Item 3.6 – Compulsory Land Acquisition for Mount Martha Skate Park
Here’s the scene: A hush descends as you prepare to receive serve. Match point – win it and the pennant is yours. Every sense strained as your foe bounces the ball. One … two … three bounces, then the ball is in the air.
Behind you, sudden shrill shouts and a familiar clattering as the serve rockets towards you. Concentration broken – yet again – by the kids in the skate park behind you, where Heritage Victoria refused to allow a tennis court but approved a skate park. Match point lost.
That could well be the scene ad infinitum if the shire goes ahead with its plan approved at the 19 September council meeting to compulsorily acquire part of Mt Martha Tennis Club’s land to build the skate park for local youth. (Magenta marks proposed skate park.)
Compulsory acquisition is a back-of-the-axe approach to planning. Forcing a tennis club to cede part of the land it leases for conversion to a skate park is akin to the MCG leasing its sight screens for the showing of rock music videos during Test matches.
To labour the point, it doesn’t make sense. Doesn’t anyone in the shire’s planning department play tennis? Is Heritage Victoria totally composed of fogies, young and old, whose wooden-framed racquets succumbed long ago to borers?
The matter came up at last Monday’s meeting, the last before the election caretaker period began. The skate board debate was hot and, on some sides, noisy and angry. No other site was available for the skaters, asserted retiring Briars ward councillors Anne Shaw and Andrew “Billy” Dixon, and Cr Bev Colomb, who is standing for Briars again.
Cr Shaw became so exercised about standing up for the kids that she felt moved physically to stand up in her place at the council table. Cr Shaw is a passionate woman. She will be missed.
But in all the protracted debate, skate park noise was not mentioned. Bandicoot was an indifferent if enthusiastic Saturday morning tennis player, his concentration sometimes broken by surrounding babble. The sounds of young skaters would be a noise to be avoided around competition tennis at any level, in Bandicoot’s opinion.
What consequences could arise from this compulsory land acquisition half-way through the tennis club’s lease? Cr Tim Wood, who not all that long ago made his living at the woolsack end of the legal trade, was emphatic: “They could sue us,” was his verdict. It might render the club a less attractive venue for competition tennis, Bandicoot pondered.
The wording of the officer’s report to councillors was, to this writer’s eye, defensive, slightly apologetic in style, figuratively well back from the baseline, in anticipation of a Nick Kyrgios serve thunderbolting over the net.
The skate park was endorsed in 2012, it read … draft masterplan has undergone several amendments … facilitated through former shire recreation and leisure unit … local young people consulted … skate park design is site specific … complements the unique topography …
Noise? No mention of it. But: “Council contributed $1.03 million in the 2015/2016 Capital Works Program towards the refurbished pavilion at the Parade Grounds and $324,000 in the 2015/2016 Capital Works Program towards the tennis courts in Watson Road.”
The white-garbed ingrates! All that money and they whinge about a weeny corner of their land being taken over!
Bandicoot offers a solution. As soon as possible, call a conference of Heritage Victoria, the tennis club, the shire planners, the skateboarders and the new Briars ward councillors – and possibly a skilled mediator and a lawyer or two – and, in the spirit of the festive season, common sense and the need to avoid unnecessary unpleasantness, thrash the matter out.
As father of three boys (now men), with soccer, footy, skateboarding, the lot, behind them, Bandicoot has deep sympathy for the need for youngsters to expend energy in harum-scarum outdoor activities of all sorts. He is four-square behind the plan for a skate park. He is told a suitable site exists less than 100 metres from the tennis club, despite a clamour of denials from the current councillor trio that this is the case.
Far better to wrestle with and resolve the problem now than – possibly – face the prospect of jack-hammering up $825,000 of skate park concrete at a later date and building that extra tennis court. The shire doesn’t have that sort of money to risk – does it?