2017 Submission to Council

May 29th, 2017

(Download Council Submission Document)

Speaking to the FoVG Submission to Stonnington Council
Vihra Migios

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to the Friends of Victoria Gardens Submission.

Friends of Victoria Gardens members in attendance tonight:

Amy Lee, Nobby Seymour and Denise Saville who is the secretary of the Friends of Victoria Gardens.

The Friends of Victoria Gardens was formed 30 years ago in 1987. We celebrate our 30-year involvement in 2017.

Unlike most residents who simply lodge complaints the Friends have taken a pro-active role that has benefited both Victoria Gardens and Stonnington Council. We are a clear example of the positive value of a community initiative to move beyond complaints, to offer constructive criticism, to provide an oversight of Council’s performance, and to act when appropriate.

Some of the newer members of Council might be interested to know that the Spring into Gardening event morphed out of a Friends and Council initiative to raise funds for the refurbishment of the fountain. We have contributed to the refurbishment of the High St gates; members have donated park benches to name just a few of some of the more easily recognisable contributions we have made.

The Yearly May Inspection Walk initiated by the Friends and attended by Council staff is yielding positive results and provides Council with a yearly review and practical focus on the maintenance and enhancement needs of the Victoria Gardens.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dominic Mazza and his team for responding to the issues that the Friends raise and for the attention that is currently being paid to Victoria Gardens.

I understand that you have read our submission so will not repeat it. I note that the Winter 2017 publication follows a predictable omission – no articles dealing with community initiated organisations like the Friends of Victoria Gardens. How are new residents to know if the information in this publication or on the web site does not celebrate community engagement?

It is not hard for someone like me who has lived in Prahran since the 1970s to notice that Stonnington is undergoing rapid demographic shifts. The apartment boom of the 1960s has nothing on the height and density of what is being built today. The increased competition for open space between dog owners, picnickers and children can be easily observed. Gardeners report overflowing rubbish bins, and rubbish in garden beds left by picnickers with little regard for the heritage garden they have finished enjoying. A not dis-similar attitude to that expressed by dog owners who see no reason to keep their dogs onleash until they reach the Victoria Gardens oval.

What then are the values that Stonnington Council wishes to see reflected in its municipal culture? Is it simply of sound ‘service delivery’, or is there a need to develop a culture of  community involvement and engagement? Why is community dis-engagement as witnessed in poor survey responses and other ‘consultations’ simply accepted as the norm?

Bearing down on the current and projected demographics (as they relate to Prahran) might yield some interesting results. One example comes from the small street where I live. There are now 19 toddlers and babies in a residential street of less than 50 residences (of which 9 are one bedroom flats). Between 1974 and 2010 there was a total of 6. Or to put it more starkly 19 (and growing) in less than 7 years and 6 in 36. Council’s current schedule for the upgrade to the Lumley Playground is 2024-2025.

I think our member Amy Lee makes a compelling case as to why the existing schedules for the upgrade of playgrounds is no longer relevant and needs to be immediately reviewed in the light of the rapidly changing demographics.

1. As backyards are becoming smaller, children are having less opportunity to access outdoor play at home and are relying more on public spaces. I grew up with play equipment in my backyard. My children will not have this.

2. The current Lumley playground is tired and 20 years old. It is not adventurous or challenging, and does not allow for imaginatively play. There is better and more modern play equipment available.

3. The Lumley playground provides a free destination for families to be physically active and socially connected. It contributes to our community and neighbourhood character. It is important that it is kept relevant.

4. There is no shade –neither on the children’s playing surface nor under the park benches. As an example, it is impossible to feed a new-born in the shade and watch a

toddler play in the playground. There exists a clear opportunity for Stonnington to engage in community development to enhance its ‘service’ provisions and to increase resident engagement.

Key recommendations arising from our submission

1. Increase the budget for the maintenance of the heritage value of heritage gardens.

2. Appoint community development facilitators to identify and support community development and participation. Immediate projects for such include

  • To garner support and funding for the Lumley Playground improvement,
  • To investigate community interest in the formation of support groups to preserve and enhance the heritage values of the other heritage gardens.

3. Publish accounts of community participation and engagement initiatives, not just of services, grants or events.