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Developers now appear to have mouthpiece in planning bureaucracy

Participants were shocked recently to hear Ms Prue Digby, Deputy Secretary, Planning and Local Government, Department of Planning and Community Development include in her paper on "housing a growing population" a section on "eliminating the NIMBY culture" at the Informa Australia "Population Australia - 2050 Summit." Article by Julianne Bell.

By Julianne Bell
On Monday and Tuesday 26 and 27 September 2011 I I - representing Protectors of Public Lands Victoria Inc., I attended the second annual Conference organised by Informa Australia Pty Ltd entitled, “Population Australia - 2050 Summit”. This was a national conference and included public servants from Government (State, Federal and Local); eminent academics; and representatives of the business world and the housing industry plus a smattering of representatives of community groups. (Several of us were able to attend only because a benefactor provided us with the admission tickets or Conference fees.)

Ms Prue Digby, Deputy Secretary, Planning and Local Government, Department of Planning and Community Development included in her paper on "housing a growing population" a section on "eliminating the NIMBY culture". Participants were shocked as we considered that this was confrontational and indicated a contemptuous view of the community by a member of a Government Department. We were additionally shocked when she presented a solution stating that 30% of future population growth could be accommodated in "infill" housing in established suburbs. (Dr Bob Birrell of Monash University labels this "opportunistic infill" by developers.)

I - Julianne Bell - asked a question at the end of Ms Digby’s speech as follows: “Your Minister. Matthew Guy, advised us after the election that future density of development would be directed to the inner city, for example in developments such as E-Gate and Fisherman’s Bend and not in the suburbs. Yet after the election we are seeing high rise or high density (housing) proposals in Bayside, Banyule and Boroondara City Councils. Can you clarify what are your policy directions (concerning infill housing)?

Ms Digby refused to answer the question and said “You had better ask him yourself” and with that she left the podium. Unfortunately, we cannot give you a tape of her statement as Ms Digby insisted that Informa and Sustainable Population Australia Inc., who chaired Day One of the Conference, delete their recordings.

Mark O'Connor (Professional Poet and Author of "Overloading Australia") spoke at the Conference on "Environmental and social implications of a 'Big Australia' . He commented to me on Prue Digby's statement about "infill" in suburbs. He said: " Densification cheats residents out of quality of life" and that "it indicates the constant decline of our living standards".

We are seeking clarification from the Minister for Planning about increased density in established suburbs using infill and on promoting high rise along transports routes (tram, bus and rail) and around stations as this is contrary to his stated policies after the election. The questions are topical ones in Banyule, Boroondara and Bayside to name a few suburbs.

Julianne Bell Secretary Protectors of Public Lands Victoria Inc.


"Sustainable" Population Minister Tony Burke duped the public with his 3 panels, consisting of many well-qualified experts, and many community submissions, to ostensibly arrive at a population policy for Australia. We we all deceived. He wasted public time and money, and used the expert advise and status of people, as well as the public, by producing an outcome that had no relationship with the input. There was nothing, except for those who benefit from growth, that actually referred to or was based on the submissions and summaries of the panels.

"The Strategy's focus is on population change rather than setting arbitrary targets, driving growth to regional areas by attracting skilled workers and more houses to where job opportunities are, and alleviating pressures in outer suburbs of major capital cities by supporting more local jobs." It was more about skills shortages than shortages of hospitals, schools, water, land, tertiary education funding - or even looming food shortages!

Also, we have a Planning department that assumes and enforces population that defies all the scientific and economic evidence that ongoing population growth is negative, threatening and unsustainable. Managing the "nimby" element is about over-riding public concerns, the quality of our suburbs, and democratic dialogue.

Planning should be about protecting the concerns of residents, voters and creating ideal cities - for now and future generations.

Now, we have political parties as clients of the growth-lobby - the developers, bankers, big businesses and transport firms. Public servants are paid to implement them at all costs. It doesn't matter which political party we vote for. It's all a farce. Melbourne's direction and upward population growth is decided by the growth lobby, and over-rides public welfare, reason, politics and science.

State governments are exploiting the commodity of housing to the maximum, under the smoke-screen of a "shortage of affordable housing". The housing affordability crisis will never be solved while we continue to have our high population growth rate - driven mostly by immigration.

What can we do? Avoid the Stockholm syndrome that endorses the need for "affordable housing" and having to "take our share of developments". Save our Suburbs, and take a hard-line approach.

Our population growth is due to government policy, not to large families or high fertility levels. Vote for Independents and the Stable Population Party of Australia.

Austin Hospital executives, Melbourne, are calling for more beds and chairs for the emergency department. Does it take a death of someone waiting to get some funding?

The May 2010 proposal said the emergency department was treating about 16,500 more patients a year than it was built to manage, blowing out waiting times for care.

Austin's urgent plea for funds -The Age

The hospital expected to deal with 85,000 emergency cases a year by 2015 and 98,000 by 2020 because of a growing and ageing population in Melbourne's north-east. (blame the older people?)

The May 2010 figures are now considered out of date, and the Austin ED now sees over 20,000 more patients/year than it was built for, or 40% more than a safe capacity.

The Ivanhoe district is already established, but it has been declared an "activity centre" for more population growth. This means they plan on having 17,000 NEW residents in this small catchment area of the hospital in the next decades. Add all the other "activity centres" and the demands on the hospital will be compounded and escalate.

Growth is choking our city, our public transport, our parking lots, and streets and causing more and more "shortages", and rising costs.

We are in a bottleneck gridlock of growth, and funding simply can't keep up. The two industries our State government largely rely upon- housing construction and foreign students - are both on shaky grounds, and both inherently require ongoing population growth.