.) In Glen Eira, ‘consultation’ is like a game of ping-pong. When it suits, this administration calls for its mock consultation and when it doesn’t suit, the claims are as above. Surely, with all the developments going on everywhere, with traffic increasing dramatically, there just might be some merit in receiving community input well before 2017. Plus, even with consultation in 2017, it could still take our wonderful council another couple of years to do anything about it!

Finally, it will be interesting to see the outcomes in this battle. Will the gang cave in and revert to their usual support of Newton? Will any councillor have the brains to defer the item again until ALL relevant information is provided? Will Newton bluff his way through and will his current disciples of Delahunty and co, support him to the hilt? It should be a fascinating evening. We only hope that it doesn’t go for 40 minutes and that all the applications due for decision get more than 5 minutes each in the limelight!