‘Work with us on market’

Councillors reacted with passion to suggestions made at the Future Melbourne Committee on July 14 that consultation around plans for the Queen Victoria Market renewal was flawed.

Trader and community representatives said that, despite voicing their opinions, their views were not represented in the final master plan, which was unanimously endorsed by councillors.

Cr Arron Wood pleaded with the community to work with the council on the market redevelopment.

“We want to get this right just as much as you do,” he said. “At this stage, what it (the master plan) should show you is that, by not nailing every single car park down to a post is that we are still open to listening.”

“Keep on making your viewpoints made, but work with us on this.  Don’t see us as an adversary,” he said.

Cr Ken Ong accused critics of having a “not-invented-here” mindset.  “If it’s not invent by me, it’s not good enough,” he said.

“If we have to put up with various blockages along the way, that will just extend the project.  Many of us have looked at the history of the previous attempts (to renew the market).  The blockages killed them.”

Lower-market representative Catherine Underhill said to the meeting: “The language around the plans for the lower market is wishy-washy and vague, leaving the intended outcomes completely immune from scrutiny.”

“Is this mirk intentional or is it a genuine reflection of the state of play?” she asked.

“There are difference in language and purpose between the draft and the final plan which begs these questions.”

Ms Underhill accused the council of excluding traders from the planning process.

“There is a sense that the big end of town is a gathering force ready to push us aside to make way for a development and a future that they see and we don’t,” she said. “If this is not the case, then they should include us in the planning.”

“The lower-market traders should be included in the planning at the formative stage. We should have funding and advice to allow us to participate fully and we should have full access to the reports and documents that inform decisions.”

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle reacted angrily, saying: “You ask to be included in the planning.  Where have you been for the three years that we have been talking to those traders?”

Ms Underhill replied: “Talking to (us) yes, but coming to (us) with plans and not asking for input on the advice side of it.  Often what we say and what comes back seems to have no relationship.”

The Lord Mayor muttered under his breath: “Good heavens.”

Cr Doyle also accused submitter Miriam Faine of being opposed to the market redevelopment.

“I’m not against a redevelopment of the market.  I’m against the kind of redevelopment that has been proposed,” she answered.

“I believe you have not listened to the market community.”

“We feel that our voice has also not been heard in the consultation process.  We’ve made comments.  We’ve been to meetings. And we’ve been to everything we’ve been invited to.  But somehow, the points we’ve made – our input – has not made it into the final plan and it has not made it into the reports on feedback.”

Trader representative Greg Smith said lack of detail in the master plan was fueling concerns.

“There is great uncertainty, concern and anxiety,” he said.

But, unlike other submitters, Mr Smith encouraged the council to move quickly to the next stage.

“We don’t want to sound impatient, but we are ready to go now.  We are ready to saddle the horse, get on the bike, whatever it takes to get the process started,” he said.

Cr Doyle pointed out that the council was heavily invested in the process and had more than a vested interest in getting it right.

“If you’re worried about your businesses, what about us?” he asked.  “We’ve stumped up our money – $250 million of the council’s money. Not traders’ (money), not customers’ (money) – but the council’s money in order to protect and enhance this market and invest in its future.”

Cr Stephen Mayne told the meeting: “I occasionally wince with some of the words being said but I always respect your right to come here and present and we’re always interested in hearing from as many different people as possible.”

“The implementation plan in 2016 is where we really get into the detail,” he said.

Cr Mayne also reassured critics that the council was fully committed to a positive outcome.

“We’re going in boots and all into this project, so we have an interest in getting it right,” he said.

“You can see why previous plans to renew the market have fallen by the wayside every single time it has been attempted.”

“It’s multi-dimensional and comes at you in all directions.  We’ve been remarkably united in committing to the renewal in investing these huge sums of money.  The determination around the table is very stoic and we will simply do our best to make this a success.”

In answer to CBD News about why people felt they had not been listened to, Cr Doyle said: “Sometimes there is a difference between people being heard and conclusions being reached that are different from their views, but I don’t think I have seen a more comprehensive consultation over three years where people have had the chance to give input.”

“If the conclusion does not agree with what they have said, we say why? I’m a little baffled by that.”

“Sometimes, not to be unkind, you can go on talking forever and ever and the other thing I would note is that, on the one hand there is a series of arguments saying ‘hey slow down, we haven’t been heard, please talk to us more’ and then, from another group of traders, people saying ‘hey, speed up, go faster, we need you to get on with this’.”

“So, at some point you have to say: ‘this is what has been proposed, this is what we are going to do’.”

“Those views raised tonight might be valid concerns, but they are outside the ambit of the masterplan.”

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