August Yarra Council report

Private Steiner school still trying to encroach on public space

A marathon meeting of Yarra Council was held at Richmond Town Hall this week. The meeting was dominated by a debate over the private Steiner school’s second attempt to expand their premises onto public space at the Abbotsford Convent. The school mobilised about 50 parents and students to support their case.

Many spoke and praised their school’s educational merits but while a debate about private education and the Steiner stream in particular is interesting, this was not the issue at hand. Council had to decide on it’s position in relation heritage so a submission could be made to Heritage Victoria who are about to decide on the school’s planning application.

Council officers recommended support for the schools’ plans to expand on public space. The Socialist Party (backed by the Greens and one Independent) disagreed. The National Trust also disagreed with the application, describing it as “an erosion of the concept of public access”. The Socialist Party argued that the proposed new development would diminish the heritage values of Melbourne’s only city farm and impact on the views to and from the Yarra River.

Council has a responsibility to protect much loved and fought for public parks and space. This obligation is much more important than any support for a private school.
We do not feel that any private school or indeed any business should feel entitled to relocate to public parks when in need of more space. Supporting this private school would set a dangerous precedent. In the end we won the vote 6-3. The pro-private school vote came from the ALP and Independent Jackie Fristacky.

Brothel signage

Council supported a Socialist Party proposal which rejected an officer recommendation to scrap one of Yarra’s strong local laws in favour of weaker State legislation. Yarra’s law requires brothels to display signs with information for women who have been trafficked. The signs have to be displayed in the five languages most commonly used by trafficked women and give phone numbers for help if they need it.

Despite this not being a requirement of the State legislation the officers claim that the State laws are superior and therefore the local law should be revoked. The Socialist Party disagrees and argues that these signs should be required state wide.

There is a chance that the State government will intervene and revoke the local law themselves. If this happens we pledge to put up a fight.

Rezoning in Cremorne

Council voted 9-0 to reject an officer recommendation to rezone a piece of land in Cremorne and consider a planning application for a massive block of private units near the Yarra River. This proposed development would have been up to 12 stories high and would not have been matched with any extra services. The developer is now expected to approach the Planning minister to ask him to intervene.

49 Tudor Street

Council voted 6-3 to continue with plans to reopen the community space at 49 Tudor Street in Richmond. The Socialist Party, Greens and one Independent argued successfully to limit the tender process to social and community services. The officers had suggested that Council should also look at potentially allowing social housing on the site. The Socialist Party believes that this was an attempt to leave the door open to selling the site off in the future.

Two meetings a month needed

In the end the meeting finished close to midnight and it would have been much later if a whole number of items were not deferred until next month. Not only is it unproductive to be making decisions so late at night but it is also highly undemocratic. While all the items put on the agenda by the unelected officers were discussed, the items put forward by elected representatives had to be deferred for another 4 weeks.

The officers, and those councillors who see themselves as part of the bureaucracy, see no problem with this but for the community this is by no means good enough. Next month we will see our proposal to move to fortnightly meetings debated.

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