By Mario Varricchio

    A key development stoush is developing in Melbourne’s west between the federal and state/local governments. The outcome of this issue will shape a large chunk of the western suburbs.

    Waiting for the Premier to arrive I spoke with Ben Carroll, State Labor Member for Niddrie. Here’s what he had to say:

    “This site is very important; it’s very contaminated, has a long history of contamination being a former ammunition factory. I’m very concerned as a local member on how this site does get developed. In particular though, the removal of the contaminated waste through the local streets but then what sort of housing mix and housing development do we get on the site? There’s a proposal by the federal government for 6,000 homes; this ignores and flies in the face of previous proposals by the state government and previous cooperation with the government for 3,000 homes. So we really need to take our time, get the contaminated waste issue sorted, get the planning right and also look at the public transport options on this defence site because putting several thousand homes, we need to get public transport options right here as well. We’ve got the Maribyrnong Tram Depot close by so that is an opportunity and there are other opportunities too in terms of the planning and the studies happening at the moment with the Melbourne Airport rail link obviously.”

    By this time the Premier arrived and wished Ben Carroll a happy birthday. I introduced myself and handed him a copy of The Westsider. He had just come from a visit to the Dream Factory where he met Kelly from The Westsider team. He was brief:

    “Three thousand homes is going to be close to 10,000 people, then all of a sudden you’ve got issues around kinder, schools, healthcare, all of those things together with transport and all manner of different facilities. The thing about this, the scale of this if it’s done properly and getting to own the land, is bringing transport connections right into it.”

    I then spoke with Marsha Thomson, State Labor Member for Footscray:

    “We are standing here looking at defence land site and seeing the enormity of it but also the potential opportunities. It’s a magnificent site that lends itself to some beautiful passive space areas for recreation as well as maybe some active space areas but also respectful development that doesn’t over-develop the site, that enhances the opportunities for the communities around it so it doesn’t become just an enclave community that has no connection to the community around it. So there’s great opportunities for this site but it can’t be delivered if the dollar value is the most prominent feature in the federal government’s view of how this site should be dealt with. It can’t be about getting the highest price. It’s got to be about the appropriate development.”

    Also present was Pauline Ashton, President of Friends of Sandy, giving an example of the smaller stakeholder groups concerned with the project:

    “We’re a community organisation that’s been working for many years now to have a memorial to Sandy, who was the only horse to return from the first world war and all the other horses that went at this site. It was a remount area where all the horses were brought from all over Australia. Here they were broken in, trained and shipped off to the first world war with only one coming back, Sandy, who came back in 1918 and spent the rest of his life here and is buried down in the area near the community centre. The Department of Defence have organised for us to have a memorial near Fishers Stables but in the interim there’s going to be a temporary location for it down near the community centre in Randell Street. So we’re really keen that the history of this site is remembered and in some way celebrated because as a multicultural society, a lot of people don’t know about the history of the country they’ve come to.”

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