Local democracy in action. Congratulations to Doreen Residents Action Group for conducting a democratic survey to really test responses to Mathew Guy's "Melbourne Let's talk about the future" request for submissions. The following report is a summary of answers provided by residents of Doreen in response to a 17 question survey conducted in relation to the Melbourne Metropolitan Planning Strategy for the next 40 years.
23rd March, 2013
Doreen Residents Action Group Incorporated, on behalf of the community of Doreen residents is appreciative of the opportunity to have an input into future planning of Melbourne, and trust that our views will be seriously considered as promised by you at the November 2012 meeting. We refer to the document “Melbourne Let’s talk about the future”.
Report on Survey re “Metropolitan Planning Strategy 2050”
The following report is a summary of answers provided by residents of Doreen in response to a 17 question survey conducted in relation to the Melbourne Metropolitan Planning Strategy for the next 40 years.
1a) People were asked what they liked most about living in Melbourne. The responses to this were quite varied and included the arts, diverse culture, beautiful city, parks and gardens, mild climate, great sporting events and cultural facilities, freedom, living in peace, the history, a good standard of living.
1b) The things people disliked most about living in Melbourne contained a more common theme. Some surveyed were upset regarding the demolition of Melbourne’s iconic buildings. Most residents surveyed conveyed their thoughts from the perspective of where they live, in Doreen, on the outer fringe of Melbourne where there is a huge lack of infrastructure, no train line, traffic, congested single lane roads, (i.e. Yan Yean Road and Plenty Road portion), the lack of Secondary Schools in the area, limited recreational facilities for youth, no police protection, were all very strong in the responses. Residents also worry that the character of Melbourne and the standard of living that we know today will change with the influx of immigration in the future being forecast. This includes future overdevelopment and overcrowding and a question of ‘will there be a guarantee of employment for all, existing and new residents?’
2. The features of Melbourne that people want protected and preserved are our current high standards of living, employment, no overcrowded suburbs or over developments, no inappropriate high rise buildings in residential areas, open spaces and parks and gardens, wetlands, green wedges, old historical buildings and landmarks.
3. People’s views on heritage buildings and homes were almost unanimous in that these should be protected and preserved for future generations. Comments included “we need to know the past to best know where we want to go” and “these buildings are a part of our history and identity”
4. One of Melbourne’s highly valued characteristics is its leafy green suburbs and open spaces/gardens and is coming under increasing threat. People were asked should we accept densification and build more on less or should we do something about the rate of growth. Most people responded that planned smaller allotments and houses were inevitable, but only in appropriate areas and provided they do not interfere with, or detract from existing neighbourhood character.
5. In regards to the rate of growth, there was a resounding ‘yes’ to reduce the rate of growth to be slow and controlled and to have more emphasis on skilled migrant intake. Other comments in answer to this question were “expand regional centres” and “we are so busy embracing diversity that we are in danger of neglecting our own core values” Surveys suggested residents were worried for their children and grand children if immigration is not slowed. Will their children and grand children have jobs in the future?
6. With the continuing growth of our outer suburbs, people were asked their thoughts on whether parts of Melbourne’s inner suburbs (with established infrastructure) could play a greater economic and housing role by replacing existing homes with apartment developments. There was a definitive response to this in that people replied that apartment building should be built on the older industrial areas and “not scattered among houses” because it destroys neighbourhood character and takes away established residents’ privacy and well being. The survey showed that residents worry about Developers building cheap apartments (they make money and don’t live there) “Don’t let the Developers build cheap concrete slab slums for homes.” “Housing Density in the inner suburbs should not increase because of Immigration.” “Melbourne already has a huge population in the inner suburbs.” Other comments indicate that if the inner suburbs became ‘densified’, current established infrastructure would not cope with huge increases in population. If apartments were built, they needed to be grouped not scattered. If replacing existing homes is a realistic approach, Planners must be aware of the possible increase in crime. “High rise/high density, tomorrow’s ghettos.”
7. The next question asked residents how they would feel if a multi storey apartment development was proposed or built in their street, opposite or next door.
Once again, there was a resounding answer in that nobody wants high rise buildings near them. Comments like “hate it”, “would definitely sell up” and “devastated”, “angry” were typical of answers to this question. At present there is no certainty anywhere in Melbourne that density development will not be proposed, not even semi-rural areas.
(Multi storey development proposals have already affected residents in the Doreen area. We know first hand that no-one wants them here in Doreen on the outskirts of Melbourne due to the support of 2000 objections from residents recently in a case that went to VCAT. Most objectors had no money to relocate as the bulk of the population in Doreen are either first home buyers or retirees. Fortunately, 2000 residents won their case at VCAT and this inappropriate development did not go ahead)
8. People were asked how can we accommodate the needs of changing populations in established suburbs and maintain what people love about their neighbourhoods.
The answer is “not to allow high rise buildings or sub-division of titles (splitting up blocks) or building too many units, as this creates road congestion and too many people living in small areas. Rather, build a whole new city away from Melbourne with proper infrastructure put in place first.
9. Densification is reported to adversely affect the health and well-being of residents. The question posed was how can we ensure a healthy and sustainable environment for future generations?
If densification adversely affects the health and well-being of residents, then limit the number of homes built in areas. Have controlled ‘Population Growth’.
Again residents responded to this question in relation to the Doreen area.
“Do not allow a ‘Big Australia’ with dense housing in outer suburbs. Protect Green Wedges and keep a strict limit on heights of houses to 9 metres maximum but still appropriately zone the 8 metre zone to the areas that require it, for example, Doreen– Laurimar. Over write the existing design guidelines for Doreen-Laurimar.”
Residents surveyed said there must be open spaces, parklands, playground areas and community facilities provided eg swimming centres, football ovals, tennis courts etc. It was also said that programs should be started to encourage young people to be pro-active in their communities.
Buildings could also be better designed, built and located. Expand the Regional areas before overdeveloping Melbourne. Another concern, was that densification breeds crime and drug activity.
10. Infrastructure upgrades – Residents filling out the survey were asked if they would be prepared to pay higher taxes or levies or go into deficit budgeting to finance these upgrades.
Most respondents would accept paying additional taxes or levies (not deficit budgeting) for these upgrades. However, the government must accept their responsibility in this area, by becoming more efficient and reducing their own wastage before taxing the population.
Another suggestion was that Government bonds be used to pay for infrastructure projects. Others said that infrastructure costs must go hand in hand with land sales.
11. Over recent years Melbourne’s Boundaries have been extended into the green wedge. Should there be a clearly defined and permanent outer boundary, marking where Melbourne stops and the urban areas begin?
There was an overwhelming ‘yes’ to this question.
Most residents of Doreen were shocked, angry, stressed and upset recently with the proposal of High Rise Buildings in the area. Many thought that we were protected from such things, living on the outer fringe of Melbourne an area we chose to live in and sold to us as “Country” living. If either the Council or Developer had told us, at the time of purchase, we agree that we would not have purchased blocks near the proposal and would have considered buying elsewhere.
12. Thinking about the next 30 to 40 years, what do you see as the most important issue/s for you, your children and grandchildren?
The most important issues that people see are:
The putting in place of appropriate infrastructure,
Safe areas for communities to live in,
Affordability of housing
Maintaining high standards of living,
Freedom and peace in the community.
The Government, Councils and Developers also have a responsibility to the community to be more transparent about changes to future housing and development projects. Reasonable notification must be given to communities facing housing changes, so people have a ‘choice’ about where they live and if they want to continue living there.
13. The new Advisory Committee has suggested Melbourne for the future be a city where residents can live and work locally. (A 20 minute City)
Most respondents said we should try and make Melbourne a 20 minute city, where people can live and work locally. In theory it sounds good, but a few said it would be impossible to achieve. It may be too costly at present to achieve this. Many residents suggested the money would be better spent fixing infrastructure problems in the outer suburbs first.
14. The new Advisory Committee has suggested a polycentric city (a city with many centres) linked to a network of regional cities throughout Victoria.
Most people thought the idea of a polycentric city linked to a network of regional cities in Victoria was a good one and should be explored further.
Some were worried that Melbourne Central as we know it today would lose its identity.
15. Employment and Innovation Clusters – most people thought this suggestion was a good one, however, a few thought it was already in place, e.g. Ringwood and Craigieburn. Others thought this should be considered when developing new areas. Some residents responded and said “The movement of people will be the problem.”
Others said “We must consider environmental and safety aspects of Industries, etc, away from residential.” Another comment was “Note that for Trades people, they can be asked to work anywhere in Melbourne, not just locally.”
Another said “Every new Development Cluster must have Private/Government Sectors working together to deliver the infrastructure simultaneously.”
16. It has been suggested that a new major city in Victoria be developed over time to cater for a population of over 1 million residents (or several million).
Some respondents thought this would be a great idea, but many emphasised that it must be planned correctly, and with proper infrastructure, including a new major Airport near the NSW border.
Others said we should further expand our current regional cities of Dandenong, Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo with a ‘state of the art’ connecting transport system.
17. The overriding theme emerging from “Any Further Comments?” was that there must be a “catch up” on lack of infrastructure, which has occurred over the last 20 years and that this must not be allowed to re-occur in the future.
i.e. Proper infrastructure must accompany all new future developments.
This can only be achieved by the responsible Government Ministries (i.e. Planning, Transport and Education) working and consulting together in a timely manner.
It was also suggested that councils have the final say on what developments occur in their municipalities, as they know their own areas best. Developers should not have any recourse to VCAT if their permit application is rejected by council.
Residents must be given the opportunity to be involved earlier in the application and the planning process for developments in their neighbourhoods – not just be given
a 14 day window for objection at the end of the whole process.
Doreen Residents Action Group