Candidates for Melbourne City Council share their views on heritage

The 2020 Victorian Local Government Elections are now in full swing. Voting packs have now begun to be distributed, and must be lodged by 6 pm on Friday 23 October.

The National Trust of Australia (Victoria) and Melbourne Heritage Action have contacted candidates standing for election to the Melbourne City Council to share their policies and views on heritage.

The City of Melbourne is home to some of our city’s most beloved heritage places, which are also under significant development pressure. With COVID-19 recovery planning a priority, we are asking candidates for their views on how heritage can form part of the revitalisation of business and tourism.

Melbourne is also home to the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens and surrounds, Melbourne’s only World Heritage Site. A review of the World Heritage Management Plan is currently underway — which only happens once every seven years — providing an opportunity to ensure its internationally celebrated heritage values are protected and enhanced. We are calling on candidates to commit to the celebration and protection of the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens, as well as the buffer zone that surrounds the site and contributes to its world heritage values.

We received 10 responses to our survey that was circulated to candidates, or the nominated representative for a team or party, standing for election to the Melbourne City Council. See all responses below.

Question 1) COVID-19 Recovery 

The cultural heritage of Melbourne, from its parks and laneways, to its theatre and restaurant culture, is a vital element of Melbourne’s character, essence, liveability and desirability, and has the capacity to contribute to Melbourne’s COVID-19 recovery. 

COVID-19 has also placed pressure on the businesses and organisations who activate our heritage buildings and laneways and showcase Melbourne to the world.

How will you ensure that Melbourne’s heritage and creative spaces form part of Council’s plans to reinvigorate business and tourism in response to COVID-19 impacts?

COVID-19 also places pressure on governments to fast track projects and the construction industry, and relax hard-fought planning scheme amendments to cut ‘green tape’. 

What will you do to ensure that Melbourne’s post-COVID recovery does not sacrifice good planning and strong heritage protection? 

Jackie Watts on behalf of Morgan-Watts Team — Morgan-Watts Team will continue to do what we have always done and support heritage preservation in any way possible, eg. REB, Melbourne Maritime Heritage, Central Pier, St Kilda Road, Melbourne Observatory, Federation Square etc.

Richard Belcher on behalf of the Sustainable Australia Party — Sustainable Australia Party has a strong commitment to heritage protection in its ‘Planning’ and ‘Housing’ policies. Our Planning policy aim is to “Achieve a better, transparent, egalitarian and ecologically sustainable town and urban planning system that will stop overdevelopment.” To help achieve this Sustainable Australia Party will: Ensure that planning and zoning changes adhere to relevant environmental and heritage regulations. Read more here.  Sustainable Australia Party’s ‘Housing’ policy aim is to “Achieve greater housing affordability for first home buyers and renters, whilst conserving Australia’s built heritage.” To help achieve this we will: Ensure that any ‘urban renewal’ and infill is not at the expense of our built heritage, backyards and urban amenity. Read more here.

Sally Capp on behalf of Team Sally Capp — My vision for the city, COVID recovery plans and planning more broadly can be found here.

Rohan Leppert on behalf of the Greens — The Greens will not support the winding back of hard-won protections in the Melbourne Planning Scheme that are there to deliver amenity, sustainability and heritage conservation for future generations. I instigated the current rolling program of heritage reviews across the City of Melbourne and I am determined to see them through. While some developers will use the recession as a basis to argue for extraordinary development potential above and beyond what would normally be tolerated by the community, we know that the incorporation of heritage fabric into development keeps our city interesting and is one of the reasons why Melbourne is such a sought out destination. Our heritage is an economic strength, not an economic hindrance.

Philip Le Liu on behalf of Bring Back Melbourne — Bring Back Melbourne is committed to Melbourne’s heritage and we will take the community’s feedback on all things related to heritage. Especially to something that is significant to the identity of Melbourne City.

Joseph Burke on behalf of It Will Be OK Melbourne — Enough of Melbourne CBD has been sacrificed already. I will oppose fast tracking and work to maintain as much amenity as possible.

Jamal Hakim — I will protect heritage structures and work to ensure planning is reflective and complimentary with heritage structures. I will work to ensure heritage structures are also recognised as such.

Artemis Pattichi — Make sure that Amendment c305 that protects heritage is well in effect and expanded to cover our heritage and our city’s character.

Davydd Griffiths on behalf of Labor for Melbourne — The Labor for Melbourne team has put together a comprehensive post-covid recovery plan entitled COOL (Coming out of Lockdown) Melbourne – which can be found within our policy papers on our website here.  In this document we we explain not just our plans to re-invigorate our community’s cultural and business organisations but also to protect our important heritage buildings, open spaces and iconic cultural places.

Paul Silverberg on behalf of the Liberal Democrats — George Santayana famously said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” And perhaps the most illustrative way to remember the past is through the architecture of the bygone eras. This of course does need to be balanced with the support for the free enterprise and ensuring that there is a level of amenities for the residents. I can understand the importance of retaining Melbourne’s character with so many historical and unique buildings being there.

Question 2) Heritage Protection in the City of Melbourne

The City of Melbourne is currently progressing a much-needed heritage review of the Melbourne CBD. However the review did not consider places constructed after 1975, or significant interior spaces. In recent years, many people were surprised that the ornate interiors of the Palace Theatre – which have now been destroyed – were not protected. Other interior spaces which contribute to Melbourne’s identity are also vulnerable.

What do you believe can be done to continue Council’s work to identify and protect significant heritage places, including significant interior spaces?

Jackie Watts on behalf of Morgan-Watts Team — Insist on an advocate for due recognition of internal elements – to avoid disaster such as the Palace.

Richard Belcher on behalf of the Sustainable Australia Party — The heritage review should be broadened to incorporate all places in the City of Melbourne, as a matter of urgency.

Sally Capp on behalf of Team Sally Capp — I participated in and supported the City of Melbourne Hoddle Grid Heritage Review which is the most comprehensive review of its kind yielding many positive outcomes for protecting heritage in our city. I will remain consistent in my approach to heritage within the City of Melbourne. My vision for the city, COVID recovery plans and planning more broadly can be found here.

Rohan Leppert on behalf of the Greens — I was the Councillor to instigate the Hoddle Grid Heritage Review. It has multiple stages, and the Aboriginal history study and the pre-1975 buildings review have been largely completed. A review of interiors, and of pre-existing precincts, should still be completed, and are scheduled; it has not been possible to conduct all elements of the Hoddle Grid review at once given its sheer scale, but I am immensely proud that we have gone from 0 to 4 dedicated heritage planners on staff to facilitate heritage work in my time as Heritage Chair on Council. I also moved for higher protection for the Palace Theatre, however the developer demolished the interiors just days before the matter came before the Council for consideration. I persisted with an attempt to include the amphitheatre shape on the statement of significance, but sadly this was voted down by all councillors other than the Greens. It is exceptionally difficult to list interiors within buildings of local heritage significance but the Council has not made a concerted and specific effort to do so; it is absolutely my intention that Council completes this work, starting in the Hoddle Grid.

Philip Le Liu on behalf of Bring Back Melbourne — Continue the good work the team at City of Melbourne and give more resources to the team and also community groups to help identify significant heritage places and significant interior spaces.

Joseph Burke on behalf of It Will Be OK Melbourne — I think that there has to be some thought given as to protection for important places, even if they have been recent developments.

Jamal Hakim — Greater collaboration with community and experts to capture nuances that may otherwise be missed is critical. I would always ensure that reviews and similar projects have collaborative and independent expert elements that mean critical nuances are not missed. In the current review, I would consult with the City and ask why the limitations imposed.

Artemis Pattichi — This example is surely one of great loss and a learning opportunity. We should do a better job in finding, recognising, and protecting special character spaces with a significance for our city, like the Palace Theatre interior. Melbourne City council can open up to the public, welcoming recommendations by the public on which spaces our city’s community believes should be protected, as well as by advising experts to identify the spaces that compose our city’s character. Then council should consider how we can implement plans for the protection and revival of these spaces.

Davydd Griffiths on behalf of Labor for Melbourne — There are a number of policy documents within the City of Melbourne which have been allowed to lapse or become outdated. A Labor-led Council would not only ensure that current review is properly conducted but would also closely work with expert groups like the National Trust to identify and protect additional heritage sites which were left out of the scope of the previous Council’s review.

Paul Silverberg on behalf of the Liberal Democrats — The most important work around this is the stakeholder engagement and expert opinion to understand what are the correct outcomes.

Question 3) Royal Exhibition Building & Carlton Gardens

The Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens is Melbourne’s only World Heritage Site. A review of the World Heritage Management Plan is currently underway, providing an opportunity to ensure its internationally celebrated heritage values are protected and enhanced.

How will you take an active role in advocating for the protection and celebration of the REB and World Heritage Environs Area?

Would you support the strengthening of planning controls in the buffer zone surrounding the site to protect the World Heritage values of the Royal Exhibition Building & Carlton Gardens, if recommended by experts?

Jackie Watts on behalf of Morgan-Watts Team — The sole World Heritage site in Melbourne certainly does not receive due recognition from all those authorities which has responsibility eg. Museums Victoria and CoM nor the State Government. The Environs zone acting as a buffer to the site is being overlooked/disregarded by two relevant Councils. Morgan Watts Team is of course supportive of stronger controls. Its a disgrace.

Richard Belcher on behalf of the Sustainable Australia Party — Sustainable Australia Party’s Victorian Upper House MP Clifford Hayes has been actively working to protect Melbourne’s natural and built heritage in the Parliament, including calling for an enquiry into heritage protection in Melbourne / Victoria. Any Sustainable Australia Party candidate elected to Council will, with the support of Clifford, advocate for the strengthening of Melbourne’s planning controls to protect our heritage and environment. This will include the promotion and celebration of the REB and World Heritage Environs Area.

Sally Capp on behalf of Team Sally Capp — The REB is a significant asset for Melbourne, Victoria and Australia. I will consider all reasonable proposals which benefit the broad protection of this asset for the community into the future.

Rohan Leppert on behalf of the Greens — I instigated the City of Melbourne’s participation in the review of the World Heritage Management Plan and Carlton Gardens management plan through our Annual Plan process. The patchwork governance arrangements have meant that review of these documents has been a little slow, however there is still opportunity to ensure that the resulting documents meet community and heritage experts’ expectations. The REBCG is our only World Heritage site and it requires greater care by its multiple managers than it currently receives. Currently the buffer zone controls are based on a heritage overlay; this is demonstrably the wrong control if the aim is to limit development in important vistas to and from the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens (a Heritage Overlay limits demolition, alteration and addition of buildings often in a subjective fashion, whereas a Design and Development Overlay is a better tool to limit new development in particular air space; if the aim is to protect vistas). I am open to replacing the heritage overlay with a more meaningful control however this will obviously require an extraordinary level of exhibition and scrutiny given the potential ramifications. I am looking forward to reading the final recommendations.

Philip Le Liu on behalf of Bring Back Melbourne — Yes.

Joseph Burke on behalf of It Will Be OK Melbourne — I support the planning controls being strengthened to support the REB and Carlton Gardens.

Jamal Hakim — Evidence based approaches are critical, and I would be supportive of the controls that experts recommend to strengthen planning controls and world heritage areas.

Artemis Pattichi — The Royal Exhibition Building & Carlton Gardens are one of the first places I visited when I moved to Melbourne (and Australia) and is one of my favourite places. I often enjoy my time there with a good book and great coffee. It’s important to recognise the heritage significance of such spaces and frame them in a way that highlights them in our city. While I would like to read and make an informed decision on strengthening the planning controls in the buffer zone, understanding how that impacts current residents, businesses, and visitors so we can make some good planning decisions that respect everyone, in principle, I do support strengthening of planning controls around the Royal Exhibition Building & Carlton Gardens.

Davydd Griffiths on behalf of Labor for Melbourne — The Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens are rightly considered to be one of the jewels in Melbourne’s crown. Labor for Melbourne welcomes the review of the Management Plan and will consider it and any other expert recommendations to enhance both the protection and appropriate use of the area.

Paul Silverberg on behalf of the Liberal Democrats — The Royal Exhibition Buildings & Carlton Gardens are truly a masterpiece to look at. In the post COVID-19 recovery I would be keen to see how it can be used to attract visitors to Melbourne. If there is also strong community support and appropriate stakeholder consultation is undertaken.

Question 4) Your views on heritage

What is the biggest single heritage issue facing a newly elected Council, and how will you address it?

Jackie Watts on behalf of Morgan-Watts Team — Managing and withstanding the persistent pressure by long succession of pro-development councillors who seem in some way compromised or simply fail to grasp that there is significant economic, as well as well as cultural/social value of heritage preservation.

Richard Belcher on behalf of the Sustainable Australia Party — The single biggest problem is the influence of the property industry over politicians and planning decisions. Sustainable Australia Party will act to return real planning powers to local communities, including through citizen juries. See our planning policy here.

Sally Capp on behalf of Team Sally Capp — The biggest challenge our city faces is recovering from the pandemic. My vision for the city, COVID recovery plans and planning more broadly can be found here.

Rohan Leppert on behalf of the Greens — We are half way through our rolling program reviewing each part of the City of Melbourne’s heritage overlays and building gradings. I am proud of having commissioned these reviews, from Hoddle Grid and Southbank, to Fishermans Bend, Carlton, North Melbourne and South Yarra. Other reviews already completed that were initiated by the administration are Kensington, West Melbourne, City North and Arden-Macaulay. The last parts of the municipality with 35-years-old heritage studies and protections that have not yet had reviews commissioned are Parkville and East Melbourne. If the Council stays focused, it will be able to say this coming term that every part of the municipality’s heritage protections are up to date. I am determined to see this program through.

Philip Le Liu on behalf of Bring Back Melbourne — Understanding of planning and heritage framework. More educational material and also highlighting the things we have lost without heritage protection.

Joseph Burke on behalf of It Will Be OK Melbourne — I think what happened to the Corkman pub illustrates that problem. I think we have to lobby for laws that don’t merely fine developers for ignoring heritage overlays, but allow for the forfeiture of the title in circumstances of flagrant abuse such as what happened with the Corkman Pub.

Jamal Hakim — Development pressures will continue to be the single biggest heritage issue facing Melbourne City. It is critical that we continue to preserve our environment for our community, enabling healthy safe environments that can be enjoyed by everyone.

Artemis Pattichi — Protecting our important heritage places before they are torn down or overshadowed by overdevelopment. I would first like to review current plans and protections to identify where we need to strengthen them and do a better job protecting such important spaces we can never get back, before it’s too late. I am going to be a nee councillor so while I’ll need to read up first to recommend the best solutions, I am a very fast learner and I look forward to working with experts, Heritage-related special interest groups, Residents Associations and residents in general to identify what in our city needs protection but is currently not receiving it. And then correct that to keep a balance of heritage and growth in our beautiful city.

Davydd Griffiths on behalf of Labor for Melbourne — In addition to some of the more well-known individual sites that must continue to be protected and preserved, a Labor-led Council would be committed to ensuring that future development protects the heritage and amenity of treasured places in our suburbs. Pages 19-21 of our policy document explain in more detail some of key planning issues that we would seek to address.

Paul Silverberg on behalf of the Liberal Democrats — The single biggest heritage issue that I see facing the council is the at least the $75 million shortfall versus last year and the subsequent years of lower revenue. This will make it challenging for the council to upkeep all of the current sites as well as may force the council to sell off the assets. Hence it will be how to deliver economic growth to the city so that its culturally & architecturally sights can be maintained rather than become dilapidated due to the lack of funds as has happened in a number of cities around the world during various economic crisis.

Next steps

Read more about our election plan, and how you can be involved, here.

Feature image by Annie Spratt, Unsplash. 

1 comment

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  1. 1
    Tricia Caswell

    Owners and Residents at now CoM heritage listed Hero Apartment Building have objected to plans to demolish and develop our neighbours, the Theosophical Society Building and the Uniting Church Building which have permits to demolish and develop with secretive procedures rather than advertised proposals. This has all bee done in the face of proper transparent procedures and against the principles of natural justice.

    We wrote to all Councillors and Candidates and will be pursuing these issues with the CoM and the Minister for Planning.

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