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Editions

Council is playing games

29 May 2012

Council is playing games Image

Editorial comment: By Shane Scanlan

A Docklands Public Realm Plan has got to be a good thing, but there is more to this recent City of Melbourne exercise that meets the eye.

One would imagine that it should be straight forward enough … council researches its subject, releases a plan and gets to work.  But nothing in Docklands, it seems, is straight forward.

Unfortunately, the council’s plan has a mostly-imagined significance.

It is a plan about things that the council has, generally, only marginal control or influence.  

Of the 16 open space projects listed for action at the end of the report, the council admits it does not have sole responsibility for any of them and has shared responsibility in only five instances.

Furthermore, it’s not THE plan that we have all been waiting two years to see – the “Second Decade” plan.

The Public Realm Plan demonstrates that the council is very good at producing impressively-designed documents.  Unfortunately the report’s style outweighs its substance.

And its unilateral release has again compromised its relationship with Places Victoria (PV), with whom it is supposed to be jointly-managing Docklands.

The release of the Public Realm Plan in isolation from Places Victoria was an act of political brinksmanship at the expense of the Docklands community.

The council and Places Victoria behave like estranged parents constantly bickering over the custody of a child (Docklands).

And rather than approaching things on the basis of what is best for the child, they indulge in petty point-scoring and refuse to spend money on the needy child unless the other one does first.

We saw this recently with the council making its funding of Destination Docklands conditional on matching funds from PV.

The council’s Public Realm Plan also demonstrates its failure to grasp the essence of Docklands – the water.

It continues to promote its idea of choking Victoria Harbour and the river with bridges to connect pedestrian and cycling paths.

In all the pages in the report devoted to transport connectivity, it does not mention river transport at all. Nowhere in its vision are the commuter ferry terminals or water shuttle wharves which have the very real potential to sustainably activate our precinct.

It is fair to say that since taking on the municipal function from VicUrban five years ago, the City of Melbourne has done little in the “public realm” but talk about what it might do in Docklands.

Our dilapidated wayfinding signage is a potent symbol of the council’s ACTUAL commitment to our local economy.

Docklands would be better off if the council actually DID more in return for the $20 million it plans to reap from the suburb this year.

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