GE Council Meeting(s)


In another jam packed agenda for Tuesday night, the council tradition of ignoring resident views continues. Here is a brief overview of the important items.

THE BUDGET & SRP

Given the number of submissions put forward by residents on the budget and the Strategic Resource Plan (SRP) it is unbelievable that the budget does not include one single word in response to these submissions. The only acknowledgement of what residents said comes in the SRP in a paragraph that typically says nothing. We quote:

While there were three formal submissions received for the Strategic Resource Plan 2020-2021 to 2029-2030, twenty submissions received for the 2020-21 Draft Annual Budget also made reference to a number of matters in the Strategic Resource Plan. These included level of proposed borrowings and strategic projects contained within the long term capital works program. No formal submissions were received for the Draft Community Plan Commitments 2020-2021.

Once again we have a council that refuses to alter any aspect of its budget in response to resident feedback. Several submitters urged council to increase its allocated spending given the declaration of a climate emergency. Totally ignored! But this has not stopped council from:

  • Increasing the rate in the dollar (marginally) despite the fact that there is now an additional 200 rateable properties that will be paying rates.
  • A mere $3 reduction in the 240/120L wastage charge, despite the fact that there is a large reduction in the estimated State Government land fill levy.
  • The continued determination to borrow $60m over the next five years, most of which will probably go to funding the $51M Carnegie mini Gesac pool redevelopment! This is assigning future generations to huge debt repayments.

When residents have taken the time and trouble to sift through volumes of pages and figures, the least any council should be prepared to do is respond directly to these comments and provide solid justification as to why the suggestions have been ignored, adapted, or even incorporated into the final budget! In Glen Eira, there is no such thing as changing what has already been determined as a result of community feedback. The legal requirements are met and that is it!

CARNEGIE POOL DESIGN

Despite the fact that the vast majority of feedback on the initial concept designs repeatedly stated that a de facto GESAC was not wanted, Council has again ignored these views. The ‘promise’ is that the size presented in the plans: Remains within the footprint, size and structure as the existing pool

We certainly query the veracity of this statement as depicted in the following images. How on earth council can claim that the ‘footprint’ will be identical to what currently exists is simply mind boggling when the following is compared:

There are many other questionable statements. For example:

In terms of a Business Case we find this comment: The findings of this review will be presented in full to Councillors in July. Does this mean that councillors have not as yet even clapped eyes on the business justification to spend at least $51M? Will this business case ever make it into the public domain? And how on earth can any design be progressed when the financial evidence is not available? Another example of putting the cart before the horse!

There’s also this:

The traffic and parking report includes future scenarios which have been modelled around the proposed closure of Moira Avenue. Councillors have not made a final decision on closing Moira Avenue yet and an additional community consultation will be conducted in relation to the proposed road closure at a separate time next financial year 

Surely the question regarding the possible closure of Moira Avenue should come before any designs are put out for consultation? This smacks of the Inkerman Road bicyle path fiasco where decisions are made to plough ahead prior to a full, objective assessment of all the data.

We are simply reminded of what happened at GESAC with its abysmal planning that required the expenditure of several more millions to turn open space into more car parks (3 times). The Mile End traffic report and its claims for sufficient car parking down the track warrants very careful scrutiny.

All in all, it would appear to be more of the same in Glen Eira City Council. Namely, pretend you are really consulting in order to ‘prove’ all the decisions that have already been made!

Evidence keeps piling up as to the machinations that this council undertakes in the name of ‘community consultation’ – especially in relation to structure planning. The latest example is the draft Glen Huntly Structure Plan.

Tuesday night’s ‘debate’ on whether or not to accept the draft was stage managed to perfection. With Silver absent this created the potential for a tied 4-4 vote on whether to proceed with consultation or to reject the draft plan. The final vote was 5 to 3 to exhibit with Hyams, Esakoff and Sztrajt voting against exhibition and Magee, Athanasopolous, Cade, Delahunty and Davey voting to go ahead.

Not for the first time Magee outdid himself. Anyone listening to his comments would surely have come away with the view that he was opposed to exhibition. But no! He VOTED FOR, in spite of all such comments as: Council has to be ‘very very careful’; Glen Huntly is ‘charming’; there already are ‘lot of flats a lot of units’; to grow futher  ‘ would be detrimental to that strip if the structure plan was implemented the way it is currently written’ and finally ‘let’s make sure we save Glen Huntly so that in 10 or 15 years time Glen Huntly looks like Glen Huntly’. Had Magee voted against, as his comments implied, then Esakoff would have had the deciding vote and the draft would have been knocked back. As we said, stage managed to perfection!

But that’s not all. Consultation is now going ahead and the questions asked of residents could not be any more vague and useless. Here are the pertinent questions after the usual demographic options such as sex, age, connection with Glen Huntly. Direct questions on the draft structure plans itself are:

What do you like about the draft Plan?

Are there opportunities for change?

Do you have any other feedback?

How did you hear about the draft Structure Plan and the opportunity to provide feedback? Please select all that apply.

Not once in the opening blurb are residents told:

  • 10 storeys is proposed in one spot and between 6 and 8 for others
  • How many properties will be rezoned from 2 or 3 storeys to 4 storeys
  • Which height limits are discretionary and which are mandatory
  • That Glen Huntly is already the most dense suburb in Glen Eira

By way of contrast we provide the following example from a current consultation by Kingston. Whilst not brilliant, residents are at least provided with options that they can prioritise and comment upon. Also worth noting is that residents are specifically given the option of development density and scale plus the question: Please describe what need to be protected most when planning for the future of Chelsea! Questions that Glen Eira would not dare to ask because they know that the majority of residents are opposed to 10 storeys!

Countless other processes are missing whenever this council pretends to undertake community consultation. For instance:

  • No Discussion Papers outlining the pros and cons are presented
  • No background studies on traffic, parking, business, etc are done to accompany and inform the consultation

This approach is consistent in all council’s ‘consultations’ and stands in stark contrast to the way that  other councils go about involving their communities. Glen Eira does not have consultation worthy of that name. What we have is a carefully managed show where decisions are made behind closed doors and then the data or questions are skewed to find the ‘evidence’ that supports the predetermined decisions.

Readers will remember that as a result of COVID, Glen Eira decided to put into the hands of the CEO a $20M fund to use as she saw fit. Other councils also upped their CEO’s powers – but nowhere near this amount! The rationale behind this was that at the time the Local Government Act required the physical presence of councillors in the chamber. This has now been amended and council meetings are being conducted via zoom. Hence, there is no reason why the delegations that came into effect should remain.

Below, is a page from the Boroondara Council’s agenda which repeals the COVID delegations and returns things to the previous state. Please note the reasons given!

Glen Eira however sees no need to rescind the delegation. A recent public question asked when this is likely to happen and Council’s response is presented below:

Questions/Comments:

  • Why should this be ‘left in place’?
  • Why is this council so consistently out of step with what is happening in other councils?
  • Where are our representatives and why do they continually accept such nonsense responses that only work to sideline them even further?

The following table taken directly from council’s latest version of the Open Space Strategy (OSS) says it all in terms of performance and how important this council views open space.

There are several things to note about this table:

  1. Of the fourteen suburbs listed 7 have less than 10 square metres per individual
  2. Only three suburbs have maintained the amount of public open space available to each individual, and these are the suburbs with the LEAST amount of public open space per capita (ie 3 metres).
  3. Thus Glen Eira has seen a REDUCTION of available public open space per individual over the past 6 years. Given the projected population growth, this will only get worse.

Over the past 6 years council has ‘achieved’ the following:

  • Placing a public acquisition overlay on 2 properties in Mile End Road/Mimosa Road, Carnegie. Houses still stand.
  • Purchase of old furniture store in Carnegie for $3+M in order to cater for market
  • Purchase of fully renovated property in Aileen Avenue for $2.16 and then rented out for 4 years. Also a stone’s throw from Princes Park
  • Several pocket parks. No report/evaluation as to how well used these are – ie unnamed road between Eskdale and Fitzgibbon Crescent and 500 metres from Caulfield Park

Over the past ten and a half years, council has accumulated $52m in open space levies. It has spent just over $8M on acquiring properties as NEW open space. That is basically 15%. The rest has gone into ‘improvement’ of existing open space, despite the fact that this council has identified for the past 30 odd years the need for additional open space!

Here’s the table that documents council’s accrued levy contributions. The figures are taken directly from the 2014 and 2020 open space strategies, together with data from the monthly financial reports.

FINANCIAL YEAR

REVENUE

2009/10 $1,663,000
2010/11 $1,629,000
2011/12 $2,230,000
2012/13 $1,900,000
2013/14 $2,581,000
2014/15 $3,667,000
2015/16 $5,865,000
2016/17 $7,811,000
2017/18 $10,348,000
2018/19 $7,851,000
2019/20 (Jul-April) $6,856,815
TOTAL $52,401,815

The central question for residents is: how much more development should a suburb like Glen Huntly have when it is already the most overdeveloped area in the municipality? Council uses profile.id. Here is what they conclude about Glen Huntly based on census figures. With Council’s proposed structure plan it can only get worse!

It is time that this council was called to account for its continued facilitation of more and more development. The latest example of what this means for residents is the draft Glen Huntly structure plan. This is far from a typical ‘structure plan’ in that:

  • Borders are yet to be identified
  • Rezoning of residential areas is yet to be itemised (ie from 2 to 3 or 4 storeys)
  • Potential heritage impacts unidentified

What we do know is that council’s much vaunted Quality Design Guidelines is not worth the paper it is written on and the latest City Plan  isn’t much better. Whilst the Guidelines stated that the preferred heights for the commercial areas be 5 storeys, we now have council officers advocating for 6 storeys. What was 8 storeys now becomes 10 storeys. The following screen dumps reveal what is proposed (most are discretionary height limits too):

The final insult comes with the discretionary setbacks. Whilst the Bentleigh & Carnegie upper floor setbacks were reduced from 6 to 5 metres, we now have council recommendations for a majority of only 4 metre setbacks and in one precinct a front wall of up to 15 metres.

This is not ‘urban design’ – it is urban destruction in a suburb that is currently the most densely populated in the municipality. With this ‘structure plan’ it will only get worse.

Several things are very clear.

  • The entire Caulfield North/East and Glen Huntly/Murrumbeena/Carnegie will meld into one hodge podge of high rise.
  • Glen Huntly currently does not have any sites zoned Residential Growth Zone (ie 4 storeys). This is the first step in changing this!
  • Developers, once COVID is over and the economy recuperates, will have a field day with practically everything being ‘discretionary’.

The tragedy of all this is that our councillors are failing spectacularly in fulfilling their roles – that is primarily to be COMMUNITY REPRESENTATIVES. Listening to the community is one thing. Acting on community wishes is another thing completely.

All councillors deserve an academy award for their performances last night. There was ‘passion’ with a capital P, so much in fact that at times it became cringe worthy. Residents really need to ask themselves – ‘what was actually achieved last night’ and did we witness anything other than another exercise in smoke and mirrors?

CLIMATE EMERGENCY

Davey did manage to get her most important motion up. This was to work on the Environmental Sustainable Policy (ESS) and to set a goal of cutting corporate emissions by 2025 and community emissions by 2030.

Sounds wonderful! But is it simply more of the same since nothing will happen for at least another 18 months given that there is no funding for anything new in the current budget! We are going to have to wait for the 2021/2 budget to see anything materialise and even then it could take months and months before any project is up and running. We did not get one single word about how much anything would cost nor which priority actions that will be pursued first down the track. It will all depend on the new ESS strategy and putting some money into the NEXT BUDGET!

Put simply, words and actions are miles apart. If we are indeed facing an ‘emergency’ then action is required NOW as it has been for years and years. We reiterate the following:

  • Why has it taken 4 years of doing nothing regarding a WSUD or ESD policy to emerge in our planning scheme?
  • Why haven’t the schedules to the zones been revamped so that permeability requirements are increased?
  • Why has nothing been done regarding basement sizes in our GRZ areas and the conditions for planting canopy trees?
  • Why are we still delaying any controls on tree removal on private land?

We also had the spectacle last night of Silver stating that he wasn’t happy with some of the wording of the recommendation(s) in the officer report. Fair enough! Then why didn’t he outline his misgivings and move a motion to amend the wording? Why pretend that abstaining (which was the flavour of last night) was not a vote against when the legislation clearly states: for the purpose of determining the result of a vote, a Councillor present at the meeting who does not vote is to be taken to have voted against the question [Local Government Act, 2020: Section 61:5(e)]

We also take issue with Sztrajt and his ‘passion’ on the importance of declaring a ‘climate emergency’. This will ‘send a message’ to all levels of government; it will inform the public, it will show how serious the community is and that Glen Eira is not the odd man out. Wonderful, except why isn’t this same passion applied to over-development and the ruin of our suburbs, especially the neighbourhood centres? Why can’t this same public statement be made on behalf of a community who don’t want our streets turned into high rise wind tunnels. Instead we get silence from the council lot!

The Budget

The spin doctors were really out in force on this item. Esakoff read out her version of the budget/SRP that contained no details whatsoever as to the plan to borrow $60 million. She merely used the term ‘borrowings’ once; nor did we get any summary of which services would be cut back. (For instance the massive reduction in library collection funding).

Not a single word from any councillor was directed to HOW MUCH our charges had increased. Yes, we were told 2% but that does not tally with what the actual numbers in the budget state – ie an average increase of between 12 and 15% on some major items.

And then there’s the rush to pass the budget, when councils have been given until August 31st to set their finances. How is it possible that council can state that it is currently unsure of the full financial impact of COVID and with the same breath draw up a budget that is so open to change? Or is this merely another tactic that council can later use when they delay project after project?

CONCLUSION

There is much, much more that needs to be said regarding last night’s meeting. What is very clear is that this council has no intention of changing its goals, its modus operandi, and its insistence on being as vague, and as uninformative as it possibly can be – both via the written and spoken word.

Yes, the legal requirements are met, but that is all that happens. Remember that this council has NEVER adopted any recommendations made by residents to its draft budgets. Once published everything is set in concrete unlike so many other councils who are now really seeking community responses to their planned projects and priorities.

For all the talk about ‘community’, Glen Eira councillors do not know the meaning of the word in our view. If they did, then the manner in which this council operates would be entirely different and far more transparent and accountable!

 

This post is not about whether councillors should declare a Climate Emergency or not. Rather it focuses on the officer’s report and asks readers to determine how objective such a report really is and whether this is merely another example of council’s attempt at public grandstanding whilst in reality doing nothing at all.

Once again we have a report that purports to present all the relevant information so that informed decision making by councillors may take place. This report is far from ‘informative’ or objective. The take home message from this report can only be MAINTAIN THE STATUS QUO!

Three options are proffered to councillors (see below)

Option 1 is clearly the most proactive and given the fact that we are told that declaring a Climate Emergency requires ‘immediate’ action this would ostensibly be the option most appropriate. We even have Ms Krull’s response to Ahtanasopolous’ question of the 25 Feb council meeting where she said: Councils that declare a climate emergency must commit to strong and fast climate action and reduce their carbon emissions as fast as possible.

Yet sprinkled throughout this report we find statement after statement that debunks this ‘urgency’ and plays the cost card. For example: Increasing the Solar Savers program where council purchases the system and residents therefore have no up-front costs, we are told: This scheme will have a financial impact on Council’s budget as Council will need to fund the upfront cost for each household in the program.

And this approach goes on and on –

Committing to goals and initiatives in Options 1 and 2 will require significant additional staff resources and operating budget to fund new activities to reduce corporate and community carbon emissions.

Current operating and capital budgets do not include an allowance for activities that will need to be undertaken if Council determines to declare a climate emergency 

No provision has been made in Council’s long term SRP for the substantial costs of the initiatives in Options 1 and 2. If these initiatives are included, Council would need to consider re-prioritisation of other projects to ensure long term financial sustainability of the SRP. 

How ludicrous that within the same agenda we have the proposed 2020/21 budget and another item that would impact greatly on this budget but has not even been investigated and quantified. Surely the vote on any Climate Emergency declaration and its accompanying actions should precede any vote on the budget? Unless of course the objective is not to introduce anything new at this point in time and continue with the goal of achieving so very little by 2030 or 2050. A charade at its best we say! 

Much of the report focuses on council’s ‘achievements’ in this domain of climate change. One such ‘achievement’ is touted as the annual planting of 2000 trees to combat the heat island effect. What we are not told of course is that according to the 2018/19 annual report 940 trees were lost (page 13). Seen from this angle, 2000 plantings become 1000! And we are still waiting of course for an ESD policy, a WSUD policy into the planning scheme and that old perennial of tree controls over private land (ie tree register). Oh, and an Urban Forest in the Booran Road park that remains under lock and key but is still counted as ‘open space’!

Finally, here is a list of Victorian councils that have declared a Climate Emergency (up to Feb 2020). Many of the accompanying proposed actions in these policies put Glen Eira to shame.

Ballarat City Council

Banyule City Council

Bass Coast Shire Council

Bayside City Council

Brimbank City Council

Cardinia City Council

Darebin City Council

Frankston City Council

Greater Dandenong City Council

Hepburn Shire Council

Hobsons Bay City Council

ndigo Shire Council

Kingston City Council

Manningham City Council

Maribyrnong City Council

Melbourne City Council

Moonee Valley City Council

Mount Alexander Shire Council

Moreland City Council

Mornington Peninsula Shire Council

Moyne Shire Council

Port Phillip City Council

Queenscliffe Borough

Surf Coast Shire Council

Warrnambool City Council

Yarra City Council

Yarra Ranges Council

As stated at the outset, we are not debating the issue of climate change and how council should address the challenges. We are far more concerned with how decisions can be authentic and valid when the requisite information is not provided, and budgets are to be decided that don’t include any possibility of funding real action in the immediate future. If this is the objective, then let’s see that declared instead of the continued camouflaging that is council’s modus operandi.

Council has released its draft budget and Strategic Resource Plan (SRP) for the next ten years. We can only marvel at the audacity that goes into these documents whilst simultaneously wondering how much credence should be given to any of the figures produced year to year. We acknowledge up front that budgets can and do change; that unforseen circumstances (ie COVID) play a role. However, when prognostications are out by 100% then questions need to be asked and those responsible for the figures should be held to account and judgement. More importantly, there is not one single word that seeks to explain or justify the unbelievably divergent figures!

Here are some examples comparing the figures provided in the 2019/20 Strategic Resource Plan (SRP) and what we are now presented with.

Carnegie Pool Redevelopment: Capital costs of $47.6M from 2020/21 to 2023/4 (Capital costs of $39M in 2019/20!)

Elsternwick Community Hub & Park: $47M (majority of spend in 2024/5 to 2027/8) In 2019 – $31.8M

Selwyn Street Cultural Precinct: $5.6M to be completed in 2023/4 (2019; $5.5M)

Stanley Street Multi-deck Carpark: $22.32M completed in 2023/4 (In 2019 17.3M)

Koornang Road Streetscape & Upgrade: $6.5M (majority of spend in 2025/6 to 2028/9) (2019 – $6.15)

Eat Street rotunda: $5.1M to be completed in 2021/2)(in 2019 $1.8M)

Bentleigh Library Upgrade: $6.3M to be completed in 2022/3 (In 2019 $3.5M)

Bleazby Street Carpark: $15.7M completed in 2023/4 (not listed in 2019 but Horsely Street was listed at $1.6M with majority of spend in 2029/30!)

Fair enough that prices have increased over the year. However, no sensible person will accept the massive increases suggested in the above comparison. So what does this tell us about council plans and what they are not revealing.

All  of this can be summed up neatly with the following screen dumps from the 2019/20 version and the current draft SRP.

How and why on earth should forecast spending jump from $90 million to $160M or even from $140 million to $160M. Have residents really been consulted on whether this is what they want? Is it wise spending when so many people have lost their jobs and/or are in financial difficulties? Do we really need such massive infrastructure projects and borrowings that will keep us in hock for decades? Of course, this council never bothers to present a complete picture or to consult its residents. And as some residents have already asked – have any of our extremely well paid administrators and/or councillors taken a pay cut in the current COVID situation?

Adding more insult to injury, we find the following increases:

240L waste bin – $515 up from $441 last year

120L waste bin – $255 up from $220 last year

Child care

0-3 year olds: $140 per day up from $137 last year

3-5 year olds: $132 per day up from $129 last year

Pensioner rebate contribution – $29 last year was $36 and in 2016 was $59!!!!!

Staff EFT: FROM 860.19 TO 873.86 plus a 2.5% increase in wages!

We keep reading about council’s reduced income stream as a result of COVID, yet there is nothing in this budget or the SRP which indicates a tightening of the belt, a reduction in spending, and a reduction in grandiose contruction plans. Nor is there anything to indicate that council will increase the amount of open space so desperately lacking in this municipality.

The current agenda includes an item purporting to report on the results of planning applications that have ended up at VCAT over the past five years and council’s success rate in these hearings. These results are of course presented as extremely complimentary to council. The report recommends:

That Council notes:

  1. there has been a reduction in the number of planning decisions by Council being appealed to VCAT;
  1. the number of dwellings approved by VCAT, through ‘set aside’ decisions, have decreased substantially;
  1. the implementation of the interim Structure Plan controls for the Bentleigh, Carnegie and Elsternwick activity centres have contributed to these reductions; and,
  1. the changes implemented by the Urban Planning team in respect to improved processes and engagement with all parties have also contributed to these reductions.

Whilst it is undoubtedly true that there have been less VCAT hearings, council would like us to believe that this is the result of council’s approach to planning via its structure planning and delegations. What is never acknowledged at any stage in this report is:

  • The continued downturn of developments throughout the state in the past few years
  • The significantly increased costs of going to VCAT, especially for objectors
  • Council’s recent process change that now requires at least 15 or more objections to be decided by councillors rather than under delegation.
  • With less appeals, then logically this would involve a reduction in the number of ‘set aside’ decisions. It remains questionable of course whether the reduction in these types of decisions have anything whatsoever to do with council’s interim structure planning as claimed and more to do with the fact of general downturn, cost of land, and that our major activity centres are already built out compared to what is available in our neighbourhood centres.

Glen Eira Council is not alone in experiencing a major reduction in VCAT appeals. Below is the summary from the 2018/19 VCAT annual report which clearly shows how nearly all councils (apart from the growth suburbs) are in the same boat – ie a major reductions in appeals.

Throughout the council report we have some wonderful claims that do not stack up when analysed via third party data. For instance, the following council produced image maintains that in the 2019/20 financial year council has had 90% of its appeals to VCAT confirmed.

According to the State Government’s figures, nothing could be further from the truth. Below is a screen dump from the Planning Permit Activity website which provides data on how many VCAT appeals have been confirmed, set aside, or varied. Please note that what we are being shown is that for this time period Glen Eira was only successful in having its decisions confirmed a paltry 25%. Even if we amalgamate the ‘confirmed’ with ‘varied’ that still leaves us with only a 55% return and certainly not the 90% that is claimed!!!!

The ’varied’ results can also be entirely misleading when we consider certain examples where councillors granted permits that lopped off a couple of storeys and a number of apartments only to have VCAT ‘varying’ the permit to what the developer wanted. Perfect examples of this include: 240-50 McKinnon Road, McKinnon where council decided on 4 storeys and VCAT awarded the developer his 6 storeys and 33 apartments. Another recent example is Royal Avenue, Glen Huntly, where 4 storeys became 5 storeys at VCAT. Such decisions are not seen as ‘set aside’, they are simply labelled ‘varied’ since a permit was issued by council.

There are countless other dubious and suspect figures provided throughout this report. More importantly, what is entirely missing in this report is any mention of what is happening in our neighbourhood centres and how these appeals fair at VCAT. A perusal of VCAT decisions over the past few years reveals that the majority of appeals have involved these centres and NOT the major activity centres which have largely already been built out with the introduction of the zones in 2013. The reasoning for the development rush in our neighbourhood centres is quite simple: no real controls, no preferred character statements, and land that is cheaper. If council was really willing to provide an objective and honest analysis of what is happening in our municipality, then including a detailed assessment of what is happening outside the major activity centres is essential. This has not been done. Instead we are provided with figures that are not clearly defined.

For example: Council presents another table that is supposedly listing the number of apartments that have been approved in the Bentleigh, Carnegie and Elsternwick over the years.

In fine print and as a footnote we get this sentence alluding to the table: Based on land within the Commercial 1 Zone and Residential Growth Zone. Why, especially since these activity centres also include sites zoned as MUZ and GRZ both before and after the introduction of the interim height amendments. So what do these numbers really tell us and how comprehensive and valid are they?

Earlier in the report council admits that the 2017/18 financial year was the most ‘productive’ in terms of permits granted for apartments. We are told that 2217 apartments were granted permits in that year. In the above table the total number of permits granted in the 3 major activity centres for that year totals a mere 390! Hence 1,827 apartments were erected OUTSIDE these centres!

We do not believe that council’s belated structure planning for the major activity centres is responsible for this shift. To assume such is to ignore the real data and the prevailing economics of development and a council refusing to prioritise our neighbourhood centres.

All in all, what we have before us is a report that is simply not good enough in terms of detail, comprehensiveness and basic truth telling!

 

Included below is council’s latest attempt at so called ‘consultation’ methodology. Readers should carefully note the sentence regarding the delay on introducing the long awaited tree register.

Once again we find council putting off any real action which could have some major impact on development in our municipality. No reason is provided for this delay! Nor are we told which projects will push on and which others may have been delayed. As for the excuse that this is the result of COVID 19 we simply don’t buy that ridiculous claim. Here’s why:

  • An amendment is required to incorporate this into the Local Law. The protocol for this is straight forward. We would be presented with an officer’s report, councillors would vote, and the documentation would then be placed on public exhibition for 28 days.
  • The form of ‘exhibition’ would remain as it always has – ie public notice via the website, (admittedly not in the local paper since these have been stopped).
  • Community responses would be via written submissions (email, letters).
  • A council meeting would then consider the submissions and people could, if they wished, speak to their submission (available via tele-conferencing, Zoom, etc.) The number of people addressing council has historically been minimal (ie average of 5)
  • The next council meeting would then vote on the draft amendment.
  • It would then be submitted to the department/minister and gazetted very quickly.

Given this process we do not see how COVID has impacted in any significant way on this issue and hence why it has been put on the back burner. Please remember that ‘consultation’ for this occurred between November and December 2017. Two and a half years later nothing has happened except to delay this even further.

We can only speculate as to why this issue has been shelved in comparison to the other multi million dollar projects that council seems intent on pushing through at a time where finances for councils and residents have taken a huge hit!

As an example here are the tenders from last Saturday’s Age newspaper. Questions that could be asked:

  • Do we really need ‘catering’ for councillors and ‘guests’ when we have social distancing and no community events?
  • Do we really need to push ahead with the Elsternwick community hub when we don’t even have a firm structure plan in place and this is mooted to cost $32 million according to the last budget papers?

It is truly time that this council was forthcoming on all projects citing specifically which ones are on hold, which should proceed and why! That is what good governance demands and what Glen Eira City Council continually fails to provide!

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