We’ve commented before on what can only be described as council’s profligacy in spending millions of dollars on ‘upgrades’ that residents have not asked for nor truly want. The latest example is the ‘upgrade’ to Harleston Park playground. The budget has set aside $650,000 plus another $330,000 for public toilets. We believe that by the time landscaping occurs, the costs will be well over a million dollars. Remember, council has yet to prove it can stick to any budget,  with major projects time and time again costing far more than first indicated.

On the one hand we have councils screaming poor because of the State Government’s rate capping. On the other hand millions of dollars are being expended on projects that are highly questionable. Recent examples of highly suspect proposals that have raised the ire of the majority of residents include:

  • The purchase of 9 Aileen Avenue, South Caulfield for $2.1m and which is now rented out.
  • The creation of a ‘park’ between Fitzgibbon and Eskdale for the stated amount of $450,000 – both of these within a stone’s throw of nearby parks
  • The expenditure of $11m that council admits to for Booran Reservoir, but which we believe is far in excess of this cost – plus an area of urban forest equalling 11% of the site that is closed off to the public entirely.

All of these projects have not been embraced fully by residents and the current feedback on the Harleston Park proposals continues this trend. The vast majority of responses question the attempt to change a passive area into another Booran Road type Disneyland. More importantly, we have to wonder at the wisdom of council’s budgeting and its agenda. For example:

  • Why is Camden Ward the flavour of the month, especially when areas such as Carnegie are experiencing the greatest amount of development and no attempt has been made to increase public open space in this precinct?
  • Council, unlike other municipalities, has no playground policy that we know of. Thus ad hoc planning again!

The central question however should be whether residents would prefer spending more of our money on expanding open space instead of pouring more and more concrete into existing open space? – remember the $282,000 for concrete plinths!

It all comes back to priorities. Yes, facilities need upgrading, and yes, this can be expensive. But we absolutely reject the over-the-top spending on ‘upgrades’ that other councils can do for a quarter of the cost because their vision and programming is so vastly different. What is needed in Glen Eira in our view is not mega palaces that cost the earth but a concentration on expanding existing open space. That is impossible when the vast majority of the open space levy is spent on proposals such as the Harleston Park redevelopment.

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