Melbourne, Opinion, Writing

An evening at the local council


Last night, I was witness to a company of fools.

I went to the ordinary meeting of my local council, in support of a new sports stadium to be built in the area.

The area I live in is lovely, it must be said. We are lucky to be situated less than 10kms from the city and blessed with many beautiful parks and gardens. We are spoilt for choice with public transport options, living within easy walking distance to two train stations and a number of tram routes into the CBD.

But the area is poor for sporting arenas. Council-owned, public gymnasiums with courts for the various sporting clubs to play on are stupidly scarce. There is one indoor stadium, with only one full-size court; the other court being three-quarter size. There are privately owned gyms, of course, attached to the legion of private schools around. Most clubs either rent the use of courts attached to schools (for an eye-watering, sphincter-tightening price), or parents travel outside of the council boundary in order for their children to participate in sports in surrounding suburbs. It’s a disgrace.

For many years—more than thirty—the various sporting clubs have fought to have the council build an all-purpose stadium. A place where young and old can play sports, keep active and maintain friendships. About eighteen months ago, that fight got real. Plans to build such a stadium were brought forth, in public gardens in a highly accessible area. Makes sense, wouldn’t you agree?

Of course not everyone agrees, that’s fine. And normal. There will always be two sides to every argument, every plan, every movement. The residents who live close by to the planned site were up in arms, stating they’d lose some of the natural, lush beauty and peace that goes hand-in-hand with living near a park. Also affected is a bowling green, and its members were also quite cross, stating that they would lose their club. However, the rudimentary plan clearly showed that the bowling green was to stay, and the proposed stadium would take the very minimum of greenery. Eighteen months ago, the sporting club side of the battle won; plans to proceed, to draw up designs got the green light.

Back to last night, the council were voting on the next step: which masterplan to approve. Members of my daughter’s netball club and other sporting clubs were called on to be present, to give visual cues to the huge amount of people in support of this, those who will benefit from and use the stadium. Of course, the opposing voices were present too, and that’s to be expected, and completely fine.

After sitting through all the unnecessary hoo-hah, listening to small-minded people with puffed-up egos and hefty pay cheques, finally it came to agenda item one. One councillor stood to ask for a deferral of the decision. Others stood to voice their assent to the idea, and also others who stated, quite rightly, that this debacle has gone on long enough, and the people—those constituents who voted them in and who they represent—have a right to hear a decision. The vote was cast in favour of a deferral. The collective intake of breath from those in the room sucked with a Dyson’s ferocity. Both sides of the debate were in shock. Nearly everyone present walked out in disgust.

The decision to defer is mind-numbingly stupid of the council and I might add, a gross misrepresentation of their role. They are elected to make hard, tough decisions and to cite at the eleventh hour more time is needed is ridiculous.

Still, all this from the same council who, earlier this year, kicked out the Victorian Tennis Academy (and thereby two small businesses that sub-lease space for cafes) after more than three decades in the area, in favour of an unknown, interstate provider. Since the VTA was ushered out, the two tennis arenas are empty, a wasteland; the cafe owners have closed their doors. This from the council who on their website, state they are in favour of all things local. Still, this from the same council who is demolishing the beauty and history in the old, stately homes along the main roads to build unsightly, multi-dwelling apartment buildings, while stating on their website a love for the history and beauty of the streetscape. Words and actions are not adding up.

I only hope that the councillors see reason and that in five weeks’ time, the decision is made to build the stadium. It is necessary and will prove its worth for many years over. Sporting clubs will compete, children and adults will be active, residents will still have the vista of a park’s serene beauty, and the bowling club members will still have their green. It is a win-win; it can only bring a sense of residents being heard, of having their needs met within a council which surely needs an injection of positivity, good press and a feeling of goodwill and trust from its constituents.

6 thoughts on “An evening at the local council”

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