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Docklands has a friend at court

28 Jun 2011

Docklands has a friend at court Image

By Shane Scanlan

Docklands has a friend at the top following the appointment on June 21 of Melbourne City Councillor Peter Clarke as chairman of the new Urban Renewal Authority (URA) board.

The new authority replaces VicUrban as Docklands’ master developer and Cr Clarke has been effectively charged with the job of reshaping it into a new entity.

Cr Clarke (who has now resigned from the council and will cease to be a councillor on July 7) chaired the Docklands Co-ordination Committee in the previous council from
July 2007 until December 2008 when he stepped up to chair the current council’s planning committee.

As such, he has locked horns with VicUrban over Docklands issues many times in the past and laughed when Docklands News suggested that his appointment would make some people nervous.

“Suffice to say they have all been very complimentary,” he said.

“I’ve heard excuses over the years and I’m not about to sit in the chair and hear them again,” Cr Clarke said.

Cr Clarke’s appointment has been criticised as a political appointment due to his strong Liberal Party connections, but he points to a wide range of experiences in planning, building and architecture.

As a city councillor, he has expressed frustration with excessive bureaucracy and process.

“I’m all about outcomes rather than process,” he said.  “And as far as Docklands is concerned I know what most of the issues are.”

“I’m not anticipating sitting in this chair and finding in the years to come that we didn’t make good progress.”

“The Minister (for Planning, Matthew Guy) has indicated to me that he wants deliverables and outcomes and he doesn’t want to wait.”

“At this stage he’s saying to me, 'well give me a program and let’s talk about how we’re going to fund it'.”

“It’s not about creating property for the sake of creating property.  It’s about creating communities with all the infrastructure required to support those communities.”

Cr Clarke will potentially struggle to delegate tasks to a CEO and senior staff as he likes to be involved and “hands on”.

“That’s not to say that the board can’t set the agenda, put strict timelines around deliverables and hold the staff to account,” he said.

Another potential difficulty lies in the question of planning powers for Docklands.  As a councillor with the City of Melbourne, he was arguing for more involvement.  Effectively now on the other side of the fence, it will be interesting to see how he balances this issue.

“I don’t see why we haven’t got one integrated capital city planning authority,” he said.

Legislation to enable the new Urban Renewal Authority is not likely to be implemented before September.  Until that time, VicUrban will remain.  

Cr Clarke indicated that the search for a CEO would be an immediate priority.  

He will then concentrate on who would be on the new URA board.

Cr Clarke indicated that he considered the current VicUrban Board unbalanced with an over-emphasis on legal skills at the expense of practical planning and property experience.

“Clearly good governance is needed, but we need people with a creative bent in property,” he said.  “We don’t want people who can just put up commercial towers.  We want people who are quite entrepreneurial about the unique flavour of what they want to achieve.”

The new Urban Renewal Authority is likely differ from VicUrban in at least two areas: More emphasis on housing diversity and affordability; and while still concerned with sustainability, it will be less interested in pushing the boundaries;

He said the future emphasis in Docklands would be about integrating it with E-Gate in the north and the future Fisherman’s Bend urban redevelopment in the south-west.

“And I’m not sure we’ve got the uses right yet.  Docklands needs educational institutions and a broader arts community,” he said.

He said the local economy needed a sound retail strategy and opportunities needed to be leveraged from Docklands’ media and sporting strengths.

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  • Ronald Butters at 4:12pm on 29/06/11

    It will be interesting to see how Clarke responds to Community needs in Docklands. He has not been very responsive to Community interests as a MCC Councillor. He is recently reported to have said that he is tired of community groups when deciding the future use of the Carlton Gardens and allowing continuing commercial use of these World Heritage listed public gardens.
  • Anonymous at 7:04pm on 30/06/11

    He apparently opposes the good developments in favor of the tiny, ugly box ones. We don't want any developments with hideous, boring podiums and blank walls or any buildings that look like futuristic cheese graters. We want good quality developments that make docklands look more visually attractive and make the place lively and not look so barren and vacant.

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