Port People Inc began in early 2005 when several residents read in a local newspaper of Port Phillip Council’s decision to give one of three sites in Port Melbourne to Southport Community Residential Home (SPCRH):
When residents began doing some research, it became clear Council was in fact intending to take most of the Garden City Reserve in order to build a multi-level aged care facility with attendant car park on it.
Garden City Reserve
The Reserve, usually called ‘the park’ by locals, is an excessively odd-shaped piece of land looking like three different shaped (big, medium and little) triangles joined together. It contains the automatic Beacon or Lighthouse for guiding ships, a Trugo Club (now called Sandridge Community Centre) on the site of one of Melbourne’s earliest tennis clubs, and a children’s playground to which a surprising number of families with children and dogs are drawn. It has one of Port Melbourne’s few off-leash dog areas. It is bordered by five somewhat disparate communities: Click to read CoPP Garden City Reserve History PDF
Residents of all five communities tend to meet in the Reserve while walking their dogs, using the playground and the Trugo Club, and commuting to Port Melbourne Primary School, the local light rail, the beach and the Beacon Cove store and gymnasium.
History of Reserve
To a large extent the story of Garden City Reserve and nearby Murphy’s Reserve are the story of Garden City. After the first 72 Garden City houses were occupied it was clear that there was a need to provide community facilities, and the Garden City Progress Association (GCPA) was formed in 1928. It issued a circular stating that it aimed to establish sporting facilities ‘in order to properly develop the true community spirit’ and noted that ‘the State Government has granted us an area for tennis, life saving clubs, etc.’ (quoted in report on Garden City Reserve prepared for City of Port Phillip by Heritage Alliance)
In accordance with the ideals of the garden city movement which informed the development of Garden City, the State Government granted the reserve (or at least part of it) to the community for ‘plantation or recreational purposes’, the State Savings Bank lodged a plan of subdivision in 1931 which showed a large triangular area of a little over a hectare with frontages to Howe Parade and Tucker Avenue. The remaining piece of land between the Beacon and Beacon Road was transferred to the Melbourne Harbour Trust Commissioners with the stipulation that ‘No building or other structure may be erected…on the said land save …a navigation light tower or a navigation mark’.
The GCPA pressured various authorities to build sporting facilities on the Reserve and to do landscaping, and in the end they effectively built both the courts and the shelter shed themselves on what is now the site of the Trugo Club. They also cleaned up the area and planted trees.
In 1934 the reserve was transferred to the ownership of the ‘Mayor, councillors and Citizens of Port Melbourne’. The Certificate of Title noted that there was the following encumbrance: the ‘described land may not be used for any purposes other than the purpose of laying out the same with lawns and gardens and maintaining the same for use as a public reserve.’
This encumbrance and the ownership of the land around the Beacon were obviously of crucial importance in saving Garden City Reserve.
The fight to preserve Garden City Reserve
Garden City and Beacon Cove residents contacted each other by phone, email and through meetings when dog walking in their beloved park, and rapidly became more enraged and concerned. As one resident put it, ‘It’s our heartland. Now I understand how Aboriginals feel at being deprived of their land.’ A large and angry group attended an open air meeting in the park with the local Councillor, Janet Bolitho, who talked movingly about the needs of the aged but who appeared unaware of the larger, long term issue of permanently eliminating park land for any reason, no matter how worthy.
Shortly after this, a group of residents met for the first time on 13 June 2005 and founded the Garden City/Beacon Cove Community Group. Present were Shane Hickey, Angela and Ken Drew, Rob Hughes, Patsy Poppenbeek, Ian Kidston, Richard Barker, Tony Scott, Judith Murphy-Scott, Anni Stroud and Peter Stroud, Curtis Sinatra and Ari Pappas. They organised to research the proposal, make suggestions for other, preferable sites for the Home, publicise what was happening, and lobby against the proposal.
They found that in 2003 the Home, which is a much loved community facility, began considering how to improve their facilities and their financial position. Constrained by the current Council’s requirements that their business plan ‘minimises the risk exposure of council and protects its assets to a level acceptable to council’, they adopted the option of relocating to the Garden City Reserve and building a 90 bed facility and 30 independent living units varying in size from one to three bedrooms which could be sold to fund the Home. The present site was to be returned to parkland. This was presented to Port Phillip Council, which adopted their recommendations with a couple of differences:
As a press release put out by the group in 2005 put it: “It is interesting to note that, in recommending the Garden City Reserve as its preferred option, the very first criteria in the Council document Strategy and policy review committee, policy and planning, 2 May 2005, is 'optimal financial viability' (p. 47). The second is 'capacity to respond to emerging needs in aged care for current and future residents in the City of Port Phillip and neighbouring areas [emphasis ours]'. The third is 'attractiveness to potential partners in possible future joint ventures'. The fourth is 'capacity and financial health to commence further redevelopment within 20 years' [emphasis ours].
In other words, this is a blatantly commercial development, and it won't stop at the Garden City Reserve. Having established a useful precedent, the Council is coming for a park near you.” Research also indicated that:
We were overjoyed to see that the panel concluded that: ‘Garden City Reserve is too constrained by the factors identified above to be a satisfactory solution for the site of the South Port Community Residential Home and independent living units.’ (p. 14, Chairperson’s Final Report South Port Community Residential Home and Redevelopment and Relocation Site Assessment Recommendation) So the GCR was saved, and disbandment was considered. But the group concluded that:
Issues we have been involved in
1. Presentations and submissions to Council regarding preservation and renovation of Garden City Reserve. See our 2007 submission to Council titled ‘Management of Garden City Reserve: a Vision for Garden City Reserve’. In addition, we have continually pressed Council for short and long-term solutions to the water problem. This includes the successful lobbying of Council to reduce the renovation of the GCR from three financial years to two and a recent meeting with the new CEO, Kay Rundle.
2. Protests to Council regarding traffic and
rubbish problems associated with the usage by sports clubs of Murphys Reserve.
One result of this has been the Good Neighbourhood Agreement with Port Colts
which began in 2007.
3. Plummer Street bypass
4. Traffic management, particularly along Williamstown Road
5. Webb Dock
6. The closure of public toilets in the Coles building Last Annual General Meeting was 3 May 2009, when our guest speakers were local MP, Martin Foley, the then Mayor, Frank O'Connor, and local Counsellor, Janet Bolitho. Our current President is Helen Kuchel.