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What ever happened to Royal Park? The destruction of Melbourne's first, most central and most historical park by land-grabs

Save your Parks from Sharks

What Ever Happened to Royal Park?

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The Protectors of Public Lands Victoria Inc, of which the Royal Park Protection Group Inc. is a member, has lent us their logo for this newsletter.

Unfortunately we have failed to save Royal Park from “shark” attack. Over the short space of the past 13 years first the Kennett Government, then former Premier Bracks and his operative Bronwyn Pike MP, Member for Melbourne, plus compliant past and present Melbourne City Lord Mayors and Councillors, have presided over the progressive carve up, degradation, clear felling and concreting over of Royal Park, previously one of the glories of Marvellous Melbourne – set aside by our first visionary Governor, Charles La Trobe.

Park death by a thousand cuts

Construction of a multitude of developments include: concrete super-market style carparks round the Zoo for the Zoo, including the VCAT approved expansion at the north entrance; super tram stops; bike paths; a bus parking bay on Brens Drive for the Urban Camp; the State Netball and Hockey Centre plus carparks, ostensibly for the 2006 Commonwealth Games; and a mega, private real estate residential development “The Parkville Gardens” on the former Royal Park Psychiatric Hospital (RPPH) site, used for a few weeks for athletes’ accommodation for the 2006 Commonwealth Games. In addition, the Federation style Heritage listed buildings of the RPPH, restored at taxpayers’ expense and promised for community use, have been included in the Parkville Gardens, divided into units, handed over to the developer Australand and then sold for up to $800,000 a unit.

Hospital

Currently still under construction is the $1 billion plus new Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH), which has involved alienation of a huge section of south Royal Park to the west and north of the original hospital. Over 7 hectares, additional to the original 4.1 hectares hospital footprint, have been alienated for the “project construction site”, without guarantees that any land will be handed back to the park. In addition a 2,000 underground carpark for the expanded hospital is being built under the Park and, apparently, under a PPP deal a private hotel is to be built in the new hospital complex. The “Mercy Health” development, an aged care facility, is now being built on the former RPPH site. Although we believe that original contracts show approval for only a 100 aged care bed “social housing” facility, this aged care facility has 140 beds. Additionally a “Mercy Place” multi storey apartment complex is being built with 53 units for private sale, priced up to $600,000, and has use of a wing of the heritage buildings on the site. A “retail hub” is to be built for the flats and the aged care facility with consulting rooms. Also a Catholic chapel.

Freeway extension aborted

Thanks to the extended campaign last year up to December 2008 by RPPG with a coalition of community allies, extension of the Eastern Freeway - through under or over Royal Park, planned by Sir Rod Eddington as part of the $18 billion “East West Link” will now not proceed. It has been quietly deleted from the Victorian Transport Plan.

Ex Liberal leader, Lord Mayor Robert Doyle, cuts funding and protection of parks

Of grave concern is the fact that, as the present Council under Lord Mayor Robert Doyle has downgraded the care and protection of city parks and cut funding to the community, Royal Park will accordingly suffer. (See over.)

“This is my Land, this is your Land, this is our Land, this is not Australand’s” Banner at protest over loss of RPPH site.

Breach of Royal Park Master Plan by City of Melbourne

Breach of Royal Park Master Plan by City of Melbourne: As members may recall Lord Mayor John So sacked the Director and Deputy Director of Parks and Gardens plus a number of staff to save funds. In March this year Council terminated the Royal Park Master Plan Implementation Advisory Committee (RPMIAC) on the grounds that the implementation of the Master Plan was complete. This is far from the truth.

In April we saw the extraordinary departure from the Royal Park Master Plan by staff. The hill top in West Parkville with views of the Macedon Ranges was, in the Master Plan, to be kept clear. RPPG heard that staff planned to plant 120 forest eucalypts – Red Ironbarks. This species is not indigenous to Royal Park, was not included for this location in the Master Plan and will obscure the magnificent views. It is entirely unsuitable for a picnic area as the trees are prone to “limb drop”. RPPG plus other community groups’ members appealed to Councillor Cathy Oke to request staff to put the planting on hold until future discussions could be held. Staff apparently ignored her instructions and went ahead the next day and planted 120 Red Ironbark Trees. In June RPPG made a submission to the “Eco-City Committee” on the agenda item on Master Plans and included our complaints but have had no response. Members formerly of RPMIAC supported by RPPG and the North and West Melbourne Association have put in a formal complaint to the City of Melbourne over this breach of the Master Plan.

Phoney Parks Advisory Committee

Establishment of a Phoney Parks Advisory Committee: RPPG understood from Cr Cathy Oke from the May Council Committee meetings that Council was to establish a Parks Advisory Committee. By the June meeting it had morphed into a “Community Engagement Committee” It was then further altered when the CEO Cathy Alexander spoke to explain that it really was a committee to help set up consultations in the community. The Lord Mayor also had a go at explaining. So there is now no central Parks Advisory Committee as promised when the individual parks committees including Royal Park were terminated.

State Netball and Hockey Centre’s Obtrusive Hockey Lights

State Netball and Hockey Centre’s Obtrusive Hockey Lights: RPPG has a representative on the SNHC Advisory Committee. At the beginning of May installation of new lights was discussed and RPPG presented the Executive Summary of Dr Barry Clark’s latest research paper on the health risks associated with exposure to powerful light at night which includes increased risk of breast and prostate cancers. (As 2/3 of the Zoo is flooded with light when the hockey lights are on then the animals’ health is also at risk.) The State Sports Centres Trust is to be advised. This is serious because it puts the SSCT on notice of risk to health of users and staff of the Centre.

Volunteers not supported where it counts

Issue of Certificates of Appreciation to Royal Park Protection Group Inc. Volunteers: Representatives of RPPG – Rod Quantock and Julianne Bell - were invited to an afternoon tea on 11 June 2009 hosted by Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner, Federal Member for Melbourne “to acknowledge the important role that volunteers from the Royal Park Protection Group make in strengthening the well being of our local community.” Moreover we were presented with “Certificates of Appreciation” for “our outstanding contribution to the community.” Compare the scant recognition to community groups ever been given by the City of Melbourne!

Sewer Mining to supply parks and gardens with water

Report of the Parliamentary Environment and Natural Resources Committee Inquiry into Melbourne’s Future Water Supply: The report was released in June 2009. It contains a section of RPPG Convenor Julianne Bell’s submission to the Committee on 2 February 2009 on Sewer Mining (Page 204) which would be a means of supplying the City of Melbourne with recycled water for all its parks and gardens. (The Committee’s recommendation is to pursue sewer mining projects.)

RPPG Next Meeting:
Time: 11:30 am
Date: Saturday 1 August 2009
Venue: Walmsley House Royal Park corner of Gatehouse Street and Royal Parade Parkville.
Transport: Park in Gatehouse Street; tram up Elizabeth Street to Royal Parade. Get off at Gatehouse Street. Train to Flinders Street then tram as above.

Unreasonable rules for grant submissions

Rejection of RPPG’s Application for a 2010 Community Grant: As RPPG Committee members were ill and away overseas RPPG submitted our application by email. This was not accepted as only postal applications were specified. It is extraordinary as many organisations including the State Government accept online submissions and by email. It appears to us an excuse to cut back on grants.

This notice was printed with the support of the City of Melbourne through the 2009 Community Grants Program.

[1] This article comes from The Royal Park Protection Group Inc., News Bulletin – July 2009

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Comments

The very first large chunk of Royal Park that was developed, was for housing. The area on the east of Gatehouse St, is full of period homes that many of the Friends of Royal Park live in.

Funny, that you never mention this part of the park being lost.

Film-maker, Jill Quirk, has made two films about Royal Park. I think it is the one, "Royal Park, Now and Then", which gives a blow by blow account of how Royal Park has been eaten away in chunks for urban development. The films were made for Royal Park Protection organisation and shown at an AGM.

Your criticism reminds me of the damned if you do and damned if you don't of the attack-people-as-NIMBYs.

Australians don't want immigrants (from other cities or further afield) who, by coming, impact adversely on local environment due to the clearing of land for new housing. But even worse are the immigrants who come and who then fail to stand up against more immigrants. The Royal Park activists are trying to make a stand, but the developers are bulldozing everywhere. Are you suggesting that they should all give up any democracy and quality of life because their forefathers did?

That's what the developers and the overpopulaters want people to do.

Why would people want to please them?

Sheila Newman, population sociologist
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