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Orrong Towers: Democracy dismissed by Melbourne Supreme Court today

Today we heard the outcome of the Orrong Towers development case where Stonnington council went to the Supreme Court to try to have residents' and citizens' opinions heeded in planning what happens in their immediate environment. The Court completely failed to recognise this fundamental right to self-government. Having been present at the first hearing, I cannot imagine how this was justified and await the ratio dicendi.

Victorian ABC mainstream media was inadequate to the situation:

"I have just heard Jon Faine (presenter) on ABC radio speaking to Margot Carroll who has led this battle. Today the Supreme Court after a 5 minute hearing dismissed Stonnington Council's case against the proposed development. The distressing point that Margot made was that the court did not consider the number of objections to lend any weight to the case so that 10,000 objections was the same as 10. Interestingly on the same radio station the same presenter is discussing planning issues with a panel of "experts". The first question was about the ingredients of a livable city and the answer was "community involvement" in planning! I also heard one of the experts saying that growth was an "opportunity" (in livability I presume)! Someone also said that not all developers want to maximise profit at the expense of "design"." (They must be the public benefactor developers.) - Comment by Quark to

The contrast between the reality of the planning dictatorship we live under and the psalmodious platitudes we hear from its media mouthpieces is fundamentally confusing. Today I came home to yet another government pamphlet asking for public comment about new zoning laws. In the light of the Orrong Towers decision and comments like those quoted from Jon Faine's show, it was disturbing to realise that the smiling politician featured on the pamphlet is only a mask on the face of raw and brutal power. One knows that any comments will be ignored and that laws are being changed and reinterpreted for state policy to permit the removal from the community everything that made this country pleasant and easy to live in.

There must be many planners ashamed to be associated with this psychological and legal bulldozing of communities, but they are all too scared of losing work to stand up to the bullying of communities and individuals. Capitalism has made most people too vulnerable to speak up and the comments of those who do speak up do not have value in the eyes of the law. It's official.

As Montesquiou wrote: "There is no greater tyranny than that which is perpetrated under the shield of law and in the name of justice."

A devastating decision for Stonnington and Victoria

Source: Orrong Group media release: Thursday September 19, 2003

"Supreme Court decision further erodes objectors’ democratic planning rights.

re: Case – VCAT ruled that `the extent of resident opposition is irrelevant `.
Respondents – Stonnington Council V Lend Lease & Larkfield Pty Ltd
Project – 590 Orrong Road Armadale proposed development.

The Orrong Group is devastated at the Supreme Court decision delivered this morning. The finding supports the VCAT ruling that `the extent of resident opposition is irrelevant’ to their consideration of the merits of a development.

Based on this ruling the voices of the community will not have their collective concerns given due consideration in the planning process regarding inappropriate development in any neighbourhood, anywhere.

Stonnington Council, the responsible authority will have its planning powers diminished and residents input and support further eroded.

The disastrous Supreme Court ruling, further compounded by grossly increased VCAT fees, will result in vastly reduced objections and community views not fully reflected in VCAT deliberations. The Stonnington community and all Victorians will experience increased inappropriate development with permanent deleterious impact on neighbourhood character and community cohesion.

Members of the Victorian Government directly involved in this matter should now act to deliver more than simple platitudes regarding respect for all communities’ democratic rights and views regarding how their neighbourhood will develop.

Orrong Group is now in its fourth year and will continue to fight the towers. Orrong Group wishes to express its gratitude to City of Stonnington which decided to appeal VCAT’s decision and fight the towers."

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"Public consultation" is a farce, and objections are merely a front to give the community a false layer of democracy. VCAT, with the support of the Supreme court, is simply a scam, a "tribunal", to give ticks to property developers. It's dysfunctional and corrupt. The decision to give the green light for the McDonalds at Tecoma, contrary to the great majority of the community and the local council, is another case of VCAT riding rough-shod over so-called "democracy". While their planning permit allowed the construction of cafes and restaurants in their main street, this was interpreted to allow a multi-national, junk-food franchise McDonalds to be "legal".
VCAT should be closed as a affront to the public, who assume they have some self-determination with regards to where they live. If numbers of objections is "irrelevant", so will votes for the government be at election time.
The expansion of Melbourne's CBD into Armadale, a heritage suburb, will transform it into another generic high density area, and the costs of rates will increase, along with high population pressure on existing public transport, services and amenities. It's a lose-lose for Melbourne, the local community, and this Orrong group who've campaigned for four years - simply to be dismissed in 5 minutes!