Australia’s most well-heeled and best organised community campaigners, The East Melbourne Group, has today announced a plan to appeal in the Victorian Supreme Court against the decision to approve Thakral’s high rise apartment development beside its Hilton Hotel opposite the MCG.

Margaret Wood, the wife of Justice Tim Wood of the Victorian County Court, is the convenor of the group and has just distributed a newsletter update announcing the appeal after the NIMBYS lost before Justice Stuart Morris in the Supreme Court in early July as you see from this report in TheAge. Margaret Wood wrote today:

The collaboration of Ministers Brumby (as Minister of State Development) and Delahunty (as Minister for Planning) late last year, which culminated in the excision of the Hilton Hotel and its adjoining sites from the planning authority of the Melbourne City Council and VCAT, was effected in secrecy and announced as a fait accompli just prior to Christmas.

This absence of transparency in process left the East Melbourne Group with no alternative but to subject the Ministers’ conduct and the purported justification for it, to the scrutiny of the Supreme Court. The objective of the EMG, in taking this course, was to enable the Supreme Court to declare whether the decision was valid and hence whether it was made in compliance of, or in contravention of, the laws of the State of Victoria.

Notwithstanding the comment by the Chairman of Thakral Holdings Pty Ltd, (the parent company of PCH, the company that owns the Hilton Hotel site), that the East Melbourne Group “would object to a dog house being proposed,” all the East Melbourne Group sought was that due process in accordance with the law be observed and hence that the rule of law be accepted.

Following strong legal advice, the EMG Committee has resolved to file a Notice of Appeal against Justice Morris’s Hilton decision.

The NIMBYS include the likes of Looksmart founder Evan Thornley, IOC heavy Kevan Gosper, Orica chairman Don Mercer, pollster Gary Morgan, former Melbourne Lord Mayor turned federal chief censor Des Clarke, former NAB chairman Mark Rayner, Justice Tim Wood, former Herald & Weekly Times CEO John Darcy, the McGauran family, former Computershare executive director Mark Elliott and former Qantas chairman Jim Leslie.

A progressive dinner up and down some of the nicest mansions in George St, East Melbourne, will be held on 11 August to raise funds for the appeal.

Finally, we should correct an earlier report on this issue. Don Mercer’s East Melbourne mansion will not lose its view of the MCG if the development goes ahead.

Peter Fray

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