But who will lead?
Editorial Comment by Shane Scanlan
With truckloads of fanfare and hoopla last month about Docklands’ second decade, it was what wasn’t said that raises concerns about our future.
Firstly, congratulations to VicUrban for the idea of consulting the community about the future. It has been sadly lacking and Docklands has been craving it.
But what is going to happen to all those weird and wonderful ideas penned to post-it notes and butchers’ paper in late July?
VicUrban general manager David Young was quick to point out that the exercise was not about a master plan. So what is it about? A vibe?
We were also told last month that the Government and the council had negotiated a truce in the battle over planning powers in Docklands. The council, we are told, will be in charge of “completed” areas.
While putting on a brave face, it can’t be too happy with that. VicUrban retains parenting duties, while the council becomes the babysitter.
But VicUrban seems to be in no position to lead. It’s actions are tentative and neutral, as if it is unsure of itself. It appears to acknowledge that it has no legitimacy in this area because it is unaccountable.
VicUrban is damned if it does, and damned if it doesn’t.
It is reluctant to admit that it has ideas about the future of Docklands. That’s not its role, it would say. And this would also potentially void its credentials in attempting to consult.
And if it did come up with inspirational ideas for the future of Docklands, it would be criticised for being autocratic.
Despite presenting slides on “ideas” at a public consultation and agreeing on the night to release them to Docklands News, VicUrban later reneged saying: “This (what was supplied) does not include the slides on the ideas as these have no status and were purely used for workshop discussion.”
One of these “ideas” with “no status” was Western Park. This proposed sporting facility under the Bolte Bridge has been discussed at length behind closed doors for months and possibly years.
Mr Young actually referred to a “debate” over this proposed facility. But late last month was the first time it had been publicly acknowledged when it appeared in his Powerpoint presentation.
It’s almost as if VicUrban is hoping someone else will suggest “how about we have a sporting facility under Bolte Bridge?”
By it’s own actions and nature, VicUrban is poorly positioned to lead a debate on the future of Docklands. And yet it has successfully resisted that role being passed to the City of Melbourne.
The City of Melbourne may be antagonistic towards Docklands, but at least it has elected representatives and publicly accountable processes.
The “second decade” activity focuses attention on VicUrban’s role. It doesn’t enjoy the limelight (in fact, it bristles under public scrutiny) and will often claim to be merely a planning “referral” authority. But in the same breath it will admit that its real role is to “manage the Docklands development in partnership with private enterprise”.
In performing this management function, VicUrban has no obligation or intention to involve the public. Indeed, it would claim to be bound to a series of “developer agreements” which specifically exclude the public.
So while VicUrban struggles to understand and perform its role in an environment that has changed significantly since the Docklands development started 10 years ago, the community is again asked to comment on a discussion that it hasn’t been involved in.