Council Election Interviews: Rachel Powning

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In light of the upcoming Council election for the City of Port Phillip, Daniel Wilson went to St Kilda Town hall to meet the outgoing Mayor Rachel Powning. She is endorsing Gerry McLoughlin for her seat of Carlisle Ward.


Q: What is your position on the 2012 St Kilda Triangle Vision framework?

I am very proud of it. It is a document that all of our community have contributed to. It represents a lot of hard work on the part of Councillors, the staff, and the community. And I think we as a community are now in a position. We have a common view, on where we want to get to. The next challenge is how do we get there.


Q: How do you respond to the criticism that the plan is a bit vague, and will take decades to realise?

It will take a long time to realise the plan. Because it is a very expensive task we have ahead of us. There is no denying that.

Q: What is your position on the St Kilda Harbour redevelopment?

I would very much like to see the public benefits of that development delivered. You may be aware there was a previous proposal for a public pool, and redevelopment of the public pier itself. I think they are the most critical aspects of what needs to happen there. What is funded to date, is really only going to benefit the marina itself. And that is not the way I think public money should be used.

We have been advocating to State Government for funding.


Q: What is your position on the Skate Park to be built on the Marina Reserve?

The work has started down there. So that is great. That was one of the first commitments when we came in here, to see a skate park started by the end of our terms and we have done that.


Q: Will you support St Kilda’s live music scene?

Very proactively. I convened a live music working group, with agreement from Council. We want to try and keep that culture in St Kilda.


Q: What is your position on high-rise developments in St Kilda, and in particular St Kilda Junction?

That is not a part of St Kilda Road that we have designated for growth. So I am certainly disappointed that that was approved.

We are a Council that is in support of high density, no question about that, because we are inner city, this is where people want to live. To make housing affordable, sometimes it’s got to be apartment living, so we provide that capacity on St Kilda Road itself, but also Montegue Precinct and other parts of the city.

But the height that was approved in that part of St Kilda Road is not in keeping with our strategic vision. We have done a lot of work and we think very carefully about where the growth should be and why. We have some fantastic strategic planners here, and that is their job to figure all that out. We do that in consultation with the community, it takes years to get to the point where we find agreement with the community on where it should be. So it is really disappointing when you get that sort of decision that didn’t take any of that into account.


Q: What is your position on the Fishermans Bend Planning and Economic Development Strategy?

[We have included provisions for] 20% social housing. The important thing to remember is Community or Social Housing, whatever you want to call it, is different from public housing, it is really housing that has limited rent on it, capped at 30% of your income, so it is not necessarily people on welfare, it is the people that might be teachers, or nurses, or older people that have lived here a long time, or people who have families here and were renting and can’t afford to rent in the area any more, it is to ensure we get a diversity in our community, and not just all empty nesters or single people without children. It is a good way to achieve a diverse community, different incomes, different professions, etc, so I think it is really important.


Q: Would you like to see a supervised-injecting room in St Kilda?

We publicly indicated our support for that.

The reason that I am supporting it is because there are deaths due to overdose. And if people are able to use drugs in a place that where they do overdose there is support available and it will save lives. Doesn’t mean I think it is a good thing to be addicted to Heroin obviously, it is normally a symptom of some other issues. So we need a supervised-injecting room at one end, and the other programs at the other to deal with their addiction issues. Plus it adds to safety to the community as well.


Q: Is there anything else you want to bring to our readers attention?

Childcare, we still have a long waiting list for childcare. Council does a lot toward this, but we need State Government to do a little more.

At Council we do a lot more than just build stuff. We do a lot of policy and advocacy, be it on gambling, reconciliation, social justice issues, climate change debate.

We have done a lot, and it is a great space for local government, because we are a lot closer to the people, we can help them do stuff.

One of the things we have done since we were elected, is we now have a big sustainability department, where we didn’t have one before, at Council, so there is a lot more people working in the area, so that means we now have a lot more strategies than we had, and a key part of that work is a whole range of programs that the community can access to retrofit their houses, or bulk buy solar panel purchasing, community gardens – there is quite a bit going on out there to help the community become more sustainable in the way they live.

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