Sunday 20 May 2018

CoM Blind-sided By Heritage Victoria On Key Renewal Element

One of the wonderful things about our City of Melbourne is the organisation’s transparency and the ability to often find the background to events. The online audio of the last Future Melbourne Committee meeting on 15th May has given insight into Councillors response to The Heritage Victoria decision to refuse aspects of renewal. It makes for interesting listening.

Essentially the city was given a two line decision when Heritage Victoria issued a refusal to the dismantling of Sheds A-D at QVM prior to building a key underground facility as part of the QVM Renewal process. The sheds were to be repaired and replaced but Heritage Victoria were not happy with that proposal.

The Council fully expected that if Heritage Victoria had problems with the proposal, they would seek discussion with the City, but that didn’t happen. A two line statement was all they got. The City had the option of appealing the decision but they decided not to, and it would seem that they had two reasons. Firstly, when the Heritage Victoria 30 page explanation finally came out it was apparent that there were a number of aspects of the report that Heritage and the City would be able to reach agreement on. Secondly, an appeal would be time-consuming and expensive.

As Councillors debated what action they should take, it was clear that many still had strong adherence to the original business case which pushed for underground location of facilities and vehicles so as to maximise the above-ground floor space – almost doubling it.

Councillors pointed out that the 2 alternatives put forward (putting a carpark over the burial site that is the current car park, or exhuming the bodies and transferring them) were both completely impractical. Clearly in their view the current car park is best optioned as park land. Interestingly, it was suggested that they could simply apply to have the car park under Munro’s increased by 200 spaces if they had to fix the vehicle placement issue.

There was discussion about the skill-sets that had been developed globally to carefully manage market deconstruction and replacement (Borough Market and Barcelona).

There was also discussion about claims of “majority support” be opposing groups at QVM with neither able to really verify their claim. Clearly there are many different views in this matter. Then there was speculation about the possible mandate of two elections for Lord Mayor. We now know that the last two elections for Melbourne Lord Mayor have been won by supporters of QVM Renewal.

A number of Councillors felt that an appeal should be launched, and Heritage Victoria taken to task, but in the end a more pragmatic approach was taken and the City decided to launch a fresh proposal and re-engage with all the stakeholders. That proposal will be developed over coming months.

Councillors are clearly committed to QVM Renewal and largely critical of Heritage Victoria’s stance. It was agreed that this is a good opportunity to move forward and two quotes seemed to sum up the City view. “This is a small road block”, and “We need to better sell a wonderful project.”

The full audio can be heard on the CoM website.