Council has released a new set of documents that underpin the planning for the Elsternwick South ‘masterplan’. Accompanying these documents is the invitation to provide feedback via the Have Your Say web link.

All of this sounds marvelous! Except that we have to wonder whether:

  • This is the ‘best’ way to conduct ‘consultation’ and
  • What ‘value’ the Have Your Say survey really has

The Elsternwick South area is pivotal in that the current proposals, together with the overall Structure Plan for the northern areas will change the face of Elsternwick forever if implemented. The vast majority of residents have already made it clear that:

  • 12 storeys is unacceptable
  • Overshadowing is an issue
  • Traffic is an issue
  • Lack of open space is an issue

The newly published documents are supposed to address most of these concerns. But do they? And do the surveys come within cooeee of asking residents what they think about the proposals themselves? Or are they merely a set of feel good questions that everyone can agree with whilst parading as genuine ‘consultation’?

Here is what could and should have happened if council is genuine in wanting informed feedback from the community.

  • Given the significance of this area why has council not produced a simple, objective, ‘Discussion paper’ as the first step in the consultation process that outlines all the pros and cons of the various aspects and the recommendations? As it stands now, those residents interested in the issue will need to read, analyse and comment on well over 200 pages of new documentation. This is on top of what has already been published, making the grand total of recent documents dealing with this area to well over 486 pages. If we include the ‘past documents’, then we are approaching close to 1500 pages. How many residents will bother?
  • The Have Your Say and survey questions need to be directly addressing the efficacy of the proposals in these reports. They don’t! Instead we get the following which isn’t asking the vital question ‘Do you think these road closures will address the parking and traffic concerns? Please explain”.

  • The 4 proposals concerning road closures would now appear to be set in concrete  and residents are simply asked to ‘prioritise’ them. Yes, we do get the ‘other comments’ section but unless residents bother to read through the documentation carefully, and analyse what is proposed, then we suspect that most comments will be easily ignored. No choices are provided to residents regarding rat running in neighbouring streets. Nor is there any question relating to residents’ views on parking, safety, etc. In short, the focus is entirely on St James Parade.

  • The first part of the survey is basically nothing more than motherhood statements. Of course no one in their right mind would be in favour of creating rat runs, or endangering safety, or be indifferent to congestion, etc. Again these have to be ‘ranked’. Why? Surely it can be assumed that the entire list of ‘problems’ is something that needs fixing. The question is again, do the reports and recommendations actually ‘fix’ any of them? Does the ranking then mean that the end result of the strategic planning will only seek to address the top 5 priorities and ignore the rest? Or will we get the argument that a ‘balance’ has to be achieved and we can’t do everything? More importantly, how many of these ‘problems’ are remedied via the report recommendations? Couldn’t council have produced some neat little table that displayed such information in a clear and accessible manner?
  • The other survey option is titled ‘tell us your ideas for resolving these issues’. Please note that again there is no connection with the report recommendations. Simply pie in the sky questions that could apply to anywhere and not specifically the sites under investigation.

It is surely time that council got its act together and produced some consultation techniques that were genuine, meaningful, and truly intended to seek the best results. Time and again we have had councilors apologizing to the gallery for their poor consultation methods but nothing has been done to remedy the situation. We continue to get sham consultations, (or no consultation as with aged care) and processes that are simply there to endorse what has already been decided.

We have not commented on the documents themselves at this stage. All we will say at this stage is the irony that council’s consultants chose to use as part of their standard for traffic generation the Woolworth’s traffic assessment that accompanied the latter’s application! Then to top it all off, there is a further reduction in the standard because council aims for a 60% reduction in car use! Thus we get this gem:

Therefore, if this reduction rate is applied to the peak hour generation rate of 0.4 trips per dwelling, a generation rate of approximately 0.19 trips per dwelling could be adopted for the apartments within the proposed Elsternwick Urban Renewal Area South development. 

What this means of course is that every apartment will only produce 0.19 trips per peak hour instead of the 0.4 trips that date back to 2002 guidelines. Unbelievable hocus pocus!

Residents’ antennas should also be raised at the potential ramifications of this sentence:

……given the 60% public transport target, it could be realistically be proposed that 25% of apartments in the renewal area would have no parking spaces.

So with 1500 dwellings proposed (and no justification for this number) are residents to assume that developers will be given the gift of nearly 400 apartments with no parking spots?

We urge all readers to carefully consider these documents and to make your views on the consultation process itself known to this council.  It’s well and truly time that residents stopped accepting a process that is anything but adequate and appropriate.