By Josie Vine , RMIT Journalism
Well hello Westsiders! Welcome to your first ‘Rates, Roads and Rubbish’ column.
We all lead busy lives, and don’t really get time to attend council meetings, or wade through council agendas and minutes. And yet it’s of such democratic importance that local government is held publicly accountable, like any other level of government.
So ‘Rates, Roads and Rubbish’ will do that for you. We will be your eyes and ears in the regular meetings of Maribyrnong, Hobson’s Bay, and Brimbank and Wyndham City councils.
We’ll give you a fly-on-the-wall account of the highlights of council discussions and decisions concerning issues in the West, and we will do so with no agenda, no ideological framework and, above all, with Fairness, Balance and Accuracy.
But we can’t do this alone! A newspaper is only as good as the input of the community it serves. So if you have a particular concern with your local council – if you need a particular question asked and, hopefully, answered – please don’t hesitate to get in contact:
firstname.lastname@example.org, with Attention Rates Roads and Rubbish in the subject line, or call 0411 534 285.
Maribyrnong – April 18, 2023
And we kick off with a doozy!
Maribyrnong City Council this month rejected the Notice of Rescission on the McIvor Reserve Draft Master Plan.
In plain English, this means the six-stadium, 1000-seat indoor basketball court will be built on McIvor Reserve parkland where, currently, hockey, soccer and baseball fields share space with an off-lead dog park and a sports pavilion between the West Gate Freeway and the old Bradmill denim factory.
Council passed the Master Plan last March, but was met with a wave of community opposition, and a Notice of Rescission signed by Crs Bernadette Thomas, Jorge Jorquera and Simon Crawford.
On April 18, the night of the vote to defer the development decision, a crowd was already building on the Church Street council chamber steps at least half an hour before Mayor Sarah Carter opened the meeting.
Among the concerned crowd were folks from grass-roots sporting groups, park-users, kids still in their royal blue Westside basketball uniforms, their parents, older dog-walkers, and lawn-bowlers with purple hair and Blundstone boots.
Question time had to be extended to allow council to answer the almost 30 public inquiries – all related to McIvor Reserve and spanning from obtaining signatures fraudulently to the apparent inability of dog-walkers to pick up dog poo.
The chamber was packed, and security guards blocked access to the already-bursting public gallery. This meant about 40 members of the public were standing in the foyer, hovering round a speaker that security guards had prepared earlier.
The crowd seemed to naturally drift into two factions: basketballers to the left, dog-walkers and lawn-bowlers to the right. To the left, a smart young man in a shiny suit and manicured stubble stood, spinning a basketball American-college style on his fingertips; to the right, a woman with spiked grey hair and wearing dungarees yelled through the open chamber door: “You’re a traitor …” She did name the target of her ire, but in the interests of avoiding defamation charges, we will refrain from identifying the councillor here.
Suffice to say, the McIvor Reserve development has done nothing to unite the community.
A round of applause came from the dog-walkers/ lawn-bowlers as Cr Thomas said:
“I think the placement of an outdoor stadium is a poor outcome in the position that’s been proposed in the Master Plan and I think rescinding the motion will give council time to consider all options at that site, and including other sites and including size of stadiums … so we can take a little more time to get it right for as many people as possible in the community.”
An even bigger round of applause, and “hear hears” when Cr Jorquera took aim at the state government for Maribyrnong’s mess:
“I do not see this as a question of contesting community priorities, but rather a question of government priorities … when you consider all the land banking of brown sites that goes on, not just by landlords but also the land that’s being held onto by state government statutory bodies … I think this is very much a question of government priorities …”
The rescinding motion – effectively moving the development from the Northern section of McIvor Reserve to the Southern – would be like “putting fire out with gasoline”, Cr Michael Clarke said.
“The southern site option would become a living nightmare,” he said. Whoops and cries from the right-hand side of the foyer.
A hush fell over the foyer as Mayor, Cr Sarah Carter made her final remarks.
“My rationale and support for a six-court stadium as proposed in the Mater Plan is a good outcome for the community and I stand by that,” she said. “The standing resolution that we have will provide a legacy project and one that will be incredibly proud of.”
It was as if the foyer held its collective breath as the Notice of Rescission was put to the vote. The vote was lost four votes to three, with Mayor Carter and Crs Michael Clarke, Anthony Tran and Cuc Lam voting against the motion.
The public gallery – including those in the outside foyer – erupted with applause, punctuated by cries of “you’re a lying dog”, “enjoy your last bit of fame councillors” and the ever-popular “shame, shame, shame”, while the four security guards wandered meaningfully among the crowd.
Oh, and by the way, after the crowd left, council voted to put the proposed 2023/ 2024 budget out for consultation. In it, rates are recommended to increase by 2.98 percent. This is 0.7 percent less than the State Government rate cap of 3.5 percent.
Brimbank – April 18, 2023
It appears as somewhat of an oversight that Brimbank held its council meeting on the same night as Maribyrnong. So bad luck if you wanted to attend both. But hey, at least it’s streamed online.
And it seems to be draft budget season.
Brimbank ratepayers will pay a 3.5 percent increase under Council’s draft 2023/ 2024 budget.
Council heard the rate increase will pay for sporting facilities, roads, playgrounds, footpaths, library assets and council plant and vehicle replacement.
Councillor Jasmine Nguyen questioned why the proposed budget for community projects had halved from $367,000 to $161,000.
Residents have until May 18 to respond.
Hobson’s Bay – April 11, 2023
Hobson’s Bay City Council also put its 2023/2024 budget out for consultation in its April 11 meeting.
Hobson’s Bay too proposed to increase its rates to the State Government’s rate cap of 3.5 percent.
Councillor Peter Hemphill questioned why there was no allocation for a $2 million community battery, previously proposed for Altona to connect to council’s virtual energy network in the coming year.
Council heard there was “no scope” for a community battery in the Federal Government’s Capital Works program in the coming year.
Residents have until May 14 to make comment.
*Wyndham Council had its meeting too late to meet our deadline but catch up in the June edition for all things Wyndham related.