Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House

In the scheme of world issues, what’s happening at Holdfast Bay is small potatoes, indeed.

However, the Council meeting I attended this week provided a great incentive to campaign for amalgamations of local government councils into a centralized metropolitan body, along the lines of what they have in Brisbane.

Councils have clearly outgrown the ‘parish pump’ nature of their business, and the people who are elected to Council these days are generally not equipped to be making the decisions they are making.

This circumstance is compounded by politics now entering into the fray… at Holdfast Bay we have a strong Labor faction that manipulates the vote, and I am sure there are similar cases of Liberal and Labor factions on other Councils. If local government is going to be overtaken by political factional voting, we might as well merge it into State government and remove this costly third tier of government that many have argued is unnecessary.

Holdfast Bay currently has at least three fiascos on its plate… the Brighton Caravan Park, the joint venture with Taplin Group, and the Broadway Kiosk all illustrating in one way or another that the elected Council seems to be operating beyond its capabilities.

The Council approved a heads of agreement for a development with the Taplin Group at its meeting this week with a vote of 7 to 4. The Council revoked community land status over its land to allow for this cinema development, it will now charge local shoppers for car parking that was previously free in Glenelg, it has given the developer carte blanche to close two centrally located car parks for up to 18 months during construction, and the developer gets two air titles (both of which he is free to on sell) and complimentary parking for his cinema patrons, and a council maintained car park for perpetuity as part of this deal. He, of course, covers his own building costs and business risks.  The developer will contribute about $2m to build a car park, to which the Council also contributes $2.5m from the Jetty Road traders car park existing fund.  (Most of this fund has been contributed over many years from traders at the other end of Jetty Road.)

Four councillors argued that the numbers and details did not add up to this being a ‘good deal’ for the community and advised the Council to go back to the drawing board and think again, rather than rush into approving the motion to revoke the community land status and  sign the existing heads of agreement.

But the seven had already made up their minds… influenced greatly by the Labor faction on Council and also by, I suspect, the Developer, since one councillor alluded, speaking to the motion at the Council meeting about  her dealings with  the Developer’s representatives, and confirming they addressed her concerns to secure her vote.

Now I want to state my bias here.

I think Andrew Taplin is terrific. I think he has done a brilliant job of snowing the Council’s Administration and his consortium has been clever, he has paid attention to detail, and done a great job of playing a councillor or two for their weaknesses and ambitions, to bulldoze his project through the elected Council.

I also think Justin Lynch, the Council’s CEO, has done his job the way he interprets it. He has enabled a huge development for his city, a big tick on his cv, and he secured the expertise to say it is all ‘legal’. From his standpoint, I suspect, it was up to the Councillors, the elected representatives of the community, to make the moral decisions, and ensure that their constituents understood the game plan. However, this is a very smart man and he also knew the calibre of the Councillors sitting around the table and the aforementioned councillors’  weaknesses and played them for the desired result. In this scenario, I don’t admire Justin Lynch as much as I admire Andrew Taplin because I reckon Justin has gotten so excited with the machinery of government that he perhaps forgot our local community, in his eagerness to deliver.

And now to the elected Council. These people are elected to Council as representatives of their community, yet as soon as they’ve attended a few meetings the game changes and many become agents of the Council Administration, or under the influence of the aforementioned political factions.

Do the research and you’ll find this is a common complaint with local government.

At Holdfast Bay, the councillor who is the most verbose bully was elected on a mere 477 votes at the last election. In the example of this cinema development proposal he has manipulated the facts, spread untruths, and tried to claim that any opposition to the plan is  a case of old fogeys against development.

What nonsense! This divide and conquer strategy (also employed by the Labor Party ) has no place in our city of Holdfast Bay. Interestingly, the residents are switched on and have formed a City of Holdfast Bay Residents Alliance covering the whole of Holdfast Bay… the community is uniting itself, tired of waiting for the Council and its Administration to stop this them and us division. This, too, is a common phenomenon.

In this proposed development people wanting to park in Cowper or Partridge Street car parks will now have to pay (no more free time!) while Taplin cinema patrons will have 4 free hours of parking. Interesting, too, that there is no paid car parking in Brighton, so the other Glenelg businesses and traders (not the cinema) are charged as well, with  providing Council’s paid parking revenue, on top of their already high rents.

Kudos to (young) Councillor Stephen Patterson for his passionate plea to Councillors to go back to the drawing board and ensure the details are the best deal for our community… I’m sorry his older colleagues on Council couldn’t listen to his wise words.

Kudos also to Crs Mikki Bouchee, Karen Donaldson and Bob Fisk… these people read the documents and listened to both sides of the argument. They didn’t say throw the plan out… they said let’s get a better deal for our community.

Shame on all those Glenelg ward councillors who did not even bother to consult with the businesses that will be affected by the closure of both car parks, potentially for up to 18 months.  Shame on those councillors who got excited by the glamour over the due diligence. Shame on those councillors who said ‘near enough is good enough, we’ll let someone else work out the fine details’. You don’t deserve to represent the community of Holdfast Bay.

In the meantime, I think these 7 Councillors should offer the free air title to their own backyards to those businesses that are now under threat due to the car park closures of this development.

Line them all up.

JAN SMITH