Rowland S. Howard Lane hits roadblock

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By: Zoe Tovey

The push to name a laneway in St Kilda after the late musician Rowland S. Howard has stalled, with the Registrar of Geographic Names refusing to grant the City of Port Phillip permission to use the punk icon’s full name on the signage, standing by its rule that street titles should not feature multiple names.

Council officers overseeing the bid have suggested Rowland Lane as an alternative for the laneway between Jackson Street and Eildon Road. However, local music promoter Nick Haines, who was the instigator of the petition to commemorate his long-time friend on St Kilda’s streetscape, asked Council to defer the motion, saying Howard’s friends and fans would continue to push for the singer-songwriter-guitarist’s full name to appear on the lane.

Councillors unanimously agreed, supporting Mr Haines’s request for a deferral, as both parties await the outcome of a similar campaign by Melbourne City Council to name a laneway in the CBD after Divinyls singer Chrissy Amphlett, who died last year.

Port Phillip Council’s original request for the exemption stated that, as a long-term St Kilda resident and veteran performer on the local music scene as a solo artist and with his bands the Birthday Party and These Immortal Souls, Howard’s contribution to the cultural landscape of St Kilda had been immense. More than 2000 people signed the original petition to rename the laneway, which is close to Howard’s former residence on Eildon Road.

“The application comes from community interest, has community support and shows the desire to celebrate and acknowledge the music and cultural contribution of Rowland S. Howard (1959-2009),” the application said.

However, the Registrar of Geographic Names advised officers that the proposed name did not comply with its guidelines, both because it included an initial and because it featured multiple words. The registrar also said using “Howard” in the lane’s name would contravene rules to ensure street names were not duplicated within a 5km radius (there are Howard streets in South Yarra and Richmond).

The registrar cited concerns about duplicated names within 5km causing confusion for emergency services personnel, as well as the difficulties of fitting long street names into mapping products.

Howard family members told council officers that they would be happy with the shortened form “Rowland Lane” and a commemorative sign. However, Mr Haines said he had asked the State Government to intervene to allow the full name.

“I’m currently talking with government and ministerial people on this matter, to get [the decision] overturned… we’re also working with the Chrissy Amphlett lane people, who’ve come up against exactly the same problem, and subsequently they’re working with the Melbourne Council on this matter.”

Cr Serge Thomann backed Mr Haines’s suggestion to defer the item until further notice, saying Council was prepared to wait until the outcome of the Chrissy Amphlett appeal was known. He said that no one lived in the lane, so the longer address would not inconvenience anyone.

“Obviously, this is something that’s been in front of us and in the making for quite a while, and let’s try to get it right.”

Cr Thomann pointed out there was precedent for the request, as there was a Dame Edna Place off Little Collins Street in the CBD.

“So the double name exists, even if the person doesn’t exist.”

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