Victoria’s Planning Minister has been bullied into knocking back planned into knocking back an apartment tower planned by Grocon in the Melbourne CBD against the advice of his department, according to claims by the opposition leader in that state.
In a stinging attack, State Opposition Leader Matthew Guy has claimed the Construction, Mining, Forestry and Energy Union (CFMEU) has bullied State Planning Minister Dick Wynne to refuse permission for construction of the 43 level tower at 85 Spring Street which was planned by building giant Grocon, with whom the union has been locked in a state of fierce workplace relations warfare for several years.
Claiming that the process ‘stinks’, and had ‘all the ingredients for an ombudsman’s investigation’ Guy said Wynne’s decision had been made weeks after his chief of staff met with union officials about the project, and that when he himself had been Planning Minister under the previous government, advice had been given to him that the project should proceed.
“Dick Wynne needs to explain why he failed to take his own independent departmental advice and reject a project weeks after his staff met Grocon’s arch enemy the CFMEU,” Guy said.
Guy’s comments come after Wynne’s rejection of the proposed tower, which was set to replace an existing sixteen story office building currently on the site and would have delivered 335 new apartments geared toward the owner-occupier market but was in a sensitive area close to the Bourke Hill heritage zone established to protect view of the state Parliament.
In his ruling, Wynne said the proposal was too high and too close to other buildings within the precinct.
Despite acknowledging on ABC radio that the union had raised its opposition to a CBD tower during a meeting with his chief of staff whilst he himself had been sick, Wynne denied any suggestion that the union had influenced the decision in any way, and said that the union had respected advice that there could be no discussion in relation to the Grocon development as it was currently being considered by the government.
“Any representations that the CFMEU may have made, they were in relation to a pipeline of works for their employees, and any suggestions that the CFMEU played any role in my decision-making is completely wrong and false,” he said.
The latest developments come amid ongoing hostility between Grocon and the union.
Union officials claim it was ‘pure luck’ that no one was killed last month which a large block of stone plummeted 25 meters from a Grocon site at Martin Place in Sydney.
That incident, union officials say, followed a similar incident at the same site with a 10 kilogram steel pin fell 50 meters onto the street, narrowly missing pedestrians before colliding with a taxi.
Plans for Grocon’s tower had been supported by planning officials but was opposed by Melbourne City Council on the basis of its impact on nearby heritage buildings and the public realm.