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Boundless Plains - not!


(Original title of this article was Australians let us all regret what is happening to land around Melbourne.) The second verse of Australia's national anthem speaks of infinite availability of land. To the well meaning composer and author of the lyrics, this may have seemed true in the nineteenth century but now it is a different story. which would be much harder set to poetry and music.The second verse of Australia's national anthem speaks of infinite availability of land. To the well meaning composer and author of the lyrics, this may have seemed true in the nineteenth century but now it is a different story. which would be much harder set to poetry and music.

The cruel irony of Australia's national anthem...

"Australians all let us rejoice,
For we are young and free;
We've golden soil and wealth for toil;
Our home is girt by sea;
Our land abounds in nature's gifts
Of beauty rich and rare;
In history's page, let every stage
Advance Australia Fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross
We'll toil with hearts and hands;
To make this Commonwealth of ours
Renowned of all the lands;
For those who've come across the seas
We've boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To Advance Australia Fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair."

Development locust devouring Melbourne's green space

Land all around Melbourne is being swallowed up with development or else it is being re-zoned and ear marked for future development. You can be as sure as you are sitting here reading this that Melbourne will continue to expand and that land now zoned rural will gradually be incorporated into the expanding metropolis As a painter loves a few blank canvasses on which to make his marks, a developer and a pro -development government love land on which to plonk unimaginative cloned housing developments and generic shops. Many land holders in rural areas see the re-zoning of their land into residential as their “superannuation” or windfall since once zoned for housing the land owners can sell the land to developers for a far greater sum than they could as acres for farming.

History of Melbourne's Green Wedges

In 2010 the then State Labor government was able to push through Parliament, with the aid of their main opposition the extension of the Melbourne Urban Growth Boundary into what is known as the “Green Wedges” – land set aside during the reign of a past conservative Premier, the late Sir Rupert Hamer, to be the lungs of the city of Melbourne. In 2010 43,600 ha of Green Wedges were lost to future urban development.

In 2011, 30 years after Rupert Hamer left office Victoria has another conservative government with a different level of respect for undeveloped land towards the outer rim of Melbourne than that shown by that far sighted premier of yore. For the present day rulers it seems, it is treated as an opportunity to secure space for housing development for endless population growth. A new “terra nullius”? This current government early in its 4 year term is inviting local councils and land holders in rural areas to apply for even more “logical inclusions” to be re zoned residential.

Land-grabs juggernaut too rapid for busy people to defend against

Most Victorians are probably unaware of the extent of the land grab that is happening around them and what is happening to their heritage. It’s not as though they cannot find out but so much is going on all at once! One can be forgiven for confusing one issue with another and thinking that we are only being attacked from one side. The government seems to have done a great sleight of hand job of further undermining the Green Wedges at the same time as a report by a body called the Victorian Environment Assessment Council issued a report on public and Crown land in metropolitan Melbourne. In the same week, Melbournians learned that the administrators of a western suburbs municipality called Brimbank, (where the local government was sacked by the previous state government) propose to sell off 14 areas of open space currently used as parks! As someone exasperatedly remarked to me “They’ll get us to the stage we won’t know whether our arse is bald or barbered!”

How could all this happen in one week in a sophisticated, multicultural, well educated developed city like Melbourne? “Are they cleverer than the general populace?” I mused rhetorically to the friend with colorful language “They’ve got money and they’ve got staff. They’ve got bureaucrats sitting down thinking about this all day. The Victorian government is funding it……… I mean that’s their agenda!” he added.

Pro-development propaganda marketed as news, leaves democracy go begging

The "news" from V.E.A.C. telling Victorians that they are going to have less space for exercise and recreation in the future, the extension of the Urban Growth Boundary and the current attack on Green Wedges, not to mention Brimbank, represents an onslaught…

Melbourne’s Urban Growth Boundary is not really a boundary but a movable grazing fence, and it is moving again with new “logical inclusions” potentially taking it beyond a 60km radius in some directions from the GPO.

Overwhelming, distressing

It is overwhelming and exhausting for those who care about this and want to salvage something, confusing for those on the periphery and impenetrable to those who can’t or don’t apply themselves.

There is no doubt about it, our land is under intense pressure with councils ready to sell off public parks whilst at the same time the need for open space increases with population growth. High rise developments (i.e. no land) are endorsed by councils and the state government and small blocks of land in the Geelong (near Melbourne) area are sold as “smart blocks”. We are building on our race courses which provide a certain relief from the built up environment and we are selling golf courses and bowling greens for yet more housing. There is no escape from this process. If you live in a “growth corridor” you have the anguish of seeing once pretty hills, trees and paddocks disappear under the paved uniformity of early 21st century housing estates. “Frances” who lives in one says she has to continually alter her route whilst driving so that she is not confronted with these serial losses to her local environment. If you live in an established suburb, old houses on generous blocks of land go down like nine pins to make way for bulky town house development. Often the block is mined from perimeter to perimeter revealing the clay substratum to provide parking for 10 times the number of vehicles previously garaged at that address. There is little point in moving house if you don’t like this build up around you because it can happen anywhere.

Drop the 'boundless' rhetoric in favour of democracy

If Australia had “boundless plains to share” they would not have to be shared at all because they would be infinite. I will take that line in the Australian National Anthem to be poetic license but the contradiction of the enormous amount of land that Australia is supposed to have and the pressure and focus on it by governments, and the obvious effect that its scarcity is having on people, highlights a contradiction.

This verse from the national anthem should be deleted. It is simply not true. There is a modest amount of land where people want to live; it is mostly around the coast and we’re fighting for it, and paying a lot of money for it.

The government is not representing the interests of most Victorians both in pushing for higher population growth and for quietly rolling out more land for development.

Quality of life is diminishing and the people of Melbourne must realise it.

Comments

It's interesting the the State government and Planning Minister Matthew Guy justify all the "developments" and land grabs as due to a critical housing and land "shortages", and no-one can object. Few would be brave enough to challenge that housing is a basic human need that can't be denied. However, while they on one hand try to address the housing shortages by grabbing "vacant" land and over-riding community concerns, on the other hand successive State governments have done all they can to actually cause and profit from the housing shortages. The cause of the "shortages" and the source of the problem is exactly the same - immigration-driven population growth!

With contradictory efforts - the solution and the source - being in government hand, the public are divided into "nimbys" and those profiting from land speculation and developments.

Obesity goes hand in hand with limited lung capacity and circulatory system illnesses. "Planning" should be about ensuring Melbourne's livability and the long term welfare of residents. However, it has become the long-arm of those with vested interests in mortgages, lending, the construction industries, and upholding fat-cat positions in State government departments - the status quo.

A motivating discussion is definitely worth comment. I believe that you ought to publish
more on this issue, it might not be a taboo matter but generally folks don't discuss these topics. To the next! Cheers!!