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City councillors skipped Hutt St meeting

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No city councillor turned up to the second of three meetings that were meant to help fix problems on Hutt Street – because they were at a meeting about the old Le Cornu site instead, InDaily can reveal.

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Early this year, the Adelaide City Council set up the Hutt Street Working Group, bringing together residents, traders, social services, police and council representatives to address safety concerns, anti-social behaviour and vacant shops in the precinct.

The group held its first of three meetings in April, kicking off a 90-day change project with two further meetings scheduled to discuss ways to improve the situation on the street.

“These collaborative working parties are a very important step in finding the right solutions,” Lord Mayor Martin Haese said in a statement distributed hours after the first meeting.

“Tonight we had everyone in the room who is in a position to effect change,” he said at the time.

This was not so, InDaily can reveal, at the group’s second meeting in May.

City councillors, Haese included, attended a community meeting about the future of 88 O’Connell Street in North Adelaide instead.

Haese told InDaily this morning that he looked forward to hearing the outcomes of the 90-day project at the group’s third and final meeting next Monday.

“I opened the first meeting of the Hutt Street Working Party on 26 April and look forward to hearing the outcomes and next steps forward for the third and final meeting next week,” he said.

“There are a number of councillors who form part of the Hutt Street Working Party and their attendance – or otherwise – is a matter for their own schedules.”

Haese is not, however, a formally nominated member of the working group.

Councillors Alex Antic, Priscilla Corbell-Moore, Anne Moran and Sandy Verschoor, nominated to represent the council, were all apologies for the meeting.

Verschoor said she wasn’t overseas at the time, an de has since sought and received  briefing on progress.

She said she would attend the third meeting.

The city council was not, however, entirely unrepresented at the gathering.

In a statement released following the second meeting, the council’s associate director of community and culture, Sean McNamara, who attended, said: “Tonight, the group looked at what can be done in the next three to twelve months to make immediate improvements to the area.”

“Priorities that emerged were filling empty shops and businesses, looking at adaptive reuse of heritage buildings for short and long-term accommodation, attracting more visitors with events and cultural activities, improving street appeal and lighting, and increasing the residential population.

“The group also discussed the need for a more strategic approach to providing social services and managing homelessness and anti-social issues in the area.”

The working group was among the city council’s responses to claims of escalating violence and anti-social behaviour in the Hutt Street precinct by some traders and residents in the area.

SA Police continue to assert that there has not been a recent spike in anti-social behaviour or violence in the area.

The council has also installed five new CCTV cameras in Hutt Street, is working with Renew Adelaide to activate empty buildings, and has increased the frequency of street cleaning there.

Yesterday, Premier Steven Marshall agreed to meet with the Hutt Street Residents’ Association and the Hutt Street Traders Association, who had released an open letter urging him to facilitate a relocation of Hutt Street Centre for the homeless.

The residents’ association was slammed by councillor Phil Martin for what he described as “appalling” and “offensive” photographs featured on its website.

“What’s particularly offensive (is that) under the heading of ‘the ugly’, there’s pictures of Aboriginal people just standing in the street,” said Martin yesterday.

“Under the heading of ‘the bad’, there’s a photograph of Aboriginal people simply sitting on the footpath … it’s offensive in the extreme to all fair-minded, reasonable people.”

Some of the photographs to which he referred show people, clearly identified, sitting and standing in front of shops showing ‘For Sale’ or ‘For Lease’ signs – illustrating the group’s concern about the high vacancy rate in Hutt Street – but one simply shows a group of people standing or sitting on the footpath.

Some of the photographs in question have since been removed from the website, but some remain.

Residents’ Association spokesperson Wayne Copley told InDaily yesterday he would obscure the identities of the people in the photographs – which he has yet to do – but maintained that they had been “loitering” in the street when the photographs were taken.

Copley said the association’s campaign “isn’t about singling (out) particular individuals in the street”.

He said the situation in Hutt Street had changed during the past 12 to 18 months and that he had been the victim of several incidents of petty theft and a break-in by someone affected by drugs.

He argued that Hutt Street Centre – which delivers a range of services to homeless people, including providing access to housing, health, recreation and food – is a “magnet” for people who engage in anti-social behaviour and that homelessness services should be provided in a dedicated “precinct”, separated by “land” from residents and businesses, so that vulnerable people could obtain treatment without creating conflict.

Copley said expanding services and facilities at the Hutt Street Centre, which he said was overwhelmed by demand, would not help but rather “exacerbate” problems and attract more people.

Earlier yesterday, Haese said the Hutt Street Centre would have to be able to guarantee that an expanded facility on the same site would reduce antisocial behaviour in the street – or else it would be reasonable to expect that an expansion might only exacerbate safety issues.

“All of this isn’t to say that the services of the Hutt Street Centre aren’t valued – of course they’re valued,” he said.

“(However) It would be quite reasonable to expect that expanding the centre would … exacerbate the problems.”

The Hutt Street Centre intends to decide whether to expand on its current site or build a new facility somewhere else before the end of the year – and says it will make that decision based on the best interests of homeless people, while also considering the needs of other stakeholders.

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