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Could this be the City of Docklands?

28 Jun 2011

Could this be the City of Docklands? Image

Former Local Government Board chair Leonie Hemingway thinks Docklands should form its own municipality.

The woman who oversaw Victoria’s mass council amalgamations during the Kennett era in the 1990s said she always believed the precinct should have its own local council.

“Having its own municipality was its one big shot at defining itself – giving it a soul and a heart,” she said.

“You might have had to start small and would need government support to help you along.  But you’d create something that people owned and were proud of instead of just using it for every hot thing that comes along.”

“The wheel is a perfect example.  That’s not something that forms community.  They would have been better with a library,” she said.

But former mayor of Essendon and current president of the Docklands Community Association, Roger Gardner, disagrees.

“Whilst understanding Leonie’s concerns for the area, Docklands current population of some 7000 residents and 20,000 workers is hardly sufficient to justify a separate council, not even with the projected doubling within 10 years and even with the high commercial content,” Mr Gardner said.

Ms Hemingway (who used her married name, Leonie Burke, when she was chairman of the Local Government Board) said in the early days it was widely assumed that Docklands would be its own municipality.

“If they’d started a little council it would have been very viable because of the rates paid by the businesses there.  In time, the community would have started demanding kindergartens and libraries and other community facilities.”

“They put up a wheel when they don’t have a kindergarten?  It’s appalling.  They give a football ground instead of a school?  Where do they expect the children to go to school?”

“Docklands was a stimulus package in the first place.  It was a stimulus package to get things going because the state was broke.  And that’s fine.”

“But the Government is so used to the corporates paying for everything that they don’t want to put their hand in their pocket.  They took the attitude that they could have it all for nothing.  And that is possible, but it doesn’t produce a great city.”

“Why aren’t they demanding that the developers put a kindergarten in the bottom of their next building?  And if they don’t want to do it, don’t give them the land.”

“In the CBD, kids have got a park to play in.  In Docklands there’s a park but it hasn’t got a playground, it’s got a cow in it!  I find it so frustrating.  Put the cow in by all means, but give them a playground.”

“I think it’s a great place with enormous potential.  But I think people now have to say ‘enough’.  We don’t want this anymore.”

“Docklands’ problem is that it has no political clout and it’s been used as a fun park for the Government.  We’ve got the ice rink, the wheel, the studios, the footy ground – it’s all fun park stuff.”

“They didn’t put the facilities in at the start because they looked on it as a money raiser.  They never thought of putting money in.  They only thought of taking money out.  And communities aren’t formed by pulling money out.”

“And I’m not critical of the City of Melbourne.  I don’t think it’s been fair to them.  I think they’ve been bled.”

“This is the very time to give hope.  There is hope for it to be its own municipality,” Ms Hemingway said.

Mr Gardner said Docklands was clearly over-governed and the solution was for the State Government to withdraw.

“VicUrban continues to dominate with emphasis still placed on commercial development with little town planning or provision of infrastructure apart from public transport,” he said.

“Regrettably the horse has already bolted with nearly every square inch of land sold off. Meanwhile, we continue to fight a rearguard action for things like a permanent community centre, library, sports centre, public parks and now a school.”

“VicUrban has done its development job and the council has far more resources and interest in providing services and infrastructure, including planning. The council is currently frustrated at having insufficient power to act and the sooner it is able to, the better.”

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