RESIDENTS living around Beatty Park Reserve fear their houses will be flooded in the next big rain because Vincent council broke a longstanding promise not to use woodchips in the park.
When big rains hit the woodchips float to the low points and block drains, and were implicated in bad flooding during the heavy storm of early 2010.
But in January this year a huge patch of grass at the southern end of the park was killed with spray and replaced with woodchips for “ecozoning”, which usually involves putting in native plants that use less water than grass.
Resident Suzanne Burke told this week’s Vincent council meeting the work happened “without prior consultation or engagement with the community.
“When the woodchips arrived at the park we were immediately alarmed as previous administrative staff had made a commitment to us that woodchips would not be used at the park ever again, as they were a direct contributor to blocking drains at the carpark at the rear of our properties.”
“In 2010 this caused significant damage to our homes… this was not an isolated incident but it was certainly the worst and was very traumatic,” she said.
She’s asked whether these works were approved by council or staff, but has yet to get an answer.
Ms Burke said “undertaking these works without consultation has created great distress for residents”.
They tried to get Vincent to restore the grass but were told the work wasn’t a flood risk and it’ll stay.
Instead a portion of the woodchips nearest those houses has been raked away and replaced with gravel.
“In the view of residents, that still leaves us at risk,” Ms Burke says.
Nearby resident Andrew Main says the gravel is a poor solution to the problem, as “the city has replaced aesthetically pleasing and cooling grass with heat trapping gravel”.
The unannounced landscaping echoes similar initiatives that caused concerns for locals around Hyde Park when staff started laying down more gravel and ivy to replace grass.
Now Cr Jonathan Hallett has put up a notice of motion calling for the council to boost its public engagement before any more ecozoning goes ahead.
He said while he strongly supports the ecozoning concept, park users and locals should be asked their opinion before it goes ahead, and they should get a say on design and implementation.
A staff report says “future consultation will involve a local letter drop and location signage as a minimum”.
Ms Burke spoke in support of Cr Hallett’s motion, hoping it’d help “avoid others having to go through the lack of engagement and the lack of empathy we’ve encountered”.