As part of Glen Eira Council’s current community consultation on it’s 2020 Open Space Strategy Refresh, Council is at last acknowledging the Victorian Environment Assessment Councils (VEAC) 2010 finding that

  • Glen Eira has the least per capita open space in Metropolitan Melbourne and
  • Glen Eira’s per capita open space is less than half the average for Metropolitan Melbourne

 At the 4/02/2020 Council Meeting, during the Refresh Strategy discussion, Councillors attributed this deficiency to Glen Eira’s lack of waterways and foreshores, which despite Council’s active acquisition of additional parkland, still impacts today.  However, Council’s own data does not support  “active acquisition” comments and after 26 years of persistent residents outcries for additional parkland we think “lack of waterways and foreshores” has passed its use by date.   

As presented in the Flyer promoting our recently postponed (COVID-19) residents gathering, since it’s 1994 formation, Glen Eira Council has undertaken 3 Open Space Strategies all using the same methodology (ie. gap analysis focusing on small “pocket” parks).

How can this be if Council has been actively acquiring” additional parkland?  And is the current Gap Analysis the way to go? 

The reality is that Council has not been “actively acquiring” nor following it’s own policy of spending Open Space Levy revenue 50/50 between acquiring and rehabilitating new open space vs. providing “improvements” to existing open space.  

What’s happened is that Council

  • consistently favoured “improvements” to existing open space and obtaining Government Land grants rather than Council purchasing land.   Even though Council has claimed a policy of spending open space levy revenue
    • as being “a 50% split between acquisition (and rehabilitation) and improvements to existing open space” or
    • for short time in 2014, implemented a policy of  100% spending open space levy revenue on acquisition and rehabilitation of new parkland.

These improvements being

  • open space consuming, underutilised pavilions ( eg. Caulfield Park 2009, Duncan McKinnon and facilities (eg. GESAC – Bailey Reserve, 2012) and their associated car park provisions in existing open space
  • “re-jigging” of sports grounds in existing parkland (particularly in Caulfield and Princes Parks) with Council noting that re-jigging opportunities had been “maxed out” in 2013, hence the 2014 OSS.
  • the rehabilitation of State Government Land Grants (no acquisition cost) where ownership of the land remains with the Crown while management and rehabilitation of land becomes the responsibility of Council. Examples are:
    • Mallanbool Reserve, Murrumbeena – 2.210 ha – a storm water retention basin. Rehabilitation costs unknown.
    • Booran Road Reservoir Reserve, Glen Huntly – 1.730 ha (a disused water reservoir deemed surplus to requirements in the late 1990’s). Rehabilitation costs for this free land range from $11m – $14m. Costs which were strongly criticised by residents and other Council’s as being fiscally unacceptable given Glen Eira’s chronic shortage of open space and dramatically rising property values.
    • Wedge Dog Park, Caulfield East – 5,600 sqm, $350,000 Govt Grant for rehabilitation.
  • Rehabilitation of road network
    • Riddell Parade, Elsternwick – 900 sqm, cost unknown
    • Eskdale Road Park, Caulfield North – 500 sqm , cost $450,000.
  • Actual Open Space Purchases (1998-2020) were:
    • Two house lots in Packer Park, Carnegie – acquisition cost $.1.9m, 1300 sqm.  Rehabilitation costs (which included the former Bowls Club) unknown.
    • Lirrewa Grove, Caulfield – costs unknown, 480 sqm
    • House lot abutting Gardenvale Park, Gardenvale – acquisition and rehabilitation costs unknown.
    • Aileen Avenue, Caulfield South – cost unknown, yet to be rehabilitated

 Note:   Council also purchased the former McKee Furniture Store, Neerim Road, Carnegie. A 680 sqm lot for $3.6m ($5,0894/sqm) for a mix of community uses.  As this site is not included in the 2020 Open Space Refresh, it is not included in the above listing.

  • Changed the Definitions of Open Space & Review of Potential Parkland

The increase in open space (8.07 ha), which occurred between the 1998 and 2020 Strategies is largely attributable to a change in the definitions  and Council undertaking a major review of all potential parkland in Glen Eira.

 These changes had a number of implications for Glen Eira’s reporting of open space in the 2014 Draft Open Space Strategy.

  •  Previously excluded small pieces of land formed from developments (both private and public) and road networks were now included.

 For example:  The Caulfield Plantation Reserve – Botanical Significance (800 sqm), Cnr. Normanby Road and Queens Avenue, Caulfield East (on the elevated railway line embankment)

  • Re-measurement of existing open space areas

For example – Spring Road Reserve, Caulfield South.  Area increased from 400 sqm (1998 OSS) to 800 sqm. (2014 OSS).  Which OSS is correct?

  • The loss of usable open space arising from locating infrastructure (ie pavilions and GESAC together with their ancillary car parking and vehicle access requirements) on existing parkland is widely acknowledged. However, due to the inclusion of “larger urban and civic spaces and forecourts” the impact on usable open space is not reported.

Note:

  • Loss of open space visibility from East Boundary Road
  • the loss of tree canopies and
  • car parking provision, both within the reserve and the relocation of the footpath along Gardeners Road. These car parking provisions are particularly ironic given Council’s recent Transport Strategy and proposed revisions to On-street Car parking policies – both geared to reducing reliance on the use of private vehicles.
  • Missed Opportunities

Between 1988 and 2020 several opportunities to acquire large lots were missed (eg. Alma Club, Caulfield North – 7,100 sqm; 487 Neerim Road, Murrumbeena – 3142 sqm abutting Riley Reserve which would significantly inceased the size of the reserve, and Regent Street, Elsternwick – 5 house lots).

 

OPEN SPACE LEVY

In 2014 Council changed from an complex system of calculating open space levy rates (which frequently yielded levy rates lower than the previously recommended 5%) to a much simpler 5.7% municipal wide levy rate.

This rate was lower than the majority of other Councils (eg. Stonnington opted for 6% for Neighbourhood Residential Zones and 8% in the Activity Centres). Residents unsuccessfully challenged the rate as being too low and a 5.7% rate was adopted.

Despite the Glen Eira’s acknowledged open space deficiency, the 2020 Open Space Levy proposes a municipal levy rate of 8.7% which again is lower than most other Metro Councils currently have (10%)

The 2020 OSS Refresh does not provide any substantive reasons for the selection of the 8.7% levy rate.  Contrary to all good community consultation criteria, 8.7% is simply presented as a given.  Although it is noted that during Council’s 24/2/2020 discussion, Cr. Delahunty commented that to opt for a higher rate would be detrimental to Glen Eira’s current rate of development.  !!!!!

We are equally in the dark when it comes to how this money is to be spent and how it is to be reported.  Previous and current responses to resident’s questions support our earlier comment that more is spent on existing open space rather than acquiring new open space.

  • 2012 – response – during the period 2003/4 to 2011/12 Open Space Levy revenue = $12.7m, new parkland (the 2 Packer Park houselots) = $1.9 m. Split = 15%/85%.
  • October, 2019 – response – 2016 -2019 Open Space Levy = $13.7m of which $3.6m has been spent on new parkland. Split = 26%/74%

 Both the low levy rate and Council pattern of Levy Revenue show a lack of willingness to address Glen Eira’s chronic shortage of Open Space.

 We urge residents to join us in arguing for a higher levy rate and Council adopting a policy to ensure that 100% of Levy Revenue is spent on acquiring new open space.

DEFICIENCIES IN THE 2020 OPEN SPACE STRATEGY REFRESH

There is a huge disparity between the increases in Open Space (3.6%) and Population Growth (36.1%) since 1998.

Council has long acknowledged that

  • it was no longer possible “squeeze” more sports usages or children’s playgrounds from existing open space we have to ask why then is Council continuing to follow a methodology that focuses on acquiring unconsolidated lots as parkland linkages or pocket parks that offer little recreational or environmental value, and
  • 1000’s of residents (adults and juniors) were required to seek sporting club membership in other Municipalities as Glen Eira’s open space was unable to meet their needs.

A dramatic change is needed – the focus needs to switch to acquiring large consolidated lots with have the ability to provide for multiple usages (ie. play, sports, exercise and relaxation in various combinations).  Developers can find such lots, why can’t Council?

Along with changing the focus to large consolidated lots, the new strategy needs to include:

  • An assessment of expected population growth and the associated need to expand the municipality’s parks.
  • Quantification of the deficiencies in terms of the populations open space needs based on
    • Demographics and housing types
    • Facilities required (eg. active sports facilities for both men and women, children’s playgrounds, passive recreation). FYI – 2020 Open Refresh survey of population usages was undertaken in 2012.
    • Proximity and accessibility to medium and high density housing in activity centres
  • A clear and measurable framework for overcoming the current open space deficiencies. For example,
    • How and where are identified deficiencies to be addressed? (Large parks provide for multiple uses whereas small parks provide limited recreational or environmental benefits and are relatively more expensive to maintain).
    • How much will this cost?
    • How should it be funded?
      • Open Space Levy Revenue – 100% expended on new parkland and rehabilitation
      • Developer?
        • Land contributions in lieu of $ Open Space Levy payments or
        • Community benefit land contributions for height limit exemptions of up to 4 stories.
      • Council’s Operating Surplus
      • Council borrowings
    • How much should the OS Levy be – SGE recommends varying the rate as follows
      • Neighbourhood Residential Zone – 10%
      • General Residential (3 stories) and Residential Growth (4 stories) – 12%
      • Commercial and Mixed Use Zones – 15%
    • What reporting standards should be applied to the acquisition and rehabilitation of new parkland and new facilities in existing parkland? Both in terms of dimensions of areas and $’s
    • Discussion (pro’s and con’s) on use of Parkland Acquisitions Overlays?

Submissions to the Council re the 2020 Open Space Strategy Refresh close on 22/3/2020.  Residents (on behalf of themselves, their children and grandchildren) are urged to lodge a submission.

Council elections will be held in October, 2020.

Glen Eira needs Councillors who hold transparency and accountability as part of their responsibility to residents. Councillors who are prepared to openly question and challenge the Administration and its officers and ensure that residents’ views are factored into Council’s decisions.   (Under the Local Government Act Councillors are responsible for setting the “rules” and monitoring the compliance of all Council officers with those “rules”).

 If you are considering standing, please feel free to contact us to further discuss any of the above issues or any area of special interest to you.

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