Submission to the State Government Discussion Paper: Reforming the Victoria Planning Provisions

Wednesday, 31 January, 2018
Author: 
Green Wedges Coalition

The future of the Green Wedges is vital to the quality of life and the reputation of Melbourne as one of the world’s most liveable cities.

Yet the Green Wedges are in danger of disappearing from both the ongoing encroachment of urban development and more insidiously a gradual increase in built development under uses permissible under existing non-urban zones.  These uses and these threats will be exacerbated by the line-by-line program of deregulation advanced in this discussion paper, which could lead to ‘death by a thousand cuts’ for the Green Wedges. .

The end result if this is allowed to proceed will be the destruction of the vision of the urban form for Melbourne first set in place in strategic planning for metropolitan area in the 1970’s recognising the need to contain the urban sprawl avoiding a future metropolis of seemingly endless suburbia.

This is an extraordinary document and a very nasty surprise. The Andrews Government was elected on a policy of strong support for Green Wedges and for community involvement in planning. This proposal will undermine Green Wedge protection provisions and further exclude the community, including groups such as our members, from any involvement in the planning process for Green Wedge, urban or rural planning.

To protect Green Wedges we need more proactive State Government regulation not less regulation.  We need State Government to restore the regulatory provisions that were removed from the Green Wedge Zones in 2013, particularly the Rural Conservation Zone which covers most of the Nillumbik and Manningham Green Wedges and as well as the water catchments in these and other areas and the most environmentally significant land in other Green Wedges and in the peri-urban and rural areas.

 There is very little direct recognition of policy provisions relating to the Green Wedges in the discussion paper, apart from the deplorable proposal to get rid of Clause 57, the special provision for Metropolitan Green Wedge Land.  We strongly support the City of Kingston submission calling for this Clause 57 to be retained.

We also strongly support the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council submission concerns that these “reforms”:

  • May water down the strength of (the) LPPF,
  • May provide too much flexibility to ‘as of right’ land uses that cause genuine amenity and planning issues and
  • Will reduce the rights of third parties in the planning permit process.”

We are confident that all of the 17 Green Wedge Councils will encounter similar problems, though not all will have yet become aware or concerned about them. 

Most of the proposals are generally so vague and unspecific that it is impossible for anyone reading this discussion paper to have any clear idea of the likely outcomes, apart from the loss of third party rights and the movement of uses from Section 3 to Section 2 and from Section 2 to Section 1. Hence the timeline of next July for gazettal would clearly involve indecent haste - Though it is very clear that these “reforms” are designed to advantage the development and planning industries (ie the planners who work for developers, not the Council or independent planners).

This process seems to have totally avoided any community input:  The list of property and professional groups represented on the Reference Group indicates clearly who will be the beneficiaries of this carve-up of the planning scheme, with the exception of the Municipal Association of Victoria. The rest are: Australian Institute of Architects, Building Designers Association of Victoria, Housing Industry Association, Master Builders Association of Victoria, Planning Institute of Australia, Property Council of Australia, Urban Development Institute of Australia, Victorian Planning and Environmental Law Association.

There has been neither consultation with nor any representation from community planning groups such as ours on the advisory group of.   These proposals look remarkably similar to deregulatory proposals attempted in the time of the Brumby and Napthine Governments, probably at the behest of the same coalition of vested property and professional interests. Both of those governments dropped these plans in advance of upcoming elections and we earnestly hope this Government follows suit – for its own sake as well as ours.

We would of course support reform along the lines used in the paper to justify these reforms:  i.e. to simplify and improve the operation of the planning scheme.  But it looks to us as though these proposed changes will lead to other, less desirable outcomes, with the State Government, in effect, putting the developers and economic considerations well ahead of environmental and social matters. The government needs to go back to square one and undertake wide-ranging consultation with the community members who will otherwise suffer the consequence of these hasty, ill-thought out, self-serving measures.

When the last three State Governments (Kennett/McLellan; Brumby/Madden and Napthine/Guy) were brought down by unpopular planning decisions that facilitated unacceptable overdevelopment, it is hard to see why this Government would want to press ahead with this disastrous “Smart Planning” program, which seems to be neither Smart nor Planning.

For more detail see the attached file.

Green Wedges: