Grappling with Queen Vic Market management

By Meg Hill

An expert on community participation has criticised the Queen Vic Market (QVM) people’s panel six months after it wrapped up, while the City of Melbourne (CoM) has revised the market’s ongoing management structure. 

Dr Stan Capp, who discussed the topic of residents’ panels with Lord Mayor Sally Capp and Cr Nicholas Reece in June last year, said the panel was “not in accordance” with what he advised. 

“The constituency in the panel was 40 folk who all have an interest, but the residents’ panel idea is that the people don’t have a particular direct interest in what’s happening, but they’re residents of Melbourne,” he said.

“As soon as you get an interest, you have this conflict of being objective versus being subjective.”

“The thesis behind this is to get people who are committed to good planning and can represent a resident’s view and are unbiased. It’s like a jury – that’s why they’re called citizens’ juries.” 

Speaking at a meeting held by CBD resident group East Enders in May, Dr Capp said residents were often of the view that council didn’t include them sufficiently in process.

He said there was a high rate of council wholly approving officers’ recommendations without involvement of residents, particularly under the previous Lord Mayor Robert Doyle.

The QVM people’s panel wrapped up at the end of last year, delivering a report which rejected council’s ambitions to place a car park under the market’s heritage listed sheds.

The panel prioritised keeping the car park and expressed concern for falling customer rates if it was repurposed.

But in April, councillors endorsed a plan to turn the car park into public open space to be known as “market square”. 

Dr Capp’s commentary comes at the same time as a review of the QVM management structure by the council.

A council meeting on May 28 considered and passed the revised structure.

The changes dissolved one apparently redundant control group and expanded the QVM board in a bid to streamline and simplify the “complicated” management structure. 

In contrast to the premise of Dr Capp’s emphasis on non-biased involvement, Lord Mayor Sally Capp lauded the new structure for improved engagement of multiple stakeholders – traders, customers, councillors and management.

“The basis of the change to management is that over the time the market has been running, but particularly with the overlay of the renewal program, it’s important to remain very open to ways in which we can keep improving,” the Lord Mayor said. 

“The way that all the various stakeholders work together and particularly those that have accountabilities for the operations and the infrastructure program and the way it works with council.”

Council also requested a report be presented later in the year to evaluate progress of the changed governance framework and operations management. 

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