Plans to demolish an iconic multi-coloured Emerald bus shelter have been slammed as a “political attack”.
Over the past 20 years the shelter has grown to become an unofficial community notice board and, more recently, a protest site for the Let Them Stay pro-refugee campaign.
But now the Emerald Village Committee has backed a safety recommendation from a council-funded engineer’s report that found the structure was “seriously rusted”.
Earlier this year the council received complaints about the refugee posters on the bus shelter outside the Emerald Community House and used pressure hoses to remove the signs.
Cardinia Shire Council has denied its plan to remove the shelter is politically motivated but is due to the danger it poses.
Emerald Community House manager Mary Farrow said the push to replace the shelter was a political and personal attack, “it’s just escalated and escalated,” she said.
“We are in shock that the much loved bus shelter is being replaced.
“Other shelters in the area are covered in graffiti and ivy but you don’t see the council rushing to do anything about that.
“We have managed the shelter for seven years displaying notices about issues that are important to our community without any objection but as soon as refugee posters were displayed, they’ve used any excuse to silence the little guy.”
Ms Farrow said she did not believe there were any safety issues and said she had not seen a copy of the engineer’s report.
“The council owns the shelter but the artwork and façade is 100 per cent our property,” she said.
“We don’t want a glass one that is repeatedly vandalised and not a good fit for our connected and vibrant community.”
Ms Farrow said the Resilient Melbourne project and Monash University Disaster Resilience Forum had recently promoted the shelter as an example of “community connectedness”.
Ranges Ward councillor Brett Owen said the council would consider the Emerald Village Committee’s wish to replace the town icon with a heritage-type shelter which complied with disability and safety requirements.
Emerald Village Committee chairman Dick Bartley said his committee voted to support the plan after it had received considerable community input.
“We would have liked to keep the shelter if possible – it’s a bit of a novelty in the town – but the report came back saying it could not be repaired,” Mr Bartley said.
Cardinia Shire community wellbeing general manager Jenny Scicluna said the shelter was one of six to be replaced in the hills this year.
“The Emerald Community House has never had authority to manage or maintain the shelter,” Ms Scicluna said.
“Any programs involving the shelter have been created without consultation with the asset owner, namely council.
“Decisions regarding the removal of the bus shelter were based on safety concerns and are unrelated to any political matters.
“The messages displayed on the shelter have no relevance to council’s decision. This is a public safety issue and council is compelled to act.”
The council is yet to decide when the shelter will be replaced.
Originally published at Pakenham Gazette.