Protest set to continue to the end

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Residents plan to continue camping out in sleeping bags this weekend to protect an iconic Emerald bus shelter from being demolished.

On Friday details of an engineer’s report emerged outlining why the shelter had to be removed.

Cardinia Shire Council announced its plans to demolish the shelter last week after it was presented with the report.

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.

Emerald Community House (ECH) committee member Non Blair said she saw a council worker inspecting the shelter on Wednesday morning, prompting fears that its removal was imminent.

“He said that, to him, it didn’t look unsafe and that the concrete looked pretty solid,” Ms Blair said.

“He said (the demolition) would probably happen in the next couple of days.”

The visit from the council worker prompted residents to launch an around-the-clock protest at the shelter.

In its first week the Facebook Save Emerald Bus Shelter page received more than 600 likes.

ECH manager Mary Farrow said she had been at the protest since Wednesday morning.

“We’ve had lots of people come and go to show their support for the shelter,” Ms Farrow said.

“There have been more people contacting us from Upwey and Menzies Creek and other surrounding towns.

“We’ve sent a request to Cardinia Shire Council to take the matter to dispute resolution but council has refused.”

Ms Farrow said council officers had regularly visited the site since March to remove pro-refugee posters from its walls.

“There are two other visibly deteriorating bus shelters nearby that I believe are in danger of falling down.

“They’re corroded and rusted through. But you don’t see them replacing those shelters,” she said.

A report produced by builder Paul Sugden, who has more than 30 years of experience in the local building industry, said the shelter was in a “sound condition” and that it would require “maintenance not removal”.

A Cardinia Shire Council spokeswoman said Mr Sugden’s report did not include a structural assessment.

She said the council had received “a complaint” from a resident who was unable to use the shelter due to the protest.

“While council acknowledges that the Emerald Community House has contributed to the appearance of this shelter over a number of years, no formal maintenance agreement exists for ECH to manage this community asset,” she said.

“Council does not have a scheduled date for removal of the bus shelter.”

In a letter from Cardinia Shire community wellbeing general manager Jenny Scicluna addressed to the Emerald Village Committee dated 28 May, the independent council engineer is quoted as indicating that the shelter is “at the end of its useful life”.

“The beams could fall if a person was to get onto the roof or if they were to hang from the cantilevering sections of the roof,” the engineer’s finding stated.

“If the shelter is to remain for, say, five years, then suitable strengthening of the steel frame needs to be carried out.

“The steel roof beams could be strengthened by plating, however this would be extensive and unsightly.

“Alternatively, the roof steel frame could be completely removed and replaced.”

Despite requests from Ms Farrow and the Gazette, Cardinia Shire Council has failed to provide a full copy of the engineer’s report.

The Gazette asked how many complaints the council had received against the shelter’s removal but did not receive an answer before deadline.

Originally published at Pakenham Gazette.

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About Alana Mitchelson

Alana Mitchelson is a journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Follow her on Twitter at @AlanaMitchelson.

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