“A really strong community”: Council meets in Kensington
At the second last of its inaugural series of Future Melbourne Committee (FMC) meetings held away from Melbourne Town Hall in 2023, City of Melbourne councillors met with Kensington locals in their community on October 18.
The strong attendance at Kensington Town Hall wasn’t the only indication of the high level of interest among locals in community matters, as the meeting itself finished just shy of the three-hour mark with a wide range of issues discussed.
As is always the case at any FMC meeting, the first 15 minutes prior to the council’s set meeting agenda allows locals to ask questions and several did so by writing in as well as addressing councillors in person.
The meeting had initially got under way with Lord Mayor Sally Capp referring to the recent flooding events that had occurred in parts of Kensington and West Melbourne, as well as neighbouring communities hit hardest in Flemington and Maribyrnong.
Cr Capp said councillors had visited Kensington, as well as communities on the other side of the Maribyrnong River in the aftermath, as the council’s general manager of strategy, planning and climate change Evan Counsel gave locals an update on its response.
“Our teams have been working around the clock,” Mr Counsel told the meeting, stating the council’s response to the flood crisis had been “swift” in ensuring drains remained unblocked, and “extraordinary amounts” of silt and debris had been removed.
“Following the initial response of heavy-duty street cleaning, we’ve shared resources in Moonee Valley and Maribyrnong,” Mr Counsel said, while acknowledging the important role Kensington Neighbourhood House (KNH) had provided to impacted locals in need of urgent “respite”.
Mr Counsel also highlighted the significance of open spaces in the city “acting like a sponge” such as Riverside Park, which he said had played an important role in absorbing flood water.
The meeting also heard from flood affected West Melbourne business owner Richard Noble, who called on the support of both the council and state government after his property was destroyed during the extreme weather event (read more on page 4).
Away from flooding, KNH manager Rebecca Smith asked the council whether it was planning to reinstate a community bus service for locals in growing need of cost-effective transport, which had been unavailable since the beginning of the pandemic.
A response from council management said it had “managed to secure an excellent discounted rental rate with [car hire company] SIXT”, which would soon be made available to all community groups across the municipality.
Another local raised concerns regarding graffiti along Macauley Rd, which the council confirmed would be immediately removed in the days after the meeting, while councillors also heard from Kensington Reconciliation Group representative Karen Bonson, who asked how the council would support its important work in the community.
“There are lots of ways we would be pleased to interact with you,” said the Lord Mayor, responding in her capacity as the chair of the council’s Aboriginal Melbourne portfolio.
A number of other planning issues were raised by locals, including a now lapsed application for 496-498 Macauley Rd, and delays caused to the redevelopment of the Kensington Recreation Centre due to the discovery of asbestos, while Kensington Association chair Simon Harvey asked the council if electric vehicle charging facilities were being explored for local residents.
Cr Rohan Leppert, himself a Kensington local of 14 years, assured Mr Harvey that it was an issue the council was looking into as part of its annual planning, despite Kensington being an “anomaly” in a municipality where apartments made up 82 per cent of residences.
As has become tradition at locally held FMC meetings, the council’s community development director Rushda Halith provided an update on key issues in Kensington, as well as its major initiatives supporting the community.
Along with the CBD, Kensington was among the first suburbs in the municipality to receive its own dedicated “neighbourhood portal” from the council; an online “one-stop-shop” linking locals with council services, as well as its own dedicated “community partner”.
As a further indication as to the strength of the Kensington community, Ms Halith said that 77 per cent of local respondents to a recent survey “felt strongly connected with their community”, compared to 54 per cent across the rest of the municipality.
“It’s [Kensington’s] a really strong community,” Ms Halith said.
In a submission to the neighbourhood planning process, resident of 40 years John Widmer said the council needed “to be careful” to maximise open space and preserve the amenity for current residents affected by rising density of development in the Macauley precinct.
Also speaking on Macauley, Simon Harvey called on the council to undertake a “comprehensive traffic and parking study” for the area to ensure future projections for the area were accurate.
Sheila Byard OAM, a Kensington resident since 1972 and well-known “local historian” to many, addressed the committee on “natural hazards” in the Dynon precinct along the Maribyrnong waterfront and whether such issues were given due planning consideration.
Rebecca Smith also made a submission on behalf of KNH, calling on the council to ensure funding for neighbourhood houses, which she said hadn’t increased in “many, many years”, to have CPI increases embedded moving forward.
The council’s health, wellbeing and belonging portfolio head Cr Dr Olivia Ball said, “the people who live here love it, and feel very connected to each other and contribute very actively to this wonderful place. You are active here, present in a public meeting tonight, active in community organisations and as volunteers.”
Cr Leppert, who earlier was acknowledged for 10 years of service as a City of Melbourne councillor, added, “I am a local resident, and I love this community.”
The meeting finished with the Kensington Association presenting a petition to the council calling for a cultural sensitivity review of Australian Natives’ Association honour boards which are showcased in the Kensington Town Hall’s Conference Room.
Cr Leppert thanked the association for its “thoughtfulness” in bringing the issue to the council’s attention. •