MENTONE residents have let Kingston councillors know they would prefer Collins St land – earmarked for a new aged care home – to be used for public parkland instead.
A council survey found 94 per cent of respondents opposed the sale of the 101-103 Collins St site to an aged care provider, with most favouring the conversion of the council-owned former depot into open public space.
Several residents publicly expressed this view at a special council meeting on Monday evening and councillors must now decide whether to press ahead with the Collins St plan, or look at building a 70-bed facility at the Mordialloc Community Nursing Home’s Remo St site in Mentone.
Kingston Council is exiting the aged care sector and will divest itself of management responsibilities for Mordialloc’s Nixon House, Edithvale’s Northcliffe Lodge and Mentone’s Corben House once a larger aged care home is built in Mentone.
Council intends to hand over management of the aged care homes to a not-for-profit or commercial aged care provider. Part of the deal will include a stipulation that the provider build a large aged care home in Mentone before the three existing homes are phased out and aged care home residents are transferred to the new facility once complete.
Some Mentone residents who addressed councillors at Monday’s meeting accepted the need for more urbanisation in the area as Melbourne’s population increases, but they said this should be balanced with parkland access for residents.
Many also believed Remo St to be a better option for an aged care home since it is not “at the end of a cul-de-sac” next to a railway line.
Friends of the Mentone Station and Gardens Group chair Dorothy Booth said councillors should act in the community’s best interests – as happened in 2001 when the Mentone station gardens were saved from becoming a bus interchange.
“We should learn from history and try to make wise decisions,” Ms Booth said.
“Decisions [we make should] take our residents forward into a liveable future.”
Ms Booth said “open public space in Mentone has been a bone of contention” for decades.
She, like several other speakers on Monday evening, noted Mentone has less than the 2.4 hectares per thousand people of open space as desired in council’s Kingston Open Space Strategy.
While most submitters wanted Collins St to be used for parkland, not all agreed. Mordialloc Community Nursing Home secretary Arthur Shearman said the nursing home “supports the council’s decision to sell 101-103 Collins St and to lease the Northcliffe Lodge, Nixon Home and the nursing home to a professional aged care provider which is legally obliged and bound to provide good quality aged care”.
“The decision which has been made is the best decision available,” Mr Shearman said.
Homestyle Aged Care CEO Brian Hewitt backed the Collins St sale plan, claiming he had “no vested interest” in a new aged care home’s location.
However, when questioned by Cr Rosemary West, he admitted the private aged care provider may bid for the council tender.
“[Councillors] will experience public pushback in the period of what you’re doing, but our experience is that your constituents will thank you dearly when a private operator comes in and very efficiently operates your aged care facilities and provides a high standard of care at no cost to local taxpayers,” Mr Hewitt said.
Crs Tamara Barth, Tamsin Bearsley, Ron Brownlees, David Eden, Paul Peulich, Steve Staikos and mayor Cr Geoff Gledhill supported a push by Cr West for council officers to report on the possibility of upgrading the MCNH Remo St facility. Cr John Ronke abstained.
Councillors will discuss the matter at next Monday’s final council meeting of the year.