Tag Archives: governance

LOST OPEN SPACE OPPORTUNITY & GOVERNANCE

This is a brief update on our 9th February, 2013 posting. In addition to outlining Council’s failure to purchase the 487 Neerim Road, Murrumbeena property and or discuss the potential purchase, the 9/2/13 posting also raised pertinent questions on Council’s decision making process, namely

o who made the decision?
o what information was provided to ensure an informed, impartial decision was made?
o did Councillors have some input into the decision or were they advised after the decision was made?

The answers to questions 1 and 3 above are answered via the belated inclusion of the the Records of Assembly+ in Council’s just published agenda for next Tuesday’s (26/2/2013) Council Meeting – extracts of Agenda Items 8b i and 8b ii. 

The relevant minutes for the assemblies of 11th and 18th December, 2012 make no mention of any discussion on the acquisition of the 487 Neerim Road property occurring at either assembly. Ergo, the decision (implicit in Council’s 14/12/2012 letter to GERA) not to purchase the property was not made by Councillors and Councillors had no input into the decision.

Given

  • the significance that residents have been placing on Glen Eira’s limited open space in every community/council plan and State Government “Satisfaction Survey” since 1998 – and vocally reiterated in the 2012-2013 Community Plan, and
  • Council’s abysmal performance in acquiring additional open space (since 2003 only the two Packer Park house lots have been acquired for $1.9m.  Yet, for the same period, Council received $12.8m in Open Space Contributions from high density developers).

The failure to discuss with, or involve Councillors in, this open space issue (in either an open Council Meeting or an assembly) raises serious questions on how governance is practiced in Glen Eira.

  • Who makes decisions and on what information is the decision made?
  •         How are decisions communicated to Councillors and residents?
  • What weight is given to the community’s expressed values?
  • Councillors may delegate authority to act on their behalf, however, the responsibility for the actions taken remains with Councillors. How are decisions made under delegations reported to them? What ability do they have to question administrative actions or to raise residents issues at Council (i.e. with other Councillors and the Administration)?

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Footnotes:

+ An “Assembly of Councillors”, as defined in the Local Law, is an in camera briefing session, involving both the Administration and Councillors, to enable the Administration to report day to day activities to Councillors and inform (or highlight to) Councillors of current and future significant issues – particularly issues that are likely to be contentious.   As per Local Law decisions are not permitted to be made at Assemblies, decisions can only be made at Ordinary (open) Council Meetings.

 * Delegations of Authority – Delegations of Authority (ie. the instruments which confer on the Administration the authority to act, on behalf of the elected representatives, when undertaking the day to day administrative activities associated with the Municipality)

The Delegations of Authority, Councillors have given to the Administration are wide ranging.   Reporting to Councillors of administrative decisions made, under delegations of authority, is at the discretion of the administration.

Links

To make it easier for readers, GERA has included relevant extracts of the Records of Assembly included the referenced Agenda for the 26/02/2013 Council Meeting.   For those interested, a full copy of the Agenda is available from Council’s website – the relevent Agenda Items are 8b i and ii.

CORRRECTION

GERA’s above posting and our earlier (9/2/2013) posting regarding Council’s decision not to purchase the 487 Neerim Road property incorrectly states that Council did not respond to our 15/12/2012 email.  This is incorrect – the Mayor’s response  is dated 24/12/2012 and GERA apologizes to Council, Members and Readers for this omission.

While GERA accepts responsibility for this omission, GERA contends that the points raised in our various postings for considering purchasing the property remain valid and seriously questions Council’s decision making process and Councillor input into that process.

BOORAN ROAD RESERVOIR CONCEPT PLANS CONSULTATION

Last Wednesday’s (13/6/2012) Booran Road Reservoir Concept Plans  Consultation gave residents the opportunity to confirm the views they expressed at the March, 2008 consultation (Friends of Glen Huntly Reservoir website – FOGHR) – this they did.   The majority of the 50+ attendees preferred the passive recreation option over the active or mixed options.

Booran Road Reservoir – Background

The Booran Road Reservoir (also known as the Glen Huntly Reservoir) is 1.6 ha of crown land located on the corner of Glen Huntly & Booran Roads, Glen Huntly.  The site shares a rear boundary with Alamar Ave and abuts nine properties along Roseberry Grove.

The reservoir has not been used to store water since the 1970’s.  The site was/is considered to be the last undeveloped piece of land in Glen Eira that can be reverted to publicly accessible open space. Around 2006/8,  the site was declared surplus to South East Water use and in 2010 it was  formally handed to Glen Eira Council by the State Government to manage* as publicly accessible open space.   In March, 2008, given the impending State Government handover, a community consultation was held to discuss proposed uses.   Council presented two options to residents: a) sell the land for development or b) convert the land to passive parkland with synthetic soccer pitch  – residents overwhelmingly voted for passive parkland. 

Booran Road Reservoir

Booran Road Reservoir Concept Plans Consultation

As previously mentioned, last Wednesday’s (13/6/2012) consultation confirmed the 2008 preference for the former reservoir to become passive recreation open space.

The plans presented were described, by the designer (Bill McLaughlin), as being “thoughts at the moment” and, although attendees were asked to indicate their preferred option (passive, active or mixed recreation) the consultation was not a forum to vote on the presented options – it was to gather attendees’ preferences so that they could be incorporated in future park plans. Paul Burke (Director of Community Services) explained that, while Council has budgeted for work to commence on the park in 2016/7, Council was commencing development of the plans well before this time so that the plans could be submitted should a government grant become available.

Given the well documented lack of public open space in the Glen Eira Municipality (a major issue which has continually featured in the Community Plan and the State Government’s Satisfaction Survey since the 1990’s), it is appalling that

  1. Some 4 years on from the initial consultation (or 2 years on from Council securing management responsibility* of the site in 2010)  Council is only now approaching the drawing board.  In November 2009 Council estimated that it would take approximately 2 years to complete construction/landscaping and commissioning of  the park**.
  2. A further 4 -5 years will pass before Council commences work on the park and that the work will take a further 2 years to complete. (Council Meeting Minutes 8th May 2008 – Strategic Resource Plan – 2017/18 budget is $4m, 2018/2019 budget is $3.5m).

That Council (Councillors and Administration) considers that the spending of multi-millions on under-utilized, parkland consuming pavilions is a better use of ratepayers funds than creating parkland (1.6 hectares) in an area targeted for high density mixed use developments does not affirm Council’s claim of reflecting the needs and wishes of residents.    What justification is there for leaving this “windfall” prime land a derelict, frequently vandalised, eyesore for the past 4 years and the next 4 – 5 years.

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* “manage” and “management responsibility” gives the land to Council to use and maintain for open space purposes yet retains State Government ownership of the land Council.  Thus preventing a sale, originally proposed in 2008, of the land by Council.

** Extract from Council Meeting Minutes, 24th November, 2009 – Section 8.9

There are 5 distinct phase in a major project like the converting the former Glen Huntly Reservoir to public open space:

1. Feasibility

2. Concept

3. Planning / Design

4. Construction

5. Commissioning

The project is currently in the feasibility phase. The Concept Phase will commence after Council has secured management responsibility over the land and determined how it would like to use it. Phases 2 to 5 are likely to take at least 2 years.

Note: Management responsibility was secured in 2010.

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The following is a summary of comments made by those who attended last Wednesdays Consultation and are similar to those made at the March, 2008 consultation (Comments from FOGHR ).  The community’s views have not changed. Council was aware of these views 4 years ago yet they failed to materialise in the draft design. Given council’s track record on consultation over design we are not optimistic that anything will be different this time!

Comments:

  • While residents accepted the presented plans as being conceptual they did note that the all three plans were flawed in that
    • Retention of the reservoir walls, to the extent that they are retained, raised serious security issues as they created dark hidden places
    • No car parking provision is included.  The area has very limited on street parking and already demand exceeds supply.
    • No picnic facilities or play ground included
    • Multi use of area’s not taken advantage of – active sports areas could also be used for farmer’s market, outdoor theatre etc.
  • Preference for passive recreation option
    • All three options raise traffic and parking issues in an already congested area, however, the extent of the congestion varies with the use – including active sporting facilities will concentrate that congestion at specific times.  Passive recreation will not concentrate congestion (more even flow of park usage).
    • Including active sporting facilities on the land will diminish the amount of land available for passive recreation by the need to include ancilliary amenities, e.g. change rooms
    • Glen Eira has few passive recreation areas – how much need is there for another sporting facility
    • Passive recreation  use means park will be usable for the maximum number of residents – from the very young to the aged
  • Facilities to be included in plan
    • Community Garden
    • Facilities for family recreation (BBQ’s, picnic area, playground)
    • Jogging and walking tracks around park perimeter
    • Native tree planting with informative plaques
  • Other

Trees currently surrounding the site need attention now.  Tree maintenance undertaken now will generate a 5/6 year head start for the proposed park.