Caulfield Racecourse/C60


After at least 150 years of the racing industry’s supremacy over the community, nothing much appears to have changed with the newly announced lease signing and the appointment of the new trustees.

Much is still unclear, but the following questions need answering:

  • Will the community be privy to the fine print of the lease agreement? Is the removal of training binding in this agreement?
  • Will the trustees publish a map that clearly outlines the land under the lease and which is freehold land?
  • How was the figure of $300,000+ per annum arrived at when previous evaluations were in the million dollar range? Why is the MRC, with its vast resources, being given literally a peppercorn rental and will this rental apply only until the removal of training or for the duration of the 65 year lease?
  • Will the introduction of night racing mean more racing events? How will these events impact on the local community?
  • Can residents expect residential development on the freehold land?
  • Will light towers now predominate across vast areas of crown land?
  • Will a new track mean further encroachment onto public open space and the further proliferation of lego land – ie white fences?

Despite the work of the various spin doctors we do not see this as anything else apart from another victory for the Melbourne Racing Club! A couple of soccer pitches do not warrant this buckling at the knees!

Here’s a resident’s summary of last week’s meeting for the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve.

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There were many empty chairs at the meeting, on account of the meeting not being well advertised
Proceedings were opened by Interim Administrator David Bird, speaking from the lectern.

He announced the Trustees present, who were sitting in a row at the front of the room –

Sam Almaliki > Chair of the new Trust – not a local – lives South Melbourne – sports administrator – former head of community engagement Cricket Australia

July Busch > lives Elsternwick – background in shopping centre development, is on a cemeteries trust, and has interest in sports facilities

David Mandel > business in international manufacturing – a company director – president of a squash club – and on the Cth Games committee

Joanne Butterworth-Gray > from Gippsland – has 6 kids – background in regional development – interest in commercial opportunities

Danni Addison > not a local – president of the Urban Development Institute

Peter Watkinson > Haines Racing – planning

Greg Sword > (not present at the meeting) – ex member of the old untrusted trust

Sam Malakikiannounced the new trust is free of bias, will operate in the best interests of the community, will be transparent, collaborative and act consistently with the 3 purposes, as well as be dedicated to ‘community health and well being.’

The main problem with all this is that a new lease will be signed with the MRC behind closed doors and with no public input, before there is a management plan in place or any allocation to respective uses. The reason offered was was that the incoming trust has inherited arrangements and ongoing negotiations with previous trust.

Questions from the floor following the briefing raised issues of access to the reserve (who will hold the key), to which the response was that the reserve was open 9.45 am to sunset. The primary use of the reserve is racing.
Some asked when the tin fence will go, questioned the signing of a lease with MRC of unknown proportions before there was public input.  One questioner presented a copy of a previous masterplan to the new trustees.
How will the trust and MRC communicate? Response was communication will be direct engagement at board level, but such negotiations will not be minuted. Will passive open space include the lakes and native vegetation and environmental sensitivity to wildlife.
The new Trust came into effect on August 1 and will set up comprehensive online information in due course, when some funding and resources become available.
COMMENT
We find it incredibly disappointing that there is not one single ‘community rep’ on the new Trustees. Even the ‘locals’ are linked to the development industry.
Nor is there any guarantee that agendas and minutes will be published.
Yes the legislation has made changes. Whether or not the community will be the ultimate beneficiary of these changes remains to be seen. On the whole it is not an auspicious start!
AND FROM THE Caulfield Leader (9th October) –
sky

An astonishing item (9.8) features in today’s agenda. Council is proposing to enter into a potential 9 year lease with the VRC (aka MRC) for 2 sections of the Wedge – ie the land that has stood vacant at the top of Glen Eira/Booran Rds for years and years. The terms of the proposed lease are:

  • For the first 5 years the payment to council (as committee of management) of $137,500 and for each 2 year extension up to a further 4 years, a rental of $30,400 per annum.
  • The land under discussion includes a 153 square metre area that contains a water bore, and another area to the east of the Wedge of 675 square metres. This second area abuts the current freehold land containing the stables.

Our take on this is as follows:

  • Why would the MRC agree to pay even this pittance for a lease on land that has stood empty for years unless this is nothing more than a major land grab to accommodate future residential development to the east of this strip? Below is a screen dump taken from the VPA website which makes it clear that the MRC is thinking of more development once training goes.

  • Is the payment of basically $27,000 per annum a reasonable rent given that any commercial block of 675 square metres would certainly receive far more in rent?
  • Does this lease mean that training will not be gone for another 9 years at least? In 2011 a 5 year time limit was put on. We are now talking 2027 at the earliest.
  • Why has this item made an appearance at this stage given that the newly appointed trustees are set to begin their reign on the 1st August, 2018. Does the signing off of this lease usurp their power and authority and hence is the timing deliberate? Surely council could have waited another 2 weeks given the years when nothing has happened?
  • What does this mean for the proposed dog agility facility? How can dogs, kids, and adults co-exist with trucks, workmen, etc having unrestricted access to the bore?
  • Why is the last sentence of the Department letter redacted? What potentially damaging info does this sentence contain?
  • One sentence of the officer’s report is worth repeating –As the lease term is less than 10 years Council is not required to give public notice of the intention to enter into the lease with the MRC. Skull duggery at its best! No publicity, no objections, no community involvement whatsoever! Well done council!

All in all another cave in by council and the department to the Melbourne Racing Club!

The VPA (and Council) has finally released its version of Stage 1 of ‘community consultation’ on the Caulfield Station structure planning with this neat little blurb and a ‘survey’. (See: https://vpa.vic.gov.au/caulfield-station-precinct-vision-survey/

It would seem that the norm now for government and council is to fall back on meaningless jargon (ie ‘Vision’) and surveys that are highly questionable. Our view is that surveys are fine – but only AFTER residents know exactly what they are dealing with. What are the parameters that have been set? What is the proposed land use? Before any ‘survey’ results can be truly meaningful then residents need to know exactly what are the options? We fear that this process will simply mirror what has already happened with Bentleigh, Carnegie & Elsternwick – albeit on a much grander scale!

Here’s part of the ‘survey’. We ask readers to consider its merit.

PS – FROM TODAY’S HANSARD

Caulfield electorate

Mr SOUTHWICK (Caulfield)

(12:00)

My question is for the Minister for Planning. I raise an issue on behalf of 1300 local petition signatories who are outraged by the Elsternwick rezoning master plan, which will increase the local population by over 20 per cent with no consideration of the impacts on amenity, infrastructure and traffic congestion. Residents are also confused at the seemingly different rules for different electorates whereby the areas of Bentleigh and Carnegie are benefiting from interim height controls as low as four to five storeys whereas sections of  Elsternwick have no current height limits and could face up to 20 –storey apartments complexes.

The current Elsternwick rezoning plan is entirely inconsistent and incompatible with the local area. Can the minister provide an answer to concerned Elsternwick residents as to why are there are these inconsistencies whereby one electorate, the marginal seat of Bentleigh, is being benefited in comparison with another electorate, my electorate of Caulfield?

Councillors have voted unanimously to abandon the Amendment seeking to achieve a social/affordable housing component  for the Caulfield Village development. What is staggering about the ‘debate’ is:

  • Every single councillor carefully avoided use of the word ‘abandon’
  • Residents would be hard pressed to decipher council’s position on the officer recommendations, especially when Delahunty made such repeated comments as ‘we will not give up’ plus labelling the MRC as ‘disgusting’.
  • Not one single councillor addressed the issues raised by the Planning Panel letter and why council is unable to respond to these legal issues. Was further legal advice even sought?
  • Not one single councillor even mentioned the issue of the MRC’s attempt to tinker with the boundaries to the Mixed Use precinct and how this was also an integral part of the proposed amendment. What happens now on this issue is anyone’s guess.
  • Instead we got heaps and heaps of chest thumping about how important social housing is and barely a word on the amendment itself and why it should be abandoned except for ‘we don’t have the controls’. This was never itemised, spelt out, or even discussed.
  • Significantly, Esakoff (one of the gang of 4 who accepted the Incorporated Plan) did not speak.

For those interested in listening to the discussion, we’ve uploaded it below.

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!

The Bill for the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve Trust is now available and uploaded HERE

A quick perusal of the Bill reveals:

  • The Trust is disbanded and a new ‘trust’ to be appointed
  • The Minister will appoint between 5 and 7 members to the new Trust – they can be members of parliament. Nothing is stated regarding community members or council members.
  • Current leases will remain until the Trust is operational and this could be in the latter part of 2018 when the Bill is enacted
  • Leases can now extend out to 65 years with Ministerial approval
  • The Minister can declare ‘event’ days (ie racing, circuses, etc)
  • One interesting section of the Bill – Subclause (7) allows the Trust to regulate its own meeting proceedings, subject to the provisions of this Bill. What this means in terms of reporting and minuting of meetings is anyone’s guess!
  • There will be ‘planning corporate documents’ as well as ‘management plans’. The latter to go out for public consultation.

How all of the above works out in practice is yet to be seen. Please read the proposed legislation and offer your thoughts.

PS: Today’s Hansard on the Bill is uploaded HERE

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