As a Councillor, one of the things we can do is table a motion at a council meeting. This is a tremendously powerful opportunity, but with it comes a certain level of responsibility. So, prior to any motions I have moved, I generally run it by the relevant Director at the City to check that my objective is actually achievable. There are a few benefits of doing this, including not making staff needlessly prepare a 4 or 5 page report on the merits, or otherwise, of a motion.
Anyway, at the last council meeting another Councillor took the opportunity to move a motion which essentially reduced, from 1% to 0.5%, the amount most commercial developments must put into public art. This reduction was to be offset by introducing a 0.5% cost which must be paid to the City for street tree plantings in the immediate vicinity of the relevant development.
Theoretically this sounds great, and as it is now a formal council resolution I support it. However I will raise a few points because it is contingent on “extensive community and industry consultation”.
First, as this news article explains, the mover of the motion said “a large development, such as a Morley Galleria redevelopment, could potentially fund street trees for the entire district”, whereas another Councillor “questioned the legality of charging developers for trees planted “half a kilometre away”.
Who is right?
The answer can be found under the ‘Officer comment’ section of the actual council agenda, which all Councillors receive prior to council meetings, and confirm they have read by making a ‘Declaration of Due Consideration’ at the beginning of the meeting. The Officer’s wrote that “Established planning principle require there to be a nexus between the development, the contribution condition imposed and the use of those funds”. From this we know that a large development is not able to fund street trees for the “entire district” but only an area where there is a nexus (connection), namely their verge.
Second, a large development, like Unison on Tenth in Maylands may not have space for all the street trees. Now don’t get me wrong, I’d like to have some serious Urban Forests around the place, but cramming 750 street trees around the developments’ verge would be nigh impossible, unless of course we narrowed Railway Parade and quadrupled the size of the verge. However, even using a $1 million development, which is the minimum development cost for when the proposed 0.5% for street trees kicks in, this equates to $5,000 which is about 10 street trees. This may well be struggle for the average verge. Admittedly, another option could be to use some expensive bonsai trees so we can get more of them in an area and also to increase the usual $500 cost per installed tree.
Third, is it required? It is common for developers to want to plant street trees themselves, or if they are seeking any variations for the planning department to request street trees be planted. This is why Unison on Tenth have street trees planted. This wasn’t at the City’s cost.
In addition, a standard condition on planning approvals is similar to the below. The City already has a say on landscaping requirements:
Fourth, do people not like the results of the existing ‘percent for public art’, and how will this be impacted if it is halved? Some complain about the sculpture at Unison on Tenth, however do they also not like the exterior treatments which also fell under the percent for public art? Or the Galleria Business Park on Collier Road? Perhaps not, but compared with what the buildings would look like without the exterior “art”, I do.
Anyway, as mentioned earlier I’m supportive of the motion but want the public to be aware of these points before the “extensive community consultation”. I find it a little ironic though that the cost of the “extensive community consultation” and Officer time in preparing the initial council report, draft policy and future workshop/s will probably be the same, or more, as the cost for a sound engineer which the Bayswater Bowling and Recreation Club requested. And on that BBRC motion, I deeply regret leaving the room. Legal advice had been sought by a couple of Councillors, and that advice was that any members of the bowling club should leave the council chambers in case some members of the public considered there to be a conflict of interest. I have now resigned my membership so as to fully participate in future discussions relating to the bowling club. I was considering tabling a rescission motion to the previous council resolution refusing to pay for the sound engineer but, after actually conducting some due diligence before tabling a motion, believe the BBRC are now funding that themselves .
Power to the People.
(Please be aware that these views are my own and have not been endorsed by the City of Bayswater)