• Serena O'Meley

Breaking news Darebin, Lakeside SC (Merri Creek) and Ruthven sites a step closer to being saved

[First published on Facebook 7 June 2016]

In front of a packed gallery of local residents, Darebin Council resolved to put money towards the purchase of both 1.8ha of land adjoining the Merri Creek at the former Lakeside Secondary College, Radford Road, and the former Ruthven Primary School site on Glasgow Street. The purchase is subject to the discount promised by the State Government and a fairly negotiated price. Crs Tim Laurence and Angela Villella made strong cases for retaining the Ruthven site as public open space. Cr Laurence noted the series of land sales over many years which had depleted public open space in what was once a ‘garden city’. Cr Villella spoke about the community demand for retaining the Ruthven site as expressed at the two recent public meetings and, later in proceedings, when she tabled her community petition calling on the Council and the State Government to negotiate for the sale. Cr Trent McCarthy moved a last minute amendment to the motion to make sure that the Merri Creek site would be included in negotiations with the State Government so that it would also be purchased. He spoke about equity of access to green, open spaces and noted the lack of a strategic policy for making these kinds of purchases. Cr Gaetano Greco amended the motion to include another plea to the Government for the Fast Track rezoning process to be stopped. His amendment included a direction that residents be informed of the outcome of negotiations. Concerns about the cost of the purchases still strongly shaped the motion, with Cr Bo Li moving an amendment to seek a report from officers on costing options, including their impacts upon the council’s “operating cash flow”. I am concerned that this could delay negotiations and asked, at public question time, why the Public Open Space Reserve is being used to underpin the budget’s monthly operating expenses. The following seven councillors The following seven councillors voted for the motion: Crs Tim Laurence, Angela Villella, Trent McCarthy, Julie Williams, Bo Li, Gaetano Greco, and Mayor Vince Fontana. Two councillors Two councillors voted against the motion: Cr Stephen Tsitas described the proposal as a “green hole” as opposed to a “black hole” in the council budget spend and claimed it would be inequitable for other wards if such a large amount of money were spent. Cr Oliver Walsh voted against the motion due to “reservations about affordability” and spoke about the implications of rate capping on the future budget position of the council. Fortunately the significant majority of councillors understood the importance of retaining the sites for public open space and took a big step forward towards securing the land. Negotiations need to be urgently concluded The 6 June 2016 Darebin Council meeting was a significant step forward in the campaign to secure both important parcels of land. We will need to be vigilant to ensure that a fair and equitable price is indeed negotiated between Darebin Council and the State Government and that neither party is unreasonable. The very best time to get an agreement about the land is right now, during the Federal election period, when people will be most conscious about not making a misstep and will be most willing to compromise on price. In my opinion, the negotiation should have the direct involvement of the Mayor and the Member for Preston who are best placed to represent the interests of the community. Photo credit: Darebin Council Report 15 September 2014. Panorama photograph of the bicycle path and the land at the rear of the 21-29 Radford Road

0 views0 comments