A controversial proposal to develop Dorothy Laver Reserve in Glen Iris came to a head on December 10 with six councillors voting to proceed against a wave of protest from residents and the lacrosse cricket club who has called the reserve home for decades. At the end of this meeting, dozens of angry residents loudly protested within chambers.
Dorothy Laver herself welcomed the Camberwell Lacrosse club to the reserve named in her honour in the early 1980’s. The club have cohabited with the Glen Iris Cricket club and recreational users ever since.
The development will see the location become a soccer facility which the Council refer to as a “community facility”. The rate paying residents are angry that they are losing access to the reserve for the exclusive use by a soccer club who represent approximately 1.5% of the Boroondara population. One of the clubs, the Alamein FC was established in 2015.
The ever changing and confusing public relations disaster has been steered by Officers for months and was originally based on a proposal to lay $4.5m worth of synthetic turf in the area which severely floods up to twice a year.
Residents and environmental groups fought for months to have the synthetic turf proposal abandoned, and it was only a week before the December 10 vote that the Officer conceded the synthetic should be abandoned. The scope of works, changed only a week before the vote and without community consultation has now added road and bike path realignment, road work and creation of additional car spaces by removing vegetation.
A traffic and environmental impact study has not been done, and residents are angry that hundreds of extra cars resulting from a soccer development will add to the already dangerous and congested residential streets never designed for such high levels of traffic.
No allowance has been given for the demand on parking by the East Malvern Football club on the adjacent oval who rely on this area for parking. In addition, Stonnington residents living in close proximity to Dorothy Laver Reserve were not notified by Boroondara Officers of the proposed changes.
Cr. Jim Parke questioned why it had taken a $5000 consultant report to confirm what everybody already knew – it was a flood zone. Officer Mackinnon argued that he had based his proposal on information from Melbourne Water flood charts. The proposal, described by Cr. Jim Parke as “a train wreck” has torn at the very heart of the community, created anguish and hurt amongst sports clubs but united the community.
There is deep distrust towards Boroondara council now by residents who feel there has been no transparency and no proper community consultation. The proposal passed on December 10 is significantly changed from the original, which the community argues should have resulted in its full abandonment.
Councillors Jim Parke and Felicity Sinfield agree, both of whom motioned and argued the merits for its abandonment.
Cr. Steve Hurd has described the protest as “childish tantrums” with “bullying” that was “disgraceful”. He stated that it did the protest “no good”. Mayor Jane Addis wrote in one email that the unrest in the community had been caused by “a handful of residents telling so many lies”.
The community continue to question the future of development at Dorothy Laver Reserve and what the cost will be. Boroondara continue to state that they support the facility as a ‘WNPL’ (Premier League soccer) site, yet deny they will support mandatory WNPL facility requirements such as electric scoreboards, 1.8m fencing, PA systems and undercover seating.
There are currently 2,600 petition signatures and over 1200 letters of objection were submitted to Councillors and the CEO. Protest signage and orange ribbons supporting the Save Dorothy Laver Reserve campaign continue to cover the neighbourhood.
Protest lobby representatives continue to lobby for the development to be abandoned and that all avenues will be investigated to receive fair representation of the community’s wish to retain Dorothy Laver Reserve as it is.
Boroondara resident and Ratepayer