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Docklands law under attack

04 Feb 2013

By Shane Scanlan

City of Melbourne officers want state legislation changed to remove special support and protection for Docklands.

If successful, it would mean that they would no longer have to report specifically on Docklands finance, infrastructure and place management.

Since 2007, Docklands has enjoyed special status under the City of Melbourne and Docklands Acts (Governance) Act 2006.

The Docklands Co-ordination Committee (DCC) was created under the legislation, which compels the council and Places Victoria to treat Docklands separately and report on a range of matters.

The council is currently forced to budget separately for Docklands and its regular reports have consistently revealed multi-million dollar rating windfalls over and above what it spends in the suburb.

Among its place management roles for Docklands defined by the legislation are “the marketing and promotion of the Docklands area” and “the attraction and staging of events in the Docklands area”.

According to council’s urban design manager Rob Moore, at the March 5 Future Melbourne Committee meeting, officers will ask councillors to support a request to the State Government to change the law and “disband” the Co-ordination Committee.

He told the Docklands Community Forum on January 30 that the new forum was a better model and he invited Docklanders to come along to the Future Melbourne Committee meeting and have their say.

However, Mr Moore failed to reveal what legislative protections Docklands would lose if the law was changed.

Docklanders agree with his assessment that the Co-ordination Committee meetings themselves had become “dysfunctional” and “unuseful”. They also support the emerging community forum model.  But they fear losing the legislative protection the existence of the committee afforded.

Docklands Chamber of Commerce President Stephen Clement said he would urgently seek clarification. He said the chamber wanted Docklands' special status retained while it was incomplete.

“It is the chamber's strong belief that Docklands should continue to be specially nurtured and developed," he said.

The council is refusing to specifically say how it wants the law changed until Friday, March 1 when the Future Melbourne Committee meeting agenda is revealed.

Co-ordination Committee chairman Cr Kevin Louey said it was not the first time that officers had attempted to remove Docklands' special status.

Cr Louey said he would support the retention of the committee, if that was what Docklanders wanted.  He said he was surprised that the council had not consulted on the matter.

Only a year ago, when proposing the new community forum, the council promised to keep the Docklands Co-ordination Committee but drop it’s frequency to just once a year.

At the time, the council said the Co-ordination Committee would continue to approve the place management, finance and infrastructure plans.

And while Mr Moore clearly told the January 30 community forum he wanted the DCC scrapped, a council spokesperson on February 4 said the committee would continue. The spokesperson said Mr Moore was on leave and could not be contacted to clarify management’s position.

However, the spokesperson did agree that the officers wanted the law changed so Docklands could be treated the same as other suburbs within the municipality.

“The DCC will continue to meet once a year to endorse the annual place plan, however it is proposed that its statutory decision-making powers – including those relating to infrastructure, finance and place management – be transferred to the Future Melbourne Committee,” the spokesperson said.

The council and Place Victoria have no statutory obligations towards the Docklands Community Forum which has so far been successful in a participatory sense, but has been designed as a two-monthly “talk and listen” session.   It has met three times.

Agendas are single-page, whereas, in the past, DCC agendas contained sometimes hundreds of pages of detailed reports.

The Docklands Co-ordination Committee comprises the council and Places Victoria’s CEOs and most senior officers and officials.

When it started in 2007 it met six times a year but this soon dropped back to quarterly.  As an official council committee, it was supported by dozens of officers and obviously cost a lot of money to administer.

A Places Victoria spokesperson said: “Places Victoria supports the City of Melbourne’s review of the Docklands Co-ordination Committee following the establishment of the Docklands Community Forum. The review is currently underway and Places Victoria will appropriately form a position once the details are available.”

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