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Does Anybody Know What Melbourne 2030 Is Producing?

Macedon Ranges Residents' Association of Victoria writes:

Who is measuring what Melbourne 2030 produces? E.g. dwelling growth v population growth, occupancy rates, location of development and relevance to need/demand, type of development v impacts on existing character and values, suburbanization of rural areas, etc.

Terms of Reference for the Melbourne 2030 audit include a requirement for recommendations on appropriate mechanisms for monitoring implementation of Melbourne 2030.

The group has undertaken a broad review of 2006 census results to get a “snapshot” of trends for Victoria, Melbourne metro area, and “fringe” Shires, at a municipality level.

Key Trends

Unoccupied Dwellings

Do you know there were 216,000 unoccupied dwellings in Victoria on census night, 120,000 in Melbourne? That unoccupied dwellings increased as a percentage of all private dwellings between 2001 and 2006? Some places had vacancy rates over 40% (e.g. Queenscliffe (+50%), Bass Coast (47.7%), Surf Coast (43.7%), yet all also had relatively high levels of new dwellings: +52, +2,778 and +1,723 respectively.

Negative Population Growth, Rampant Dwelling Growth

Banyule lost 224 people, gained 829 households, gained 1,468 dwellings and had 2,737 unoccupied dwellings. Moonee Valley lost 193 people, gained 208 households and 1,023 dwellings, with 3,286 unoccupied dwellings.

Queenscliffe lost 148 people and 14 households, yet had 52 additional dwellings and a 50.2% vacancy rate.

Mis-Match Between Household Growth And Dwelling Growth

Common occurrence. Small household increases, large dwelling increases, larger vacancy rates.

For example, Bayside gained +2,185 people but only 264 new households, had 95 fewer lone person households, 913 more dwellings and 3,235 unoccupied dwellings. Baw Baw had 892 new households, 1,321 new dwellings and 1,874 unoccupied dwellings.

Over-60s Grew But Nowhere Near Projected Rates - Over-Estimated In Almost All Municipalities

DSE projections have driven a boom in “unit” development that has caused existing residents a lot of pain.

Some places we think of as having booming young family growth also have high over-60s growth (e.g. Whittlesea, where over-60s growth equated to a third of total population growth).

Reductions In Lone Person Households

Bayside lost 95, Boroondara lost 618, Stonnington lost 333. Other municipalities had reduced percentages of LPH e.g Port Phillip, Whitehorse. Yet projections simply assume all places are the same.

Are We Really Supposed To Rely On Victoria In Future Projections?

They are based on what has been happening, not what should happen. Broadest assumptions are used to produce projections – not specific to each municipality – rural and metro get the same assumptions, and pressure for the same outcomes. Projections are not influenced by policy but end up becoming policy in their own right. DSE projections drive development, are pushed down our throats as justification for bad development – over-development, and the wrong sort of development. E.g. 28 square, two storey “units” on 300 square metres to accommodate “old” people.

Post 2006 census, DSE seems ready to absorb yet another 630,000 people[6] into the next projections, without questioning whether Melbourne can accommodate more.

Developers are driving policy and outcomes

While Melbourne 2030 and other planning policy is creating plenty of new dwellings (+171,000 in Victoria), many are either not affordable, not what people want, or simply second dwellings that aren’t accommodating population growth. Do we in fact have a glut of (unusable) housing in a time of claimed housing shortages?

Developers are deciding what is built, where, when and at what cost, supported by government and the system. Much of what they produce is over-priced, top end (“gold tap”) elitist, in expensive locations, or cheaper and more profitable greenfields development that is too quickly filling up Melbourne’s reserve of vacant residential land – wherever the highest profit potential beckons. What happens after 2030?

Melbourne 2030 is delivering profits to developers, but wholesale pain to the wider community. Developers’ investments are protected, but not the investments of people affected by bad development. Developers will no doubt now be lobbying for yet more planning rules to be thrown out and more land to be opened up. A much more considered response is needed.

What happens when Mc Mansion homeowners walk away from homes they can’t afford – who buys their house, and where do they live? Have we created a generation with debts they may never repay? Add to that a new baby boom as well as the old, climate change, infrastructure deficiencies, and increasingly, social unsustainability.

Ordinary people and some planning experts have been telling government that Melbourne 2030 and the VPPs aren’t working. They are right. It’s well past time for the government to listen at least equally to the community and experts, not just developers, and to really get to the bottom of what’s happening under Melbourne 2030.

Sheila Newman, Land-use Planning Sociologist: The above was a slightly edited excerpt from a cracking dissection of the notorious Victorian planning document, Melbourne 2030, by the Macedon Ranges Residents' Association (Victoria). This comes from their submission for their Meeting with Victorian Planning and Community Development Minister Justin Madden at 8 Nicholson St., East Melbourne on the 16 August, 2007.