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Review of the Monash Council 2018/19 budget draft presents an opportunity for exercising community oversight of the Monash council’s governance performance in budget planning. Hence, we commemorate Monash council for this community participation. However, the acid test remains, ie to prove the review is not a tokenistic and click-box activity and that budget planning conduct and results demonstrate good governance principles. Our review results identified gaps in good governance in the budget plan.
Advocating for the Monash community, Monash Ratepayers appraised the budgeted estimates for the next 4 years, including comparing them with the financial forecasts submitted to the Essential Service Commission (ESC), which seeks to request a higher rate variation from the cap.
We conclude from the budget analysis findings that (click 2018-19 Budget Anaysis V2 to view the details):
- Monash Council’s proposal to increase average rate above the cap is unnecessary, because the annual $1.5 million shortfall in waste costs can be readily absorbed by reducing the 2018/19 budgeted surplus and/or unrestricted cash provisions for the next four years.
- In the next Strategic Planning Cycle (4 years), the council is not demonstrating resolve to deliver efficiencies to the Monash community. Efficiency is a principle of good governance and is embedded in the LG Act as an attribute of a council’s legislated objectives and governance performance. Hence it is critical the Fair Go Rate continues to cap rates, as a good governance oversight and intervention mechanism, to strengthen encouraging Monash Council to improve its productivity and efficiency in the longer future.
We also found that employee costs also have risen above 2.25%, the average rate cap set by the LG Minister, to align council rates to CPI.
We conclude that the 2018/19 budget draft is not a community responsive and responsible budget. We highly recommend changes to be made, to address the identified governance deficiencies.
Footnote:  Because of China’s ban on receiving foreign recycled materials, the Mayor has claimed that there is an increase cost of $1.5 million that council must fund annually for continuing its recycling service.
The redevelopment saga of Glen Waverley’s central car park has attracted another community option for best value consideration by Monash Council. This new community option, called People’s Park, was developed as a result of consulting local residents, traders, local school parents and other Monash ratepayers and residents and conducting due diligent business case research. The proposal is a substantiated and viable alternative for redeveloping the central car park, in addition to Cr Lake’s option.
This People’s Park option proposes partnership with Apple to build an underground technology retail and multimedia library center with two additional levels of underground car parks.
It recommends more and viable funding choices than Cr Lake’s option, which only pursues to sell the car park to fund a new library and a small public space, and allow high density developments that will threaten the feng shui of Glen Waverley and increase local population without providing local and green open space in close proximity. The sale of the central car park will also mean the loss of GW’s most prized land that can potentially provide the local community and shoppers scarce green open space amenities and services.
March’s meeting documentation has revealed continuing preference for Cr Lake’s option to progress into Request for Tender. Quality due diligent information to substantiate Cr Lake’s option against the John Monash Multicultural Square (JMMS) proposal (put in by another community group) was lacking, as there was the absence of evidence based business case information and a best value evaluation framework, resulting in the GW subcommittee (lead by Cr Lake) and council staff making subjective recommendations to reject the JMMS proposition. In the three public community consultation sessions (attended by more than 150 people) that Council has organized to discuss the fate of the central car park, MRI representatives who attended all 4 meetings, including the JMMS one, had witnessed over 95% of participants did not want the new library and high rise developments and prefer the central car park remain an open space. This strong non support for Cr lake’s library was never documented clearly in council’s public records. However, the March meeting documentation continues to misrepresent the strong Monash community’s non support for Cr Lake’s option during the community consultations and instead presented information that says otherwise.
Like the selling of Monash and Elizabeth Gardens aged care facilities in 2013 and the deliberate and the long standing deficit financial management of the Euvena carpark, Cr Lake is once again leading and strengthening group-think decision making towards selling the central car park to fund and build a state of the art new library in the Glen Waverley central car park, a personal obsession that he willed on his constituents since the 2012 election, despite the community’s strong non support for his obsession.
Party politics stricken Councillors representing their own interests first is the growing new black in Monash, a proven fact also recently supported by the Waverley Leader, reporting the lateness and poor governance of council meeting in March and their growing failure to represent the community’s views.
In 2012, when Cr Lake thought the world is at his feet, he wasn’t joking about his narcissism. He seriously continues to think the Monash community should share his same dream and have a new library in his ward, Glen Waverley, since he got re-elected in 2012.
Narcissists seldom listen to others. That is exactly how the Monash Community, especially Glen Waverley residents, feel about their local Councillor who doesn’t want to know his constituents do NOT WANT a new indoor library in Glen Waverley. Furthermore, nobody quite understand Cr Lake’s dreamworld of what the state of a library is? It is only in the Expression of Interest (EoI) to sell the central car park (section 3.2.2 pages 3-6) that describes his dream – that the new library functions as a modern community hub space that promotes community learning for the young and old, fosters multi-cultural activities, even serves as an ICT innovation incubation centre that incorporates “technologies that have not yet been developed” (whatever that means) and provides auditorium/conference facilities that cater for 600 people. Realistically and with a logical mind, one would say that even NASA personnel would never claim their facilities would incorporate “technologies that have not yet been developed” into their infrastructure. Competing with Monash University’s real state of the art incubation and startup facilities and expertise appears to be a very ambitious given in this EoI description of the new library / community hub development.
The development specs, even in its conceptual form, is the (most embarrassing) professional standard of how Cr Lake’s dream translate to a procurement criteria for potential investors buying the central car park and developing his dream library. Also fancy imagining Silicon Valley calibre innovators and high flying investors mingling with young kids and the elderly in hallways and sharing the learning/work spaces. Is this an “innovative” Monash perculiar architecture model of mixed human activity and architecture form interfaces?
What Monash want is a virtual library service, and yet their understanding and capacity to implement such forms of library virtualism is very much constrained by their collective level of ICT literacy, and being technology savvy is unfortunately about being mediocre users of today’s technology who have no idea of technology research advancement and innovation development. Conceiving that 3D printers constitute part of future library services without understanding their demand of technical CAD/CAM knowledge and support, and high total cost of ownership is also poor governance in council’s decision making and new service development – cost shifting cannot be the blame for future cost inflation and rate rises because of today’s leadership incompetency. Not long ago, Cr Klisaris thought a social media provider is a language communication specialist who can help improve council’s English language capacity to communicate its city planning proposals to the community (Herald Sun, 17 Nov 2015).
Narcissism is becoming the new black in Monash Council leadership and decision making culture, because of the GWAC plan to redevelop the central car park. 2016 is the time such narcissists should ride into the sunset and disappear forever, banished into exile, if needed.
Feng shui dragons symbolically represent areas of good energy or chi. People living in such areas prosper in terms of wealth, health and well being. The Indian community also shares similar beliefs through their Vastu knowledge. Hence this feng shui analysis would also present interests to both Chinese and Indian ratepayers and residents in Glen Waverley.
Regionally, Glen Waverley (GW) represents the tail of a feng shui dragon that spans across Box Hill (as its body) and Doncaster (its head).
This is a common knowledge among Chinese locals and investors, as real estate agents often use this in their overseas marketing and client targeting.
GW city , specially the central car park area is the primary “mouth” of this dragon chi gathering and distribution into GW city (there is a smaller chi entry at The Glen’s car park next to Sullivan Road, which will disappear when The Glen high rise developments occur). This dragon chi flows from Springvale Road (metaphorically a river) and Kingsway is an important channel for pulling the dragon chi into GW city.
Therefore, the central car park is a very important site for Feng Shui and is what is called the “ming tang” – the mouth of chi entry.
Keeping it open and green, and moving sustains the chi flows in GW. Hence for the GW Chinese community, there are 2 options for the central car park redevelopment – (a) do nothing (continues to remain an open space car park), or (b) advocate for a green open space with outdoor recreation activities ( see the community’s John Monash Multicultural Square (JMMS) Proposal 16 Dec 2015)
The worst option is like Council’s proposal, to increase high rise and compact buildings in the area, and blocking part of Kingsway in front of the Ikon Building.
This Council proposal will destroy GW’s ming tang, hence cut off good feng shui in the area. The consequences affect the future wealth, health and well being prosperity of those living and owning businesses in the area. For shoppers & customers, they would reduce their visits, because of potential future inconveniences, such as traffic and car parking problems, and other ill social activities in the area.
For Ikon residents and investors, the worst is yet to come. Presently, the Ikon building is considered a bad feng shui dwelling, because of its back facing the end of the GW railway line. It is a building whose back is constantly charged with and stores attacking sha (bad) feng shui energy every time a train terminates there. The feng shui consequences translate to residents, tenants and owners constantly exposed to life challenges, especially renting and investment issues. As such, to the Chinese community, it is not surprising that low occupancy and difficulty in reselling apartments currently prevail, including brewing risks of pop up brothels and drug parties / trafficking activities as many of its apartments are being rented out to short term tenants such as Airbnb.
The council’s proposal redevelops the central car park with high rise and compact developments, together with Cr Lake’s 2012 election wish of having a new library in front of the Ikon building. The proposal also recommends closing Kingsway in front of the Icon building.
This road closure potentially brings the worst feng shui to Ikon inhabitants and traders.
Because road systems represent waterways, the Kingsway road closure will result in decaying or dying “water” energy (called shi chi) in the area. For Ikon residents, they would be sandwiched with constant bad feng shui from the back, and dying feng shui in the front. For other people in GW, the good dragon chi flowing along Springvale Road is blocked from entering into GW. Shi chi effects can potentially translate to unethical or criminal human activities such as pop up brothels in high rise apartments, increase in local drug trafficking and other dark activities, such as money laundering. Airbnb being a major tenant in Ikon is perhaps linked to this Feng Shui implication. Future popularity of the new library/community hub would be compromised by this potentially permanent bad feng shui prevalence.
Other coming high rise developments, without Council identifying and preparing for services that would mitigate future infrastructure and amenity issues, let alone ill socio-economic impacts (eg brothels, etc), are part of the future effects of bad feng shui arising from the blockage of GW’s primary ming tang, which currently pulls in and contributes to the good dragon energy in GW.
The Underpinning City Planning and Governance Issues:
Good or bad feng shui of city developments correlate and translate to the quality of city planning and implementation management performance.
This GW feng shui analysis shows a first symptom of the reactive and lack of a holistic system thinking approach in council’s city planning and even implementation decision making:
- All the structural plans lack liveability impact analysis details, from socio, economic and environment perspectives, missing in clarity and outcome-measures of future infrastructure and amenity requirements that would assure GW residents and businesses high quality liveability.
- The planning information is solely from a conceptual architecture/design perspective, which are being translated into ad hoc specifications for inserts in planning schemes. There is no clear and detailed design implementation planning and risk management details, already allowing Councillors to make piecemeal and ill-informed decisions in 2015 that often breach some the specifics of these structural plans and before these structural plans’ specifications are officially incorporated into the next update of Council’s planning scheme (which has not been approved by state planners).
- The lack of socio, economic and environmental risk management in council’s city planning and even in past council’s decisions also demonstrates the prevalence of poor social responsibility and governance accountability in city planning and implementation.
These matters can readily open up the opportunities for fostering poor governance and compliance consequences.
A week later after the 16 Dec 2015 community meeting with about 60 Monash residents and ratepayers, Cr Lake denied saying he supported the JMMS proposal.
He defended his position, saying that Council does not have limitless funds and requires to examine cost effective outcomes for redeveloping the central car park, which would involve selling the land to fund building a new library, a personal wish that he made into an election promise in 2012, which today, majority of his constituents do not or no longer want nor support.
While Cr Lake is almost personally obsessed to build a new library in Glen Waverley, Monash constituents are also making clear to him and other Monash Councillors that they want to participate and have a fair and balanced say in the final decision making on the development of the Central Car Park Land. This means that Council has to effectively engage with its constituents to:
- Identify all possible solution and funding options for redeveloping the central car park, not just proposing one set of solution and funding options as is now;
- Develop unbiased decision criteria and matrix for choosing the “best value” set of solution and funding options.
Until these governance issues are resolved, the Monash community continues to view their engagement with council as highly controlled, in order to allow biased decision making to go through.
Monash Council does consult their communities about their decisions, but they provide poor disclosure of information that do not evidently show how they arrive at best value choices. Politicised, groupthink, disrespecting and bullying behaviours among councillors do not help either, but exasperate the undermining of community confidence and trust in their decisions, and worsen the decision making transparency problem.
The Case Story in Development
The decision focus is about redeveloping the Glen Waverley central car-park, as part of a bigger Glen Waverley Activity Centre planning program.
Over the last 3 to 4 years, a councillor, captivated with his 2012 campaign goal of building a state of the art, 21st century library in his ward, has been convincing decision making directions in determining the redevelopment of the Glen Waverley central car park.
Despite the council’s presentations of its 2013 Glen Waverley Activity Centre Masterplan (PDF, 21MB) and 2104 Glen Waverley Activity Centre Structure Plan (PDF, 8MB) to the community, via a number of communication methods (including community consultations), the community at large do not understand the underpinning liveability impacts and with information overload, were least focused on what is being planned for the central car park redevelopment.
Late Community Awareness:
Only during the last few weeks, through two public consultation sessions, that the most affected Monash community better understood there is only one council choice for the car park. And it involves selling part or all the car park, to allow high density developments and result in a council owned new library/community hub.
Monash Council’s public consultations to date referred to the Geelong library concepts as a showcase benchmark for designing the new library and a small area of building front open space “town square” that spills into a closed section of Kingsway. However, such a design concept squashed in a smaller area and surrounded by taller buildings (over 10 stories) do not paint a pretty visual as below, nor the one Council has used in its new library marketing collateral (which also has a Chinese version, helping to attract overseas and local Chinese investors for potential developers). There is already much advertising in China which promotes the Glen Waverley School as a draw card, as well as the Feng Shui dragon’s tail being in Glen Waverley, where the pinnacle area is the central car park.
Between November and December 2015, the Monash community developed their view of appropriate redevelopment of the central car park, which proposes to retain the central car park as a green / public open space amenity, with underground car parks. Design concepts like those used in Singapore Gardens and Monash University’s new outdoor learning and recreation spaces were considered. They ball-parked financial estimates and several funding options with market pricing, all feasible with future revenue raising potentials. They also understood from a 2011 VEAC report (page 37) that Monash is one of 6 municipals with the least open public space allocation for its community.
On 16 December 2015, the community presented their proposal (which is referred as the John Monash Multicultural Square (JMMS)) to the new library captivated councillor, CEO and 2 planning officers. They also raised governance issues in council decision making and community consultation, which have implications of breaching the LG Act.
The business case for a new library has not been disclosed clearly as Monash has 6 libraries in its 81sq km let alone the libraries of the most exclusive schools in the state and the Monash University.
Many Chinese and other CALD residents and community leaders also participated, expressing grave concerns about the future bad feng shui implications of the council’s plan to redevelop the central car-park. The central car park is the mouth of chi / energy entry or ming tang and is the most important space in Feng Shui topology design. According to Chinese beliefs, blocking it with high density developments and the whole future prosperity, health and happiness of residents and businesses will likely destroyed. There is an official Feng Shui report to confirm this important Feng Shui space. The best landscape design is green open space, to represent a lively, agile and unrestricted moving dragon tail of a Feng Shui dragon that has its head in Doncaster and body in Box Hill.
A Chinese resident also indicated that three developers had already spoken with Council, haggling over prices and the number of storeys to ensure planning scheme changes allow future development that are profitable to developers. The councils’ EOI invitation for tentative bids opened 11 Nov and just closed on 18 Dec 2015.
They also indicated that the council decision making is biased, that it only offered one development option (ie to build the new library) and is proposing only one funding strategy (ie to sell the car park to finance the library development). They asked Monash council to consider their proposal and show better transparency in council decision making.
During the meeting, Cr Lake publicly said he would vote for the JMMS proposal after seeing the passion in the room. He said ” I would support a JMMS proposal and I think one other Councillor will also support it but I don’t think anyone else will vote for it.”
The community participants have also asked council to suspend the EoI process until GW residents and other ratepayers have been properly consulted and involved in the future of the Square development. They also requested a follow-up Forum where there was no imposed limits to attendance and that all councillors should be invited to attend.
Whether Monash Council would be responsive to its community and be resolved to close their community engagement and decision making gaps, is yet to be seen, as this is a case still in development.