Report headlines: Heritage Protection Forum planned; Federal Election; The Committee that ate Melbourne (The Melbourne Committee); Wattle Park Heritage Submissions sought; Curtin Hotel; Kilmore Land Deal; Crowag Green Notices; South East Water Reservoir, Mt Eliza; Heritage Victoria Permit Application for 2022 Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show; Ivanhoe Developer goes direct to Planning Minister; Queen Victoria Market; Big End of Town Complaints Department; High-rise Apartments eroding quality of life; Sydney's toll roads could become NSW election issue; Sunbury Music Festivals - 50 years on
- HERITAGE PROTECTION FORUM
Planning Democracy will be holding a Heritage Protection Forum.
The Forum will be considering what changes are needed to better protect Melbourne’s, and Victoria’s, valuable but vulnerable heritage – built, cultural, and natural. It comes against the backdrop of the Legislative Council Planning and Environment Committee Inquiry into the adequacy of planning and heritage protection. And, of course, 2022 is a year of Elections at both Federal and State level. This provides opportunities for us to push elected representatives and candidates to do better at heritage protection.
Professor Michael Buxton and Clifford Hayes, the Southern Metropolitan Region Legislative Councillor who initiated the Planning and Environment Committee Inquiry, have agreed to provide background remarks. I will give attendees an opportunity to speak briefly about their organisation and/or what improvements they would like to see to our heritage protection framework.
I am finalising speaker and venue availability, and will provide full details in my next Report. Meeting venues are permitted to open under a COVID-safe Plan, and we will observe whatever requirements are in place concerning masks, vaccinations, and social distancing, at the time the event is held.
- FEDERAL ELECTION
With a Federal Election approaching soon, resident action groups may be planning to hold or attend Candidates Forums, or to questionnaire candidates in their electorates. Having contested 12 elections at local, State, and Federal level, I have some experience of this, and am happy to advise any groups who contact me about how to get the best value from the electoral process.
My general advice is that groups are absolutely entitled to be political, but lose credibility if they seem to be party political, or trying to produce a particular electoral outcome. To this end, I suggest treating all candidates even handedly, and giving them the same opportunities. I also suggest that the answers they give to your questions be provided to your members or supporters without “editorial interference”, such as ranking candidates, or giving them marks out of ten, etc. Show your members the candidates’ responses (or non-responses) in full, and let them make up their own minds.
When it comes to what kind of questions to ask, there is a tension between asking questions that are so aggressive or hostile that the candidate decides not to answer or engage with you, and asking questions that are too vague or polite, and make it too easy for candidates to get away with motherhood statements and waste your time.
No doubt you will all have your own priorities on what you would like to see MPs and candidates commit to. I think if I was doing one, I would be tempted to ask -
Do you believe Melbourne is becoming a better or worse place to live in as a consequence of its growth rate of over 100,00 people every year?
If better, what positive features do you think outweigh declining housing affordability, declining job security and workforce casualisation, declining real wages, declining tree canopy cover, declining open space per capita, never ending construction inconvenience, and increasing traffic congestion and vulnerability to pandemics?
If worse, what actions would you take if elected to push back against Melbourne’s growth rate?
Another issue you could quiz Federal Election candidates about is Australia’s failure to put a stop to property money laundering.
Sixteen years ago, Australia signed a global agreement with the Financial Action Taskforce to implement “Tranche 2” global anti-money laundering rules relating to non-financial assets, such as property. These rules apply to real estate agents, lawyers and accountants. These vested interests have lobbied against implementation of the Rules, and have successfully delayed any action for years.
The head of Transparency International, Serena Lilywhite, told a Senate Committee that “Australia has become the destination of choice of illicit financial flows … which too often end up in the property market”. She asked “how much evidence of money laundering in Australia will it take before the law is changed and enforcement is ramped up?”
You could ask candidates and MPs what action they intend to take to implement Australia’s international anti-money laundering obligations, and implement the “tranche 2” global anti-money laundering rules.
- THE COMMITTEE THAT ATE MELBOURNE
John Masanauskas from the Herald-Sun reported my views about Melbourne’s population growth in a story about the Committee for Melbourne’s push to make Melbourne a bigger city than Sydney. I sent out the story last week, but am attaching an electronic version for your information. The complete quote I gave John was “Why would we want to become denser than we already are? That makes Melbourne hotter, and reduces our tree canopy and open space, which is bad for our physical and mental health. It means declining housing affordability, pressure on hospitals and water supplies, more traffic congestion, and a never ending Big Build, with its never ending Inconvenience”. I enclose the full quote not as a criticism of John, because journalists are always pressed for space, but for the sake of completeness.
I received many encouraging and supportive emails responding to the article. There was widespread condemnation of the Committee for Melbourne as unconcerned about Melbourne’s best interests. I agree. It would be more aptly named the Committee Against Melbourne, or the Committee That Ate Melbourne.
- WATTLE PARK HERITAGE SUBMISSIONS SOUGHT
I have reported in the last three reports, resident concerns about the planned multi-million dollar redevelopment of heritage listed Wattle Park, and the implications of proposed bike paths, night lighting, and new playground equipment, on the Park. Clifford Hayes MP spoke on this issue in the Legislative Council. His speech can be viewed at https://youtu.be/qLbUK7BxWmw.
Heritage Victoria is now accepting submissions from the public concerning this proposal by Parks Victoria. If you go on the Heritage Victoria website they have a Public Submission Form, which you complete and email to [email protected] The place is Wattle Park, the Address is 1012 Riversdale Road Burwood, the Victorian Heritage Register Number is VHR HO 904, and the Permit Application Number is Permit P34848.
I have lodged an objection to the proposal using information provided by concerned local residents, and it is attached. Hopefully it is helpful in preparing your own comments. The window of opportunity to get submissions in closes very soon – this Tuesday 1 March!
- CURTIN HOTEL
Proposals to sell and “re-develop” the John Curtin Hotel, opposite the Victorian Trades Hall, have drawn a strong and welcome public reaction in support of the Hotel. Amongst these has been Luke Hilakari, the Trades Hall Council Secretary, threatening a “green ban” on any attempt to demolish the building. Readers will be aware that such bans saved a number of important inner Sydney heritage buildings from demolition in years gone by. There may well be other buildings in Melbourne which could and should be saved from demolition by trade union involvement.
Ian Wight, the Royal Historical Society of Victoria Deputy Chair, wrote a Letter to the Editor published in The Age about the Curtin Hotel. In it he made the important point that Heritage Overlays are being trumped by Design and Development Overlays (DDOs). The Curtin Hotel has a Heritage Overlay, but it also has a DDO allowing a building of up to 8 storeys on the site! This makes no sense. The same problem applied at the Corkman Hotel. It had a Heritage Overlay, and yet was given a DDO for a 12-storey building – an incitement to demolish! Mr Wight says that the Heritage Overlays will only protect our heritage if DDOs are obliged to be consistent with them.
- KILMORE LAND DEAL
The Kilmore Racing Club has now provided its submission to the Planning Panel considering its re-zoning application for land at East Street away from public open space. The submission, at para 24, says that in 1984 Council transferred the land to 9 individuals. The submission implies the land was transferred (for $1) to them individually.
In the 1980s I was a (Coburg) Councillor. If we had transferred a piece of real estate to a group of individuals for $1, we would have been hung, drawn, and quartered.
At para 25 the submission states that in 2004 the Kilmore Racing Club purchased the land for $1, and paid stamp duty of $10,745.57, representing a site value of $225,000. Again, this makes no sense.
The net result of the 2 transactions is that public land owned by Kilmore ratepayers has been transferred to Kilmore Racing Club, who now seek to rezone the land from public land, to enable a large residential development, and sell it to a property developer. The ratepayers of Kilmore have received $1 for the land.
- CROWAG GREEN NOTICES
The Combined Residents of Whitehorse Action Group (CROWAG) have developed a sign which could be a required notice for all development sites to help inform the public about what vegetation is to be removed, and why, plus the names of significant shrubs and trees and also their proposed replacements. They call these notices Green Notices, which would have a similar status as a Yellow Notice, the notice attached to site fences for giving residents notice of a building application and providing residents two weeks in which to lodge objections, or comment about a development.
I have attached their sample Green Notice. The CROWAG President, Ross Gillespie, would welcome thoughts and comments on their proposal. He can be emailed at [email protected].
- SOUTH EAST WATER RESERVOIR, MT. ELIZA
The South Eastern Centre for Sustainability is campaigning for the decommissioned South East Water reservoir at 57 Kunyung Rd. Mount Eliza to become a nature reserve. A letter from local resident Mary Smith to the Planning Minister, says the site could be joined with 60-70 Kunyung Road (the Ryman Healthcare site) to become a National Park. It could become a significant source of learning about nature for schoolchildren (Kunyung Primary School is adjacent), conducting educational guided walks for the children.
She says this is a window of opportunity to create a nature reserve to sustain locals and those who visit, deriving relief from their stressors in everyday life. The site has koalas, wetlands with frogs, and substantial bird life.
- HERITAGE VICTORIA PERMIT APPLICATION FOR 2022 MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL FLOWER AND GARDEN SHOW
Heritage Victoria is now receiving submissions for a permit for works to facilitate the 2022 Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show. This is in the Carlton Gardens; the Victorian Heritage Register Number is VHR H1501 and the Permit is P34209. More detail can be found on the Heritage Victoria website, and submissions close on Thursday 3 March.
Margaret O’Brien and the Friends of Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens have been seeking a proper application of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show.
- IVANHOE DEVELOPER GOES DIRECT TO PLANNING MINISTER
Developer TLC spent more than $14 million buying seven residential titles along Lower Heidelberg Road and King Street Ivanhoe. TLC wants to build a five-storey complex, including aged care and a child care centre.
There is a covenant on the site restricting development to single dwellings. In 2019, Banyule Council rejected TLC’s permit application because it breached existing covenants, exceeded height limitations, and was an excessive development. The developer appealed to VCAT, but has now withdrawn that appeal and gone direct to the Planning Minister for “accelerated assessment” by the Development Facilitation Program. This Program was set up by the State Government during the pandemic to “speed the development of projects and stimulate the economy”.
I have commented previously that there is no economic or any other justification for this Program. There is so much construction going on that it has led to shortages of materials and supply chain disruptions. My last Report quoted the CEO of Boral beaming about the amount of concrete Melbourne is using.
Head of local community group Save Ivanhoe East, Elise Burchsmith, says the development should be in a commercial rather than residential zone. She said the amended application to the Minister is worse than the first one. She said “This is not just Ivanhoe”. Indeed. The “Development Facilitation Program” is a threat to residents right across Melbourne.
- QUEEN VICTORIA MARKET
Dr. Miriam Faine, Secretary of Friends of Queen Victoria Market, has made a submission to the City of Melbourne’s “Inclusive Melbourne Strategy 2022-2032”, which makes a number of important points about the Council’s poor inclusion strategy with the Market’s traders and Friends.
She notes that a more inclusive City of Melbourne would start with electoral reform, addressing the gerrymander which prioritises property and big business interests over the rest of the community. She notes that traders’ modest requests to improve weather protection in the sheds has somehow morphed into a monstrous, extravagant “renewal” that is eating up the market.
She observes that the Council appointed a Peoples Panel to examine the future of the market. However, of the 14 recommendations made by the Panel, only 3 have been fully addressed, and nearly all the rest have been disregarded entirely or contradicted – re the carpark, gold-plating the facilities, security of tenure for traders, weather proofing etc.
Meanwhile CBD News reports that two long-standing Market traders have been left devastated as management has not renewed their leases as part of its new look food hall. One said he had lost half his house, and still had to pay loans on his shop. Another trader commented that the existing traders should have been offered first right of refusal of the leases at the food hall as a matter of decency.
12. BIG END OF TOWN COMPLAINTS DEPARTMENT
From the Big End of Town Complaints Department –
- Farmers and other employers can’t find workers. The Federal Government’s new Agricultural Visa program so far hasn’t led to a single visa, according to Macrobusiness, because not one of the 10 Asian nations included in the program has signed up to it. The Visa program provides pathways to permanent residency for workers, provided they agree to become indentured with an employer for at least 3 years. It is a recipe for exploitation and wage theft.
The truth is that there is no shortage of workers. Basic laws of supply and demand apply. What employers have to do is offer better wages and conditions, and workers will show up. And if the problem is training, employers should train them, instead of expecting someone else to do it.
- International students can’t find work. Apart from the fact that this contradicts Complaint No. 1, the real point is, it’s not our responsibility to find work for international students in their chosen field. The point of studying in Australia is to get knowledge and a qualification which you can use to your home country’s advantage, and your own, on your return. It is not to find work and permanent residence in Australia.
Macrobusiness reports that an India Australia Free Trade Agreement is nearing completion. The Agreement will not really be about trade, which is already over $24 billion p.a. and requires no Agreement at all. What it is likely to do is give Indian students an additional 3 to 5 years work rights. This is regrettable. Free trade agreements should be about trade, not migration.
Voters see through these self-serving complaints and don’t fall for it. The Sydney Morning Herald reported on 23 February that only 16% of voters want migration restarted at the 160,000 pa permanent level it was pre-pandemic. 65% of voters want a lower level. 6% want a higher level, and 14% were undecided.
13. HIGH-RISE APARTMENTS ERODING QUALITY OF LIFE
The Guardian has reported that Australians are being forced to live in low quality high-rise apartments, which is eroding their quality of life. It reports that more and more Australians are likely to live in flats, as the price of houses soars beyond their means. However, design standards have allowed too many sub-standard blocks to go up. It reports that State Governments have struggled to regulate standards amid the explosion in apartment building, and that young couples are being left without the choices their parents had. One said “The appeal of a backyard is amazing for me… But I have to accept (Sydney) is a different city now to the one my parents’ generation lived in”…
14. SYDNEY’S TOLL ROADS COULD BECOME NSW ELECTION ISSUE
Macrobusiness has reported that the NSW Labor Opposition leader plans to make toll roads an election issue. He says Sydney drivers are paying $2.3 billion a year in tolls, and some families in Sydney’s west and southwest are paying more than $6000 a year – well over $100 a week.
He proposes that the State Government install signs letting motorists know how much tolls cost before they enter the toll road. They are called decision point signage, allowing drivers to make an informed decision about whether they actually need to use the toll road. The comparison is with displaying the price on goods in a store, so consumers can decide whether the purchase is value for money.
It’s an interesting idea. Macrobusiness observes the toll roads are part of a rent-seeking economic model which goes –
- Stuff in people so that new roads are needed
- Use public/private partnerships to build the roads and allow heavy charges on motorists
- Toll road owners get rich
- Politicians pretend they are tackling congestion (the problem they generated in the first place)
- Meanwhile standards of living fall, because people are being charged to do something they used to be able to do without charge
- Rinse and repeat.
15. SUNBURY MUSIC FESTIVALS – 50 YEARS ON
Were you at the Sunbury Music Festivals in the 1970s, or wish you were? An exhibition at Hume City Council’s Sunbury Gallery reflects on the legacy and influence of the Sunbury Music Festivals, 50 years on.
The “Barefoot in the Grass: 50-year anniversary of the Sunbury Music Festival” exhibition celebrates the 1972-1975 Sunbury Music Festivals, which featured international artists including Deep Purple (fortunately there was no Smoke on the Water) and Queen, and local bands such as Skyhooks, Spectrum, and Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs. The festivals attracted thousands, and are an important part of Melbourne’s cultural history.
The free exhibition features posters, photos and memorabilia from the festivals, and the stories of musicians, roadies and historians. The exhibition is open until Sunday 27 March at the Hume Global Learning Centre in Sunbury. In addition, the Hume City Council Libraries After Dark program has a film screening and panel discussion to commemorate the impact of festivals.
The latter is also free, but requires booking. For more information or to book, go to the Hume City Council website.