Thursday 21 Dec

Yesterday, without warning or a skerrick of public consultation, Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Tourism John Eren announced that the Yarra Building in Federation Square will be demolished to make way for an Apple megastore.

The backlash from Melburnians has been swift and scathing.

The development has been facilitated by a site-specific planning scheme amendment which was gazetted on the morning of 20 December. The Minister for Planning, Richard Wynne, chose to exempt himself from the requirement to give notice of the changes to the scheme, meaning that no warning or any opportunities for public scrutiny and feedback were available. The section of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 that allowed this, 20(4), states that the Minister may exempt himself from the requirements to publicise the changes “if the Minister considers that compliance with any of those requirements is not warranted or that the interests of Victoria … make such an exemption appropriate.”

Let that sink in. While Minister Eren has confirmed to The Age that negotiations with Apple over this development have been going on for two years, the Labor State Government has decided that it is either in the interests of Victoria or it was simply not warranted that at any time the public should have an opportunity to know about it, let alone have a say.

This is Melbourne’s premier civic space. It is a cohesive enclosed public square not dominated by commercial interests. It is the home to many important cultural institutions. It is an architecturally intact place. And the Labor party deigned to approve a massive change of use, architecture and purpose of Federation Square and announce it to Melburnians as a fait accompli.

It doesn’t even fit with the purpose and charter of Federation Square; its civic and cultural charter has obviously been ignored.

Chair of the Arts, Culture and Heritage portfolio at the City of Melbourne, Greens Cr Rohan Leppert, told The Age that “The bottom line is that this is Melbourne’s civic square and Melburnians deserved to have their say.”

Greens State Member for Melbourne has established a petition calling on Ministers Andrews, Wynne and Eren to:

  1. REVOKE the decision to give over public space in Federation Square for an Apple megastore;
  2. CONSULT Victorians on a different location for an Apple store in an appropriate commercial space; and
  3. ENSURE that Federation Square remains primarily a civic and cultural space for Victorians.

Please sign the petition here.


Further Reading