OVER THREE thousand people took to the streets of Eltham in a recent rally to protest the plans for Nillumbik Council to sell 17 parcels of public land.
The Council claims a lack of funding from State government for their plans to extend the Diamond Valley Trail and upgrade other sporting facilities as the reason why they have turned to the sell-off to get their infrastructure projects delivered.
But the community aren’t buying it.
Rally organiser Nerida Kirov from Save Community Spaces told the Diary that this flies in the face of the platform that Mayor Peter Clarke was elected on.
“This Council was elected on a platform of fiscal responsibility, they chose not to raise rates last year, despite the fact they knew costs would continue to increase”.
She says now Council are crying poor.
“The truth is that the rate of council debt is not high compared to other councils,” Ms Kirov said.
In an open letter to Council, State Member for Eltham Vicky Ward said that government have given Nillumbik Council $22 million dollars in the last few years for public infrastructure projects.
Ms Ward refutes claims that the government has not provided funding for the proposed works.
“The Andrews Labor Government has provided $1.2m for Stage 1 of the trail, an underpass for the rail line at Diamond Creek.
“This is in addition to $2.8 million for the Diamond Creek netball courts, $2.5m for the Diamond Valley Sports and Fitness Centre, $800,000 for Eltham Central Clubrooms and $416,650 for Marngrook Oval.”
Ms Ward called on Council to seek alternative sources of funding, such as from the Federal Government, rather than sell off the urban reserves.
The protesters are at a loss to understand the Council’s urgency to complete these projects.
“We don’t understand the rush to get this all done at once,” said Ms Kirov.
“The land that they want to sell is designated public land in the most built up part of the Shire, land that developers were required to set aside for public use.
“We are not against the walking trail at some stage, but not at the expense of public space,” Ms Kirov told the Diary.