Free Montfort Park!
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If you live in Brunswick, you may have noticed the fenced-off, concreted unused lot at the corner of Henkel St and Wendel St. It is a piece of land called “Montfort Park.” It was publicly accessible space that was enjoyed by the local community until 2003 when it, together with the adjacent community centre, was sold off by Moreland Council to the Dar al-Awda Community Centre.
We arrived in Henkel Street after this took place. But from what we have been able to gather—from Council records and from news reports at the time—the sale was highly controversial. You can still read the faded graffiti on the wall that backs on to Montfort Park: “Council Betrayal: Our Land Sold Off.”
In total there were 2,098 submissions to Council before the sale took place. Of these, 2,095 submissions were against the sale. Only three were in favour. There were significant public protests at the time.
It appears to us that there was a clear conflict of interest surrounding the sale. The President of the Dar al-Awda Community Group was also a former Mayor of Moreland Council and a Moreland Councillor at the time of the sale. The land was sold for $100,000, which was only 19% of the land’s assessed value.
Perhaps because of the strength of sentiment against the sale, conditions were placed on the use of the land. The Dar al-Awda Centre is required to make this space reasonably accessible to the community—to the people who live here. We do not believe it is currently meeting this requirement.
We think selling this park was manifestly wrong at the time, and remains wrong today. We also believe that this space is not reasonably accessible to local residents, as is required. What could have been a green public space at the end of our street is instead a fenced, unused concrete slab.
We believe it’s not too late to free Montfort Park. With the coming Council election to be held on 22 October, we think there is an opportunity to lobby candidates to commit to returning Montfort Park to the community. What does this mean? We think:
• The locked gate to needs to be unlocked immediately; and
• The three metre fence needs to be removed within a reasonable timeframe; and
• If these requests for reasonable access are refused, the Council should exercise its right to buy back the land, in accordance with the terms of the contract of sale, for 19 percent of its current market value.
If you are interested in seeing Montfort Park returned to the community, please consider doing the following:
1. Signing this petition. This will let Moreland Council, current councillors, and candidates in the upcoming elections know that this in an issue the community cares about.
2. Liking our Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/Free-Montfort-Park-289768291406184/
3. Contacting election candidates. In the lead up to the forthcoming Moreland Council elections, contact candidates over the phone, in person, via email or social media (Facebook, Twitter etc) and ask them to commit to returning Montfort Park to the community.
4. Chaining yourself to the fence (just kidding)
If you lived here at the time and you know anything about the sale or the campaign against it, we’d love to hear from you, please get in touch via Facebook.
At the moment, Montfort Park is an empty and unused piece of concrete, locked behind steel gates three metres high. If Montfort Park is again made accessible to the community, it will provide a public space for local community members--including local residents and employees of local businesses, adults and children--to meet, play, and enjoy. Free Montfort Park!
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