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August 09 Edition Cover

Docklands body turns full circle

04 Mar 2013

Docklands body turns full circle Image

By Shane Scanlan

It is likely that history will turn full circle and that, following yet another restructure, Places Victoria will end up looking after Docklands only.

The Docklands Authority was established more than 20 years ago as a single-interest entity to develop Docklands.

The focus on Docklands started to blur in 2003 when it was merged into the State Government’s other land development activities and then fell away from 2007 when power sharing first started with the City of Melbourne.

Not much changed for Docklands when VicUrban was reinvented by the current Government as Places Victoria, a nick-name for its more formal title of the Urban Renewal Authority.

Officers dedicated to Docklands largely escaped a serious purge at the end of 2012 when staff numbers were slashed to about 90 and it is predicted that they could be, in fact, the only 40 or so people left as a new cleanout gets underway.

For some time now it has been apparent that the State Government has had too many “development” agencies.  In our own backyard alone, we have seen Places Victoria competing with Major Projects for the opportunity to develop E-Gate, which has been delayed (presumably, at least partly, to allow the politics to play out).

At the central level, the Government has been wrestling with the best way to rationalise all these agencies into a single entity.  Recent developments indicate that the “winner” is the Growth Areas Authority (GAA) which is predicted to re-emerge at the Melbourne Planning Authority.

For a Government strapped for cash, VicTrack’s simple, hands-off model is attractive – contrasting sharply with the perception that Places Victoria is a financial liability.

A further common perception is that, if Places Victoria can’t return a profit when it owns the land, how could it possibly be anything than a burden on Treasury if it was allowed to oversee the Fisherman’s Bend development where the land is in private hands?

The unfortunate demise of Peter Clarke as Places Victoria chair and the destabilising series of departures of senior staff and fellow board members that followed the assumption to the position by Ken Fehily sealed Places’ fate.

On March 4 the CEO of the Growth Areas Authority, Peter Seamer, took over as CEO of Places Victoria.

In a memo to GAA staff on February 22, Mr Seamer said Planning Minister Matthew Guy had asked him to take over at Places Victoria for six months.

It is understood that this means Mr Seamer is to have a good look at what he wants to bring into the Growth Areas Authority and work out what to the do with what is left.

Observers predict that everything except ongoing Docklands duties will be repurposed into the Melbourne Planning Authority.

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