Almost 150 residents from the inner city Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy rallied on Sunday February 17 to save one of the only parks in the area – Condell Park.
The Socialist Party had revealed in their regular newsletter that the future of the park was in doubt. The State Government had recently met with Yarra City Council and said that they wanted to sell the park to developers for $3.5 million. The Council currently leases the land off the State Government and the lease is due to expire in December.
Local residents flocked to the cause by helping to advertise the event, putting up Socialist Party posters on street poles and in their windows. One resident even had a sign professionally painted on a wall in the park saying ‘Save Our Park, public meeting Sunday 1pm’.
The first speaker at the rally was Socialist Party Councillor, Stephen Jolly who outlined the exact details of the State Government’s plans. Stephen explained that there was a lot of confusion about the issue amongst residents as the local State Member of Parliament, Richard Wynne, had put out his own leaflet contradicting what the Socialist Party had said.
Since realizing the massive public outrage at the prospect of selling off one of the areas last remaining parks, Wynne changed his position saying that he was happy to let Condell Park remain as open space as long as Yarra Council did ‘˜land swap’ so they could build some much needed social housing in the area. This would require giving up another piece of open space in another part of the city.
Stephen argued that this was robbing Peter to pay Paul and said that the State Labor Government was pitting one section of the community against another. “There is no reason why a State Government with a more than $1 billion budget surplus need to sell this land at all” he said.
“If the State Government want to build social housing that is a good thing, but this should be done in an open and transparent way. Put your plans on the table and we will look at one of the many empty buildings or underutilized council owned buildings to provide you space to build housing. We do not have to give up one our last remaining parks.” Stephen said.
Several local residents spoke, reporting on the importance of the park to the local community. Greens Councillor Jenny Farrar also spoke at the rally but unfortunately she was very vague when it came to the question of the land swap.
Richard Wynne did not bother to turn up to the event. Many residents had complained to the Socialist Party that they had been victims of bullying from some of Wynne’s staff who had knocked on their doors and asked if they were members of SP. The Labor Party needs to stop with their campaign of lies of intimidation immediately. They would do a lot better to stop trying to line the pockets of their developer mates and start listening to the requests of the local community.
The Socialist Party sees no reason why the State Labor Government can’t just give the park to the local council to ensure it stays an open space. If this is not possible the next simplest solution is to just extend the lease with no strings attached. This is what SP will be fighting for in the coming period.
The local residents have decided to set up a Save Our Parks group which will not only defend Condell Park from the State Labor Government and developers but also defend other open spaces in the area.
The Socialist Party will work side by side with this group to ensure that Condell Park remains as open space. If the State Labor Government does not accept the requests of the local community they may well have a serious battle on their hands in the lead up to the Council election in November of this year.
By Socialist Party reporters