Council pushes Development Victoria to reveal community funds

Council pushes Development Victoria to reveal community funds

By David Schout

A developer’s funding pool for Docklands community projects will be revealed within the next six months should the City of Melbourne get its way.

Facilities such as The Hub and projects identified through the soon-to-be released Docklands Activation Strategy are set for a cash injection that is said to be a “positive outcome for residents”.

As part of the Two Melbourne Quarter development near Southern Cross Station, developer Lendlease was required to provide almost 1000sqm of community space via an agreement with Development Victoria (DV).

However, opting against this, Lendlease instead provided a cash-equivalent contribution that is due to be spent on other local community projects.

DV, a state government agency, has confirmed it will consult with the council before allocating funds to community projects, but is yet to reveal the figure.

When contacted by Docklands News, DV did not say when it would reveal the figure to council, nor why it had yet to do so.

“This is an opportunity to look at what community facilities or projects are needed elsewhere in Docklands and we look forward to continuing work with council to deliver a great outcome,” group head Geoff Ward said.

At a February 16 Future Melbourne Committee (FMC) meeting, councillors urged DV to reveal the figure within the next six months so it could better grasp the funding pipeline for the local area.

Council planning chair Cr Nicholas Reece said being kept in the dark on the value was far from ideal.

“I’ve got to say, as a councillor and someone who sees themselves as a custodian of the city, there are a number of aspects to this arrangement that I do find challenging,” he said.

“Sitting here tonight, we don’t actually know the value of the community infrastructure commitment which is being made by Lendlease.”

While the council does not know the value of the commitment, it does have a seat at the table to determine which community facilities or areas are in most need of a cash injection.

“That is still a far from perfect arrangement, but nonetheless it means that as councillors we can take comfort that Lendlease aren’t walking away from the commitment they’ve made to make a contribution to community infrastructure here in Docklands, but … the arrangement doesn’t have the level of transparency we would ordinarily look for,” Cr Reece said.

Cr Reece stressed that the frustration was not with the developer, but rather the governance around available funds.

According to council documents, an email from DV on January 29 indicated where the funds could be allocated.

“DV and CoM have agreed to work together to spend these funds on appropriate community projects in Docklands – with the [email protected] and projects identified through the Docklands Activation Strategy agreed as good starting points,” it read.

“To this end, it is DV’s intention to establish a DV/CoM project working group to map out a suitable process and coordinate activities.”

Deputy planning chair Rohan Leppert said the fact that the council had no oversight of upcoming funding was “absolutely no way to plan for future populations”.

“I think pushing DV a little further to disclose what they can to the City of Melbourne as a planning authority and as a service provider is so important,” he said.

“We’ve just got to have some way of looking into the future and understanding how and where these contributions will cater for a growing and important population in Docklands.”

Cr Jamal Hakim, a Docklands resident, said the importance of the funds was heightened in a post-COVID community.

“Docklands has so much that needs to be done to activate community spaces,” he said.

“I urge DV to also consider that Docklands is one of the worst affected areas from COVID, and I hope that the delivery of these spaces to support the community will grow and make a more welcoming space for visitors and the community.” •

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