We cite a public question that was asked at last Tuesday night’s council meeting as another example of too little done by council and too late!

Subject: Centre of Caulfield Racecourse Reserve

“Council’s stated position is for the development of various sporting grounds (ie baseball, soccer, basketball) in the centre of the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve. If these developments are to go ahead, then:

1. Will ratepayers be paying for these developments?

2. What is the estimated cost for these developments?

3. Has council, or any officer, had any discussions with either the MRC and/or the Trustees on these potential developments?”

The Mayor read Council’s response. He said:

“The Crown Land is reserved for “a racecourse, public recreation ground and public park”. Responsibility for using the land for these purposes rests with the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve Trust. Council has repeatedly stated that while the first use, a racecourse, is well satisfied, the other two are not.

In Council’s view, the Trust should be providing for the use of the land for public recreation and public park. The Trust could fund this by charging market rent for the land which is used as, or in support of, the racecourse. In that case, there would be no capital cost to ratepayers.

On 9 April 2013 Council adopted an indicative layout of the Crown Land, showing scope for sports grounds. Council sent that to numerous parties including the Trustees and the Minister.

Council officers have discussed matters with Councillors who also sit on the Trust as Trustees in their capacity as Councillors.”

COMMENT

What this answer makes 100% crystal clear is:

  • There is no ‘business plan’ and no costings for the development of all these sports grounds. All that this ‘vision’ represents are pretty little pictures drawn on a map.
  • Council has no intention of paying for any developments on this site – that’s assuming they even have the money.
  • Given the repeated ‘crying poor’ by the racing industry (especially the MRC) and the fall in crowd revenue, the prospect of the MRC/Trustees spending another cent on the centre of the racecourse is buckley’s and none. If the MRC has indeed spent $1.8m as claimed on cracked concrete paths, a woeful ‘playground’ and a toilet block, then how much would they have to spend to create synthetic soccer grounds, baseball diamonds, basketball courts, etc.
  • Given that the current ‘conditions’ clearly state ‘NO BALL GAMES’, then what is the likely response to baseball games for example, by the MRC?
  • What does all this say about council’s ‘position statement’ and its ‘advocacy’ program for more sporting grounds? Is it all on a wing and a prayer that either some rich sporting club, or government will cough up the necessary money? Are they hoping it is the State or Federal Government, the Trustees, or perhaps Maccabi?
  • Or is the publicity for more sporting venues just that – grandstanding with no real prospect of anything ever coming to fruition?
  • We also have to raise an eyebrow at the final sentence regarding ‘discussions’ between Lipshutz, Hyams, and Esakoff in their role as councillor representatives on the Trustees, and the pledge of ‘confidentiality’ (aka ‘secrecy’)! Were these ‘discussions’ with officers reported back to the entire councillor group? Were any of these ‘discussions’ actually raised at any trustee meeting? Was anything ‘resolved’? Or are these councillors simply taking ‘direction’ from officers rather than the entire council group? And there’s the big question – has the Minister even bothered to answer council? If so, then why isn’t this made public?
  • The most pertinent issue is how much of this so called vision is diversionary and as usual a couple of years too late? How genuine is the advocacy, when the ‘negotiations’ with the MRC were such a disaster in the first place and council can’t even hold them to the terms of the so-called ‘agreement’? And how much of it is for public consumption to convince everybody that there really is a need for more money to be spent on sport instead of drains, proper planning, consultation, and a million other services that this council is legally bound to supply and support?
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