How councillors vote on Item 9.5 next Tuesday night will reveal much about their courage, their integrity, and their overall commitment to social/affordable housing. It will reveal once and for all whether all the recent huffing and puffing about supporting the less advantaged in our society has been nothing more than hot air and political grandstanding.

Item 9.5 concerns the proposed amendment designed to ensure that the Melbourne Racing Club (MRC) sticks to the terms of the Incorporated Plan and provides a modicum of social/affordable housing in its mammoth 2000 plus Caulfield village development. The officer’s recommendation is –

Having given consideration to the issues explored in this report, resolves to not proceed with Amendment C151 and support a position to the Panel appointed to consider Amendment C151 that it intends to abandon the amendment. 

We remind readers of the following:

  • The appointment of the gang of 4 (Lipshutz, Pilling, Hyams & Esakoff) instead of the entire councillor group to decide on the incorporated plan in 2011 which agreed to heights of at least 20 storeys.
  • Decision after decision that increased dwelling numbers from a stated 1100 to now over 2000 and by the conclusion will probably total closer to 3000 apartments – the vast majority being single bedroom dog boxes.
  • The continual cave in after cave in on each submitted development plan
  • The ridiculous acceptance of a paltry 4 and 5% open space levy
  • The failure to even have a social housing policy years after VCAT made note of this fact
  • Fences along Queen’s Road still standing though falling apart and
  • A ridiculous acceptance of a pathetic little ‘playground’ and barbecue area that is supposed to represent ‘open space’ for the community whilst the gates remain locked half the time.

Every single aspect of council’s dealings with the MRC has resulted in total disaster for the community. Now we have this latest outrage which will hand the developer millions more in profits no doubt. And one of the major ‘excuses’ for giving up and abandoning the amendment –

If the Amendment proceeds a considerable amount of funding and resources will be required in the preparation of a panel hearing. 

How this sentence can even be included is literally mind boggling – especially when the draft Strategic Resource Plan includes this gem of future expenditure Shepparson Avenue Market Development – $2.95m for design, concept plans and initial consultation (page 6). If we are reading this correctly, council is prepared to spend just under $3 million before the first sod of earth is even turned, yet they baulk at the prospect of even $100,000 to ensure that the MRC holds up its end of what the Incorporated Plan and the C60 schedule states.

What irks us even more is that the entire focus of the officer’s report is on the social housing aspect. Yet the proposed amendment contained much more. It was intended to ensure that the MRC could not alter the boundaries of the 3 precincts which would have enabled them to expand some areas and hence cram in more dwellings. No argument is presented as to why this should not be pursued!

The other issue this item raises is the competence of council’s planning department once more. If there are ambiguities in the draft amendment and therefore open to legal challenge, then what does this say about the expertise of those who drafted the amendment in the first place?

Regardless of the legal wrangles, council now has the opportunity to carry through on all its stated commitments to social housing. It should not come as a surprise that the MRC is fighting every step of the way. But so should council if they have any integrity left! Hire some decent legal eagles, do the necessary homework, and ensure that the MRC does not once again walk all over the community and its representatives! The expenditure of $100,000 is surely a drop in the ocean compared to the vast waste that is endemic in Glen Eira!