[Candobetter Editor: Sorry this report is being published very late, although it arrived on time.] In this issue: Federal Election 2022 - Climate Change, Corruption, Women, Young People; Australian Heritage Advocacy Advice; Royal Historical Society of Victoria Heritage Protection action; Urban consolidation and Housing Affordability; Good News at Kilmore; Wattle Park/The Effect of Night Lighting on Birds; Boroondara proposed Cycleway; VCAT Decision - Baker v. Surf Coast; Stonnington Planning; Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens World Heritage area; Heritage Protection in France; Tree removal in Blackburn; Tree Canopy cover in Darebin; Tree Canopy cover Forum– Save the date; Tarella Rd. Reserve Chelsea (Dent's Paddock); News from abroad; New South Wales backign Property Developers; Contacting State MPs.; Holiday
FEDERAL ELECTION 2022
People have been asking for my thoughts on the Federal Election result, so here goes. For me there are 5 clear take home messages from the election campaign and the results.
Public Health. The public expects its leaders to put public health first, ahead of economic considerations. Mark McGowan’s strong stance protecting the Western Australian people from the coronavirus pandemic not only enabled him to monster the Liberal Opposition in the State election, it also rubbed off on Federal Labor. Labor in WA achieved much larger swings than in other States, helped by the Liberals and Nationals who foolishly thought it was smart politics to attack McGowan.
To some extent the same thing happened in Victoria. The Liberals like Senator Jane Hume who said they thought Dan Andrews ‘would be more of a factor’ are seriously out of touch.
The ‘anti-mask, anti-lockdown, anti-vaxx’ let it rip approach is not what a majority of voters want.
I believe the Morrison Government handled the pandemic well in 2020, and overall Australia has done much better than other countries. The issue could easily have been a plus for the Government. But they became unwilling to hold the line on putting public health first. The slow vaccine rollout, the inadequate response to the Delta and Omicron variants, and the attacks on the Labor Premiers, turned the issue from a winner into a loser.
Climate Change. After 20 years of inaction and opportunism, dating as far back as John Howard’s refusal in 2001 to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, the climate change chickens have come home to roost. Voters right across the country, seeing the extreme weather events, the fires and the floods, of the past few years, are demanding action. No longer is it possible to dismiss these disasters as ‘one in a 100 year’ events. Queensland used to be an anchor on action to tackle climate change. Not any more. Hopefully this will lead to immediate action to reduce emissions, rather than action being constantly delayed and put off, as has been the case for the past 20 years.
Corruption. The Government’s failure to deliver the Anti-Corruption Commission it promised prior to the last election was a major blunder. I daresay Scott Morrison wishes he had his time over again on this one. People want a Commission with teeth. Australia has been slipping down the Transparency International rankings of country by country integrity. This has to stop.
I hope the ‘Teal Independents’ pursue, and achieve, a ban on political campaign donations by property developers. There are bans in place in New South Wales and Queensland, but the absence of a federal ban on donations leaves a loophole so big it can be seen from space. And the Victorian IBAC has discovered wrongdoing at Casey Council that indicates that Victoria desperately needs a ban as well.
Women. It is noteworthy that the successful ‘Teal Independents’ were all women. It is clear that there is public support for more women MPs. The Labor Party has largely insulated itself from this phenomenon with its affirmative action rules, but the Liberal Party and other parties will need to put up more women candidates in future. It is foreseeable that in the years ahead the percentage of women in Australian Parliaments will exceed 50% (this is already true of the Senate), and it may well stay there for an extended period of time.
Young People. Young voters are not supporting the Liberal Party. This is not particularly new – young people have always been politically to the left of older generations, and I grew up in the shadow of the Vietnam War, where war and conscription caused young voters to shy away from the Liberal Party. However, the phenomenon is increasing. The overall good shape of the economy, with unemployment and underemployment at record lows, doesn’t do justice to the way young people battle with job insecurity, falling real wages, and housing unaffordability. I don’t see any willingness within the Liberal Party to revisit the era of its founder, Sir Robert Menzies, when a strong manufacturing and public sector created genuine economic security.
There could also be a message in the Federal results for the forthcoming Victorian State Election. There appears to be significant support for Independents with genuine community credibility and clear, strong policy positions. Incumbent MPs who fail to listen to their electorates are potentially in jeopardy. Some of our resident action groups, who I know have not been receiving real support from their elected State MPs, should consider whether they could put forward a local candidate who could mobilise this sentiment. If you are considering doing this, please feel free to contact me for advice.
AUSTRALIAN HERITAGE ADVOCACY ALLIANCE
The Australian Heritage Advocacy Alliance was active during the Federal Election campaign, approaching candidates and seeking heritage protection commitments from them. Its Convenor, Dr Jackie Watts OAM, informs me that very positive responses were received from 250+ individual candidates from across the political spectrum. There was universal support for a dedicated Ministry of Heritage. The AHAA proposal for a national heritage lottery to generate adequate funding for national heritage met with interest. Many candidates said they would need to investigate the UK model further post election. For further details of the AHAA campaigns and responses see https://ahaa.net.au/about-australian-heritage-advocacy-alliance/
The Alliance will now be following up these candidates and parties to pursue the implementation of these commitments. It will also be working with Planning Democracy and other like-minded groups in the lead up to the Victorian Election, noting of course the key role played by State Governments and Parliaments in heritage protection.
ROYAL HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF VICTORIA HERITAGE PROTECTION ACTION
The Royal Historical Society of Victoria Inc. has also been active on the heritage protection front. They have prepared a letter to go to Victorian political parties and candidates setting out the need for reform of the planning system to ensure heritage is adequately protected in the future.
Their 5 key asks – which will be familiar to readers – are:-
Restore the integrity of the Heritage Overlay. Stop putting Design and Development Overlays (DDOs) on sites occupied by protected heritage buildings – the DDOs encourage their demolition.
Eliminate the designation “contributory”, which undermines heritage protection overlays. The planning system should protect every site that forms part of a precinct covered by a Heritage Overlay.
Restore the local heritage unit of Heritage Victoria, provide financial support for local heritage studies, and implement the recommendations of the Heritage Council’s local heritage report.
Replace VCAT with a Planning Appeals Tribunal composed of planners and heritage experts.
Ban political donations by developers (as in NSW and Queensland).
URBAN CONSOLIDATION AND HOUSING AFFORDABILITY
One of the drivers of the urban consolidation policy promoted by planners and politicians is the claim that it improves housing affordability, and therefore home ownership levels. For example, I mentioned in my last Report that Robyn Roberts and the Banyule Planning Network were worried that Banyule Council’s Preliminary Discussion Paper on Housing and Neighbourhood Character opened the door for ‘affordable housing’ to be used as a battering ram against the protection of neighbourhood character in that municipality.
It is therefore significant that Professor Michael Buxton’s submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Planning and Heritage says it is the other way around. Urban consolidation pushes up land prices, and leads to poorer housing affordability, not better affordability. He states that ‘Regulated planning systems can also control land price rises. Deregulated planning systems encourage developers to bid up the price of land and to constantly raise building heights as a form of compensation. Height and density controls limit this tendency’. Thanks to Sophie Paterson from Clifford Hayes office for drawing my attention to this.
Professor Buxton’s analysis seems to accord with the facts. Australia’s densest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, are also its least affordable. For the past 11 years Demographia International Housing Affordability has ranked Hong Kong as the least affordable city in the world. At 6,777 people per square kilometre, it is also one of the most densely populated.
So, protecting neighbourhood character does not conflict with good housing policy, it reinforces it. If anyone has come across other research on the issue of urban consolidation and housing affordability, please send it to me. In researching the issue this week, I came across a planner who said that when he entered the profession 40 years ago, planners often had an adversarial relationship with property developers, but that now they were mostly in alignment. Yep.
GOOD NEWS AT KILMORE
The Kilmore and District Residents and Ratepayers Association (KADRRA) has informed me that the Independent Planning Panel has recommended that Amendment C154 to the Mitchell Shire Planning Scheme be abandoned. Given that Council now has little option but to follow this recommendation, this is a great win for the local residents who have campaigned against this Amendment. They deserve our congratulations!
As readers will be aware, the Amendment sought a rezoning of land from public open space to residential, to facilitate a planned housing development. Some of the land was previously owned by the Kilmore Council, but had been handed over to Trustees for $1 in 1984, then mysteriously handed over to the Kilmore Racing Club in 2004, also for $1. The future of the land is now the key question, but the KADRRA is clear that it should continue to be a public asset, and this is best achieved by it returning to public ownership.
WATTLE PARK/THE EFFECT OF NIGHT LIGHTING ON BIRDS
As I was one of the objectors to the Parks Victoria application for works at Wattle Park, Riversdale Road Burwood, Heritage Victoria has forwarded their decision to me. The implications of it are still being considered by local residents. The good news is that it appears that the proposed cycleway has gone. On the other hand, residents remain concerned about the limited nature of the public consultation, the potential adverse impact on hundreds of trees from excavation works, the impact of artificial lighting, and the size of the playscape envelope.
One of the issues at Wattle Park is proposed night time lighting. Bea McNicholas has sent me recent research from the Journal – Nature Scientific Reports into the effect of night time lighting on magpies. The research indicates that streetlights that shine throughout the night deprive magpies of sleep. Sleep deprivation adversely affects their ability to perform tasks. One researcher found that ‘many aspects of cognition appear to be sleep-dependent in Australian Magpies’. Another said that ‘If they have less sleep because of artificial lighting, then that affects their behaviour, and if it affects their behaviour, it might affect their survival and have implications for their survival’.
Of course, Magpies are not an endangered species, but there is no reason to believe lighting would not have a similar effect on other bird and animal life. The findings are not only relevant for Wattle Park, but for many other urban parks as well. The study can be found at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9033856/.
BOROONDARA PROPOSED CYCLEWAY
Ian Hundley reports that in response to resident campaigning, Boroondara Council is apparently retreating from the proposal to put a cycleway through Greythorn Park. Nevertheless, the cycleway still remains a proposal for other areas of Boroondara parkland. It is expected that Boroondara Council will release a revised bicycle strategy within the next couple of weeks.
VCAT DECISION – BAKER v. SURF COAST
Alison Joseph has drawn my attention to the VCAT decision in Baker v Surf Coast – re a restaurant at the Lorne Pier. Following the decision in Wertheimer v Bayside – the Dendy Beach pavilion case – the VCAT found that in a PPRZ (Public Park and Recreation Zone), when the use being applied for was not on behalf of the manager of the public land, there is a requirement for a use permit to be applied for and issued. Indeed, Baker v Surf Coast seems to have gone an extra step, and said that a restaurant was not a use in association with the public land use, and was therefore prohibited.
Stonnington Council has invited residents to comment on possible amendments to its current planning scheme. Mrs Beverley Lines has sent me her submission to Council. In it she points out that population growth in Stonnington has led to residents currently experiencing a severe shortage of housing to purchase or rent, massive traffic congestion, a shortage of medical services, including hospitals and emergency services, single homes being replaced with higher density developments, shortage of green space and sporting venues, a shortage of government schools, and a diminishing retail sector.
She says the high density apartments are not suitable for families, and are contributing to what Stonnington Council has declared to be a ‘climate emergency’.
She also raises the need for better heritage protection, and the fate of 117 Kooyong Road Armadale, which includes the historic Armadale House. Armadale House is at risk of demolition by neglect, with developers not honouring their undertakings. Beverley is willing to work with other Stonnington residents concerned about these issues.
ROYAL EXHIBITION BUILDING AND CARLTON GARDENS WORLD HERITAGE AREA
Margaret O’Brien from the Friends of Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens recently presented to Legislative Council MPs Clifford Hayes and Samantha Ratnam concerning the need to better protect this World Heritage listed area. She emphasised the need for better management, with a single management authority being preferable to the current disjointed arrangements. She identified the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority (PAHSMA) as being a successful and relevant example for consideration.
She also emphasised the need to better protect the Buffer Zone, and to resist developer attempts to reduce or weaken the Zone.
HERITAGE PROTECTION IN FRANCE
Anyone wishing to undertake building works on a property in France which has a heritage listing, or within conservation areas, has to deal with the Architectes des Batiments de France (ABF), specialist planning officials based in the prefecture, whose consent is required for any planning application concerning such properties. The ABF act as guardians of the urban and rural architecture of France.
While planning authorities typically are required to make a decision on a normal planning application within 2 months, this is extended to 6 months in the case of applications that go to the ABF, to give them time to properly consider the application. They are known for imposing very detailed conditions on planning consents.
TREE REMOVAL IN BLACKBURN
As an objector to plans to remove mature trees at 32 Laburnum Street, Blackburn, I have been notified by the City of Whitehorse that it has decided to grant a permit for the removal of the trees. To be fair to the Council, the Permit Conditions are detailed, and require, for example, “a complete landscape response preferring native species including ground covers, low to mid-height shrubs and canopy plantings which can contribute to the surrounding ‘bush’ character of the landscape and objectives of the bush environment character statement”.
Such conditions are welcome. What concerns me, and many residents, is that permit conditions like this seem to be poorly monitored, and poorly, or not at all, enforced. I hope Blackburn residents will keep me informed as to whether the permit conditions are complied with.
TREE CANOPY COVER IN DAREBIN
A Planning Democracy supporter has expressed concern about the damage to tree canopy cover on private land in Darebin by the relentless replacement of detached houses and gardens with multi-unit developments and hard surfaces.
Whereas the City of Boroondara has 31.5% and the City of Banyule 36% canopy of trees over 3 metres, according to Greener Spaces, Darebin has a 21.6% canopy of trees over 3 metres. It has only a 2.7% canopy of trees and shrubs under 3 metres – and falling – and 54.1% hard surfaces (and increasing). I will be raising this important issue with the City of Darebin.
TREE CANOPY COVER FORUM– SAVE THE DATE.
As mentioned previously, Ian Morgans is organising a Forum for us on the very important topic of tree canopy cover. It will be on Saturday 10 September, from 10am to 12 Noon, at The Chamber, Kingston Arts Centre, corner of Nepean Highway and South Road, Moorabbin, next door to Moorabbin Station. Further details to be provided.
TARELLA RD RESERVE CHELSEA (DENT’S PADDOCK)
Nina Earl has informed me that Kingston Council is considering a Dog Free Zone for the Tarella Road Reserve in Chelsea, often called Dent’s Paddock. This is the last patch of native coastal bush in Chelsea, and its retention as a public park owes much to the local community and Council. Nina supports this park being dog free. While dogs are fine in conventional parks, she says that in nature reserves the presence of dogs (smell, sounds, activity) disturbs wildlife, and nutrient rich dog poo is toxic to native vegetation, but invasive weeds love it and out-compete native plants.
Kingston residents may wish to contact Council in support of this initiative.
NEWS FROM ABROAD
The British Conservative Party took a hammering at recent local elections in the UK, losing to the Liberal Democrats in previously Tory strongholds. Following the result, the Conservative MP of Tonbridge and Malling, Tom Tugendhat, said his party needed to avoid alienating southern voters with planning reform.
He said “one of the things that came up even more for me in the south of England was planning, and we need to address the fact that the garden of England cannot become the patio of England. We need to make sure that communities across the United Kingdom have a say in what’s built near them”. No doubt.
NEW SOUTH WALES BACKING PROPERTY DEVELOPERS
Given his very French sounding surname, you might hope that NSW Premier Dominic Perrotet might have a French approach to heritage protection. Alas, Macrobusiness points out that he has proposed changes to planning laws that greatly disadvantage Councils and communities. These include refunding developer application fees if Councils fail to meet expected approval timeframes, and allowing developers to initiate court appeals against rejection of their plans, even when the plans don’t comply with Council’s Strategic Plan.
Premier Perrotet has form on these matters. His Planning Minister fast-tracked development applications during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Deputy Executive Director of the Property Council of NSW, William Power, was appointed to become the executive director of the Planning Department’s COVID-19 response. The Greater Sydney Commission appointed the NSW Property Council head as its CEO.
Furthermore, Premier Perrotet tore up a requirement to consider flood and fire risk before building new homes, and scrapped a sensible plan to ban dark-coloured roofs on new dwellings, after property developers complained about it.
CONTACTING STATE MPs.
Liz Sanzaro, President of the Croydon Conservation Society, is initiating contact with State MPs to pursue tree protection issues such as the need for better penalties and enforcement action against illegal tree removal. She is building up an email database of the MPs and relevant Ministers and Shadow Ministers. Sending emails in bulk is clearly quicker than sending them individually; however, MPs are much more likely to reply and act on personally addressed emails than bulk ones.
If anyone out there with campaigning experience or technological knowhow has any bright ideas on the easiest and most effective way of making these contacts, please let me know.
Kerry and I are heading off on Sunday 5 June to escape the Melbourne winter. We will be driving up the east coast and spending time in Cairns, the Atherton Tableland, and the Gulf of Carpentaria, returning via outback Queensland and New South Wales. Should be good! We will return on Sunday 28 August.
I will still be contactable by phone and email, except when I am out of range, or focussed on enjoying this great country of ours. Subject to successfully navigating the technology, I intend to continue to put out Convenor’s Reports during this time and keep you informed of developments.
That’s all folks, till next time. Keep up the good work!