McMansions “take over” fears

1Former BRAG president, Jack Roach stands outside his Canterbury home. Photo Elise Chan.
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Increasing population and the development of McMansions sees fear of change to Boroondara lifestyle. Elise Chan reports.

Increasing population and intrusive “McMansions” threaten the lifestyle of locals in Boroondara’s leafy suburbs, a prominent Canterbury resident has claimed.

Jack Roach, former president of the Boroondara Residents Action Group (BRAG), said many in the Hawthorn electorate are “concerned about lifestyle”.

“The issue I think we’re facing is that our lifestyles are changing dramatically, but not for the better,” Mr Roach said.

“Today I live in a street in Canterbury and I’m being built out. McMansions are taking over … I can’t speak to any of those neighbours because they’ve got electronic locks on their gates, they’ve got high walls and that tells me neighbours are not welcome.”

In Melbourne’s inner-east, migrants accounted for significant population growth over the past 20 years, according to Treasury and the Department of Home Affairs

According to the latest census figures for Hawthorn, 60.8 per cent of people were born in Australia. The most common countries of birth were England 22.6 per cent, Ireland 10.1 per cent, Scotland 8.1 per cent and Chinese 7.3 per cent.

Mr Roach said Boroondara had changed significantly in recent years.

Mr Roach said, neighbours “don’t speak my language, but they don’t have to because they can speak to each other and they can go shop in Box Hill”.

“People don’t say it, but the minute you go in this direction you can be labelled a racist.

“It’s not racist, it’s numbers and broadly speaking, all Australia is doing is building houses for migrants.”

Hawthorn resident and Chinese migrant, Tai Ho, said, “Australia is multicultural and so is Boroondara. People just need to accept that.”

At the BRAG annual meeting on September 20, RMIT environment and planning professor Michael Buxton and former Federal ALP MP, Kelvin Thomson, voiced concern about population growth with Boroondara residents.

“From surveys councils have run at local government level, the number one area they are ranked as being out of touch with, is population growth”, Mr Thompson said.

“We should seek to stabilise our population, Australia is now 25 million, Melbourne is 5 million and has been increasing at a rate of over 100,000 a year.”

Professor Buxton said at the meeting, “You can fit 8 million into Melbourne, but it’s horrifying to me. I wouldn’t advocate that at all.”

The City of Boroondara’s population of 183,273 is forecast to grow by 18.77 per cent by 2041, according to the council’s latest statistics.

“We are growing both upwards and outwards and we are becoming an obese, hardened artery, parody of our former selves,” Mr Thomson said.

Mr Roach said, “We’re bursting at the seams.”