Dysfunctionality blamed for Vic marina
They were promised a Port Douglas-style marina, but residents in Melbourne's southeast found themselves part of a concrete jungle instead.
But it was dysfunctionality and discord instead of corruption that saw the development go ahead, according to Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass.
She investigated Kingston City Council's planning approval processes for the Patterson Lakes marina area following concerns from residents and allegations a senior planning officer and two former councillors had corrupt and improper dealings with property developers.
Planning started in 1988 for the marina-based mixed-use area to be used for boating, residential, commercial and entertainment, as well as greater public access along the riverbank.
Plans showed restaurants, car parking, offices and residences with heights of two to four storeys, plus access to open space.
Residents were sold on promotional material showing new lifestyle the development would bring, with sunsets, boats on brochures - something similar to Port Douglas in Far North Queensland.
But the ombudsman, who tabled her Investigation into allegations of collusion with property developers at Kingston City Council in parliament on Tuesday, said the reality was quite different.
"What the community ended up with is bigger, higher and less accessible. Little wonder then that some locals were suspicious, even to allege corruption by councillors and council staff," Ombudsman Deborah Glass said.
Witnesses told Ms Glass that bribes and kickbacks were "common knowledge", "coffee talk" around the marina, but acknowledged they had no evidence.
While no evidence of collusion or corruption was found, a senior council planner is accused of holding annual Christmas lunches with developers over four years, with the developer "given allowances and concessions on several permit conditions" including on building height and car parks.
It also found planners made "successive errors" that fell short of expectations, and the council "provided deficient response to concerns raised by local residents about decisions".
"In the end the community appears to have had the worst of both worlds: Neither the adherence to the original plan nor the chance to object," Ms Glass said.
"But corruption is not always the explanation for changing development or over-development, depending on your perspective."
In a statement, provided to AAP on Tuesday, the Kingston City Council interim CEO Tim Tamlin said he hoped the release of the ombudsman's report would reassure the community there was no evidence of corruption and that the council was taking steps to ensure past mistakes are not repeated.
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