Labor MP provokes backlash following VPA greenwashing accusations

The release of Victorian Minister for Planning Richard Wynne’s Preston Market Precinct Structure Plan has provoked anger from Darebin residents, market stallholders and local advocacy groups, with the plan’s much-vaunted “protections for the fresh food market and stronger height limits” having been dismissed as a cynical greenwashing exercise designed to obscure plans to destroy 80% of the market. 

The plan (revealed Thursday 17th March 2022) which claims to be “creating green spaces” has been slated as an outrageous attempt at misdirection in an attempt to hoodwink public interest groups via illustrations of grey concrete apartments with landscaped public roof access. These green spaces are not part of the plan, and are in fact just rooftops – they will not be landscaped in this fashion, which is difficult and expensive to build and maintain, and will not be publicly accessible, as they are situated on the roof of privately-owned apartment buildings.

Richard Wynne & Victorian Planning Authority Accused of Greenwashing

Despite receiving over 380 submissions to their initial proposal in addition to thousands of petitions and letters, the Victorian Planning Authority has evidently ignored community concerns around the market’s redevelopment, instead opting to focus on cosmetic changes to building heights and the greenwashing of the surrounding buildings as a diversionary tactic. A recent community engagement poll of local residents carried out February 2022 has demonstrated that local residents are overwhelmingly opposed to the VPA’s plan, with 53% citing community concerns, 23% citing social justice concerns, and 21% citing sustainability concerns

Community Engagement Process Reveals Disconnect Between Victorian Public and Andrews Government  

The Community Engagement Process has made it increasingly evident that the VPA’s Preston Market Precinct plans must first and foremost be focused on protecting and retaining the existing Preston Market, in accordance with the overwhelming number of submissions they have received specifying that the destruction of the market is a key community objection.

In accordance with this, the STPM Action Group has called into serious question the 2018, 2019 and 2021 community engagement process upon which much of the VPA’s justification for destruction of the market rests. The local community consultation process has now taken on a veneer of greenwashing amidst “fake news” accusations from the STPM Action Group, involving a non-representative sample of the community whom were not properly consulted about whether they were happy for the market to be demolished.

In a cynical exercise of “politics before people”, representatives of peak bodies such as Darebin Ethnic Communities Council (comprising over 80 multicultural community groups), the Darebin Appropriate Development Association, and the independent representative of over 50 traders were respectively counted as individual votes, demonstrating a lack of opportunity for good-faith input. Public acquisition – a key demand raised in several submissions – was entirely ignored in their latest plan. There is a clear mandate from the local community for Preston Market to be put in public hands – just as Queen Victoria Market and South Melbourne Market are.

“The VPA is completely out of touch with the community,” a spokesperson for the group said. “Not only is there anger at the prospect of the market being demolished, there is widespread support for public acquisition as the only way to truly protect the market from development now and in the future.

“The idea that the community is happy for 80% of the market to be demolished is outrageous” they said. “We absolutely do not consent, as is shown by nearly 20,000 petition signatures calling for the market to remain where it is, in its current footprint.”

The group recently made headlines for holding a Community Picnic and Public Consultation, at which they unveiled their plans for the market if it were to be compulsorily acquired by the government. The plans involve retaining and refurbishing the existing market, placing the carpark underground and converting the space into a multi-use civic centre and town square.

The consultation was supported by Darebin Councillors Gaetano Greco, Julie Williams, and Mayor Lina Messina. Darebin council has also heeded community sentiment and launched its “Protect Preston Market” campaign, which demands that the current market be 100% retained under any new development. Battle lines are being drawn, with the community and local council on side, and the state government on the other.

The Council-supported Community Vision can be viewed here:

DOWNLOAD COMMUNITY VISION MASTERPLAN PDF – LARGE [32 MB]

DOWNLOAD COMMUNITY VISION MASTERPLAN PDF – SMALL [700 KB]

DOWNLOAD MASSING PLAN PDF [2 MB] 

About STPM Action Group

Save The Preston Market Action Group is a local volunteer group of people living in and around Melbourne’s northern suburbs who wish to see Preston Market developed for the local community rather than for private profit. The STPM Action Group is not aligned or associated with any political party or interest group and is operated on a purely volunteer basis. 

To find out more or to arrange an interview with a spokesperson for the group, please visit https://savetheprestonmarket.com/ or contact the STPM Action group at savetheprestonmarket@gmail.com or 0469 896460. 

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