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Pressure on Crown and public land in Melbourne unsustainable - response to Inquiry

Crucial investigation must not be highjacked by Melbourne's planners and developers

The Victorian Environmental Assessment Council is currently conducting investigation into Crown and Public Land in the Melbourne metropolitan area. Track record of such inquiries mean that only a naive Melbourne citizen would expect anything from this one, other than excuses to confiscate and give away to developers more and more of Melbourne's public land.

For this reason it is important for alternative forums to give as much publicity as possible to the issues in hand. We do this here via one excellent submission, from Jill Quirk, on behalf of the Victorian Branch of Sustainable Population Australia. (Below this report the submission is reproduced in its original form.)

This investigation springs from competition for land-use due to the pressures of population growth

Ms Quirk states, "SPA (VIC) with its particular focus on the interaction of population levels/lifestyle and the environment notes that the investigation into public and crown land has most likely sprung from the pressures of population growth on land use and the increasing importance and competition for the use of this land to a growing population with diminishing private open space available to it."

Ms Quirk's submission highlights what should be the outstanding priority of the report, the problems caused by the State Government's obdurate engineering of a much bigger population. Without this massive population, Victoria's water supply would probably be adequate and the city would be cooler, because there would be fewer buildings, less industrial activity and more trees and green spaces.

Purposes of the Investigation

The purposes of the investigation which the SPA VIC submission addresses are to systematically identify and assess the uses, resources, condition, values and management of Crown land, and public authority land in metropolitan Melbourne; to assess values of Crown land, and public authority land for areas not committed to a specific use, and report on appropriate future uses relevant to Melbourne's livability and natural values; and to report on the contribution of Crown land, and public authority land to Melbourne's livability and opportunities for enhancement of this contribution.

Ms Quirk explained that SPA VIC would urge a broad approach with particular consideration given to the pressure on land- of a rapidly rising population with diminishing private open space.

Melbourne 2030 creates the problems it then purports to resolve

She observed that, "Diminished private open space is prescribed by the Melbourne 2030 urban consolidation blueprint necessitated by projected massive population growth, and she also notes that this projected population growth was under- estimated at the time of design.

On current trends, problems are exponential

This situation makes it necessary to contend with the problem of a very much larger population in the future in Victoria with no end of this growth anticipated.

"At current rates of growth Melbourne could have 8 million people well before the end of the century", Ms Quirk warned.

The problem of encouraging population growth with no end in sight is further complicated by the declining state of the Victorian natural environment (as noted in the 2008 Victorian State of the Environment report).

Urban heat island effect increases urgent need for trees to modify temperature

The inevitable increased urban temperatures in Melbourne from an increasing proportion of built up areas, (Urban Heat Island effect) make the "need for open space with vegetation, especially trees to mitigate or modify increased temperatures at local levels", especially urgent.

Urban water management

"Open space which is not concreted or paved allows maximum absorption of water in to the ground which is important for the health and survival of vegetation in the surrounding area. It is therefore imperative to consolidate and increase permeable open space," Ms Quirk observes.

Democratic representation a factor in environmental degradation

Ms Quirk has called the Enquiry's attention to the fact that democracy is a victim of Melbourne's recent land-use changes. "The impact on democratic rights and democratic structure of centrally engineered changes in use of public land and reduction of public land," she said, and referred to http://candobetter.org/node/628.

Pure environmental value of open land-

Ms Quirk points out that, "There is a pure environmental value of open land."

"A fundamental contribution of land that has not been built over is its capacity to absorb water. Once it has been built over it cannot serve this function. In addition, water shortages through drought and increased demand on our water supplies have resulted in noticeable loss of green areas both in public and private gardens. Thus any that remain are crucial to the health of Melbourne’s urban environment..

"The other contributions of land with vegetation (especially trees) are to cool the immediate environment via shade and transpiration. Heating up of the urban environment has occurred through expansion and densification necessitated through population growth (Urban Heat Island effect) as well as because of global climate change. The cooling attributes of trees and other vegetation create a microclimate of relief in an environment which is otherwise incapable of modifying the effect of summer heat. They thus reduce the need for inside use of energy using air conditioners and other cooling systems.
It must also be remembered that birds and small animals require habitat to survive. e.g. every Grevillea Robin Gordon that disappears removes food for several wattle birds. Public open space has become even more crucial for our wildlife than it was before the massive loss of private open space i.e. private gardens that is well under way.

Public open space has become even more crucial for our wildlife than it was before the massive loss of private open space i.e. private gardens that is well under way.

Value of open space to residents of Melbourne

"With a rapidly increasing population (largely socially engineered by governments- notably state governments by designating nearly all areas in the state as in need of immigration) over the last 10 years, (see http://www.liveinvictoria.vic.gov.au) there has been noticeable pressure on both public and private land. This trend will continue with bipartisan pro population growth stances. Private gardens are being lost at an alarming rate as houses on generous blocks with trees are bulldozed for units and town houses , resulting in a far greater coverage of the land with impermeable surfaces and building, loss of trees, shade and other vegetation This leaves neighbours with less and less relief from built up areas and often owning no garden themselves people rely more and more heavily on public land for recreation. The benefits of open space to people may not always be accurately measured by the number actually on the land at a particular time. The benefit to some may be simply in the relief and reassurance of walking past an open space."

"The value of open land is so much more than the dollar price estimated in terms of what it would yield if subdivided and sold to developers or built on to create a revenue raising venue. It is a defect of our land valuing and legal system that it fails to account for many damages to quality of life through changes to land use."

"We were fortunate in Melbourne that our founders were far sighted in setting aside areas of land for Melbourne’s people. Unfortunately their provisions for future generations have sometimes been exploited for short term objectives (according to Coasian economic values) at the expense of the general population.

These considerations should be uppermost when making assessments with respect to –uses and values of public land. Democratic rights and structure at a local level should be strengthened as opposed to their removal to distant government and commercial forums."

The Final Recommendation made by the SPA Victoria report is that there should be no erosion or loss of public open space from our current situation. It asks that the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council focus on maintaining and maximizing the natural attributes of any land under consideration for the benefit of Victorian citizens present and future.

"We ask that the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council focus on maintaining and maximizing the natural attributes of any land under consideration for the benefit of Victorian citizens present and future."

ORIGINAL SUBMISSION BELOW

The Secretary
Metropolitan Melbourne Enquiry
Victorian Environmental Assessment Council
Level 6
8 Nicholson Street
East Melbourne 3002

16 February 2009

Dear Sir/Madam

Re Investigation into Crown and public land

Introduction:
I am writing on behalf of Sustainable Population Australia: Victorian Branch (SPA VIC).
SPA is an environmental organization whose aims and objectives are:

.To contribute to public awareness of the limits of Australian population growth from ecological, social and economic viewpoints.
.To promote awareness that the survival of an ecologically sustainable population depends on its renewable resource base.
.To help promote policies that will initially lead to stabilization of Australia’s population by encouraging near replacement fertility rates and low immigration rates.
.To promote urban and rural lifestyles and practices that are in harmony with the realities of the Australian environment, its resource base and its biodiversity.
.To advocate low immigration rates while rejecting any selection based on race.
.To help promote policies that will lead to the stabilization, then reduction of global population.

SPA (VIC) with its particular focus on the interaction of population levels/lifestyle and the environment notes that the investigation into public and crown land has most likely sprung from the pressures of population growth on land use and the increasing importance and competition for the use of this land to a growing population with diminishing private open space available to it.

With reference to the purposes of the investigation

(“The purposes of the investigation are to:
(a) systematically identify and assess the uses, resources, condition, values and management of Crown land, and public authority land in metropolitan Melbourne;
(b) assess values of Crown land, and public authority land for areas not committed to a specific use, and report on appropriate future uses relevant to Melbourne's livability and natural values; and
(c) report on the contribution of Crown land, and public authority land to Melbourne's livability and opportunities for enhancement of this contribution”)

SPA VIC would urge a broad approach with particular consideration given to the following:

1. The pressure on land- of a rapidly rising population with diminishing private open space. Diminished private open space is prescribed by the Melbourne 2030 urban consolidation blueprint necessitated by projected massive population growth (which as it turns out was under- estimated at the time of design.)

2. A very much larger population in the future in Victoria with no end of this growth anticipated (At current rates of growth Melbourne could have 8 million people well before the end of the century.)

3. The declining state of the Victorian natural environment (as noted in the 2008 Victorian State of the Environment report)

4. The inevitable increased urban temperatures in Melbourne from an increasing proportion of built up areas, (Urban Heat Island effect) and the consequent need for open space with vegetation, especially trees to mitigate or modify increased temperatures at local levels

5. Urban water management: Open space which is not concreted or paved allows maximum absorption of water in to the ground which is important for the health and survival of vegetation in the surrounding area.

6. The impact on democratic rights and democratic structure of centrally engineered changes in use of public land and reduction of public land. (http://candobetter.org/node/628)

Pure environmental value of open land-

A fundamental contribution of land that has not been built over is its capacity to absorb water. Once it has been built over it cannot serve this function. In addition, water shortages through drought and increased demand on our water supplies have resulted in noticeable loss of green areas both in public and private gardens. Thus any that remain are crucial to the health of Melbourne’s urban environment.
The other contributions of land with vegetation (especially trees) are to cool the immediate environment via shade and transpiration. Heating up of the urban environment has occurred through expansion and densification necessitated through population growth (Urban Heat Island effect) as well as because of global climate change. The cooling attributes of trees and other vegetation create a microclimate of relief in an environment which is otherwise incapable of modifying the effect of summer heat. They thus reduce the need for inside use of energy using air conditioners and other cooling systems.
It must also be remembered that birds and small animals require habitat to survive. e.g. every Grevillea Robin Gordon that disappears removes food for several wattle birds. Public open space has become even more crucial for our wildlife than it was before the massive loss of private open space i.e. private gardens that is well under way.

Value of open space to residents of Melbourne

With a rapidly increasing population (largely socially engineered by governments- notably state governments by designating nearly all areas in the state as in need of immigration) over the last 10 years, (see http://www.liveinvictoria.vic.gov.au) there has been noticeable pressure on both public and private land. This trend will continue with bipartisan pro population growth stances. Private gardens are being lost at an alarming rate as houses on generous blocks with trees are bulldozed for units and town houses , resulting in a far greater coverage of the land with impermeable surfaces and building, loss of trees, shade and other vegetation This leaves neighbours with less and less relief from built up areas and often owning no garden themselves people rely more and more heavily on public land for recreation. The benefits of open space to people may not always be accurately measured by the number actually on the land at a particular time. The benefit to some may be simply in the relief and reassurance of walking past an open space.

The value of open land is so much more than the dollar price estimated in terms of what it would yield if subdivided and sold to developers or built on to create a revenue raising venue. It is a defect of our land valuing and legal system that it fails to account for many damages to quality of life through changes to land use.

We were fortunate in Melbourne that our founders were far sighted in setting aside areas of land for Melbourne’s people. Unfortunately their provisions for future generations have sometimes been exploited for short term objectives (according to Coasian economic values) at the expense of the general population.

These considerations should be uppermost when making assessments with respect to –uses and values of public land. Democratic rights and structure at a local level should be strengthened as opposed to their removal to distant government and commercial forums.

Recommendation: that there should be no erosion or loss of public open space from our current situation and we ask that the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council focus on maintaining and maximizing the natural attributes of any land under consideration for the benefit of Victorian citizens present and future.

Sincerely,

Jill Quirk
President: Sustainable Population Australia (Victorian Branch)

Contact: Via candobetter.org or by post to PO Box 1173 Frankston (for public correspondence)
20 Feb 2009