Common sense has finally prevailed in the plan to build a bigger North Fitzroy library. The failures of successive councils over many years to properly address this issue may finally be corrected.
In October 2008 City of Yarra councillor Steve Jolly reported on his blog that:
The Council voted 5-4 in favour of putting out an “option” (read preferred option) for a new North Fitzroy library on the grounds of Edinburgh Gardens.
I voted with the Greens but we lost to the ALP and the two independents. I argued that the easy bit was mobilising against a library on the park. However, we do need a new library in this area.
The Greens and ALP have done nothing to find a decent site for this library and now, in desperation, a minority of locals have backed the cynical ALP campaign to wedge the SP and Greens by fighting for a library in the park.
It is quite clear from the two opposing petitions tabled last night that the anti-‘library in the park’ position is the dominant view amongst residents. However we need to find a venue somewhere else otherwise this push will keep coming back – each time with more support.
I suggested the Greens support a pledge to buy or lease a suitable site in next year’s budget. They fudged around on this one and therefore it will become an election issue and be revisited by the new Council.
I was critical of the secretive way in which the ALP councillors dealt with the issue. A public campaign was run to save Edinburgh gardens and to push for the new library to be built elsewhere.
As Jolly predicted, the issue was left in limbo for the new council to deal with. The issue has finally been resolved in favour of the majority desire for a new larger library without the loss of public open space.
The spin in the September 2009 City of Yarra press release is nauseating:
Yarra City Council hopes the decades-long battle to secure a permanent site for a North Fitzroy Library will soon be over, with the Council pushing ahead with the compulsory acquisition of land.
Mayor Cr Amanda Stone said the 900 m2 land at 182-186 St Georges Road would be large enough to house a community hub including a library, maternal and child health centre, multicultural citizens centre and a community meeting space.
Cr Stone said the community benefit to be gained from building the centre warranted Council taking the rare step of compulsory acquisition.
“Yarra City Council and our predecessors have been searching for a good site for a North Fitzroy library since at least the 1980s,” Cr Stone said.
The final sentence in the quote above is wilfully misleading. The previous council was not actively searching for a good site for the library. It was too lazy to do so and wanted to take the easy option of building it on open space in Edinburgh gardens. It took the new council and a new budget to find the money to acquire land for the library.
Why did local residents have to keep pushing lazy shortsighted councillors and council bureaucrats to make a fairly simple and obvious decision to find a more appropriate space on which to build the library?