MEMBERS of two influential community groups say fast-tracking the move by South East Water to Frankston could add to the woes of Frankston MP Geoff Shaw.
They are targeting Mr Shaw in their 11th hour bid to have the water authority’s headquarters sited away from Kananook Creek and the foreshore.
“We agree that Frankston is the ideal location for South East Water HQ, but why was it that the state government demanded this key waterfront site and this site only?” former Kananook Creek Association president Rob Thurley has told The News.
“Why were better located, less sensitive sites never considered by the minister?
“Highly peculiar. No explanation provided. Consequently, many are suspicious that local political motives have driven this.
“If so, this is another major scandal that could engulf embattled Frankston MP Geoff Shaw.”
The Kananook Creek Association and Long Island Residents’ Group believe the 10-storey building represents a major change in plans for the beautification and development of the creek banks.
Mr Shaw says the creekside site had been offered by council to South East Water.
“After SEW evaluated a number of different sites for its new headquarters, Frankston was chosen. And why not? Access to public transport, major roads, a designated CAA, Victoria’s best beach; so many benefits for moving to Frankston,” he said.
An accountant, Mr Shaw was “surprised” that Mr Thurley, also an accountant, “cannot realise that SEW also has financial reasons for moving to Frankston, and that Frankston businesses will benefit greatly and be able to provide more local jobs”.
Council was paid $4 million for the site and South East Water has already appointed architects BVN to design the new building.
The groups say land near the railway station is better suited for the proposed building, “with easy access to public transport and the CAD for the 700 staff”.
“This site would require no changes to the planning scheme and would leave the most significant creek frontage site available to be developed in a more appropriate manner as was originally intended – a public plaza for the people of Frankston.”
The groups say the “strategic site” on the seaward side of the five-storey Landmark building between Wells and Playne streets was “created by steady consolidation by successive councils over more than 60 years”.
They see the site as “the obvious future connection of the waterfront with the town centre”.
It is more than 30 years since the KCA wrote to the then state government that the creek’s eastern bank “be developed by the Frankston City Council for recreational and entertainment purposes … [including] the reclamation of car parking areas, the acquisition of private property and isolation from all vehicular traffic”.
This aim had been followed by successive councils, including the “high-quality” Landmark building with its sea views.
In 2004 the state government and council published a booklet with a conceptual drawing of a “grand public plaza between Wells and Playne streets”.
“Frankston’s nomination by state government as a key centre under Melbourne’s 2030 program and the priority placed on the Kananook Creek Boulevard for urban renewal gave us real heart.”
The creek bank was to be the key site in Frankston’s urban renewal.
The election in 2010 of the Liberal-National Party Coalition state government had been applauded by the KCA, with no “10-storey office block ever suggested or contemplated”.
The KCA says losing the publicly owned site to South East Water follows a pattern: The loss of Central Park (“sold to Gandel Corporation”); loss of McComb Reserve to the commercial sand sculpture show (“a business subsidised by ratepayers to $100,000”); the loss of sections of Samuel Sherlock Reserve for the new aquatic centre (“instead of locating it within Monash University as originally planned”).
Mr Shaw said the 700 extra jobs “will activate Frankston like never before”.
“Cafes, restaurants, service providers and retailers in Frankston will benefit greatly with extra customers.”