You are here

BRAG's brilliant submission to Melbourne Metropolitan Planning Strategy

"This submission does not follow the suggested response questions but sets out to make comment upon what we see as the necessary strategic planning issues for the future of Melbourne... In our previous submissions on planning, BRAG has pushed for a federal population policy that limits immigration to more sustainable levels like we used to have in the 80’s and 90’s of around the 70,000 to 80,000 p.a. mark and we have not moved away from that stance. The first step in any planning is to have a population policy that is sustainable otherwise planning policy will continue to fail....we believe that the general planning powers must be with local councils who better understand their municipalities and those who live in them. Centralization leads to power and power leads to corruption and this is one of the issues we are now facing with developer donations being used to corrupt decision-making." You may not agree with everything, but it's a pretty impressive democracy submission.

Melbourne Metropolitan Planning Strategy Submission from the Boroondara Residents’ Action Group (BRAG)

The Boroondara Residents’ Action Group has a current membership of over 500, mainly residents and small business operators in Boroondara. BRAG also receives strong support from the general residents of Boroondara.

BRAG is registered under the Associations Incorporation Act 1981 N0 A0054624J
P. O. Box 1034 Camberwell Vic. 3124 www.brag.asn.au info@brag.asn.au

Introduction

The Boroondara Residents’ Action Group has been lobbying for a new planning strategy to replace Melbourne 2030 and Melbourne@5million since before the last state election but the discussion paper is a big disappointment because it provides little in setting a strategic direction or evaluated options.

Therefore this submission does not follow the suggested response questions but sets out to make comment upon what we see as the necessary strategic planning issues for the future of Melbourne. Any planning for the future must be accepted by key interest groups but most importantly by the residents and general citizens of Melbourne. Otherwise it will fail, just as M2030 did, because the residents and general public were not really consulted so they had no ownership of M2030 or M@5Million.

The Ministerial Advisory Committee has indicated that we must move away from regulation as the primary means of achieving outcomes, which is very concerning, as that would leave planning and construction in the hands of developers who would act in their own interests and not in the interests of the end users, the residents of Melbourne.

The Committee has listed some principles including a Polycentric city linked to regional cities which could be developed further to provide a more realistic planning direction but the Committee has accepted that Melbourne’s population will continue to grow without any indication that it is the escalating growth that is part of the problems we are now facing, overloaded infrastructure, unacceptable housing densification, water and power issues, public transport issues, traffic issues, etc.

In our previous submissions on planning, BRAG has pushed for a federal population policy that limits immigration to more sustainable levels like we used to have in the 80’s and 90’s of around the 70,000 to 80,000 p.a. mark and we have not moved away from that stance. The first step in any planning is to have a population policy that is sustainable otherwise planning policy will continue to fail.

We recommend that the principles set out in *Kelvin Thomson’s 14 point plan are seriously considered and we understand that this is really a federal issue but unless the state governments start a push to review the current policies nothing will change.
( *Kelvin Thomson is the Federal Member for Wills and a copy of his 14 point plan is attached)

Recommendations For a Planning Policy for Melbourne

One of the key issues that residents are concerned with is protection

- for Melbourne’s leafy green suburbs and the increasing amount of opportunistic development that is changing the character of their tree-lined streets. Therefore any plan must contain mandatory protection of neighbourhood character and mandatory height controls set by the local councils after consultation with their local residents.

- Any proposed new suburb in future must first have the necessary infrastructure before any housing is built including roads, drainage, sewerage, water and power, shopping centre, social amenities and transport links.

- A detailed plan to upgrade existing public transport to meet immediate and future needs in Melbourne including a rail link to the eastern suburbs and to existing and any new airports

- A detailed plan to capture and recycle suburban rainwater and build local water storage and distribution capabilities.

- Plan for reducing our dependency upon building houses to keep the economy going and introduction of hi-tech industries and intellectual products – bring back the “clever country concept”.

- Decentralization should be one of the main objectives of any planning policy. In Victoria there are opportunities to create regional cities with one initially in the east of the state where there are resources for power and water and one in the west where there are several suitable sites such as Hamilton or Warrnambool.

- We believe there should also be a plan to develop in the future another major city in Victoria of about 1 million ( or more) and, because Portland has the potential to develop a natural harbour, it should be investigated now as a possible site.

Note : regionalization, with good planning by establishing smaller cities using cheaper land tax and other exemptions, can be surprisingly inexpensive and would strike at the cause of our current urban problems. First build the infrastructure then the people will follow. Fast trains linking to Melbourne will be essential.

- There have been many suggestions, mainly from those in the planning profession, to centralize planning. However we believe that the general planning powers must be with local councils who better understand their municipalities and those who live in them. Centralization leads to power and power leads to corruption and this is one of the issues we are now facing with developer donations being used to corrupt decision-making.

- It will be essential that VCAT be returned to be an appeal body on planning issues ( partly because tribunal members are generally planners or architects who’s professions rely upon the development industry for their income and their decisions continually go against councils and resident objectors). VCAT should only be able to adjudicate on whether or not council has made its decision properly based on its own and government regulations and procedures, VCAT should not be able to act as an “Authorized Authority”. This would return some sanity to issuing planning permits.

- Currently planning permits can be rolled over for a further period and are often traded on sale of the property, which places a value on the permit and makes the property more easily tradeable. Very often large profits are made by such trading. This is undesirable and should be stopped.

Finally

Currently planning has been ad hoc and continually changing depending upon the government of the day. This will be the sixth strategic plan for Melbourne in the last 25 years plus many minor planning changes which does nothing for certainty. (That means there are real changes about very four years).

Over this period public consultation has been token and inadequate resulting in planning decisions being heavily criticized by the public. We note that members of the Ministerial Advisory Committee consulted with many who were listed at the back of the discussion paper “Melbourne, Let’s talk about the future” but not one resident or resident group. This is damning but not surprising because that is how it has always been.

It looks to us that nothing has changed. The professionals seem to be saying “we know best” but do they? We don’t think so for in all that time they still haven’t got it right.

Jack Roach
President Boroondara Residents’ Action Group.

In Summary.
Any planning policy must contain pointers to the following :-

- A plan made in concert with the federal government for developing a sensible population policy.
(To continue to support population growth in our cities makes no sense when we don’t have enough water, power, public transport or adequate health systems, police, etc to cope with the current population numbers).

- A similar plan made in concert with the federal government for a workable policy on climate change & environmental issues in conjunction with the population policy
- Ensure honest and genuine community consultation processes in developing a new metro strategy. ( Didn’t happen for M2030 or M@5Million).

As well as developing a new planning blueprint for Melbourne it is essential for consultation on a new planning blueprint for coastal areas and consultation on a new planning blueprint for country areas

- Regionalization policy which should include broadband rollout for home office connection and improved train and fast train services.
- A plan for a future airport to service the eastern growth corridor and the Mornington Peninsular.
- Remove dependency upon development as the only way to keep the economy going.(Strengthen manufacturing base toward hi tech. industries and intellectual products. Bring back the “Clever Country” concept).
- Scrap Melbourne 2030. and Melbourne@5million.
- Positively protect heritage.
- Protect suburban residential from opportunistic infill development Return planning power to Councils. (Centralized planning V each council having its own say must be in balance). Melbourne is like a giant tapestry with each area having its own character with different requirements and different demographics. Ensure that the Minister for Planning’s plan for new residential zones is enacted to protect the residential suburbs from opportunistic development through his Neighbourhood Character policies.

- Retain third party rights - to be notified, object & appeal.
- Councils to set and control zones in their own municipality.
- Councils to set height controls.
- Councils to identify where any development should occur
- Review Urban Growth Boundaries to ensure they are permanent
- Convert VCAT to an appeal body only.
- Restrict VCAT from acting as a planning authority.
- Limit areas for high-rise development.
- Provide positive plan for protecting public land and open space.
- Provide guidelines for better designed student accommodation complexes that blend with existing residential areas & amenity rather than the current future ghettos that overpower the local area especially in university precincts.

Other suggestions that are not directly related but must be included in policy:

- A Corruption Commission that has the real power to work properly.
- No Political donations (for access and/or favours – especially from developers).
- The role of paid lobbyists must be removed.

Kelvin Thomson’s 14 point plan.
Condensed from a recent speech made to the Malvern East Group.

A lot of people have agreed with me that a population of 36 million is not a good thing for Australia - opinion polls show 2 out of 3 think it is a bad idea. People don’t want it. But a lot of people think it is inevitable, that there is nothing we can do about it. This is simply not true. As I said earlier, the population number we end up with depends on our net overseas migration numbers.

So to show there is an alternative, in November 2009 I released a plan for population reform, a plan to stabilise Australia’s population :

- Stabilise Australia’s population at 26 million by cutting the net overseas migration program to 70,000 p.a.
- Cut the skilled migration program to 25,000 p.a.
- Hold the family reunion program at 50,000 p.a.
- Increase the refugee program from 13,500 to 20,000 per annum.
- Alter the refugee criteria to include provision for genuine climate refugees.
- The revised number of annual permanent arrivals from these programs would be 95,000 – 50,000 family reunion plus 25,000 skilled plus 20,000refugees. Two more factors need to be considered, the number departing permanently from Australia and the number of people arriving permanently from New Zealand. To reach a net overseas annual migration target of 70,000, the number of automatic places available for New Zealanders needs to be restricted to the number of departures from Australia over and above 25,000.
- Reduce temporary migration to Australia by restricting sub class 457 temporary entry visas to medical and health related and professional engineering occupations.
- Require overseas students to return to their country of origin and complete a 2 year cooling off period before being eligible to apply for permanent residence.
- Abolish the baby bonus.
- Restrict large family supplement and Family tax benefit A for third and subsequent children to those presently receiving them.
- Dedicate the savings from the baby bonus and reduced expenditure on family payments fro 3rd and subsequent children towards increased investment in domestic skills and training through universities and TAFE
- the final 3 points go to increasing aid to the U.N. and using aid budget to educating girls for better family planning and putting overpopulation on the agenda for International Climate Change talks.

Comments

No planning policies can be maintained at current levels of immigration. What planning has descended to is abandonment of ideals and principles to cater for massive growth. With out present high rate of population growth, at a doubling rate of under 50 years, infrastructure and housing stock must also be increased at the same rate. It's planning in free-fall, with abandonment!

When something is not beneficial any more, it's time to take stock and alter the direction. However, vested interests are forcing the hand of governments to continue the growth formula.
People are inevitably going to spill out over our green wedges, be squeezed up higher into ever climbing towers casting shadows over our streets, and the urban growth "boundary" will continue to be elastic to cope with massive growth.

It's not "planning" but rampant obesity! Growth after maturity is usually malignant, and surgeons don't try to accommodate it but remove it!

Minister for "sustainable" Population, Tony Burke, remains mute and continues to pass on the problem of growth onto the States, and the people.

The elites are cocooned in their privilege and wealth, with the rest must cope with rising debt and lower standards of living.

We don't have to accept this growth. The September elections is an opportunity to vote for a stable population. Immigration should equal emigration. We don't even need the 14 point population plan! Our neighbouring countries in Asia and Africa do not have immigration, and neither do we. Immigration has benefited us in the past, but this age is over. Australia is already satruated.