Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fare evasion and political diatribe

Do politicians responsible for our public transport system and fare evasion do anything other than continually reiterate the problem followed by the inevitable and meaningless, “we need to do something”? Obviously they feel they must give the impression of action so they pontificate with staccato-punctuated monosyllabic sentences trying to sound decisive, important and forthright. Unfortunately, the sole intent is to dissuade scrutiny and avoid any sort of decision-making.
The Government and the operators know that fare evasion is rife and that their in-house quasi police inspectors are a public relations nightmare and don’t work. They know the losses involved and what it’s costing every Victorian in real dollars.
On the few occasions we have taken the 96 tram between St Kilda and Fitzroy only 10% of people buy or validate a ticket. This endemic behaviour for one tram and one ride lost around $200 in revenue. Just imagine the money lost to the whole system.
Given that the operator’s gross profit remains static and given that everyone pays, then simple arithmetic shows that everyone’s fares could drop by at least 50%.
If everyone pays then everyone benefits. I would like to see the existing quasi-police inspectors turn into roving conductors who sell tickets with a smile rather than fine people with a stick. That will work.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Royal Melbourne Golf Club [RMGC] taking over the operations of Sandringham Golf Links [SGL].

[Response to the WAFR article dated April 23rd 2010 by Mathew Dunkley]
Why do I feel uneasy when intelligent people at RMGC submit an allegedly overpriced tender to local council to take over the management of SGL when even a cursory analysis of the reported AFR figures show they can’t turn a profit? This is financial suicide by the RMGC but, because the golf course will suffer by and through a lack of operational finances, could also end badly for SGL.
On Mr Dunkley’s reported figures, RMGC will lose more than $150,000 a year. This will need to be subsidised by RMGC members through and by special levies because, according to Council, green fees are lease controlled.
No one in their right mind at RMGC would lead them down this route unless there was a carrot. Equally, no one with even a smattering of intelligence at the council would accept a tender in the expert knowledge that the RMGC couldn’t turn a profit.
The inevitable results for RMGC, SGL, the public and the Council are negative, costly and substantial.
The Council’s press release in three years could read, “We have tried to manage SGL through competitive tender but due to unforseen financial circumstances we will now have to sell off the back 9 holes to RMGC – but the public will still have a 9 hole course albeit we will have to sell some sections of that too for a commercial driving range and further sections for a hotel complex. We realise that the heritage value will be compromised but it’s unavoidable”.
If anyone is of any doubt that this is a real possibility, just take a look at what is happening at Elsternwick public golf course. This original condition suburban public course is perhaps inappropriately maintained and managed and will reach a point of degradation when the council will act on its plans to reduce its layout but with the addition of a commercial driving range and other commercial infrastructure using the excuse, “Due to unforeseen circumstances we will have to sell 3 holes to commercial ...”.
Rings a bell, doesn’t it.
Perhaps Council needs to be accountable for decisions taken in the face of obvious dysfunction.
And, it’s not only golf courses at risk by a government’s dereliction of duty - government allowed the destruction of one of the last great Victorian seaside gardens at Erskine House [Lorne] for ignominious cheek and jowl apartments. In my opinion, the value of those heritage gardens was abjectly dismissed by Government in favour of short term commercial gain.
RMGC is a beautiful golf course in the Australian tradition where manicuring is minimal and golf is played as it should be, in natural surrounds.
Sandringham public course is easier for the average golfer with fewer bunkers, slower greens and less rough. But it still has that traditional Australian influence and considering the sheer volume of players is absolutely beautiful and extremely well managed.
With very few changes, the back 9 at Sandringham could well equal RMGC in terms of beauty and challenge. It must be a powerful carrot to RMGC especially as it and SGL have common fences!
Do I agree with everything that has happened at SGL? No of course not. Everyone has opinions and ideas relating to their own perceptions of what a golf course should be.
We all suck in our breath at the natural beauty of courses such a Barnbougal Dunes in Tasmania or The National on the Mornington Peninsula or even Narooma public in NSW. As pretend-golfers we itch to accept their challenges and/or feel the privilege of just wandering around in such natural beauty.
Yet, there is still a balance to commercial reality as high profile but badly managed golf courses have gone broke and there is always the humungous cost of the infrastructure needed to maintain such a huge expanse of grass.
At SGL I personally think they have removed too much natural bush, made a couple of beautiful raised postage stamp greens into megalithic monsters, filled in a couple of the deep-as-the-devil-bunkers and built a cafe totally out of character with the original building.
Plus, more effort should have been made by Council to create water storage dams, water courses and subsequent automatic close cut-fairway-watering whilst leaving say three levels of rough; in the Australian tradition.
Can SGL be improved? Yes, of course! But, with the current management actively supported by Council and heritage values.
There are no hidden agendas with the current management as has been proven over approximately 40 years yet RMGC must have a hidden agenda because no one willingly loses money.
There needs to be a legal commitment by the Council and the management company never to sell or lease any part of the existing 18 hole layout to another golf course operator for any reason whatsoever AND a commitment by all to keep and realise the heritage values of the course AND a legal commitment by all to ensure continuance of quality through infrastructure [watering, buildings etal].
Whilst keeping the 18 hole course I personally would love to see a separation between the first and second nines by ramping up the back nine with the inclusion of another fifty or so bunkers, multi-level rough and multiple tees. The front nine remains easy for us mere mortals whilst the back nine becomes an object of desire. $15 to play the front nine and $25 to play the back. I will back it in [pun intended] that there would be monthly waiting lists to play the second 9 from first light to dusk!
Controversially, there is also room for a car park on Cheltenham Road between Reserve Road and the entrance gate whilst the existing car park and to be razed cafe could become a low rise hotel / motel / catering venue. This could be an architectural delight in the heritage veranda manner and would indeed be profitable.
The danger is with pepole who have power, no ultimate responsibility and are consumed with profit at the expense of heritage and public access.
Elsternwick public golf course and Erskine House are but two examples.
We as Victorians have a responsibility and a commitment to maintain our public spaces in their original heritage condition - for the benefit of everyone.
Once they are gone – they are gone.
Obviously, SGL can be improved but I question whether or not RMGC is the right manager given their reported desire to lose money or whether the Council has thought beyond being dazzled by the also as reported financially suicidal tender.
Jon Langevad MBA
‘Pretend golfer with around 40 years experience at Sandringham Golf Links’
‘Professional consultants in business, spatial design, finance, hospitality and management.’

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Black Saturday Royal Commission

How many fire fighting planes and/or appliances could we buy for the cost of this Royal Commission? Even just for the cost of lead counsel? Given that Black Saturday was a one off and uncontrollable event where it seems no human interference could have changed the result, why is it taking so long and so much of our money to decide who was responsible for managing it when it was clearly unmanageable? I am confused. Does this witch hunt actually serve any purpose other than to unearth a few management blunders from overtly stressed people? Perhaps the lawyers and Commissioners involved in this gravy train should purchase ‘Elvis III’ and donate it to Victoria from just part of their earnings.

Melbourne - hate and danger

Melbourne is turning into a war zone detention camp. Arriving in Melbourne over the Westgate Bridge used to be an absolute delight, with fabulous views right down our lovely bay past the cruise ships and Melbourne’s heritage piers whilst on the other side Melbourne the city ethereally hovered in the short distance. A real wow!
Now gross political stupidity has surfaced by and through the erection of badly made and maintained razor wire fencing stretching the full length of the bridge turning this lovely tourist introduction to Melbourne into one of danger and hate.
No one in their right mind could believe the erection of a fence will stop people committing suicide or worse infanticide because it’s a simple fact that people will always find a way if they are so driven.
It does however show the length politicians will go to prove they actually do something albeit in this case with absolute disregard for the realities of human behavior, consequences for tourism and indeed every person commuting over the Westgate.
Turning beauty into crap for political purposes is unforgivable when there are many many options.
When will this Government actually think through issues instead of knee jerking and wasting substantial amounts of OUR money whilst destroying our beautiful city.