The Brimbank Council, fresh from damning Ombudsman’s reports in May and June, as well as ALP branch-stacking allegations, are embroiled in another heated dispute, this time against the local football team.
In the latest tussle, the western Melbourne council are making enemies of the St Alban’s Football Club, with a proposal to build a new $30 million-dollar civic centre on the oval at Errington Reserve, St Albans. Under the proposal, the football and cricket clubs would be evicted from the site.
The council will decide on a location from a list of several options, including the controversial Cairnlea park, but councillors say the site at Errington Reserve, St Albans appears to be the top of the list.
Greens Brimbank Councillor Geraldine Brooks is staunchly opposed to the proposal, arguing the money would be better spent on parks.
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
“The community are very concerned and distressed about losing their only real open parkland in St Alban’s,” she says.
She says a number of other options are being considered, but the Errington reserve, which is close to public transport “keeps coming up as number one.”
Among the other sites being considered is a park in neighbouring Cairnlea. The Cairnlea park featured in the ombudsman’s report, which found the park received $680 000 in council funds after a councillor — with family links to the park — threatened not to pass the budget.
Yesterday The Age reported that the advisory panel appointed to review Mr Suleyman’s JP status found that some of the allegations against him were “flimsy” and without foundation, strongly criticising Ombudsman George Brouwer’s report into the former Brimbank Council.
The advisory panel said there “was no improper conduct on the part of Mr Suleyman in respect of the Cairnlea Park Reserve lease allocation”.
Ms Brooks says while councillors have been told the site is too small, and not as easily accessible as Errington Reserve, questions remain over carcinogenic elements in the soil at Cairnlea.
“No doubt that’s an unspoken reason,” she said.
“My understanding of the Cairnlea site is that the portion that was part of the federal cleanup is okay, but the VicUrban part — there would be concerns over that.”
But Brimbank City Council CEO Nick Foa said the Cairnlea site was rejected on the basis of the council’s assessment criteria, which include around access to transport, proximity to shops and “quality public space.”
Mr Foa says he is aware there is some community concern regarding the proposal, and the council intend to establish a community consultative committee to include locals’ views.
“As the project will affect the community, engaging with and involving the community in the process is a key priority for Council,” he says.
But St Alban’s Football Club president Michael Psalia says the community is “outraged” by the proposal to build council offices on a site that was donated to the community for recreational purposes.
Mr Psalia says the club and its 300 junior members use the oval “most nights of the week, and nearly every Sunday,” and many locals won’t have access to a football club if they are evicted from the oval.
“The community needs open spaces to get our kids off the streets and being active,” he said.
Councillor Heide Seitz says while she knows the community want the open space at Errington, the site is easily accessible for the area’s elderly community, who she expects will make good use of the council’s existing meeting spaces.
She says she is unaware of any environmental concerns at Cairnlea, and she hasn’t made up her mind on the controversial vote.
“It’s a difficult decision,” she says.