Monday, August 24, 2015

The farce with a sad end that is Fitzroy Street St Kilda.


Concerning Fitzroy Street ...

In my opinion the Councillors for the City of Port Phillip, PTV and Vic Roads should have to personally reimburse the 18 or 20 businesses which have turned up their toes and given up in Fitzroy Street.  If it had been that just one or two failed then one could possibly blame the operators but being there are so many who have gone broke it would seem that there is more to it than just an incompetent operator or two.  From top end to plebeian, they have all failed to meet their owners expectations lost money and had to just close.

Who’s to blame?  The overriding answer is simple – people are in public authority positions of power wherein they can make decisions about which they have little expertise, historic perspective or strategic view.  This describes the Port Phillip City Council, senior city management, PTV and Vic Roads.  As far as the council are concerned, a bunch of people elected on some criteria far removed from what should be essential skills. There are many examples proving this point such as at least 18 years of no action on the Port Melbourne foreshore despite having an acceptable urban design framework for the whole period.  Examples such as the stupidity surrounding the original design for the triangle site which thankfully, due to public force, was eventually withdrawn but still cost us millions of wasted dollars.  Another example is the cost of car-parking.  A 10 year old reading ‘statistics for dummies’ could analyse usage [read tourists], rates against time and costs and see that there is a correlation between high costs of parking and empty spaces.  Drop the costs and people will come and nett profit for the council would remain as is.  Simple but too hard for some people to digest.

A fourth example is Fitzroy Street and its destruction as a must-go-to destination for both Melbournian’s and tourists.  This is a direct result of a weak council failing to recognise what Fitzroy Street was all about and acquiescing to minority groups and statutory authorities by allowing these groups to create urban havoc all without a feel for the area, its history and its future.

When there are 18 vacant shops in one smallish street, with past tenants ranging from high end restaurants to boutique businesses - just closing down - there can be no escape from the fact that there are major issues with the street itself.  Traders across all levels walking away from millions of dollars says quite clearly that the street is the problem and not the traders.

Given the inescapable fact that the street is the issue then what’s happened?  Once again the answer is simple Fitzroy Street has become a throughway but in fact it should all be about recognising that not every street in every suburb needs to transformed into a super fast tram route with channelled traffic and dedicated bike lanes.  This is because some roads deserve to be slow and visual so the strolling rubberneckers can see, taste and enjoy.  Not every street needs a few more tons of concrete to create unneeded and unwanted super fast throughways for cars, trams and bikes.

St Kilda is ‘Melbourne quirk’ and that’s what people expect and want to see and be a part of whilst being kept safe away from the disaffected. 

Changes to Fitzroy Street have destroyed its character which in turn means that it has lost the ability to attract both tourists and normal Melbournians.  It does however attract the bottom end of society and the drug affected.  With the ‘ice’ epidemic it has now become seedy and dangerous.   Take the Gatwick Hotel for example – it is a dangerous place.

The solution is unfortunately not simple.

Firstly, and in the immediate short term, the disaffected have to be removed.  CCTV is but one of the critical tools to make that happen.  Councillor Touzeau said, whilst recently voting against the installation of CCTV,  ‘everyone has the responsibility to make the sort of world we want to live in’.  This is just plain stupid and far removed from the real world.  Especially so given the Council created the problem in the first place. 

Secondly, Fitzroy Street needs to be made a ‘slow’ destination street by creating a streetscape for both pedestrians and destination visitors through creative parking.  There is no need for a somewhat dangerous bike lane and there is no need for any tram super-stops other than at the beach end [already installed] and St Kilda station end [already installed].  The middle bit needs rethinking.

There is need to remove the dangerous and little used bike path and replace it with 60 degree free parking because car parking correlates to visitors.   Then add lots of mature trees breaking down the long visuals, large quirky sculptures and more non-food retail.  Then add public seating in the middle of the road under the canopy of shade trees where people can just sit and watch the slow trams and the streetscape; after mandatory facia regeneration. 

We need the development of a ‘tourist’ precinct where wandering becomes an art form instead of a dice with dropkicks.

I personally remember the days when we ventured to dinner at Tolarno’s [since closed as Mirkas - once again] wandered around after dinner and absorbed some of the quirkiness of the street before returning to our dormitory suburbs. Successive councils have destroyed this ambience.

This council has to make a decision.

Are they going to recreate Fitzroy Street by removing the disaffected, recognising that Fitzroy Street is not a speedway for trams, cars and bicycles and spend some of our money creating a streetscape which will attract tourists and locals alike seeking a quirky but safe immersion experience.

This is a no-brainer – YES.

And with a properly designed triangle site and Acland Street precinct we have a chance at creating a world class tourist area.  Let’s not wait another 20 years.

Say thirty million dollars over 3 years is absolutely nothing in terms of the financial return and the benefits to all Melbourne.

Monday, August 3, 2015


We dig stuff up and sell it to foreign buyers so they can add value and sell it back.
We sell off our country to foreign buyers so they can profit at our expense.
We sell management rights to others because we are unable and stupid.
Indeed, we sell our heritage to others.
We will eventually be leasing someone else’s country.
Now, the Premier of Victoria wants to sell the leasing rights for our ports to some management company believing that we are so stupid that we can’t manage the facilities ourselves.
Simple finance 101 says that if anyone is willing to pay megabucks for management rights then they must be able to return a healthy profit on that investment.  Therefore, the question is, if someone is willing to pay for that opportunity then why aren't we reaping the same profit?
Stupid people outsource management because they can’t do it themselves.
Smart people make the most of their assets.
We must be stupid.

I agree not wishing to be political as I know both parties do it but it was the Liberal party that started it with the sales of government run assets. I have often argued, using the SEC as an example - prior to its sale the profit from the monopoly was ploughed back into maintenance and improvements to the service. Once it was sold off the maintenance was cut and the profits from sales distributed to the shareholders

Unfortunately, Kennett had little choice but to sell off utilities with unions running riot destroying what little productivity we had.  This is easily proven by records - just look at the number of public transport strikes prior to the sales and strikes after.

I also must say that Cain Kirner left Victoria in a very parlous state which forced Kennett to sell off the management rights to get money and protect our credit rating.  This is also easily proven by Records.

Personally, I would have preferred that this hadn't happened but unlike Cain Kirner, Kennett didn't walk around with his head in the sand whilst Victoria was sinking.

In this instance, with our ports, we have another Cain Kirner look alike with Andrews.  He has already thrown away circa $700+ million of our money by 'not' building a 'strategic' link for the future of Victoria which would have already produced thousands of  jobs but instead - has achieved nothing.  This stupid 'retrospective' decision has cost us dearly in terms of international reputation, possible investors and our strategic future.

Now he has to sell our strategic future in Melbourne's ports to fund basic domestic maintenance such as level crossings which have zero to do with the future growth of Victoria.  
This Government are fools focusing on minutia, the same as every other labour Government, whilst Victoria loses its future.
Indeed, only stupid people outsource management unless there is no choice.  Kennett had no choice but Andrews does.
Andrews has made me-me political promises which he can't keep, is currently achieving nothing and is still making more promises for projects in forward estimates decades away.  He seems to have run our coffers dry and is now desperately seeking money by selling our future to fund basic maintenance, to be seen to be doing something and to try and keep political power.

Where is his vision with basic business 101 strategies leading to our future?

Perhaps I am asking too much of a minutia focussed labour Government.