From The Courier 04 Oct 2018
If only Sharon Knight had kept to the development facts
Save Our Station Ballarat Inc (SOS) seeks a right of reply to comments by retiring Member for Wendouree Sharon Knight MP regarding the Rail Station Precinct development as published in The Courier Saturday 29 September.
We (SOS) swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth! As follows.
We at SOS are supporters of the Ballarat Station Precinct Redevelopment, a development that should provide benefit to the community and importantly commuters through the creation of a 21st-century all-abilities accessible transport hub, which is not in Labor’s proposal.
What needs to be recognised is that the land has not been proven to be surplus to VicTrack’s needs and why hasn’t the land been offered to the Ballarat community, through Council rather than gifted to a developer?
SOS has been denied access to the so-called business case, we even made numerous freedom-of-information requests, to no avail – what is Labor hiding?.
Ms Knight states, “The station does not form part of the redevelopment.” This we agree on! But why, then, is our historic central rail station the only station on the Ballarat line that is not to be redeveloped for those with disabilities and providing 21st-century facilities for commuters?
Ms Knight says she supports improved parking and amenity in the station precinct; so does SOS, but not less as is Labor’s proposal. Why then will the three-tier car park currently being constructed have a parking capacity less than the existing car parking currently available at the site, not to mention narrower parking bays – which would be okay if you’re a midget and drive a mini.
As to the job creation generated by the redevelopment that is being trumpeted by Labor, this is a promotional furphy; there will be no long-term permanent jobs created by this unwarranted “block of flats” and the use of the Goods Shed as a conference centre.
Ms Knight also states that “It’s good that there are different opinions on government policies and projects – that’s what makes a democracy work.” Again, we agree; however, SOS believes that democracy works best when governments engage, listen and act in the very best interests of their communities rather than having intransigently pushing misguided political agendas. Sadly this hasn’t happened yet with the Andrews government. Yes, there is still time. In fact, the time is now!
For your information, SOS is, dare we say, a broad church. We even have many vocal Labor supporters who are against this government’s proposal. SOS can’t refer to this as a plan as frankly there isn’t one!
Ms Knight states that “not all of the commentary about this project has been well informed” and that “I believe some people, including politicians and opponents of the project, have even deliberately misrepresented the Ballarat Station Precinct Redevelopment. I think it is important that the conversation about this major project has a grounding in facts”.
Frankly, Ms Knight, we at SOS have only ever dealt with the facts; The Andrews Labor government’s actions are a major fiasco of its own making.
You also state that “The Ballarat Station Precinct Redevelopment will see construction of a five-storey hotel, and the conservation and adaptation of the Goods Shed to accommodate a conference centre and retail space”. False!
The proposed five-storey development will not be a 4.5-star hotel; it will be self-contained apartments with individual titles leased to Quest, which means they will be, in fact, a “block of flats”. The parking at the proposed Quest site will be private parking that will not provide any benefit to commuters or the community.
To suggest there is a small number of opponents to the proposal is farcical and disingenuous in the extreme – it is just Labor’s embarrassing nonsensical political spin. It should be noted that The Courier survey showed that over 90 percent of residents oppose this proposal. Fact!
You say that “any suggestion that the station is for sale or being sold off is simply untrue”. Again, the rail precinct includes the station, which is essential to service the needs of commuters – public transport and car parking.
Ms Knight, you need to take the train regularly to appreciate the issues not only now but also what will be required for the long-term future. Dare we state that the whole precinct must remain owned by all of us and redeveloped for transport and commuter needs.
You state that “The Ballarat Station Precinct Redevelopment will not, as some have misleadingly claimed, ‘destroy’ the heritage of the station”. The Labor government is complicit with the destruction that has already happened; doing nothing with the station precinct infrastructure is demolition by neglect. Fact!
Finally, you say “And the same opponents of the project probably place a lesser value than I (Sharon Knight) do on the economic activity and jobs that will be created because of this project”. Ms Knight, there is no economic benefit to the community with Labor’s proposal. Again, there are no permanent, long-term jobs with Labor’s ill-conceived proposal. Why won’t Labor make the business case public?
We say to you and the Andrews Labor government to stick to the facts when advocating your position rather than mislead the community through spin and falsehoods.
SOS has a plan that will benefit not only commuters but our community for the long-term future – jobs, economic development, tourism and lifestyle. We place community need first, unlike Labor and its political agenda that is placed before our community. Remember, the state election is on Saturday 24 November!
SOS will gladly gift our plan to the current government and we have also offered it to the state opposition. If only Labor would come to the table, listen and engage.
The final fact is that the Ballarat community demands that the Andrews Labor government changes its proposal, and renegotiates (not cancels) the contract with the developer so as to deliver a 21st-century all-abilities accessible transport hub, upgrading the station hall and facilities and creating parking for the long-term future.
Save Our Station has only ever kept to the facts – these are proven and true, unlike Labor’s falsehoods.
Sharon Knight, you and Labor have created this fiasco; make it your legacy to be part of the solution. It is time to change the plan (proposal), Sharon and Dan!
Ron Egeberg, For and on behalf of Save Our Station Ballarat Inc