Darebin Public Question Time & Submissions Diary - 2020-2024
Updated: Jun 3
This diary will be progressively updated with questions and answers over the term of the 2020-2024 term of the Darebin Council. - Serena O'Meley
24 May 2021
Clements Reserve - request for progress report on acquisition of land
Dumbarton Street Grassland - request for Darebin to lobby Planning Minister to protect the grassland
Former Ruthven Primary School site - request for progress report on renaming of the site in Woi Wurrung.
24 May 2021
Ruthven Primary School Play Space Community Consultation - Submission
19 May 2021
Darebin Budget Presentation 2021 - 2022 (made at the Council Meeting) - repurposing the former Library and former Dole Avenue Kindergarten
9 May 2021
Darebin Budget Submission 2021 - 2022 - repurposing the former Library and former Dole Avenue Kindergarten
26 April 2021
Clements Reserve - answer to questions sent by letter (1 April 2021) and in Governance Report Appendix B.
Clements Reserve - why was further town planning advice required before a valuation could be obtained (which is necessary before negotiations on price)?
Public question time - why are the appendices now incorporated into the body of the agenda, making it harder for the public to find information?
24 May 2021
1. Do you have a progress report on negotiations for land within Clements Reserve, including whether the town planning advice referred to in a letter from Darebin Council to me dated 1 April 2021 has been received, and whether the Valuer General Valuation has now been sought?
2. There are many people in the community who are concerned about the loss of the Dumbarton Street Grassland, which one of Darebin Council's own reports recognises is of National Natural Heritage Significance (see: https://www.darebinvotes.com/post/how-darebin-council-lost-the-dumbarton-grassland). With less than 1% of Victorian Volcanic Plains grassland left, even small parcels of land are critical for habitat protection (see: Darebin Nature Trust member, Neal Masters, recently appeared on the ABC's Gardening Australia to talk about the importance of such remnant grassland areas: https://tinyurl.com/wu4ex4ht). When will representatives of Darebin Council meet with the Planning Minister, Hon. Richard Wynne, to seek to negotiate for protection of this site?
3. Council staff and members of the Ruthven Community Reference Group met with Elders on 29 October 2019 to discuss the renaming of the former Ruthven Primary School site, Reservoir, in the Woiwurrung language. This meeting drew on suggestions from the Darebin Aboriginal Advisory Committee (DACC) about returning it to its original name, if it is known, or choosing a name which may describe a natural feature, or previous use, of the site. This discussion will be recorded in the DACC minutes.
Renaming is becoming urgent because the site is frequently being confused with the W.R. Ruthven V.C. Reserve in Preston. This led to an error in Hansard which had to be corrected, and a recent error in a public announcement related to a grant. More seriously, if emergency services need to attend the site they might be sent to the wrong place. Can you give us a progress report on the renaming?
Response from Acting Chief Executive Officer, Jodie Watson
Thank you for your questions Serena. Officers are continuing to progress the purchase of Clements Reserve. The matters being addressed currently are considered confidential as they relate to a legal process being undertaken between two government agencies. Ms Watson agreed to take the question on notice and for a response to be provided by officers.
Council is concerned about the plans for development at Dumbarton Street, and know that the many people in the community share this concern. Darebin Council has repeatedly advocated for the protection of the indigenous grasslands at the site and offered to work with the State Government to identify alternative sites for social housing. Council has requested a meeting with the Planning Minister, Hon. Richard Wynne to discuss this matter. And we will continue to advocate for the protection of the grasslands.
Council is committed to naming the former Ruthven Primary School site in the Woi Wurrung language. This is one of several sites which Council has put forward to the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Corporation requesting a name in Woi Wurrung language and this progress remains ongoing. Once a name has been provided, Council will undertake the statutory process to formally name the space.
I also made a submission in relation to item 8.1 Ruthven Play Space Community Engagement Outcomes raising concerns that the following line in the report would leave the final design of the play space in the hands of officers. In response to my submission Cr McCarthy amended the proposed motion to ensure further consultation with Darebin Nature Trust and friends of Ruthven Park and it was carried unanimously.
19 May 2021
Darebin budget presentation
I have asked council to set aside $250,000 to allow for essential maintenance works at the former Reservoir Library and the former Dole Avenue kindergarten. A report on the Dole Avenue kindergarten was supposed to be presented to Council before November 2020. An interim report in March, and a final report in May, on such unused buildings was also requested. None of these reports have eventuated which is why I am trying to put this issue back on the agenda.
Former Library in Reservoir
The old Library has issues with asbestos and some structural issues and would need work to bring it up to standard. However, it is in a prime location in Reservoir, with easy access to public transport, and I have it on good authority that two community services are keenly interested in relocating to the building, namely, Merri Outreach Support Services, and Your Community Health.
Former Dole Avenue Kindergarten in Keon Park
Since 2014, the former Dole Avenue kindergarten has been languishing unused and unloved, opposite the intimidating mega structure that is the Keon Park Children's Hub.
Locals think it should be used for a community purpose - perhaps it could be a relaxed space for parents to meet and have a coffee in the gardens before picking up their children from kinder; perhaps they could even take a hobby class while they are there; it could be used for community education; or a cooperative coworking space.
The Keon Park area is in desperate need for places where people can gather and socialise. This space could be extremely valuable for building community resilience. Unlike the Hub across the road, the old building would allow people to set up their equipment and leave it in place as needed.
Since 2017, I have attended council run community consultations, signed a community petition to save it from developers, spoken with several organisations about its potential use, and met with the then Mayor and CEO to seek an assurance that it would remain in council hands, which they confirmed. Still its use is not resolved.
This building is important to residents in the North East Ward and needs to be opened up to the community.
24 May 2021
Darebin Council Budget Submission 2021-2022
At the Darebin Council meeting of 27 January 2021, it was unanimously resolved that Council, "Receives an interim report at the March Council meeting and a full report at the Council meeting in May 2021 listing all the unused and under-utilised Council buildings with the purpose of informing the 2021-22 budget process, four year Council plan and Council Vision." The resolution included directions to undertake certain investigations and costings (MINUTE NO. 21-006).
The interim report has not been received and there is no report included in the agenda of the Special Meeting of 10 May 2021. This means that there is currently no information in front of Councillors which they can use to make a determination about repurposing these unused and under-utilised buildings as part of the 2021/2022 budget deliberations.
Without a budget allocation, this could mean that there is a further delay of at least another financial year before action could be taken in respect of any of these buildings. Many in the community are concerned that these buildings are going to waste when instead they could be used for creative spaces, community hubs, or social enterprises.
To kickstart the process, I would like Darebin Council to prioritise two of these empty buildings in the current budget deliberations: the former Dole Avenue Kindergarten (see attached photos), and the former Reservoir Library. I propose that Council sets aside a contingency fund of $250,000 for associated planning, asbestos removal, and refurbishment works so that these buildings could be put to good use by the end of the 2021/2022 financial year.
(Photo credit: Terry Mason)
My questions with responses in bold from Chief Executive Officer, Sue Wilkinson
I asked several questions at the 22 March 2021 Darebin Council meeting regarding Clements Reserve, which were taken on notice. Why haven't the questions and answers been recorded in the minutes of following meeting and will this be corrected on the public record? The responses to the questions taken on notice at the 22 March Council Meeting were not recorded in the minutes of the next Ordinary Council Meeting ( ie the 8 April 2021 ) due to the reduced timeframes and the matters not being finalised. The responses are included in the Governance Report listed in this evenings agenda. When we get the Governance Report this evening Officers when introducing the report will explain the rationale for the approach.
Ongoing delays in obtaining a joint valuation of three parcels of land within Clements Reserve continue to put the acquisition of the parkland at risk. What is the nature of the town planning advice that Darebin Council is now waiting on from VicRoads in relation to Clements Reserve and why has this advice suddenly been deemed necessary before a joint valuation is requested from the Valuer General? Council acknowledges that the acquisition process has taken some time and whilst there were delays in earlier stages, the matter is progressing as expected at this stage given the level of complexity involved in this type of transaction. The current state of this process does not present a risk to the acquisition not proceeding, rather a prudent approach is being taken to ensure due diligence in decision making by both parties who are committed through joint intentions regarding the acquisition of these 3 parcels. This includes the gathering of all necessary advice and information to progress the acquisition. Whilst this matter is of keen interest to our community, it is also subject to complex considerations to progress and complete the acquisition which are considered confidential.
Darebin Council used to list Appendices to the Agenda as separate items on its website, instead of incorporating them into one enormous document. This made it much easier for the public to follow the Agenda, locate the information they required, and print out only those sections of interest. Can this process be reinstated? This practice changed in September 2020 due to a change in the way we distribute the agendas to Councillors. Whilst the combined agenda is sometimes quite large it is in PDF format, and bookmarked. I will speak with the team to see if we can streamline that process to make it easier for the community to access.
1 April 2021
• Serena O’Meley, Reservoir
Noting the following extract from Council’s resolution dated 6 November 2019 (MINUTE NO. 19-247) to, “Bring members of the Community Reference Group for the former Ruthven Primary School site together to seek their advice on two key pieces of work arising out of the masterplan over the next year:
The draft Planting Plan
Sharing the community vision of the masterplan with the Wurundjeri to inform the re-naming process for the park.”
Contractors were given a draft planting plan based on hardy regional species intended only for the windy north west corner of the site which was instead inappropriately used for three other locations. The CRG had to make a last-ditch effort with the help of DNT to get some inappropriate species removed from the list before planting commenced in July 2020. Why wasn’t the CRG consulted, as directed by council, prior to planting being rolled out, and will council ensure that the CRG and Darebin Nature Trust (DNT) are consulted before there is further planting anywhere on the site?
On 1 September 2020, members of the CRG and DNT were invited to a meeting to discuss a more extensive draft planting guide. We were promised written responses to our numerous questions and concerns, as well as a copy of the minutes. Over five months have since elapsed. Why haven’t we been sent these documents?
The Ruthven Park Master Plan is explicitly based upon it being a “Blueprint for Biodiversity: A biodiverse, indigenous landscape will be showcased, enriching Reservoir West’s urban ecosystem.” Yet the planting palette produced for the playground and BBQ area include a long list of unsuitable interstate native species. This element of the planting palette is also contrary to council’s Natural Heritage Strategy (2015-2025) which directs council to: “Continue to use indigenous species of local provenance in all landscaping along waterways or habitat corridors”. It is a significant and detrimental departure from the Ruthven Master Plan on the spurious ground that local species are not sufficiently attractive or hardy and will be trampled by children (according to what I have been told). Will Darebin Council ensure that the planting palette is revised to use only indigenous species of local provenance, in accordance with the Master Plan, before there is further consultation with the CRG and DNT?
Response from Chairperson, Mayor Messina
I understand that our Officers spoke to you last Saturday during consultation for the proposed play space. The Officers welcome further feedback including about the specific plants proposed and will be in touch with you.
Council did start a small amount of planting in July 2020 before consulting on the detail of the planting palette. This was a mistake and I understand Officers apologised at the time and quickly consulted with the CRG and DNT in July and then September 2020. We welcome further feedback. The plants planted were local indigenous species.
I will have Officers contact you to discuss the planting of these plants and also to ensure that your outstanding questions are responded to by the end of the week.
27 January 2021
• Serena O’Meley, Reservoir
There are large piles of leaf litter under trees, fallen branches, and items of hard rubbish are starting to be dumped in the front of the yard of the former Dole Avenue Kindergarten. This neglect places the building and grounds at risk of vandalism. Can this site be incorporated into the garden maintenance schedule of the Keon Park Children's Centre across the road?
Thank you for bringing this matter to Council. A team will attend and undertake some general maintenance of the area as soon as possible.
When Darebin Council meetings were held on Zoom due to Covid-19 it was possible to see the faces of councillors, the motions and amendments they were debating, and public questions could be asked from home.
Can these features be made available to the public again so that meetings can be fully accessible to residents who wish to participate in meetings from their homes?
Thank you for your question Serena
We continually look at ways to make our meetings accessible to residents. I am very pleased that tonight we have been able to have the public back into the Council meeting in person. We have also added new camera angles so that you can see which Councillor is speaking at any one time.
Unfortunately, we are not providing for questions to be asked from home, however we are still providing the option for questions to be lodged by 12 noon and to be read out by the Mayor. I encourage you to utilise this if you are unable to attend a council meeting in person.
Will we be able to see the items on the screen from home?
The Mayor advised that this question would be taken on notice.
At the Council meeting held on 27 January 2021, the following questions were taken on notice by the Chairperson, Mayor Messina
• Serena O’Meley, Reservoir
Will we be able to see the items on the screen from home?
The following email was sent to Ms O’Meley by Stephen Mahon, Coordinator Council Business.
Good Morning Ms O’Meley,
I’m just following up your query from the last Council Meeting on the 27 January 2021 regarding the recording of Council Meetings specifically the display of Councillor’s whilst they speak and the motions and amendments being debated.
Whilst we were conducting the Council and Planning meetings virtually we did have the advantage of being able to have all Councillors viewable and also to display the motions and amendments on the screen and we were conscious that the move to ‘in person’ meetings needed to be improved to ensure that livestream viewers had a better experience.
In this regard we introduced at the 27 January Council 2021 Meeting an additional camera that zooms in on the speaker which appeared to worked well and is now part of the livestream set up. Further at the last Planning Committee on the 8 February 2021 we introduced the screening on the livestream of the Officer Recommendation and or motion prior to the commencement of debate. This practice will also be incorporated into all future meetings.
I trust both of these improvements add to the livestreaming experience and thank you for your interest.