GE Governance

Last night saw a great turnout  of over 90 residents for the Elsternwick structure plan forum. Also in attendance were: David Southwick, Simone Szmood, David Zyngier, Sam Parasol, Jim Magee. Apologies came from two councillors when first invited (Esakoff and Zhang) and after accepting the invite, Athanasopolous was once again a very, very late apology! His record of ‘no shows’ stands intact!

Residents made their concerns and objections very clear. The same old issues surfaced time and again – the need to protect heritage; the importance of sunlight and avoiding overshadowing; the nonsense of allowing 12 storey buildings next to heritage, or even 4 storey developments behind single storey homes. Traffic congestion and parking was also commented on several times. The lack of open space also featured prominently.

Councillors acknowledged that officers were looking at the draft plan and attempting to make changes in response to community feedback. We will not hold our breath! We anticipate that in all likelihood the final structure plan will simply be a tinkering so that 12 storeys discretionary becomes 9 or 10 storeys discretionary (instead of mandatory) and heritage sites will now drop down to 5 storeys instead of 6 storeys. If this does eventuate, then it does little to address resident concerns!

What has been happening in Elsternwick, and in Glen Eira overall, according to the last two sets of census data, makes it crystal clear, how council’s stated objectives and strategies are nothing more than dismal failures. Please look carefully at the following table which features the Elsternwick data from the 2016 and the 2021 census. We then comment on what this table reveals.



Here’s what these stats illustrate:

  • Elsternwick, like all of Glen Eira, is continuing to lose its detached housing at an alarming rate. Yet, they are not being replaced by family ‘friendly’ dwellings. Instead we are getting more and more one and two bedroom dog boxes and in Elsternwick a reduction in 3 and 4 bedroom dwellings.
  • Elsternwick is already the densest suburb in all of Glen Eira – 4,207 individuals per hectare. But the question of density is never addressed nor even questioned as to what it does in terms of overall psycho-social health, the need for more and more open space, sunlight etc. Other councils have realised that personal open space is vital, so in their planning schemes they have succeeded in stipulating that balconies should be a minimum of 12 square metres and 2 metres in width. In Glen Eira we are forever stuck with 8 square metres and a width of 1.8 metres. Yes, a small example but it can be done if there’s the will.
  • Council seemingly plucked out of nowhere a figure of 50:50 ratio of public transport transition and to make this happen, intends to reduce (or completely remove) the requirement for onsite parking in certain spots. As far as the 50:50 figure is concerned, we cannot find one bit of evidence to support this. Yet this becomes the ‘standard’ for all future planning throughout Glen Eira (and at one stage it even became 60:40 for the urban renewal south areas before this was abandoned completely.) Looking at the census stats it is obvious that car ownership in Elsternwick is climbing and that there is a continued decline of dwellings without cars throughout Glen Eira as a whole. The message should be clear – ie that removing onsite parking will not force people to use public transport or to forgo owning a car. The number of dwellings continues to climb, whilst the number of dwellings without cars continues to fall.
  • Even in 2016, in a suburb like Elsternwick which has train, tram and bus services only 25% of residents used public transport and 53.6% travelled to work by car. The data for 2021 can be ignored since this was during COVID and many people simply worked from home.

So what’s the take home message from all of the above?  Council has absolutely no power to force developers into building 3 and 4 bedroom homes. They have absolutely no control over ‘affordability’ so even if townhouses and apartments of3 and 4 bedrooms increases to cater for families, the asking price will still remain high and unaffordable for many people. The Housing Strategy wants more townhouses and more dwellings on various sites. Again, no guarantee that this will meet affordability hopes, or that cramming more and more people into an area of 2.6 square km will achieve ‘liveability’.

What’s also important is that the feedback from this forum does rate a comprehensive mention in any ensuing officer’s report. It is simply not good enough that council’s fallback argument is that this was not a council initiated consultation process and therefore can simply waft into the stratoshere and be completely ignored and forgotten.

Finally, what residents want is not the Magee spiel of last night, that the government will not agree to mandatory heights, or other specifications. This may well be correct. But what residents want is to see their councillors fight tooth and nail for them and to put public and outspoken pressure on a state government that is becoming more and more dictatorial in its processes.

Council has released its draft 2023/4 budget. Despite a drop in forecast surplus to a mere $3m+, and fraught economic conditions, council is roaring head with a $37M loan so that by the end of the next financial year, residents will find themselves in debt to the tune of $63M!!!!

Much is made of council’s claims about community consultation for the budget.  The claim is as follows:

We have listened to our community and understand their priorities and areas of focus for the draft 2023-24 Budget. This includes investment in maintenance of roads and footpaths, climate response initiatives and service provision (aged care, seniors, youth, family, children, disability, accessibility and pets). (page 54)

When we actually peruse the draft budget the above proves to be nothing more than spin! It raises the question of why even bother spending money on ‘consultation’ when resident views are so regularly ignored!

According to the consultation feedback, we learn that:

The top three categories where participants want Council to increase spending were:

o Maintenance for roads and footpaths

o Climate response initiatives

o Services (aged care, seniors, youth, family, children, disability, accessibility and pets)

The top three categories where participants want Council to reduce spending were:

o Business and community support

o Sport, leisure and recreation

o Climate response initiatives

Council’s response and assumed explanation of how resident views were incorporated into the budget comes with this paragraph –

Council has considered the community’s feedback on reducing spend in certain categories. More participants wanted more spending on climate response initiatives than less expenditure. The proposed budget, for consultation, provides $652k lift in spending for sport, leisure and recreation and $183k less spending for business and community support. (page 60)

The real slap in the face to residents comes with council’s response to the Urban Forest Strategy (UFS) and other sustainability projects. Surely the prime objective of the UFS is to increase our rapidly declining tree canopy. So how does this year’s funding for increased tree planting compare to last year’s budget? Here are the relevant screen dumps from the 2022/3 budget and the current proposals.

The tree planting component has dropped from $1.35M to $827,000. We do not know how many trees have, or will be replaced, nor how much each tree or sapling has increased in price. What is clear is that the number of tree plantings can only decline given this budget allocation. So much for increasing our tree canopy!!!!! Whilst one might argue that increasing maintenance and tree pruning is justified, is it justified to the extent of an extra one million dollars? And does this imply that previous maintenance was found wanting and insufficient?  

Also disturbing is the continual smoke and mirrors throughout the budget. It becomes near impossible to drill down and determine precisely what is proposed to be spent where. This is largely due to the fact that so many departments and services are lumped together without clear differentiation.

On footpaths we get:

In addition, footpaths are funded at $1.92m to ensure the continuation of the critical footpath renewal program, which is identified through Council’s inspection programs. The proposed allocation is based on current data on footpath condition and defects.

Yet in the 2022/3 budget we find the following:

Council’s budget allocation of $2.15m for footpaths ensures the continuation of the critical footpath renewal program, which is identified through Council’s inspection programs. The proposed allocation is based on current data on footpath condition and defects and includes $100k for enhancement of ‘Great Walking Streets’. (Page 154 – 2022/3 budget)

Making things even more clouded is council’s claim that the current capital works program includes $14M carry over from the previous budget. The financial report included in the current agenda tells us that the carry over includes $578,000 for the footpath allocation. Does this therefore mean that the newly proposed $1.92 allocation is really only $1.342M?

We also take issue with the following paragraph that is a verbatim repetition of what was in last year’s budget papers –

The City is substantially developed and while it is experiencing an increase in property numbers, these mainly arise from higher density developments. This impacts on the budget as Council has to deal with the replacement of infrastructure, such as drains, that cannot cope with the higher density. These costs cannot be passed on to the developer and are paid for from rates. The rates received from new dwellings do not offset the significant infrastructure costs.

In the 2016 Planning Scheme Review, the issue of introducing a Development Contributions Levy and a Community Infrastructure Levy was promised by council. Countless other municipalities have such a levy but not Glen Eira which allowed its previous levy to lapse close to a decade ago. It is now 2023 and we are still waiting for council to come up with such a levy in the face of massive development throughout the municipality. It should not take seven plus years to stop subsidising developers!!!!!

Perhaps the simplest way of highlighting what is proposed is to compare the previous budget with the current one. All highlighted red squares in the following images represent a decrease in proposed new capital works spending – apart from the ‘buildings’ component which has sky rocketed.

Finally, we have scoured the budget and been unable to find a single word regarding pensioner rebates on their rates. Readers will remember that this rebate has been reduced year after year so what started at $150 dwindled to a piddling $19 last year. No mention is made of this in the 2023/4 budget so we can reasonably assume that council’s largesse has finally come to a screaming halt. But that has not stopped council from implementing its ‘traditional’ price hikes on child care ($3 per day), rubbish bins ($46 for a 240 Litre bin) GESAC prices, etc. And rates of course have jumped to a 3.5% increase.

In our view budgets should include ‘efficiencies’ – where and how council is saving money. Contractor costs, staff costs, etc continue to climb despite the stated objective of reducing reliance on consultants. Instead all we get in this budget is spin, obfuscation, and a full system go on more and more major projects costing the earth. Surely not what the community consultation feedback wanted?!

Readers may have seen media reports that the Ombudsman has investigated Glen Eira Council’s ‘complaint handling process’ and found them to be – to put it bluntly – beyond the pale in dealing with residents. Here is what the ombudsman has determined –


… [the] footpath works were conducted by a third-party contractor. Council is not, as a matter of law, liable for the alleged negligence of contractors and accordingly, you will need to direct your claim to the contractor …Glen Eira City Council in response to the complainant

When is a complaint not a complaint? I asked this question in a report I tabled in 2019 when I was trying to compare Victorian council complaint numbers, which turned out to be the idiomatic apples and oranges. This definitional dilemma was so confusing we found a small rural council with over a thousand complaints but a large metropolitan council with fewer than a hundred – plus nearly 300,000 ‘requests for service’ it had decided were not complaints.

I said at the time that councils needed to adopt a wide definition of ‘complaint’ not only to improve their services to ratepayers, but also to help themselves. A complaint is, essentially, an expression of dissatisfaction. Complaints are free feedback about how the community regards council services. They can identify pressure points where things need to be fixed.

Happily, the State Government adopted my recommendations, which were reflected in the revamped Local Government Act. It required all 79 Victorian councils to adopt and maintain a complaint policy from 1 January 2022.

Less happily, while councils have updated their complaint handling policies and processes, some areas of apparent confusion remain. For at least one local council, a claim for compensation was not a complaint, even though it was an expression of dissatisfaction.

This report follows a complaint made by a Glen Eira City Council ratepayer about damaged stormwater pipes causing flooding on his property. His plumber said footpath works by a Council contractor likely caused the damage.

The ratepayer presented his plumber’s opinion and quote to the Council, expecting it to resolve the matter, no doubt by arranging for the damage to be fixed or at least considering his complaint. The Council, however, said the footpath works were done several years earlier, and the ratepayer should take it up directly with the Council’s contractor. The ratepayer’s reluctance to do so added a layer of complexity which was not helped by the Council’s stubborn position of persistently claiming it was not a complaint, but a claim for compensation.

I disagree. We found the Council’s handling of the matter to be wrong. A claim for compensation can still be a complaint, and almost invariably is. The Council’s handling of the complaint was contrary to the spirit of its own policy, not to mention the Local Government Act, both of which adopt a broad definition of complaint.

Frustratingly, while the Council accepted my recommendation in an early draft of this report to arrange an investigation of the damage and to liaise with the contractor to arrange repairs if appropriate, the complaint remains unresolved. The Council says it investigated and found no evidence the contractor was responsible. But it was vague in explaining how it arrived at such a firm view, and failed to offer the ratepayer a review of that decision.

Equally frustratingly, during our interactions, the Council centred much of its response around liability, when that is not, and has never been, the key point. Whether or not the Council, the contractor, or the complainant is liable to pay for the damage, the Council has a responsibility to deal with the complaint.

So where has it landed? The Council has accepted my recommendation to provide the ratepayer with the evidence and detailed reasons for its view that the contractor did not damage the pipes, and to provide him with an option for review if he remains dissatisfied. I will monitor this with interest.

While this complaint involved one ratepayer and one council, I am tabling this report to highlight bigger issues. One is that complaints matter, and councils should not be paying lip service to the broad definition in the Local Government Act.

Second, during our investigation we found Victoria’s 79 councils adopt widely varying approaches to handling matters involving contractor work, and it appears many may have more work to do in developing and explaining their processes for these types of complaints.

It is clearly in the interests of all councils to engage with complaints about their contractors’ services, which are invariably funded by ratepayers. Among other things, it gives them the opportunity to identify poor quality of work, and keeps them informed about the status of local infrastructure. And it ensures they continue to have a direct relationship with their ratepayers.

Deborah Glass

At one stage the Council appeared to suggest legal action might be necessary, though fortunately, it later clarified this view, as it simply cannot be right that the only recourse for a citizen alleging damage caused by council works is to take legal action against a third party.


The full report is available below

A council in Melbourne’s south-west has been urged to ditch plans for a lavish new $60 million pool complex, which locals say they don’t need, and the council can’t afford to build.

Hobsons Bay City Council voted last month to spend $2 million on design plans for the proposed Western Aquatic and Early Years Learning Centre in Altona Meadows, despite hundreds of residents signing a petition calling for an existing pool in the neighbouring suburb of Laverton to be refurbished instead.

Locals like Stephen Morgan, president of the Rainbow Club charity which supports disabled people to learn to swim, want the Laverton pool revamped instead of an expensive new facility.

Laverton resident Victoria Mikula, who presented the 784-signature petition to the council, said the existing pool was partly funded by residents in the 1970s and was an important part of the area’s history.

“Laverton is a low socio-economic area and for years the council has been slowly removing our services and relocating them to other suburbs,” she said. “Laverton pool is all we have left.”

The Rainbow Club, a charity that runs several weekly swim classes for disabled children and adults at the Laverton pool, said the new facility would not be suitable for its clients.

 “The new pool will be a loud, major aquatic centre in a fairly small space,” said Stephen Morgan, the founder of the club’s Point Cook chapter.

“It has too many distractions and too much noise, which doesn’t help people with neuro diverse challenges.”

The council plans to decommission the pool at Laverton’s Swim and Fitness Centre and redevelop it as a water play and youth facility, but without a pool.

Last year, then-mayor Peter Hemphill referred to a 2018 council review of the 50-year-old pool, and said it was not viable to redevelop it as a modern indoor aquatic centre. However, the same review found the pool could exist for another 30 years if properly maintained.

“Our city is growing – we’ll have about 112,000 residents by 2036,” Hemphill said in August. “The Laverton Swim and Fitness Centre has served our community well for decades, but it was not technically or financially prudent to redevelop it as a modern indoor aquatic and leisure centre.”

The council has committed $20 million to the new aquatic facility. The state government has promised another $10 million, leaving Hobsons Bay $30 million short of committed funds.

The council has also acknowledged the works could blow out by as much as 40 per cent. A 40 per cent increase on $60 million would be $84 million.

Hobsons Bay councillor Daria Kellander abstained from last month’s vote to spend $2 million on design plans for the centre because she wasn’t convinced the full funding would be secured.

“The council doesn’t have the money, yet it is pushing ahead as if this is something that is going to happen within the next five years,” Kellander said.

 “This is a very ambitious project and our ratepayers shouldn’t be treated like an open cheque book. The state and federal governments are clamping down now trying to cut costs, so I really don’t know where the council is going to get that money from.”

A spokesman for the council said it needed to invest in the pool design to secure funding from both state and federal governments.

“This level of commitment to the design phase is vital to ensuring we can accurately plan for project delivery once funding is secured,” he said. “Having the project ‘shovel-ready’ also gives us the best chance of obtaining state and federal funding for this major advocacy priority.”

The spokesman said the council would continue seeking state and federal funding despite budgetary constraints.

Dean Hurlston, vice president of ratepayer advocacy group Council Watch Victoria, slammed Hobsons Bay for pushing ahead with the pool design.

“The cost of the pool has now blown out to at least $84 million as disclosed recently in the council meeting,” Hurlston said.

“I see hundreds of these projects across Victoria, but I’ve never seen a council commit to a project with a $54 million shortfall. It’s very irresponsible.

“The fact that [Hobsons Bay Council] has now agreed to spend $2 million to draw up plans to try and apply for funding is just absolutely idiotic.”

Hurlston also criticised the council for refusing to release the business case for the pool to residents, about which he has complained to the ombudsman.

The ombudsman’s office said it could not confirm whether it was investigating the matter. The council also declined to provide a copy of the business case to The Age.


Our apologies for this incredibly long post, but its importance we believe justifies the length since it goes to the heart of what constitutes full transparency and accountability and council’s unwillingness to be completely up front with its residents.

In keeping with its recent practice of refusing to publish the full feedback on its consultations, council has released its ‘summary’ on the draft Elsternwick Structure Plan. In the report we find little that would convince us that the presented analyses reveals an accurate and complete picture of what respondents wrote. So why is council insisting on mere ‘summaries’ rather than publishing the full data as it has done on numerous previous occasions. Why is council fighting tooth and nail to refuse FOI access on its bogus claims that requested documents are ‘voluminous’ and meeting the application would entail a severe imposition on council resources? The refusal to allow residents to come to their own conclusions as to the feedback can only lead to the perception that there is much to hide.

The summary report listed in the current agenda consists of 25 pages. Within these pages we find the following frequency of terminology used to report on the outcomes. Words such as ‘several’, ‘many’ and ‘some’ in relation to respondent answers are used without any clear indication of what was actually stated or the nuances and variations between respondent comments. The frequency in relation to respondent comments is:

Several – used 8 times

Many – used 21 times

Some – used 18 times

Another telling example of the inadequacy of the report comes from page 4 –

Many respondents supported protection of the centre’s heritage and were often concerned that increased built form would deteriorate the centre’s heritage value and village feel. Some participants considered the general lowering of permitted building heights to be the appropriate response.

What is the numerical difference between ‘many’ and ‘some’?  Does the differentiation between the ‘many’ and ‘some’ indicate that the ‘many’ were not supportive of a decrease in height limits or that this was simply not mentioned? Did any of the responses really affirm or agree that Elsternwick has a ‘village feel’ or is this simply terminology assigned by the authors of the report?  And how should ‘increased built form’ be interpreted anyway? Does it refer to the paltry set backs? The heights? Their discretionary nature instead of mandatory, or their overshadowing potential? Ultimately such statements are meaningless and certainly open to a multitude of interpretations. Without access to the actual comments, there is no way of telling and according credibility and value to the summary report.

We also have to take issue with the manner that the so called topics are presented and their accompanying tables purporting to reveal the ensuing ‘themes’.  The survey questions focused on topics predetermined by council such as: vision and objectives; heritage; traffic; etc. Accompanying each topic, respondents had the choice of downloading what one can only assume to be information that would provide greater understanding of the topic. We repeat some of the comments we made in an earlier post (See: –

  • The draft structure plan proposes to allow up to 6 storeys for heritage listed sites along Glen Huntly Road. Not once is this mentioned throughout the document that is supposed to provide respondents with information on this important aspect of the structure plan.
  • Jargon predominates. What on earth does ‘rich materiality’ mean and how would respondents interpret this?
  • Why aren’t we told that the heritage listed church is likely to be surrounded by 12 storey towers? And yet, given the above, we are still meant to believe that council  takes great care to ensure the heritage fabric of Elsternwick is protected

As for the accompanying table on the vision and objective question we find this:

The above table reveals absolutely nothing about the views for or against – ie how many were opposed to the proposed building heights and how many were arguing for increased building heights or perhaps that the proposed heights were appropriate? Simply providing the number of times something was mentioned does nothing to convey what the community thought and how this was expressed in the feedback.

The value of any survey is 100% dependent on the quality of the questions asked. Are the questions open-ended and objective, or written with a specific end in mind? Are they free of ambiguity? Are they mere motherhood statements that would be hard to disagree with? Are respondents provided with enough specific detail to respond meaningfully, or do they have to plough through hundreds upon hundreds of pages in order to glean what is really proposed? How many respondents have actually bothered to do this if details are buried and does this potential lack of knowledge invalidate their answers? Council’s approach has always been to proffer questions that are nothing more than feel good statements, or rhetorical flourishes that no-one would or could disagree with. For example: the significance of heritage and the need for protection.  Yes, residents would agree with the importance of protecting heritage, but does this then lead to the ‘support’ of what is proposed – especially when the mechanisms for achieving this aim are so vague and ill defined.

How many of these surveys are road tested prior to being inflicted on the community? Were there focus groups prior? Were their responses analysed? Did councillors have any say in the creation of these questions? What about the Community Consultation Committee? And who actually drafted the questions?  

And how well has council advertised its surveys and their significance and ramifications? What follow up has council undertaken to analyse what could be considered as poor response rates? Did council really attempt to engender a huge response or the reverse – ie downplay the significance of the consultation? For the Elsternwick Structure Plan we are told that there were articles in the Glen Eira News informing residents of the consultation. The claim is that information was present in the November and December editions. The first screen dump is what appeared in the November issue followed by the December insert that came in on page 9.

The above calls for participation leave a lot to be desired. Instead of ‘facts’ such as: proposed heights; rezoning of some properties; onsite car parking reductions and of course open space/environmental proposals, there is nothing in this first article that would provide residents with a clear vision of what the proposals entail. Nor does the December version elaborate on anything further. And is it sheer coincidence that the inserted photograph only features 2 storeys along Glen Huntly Road, instead of the monsters that are already in existence? Jargon, generalities, and platitudes epitomise the article instead of the transmission of real information. And when will council refrain from such nonsense as calling Elsternwick a ‘village’ when we already have 13 storey buildings going up!!!!

There are countless errors (falsehoods/deceptions?) in much of what council has presented in the accompanying ‘information’ sheets. For example the following image from the Buildings document showing the montage of what a 5 storey height might look like. Even if we accept the accuracy of this image (which we believe is highly suspect) it does not explain why council chose NOT TO DEPICT the opposite side of the street that has a 6 storey discretionary height limit as well as the neighbouring properties further up along this side of Glen Huntly Road that are also under heritage overlays.

Despite all this, council has been forced to reveal that on a ratio of close to 2:1 residents were opposed to most of what the draft structure plan envisioned. What happens now should be of utmost concern to all residents, especially in Elsternwick and Bentleigh. Will councillors insist that this draft goes back to the drawing board? Or will we merely have a minor tinkering around the edges and it is voted through? When something is so strongly opposed then the only solution should be that councillors listen and act in accordance with community sentiment!

At Tuesday night’s council meeting, residents gained further insight into the ills of Glen Eira Council. Please listen carefully to the following which occurred during item 8.3 on an application for a 4 storey development in a local centre.

Not for the first time are we informed that:

  • Councillors are not provided with enough time to thoroughly digest and analyse information fundamental to their decision making. Hardly surprising when some agendas are well over 1000 pages!
  • It’s also been made clear by some councillors that they have not been provided with important consultant documents prior to making major decisions. Or, if these documents are available, then they are provided at short notice. Hence we argue that this is anything but informed decision making.
  • When it is the CEO who sets the agenda with mayoral ‘consultation’ and there is no genuine notice of motion option in Glen Eira, then we are on a hiding to nothing.
  • The fact that councillors had to ask for all community consultation feedback on the housing strategy, rather than simply the ‘summary’, shows how little information is provided to them as a matter of course. And in response to a public question on Tuesday night, this practice of withholding the raw data is set to continue.

So what does all this mean? Put simply, we have a major problem in local government. Yes, some councillors have been found to be corrupt, and yes, some are bullies, or simply using local councils as stepping stones to far more lucrative careers in parliament. But what of bureaucrats? Who can pull them into line when every aspect of the Local Government Act practically empowers them to act with impunity? As managers and directors, all senior staff are beholden to the CEO for their (continued) contracts and ongoing employment. Councillors have no say in this and nor are they privy to their annual reviews or their Key Performance Indicators. That remains solely in the CEO’s domain. This breeds compliance and cow towing – especially when salaries are in the $230,000+ range.

Admittedly councillors have the right to sack CEO’s – but this can become a very expensive business and invite plenty of negative publicity and more investigations that could reveal other skeletons in the closet.

We have said on numerous occasions that councillors in general are regarded as a necessary evil at worst and as unnecessary appendages at best. Their ideal role is to merely rubber stamp whatever the administrators put before them. In theory, they are supposed to provide oversight; to analyse, question, and be provided with enough information so that their decision making is beyond question. Most importantly, they are meant to work in the interests of the community and to listen to resident views. This is impossible when they are denied access to timely information, or when they are so overloaded that it becomes impossible to do their jobs satisfactorily. We would love to know how many of these councillors even bother to read the hundreds upon hundreds of pages each week or simply rely on the reports from officers.

One article in yesterday’s  Age has officers calling for more constraints to be placed on councillors. In turn, some councillors are seeing this as an attempt to further emasculate councillors and to ensure that all become nothing more than ‘lemmings’ following the lead of the bureaucracy. (See: ). Which ultimately leads to the question – do we need councillors and do we even need local government when real power is vested in officers and not our community representatives?

The following screen dump comes from the minutes of Wednesday’s council meeting. We are literally gobsmacked at the costings listed.

Several things need investigation:

  • Why has the projected construction cost gone from a budget figure of $53M to $62M? Why weren’t figures provided earlier about total costs? Given that the final figure also excludes GST, ratepayers are therefore looking at a forecast cost of just under $84M!!!!!! What is the rationale for a 25+% increase overall? Will residents now have gold plated taps?!!!!!!!! Has the design changed? Even accepting the rise in construction costs, we find this increase unjustified, unexplained, and unacceptable. We are not aware of any public documentation to justify this increase.
  • In terms of the published resolution (‘carried’) there are other questions that need to be answered. Why does ‘carried’ signify? Does this mean that some or at least one councillor was against publishing this resolution? Or does it mean that whoever voted against the resolution was also against the cost increase?
  • The Local Government Act now stipulates that ALL resolutions include information as to who voted for or against. This has not been done here! Is this simply another example of the failure of council to be totally transparent and accountable? When we are talking the mega millions listed here, residents should be informed fully about what is going on and the rationale behind all such decisions

PPS: Council has put out the following Media Release.

Published on 10 February 2023

We have been successful in securing $15 million of funding through the Australian Government as part of our advocacy efforts and we will continue to advocate to the Victorian Government as the project continues. 

Carnegie Memorial Swimming Pool underway

Construction is now underway on the new Carnegie Memorial Swimming Pool.

Council has awarded ADCO Group Pty Ltd the contract ($62 million) to deliver the project with a revised total project cost of $75 million.

The new year-round aquatic and leisure facility will be one of the most environmentally friendly and sustainable centres in the world. It will be designed and constructed to a Six Star Green Star rating with climate resilience, low energy operations and maximum water efficiency, and will include:

  • indoor and outdoor pools;
  • an outdoor diving pool;
  • learn-to-swim programs, a therapeutic warmwater pool and numerous allied health services;
  • a café, barbecue, and shaded seating areas;
  • allied health treatment rooms;
  • program rooms for classes such as yoga and Pilates; and
  • retention of design references to the past such as the post-war style signage, the red brick and retaining the eastern hill.

Glen Eira Mayor Cr Jim Magee said we have been committed to delivering this much-needed facility to the Glen Eira community since 2019.

“We are excited to finally be moving ahead with this intergenerational project but there will be continued challenges that we face in relation to the increased cost of materials and labour that we will need to balance with all projects moving forward.”

To read more about the project, view the concept designs for the centre and to keep up-to-date with timelines and major milestones, please visit the Carnegie Memorial Swimming Pool redevelopment webpage.


Why is the project starting now?

Due to a Victorian Heritage Register nomination from a member of the community and the subsequent review undertaken by Heritage Victoria, the project was delayed by 12 months.

Why is the project cost higher than the contract value?

The $62 million contract value is the value of the construction contract. Other costs go into delivering projects of this scale, such as a contingency budget, authority fees, consultant fees and capitalisation costs. The total project budget is $75 million.


Sadly the above Media Release does nothing except repeat the notice in the minutes, plus adding plenty of more spin. Itfails to explain the reasons behind this decision, nor the lack of governance in providing residents with the complete information as to:

  • The full voting record
  • The exact nature of the various price increases and their justification
  • Nor has any tender documentation for this project been placed in the public domain – as has been the case with various other expensive tenders. We do not know for example: how many applicants there were; how many of these applications were compliant; what were the selection criteria;
  • Finally we repeat that even with major funding from government, residents will still be up for at least $70M. We will watch carefully to see which departments will have their budgets cut right back and which projects will be abandoned and/or delayed.

Another year is fast drawing to an end with very little ‘progress’ in most major areas of council business. 2023 will undoubtedly be crucial in setting the foundations of what Glen Eira will become over the next 20 years.

2022 was basically very disappointing. Following the Wynne letter of December 2015, which basically ordered council to pull its finger out, 7 years later we still do not have:

  • Permanent structure plans for our major activity centres
  • Any comprehensive reviews of the residential zones (circa 2013)
  • A developer contributions levy
  • An ESD (Environmental Sustainability) policy in the planning scheme
  • A WSUD (water sensitive urban design) policy in the planning scheme
  • Parking precinct plans – promised at least 15 years ago

In many ways transparency and accountability have also gone backwards. For example:

  • No longer is there publication of all community consultation feedback. Instead we get carefully manipulated ‘summaries’.
  • The Annual Report now no longer publishes data that fully explains everything. We are told that council planted 2000 trees but are not given any indication of how many were ‘replacement’.
  • Important background documents such as traffic analyses are not provided in many cases PRIOR to the call for community input. In other words, residents are asked to comment on something that is vague and lacks the strategic justification for the recommendations – literally making consultations practically meaningless for residents. Even councillors don’t get to see all the data prior to their important decision making.
  • Nothing of real consequence for tree protection. It will not be part of the planning scheme.
  • No update on flooding since 2006 when climate change is central
  • Urban Forest Strategy that lacks sufficient funding
  • Probably hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on glossy planning documents and consultants that amount to nothing – ie car parks; Inkerman Road bicycle path etc.
  • FOI applications fought tooth and nail by this administration to prevent full disclosure

So, are there any good points that featured in 2022? There are a few in that it is clear that some councillors at least are not enamoured with the way this council conducts its strategic planning. The very fact that the notorious Housing Strategy was voted in by 4 to 3 means there is division. Had both Esakoff and Cade been present at this meeting then we have no doubt that the Housing Strategy would have been voted down. Maybe that’s why it wasn’t put back until the next council meeting when these 2 councillors would have been present?

2023: The year ahead

The coming year will be pivotal in setting the scene for the next 20 years. Up for decision we will have:

  • Bentleigh, Elsternwick structure plans and the accompanying DDO’s.
  • Review of the Planning Scheme. Whether or not this will incorporate a review of the actual zoning everywhere is anyone’s guess.
  • What happens to the remaining 10 neighbourhood centres that are currently without any DDO’s or Urban Design Frameworks, and definitely no structure plans? Will they be left untouched for another decade?
  • Will community consultation come close to genuine consultation where councillors and the community consultation committee have direct and influential input into the survey questions?
  • Will we ever get decent parking policies and parking precinct plans?
  • How much funding will go to our declared climate change policy and all its attendant duties – ie Urban Forest strategy and real protection for trees on private property?

As stated earlier, it’s now been seven years since the Wynne letter to get things right and we’re still waiting. No other council that we know of has taken this length of time to produce some decent strategic planning. What is wrong with Glen Eira?!!!!!! Until there is a major change in council personnel, and in culture, we believe that the pro-development of this council will remain.

Finally, we wish all our readers a fantastic festive season and a healthy and fulfilling 2023. We also thank readers for their continued support and encouragement.

Council has finally put up its responses to the questions asked at the Elsternwick Zoom Meeting. The document may be accessed via this link:

We ask residents to pay particular attention to the following question and the ‘answer’ –

What justification is there for 8-12 storeys?

Elsternwick is growing and there is demand for new dwellings and employment space into the future. State planning policy directs growth to activity centres. The draft Structure Plan aims to balance growth with protecting heritage and other characteristics valued by the community. While there are areas proposed to allow 8- 12 storeys to accommodate some of this growth, taller built form is restricted to a small part of Elsternwick, close to the train station and Nepean Highway. At the same time, the draft Structure Plan is proposing a considerable amount of down zoning from 4 storeys to 2, to protect residential heritage. Most of Elsternwick is proposed to remain low-scale.

 The claim that the decision to allow buildings of 8-12 storeys is ‘restricted to a small part of Elsternwick, close to the train station and Nepean Highway is not only inaccurate but wilfully misleading – especially when this statement is compared to the actual proposed heights along all of Glen Huntly Road.

It’s clear that a vast amount of sites will now be liable to accommodate a DISCRETIONARY height limit of up to 12 storeys! And many of these sites are nowhere near Nepean Highway or even the train station. Which leads to the most important questions:

  • When will council have the courage to call a spade a spade?
  • When will councillors insist that spin and obfuscation are not the hall marks of every single council pronouncement?
  • When will residents stop being treated as idiots unable to understand anything about sound strategic planning?


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