Can we afford the Parkville Games village?
June 16 2003
Taxpayers need answers on financial arrangements for the Games accommodation, writes Kenneth Davidson.
When Premier Steve Bracks announced on October 23 that Australand Holdings had been appointed to develop the 20-hectare Royal Park site as the Commonwealth Games village, his press statement was very specific: “It will be one of the greenest developments built in Victoria.”
Almost eight months later, it seems that the specifics of the development are still up in the air. It seems the Games village development is following the precedent established in the selection process for the Crown Casino – the winning design bears little relationship to what was actually built.
Evidence before the recent public hearings over three weeks by the Commonwealth Games Planning Advisory Committee on the Games village, ostensibly set up by the Government to “fine tune” the development, suggests that even now planning for how the village will operate has not developed beyond the concept stage.
Village Park Consortium (Australand Holdings and the Citta Property Group) said in evidence, under the heading “environmental initiatives”: “Midway through the bidding process, the Government requested all proponents to exclude the majority of environmental initiatives and (so) reduce the price of the bid accordingly.”
Why wasn’t the community told of this? According to the consortium’s submission: “The Government motivation was: ability to make apples-for-apples commercial comparison; reduce cost to government (government able to price environmental initiatives more efficiently than proponents); more bang for environmental buck; guarantee delivery of initiatives; and, work with environmental advisory committee on preferred outcomes – rather than rely on developer.”
It is difficult to comment on this except to remind the reader that the Government has passed special legislation to ensure this development on public land is exempt from existing environmental, heritage and planning laws until 2011 – five years after the Games.
Under Games-mode operation, the consortium said key principles of its bid were “accommodation of athletes and officials in houses and relocatable house additions; accommodation in houses (not apartments) is key in being able to reduce cost to government; relocatables to be inserted between and around houses; and 25plus athletes accommodated in each house”.
Already the Village Park Consortium has announced that it will have pre-release sales of the houses to be used for the Games next year.
And what did the consortium say were the “commercial principles” of the Games bid? “Pricing of the bid and cost to the Government was predicated on capital cost, (the) investment and marketing risk profile for small-lot detached housing (as opposed to apartments or terraces).”
Who is kidding whom? Is it really more expensive to house people in apartments or terraces than mansions? And what has happened to the 200 public housing units that Steve Bracks proudly boasted was part of the winning bid “as a permanent legacy of Melbourne hosting the 2006 Commonwealth Games”.
It is clear that the Commonwealth Games are simply a cover for a government-subsidised property development on public parkland, and this was reflected in the written submissions by Major Projects Victoria and Ron Walker’s Melbourne 2006. These entities’ prime goal should be the successful functioning of the Games village.
Major Projects Victoria’s 11-page submission mentions the village in Games-mode once: “MVP considers that the use of the Calabria Club during the operation of the Commonwealth Games provides an attractive alternative for vehicle access from Brunswick Road that (sic) does when the Games are being staged.”
Neither the chairman of M2006, Ron Walker, or CEO John Harnden thought the interests of athletes of sufficient note to put in a written submission.
A two-page letter submitted by Larry Sengstack (Group Manager, Sport M2006) is a disgrace. It was a series of uncritical platitudes in praise of the development. I quote: “Low-rise, easily accessible housing with plenty of green space to relax in will provide an ideal setting for the Games village.”
Can he imagine how 6000 athletes and officials will fit into less than 20 hectares?
Does M2006 management know that only 31 of nearly 1400 mature trees on the site will be saved as a result of the development?
Only the Royal Park Protection Group seems to have given detailed consideration to access to the site and impact on surrounding neighbourhoods and Royal Park. If the development goes ahead, streets already choked with local traffic and rat runners avoiding CityLink will become totally gridlocked. They argued that “the site is grossly deficient in viable public transport for a development of this size, type and nature. It would not be contemplated under normal town planning rules”. Their submission has not been refuted. It cannot be.
As a Games village, the Royal Park development is an $85 million-cost-to-the-taxpayer disaster waiting to happen.
Star Cruises, which recently brought ships Super Star Leo and Super Star Virgo to Melbourne on a promotional voyage, told me they could provide accommodation for 5800 competitors plus a troop of Gurkhas for the 21 days of the games for between $US400,000 and $US450,000 a day. Royal Park is a security nightmare. Ships are ideal, irrespective of the Gurkhas, because entry and exit is limited to two gangplanks.
Isn’t there anyone in authority in the Victorian Government with the imagination and integrity to do the right thing by the Games, the competitors, the park and the taxpayer?
Kenneth Davidson is a staff columnist.
This story was found at: http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/06/15/1055615673360.html
JUNE 2002 – EVENT
PROTEST MEETING 5 JUNE – NO GAMES VILLAGE IN PARKVILL
Celebrate World Environment Day – Help Save Our Parks and Green Spaces Join the Fight against Location of the Games Village in Parkville
The Royal Park Protection Group and Residents of Brunswick invite you to a public meeting to protest over location of the 2006 Commonwealth Games Village in Parkville on the Royal Park Hospital site.
Time: 7:30 pm
Date: Wednesday 5 June – World Environment Day
Venue: Brunswick Town Hall Sydney Rd
Speaker: Dean Mighell Southern States Secretary ETU
Speaking on “Green Bans – Saving our Heritage & Environment”
Contact: Julianne Bell RPPG Convenor 9818 4114 or 0408 022 408
Jenni Belcher Brunswick 9380 9692 Jean Leitinger Parkville 93476683