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Submission to Victorian Planning Provisions Discussion Paper - Sustainable Population Australia

[Address for submissions. ]The discussion paper fails to acknowledge fundamental truths about our modern society and how we live. The built environment profoundly affects residents, visitors, and indeed other species every day. As such, as in other disciplines, it is incumbent upon government to exercise the “Precautionary Principle” in how it plans for Victoria’s future. A fundamental part of proper planning is to acknowledge the importance of local input and longstanding local knowledge of an area. From the discussion paper on “Reforming the Victoria Planning Provisions” residents have been excluded from the both the technical and advisory groups to the “Smart Planning” process. Long standing and hard fought for citizens’ rights, previously accepted and adopted into our Planning provisions have been swept away. What is proposed is government and developers operating as a combined growth machine pitted against the residents without residents even being given a seat at the table as a minority voice. Where has our democracy gone? [Candobetter.net editor: For a history of how this has come about in Victoria, check out our 'bad laws' section.]

The Victorian Planning Provisions Discussion Paper - Submission for Sustainable Population Australia, Victorian and Tasmanian branch

The discussion paper fails to acknowledge fundamental truths about our modern society and how we live.

The built environment profoundly affects residents, visitors, and indeed other species every day. As such, as in other disciplines, it is incumbent upon government to exercise the “Precautionary Principle” in how it plans for Victoria’s future. A fundamental part of proper planning is to acknowledge the importance of local input and longstanding local knowledge of an area. From the discussion paper on “Reforming the Victoria Planning Provisions” residents have been excluded from the both the technical and advisory groups to the “Smart Planning” process. Long standing and hard fought for citizens’ rights, previously accepted and adopted into our Planning provisions have been swept away. What is proposed is government and developers operating as a combined growth machine pitted against the residents without residents even being given a seat at the table as a minority voice. Where has our democracy gone?

We note the following property and professional groups are represented on the Advisory group

· Municipal Association of Victoria
· Australian Institute of Architects
· Building Designers Association of Victoria
· Housing Industry Association
· Master Builders Association of Victoria
· Planning Institute of Australia
· Property Council of Australia
· Urban Development Institute of Australia

Most of these Industry groups and associated organisations benefit directly or indirectly from the growth trajectory adopted by the current government, and the proposed changes further strengthen the influence of these vested interests. As residents, the largest and most diverse group to be impacted by proposed changes have been excluded, this cannot be described as an objective group to “strategically” plan for Victoria and Melbourne’s future.

A Smart Planning presentation to industry organised by the Planning Institute on 31 October, proposed the following reasons for the exclusion of the public from consultation:

· Members of the public are incapable of understanding strategic planning.

· Members of the public might initially object to changes to planning systems or specific developments but invariably ultimately accept them

· The large number of past reports into planning make further public consultation unnecessary.”

We address these three claims below.

1. This egregious slur on residents is outrageous. We question the need for the public be required to “understand strategic planning” in order not to have their environment eroded. However we also observe that many residents are extremely well informed about planning issues, especially as applied to their own areas, and the technicalities and imperatives involved. Indeed, we suggest that well informed residents probably number into the tens or hundreds of thousands of people – multiples more than the hand full of planners and other vested interest entities involved in the introduction of these proposed changes.

2. This claim is not supported with empirical evidence. Whilst it may be true that some members of the public might eventually accept changes to the planning scheme or local projects, this does not prove that they “invariably accept” those changes. Indeed, what you call “invariable acceptance” may actually be exhausted and dispirited resignation. Members of the public have other jobs – they are doctors, nurses, teachers, small business owners , retailers, physiotherapists , dentists- working long hours at their jobs with their own various areas of expertise. Why should they have their rights to peacefully enjoy where they live taken away without even being heard?

3. Whilst previous planning scheme iterations have usually included substantial public consultation, this should not mean that all of a sudden consultation can stop. Public opinion is not static, nor is the demographics and changing needs of various communities. As society changes and matures it is the government's job to ensure that measures to protect resident’s amenity, safety and peace continue to be effective. To do otherwise is an abrogation of this responsibility. The discussion paper gives the sense of urgency because of the scale and volume of change envisaged for Victoria which is of course driven by population growth welcomed and lobbied for by the development industry. This augers very badly for all Victorians. Government is riding roughshod over the people of Victoria who in 2014 handed them the responsibly of governing the state. With safeguards in place and a more normal rate of growth (rather than the turbo charged population growth that Melbourne in particular has experienced over recent years) residents should be able to trust local and state authorities to make changes largely in the interests of residents. It should not be necessary for residents to have to spend their time and energy on trying to maintain their quality of life. But, as things stand with no input from residents they will be certain to get exactly what they don’t want.

In summary:

Planning should be no different to other modern disciplines, where logic and reason is used to predict outcomes and develop strategies. However, in this discussion paper government has abandoned reason and logic and has instead embraced an ill informed and primitive view that infinite growth on a finite planet is possible and indeed even desirable (for those few ill informed, short sighted and primitive thinkers). Our planet, and by extension all national and local systems, are part of the “closed system” on planet Earth where water, soil, rare earth and other mineral resources are finite. The local and regional planning targeted in this discussion paper is fundamentally reliant on these finite resources. Building, transport, telecommunications, food production, power supply etc., indeed all of modern society’s activities, rely on systems which rely on these finite resources. It is therefore incumbent upon government to adopt a planning model which acknowledges that Earth’s resources are finite and so too must growth be finite. Your discussion paper ignores fundamental truths which is to all our detriments.

So, rather than members of the public being incapable of understanding strategic planning, we suggest that it is government, its planners and other vested interests responsible for the proposals outlined in this discussion paper, who are demonstrating a lack of strategic thinking and planning.

This discussion paper heralds massive changes to the built environment and massive population increases over which residents will have no control. The more change that is anticipated , the more say residents need to have. It is not the other way around as envisaged by this discussion paper.

Jill Quirk
Secretary, Sustainable Population Australia, Victorian and Tasmanian branch
P.O. Box 556 Hawthorn, Victoria, 3122

Comments

" From the discussion paper on “Reforming the Victoria Planning Provisions” residents have been excluded from the both the technical and advisory groups to the “Smart Planning” process." So it's "smart" to remove red-tape, such as community consultation, from any so-called planning processes? Those directly impacted on this decision will have their local residential areas crushed by the whims of property developers, who'll be able to use suburbs to promote their own profits, and opportunities! The destruction of consultation, communication and democratic processes is draconian and an attack on free speech, and self-determination. The removal of controls will mean that normal suburban, family-friendly liveable suburbs have the potential to become the extension of Southbank - crushed by human/housing overload! Citizen groups objecting to this overhaul need to be more overt and louder in their objections, and stop this rort.