Serge’s Column – March

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Dear St Kilda News Readers,

February, with all its celebrations, is behind us. And what a month it has been. The Pride March attracted a huge amount of interest – once again, and with AFL footballers marching together in support of gay rights it showed how powerful the game of football can be as a means of highlighting the fight against homophobia. Football, and sport in general, has started this fight but I am afraid that it will be a long struggle. We had three players at the head of the march and I hope there will be many more to spread the message next year. Well done to all involved.

The St Kilda Festival was an amazing success, with over 400,000 attending this year. The crowd was extremely well behaved overall and I’m proud to see the Festival becoming more and more family and community friendly. Following this year’s event, we are taking a close look at the Festival as the cost is becoming unsustainable for the City and we need to ensure we get the best outcome for the community and for live music and cultural events within Port Phillip. For this reason, Council will undertake a consultation process with local residents and the live music community. Stay tuned for more info on how you can have your say on the future of the Festival.

On a sadder note, the anti-social behaviour on Australia Day in the St Kilda Botanical Gardens was very disappointing. How can we help to prevent this next year? The majority of people do drink responsibly, celebrating this day in the Gardens in the company of their friends. After the citizenship ceremony, I spent part of the day with the wonderful St Kilda artist Gavin Brown and his colourful friends (nearly as colourful as his paintings!), and we enjoyed couple of glasses of Champagne! Being a Councillor is all about balance and sometimes we have to make tough calls. We cannot please everyone but we need measures are in place next year to discourage binge drinking in public.

What’s up for March? I would like you all to pay some attention to the current consultation that Yarra Trams is having about plans for the building of a new tram terminus on Acland Street. As I said during the Council elections, and to the traders in meetings I have had with them over the past few months, the building of the new terminus will change the character of Acland Street but this work has to be done.

Everyone wants tram services to be as fast, efficient and punctual as possible. One of the most effective ways of doing this is to separate tram tracks and stops from vehicular traffic by building raised tracks, like in Fitzroy Street.

I’m looking forward to this latest initiative to ensure that Route 96, as the premium route for Yarra Trams, has a tram service every four to five minutes during the busiest times of the day. I think that the building of the Acland Street terminus will help us to achieve that.  Another is to have trams come in either side of the terminus so we can halve the turnaround time.

The terminus will be somewhere on Acland Street, as the Luna Park Interchange cannot be used as a terminus. Vehicular traffic will be necessarily reduced, as will parking space, which some people might be unhappy with. However, I think that we should use the building of the new terminus as an opportunity to create more space for footpath trading and for pedestrians so as to make the street more attractive and bring back the vitality that Acland Street used to have – to bring back the buzz, as the traders put it last year, though I am not necessarily saying getting rid of all cars. I urge you to put your thinking cap on and be part of this very important consultation. You can do it online on the Yarra Trams website and you can  get more information on the Council website. Yarra Trams need to know what we all think because Council cannot control this one.

Two other topics I have received a lot of enquiries about are the work on St Kilda Harbour and all the rocks on West Beach. The rocks will be dumped into the water, as the Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron is making the harbour safer and increasing the length of the breakwater walls. When the project is finished next year, West Beach will be back to normal. And don’t worry about the little penguins during construction as the RMYS has employed people from EarthCare to make sure they are well looked after.  Do you know that there are more than 1,300 penguins living in the rocks of St Kilda?

The project is worth $14 million, all raised by the club. Congratulations to the RMYS for finally making this happen. The harbor has needed an upgrade for 20 years. And hopefully, the Baillieu Government will include money for a new St Kilda Pier in its May budget.  We have advocated for this.

Talking about projects that are overdue, the Marina Reserve, with its skateable area is nearly finished and is ahead of its projected completion date. There are only a few more weeks to wait and after 16 years, St Kilda will at last have its skating facility!

Until next month! Enjoy the last few warm days!

Serge

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