Submission to 2016-17 Manningham budget

June 23, 2021

Below is the 3000 word submission Stephen Mayne has done to the 2016-17 City of Manningham budget, highlighting a range of projects which could and should be supported by the Federal Government, if Menzies wasn't "the forgotten seat".


Manningham has long suffered from being a safe Federal seat. As Bill Shorten and Malcolm Turnbull announce spending commitments running into the billions in marginal seats across Australia, nothing is trickling down to Menzies, which largely mirrors the Manningham boundaries. Since the Global Financial Crisis, very little discretionary Federal funding has flowed to Menzies.

If elected as the independent member for Menzies, below are the $50 million worth of Manningham projects that I would demand be funded by Canberra before agreeing to support a minority Turnbull government.

The figures cited would not cover even half of any of the project costs, so these are designed to be majority council or state funded projects that are delivered with some enabling Federal funding.

Upgrade to Templestowe Road: $5 million

Long overdue for an investment which lifts the quality to what was achieved on Thompsons Rd almost a decade ago. Also requires a signalised pedestrian crossing near the Heide Museum of Modern Art. Council should work constructively with the state government and the owner of the Yarra Valley Country Club to try and secure a contribution towards these improvements to Templestowe Road in exchange for approval of any redevelopment plans. Once Templestowe Road is rebuilt, council should also lobby for a regular bus service from Templestowe Village to Heidelberg Station.

Contribution to Aquarena redevelopment: $2 million

When a council spends more than $20 million building or redeveloping an integrated aquatic facility, there are many precedents of Federal funding. Look no further than the $10 million Federal grant given to City of Maroondah in 2011 for the Aquanation facility in Ringwood. Aquanation is located in the neighbouring marginal seat of Deakin. So why hasn't Canberra made any contribution to Aquarena with Kevin Andrews as the Liberal member? This magnificent regional facility is Manningham's “jewel in the crown” attracting almost 1 million visitors a year and operating 14 hours a day. It deserves support as the redevelopment reaches completion.

Soccer pavilion at Petty's Reserve: $1 million

It doesn't make sense to invest ratepayers' funds in two excellent fenced soccer pitches and then, 4 years later, still not have built a decent pavilion which would allow it to be used for formal training and matches. Even without Federal funding, this should be a priority capital item in the 2016-17 Manningham budget given the growth in soccer, particularly with rising female participation.

More support for Doncare: additional $1m per year

Doncare is the only integrated not-for-profit charity and service provider dedicated to assisting people in Manningham. The Federal Government cut Doncare's Emergency Relief budget by two thirds last year ($117,000 to $42,000) and this had a major impact on what it can provide to clients who are struggling. Previously Doncare was able to assist with food vouchers, utility bills, pharmacy, travel cards and the like but now it provides more non- perishable food than ever before, very few food vouchers and no utility help except from donations.

Doncare does receive some Federal money through the PHN (used to be Medicare-local) for Access To Allied Psychological services (ATAPS) counselling, but this also has complexities around it

Doncare clearly needs more Federal money especially for case management for clients and it should also be funded to run a Men's Behaviour Change program for perpetrators because there is no such program for men in Manningham. Family violence does happen in safe Liberals seats as well!

The fair wage equal remuneration order has had significant impact on agencies like Doncare as salaries have increased each year for staff on the SCHADS Awards with no increase in funding allocation from State or Local Governments.

Given all of this Doncare needs a large injection of funding, but they've had no increase in support from council since I and other supporters such as Cr Ivan Reid and Cr Charles Pick strongly advocated for it in 2009 and 2010.

Fixing King St from Williamsons Rd to Blackburn Rd: $5 million

Like Templestowe Rd, busy King Street is unsafe and long overdue for a major upgrade.

Kevin Andrews needs to listen to long-time advocate Ted Parker and procure Federal assistance so that council and the state government have the capacity to deliver on this project.

If you wanted to be really bold, this could be partly funded by creating a small strip of new housing allotments along King Street near Church Rd which would not in any way detract from the scale and amenity of the magnificent 68 ha Ruffey Lake Park on King St. Indeed, it would be a magnificent place to live and attract more visitors to the park.

Upgrading Jumping Creek Rd in Wonga Park: $5 million

This is the one major road investment which council does appear committed to but it is taking too long and the proposed investment is scheduled to be spread over too many years. A $5 million upfront grant from Canberra would allow this important project on an unsafe but vital link road to be expedited.

Mullum Mullum Reserve Stadium: $5 million

My biggest regret after almost 4 years on Manningham Council was failing to deliver a new multi-court highball facility, or even a long overdue expansion of the Sheahan's Rd facility, the spiritual home of the Bulleen Boomers.

The community run WNBL team has sadly left Menzies/Manningham, rebranded as the Melbourne Boomers and now been sold to new owners, partly because council failed to ever build them an appropriate show court for home games despite their incredible 32 years in the national competition. So much for helping women in sport. This show court investment should have happened with the support of Kevin Andrews at some point over the past 25 years.

Extend the main Yarra Trail to Warrandyte: $2 million

As a keen cyclist, it is particularly disappointing that Kevin Andrews hasn't supported more bicycle paths in Menzies. The Main Yarra Trail is one of Melbourne's great cycling experiences but the quality of the path deteriorates after the Fitzsimons Lane bridge in Templestowe and then the trail just terminates at Beasleys Nursery. Just get on with extending the trail to Warrandyte given the obvious tourism, health and connectivity benefits from such a move.

Domeney Reserve upgrade of sporting and social facilities: $2 million

The Park Orchards Sharks are the biggest junior football club in Manningham and deserve more support. Park Orchards is an isolated community and, particularly since the closure of The Chalet, they need a central social facility where people can gather in the evenings.

This should be at Domeney Reserve for the cricket and football clubs with an upgraded facility that can also be better utilised by the broader community.

It's no good putting this in the out years of the forward estimates, with a grant from Canberra this Domeney pavilion investment could be progressed in 2017.

Completing the Mullum Mullum Creek Linear Trail: $2 million

This shared use path for pedestrians and cyclists along the Mullum Mullum Creek between Templestowe and Croydon will be magnificent when it is finished but Canberra should chip is some capital to bring forward construction of the final missing links so it is no longer split into two unconnected sections.

Upgrade of synthetic cricket nets: $1 million

Best practice for cricket nets is a single concrete slab across multiple nets with synthetic extending to the bowling run ups, but several Manningham facilities still train on the old half pitch mini-slabs. This includes Bulleen Templestowe Cricket Club which has pioneered girls cricket in Manningham despite suffering from unsafe training facilities at Ted Ajani reserve. There has long been gender inequity in the way capital works for sporting infrastructure is allocated in Manningham and clubs which push strongly into increasing female participation should be rewarded with better facilities.

All cricket clubs should enjoy the quality of synthetic net facilities offered at Templestowe Reserve, which is the benchmark that should be matched with some Federal funding support.

Supporting baseball in Menzies: $500,000

Doncaster Baseball Club is one of the biggest and best clubs in Victoria, so why has the proposed second diamond at the back of Tikalara Reserve not been progressed? This was on the 10 year capital works program during my time on council but seems to have fallen off.

Manningham has a great record supporting second tier spots such as the remote control car racing at Templestowe Reserve, the Park Orchards BMX track, the archery facility at Bulleen Park and the Aeronautical facility at Bulleen Park.

Give the baseballers the support they deserve.

Conversion of en tout cas tennis courts to synthetic: $1 million

Falling demand, particularly from junior girls who prefer teams spots, has left tennis as the one sport in Manningham with excess capacity.

Council doesn't need 76 tennis courts any more and should perhaps instead think about providing some basic support to the sport of squash, particularly now that world number 52 Rex Hedrick is the resident pro at Westerfolds Squash Centre in Templestowe.

However, with 76 tennis courts located in many of Manningham's prime reserves, council should recommence its program of converting en tout cas courts to synthetic surfaces which require less watering. This has pretty much stalled since the Rudd stimulus spending.

Council should also investigate a model which requires clubs to open their courts free of charge to the public in order to increase utilisation of all these tennis courts.

And don't get me started on the low usage of the 1400 private tennis courts in Manningham, but that's another story.

Bulleen Park pavilion and access arrangements: $1 million

Now that council has built much appreciated soccer facilities at Bulleen Park on top of the three AFL ovals, utilisation rates have soared and council needs to upgrade the access, parking and road arrangements. It's not safe, there are pot holes everywhere and the lighting is also sub-standard. And while you're at it, you should spruce up the highly utilised pavilion which services the two ovals at the rear of Bulleen Park. It's not a patch on the front pavilion which was rebuilt with some funding support from the AFL a few years ago but only services one oval.

Urinal eradication program: $2 million

Urinals in sporting pavilions. Get rid of them. Girls are playing all sports now and these urinals for blokes are a throwback.

Fast-tracking investment in the main footpath network: $5 million

For a supposedly affluent area, the City of Manningham doesn't have much in the way of infrastructure.

Many streets, including the one our family lives on, has no footpath or curb and channel. With some support from Canberra, there should be an increase in the rollout of investment to deliver on council's Principal Pedestrian Network program.

Bringing Donvale Reserve tenants in from the cold: $1 million

Yes, the Donvale football and cricket clubs went their own way a few years back and did some pavilion upgrades outside of the council “system”.

It's time to let by-gones be by-gones and bring them in from the cold with an investment in their pavilion facilities at Donvale Reserve, along with an appropriate lease arrangement.

Upgrading drainage: $3 million

Drainage is not sexy because you can't see it but City of Manningham needs a step change in its drainage investment program.

Too much money is spent and time wasted trying to build community support for schemes when this should be a core function of council that is delivered through the regular council-funded capital works program. Everyone deserves decent drainage without being charged a king's ransom when council delivers the infrastructure.

This is 2016: bring forward the sewer program: $3 million

Yes, it's a state government responsibility through Yarra Valley Water but if Menzies was a marginal seat, there probably would have been some Federal support for the sewer connection program which is slowly rolling through suburbs such as Templestowe, Donvale, Park Orchards and Warrandyte.

Manningham still has almost 5000 septic tanks treating waste on properties with no sewer connection. We must do better, particularly given the level of non-compliance with environmental standards, despite an increased program of surveillance and regulation by council officers in recent years.

Sequencing the major transport infrastructure projects

It is impractical for Doncaster Rail to be delivered before the Metro Rail Project is delivered by 2026, thereby increasing network capacity around the city loop. Doncaster Rail should therefore be sequenced to be delivered, along with the East West Link, in the back half of the 2020s once Metro Rail is up and running.

The other project which could be commenced earlier is the North East Link between Greensborough and Ringwood. This project would alleviate the traffic chaos along Bulleen Road as vehicles coming through Heidlelberg seek to connect with the Eastern Freeway and then Connect East's tollroad.

Extending the North Balwyn tram to Westfield: $2.5 million

Without Doncaster Rail in the next decade, an interim solution to help mitigate traffic problems around Westfield would be to extend the North Balwyn tram to Westfield.

As Westfield embarks on its latest $500 million expansion at Doncaster, this would alleviate traffic congestion. Doncaster Hill residents also need a more frequent bus service and parking capacity at Park and Ride should be expanded by building a multi-level facility, potentially with some other mixed uses to help fund it. The residents in Sovereign Court opposite Westfield should also be given a signalised right hand turn option, although this is a VicRoads matter.

Raising some revenue locally

It's all very well for politicians and candidates to promise the world in a spending spree, but you also need to discuss alternative cost savings and revenue initiatives.

City of Manningham owns a large number of low value empty blocks which could easily raise close to $10 million for reinvestment in capital works. None of these are sign-posted as parks or host any play equipment and many are close to real parks which the public utiltise.

This was a model I pushed in 2012 when an empty block in Herlihys Rd Lower Templestowe was sold so the proceeds could be invested in improving footpaths around Serpell, the largest primary school in Manningham.

Similarly, the council should be more commercial with other strategic land holdings. Why own the BP petrol station on Blackburn Rd and the car park at the rear?

The Property Council recently commissioned a report looking at prime under-utilised council sites for development in Melbourne and cited Manningham's at grade car park surrounding the civic centre on Doncaster Rd as a prime example of a lazy under-utilised council asset.

The land is in a high density zone on Doncaster Hill yet council is using it to offer free parking to council staff and visitors to the civic centre and MC2.

Releasing capital through the sale of land and buildings leased to MCA

This would be politically sensitive, but council could also consider selling the land and buildings it controls where the Manningham Centre Association is run on Manningham Rd.

I'm a former MCA director and am acutely aware of the critical services it provides as an integrated provider of high-care, low-care, respite, planned activity groups, home maintenance, HACC and a range of other services. However, a single site operation owned by a stand-alone council is increasingly rare in 2016 as this model doesn't necessarily maximise the scale, technology and systems available to bigger players in the sector.

If council chose to sell this site, along with the vacant bloke abutting Manningham Rd, it could release up to $20 million in capital, but it would need to ensure the new owner (preferably a not-for-profit) continues to offer all existing services to Manningham residents.

Lifting staff productivity

Compare how much Manningham City Council gives to Doncare and its large network of volunteers with what you spend on your own staff. And with all this public discussion about family violence, no one is funding a Men's Behaviour Change program in Manningham. This is out of whack and council should pursue productivity improvements during the current enterprise agreement negotiations to free up more funds for critical social services such as those delivered by Doncare.

Some more transparency measures

Manningham has lost its title as “Australia's most open and transparency council” to City of Melbourne.

You need to do the following things to improve:

· * Release the individual valuations of all your land holdings and buildings worth more than $500,000;

· * Allow public written and oral submissions on each item which goes to council;

· * Identify which councillors voted for and against items in the minutes;

· * Go back to releasing a detailed project by project 10 year capital works program;

· * Build a website archive of council meeting that that goes back many more years than presently;

· * Bring some more public transparency to your audit committee processes;

· * Release your proposed annual actions earlier than the draft budget;

In conclusion, congratulations on being the only Victorian council to deliver a tax cut to ratepayers in 2016-17 courtesy of passing on the savings from your new waste contract.

I never like to see Citywide (owned by City of Melbourne) lose a contract but you tested the market and secured a lower cost offer. Fingers crossed that the service remains as good.

I would be delighted to make an oral submission to your June 7 meeting but would prefer to go last as I will be attending a City of Melbourne committee meeting that day starting at 5.30pm.

Yours Sincerely
Cr Stephen Mayne

* Stephen Mayne is a former City of Manningham councillor (2008-12), is currently chair of the Finance and Governance Committee at the City of Melbourne (since 2012) and is standing as a “pro-Turnbull” independent candidate for the seat of Menzies at the July 2 Federal election.