Council meets with North Melbourne locals

Sean Car

The next iteration of its “neighbourhood series” of community-held Future Melbourne Committee (FMC) meetings saw the City of Melbourne assemble with North Melbourne locals at the Meat Market on June 14.

As part of its new “neighbourhood approach” to delivering services and engaging with suburbs in its municipality, the council for the first time in 2022 has stepped away from Melbourne Town Hall to bring local democracy to its ratepayers.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp and eight out of the other 10 councillors appeared in person on the night. These locally-conducted meetings start at 6pm, after a 45-minute period for locals to interact socially with councillors and staff.

In addition to a locally focused agenda, the meeting heard from a number of North Melbourne residents on a range of local issues. One prominent issue discussed was the council’s recent decision to award the management contract of the North Melbourne Community Centre gym at Buncle St to North Melbourne Football Club’s The Huddle to “focus on social inclusion and providing access to employment”.

 

Some residents expressed concerns about what the closure of the facilities meant for the likes of nearby public housing residents living in the Melrose St estate, with one local calling to “defer action” until the council undertook consultation.

 

Another resident suggested that the former arts and craft centre, which formerly ran at the Meat Market, be resurrected in partnership with the state government, the owner of the heritage building.

Concerns were also raised by one resident regarding the six-storey primary school currently under construction at Molesworth St and the lack of pedestrian and traffic safety plans for the surrounding neighbourhood.

A Melrose St public housing resident also requested the council look into improving the situation for local residents wishing to rent community meeting space at the North Melbourne Community Centre, which he claimed was currently “impossible” due to other groups from neighbouring suburbs booking space under annual arrangements.

The City of Melbourne’s director of community development Rushda Halith provided the meeting with an overview of “key neighbourhood issues” and projects currently being undertaken by the council in North Melbourne.

Ms Halith said the council’s current service priorities in the suburb included childcare, family services and healthcare, libraries and community spaces, parks and public spaces, sports and recreation, as well as arts and cultural initiatives.

As part of the council’s neighbourhood planning program in the municipality, Ms Halith said it had consulted with around 600 people in North Melbourne during March and April and was currently analysing feedback ahead of a “neighbourhood portal” being launched in October.

As reported in this edition, the council has recently launched one of two of the first neighbourhood portals for Kensington, providing a “one stop shop” for council resources, services and information.

While Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the council was “excited about the new approach to community engagement”, some local public housing residents told councillors that they had never even heard of the neighbourhood planning process for North Melbourne.

One member of the North Melbourne Public Housing Residents’ Action Group called on the council to meet with residents to “improve connections” and address a number of issues including safety, lighting and access to services.

In acknowledging that “some residents don’t feel heard”, Cr Capp said it would work to address the disconnect some residents felt with their local council. •

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