Friday, May 26, 2006

Melbourne Museum development

Public forum May 26 1996 Royal Exhibition Buildings

10 Years ago...


2 pm, Sunday 26 May 1996
Great Hall, Royal Exhibition Buildings

CHAIR : Ms Lecki Ord (Architect and former Lord Mayor of Melbourne)

1 Welcome

Councillor Peter McMullin, Deputy Lord Mayor, welcomed members of the public and speakers to the Forum.

2 Introductions

The Chairperson addressed the forum and introduced the speakers listed under agenda item 4.

3 Objective of Forum The Chair addressed the objective of the Forum

4 Presentations

· Graham Morris, Director, State Museum

· Dick Roennfeldt, Director, Office of Major Projects.

· Rob Adams, Director City Projects, City of Melbourne

· Dr Miles Lewis, Faculty of Architecture, University of Melbourne

· Trevor Huggard, former Exhibition Trustee and Lord Mayor

(Copies of the presentations made by the speakers are attached.)

5 Panel Questions

The Panel received and responded to questions from the public.

6. Motions

The following motions were put and carried by those attending the Forum :

"That this Forum move that the Melbourne City Council oppose the further alienation of parkland in the Carlton Gardens by the location of a Museum. Further, that it use every endeavour to relocate the Museum to another site to the strategic advantage of both the Museum and the City."

"That the meeting strongly oppose the proposed use of the Museum in the Carlton Gardens as it is a wrongful use of the Gardens and will severely compromise both the historic Exhibition Buildings, now and in the future. The site is also inadequate in terms of access by car and public transport.

This meeting also strongly believes that the Queen Victoria Hospital or the Federation Square sites will better serve both the interests of the Museum and the interests of the central city as a cultural heart of Melbourne and urges that the Carlton Gardens site be abandoned and serious consideration be given to the central city sites for the Museum"

"That this forum:

call on the State Government and the Melbourne City Council to consider the incorporation of the State Museum as part of the proposed development of Federation Square; and

request that a commitment to the current site at the Exhibition Buildings be deferred until the options for the Federation Square project are finalised."

"That this meeting endorse the need for the Museum of Victoria to develop a new building (or complex of buildings) of world class standards in the fulfillment the Museum's mission to preserve and present evidence of our histories."

"That no blades be included in any proposed development of a Museum."

"That copies of the six addresses given at this Forum be sent to all members of :

· the Museum Executive; and · the State Parliament of Victoria."

On the question of the formation of a group to continue to lobbying for the relocation of the Museum, the Chair recommended that interested people approach Mr Anthony van der Craats and the 'Defend Our Heritage' group at the conclusion of the meeting, to discuss the ways in which the collective view of members of the community can be conveyed to the authorities involved in the determination of the site of the proposed Museum.

The meeting concluded at 4.24 pm

- Copies of Presentation speeches -

Miles Lewis, University of Melbourne,. Architecture Department

Ladies and Gentlemen

I have lived through a period when the Victoria Market has been proposed as the site of new Museum ; then the Queen Victoria Hospital site; then the existing Museum and Library site in Swanston Street (on the basis that the Library would now move out); then the south bank of the Yarra; and now the Carlton Gardens.

These changes have been absolutely dispiriting for those involved in the Museum. The last was probably the worst. Construction was actually under way on a site on the south side of the Yarra which the Museum itself had chosen, which had a water connection to Scienceworks, and which was close to Southgate and the Arts Centre. The Kennett Government simply stepped in, halted the work, and converted the part-built structure into the Exhibition Centre.

Nobody can help sympathising with the Museum authorities. Anybody can understand their desperate desire to find a permanent home, and their desperate need, in consequence, to justify the present scheme.

But the fact is that nobody in the Museum world honestly believes that this is a good site. Nobody believes that it is central enough. Nobody believes that it is close enough to other arts and tourist facilities. Nobody believes that it is accessible enough to public transport; nobody believes that it will have enough carparking. Nobody believes that it can work well in relation to the Exhibition building. Nobody believes that it provides the room for expansion which is a requirement of the brief itself.

The official brief states (p 64): "It is also inevitable that at some time in the future additions to the complex will be required. The building needs to cater for expansion in both its internal planning and its external appearance."

Two put it bluntly, two wrongs don't make a right, and five wrongs still don't make a right.

The other four wrongs are as follows. It is wrong for the Exhibition Buildings. It is wrong for the cultural precinct of Melbourne. It is wrong for the City of Melbourne as a whole. And it is absolutely and terribly wrong to treat parkland as development sites.

It is wrong for the Exhibition Building because this is one of Australia's most important and symbolic pieces of architecture, epitomising the peak of nineteenth century Victorian success and prosperity, representing a high point of intercolonial cooperation; and the first meeting place of the Parliament of Australia. It is, along with the Eiffel Tower in Paris, one of the only substantial structures remaining from the great nineteenth century exhibitions.

And it is, because of this, the only building in Victoria with any prospect of achieving world heritage listing. That listing represents the ultimate in international recognition, and means a great deal in terms both of tourism and prestige. But it also requires a commitment by the authorities to the building's proper preservation and management, including its surroundings.

Such a commitment is not demonstrated by building a totally incompatible structure next to it, with a featuristic blade whose sole purpose is to compete with the great dome.

And don't get the idea that this is will be a new structure nestling in the shadow of the Exhibition Building. The Exhibition Building is huge, but the Museum is to be three times the size, and to add to that there will be an additional three thousand square metres of outdoor exhibition space, plus delivery bays, plus carparking access.

The north part of the Carlton Gardens will be no more than a skirt about the foot of this megastructure.

Cars will enter the site through what was the major public forecourt of the Exhibition Building facing Nicholson Street. A boom gate and attendant's booth have already been put there, overshadowing the newly restored Westgarth Fountain and turning a major public space into a tacky parking lot. Does this suggest that future decisions about the Exhibition Buiilding can safely be left in the hands of Mr Morris?

That is why the proposal is wrong for the Exhibition Building. Why is it wrong for the cultural precinct?

There is a cultural spine along Swanston Street. At the north end is a so-called knowledge precinct extending from Melbourne University through RMIT to the State Library and the present Museum. At the south end is the Arts Centre, the soon to be reopened Regent Theatre, and the Town Hall in its role as a prime musical and entertainment venue.

These landmark institutions are mutually reinforcing. People move from one to another. They cooperate for festivals and other special events. They collectively comprise Melbourne'sculturalidentity. TotaketheMuseumoutofthegroupisnotjusttodamage the Museum itself, but to damage the others as well. It is to hack off a major limb from a body which is not robust enough to spare it.

That is why this proposal is wrong from the point of view of Melbourne's cultural precinct.

If the museum is essential to the cultural spine, it is even more essential to the Central Business District. Central Melbourne, make no mistake, is very sick and is getting sicker by the minute. The residential market is collapsing, and it's losing office accommodation, retailing and entertainment.

Swanston Walk already looks like a wasteland, and this is only the beginning.

City flats in recycled buildings are now re-selling at about 20% less than the purchase price. That is a situation which simply cannot continue, and the rot has set in already.

City office space is in a state of glut, partly concealed by the incentives, discounts and rentfree periods used to attract tenants into the new buildings. But the fact is that the demand is not there. City rentals are lower than those in St Kilda Road, and in turn the rents in St Kilda Road are below those in some suburban centres.

City retailing is sick enough as it is. Soon a massive new shopping complex is going to open at the Casino, and the whole focus of the city will move to the south of the Yarra.

The same is true of entertainment. The Casino complex is to contain no less than twenty new cinemas. What will that do to the existing city venues?

Every viable function is being leached out of the city. There is not much that governments can do to arrest a decline Re this. However, every few decades, perhaps only two or three times in a century, there is some major project which can be used to kick start a revival, and the construction of a new Museum is potentially one such project.

But it is not being used in that way. It is not merely that the Museum is to be built elsewhere. This also involves taking away the existing Museum and its existing flow of visitors. This could be the coup-de-grace for at least the northern part of town.

My fifth, and my last, and my most serious point is what this implies for Melbourne's parklands. There have always been greedy eyes on Melbourne's parks, and there have always been battles to preserve one park or another. But there has never been a sustained and simultaneous attack upon almost every piece of open space in the city as there is today, under the Kennett government .

The destruction of parklands is a one-way process,, which works like a ratchet. For there is no going back. Every time you put a development on parkland you create the expectation that the same can be done with the next development. Every time you put a public institution on parkland you create a demand for carparking and access roads which can never be finally satisfied. Every use you put in parkland has to expand, in due course, onto the only space available, which is more parkland.

The Children's Hospital was moved onto Royal Park in the 1950s. Now this is the excuse for the Women's Hospital to move there as well.

The Carlton Football ground - or so-called 'Optus Oval' - has long been in Princes Park, but is expanding, at the expense of parkland; creating carparking, at the expense of parkland; and installing night lighting, also at the expense of parkland.

In this age of economic rationalism the Royal Botanic Gardens has to earn money on a commercial basis, and therefore to provide spaces that can be let out for functions. Therefore it is to expand into the Domain, once again at the expense of Parkland.

In the Carlton Gardens there has been a carpark north of this building. That is the excuse for saying that this area is no longer park, and therefore a giant project can be built there. But that carpark is a part of the original Carlton Gardens, and until now no permanent building has been allowed upon it. Make no mistake - the Museum proposal is an assault on parklands on a massive scale.

The Melbourne Zoo has had temporary parking on the surrounding grassed areas during peak seasons. Now that is being translated into permanent parking with kerbing, and earthworks, and the removal of trees. Once this has been done the next government can say there, as has been said here in the Carlton Gardens, that this is only car park, so it can now be built over. What price parklands now?

We have always understood that parks were permanent, and were for all people, and that they could be used for sporting purposes. We have complacently accepted the idea that this might mean a few extra structures by way of toilets and changing rooms. But it has now gone way beyond that. They are now used to build giant complexes with the permanent offices of sporting bodies, with private clubrooms, commercial restaurants and with corporate boxes.

Albert Park has been completely raped for the Grand Prix, and now looks as synthetic as Noddy's Toy Town, with a giant building in the middle. But you've seen nothing yet.

There is now to be an even bigger structure put up at the north-west comer as an indoor sports and aquatic centre. It will be seven times the size of the Pit Building, or approximately the same size as the giant Melbourne Exhibition Centre on the south side of the Yarra.

If so much parkland can be destroyed by a single government, why should the next government not do the same again? And the one after? And how long before there is nothing left?

This is symptomatic of the planning process in modem Victoria. There are no overall policies. Decisions are arbitrary and inconsistent. There is no public input, no professional review, and no avenue for public protest or appeal. Assumptions that we all took for granted - like the idea that parkland is permanent open space - are repudiated and ridiculed.

And it is dog eat dog. The sort of people who support the planning process, who love the parkland, and who have a vision of an urbane and civilised city, are the very people who would naturally support institutions like the Museum of Victoria. Yet now a wedge is driven between us, and we are forced into opposite camps.

Let us recognise that the supporters of the parks and the supporters of the Museum are not enemies but allies. We have a common enemy, and that is the Philistines - those people in politics, administration and public life, who would foist upon us an irrational and destructive proposal.

It is a proposal which will oust the Museum from its rightful place at the heart of Melbourne and sever it from its public, which will devalue one of our greatest public monuments, which will sap the cultural life of Melbourne, which will help in bringing the CBD to its knees, and which will unleash the hounds of hell upon the tattered remains of Melbourne's parks and gardens.

By Tervor Huggard, Former Lord Mayor and Trustee of the Royal Exhibition Building

Is it to be Position, Position and Position or is it to be Isolated from Transport, Isolated from the other arts and Isolated from its most important resource - People?

A paper on the Strategic Planning of our City and the appropriate position of the

Museum of Victoria to benefit the City, the State and the Museum by Trevor

Huggard, Former Exhibition Trustee, Lord Mayor of Melbourne and Chairman of

Melbourne Strategy Plan Committee.

While there is much that could be said about the design and its disrespect for the Great Hall replacing its recently restored Centennial Gardens on Nicholson Street with a car park entrance and ramp, a bus parking station at its main entrance central axis to Rathdowne Street and the obliteration of many fine views of the dome from northern aspects I will not dwell on any of these issues in the limited time available today.

Of much greater importance is the key strategic planning issues relating to the city and its host role for the whole of the state and where we place one of the states most important assets, a unique asset, the Museum of Victoria by its nature is a one off, naturally positioned, hopefully, at an accessible, well located venue where regular visitation by all Victorians, especially those without access to cars, school children, overseas, interstate and intrastate visitors can occur.

Most importantly it should be in a location where people who never intended to visit the Museum when they set out on their days activities will become conscious of its existence and have their lives enhanced by being drawn into the Museum and discovering its intellectually stimulating and therapeutic benefits to their lives.

Let there be no mistake in understanding that the Casino management understand this point with vivid clarity!

They have positioned themselves so that they are geographically and psychologically central to our lives and our culture, not peripheral to it. Many people perhaps wish they were not, but that is the subject of a separate debate.

We must make sure that the intellectual pursuits are well positioned to make a contribution to all of our lives and we do not have to seek them out.

Access for all is crucial, obvious positioning is vital, public debate essenu and a process that ensures that the ultimate decision makers are well informed and fully aware of the issues and concerns before they make their irreversible decision.

Q1= of those four criteria is being addressed today, hopefully the other three will follow.

In the 1985 Strategy Plan, a plan that is to be regularly reviewed and updated as a blueprint for this city, which I had the good fortune to be chairman of, it became obvious in the detailed research and just over 1000 meetings in 10 months with every diverse interest group in this complex city, that certain aspects of our city are crucial to uphold or your city will suffer and wither irretrievably.

The important principle of having a 'strong centred city' not a city with a dead heart was a central platform of the plan.

The very reason why the Melbourne City Council has had an adopted policy of fighting hard to retain the large array of government departments in the city rather than allowing them to drift and decentralise to remote locations, even although none of them pay rates, placing a huge financial burden on the council's budget, is that the enormous investment in the underground rail loop and our public transport system can only be justified if the very hub of the system provides access to all those facilities.

It is also an economic fact that where government investment locates itself, private investment follows.

Conversely where government investment deserts the city, private investment quickly follows.

This principle is starkly obvious in our city at this very moment.

A recent press article expressing concern about the decline of Russell Street by the Chamber of Commerce and BOMA highlights that when corresponding decisions to vacate the Magistrates Court, Russell Street police headquarters and the Queen Victoria hospital site all occur more or less simultaneously an instant stop to precinct activity occurs leaving the area and its surrounds in serious decline.

The Greek precinct, Chinatown and the general retail area suddenly hit the wall and disastrous commercial decay ensues.

The Queen Victoria hospital generated enormous activity for the immediate area through extensive rural Victoria numbers demanding accommodation, food and back up services around the clock.

The present thinking of possibly turning it into a city park is bizarre to say the least. The ultimate irony is that we are turning our public gardens into building sites and our building site into gardem!

Unfortunately this extraordinary 'switch of sites' behaviour costs the tax payer heavily but fills the pockets of a few select individuals handsomely.

I do hope the decision makers see the irony and correct the ships course as a matter of considerable urgency. The continuing process of asset stripping of our city has been identified by the 1985

Strategy Plan and its 1990 review and alarm bells sounded about the decline of the city.

It is by neglect, or design, not necessity and must be halted-

Walter Burley Griffin's design for Canberra with its central spine extending from the war memorial to parliament house seems to be well understood by planners and the public alike.

The civic spine from our war memorial past the deliberate placement of our civic assets, the town hall, the city square, St Pauls Cathedral, the National Gallery, Flinders Street Station, the State Library and the Museum of Victoria and leading up to, as Barry Humphries wryly noted in the 1970's "that other book end of our culture, Carlton United Breweries" is not nearly as well understood.

Its importance to Melbourne is enormous and major civic decisions over the years have been consistently based on this understanding and recent decisions to close Swanston Street to through traffic as our main processional spine where every event and procession from the Anzac Day march to the Moomba procession occurs acknowledges this. A current decision on the books to build the $100 M plus Federation Square at Princes Bridge consolidates this position.

it is extraordinary to me that on 3 sites all worthy of serious consideration Federation Square, Queen Victoria Hospital site and the Carlton United Breweries site all desperately looking for a primary use to arrest the decline of our cities activity and vibrance and all strategically located on our main civic spine and processional way are ignored.

It is even more extraordinary to me that the Museum would happily vacate its location of dominance in the city, and in the minds of all Victorians, from its present location where expansion without the disruption of moving could occur.

As pointed out it is not only the obvious vacant Queen Victoria Hospital site that

surrounds the Museum at present but it abounds with vacated sites in the former legal

precinct as well. The opportunities for endless, uncontroversial, publicly welcomed expansion are endless.

One of the great museums of the world, the British Museum thrives on retaining its location in London by acquiring neighbouring buildings and sites and adapting them for their use.

it is not disadvantaged by this at all, on the contrary, and it reinforces the precinct activity and makes a major contribution to that city. It will be a tragedy for Melbourne and the Museum if it is not put where it will be loved and needed.

The British Museum also benefits by having a Museum Station on the underground which firstly constantly reminds visitors of its existence and secondly simplifies the process of finding it by simply travelling to Museum Station.

In Melbourne there are 197 stations on our Metropolitan network, only one of them was

named after a dedicated use and activity - Museum Station - what a marketing coup!

Not even the AFL has an MCG Station - but I bet they would love to see that! Some

will hasten to point out that the Showgrounds Station and Flemington Racecourse are dedicated stations but they are once a year stations on a dead end line. The State government wanted $250,000 to extinguish the Museum Station name and sell it to Melbourne Central as Melbourne Central! They understood the marketing advantage!

Why anyone would want to abandon such a clear marketing advantage and high profile address is beyond comprehension.

This proposed address is remote, difficult , car based and not well served by public transport.

The use of either the Queen Victoria Hospital site and other related precinct sites or the CUB site could all retain Museum Station as our only dedicated station.

An opportunity to invest in our city with a $250 M public building is a once in a life time opportunity and should be strategically located to make a contribution to the city not located to the detriment of our public gardens.

In September, 1986 the M.C.C. commissioned a detailed report by Rex Swanston on the use of its public parks and gardens.

The first point, made is that gardens are infinitely more fragile and sensitive to use than parks and fall into a quite different category of public amenity than parkland.

The Carlton Gardens are exactly that - a garden, not a parkland and need to be very carefully managed.

Secondly it was recommended that major events and activities should be avoided in them.

This policy was adopted by M.C.C. at that time.

The replacement of our democratically elected council by state government appointed commissioners meant that not only has this policy on management of the gardens been ignored but also the presence of councillors on the Exhibition Trustees to ensure that knowledge and daily dialogue occurred but also the process of planning permit applications and rights to objection lapsed as well.

Simply put, the delicate balance of checks and balances that have existed and have been successful in retaining this building and these gardens for posterity for the past 116 years were rudely interrupted and removed.

The public alarm and concern about this proposal is well founded not simply for what is proposed but what it commits these gardens to.

It is a current fact that in the Melbourne City Council area where a public institution is located in a park land or a garden they currently have objectionable and unwanted expansion proposed or under way alienating parkland at an unprecedented rate! i.e.

Princes Park - Carlton Football Club

Royal Park

RQyal Park

Tennis Centre

Hard paved car parking and major alienation of park land for the zoo

Proposed relocation of the Royal Womens Hospital to the Royal Children's Hospital site

Multi-deck car park in Goshs Paddock

Carlton Gardens.=- proposed Museum development

Albert Park, Kings Domain, FairticM, the list goes on and on.

The main point is that wherever an institution is placed in the middle of our parkland it remains in conflict forever with that garden as the insatiable demand for expansion, particularly for car parking puts future politicians, governments and communities under constant pressure to accept the current 'quite reasonable' incremental increases of use.

Anyone opposing such reasonable requests is constantly painted as being unreasonable or difficult.



This museum proposal clearly is being built with an acknowledged shortfall of car parking. It will immediately be under pressure to cope with that and the proposals for expansion will commence immediately, not in 10 years time.

No matter how sincere promises are by the museum or any planner or politician the reality is that history has proven that none of them can provide any guarantees that expansion will not occur, on the contrary we know from logic and experience that it will and must occur just as each and every facility in our parklands is expanding at the current time.

The Exhibition Buildings were built before the motor car. The alienation by the motor car since has been appalling and has already commenced again with the parking of vehicles around the Great Hall and installation of a totally offensive ticket box and boom gate at the eastern entrance where the Centennial Gardens were reconstructed for pedestrian access only in the 1980's.

I was very proud to be a Trustee in the 1980's and be part of the renaissance of the restoration of this building, the largest Victorian restoration in the world, and the 4 stage restoration of the gardens to ensure we once again saw this building standing in a garden setting.

Stage 1. The restoration of the Centennial Gardens to the eastern face on Nicholson Street removing the sea of cars took place. The removal of the high cyclone fence to the north car park was removed to allow public access, the process for reinstatement was well under way.

It really incences me to hear the government say they are only taking over an old car park and no trees will be lost. Let there be no mistake they are taking over our gardens!

Our gardens are not cheap development sites.

This car park long identified by the community and the Trustees was unacceptable and was progressively being reinstated to gardens once again.

In concern at the then Hamer governments intention to build a 3000 seat convention centre on this site in 1979 I wrote a detailed report called 'When is a garden, not a garden

The points made today were articulated clearly and presented to the government.

To his credit Premier Hamer listened and abandoned the proposal. Premier Kennett should do the same now.

It is important to note that the government had said then that its decision to proceed with the proposal was far too advanced, irreversible and could not be stopped, but it was stopped.

These same points contained in that report are more relevant than ever today. I have also heard the arguernent put by this government that it is too late to change course and it would cost too much to proceed - not bad for a government that stopped Daryl Jacksons prize winning design when it was nearly completed at south bank!

It is indeed ironical that right at this moment at huge expense to the tax payer the gas and fuel twin towers are being demolished generally acknowledged as a planning disaster.

It was allowed to occur because it is on crown land and no planning permits were needed.

Similarly the Metrol building built in Batman Avenue obliterated the all important view from Russell Street to the Botanic Gardens and Government House and contravened the 1974 Strategy Plan and had occured again because no planning permit was applied for.

The Premier responded to public outrage and instructed the half built building be demolished - a very gutsy, but correct decision.

He instructed all his government departments that they must apply for planning permits whether they were legally needed or not.

A similar requirement was placed on the Exhibition Buildings in 1979 and worked extremely well until it was conveniently forgotten for this project!

Public scrutiny and planning permits protect politicians from themselves and we the public from planning disasters that should have been foreseen.

Remember good proposals have nothing to fear from planning permits, only bad proposals have anything to fear! What an outrage that even the design of a small heritage ticket box to replace a totally disastrous series of unfortunate out buildings in 1987 saw fit to engage public scrutiny and quite rightly apply for a planning permit yet a 12,000 M , $250 M structure does not.

What an outrage that the debate has been consciously diverted to architectural design rather than one of strategic planning and siting. It presumes that it is alright to build a Nuclear Reactor in Bourke Street provided it looks alright!

I do not want to debate the colour of the doorknobs, I want to see a proper decision made on the correct siting and location of our museum.

In Summary:-

We do not want another Gas and Fuel twin towers or a Metrol building by ignoring process.

We do not want one more institution dropped in the middle of a public gardens where its inevitable expansion will destroy the gardens.

We do not want another legacy of a facility that doesn't work because a planning permit considering all the key issues of transport, parking, access, amenity, scale, size, current infrastructure and environmental impact is ignored.

We do want - a world class museum in an 'A' grade location.

We do want - the appalling neglect by successive governments to the museum at the expense of the other arts, tennis centres and great southern stands, etc to finally be properly balanced with a genuine commitment to the intellectual pursuits and provide a museum which is welcomed by the community.

Swanston Walk has . had a 63% increase of pedestrian traffic since its implementation but those that criticise it as a failure don't recognise that it needs the major government investments and community assets to remain or locate along it to guarantee the teeming life we all crave for it.

Unless this once in a lifetime opportunity of a $250 M project is invested in the positive development of our city rather than another sad chapter in its decline then our city and the Museum will be the poorer for it,

Cash grab

City Council milks the community for more cash to fund benefits

Melbourne city Council is looking at increasing its revenue base above and beyond inflation. Property values have increased above the cost of inflation and as such Melbourne City Council gains a windfall from the property boom. Melbourne City Council's rates are tied to property valuations (NAV) increased values means more cash.

John So and his term continue to demonstrate that they are not in control of the Council's finances with the administration being handed a blank check no questions asked.

Missing still is the breakdown of the details costs of Council administration. the true costs of international travel, internal catering, the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayors limousines. The administration refusing to disclose or provide a breakdown of these costs.

It has been nearly six months since we requested this information and still no response from Linda Weatherspoon or the Lord Mayor.

The Herald-sun continues to expose the issues, reviews and analysis of the City Councils budget and expenditure - today's article is no exception as the gloss of John So's Commonwealth Games glory begins to fade.

Traders vent meter anger
Jen Kelly, city editor

CHILD care, meals on wheels and baby capsule hire are among hundreds of services to jump in cost from July 1 in a Melbourne City Council cash grab.

The new revenue-raising plans revealed in yesterday's budget are on top of new parking meters to be installed along Lygon St, Carlton.
Furious Lygon St traders vented their anger at a council budget meeting yesterday.

One distressed Carlton resident disrupted the meeting with a noisy outburst.

Traders stormed out after a move to delay installation of meters pending further community consultation was voted down by the council.

Fees and charges are expected to earn an extra $5.9 million next year. In the most extreme fee jump, meeting room hire at North Melbourne Town Hall will soar by a whopping 223 per cent from $170 to $550 a day.

Meals on wheels will jump 12.5 per cent to $4.50 a meal, occasional child care will rise 5.6 per cent to $9.50 an hour, and baby capsule hire will increase 5.6 per cent to $38.

Immunisations, pet registration, building red tape, food safety training, pool memberships and kerbside cafes will all cost more.

A controversial proposal to install parking meters at the Melbourne Zoo car park to help fund an upgrade of the parking area is on the backburner after it was voted down yesterday.

The council predicts an operating surplus for 2006-7 of $13.5 million -- but to achieve that will gouge $24.9 million out of its $112 million investment reserve.

Former lord mayor and former chairman of the finance committee Kevin Chamberlin last night said the budget contained huge cuts to services.

"It now appears the chickens are coming home to roost for John So," he said.

"The budget includes massive cuts, substantial fee increases and an unprecedented drawing from the council's cash reserves.

"The rates increase of 3.8 per cent is twice the average of previous years and indicates that rates will increase significantly over the next three years."

The $24.9 million drawn from the council's reserves will help pay to finish building Council House 2, or CH2, and other capital projects.

Lord Mayor John So said the 3.8 per cent rate rise was moderate, and services for ratepayers, residents, workers, students and visitors had been increased.

"We are spending more on community services, more on roads and infrastructure and more on parks and gardens," he said.

A bid by Cr Peter Clarke to reduce funding for the FINA World Swimming Championships at Rod Laver Arena next year from $1 million to about $250,000 failed.

Total budget revenue is expected to be $263.7 million, up from $243 million this financial year, including $138 million in rates.

The latest budget predictions show the council expects to reap a record $32.1 million in parking fees and $31.8 million in parking fines -- a $64 million total.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

City Junkets without Budget

Council publishes next years budget but failed to provide details of expenses

Melbourne City Council will today published ts 2006-2007 budget papers. Whilst we have not had time to review the published documents (They were not available on the Council's web site when we looked this morning)

The Herald Sun, who it seams has been given an advance copy, has reported that the City of Melbourne is seeking to install parking meters as a means revenue raising to help pay for the Junkets. Lurks and Perks of the City Council.

Unfortunately the City Council does not provide budget details for overseas trips, internal catering (free lunches and free booze) and the costs of the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayors Limousines. Councillor expenses are all met form the consolidated revenue.

Previous Auditors reports which continue to be ignore4d have recommended that Council set a budget for Councillor expenses and that a regular normal budget comparison be made each month. The City Council administration continues to refuse to provide this information or act responsibly.

If we find time we will resubmit our requests for financial details of Councilors travel expenses and cost of internal catering etc. Hopefully they will respond... but do not hold your breath the City Administration and the elected Council do not want to be held accountable let alone inform the public of were their money is going... Sad but true.

Drivers to help fund council's trips
Jen Kelly

PARKING meters will be installed in Lygon St and more are proposed for Melbourne Zoo's car park in a hip-pocket blow to families and shoppers.

The bid to suck an extra $800,000 a year out of drivers is revealed in the Melbourne City Council budget papers, to be released today.
It comes as the council -- already under fire for its exotic junkets -- lifts the annual budget for overseas programs and trips by about $400,000.

Traders are furious at the new parking fees, saying they will scare shoppers out of Lygon St and make zoo visits impossible for families.

The council expects to reap a record $54.2 million in parking fines and fees next financial year, budget papers show.

The documents show:

RATES will rise by 3.8 per cent on average.

RATEPAYERS will pay up to $1 million for the FINA world swimming championships at Rod Laver Arena next year.

AN extra $300,000 is expected to be spent on removing graffiti.

STAFF costs have soared 42 per cent to $74 million in just four years.

Councillors have agreed on meters in Lygon St, but those proposed for the zoo's northern car park, next to Royal Park station, are still up for debate.

The zoo's meters are predicted to raise $400,000 a year, with the revenue to subsidise the high cost of fixing the car park, which is in disrepair.

Lygon St meters are expected to generate another $400,000 a year.

Carlton Traders Association president Connie Paglianite said parking meters in Lygon St would be a disaster.

"It's going to kill Carlton," she said.

"The coffee's not going to cost $3. It's going to cost $5 or $6."

Finance spokesman Cr Brian Shanahan it was surprising meters had not already been installed.

"You've got parking meters in Errol St (in North Melbourne). Why not in Lygon St?" he said.

Ms Paglianite, also a member of voluntary support group Friends of the Zoo, said parking meters at the zoo would make it hard on families.

"It's hard enough trying to find car parking, let alone paying for it on top of that," she said.

Cr Peter Clarke criticised parts of the budget and said funding to the swimming championships should be cut from $1 million to $700,000.

"We need to be funding local projects that are important to the ratepayers and residents," he said.

Cr Clarke said the additional $400,000 for overseas travel and international links, especially with Milan, Delhi and China, should be dumped.

"I think sometimes local government can get too excited about its capacity to generate international trade."

Cr Clarke said a lot more money should be spent on child care and other local priorities.

Parking fines in 2006-07 are expected to reap almost $28 million while parking fees are hoped to earn $26 million.

Total revenue is expected to be $245 million, with $127.7 million in rates.

The budget papers are expected to be approved at a council meeting today.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

City Council goes shopping

Ratepayers foot the bill of extravagance unchecked

Melbourne's Herald Sun exposes and extra-ordinary tale of City Council Staff spending ratepayers money on a world shopping tour.

This information was only made available following the publication of the Councils travel register which records the costs of staff and councillor's interstate and overseas travel.

We are just beginning to know why the City Council was prepared to go all out - no expenses spared - to avoid publication of this public document.

What's worst is that the Staff tried to compromise one councillor by inviting then to join them on this shopping tour.

Enough is enough. If John So and his team are unwilling or unable to bring the administration in line and keep their hands out of the cookie jar then there is need for more restrictions and control to avoid ratepayers money being wasted on this sort of junkets, misuse and abuse.

The City administration are out of control and and show no remorse.

Its time for the restoration of open and transparent governance open the administration held more accountable. John So and our elected Council sadly have failed us in this respect.

Corruption begins to flourish when information is denied and were accountability stops.

Glitz blitz on the public purse
Jen Kelly
city editor

A LAVISH shopping junket to New York, Paris and London's ritziest stores for two bureaucrats emptied the public purse of at least $33,000.

The pair enjoyed a shopaholic's dream with stops in posh Saks Fifth Ave, Louis Vuitton and glamorous Madison Ave boutiques in New York. In London, they visited expensive Harrods and Selfridges, and in Paris, the palatial Galeries Lafayette and famous Le Bon Marche.

Itinerary notes for London included "look at how Harrods has stayed so popular" and "walk down Oxford St visiting and discussing different retail concepts".

Ratepayers are furious at the waste of money.

Cr Fiona Snedden had been expected to join the world shopping tour, but took a $9369 seven-day ratepayer-funded trip to China instead.

Melbourne City Council ratepayers footed a $17,441 bill to send marketing officer Kristy Taylor on the 10-day whirlwind junket to compare overseas and local shops.

It cost ratepayers $3169 -- almost $800 a night -- for Ms Taylor's four nights at the stylish Hudson Hotel in New York, including meals.

Her bill included another $3248 for seven nights at the upmarket London Green Park Hilton Hotel in Mayfair.

Ms Taylor, the council's program manager, destination marketing, also swiped her council-funded credit card for costly restaurant meals.

And taxpayers paid about $16,000 to send a State Government bureaucrat to join Ms Taylor on the "global retail mission" in October.

Ratepayers also effectively funded the estimated $16,000 bill of a third member of the tour, a delegate from retail trend forecaster the Future Laboratory.

The council and State Government paid $50,000 each to the Future Laboratory to help develop a retail strategy for Melbourne, and the world tour was a central component of that project.

The third delegate's costs raised the bill to the public to almost $50,000.

Small Business Minister Andre Haermeyer spokeswoman, Claire Miller, at first declined to disclose the cost of the state bureaucrat's trip, but confirmed last night it was $16,200.

The city council also confirmed the cost of each delegate's trip was about $16,000.

Ms Miller refused to name the official, a non-executive officer from the Office of Manufacturing and Service Industries in the Department of Innovation, Industry and Regional Development.

A fourth and final tour delegate, from the GPT Group, the owner of shopping mecca Melbourne Central, did not receive public funding.

Council documents show Ms Taylor enjoyed an extra one to two nights in New York and an extra three to four nights in London beyond the time required for the shopping tour.

Southbank Residents Group president Joe Bagnara has slammed the junket.

"They go on these junkets, but it's not the city council that are running shops. They're not selling anything," he said.

"They'd be better off subsidising retailers to do the trip if they feel it's to their advantage.

"The retailers are better qualified to make comments on the retail market than the council."

The retail strategy, supposed to be released last month, is yet to surface. The council said it would now be released by July.

The council said the strategy aimed to position Melbourne as Australia's leading retail city.

Ms Miller said it was important to assess other leading retail centres to understand emerging trends and opportunities.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

McClown pays visit to Mao

Old Habits die hard as Melbourne's former one year term Deputy flys to China at Geelong's expense

The Geelong News reports that Peter McMullin, Former Melbourne City Councillor and currently Mayor of Geelong) has dipped into Geelong Ratepayers coffers to fund a trip to China. McMullen (also referred to McClown) was sacked as Melbourne Deputy Lord Mayor in 1997 having only served one year as Deputy to failed Lord Mayor Ivan Deveson. The reason being he ratted on his collegues and promises givin to the electorate.

McClown is also remembered for his University days where as a devote Maoist he campaigned against the Zionist cause as he sang praise and reiterated quotes from Chairman Mao's little red book.

The Geelong News reports that McClown had spent over $8,000 on a three day visit to China raising ongoing concern about the misuse and abuse of Council funded overseas travel.

Under the provisions of the Local Government Act and regulations City Councils MUST maintain a travel register of all overseas and interstate travel undertaken by City Councillors and or Staff.

It is unknown if any staff from the City of Geelong accompanied Geelong's Mayor on his China tour. Past experiences from the City of Melbourne show that additional costs are picked up and allocated to the staff members travel accounts which tend to go unnoticed. It is also not known if the City of Geelong has adopted Melbourne City Council's creative accounting methods where cost occurred are not disclosed nor recorded on any expense statements.

Peter MCMullin was implicated in the Geelong City Council Campaign funding scandal that surfaced earlier this year.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Publication of Council's travel costs and expenses under valued

Call for further review by the State Ombudsman Department

The Herald Sun, following the updated publication of Melbourne Travel Register and Councillor expenses.
Missing from the published expenses is the costs associated with the Lord Mayors and Deputy Lord Mayors Council funded Limousines and the costs associated with internal catering.
The City Council administration continues to avoid full disclosure of Council's costs. City of Melbourne's Linda Weatherspoon has still not responded to our request for information and details of costs.
The published statements are false and not a true or accurate statement of costs. The Travel register is maintained on an electronic white Bord, contains not proper record identification which leaves it wide open to misuse and abuse with records able to be be removed , deleted or amended without any proper audit trail or accountability. (The Council has still failed to account for 10,000's of dollars of expenses that mysteriously have never been included on the published statements.)
This comes as no surprise as the Council is never held to account by the elected representatives. WHY? because they also have their hands in the cookie jar and are implicated and as such have adopted a policy of avoidance.
The Council's continued refusal to provide open and transparent governance leaves the City Council wide open to continued corruption. (See previous posts on Ombudsman inquiry into Traffic fines)
The City Council maintains detailed records of internal catering costs but refuse to publish them. Likewise details of costs of the Council's vehicle fleet are maintained but the City Council refuses to include these costs in the Councillors expense statements. This under values the true costs of the City administration and brings the Councils financial and quality of it's audit into question. Most of the problems are solely due to the policy of the City Councils Governance department headed by Linda Weatherspoon and sanctioned by the CEO and the elected Council.
Linda Weatherspoon continues to misuse and abuse of the FOI process is concern. The policy and administration of the City Council governance department should be subject of further review by the State Ombudsman in the coming months ( Stay tuned).
$400,000 council globetrot
Jen Kelly, city editor

LORD Mayor John So and the city council splurged more than $400,000 on 34 overseas and 70 interstate junkets in the past year, new documents reveal.

The costliest was a $23,225 three-week trip for an executive to attend sister-city celebrations in Boston and a biotech conference in Philadelphia.

Ratepayers also footed an $8374 bill to fly in three Play School presenters for the Moomba parade and three entertainers for the Queen's Baton Relay in March.

Reports on the council's website at the weekend show the 12-month bill up to March is almost $408,000, with further costs to be finalised.

Spin-doctor Hayden Cock, who is believed to earn more than $200,000, enjoyed his first ratepayer-funded trip less than four months into his job.

Mr Cock was appointed to improve council's image with ratepayers after a series of scandals, several centred on Deputy Lord Mayor Gary Singer.

Mr Cock's two-day trip to Sydney to attend a "managing reputation risk" conference in March cost ratepayers almost $3500 for air fares and the conference fee alone.

The corporate affairs director's accommodation bill is yet to emerge.

The nine councillors including Cr So spent $87,465 on travel. City of Melbourne staff, mostly executives, spent the rest.

The bill includes:

$1060 for an arts project officer to go to a NSW conference on "future directions for the pipe organ in Australia".

$2250 to send design and culture director Rob Adams to Hong Kong for two days to verify production of a material for council building CH2.

$3300 for a council landscape architect to fly to sister city Tianjin in China for a week to ensure project managers had correctly interpreted plans for the Melbourne Children's Garden. Council is spending $180,000 on the garden.

$15,070 for marketing manager Scott Chapman to attend the World Swimming Championships in Montreal.

$16,163 for Mr Chapman to take a 19-day trip to London and Ireland.

Of the nine councillors, Cr Singer was the most expensive and extensive globetrotter.

His trips to Milan, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Perth and Canberra cost ratepayers $36,563.

The second biggest spender among the councillors was Cr So, whose $23,771 in travel included San Francisco, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Beijing, his birthplace Hong Kong, and Adelaide.

City of Melbourne chief executive officer David Pitchford defended the spending, saying travel was undertaken when necessary in order for council officers to fulfil their duties and when it was for the benefit for the city.

Councillors furious about convention centre deal

John So failed to deliver a positive outcome for Melbourne Ratepayers

John So the man that survives because he can not say NO. continues to undermine the interest of Melbourne City Council.

The City of Melbourne is being taken for a ride and asked to pickup the tab for extra add ons costing Millions of dollars with no real say or control over the development of any potential profits. The Council is out of control and at the beck and whim of the corporate and state government bandits who continue to raid the City treasury. John So can not say NO.

Melbourne City Councils reserves are on the decline as is its working capital ratio. Money that was generated by the forced sale of public assets has been misspent and would have delivered a more positive outcome it it was left in a secured investment account and not handed over to John So and his council of corrupt bandits.

We have seen it before and he continues to make the same mistakes.

Most of the rot started 10 years ago with Jeff Kennett and this seriously flawed strategic development of the City. The relocation of the State Museum from the City Centre, The location of Crown Casino and the ill-conceived development of Federation square are all examples of a flawed major projects policy. Sadly the Labor State Government has continued with the policies of the former Liberal Government, even going to the extent of appointing Jeffs preferred Architect.

I need to state clearly I am not a fan of Denton, Corker and Marshal's designs. (Apart from one single hotel in Little Collins Street) - most of DCMs work is outdated, environmentally unsound and poorly planed. in some cased even demolished not long after being constructed. Designs such as Melbourne's Carlton Museum, The Exhibition "Jeffs' Shed" and lets not forget the former Collins Street City Square design - It never really worked and has now been demolished. Given Denton's track record and Labors previous criticism of his work I am at a lost to see why they ever appointed him State Architect,. As it Victoria needs its own version of Albert Spears. -- One advantage is that Denton or DCM no longer be directly appointed to design state projects but their stamp of ideology will continue to permeate Melbourne.

As to the proposed convention centre. Melbourne should not become involved in the proposed funding arrangement. There are other priorities and worthwhile projects that require their attention not the least the need to hold the administration to account for its internal administration costs.

Councillors furious about convention centre deal

A funding deal for Melbourne's new convention centre comes into force today but some city councillors claim they are ploughing millions of ratepayer dollars into a "diseased beast".

The 5000-seat centre will be accompanied by a Hilton hotel, shops, an office and apartment tower and car park.

A public-private partnership will fund the centre, including $370 million from the State Government, $43 million from Melbourne City Council for streetscaping and a footbridge across the Yarra and $500 million from successful bidders, the Multiplex Plenary Consortium.

Councillors Fraser Brindley, Peter Clarke and Fiona Snedden are furious at today's deadline and say they are being rushed into handing over the money after a council report criticised the poor pedestrian access and public transport integration. Cr Brindley had urged the council not to back a "diseased beast".

The trio wanted the design changed before approving a planning amendment for the site. But council officers said any delays would cause problems for the Government's deadline.

Cr Clarke said: "If this was a private sector project, we would be sending the developer away and telling them to start again.

"We were given the report with hardly any time to consider it, despite the fact it is one of the biggest projects in the state's history."

He had previously questioned the council paying $20 million for the footbridge and appealed to other councillors to withhold cash until the Government proved the bridge was needed.

The amendment was approved at last week's council meeting, clearing the way for the project to start. Cr Snedden told them they were making a mistake. "We should not be railroaded by the State Government until it is right for us," she said.

Multiplex Plenary spokesman Kevin Lavelle said it was too early to comment on the project.

A spokeswoman for Major Projects Minister John Lenders recently said the Government would not comment on "internal council disputes".

The centre must be finished by the end of 2008.