Very local and very independent

Geoffrey Conaghan
Lake Ward

I moved to St Kilda in 1987 and I live in Lake Ward. I’m running as an independent candidate to provide residents with representation unhindered by political party agenda.

My focus will be Port Phillip residents and traders issues and if successful I will not pursue state or federal preselection.

I think big, I’m locally engaged and I’ll bring skills and experience to the role. My career has covered the not for profit, private and public sectors in senior roles managing strategy, complex stakeholder groups, large budgets and talented teams.

Read my full bio

Broadcaster and journalist Jon Faine interviews Geoffrey Conaghan on key issues

Who is Geoffrey Conaghan?

Economic recovery, festivals and events

Resident focused housing

Neighbourhood amenity and safety

1.

Residents and Traders first

  • Produce a Residents and Traders Charter to guide Council decisions
  • Conduct 20 resident and trader consultations each year
  • I will not run for State or Federal preselection

A Residents and Traders Charter will ensure Council’s focus on residents, traders and businesses in the City of Port Phillip. Residents will be at the apex as we are the key stakeholders - measured by value, volume or any other metric.

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The Charter will guide all Council decisions - by Councillors and the Executive - to ensure resident and trader-focused services, neighbourhood amenity, planning and spending.

Too frequently residents feel they’re secondary to Council decisions. Traders tell me they often feel Council works against them not with them.

I will not seek preselection

I will focus on the community and  not stand for State or Federal politics. I will not use your vote to develop my personal political career.

You’ll see me near you

I will not be an invisible Councillor. I’ll come to your neighbourhood with 20 scheduled consultations each year.

2.

Festivals and Events

  • Design festivals to benefit the community and improve traders’ year-round business
  • Catani Gardens and the foreshore are not private events venues

Strategically planned festivals deliver ongoing benefits for the community that host and fund them. This doesn’t happen in the City of Port Phillip.

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The annual ’signature event’ St Kilda Festival costs us $1.7M, attracts 400,000 people and yet Fitzroy Street remains dead for the rest of the year. Pre-Covid, Fitzroy Street had 30% shop vacancies, around three times the average for Melbourne shopping and hospitality precincts.

We need smarter and more strategic festivals and events for our economic recovery.

As a former Board member of Tourism Victoria I‘m critical of Port Phillip‘s Festivals and Events. A successful festival is not just the numbers that turn up on the event day, its the numbers that come back throughout the year. Festivals should generate return business by visitors.

I‘ve also judged the Victorian and Australian tourism awards and assessed festivals and events that grow year-round business. Port Phillip‘s strategy needs reviewing.

Catani Gardens and the foreshore are to be enjoyed by everyone, not just ticketed festival goers. Over summer they’re frequently enclosed with ugly cyclone wire fencing for weeks on end. The use of public space for private use needs a re-think.

3.

Community and business recovery

  • Focus on locals to rebuild hospitality, retail and performing and visual arts

After Covid restrictions are lifted local residents are the solution to recovery. Port Phillip has high population density and higher than State average household incomes. Locals are available to support local hospitality, service providers and retail traders.

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More events will bring locals out and invite their friends over and of course attract visitors. Run them in our hospitality precincts, not locked up in Catani and the foreshore.

We need to clean up, beautify and activate our shopping and hospitality precincts. If there‘s a seedy element - Fitzroy and Acland streets - deal with it, don’t ignore it.

Here’s an idea: the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) in 2023 will schedule another Melbourne Now, which in 2013 attracted 750,000 visitors over four months. Work with the NGV to schedule Melbourne Now exhibitions and events in Port Phillip.

4.

Fixing Fitzroy Street and Acland Street

  • Stop consulting and start implementing. There are good proposals and smart Council staff to start immediately
  • Acknowledge the negative impacts and respond.

The Fitzroy Street precinct continues to be Port Phillip’s biggest disaster and during this Council’s term it has got worse. It was dreadful in 2016 and in 2020 still dreadful. Promises of the Placemaking project turning around Fitzroy Street have failed. The Acland Street precinct is on- track to be the second disaster.

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The precinct is seedy and has around 30% shop vacancy. We are unlikely to attract game-changing hospitality entrepreneurs. Clean up the street, reactivate it and get the locals back onto the street and drive demand.

Council needs to commit to addressing criminal activity and the seedy atmosphere, commit to budget and start improving our neighbourhood.

Its time to rethink Fitzroy Street.

5.

Community amenity, safety and business recovery

  • Stop ignoring criminal behaviour
  • The Council has done nothing about street camping / drug dealing in the Fitzroy Street precinct
  • The ‘at risk’ group are now residents

Neighbourhood safety and local amenity remain a political football rather than delivering a better neighbourhood. CCTV, private security guards and other ideas are a battle ground between the left and the right. I sit with most locals: I want Fitzroy Street cleaned up.

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Drug dealers continue to damage the Fitzroy Street precinct- Grey, Burnett, Dalgety and Jackson streets and Eildon Road.

The Jackson Street car park and surrounding laneways is a drug dealer haven. Acland Street is on the same path, with anti social behaviour and drug dealing.

I acknowledge its a wider problem but I expect Council to take measures to protect residents and restore amenity. Nothing has improved 2016-2020.

If anyone doubts the reality of resident safety have a look at our Eildon Rd neighbour’s experience.

I will be the resident advocate and work from what I see, experience and what I’m told by residents

I personally have had a man pull scissors on me in our driveway; my partner was bashed on the 16 tram outside Luna Park at 10.30am; our 70 year old neighbour bashed for her purse while going to the supermarket; our neighbours experience attempted home invasions and Jackson Street had three attempted car-jackings. This is life in one street in the Fitzroy Street precinct. The Council reports safety has improved. Residents know otherwise.

Threats to residents is very real yet many apologists tell me safety concerns are exaggerated.  I know its real.

A resident safety solution already exists - lets expand it.

  • Exclusions worked to protect street sex workers - use it to protect residents.
  • The Fitzroy Street precinct remains a disaster due to Council doing nothing different
  • If people come to St Kilda to cause trouble they should be banned

For years ‘curb-crawlers’ - men or groups of men in cars - harassed St Kilda street sex workers (and women in general) in the Grey St / Barkly St precinct. It was harassment, often nasty and sometimes violent. Men came to St Kilda to cause trouble.

Council spent a lot of money restricting traffic access, landscaping and closing streets. The problem continued.

Then Council did the right thing - after it had tried everything else - by working with Police to introduce Exclusions.

Offenders can be excluded from the neighbourhood - in addition to other penalties issued by police - and breaches are treated similarly to a breach of bail. Exclusions work and have reduced offences against street sex workers.

Football grounds, race courses, Crown Casino and many other places have Exclusions to manage bad behaviour.

Is it necessary? The Port Phillip Police Inspector told a residents meeting that between 75% and 85% of offenders in the Fitzroy Street precinct live outside of the 3182 postcode.

To fix the problem the first step may be to stop the source of the problem.

6.

Let’s tell our story and get people out, about and engaged

  • Project proposal: ‘Blue Plaques’ on Fitzroy Street
  • Let’s actively engage with our Boon Warrung neighbours rather than only passively acknowledge them.

Fitzroy Street has a great story to tell and get residents and visitors walking and talking. I propose Council creates a ‘blue plaque trail’ telling the stories of the Boon Warrung people and the European settlers.

Many cities have ‘blue plaques’ - information panels that note important people, places, events or buildings. These often support apps and podcasts to assist self-guided tours.

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Imagine This:

Follow Fitzroy Street’s Indigenous story from the Ngaree tree at the St Kilda Junction, down past the former wetland hunting grounds of Albert Park and lake, to the middens and fishing areas around West Pavilion on the beach. Apparently, modern Fitzroy Street was fashioned from walking tracks of the Boon Warrung people -from St Kilda Hill/the Junction, to the bay.
The Boon Warrung are still with us, living and working in modern St Kilda and Port Phillip. They have a great story to be told about our neighbourhood.

Fitzroy Street’s European history is equally interesting - one of Australia’s oldest sports clubs (‘The St Kilda Bowlo’), the mid 19th century train station, grand mansions, hotels and early examples of blocks of flats. The precinct has benefited from outstanding hospitality entrepreneurs and had one of Melbourne’s first espresso machines. The queer community has made its mark and the Pride Centre continues our visibility. The 19th century industrialist and philanthropist Alfred Felton lived in our neighbourhood.

We should tell our stories, get locals out with their guests and get visitors off the tram with a good reason to walk, look and learn.

All of Lake Ward has an interesting story to tell - Middle Park and Albert Park have entrepreneurs, industry, artists, public figures and rogues. Let’s use Fitzroy Street as a test-run.

7.

Support the arts and our artists

  • Work with The Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Midsumma Festival and others to schedule more events in Port Phillip and support their promotion.
  • Support local venues with a track record of live music and comedy.

We’ve saved $1.7M by cancelling the St Kilda Festival 2021 so let’s invest in the arts as part of our economic recovery and neighbourhood enhancement.

Berlin supports its artists and musicians and Port Phillip should look at how it could use Berlin’s experience and expand our housing targets. See Section 9 ‘look after our long term residents'.

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More events will bring locals out, invite their friends over and of course attract visitors. Run them in our hospitality precincts, not locked up in Catani and the foreshore.

St Kilda has great arts resources: Linden, Theatreworks, VegOut artists studios, and live music venues like Memo Hall and we need to support them so they contribute to our economic recovery by attracting visitor. Council needs to guarantee secure funding for our arts sectors, do more and do it better.

Middle Park and Albert Park would benefit from increased and improved Gasworks performing and visual arts.

8.

A very local focus on the environment

  • Increase tree canopy and native planting targets.
  • Increase water harvesting and divert storm water
  • Litter and rubbish collection

I propose Port Phillip undertakes environment projects it can deliver and not spend time on State and Federal matters.

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Currently about 75% of Port Phillip tree strategy is designated as ‘maintain’. We can do better. I propose a 5% annual increase in canopy and where appropriate replace exotic with indigenous species.

Increase water harvesting and divert storm water to improve parks, street planting and the foreshore. Permeable land is reduced by more building which reduces opportunities for rain absorption.

Our extensive foreshore is mainly watered with potable water, an important resource, while most storm water runs directly into the bay. As well as wasting storm water we pay for potable water for public spaces.

Litter and rubbish collection remains a major amenity issue. Rubbish collection is being done the same way now as it was 25 years ago and needs a rethink, using international best- practice models. One model for all of Port Phillip may not be the answer.

For 24 hours each week our neighbourhood streets are made ugly with green and yellow bins cluttering footpaths - and more are coming! Other cities have introduced better residential and rubbish collection and we should too.

9.

Housing: look after our long-term residents

  • Set targets for long term residents at risk
  • Increase housing projects for women with a target of 500 residences over 5 years
  • Develop a housing plan to include the artists and musicians

Port Phillip has significant influence on affordable and assisted housing. Our focus should be increasing secure housing for locals with a long-term association with Port Phillip.

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For many long-term resident pensioners, rents increase faster than incomes.  they are being progressively squeezed into a miserable existence or forced out of their community.

Increase housing targets for women, the ‘new at-risk’ group. Port Phillip has many women employed in low income jobs - care, hospitality, the creative sectors and the arts - and have not accumulated enough superannuation to generate a good retirement income AND have secure housing.

Introduce progressive thinking on housing for the arts sector. Berlin does it. We should look at it. Port Phillip has long been associated with the arts and if we want to nurture the sector then artists need somewhere to work, somewhere to exhibit or perform and somewhere to live.

10.

Parks and recreation

  • Plan for the future as we head to higher density communities
  • Anticipate more older and active residents and their outdoor recreation needs
  • Plan ahead for Fishermans Bend to be a new suburb with the best outdoor recreation opportunities for residents and workers.

Port Phillip will have increased population density so we’ll technically have less outdoor space per person. We are lucky to have excellent open spaces, but they are fixed.  Our residences are going upwards but ground level space is finite.

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We have to think better and smarter with more residents ‘competing’ for the same amount of outdoor areas. What will we need as our population increases by 5% at a time?

Fishermans Bend provides the opportunity to inform improvements across the community.

More people means we’ll need to manage the balance of walking and cycling access to work, shopping, school and for recreation.

Yes, we love dogs! We need to plan for the right balance of dog-friendly and dog-free parks and foreshore areas.

Port Phillip is one of the few city municipalities without a public swimming pool.  The Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre (MSAC) Albert Park is a wonderful asset for squads, clubs and schools but increasingly difficult to secure times and space for recreational lap swimmers.

I propose we plan for a recreational swimming pool for the City of Port Phillip and leave MSAC principally for squads and clubs.

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