From The Messenger:
Gago's Glenside no show
FOR the second time in a month, Mental Health Minister Gail Gago has failed to front a public meeting on the $100 million redevelopment of Glenside Hospital and its grounds and hear first-hand from the hundreds of people who are most affected nearby residents.
The hostile public meeting was packed with hundreds of residents demanding a greater say on the future of the Glenside Hospital site.
But despite the October 23 meeting being described as a ``public listening post'', locals were told the State Government's plans to sell off almost half the site were ``non-negotiable''.
It is the second of two such meetings where Health Department officials have copped considerable flak from furious residents, unhappy about a number of aspects to the $100 million redevelopment.
In particular they were were angry at the absence again of Minister Gago, who says she will deal with a select and smaller group of community representatives.
Less than a minute into the meeting, heckling began from the crowd.
Host Janet Gould's attempts to open the forum were punctuated by angry calls from the audience for a ``proper public meeting''.
``Under a communist regime, it would probably still be fairer than this,'' resident Margaret Considine remarked.
Another angry local yelled: ``This is not a democratic meeting, this is a gagging.
``I didn't come here for the crap that's going on tonight, I came here to voice my dissent.'' Another resident: ``Give us two microphones, open the floor (to discussion), and everyone will be happy.''
When the crowd was asked to split into small groups to meet with ``independent facilitators'', only about half complied.
The remaining half stayed put in their seats, talking amongst themselves.
Health Department project director Damien Walker told the crowd the five-precinct concept plan was ``non-negotiable''.
Mr Walker then promised an ``open day'' in which ``everyone who has concerns can come and speak to me personally, if that's what it takes''.
Derek Wright, also of the Health Department, said the government ``didn't have $100 million'' and had to sell-off of hospital land to private developers to fund the project, a comment met with jeering from the crowd.
``Whatever we do will never be enough, but we are trying,'' he told the audience.
Aside from how the meeting was organised, other concerns raised at the meeting included:the future of mental health services at Glenside;the economic viability of high density housing planned for the site;preserving Glenside's heritage buildings;future traffic impacts and access;the impact of an expanded Frewville shopping centre; andprotection for 134 significant trees in the hospital grounds.
``Nobody wants that land sold off, especially for private development,'' Dulwich resident Leonore Goldfinch said.
Bragg MP (Lib) Vickie Chapman took the opportunity to address the audience.
``Not one hectare of that land should be sold,'' she said, evoking a standing ovation.
``This is a state icon, let's keep it for everyone in this state.''