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Community spirit takes a hit

02 Nov 2011

Community spirit takes a hit Image

By Shane Scanlan

Docklands is getting a new community garden by the new year, but it hasn’t come without the pain of losing its first, temporary garden at Victoria Harbour.

There is now no sign of the garden which did not survive a move into a wind-tunnel between Dock 5 and the Ericsson building at the harbour end the Merchant St.  

The few items that are being used in the new design and have been moved into storage.  But the bulk of the planters, tanks, beds and plants were trucked out to Brentwood Primary School in Mt Waverley on October 19.

For supporters of the original community garden, being forced into a temporary relocation in a wind prone area severely tested their interest in participating in the new, more-permanent garden.

Put simply, they don’t understand why the garden could not have remained at the water plaza site until the new facility was established in the new year on the corner of Keera Way and Geographe St under the
Myer building.  

And no one, it seems, is willing to take responsibility for moving the garden, with Places Victoria (formerly VicUrban) and Lend Lease both privately blaming the other for the decision.

For Urban Reforestation founder Emily Ballantyne-Brodie, trucking the garden remnants out of Docklands was the end of a four-year, bitter-sweet journey which began with an idea in Shed 4 in 2007.

Innocent about the destructiveness of bureaucracy and driven by idealism, Emily battled heroically in the name of urban sustainability, but has now said her organisation is quitting Docklands.  

Essentially, Urban Reforestation feels that its largely-voluntary effort has not been valued by the various authorities which continue to overlook it and award paid “community engagement” consultancies to outsiders.

“I don’t want to sound resentful, but we did everything,” she said. “And the way we have been treated is disgusting.”

“They are so out of touch. They are up there in their boxes trying to design for a community they don’t understand.”

“They value Jan Gehl’s work and will be paying him to come out from Copenhagen and talk to them next month.  They respect him. But we have been doing what he talks about here on the ground and they don’t respect us.”

The day after the garden was trucked out to Mt Waverley, Emily was contacted by a Dock 5 resident enquiring what happened to the kaffir lime tree that he had planted.

For Urban Reforestation, this call solved a mystery it had long pondered – who had planted the tree, which had just appeared without fanfare one morning?

“The kids at the school are going to look after it, and then when the new garden comes, he is looking forward to installing it in there,” Ms Ballantyne-Brodie said.

“It was nice to have him call and show appreciation for the garden, and also to show that there is a community spirit in the Docklands. What a lovely thing to happen in the middle of a city! This says something about Docklands.”

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  • Corinne at 11:58pm on 05/11/11

    The garden om Victoria Harbour Promenade was a success.
    Why all this change? For something better? Why re-invent what has been done? Why Emily's ideas has been re-used for the image of the second decade of Docklands with out giving her some recognition? Why not encouraging our local creative youth and having oversea people to make Docklands-Melbourne-Australia? I don't understand
  • Corinne at 12:07am on 06/11/11

    Looking over my balcony from Dock5, on an empty place where my garden was: I don't understand; today instead of watering the garden with my son, we played throwing water on the floor of the docks: what a waste! what a lost of learning opportunity! Thank you Emily for fighting hard, you must feel used and I am frustrated of not been heard and recognized as a fruit of Urban Reforestation project
  • Solange Rossi at 7:58pm on 06/11/11

    I am a new resident of Docklands and I would very much like to get involved in the Dockland's community activities.

    Kind Regards
    Solange Rossi
  • Corinne at 12:39am on 11/11/11

    Hi Solange,
    If you want to get involved with Urban Reforestation, write to
    Kind regards,
  • Rose M at 11:07am on 11/11/11

    Thank you to all of you who started the community garden. Although I have no interest in getting my hands into the dirt, I just loved the concept, the fresh herbs available, and I want to thank you all so much for working on it. I hope the new garden will be created quickly and that your wonderful legacy will continue in the best way possible.

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