Land sale for Covid-19 relief

VINCENT mayor Emma Cole says she’s planning to kybosh her council’s plans to sell off parkland under the guise of funding Coronavirus relief efforts.

Staff have asked councillors to sell off five blocks of “miscellaneous” land, ranging from an awkward 294sqm wedge to a grand 5,760sqm double lot on Brentham Street that’s zoned for passive recreation and is dotted with mature trees.

If the council rezones the Brentham Street land to R60, staff reckon it could be sold for developers who could put up “44 residential dwellings”

The sales could “aid the city’s financial stability in the short to medium term and fund the city’s Covid-19 relief and response efforts”, a report to the Aril 7 meeting says.

But Ms Cole told the Voice while it made sense to sell small, awkwardly-shaped lots that were only useful to immediate neighbours, she doesn’t want open space sold off and is planning to put up an amendment taking Brentham Street off the table.

“I’m not keen to sell land and see it go into general revenue,” she added, saying funds should go into reserves for asset maintenance, or the “public open space” reserve to buy new land or upgrade parks.

The issue came up at Tuesday’s briefing, where councillors usually hold their cards pretty close to their chests; but there was an air of unease and some questioned the mention of Covid-19 and whether the sales could even happen in time to help.

“Some of these are 12 months to two years away from happening,” Cr Dan Loden pointed out.

The city has a general shortage of parks, but the staff report said Brentham Street is “excessive for the local area”.

The vote happens at the next council meeting on April 7. They’re being held remotely so queries or statements for public question time have to be submitted to by 3pm the day of the meeting.

The cost of Covid-19 to the city is still an unknown, but Ms Cole says they’ve projected a rough $4.2 million loss for the financial quarter April to June.

It stems from the closure of facilities like Beatty Park, empty parking bays, cancelled events which usually bring in parking revenue.

Rangers have also been instructed to focus on community safety instead of parking fines. The fourth quarter of rates instalments may also see a lot of people defaulting if they’ve lost their jobs.

On March 30 a special council meeting was held to get the ball rolling on Coronavirus relief measures including suspending debt collection and waiving interest on outstanding rates.


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