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August 09 Edition Cover

Skyfarm will be an “asset”

29 May 2019

Skyfarm will be an “asset” Image

City of Melbourne councillors have assured Flinders Wharf residents they have nothing to fear from a 2000sqm “skyfarm” that has been approved for an adjacent car park rooftop at 671-701 Flinders St.

Residents expressed fears and concerns to the May 7 Future Melbourne Committee meeting over the proposal.

Owners’ corporation chair Thomas McNair said councillors had not received proper advice from officers and he contended the proposal was about creating an entertainment venue.

“This doesn’t pass the pub test in my view – and in the view of my wife and my granddaughter. The proposal is all about an event space and selling liquor and maybe food,” Mr McNair said. “It’s not about providing green space at all.”

Flinders Wharf resident Alan Wong also objected to the skyfarm.

“Basically, I want to be able to raise my young family in an environment that I selected when I bought into that place six years ago,” Mr Wong said.

“I’m trying to figure out what problem we’re trying to solve with this proposal.”

“My concern around this proposal is essentially noise pollution, visual [and] light pollution and loss of privacy, [and] security concerns,” he said.

But Melbourne Skyfarm proponent Brendon Condon, of Australian Ecosystems, said the enterprise would be “a very classy, demure, respectful good neighbour”.

“We’re looking to transform an underused 2000sqm car park into a thriving rooftop orchard, farm, sustainable cafe, conference space and environmental education centre and to create a beautiful space for nature and biodiversity in the city.”

“We’re part of award-winning projects across biodiversity, stormwater harvesting, urban food, zero-emission communities and we hope Skyfarm is an extension of all those solutions which are absolutely needed and critical for a functioning and healthy climate-adapted city,” Mr Condon said.

“We have a car park at the moment which is a heat-bank and is contributing to the heat island effect in the city. Through good design, we will flip it into a cool zone which is ideal for rooftop farming.”

“We think Melbourne is set to benefit and it will be a great platform for accelerating integrated sustainability in the city.”

Lord Mayor Sally Capp asked Mr Condon: “I guess I’m just looking for some confirmation: Is this a disco (if you call them that, these days) disguised as a farm? Or is this really a farm that has some event space? Is this event space going to operate every night? Is it a rage?”

Mr Condon replied: “Definitely not. It’s a hybrid model and community farms need those revenue streams so they’re sustainable in the long-term.”

“It will be a respectful, sound-proofed set of structures. Because they’re sustainable, they’ll have good insulation and double-glazing very similar to zero-carbon buildings we’re building in regional Victoria,” Mr Condon said.

Cr Arron Wood assured residents Melbourne Skyfarm would become a valued asset for the local area.

“I’ve known Brendan’s work for a very long time. So, what you have here is not a nightclub operator.”

“You’ve got someone who lives, breathes and has the runs on the board in terms of urban sustainability, in terms of environmental developments, huge housing developments – you know, six-star, nine-star, 10-star housing developments – that have food production at their heart – communal gardens and the like.”

“So, although it has to pay for itself, and all of these things need a sustainable business model (as well as being sustainable themselves), that’s certainly isn’t the primary focus of this.”

“This is really about urban greening, urban food production and, hopefully over time, that relationship with local residents will build into something that you can be proud of as well.”

“So, instead of thinking that you’re looking over a tavern or a venue, what you’ve got beside you is actually an urban farm.”

“So, to have on your doorstep somewhere to take your young kids, somewhere where they can explore, to engage and understand food production … I think it going to be a huge asset in the long run.”

In response to resident concerns, planning chair Cr Nicholas Reece said: “I want to express my empathy for many very good points that you raised. If I were [sic] in your situation I could very much see myself making many of the same points.”

But, he said, the council’s role was to apply policies and assess against the planning scheme.

“In that respect I do think that this application is compliant,” he said. “I do think there is some scope to be optimistic about what this will add to this part of the city. In fact, there’s a lot to be very positive about what’s happening.”

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