Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Thank you Ross. At least there's one level-headed man in Geelong

from w
This nonsense from City Hall continues despite the fact that architects have said it just won't work at half a million dollars.  The biggest tree?  Who cares?  Let Geelong be known for its educational opportunities, sport, spectacular beauty in nearby forest and sea, and kindly people.  Not a silly fake tree.
from the Geelong Advertiser Opinion piece.

Less a floating Christmas tree, more a pie in the sky

·         ROSS MUELLER
·         MAY 21, 2014 2:21PM
HERE’S a joke you may discover in your Christmas bon bon: Geelong councillors approved $2 million of our money for Christmas decorations. This includes half a million real dollars for a floating Christmas tree.
This decision was approved with no accompanying business case and no costings. Only one councillor voted against the allocation; Cr Andy Richards the portfolio holder for the arts. Oh and that’s right. This is no joke. The floating tree is real.
When the draft Budget was approved, the Mayor went home and tweeted about war and fighting negative people, which is his right as there is no social media policy for councillors at City Hall. There was celebration from his deputy; Cr Bruce Harwood was in love with the idea: “This will undoubtedly get huge coverage around the world. The media are always looking around the world to see who has the biggest tree. We’re going to see this on the television, on YouTube; this will go global.”
On Tuesday, the Geelong Advertiser revealed that tendering architects Rara Architecture (from Melbourne), described the tender as “basically impossible”.
“The consultant fees alone for structural engineers and architects was $120,000 to $130,000, which was a significant chunk of the ($500,000) budget.”
Anthea Cannon reported that Rara estimates an 85m tree (to rival Rio de Janeiro) would cost $2 million. Rara suggested 35m might be possible for the budget Council had allocated.
A Christmas shrub is not going to go global. If you don’t believe me, go and Google “second largest floating Christmas tree on the planet”.
So what’s going on? How can so much money be spent on an idea so underdeveloped?
Apparently councillors were inspired by Rio, but if they did some fact checking, the Brazilian comparison is tenuous: 35m of baubles on Corio Bay is not going to compete with the giant 85m South American erection.
Let’s look a little closer.
Brazil’s largest insurance company pays for the tree. Not a council.There are about 100 million Catholics in Brazil who celebrate the birth of Christ. There is community traction for the Rio floating tree. Finally, the Brazilian tree is not based on drawing tourist dollars. It is a celebration of community and recognises their religious commitment.  

Our allocation seriously calls into question the fiscal wisdom of council. When it was first presented, Cr. Jan Farrell was quoted: “We’re throwing ... $500,000 up in the air. We have no costings.”
Even so, it progressed straight through to “Go” and collected half a million dollars.
Finance portfolio holder Cr Stretch Kontelj has spent a lot of characters on Twitter explaining why the Federal Budget is necessary and why we have to share the pain in order to fix the triple-A rated ALP mistakes. But in the same feed he is happy to approve $2 million (uncosted) on Christmas lights and baubles. Hard to see the logic.
I’m going out on a limb here, but I do not believe we need a floating tree for Christmas. I do not believe we should transplant Central Park and I honestly believe that a Chinatown grows; it does not get built like a Gold Coast theme park.
Spend this money on retraining, social services and youth support, because we are about to enter a Winter of Discontent.
If, during the last mayoral election, one of the candidates had guaranteed a $500,000 allocation for a floating Christmas tree, would that candidate have won the election?
This council bush is not going to “go global”.Frankly, the news of this sapling will be lucky to reach the northern suburbs — where this cash really should be splashed. 

Ross Mueller is a writer, director and Geelong Football Club member. Follow Ross on Twitter at @TheMuellerName


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