Efforts to sanitise Crown Estate in Victoria, Oz
tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Sat Mar 14 19:14:40 GMT 2015
The slow strangle of homes and hearts as prime
beachside cabin parks fight for survival
February 20, 2015
Kevin Marley and neighbour John McGregor who
live at the Seaford beach Caravan Park enjoy a
laugh at Kevin's cabin. Photo: Simon O'Dwyer
"It's not the Taj Mahal," says businessman
Michael Hibbert, co-owner with the Crown of the
prime bayside land which is the Seaford Beach Cabin Park.
Yet, nor is it a slum. The problem is the section
of Crown land. Frankston Council administers it
for the state. After a complex saga lasting more
than a decade including an idea from Hibbert to
swap some of his land for Crown land and council
plans for a beach carpark an uneasy accord has been reached.
Hibbert and a former co-owner have previously
applied unsuccessfully to develop the private
land but Hibbert now says his priority is "a home for marginalised people".
The place is basic, but safe. There are security
patrols and CCTV. All the 80 people who live here
are permanent and most are on welfare benefits
and many are men taking stock after a family
split. It costs $210 a week. The demountable
cabins have a kitchen, bed, toilet and shower.
The truce means the park can stay but only
just. The council will administer it more
strictly, change the lease to make it more
expensive for the owner and slap a caveat on it
to prevent development. The finer details of the
new arrangement will be given to Hibbert next week.
The situation is not dramatic but it is
instructive. All over Victoria and Australia
especially beside the sea caravan and cabin
parks which have become defacto emergency
accommodation are being closed and sold. Three
around Frankston have gone that way in two years,
all to companies building "lifestyle" villages.
There are 175 caravan, camping or cabin parks on Crown land in Victoria.
David Maloney from the Seaford Community
Committee calls it a "slow strangle." Why make
the owner pay, he says, for a "great act of generosity".
The Salvation Army's Major Brendan Nottle sees it
as "gentrification" outside the gaze of the inner
city where the widening urban sprawl and pressure
on good land can mean the underclasses lose accommodation.
Former Liberal member for Carrum, Donna Bauer,
who fought for the park's survival in tandem
with a community uprising, says the issue was
considered "too hot" by local councillors and
that generally councils don't like caravan or
cabin parks because of a perception they lower the tone of a neighbourhood.
Deputy Frankston mayor Glenn Aitken says: "We
have seen fit to give a new lease arrangement and
we will be watching it carefully without wielding a big stick."
Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows
homelessness rose 35 per cent in Frankston
between 2006 and 2011, and 31 per cent of renters
have trouble paying. The area is full of
unregistered rooming houses. In 2013 around 700
people lived in caravan or cabin parks near
Frankston. Seaford gets 10 calls a day from
people wanting to move in, according to manager
Andrew Wilson. They are vetted and go on a waiting list.
Locals say homeless people sleep rough on the
beach or in bush beside the Nepean Highway. There
have been two known deaths: an alcoholic man who
lived behind a church in Frankston and, at
Christmas, the suicide of a homeless person.
The people who live in the Seaford cabins are not
on their last legs but they do it tough in
invisible ways like child custody issues, trying
to get rental history (which the park provides)
health problems and staying in work, if they have it.
For example Kevin Marley is 56 and has
osteoporosis and walks with a stick; he's
separated with two adult children in Adelaide.
Marley - 'Kev' - cooks lambsfry and shares it
around. His cabin neighbour cuts his hair. He
hangs out with John 'Pop' McGregor, 66, who has
an OAM and often adds a string of bogus extra
letters after his name. He was in the Australian
army band corps for 20 years as saxophone player
and drum major. He learnt to play the sax at
Xavier College as a boy. After the army he played in the Victoria Police band.
False teeth are a tough burden for a woodwind
player so he listens to records through
headphones instead at his place just up the road
in an old milkbar house, also part of Hibbert's
property. He says he likes to write down a few
things about an idea for "Forest Gump, The
Musical" while he's listening to records because
he likes Forest Gump. "He seems like a likeable
person. I dunno. He reminds me of me."
McGregor has installed a "garden of peace" out
the back of his cabin under a Peters Ice Cream
milk bar umbrella. Marley has protective
ornamental dragons on his cabin's doorstep, at
Kev's Cave. He grows tomatoes and chillis on his
small deck overlooking Kananook Creek. He has a barbecue on the deck.
Marley says the council backflip in letting them
all stay for now was good because "obviously they
realised 'where they are going to go?'" Community
spirit is strong in the tiny village and "people
call it a caravan park but it's not, it's your own peace, your own home".
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