Port Phillip Council response to Dick Gross on Fishermans Bend

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By Mayor Bernadene Voss

It was extremely disappointing to read ‘Port Phillip’s Fishermans Bend Tragedy‘ opinion piece in the St Kilda News as the article contains several incorrect assertions which must be addressed to present a balanced picture for our community. I write on behalf of the Council of the City of Port Phillip.

Ensuring Fishermans Bend is a place loved by its residents, workers and visitors has always been one of the highest priorities of this Council.  While decisions about Fishermans Bend are outside of Council’s control, with planning powers resting with the State, Council has always spoken out and advocated strongly to influence better outcomes.  Council, along with the City of Melbourne supported the 2013 Draft Vision document because it presented a series of proposed interventions that we believed would help make a great community.  It reflected much of the work that our own staff had prepared and that our community had argued for. It was based on sound community consultation.  However, Council did not support the State Government’s Strategic Framework Plan released in July 2014.  During its development and right up to and at the launch of this document, Council argued strongly for more of the Draft Vision to be translated into mandatory guidelines for development and included in the Strategic Framework Plan.  Frustratingly, the Strategic Framework document was a vast departure from the 2013 Draft Vision.   At the time of the launch, media reported Council’s call for more work to be done in several critical areas to achieve the outcomes we knew our community wanted.

In addition to providing input to the State’s work, we have argued constructively about what we believe it will take to make Fishermans Bend a great place to live and work.  For example we have worked hard and advocated to see the early delivery of community facilities and infrastructure.

In the August/September 2014 issue of our Divercity newsletter we outlined Council’s key priorities for Fishermans Bend based on five themes:

•           Build transport and community infrastructure early and set aside open space

•           Sensible height restrictions and quality design for developments

•           Business attraction and investment

•           City of Port Phillip responsibility for development approvals

•           A place for all generations.

These priorities were communicated to all local candidates and parties in the lead up to the 2014 State Election.

Since then, we have continued to advocate for these priorities and to constructively engage with the Victorian Government to progress key initiatives which will help get Fishermans Bend off to the best possible start. At times, this has involved robust negotiations and we are very pleased our achievements include:

-           Working with the Victorian Government to open an education precinct in Ferrars Street. Council will be delivering integrated facilities for preschool, maternal and child health and community activities at a vertical primary school being built by the Government

-           Council and the Victorian Government purchasing open space opposite the school for the precinct, with Council contributing $6.3 million from our open space reserves.

We established our Fishermans Bend Community Forum to provide a voice for key community stakeholders and to enable us to hear ideas from a  cross-section of the community and share information.

Under the current Government, Council has been able to participate more actively and our voice is being heard, especially as an active member of the Victorian Government’s Fishermans Bend Ministerial Advisory Council.

Council is already investigating what to do about the waste transfer station. After determining the future service and space requirements for all services located at the depot and waste recovery centre, we can develop a long term strategy for service delivery, operating models, asset and space requirements and location of services.

The article’s claim that we are cutting aged care services to pay for planning is not correct. The provision of Home and Community Care services continues unchanged and the City of Port Phillip continues to invest in service development, improvement and planning for population growth.

It’s easy to walk away when things get tough, but by Council retaining a seat at the table we have achieved tangible outcomes. Our community can be assured that we have constantly pushed their vision and have never relented in our Fishermans Bend advocacy.  We do not often resort to megaphone advocacy, because it is rarely effective. We are interested in results and outcomes and consider carefully how these are most likely to be achieved.  Fishermans Bend remains among Council’s top priorities as helping to create a vibrant, liveable new community holds benefits for our entire City.

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