Category Archives: Council

East West Link & Plan Melbourne undermined by resignation of advisory committee

 The integrity of the new draft planning strategy for Melbourne was thrown into doubt after it was revealed in December that the Minister’s Advisory Panel for Plan Melbourne had resigned over key transport concerns:…
Panel chair Roz Hansen publicly denounced the government’s $8 billion East-West Link in a submission to Melbourne Council’s “Future Melbourne Committee” on Dec.10, and called for Victorians to be given a choice on public transport issues.
Here’s a link to our previous article: Professor Hansen’s comments about the lack of justification for the EW Link and the failure of the State Government to respond to the demand for better public transport…..(12 min audio, Melb. City Council)

Improving Access to Council Planning File documents – Dept. Practice Note

This Planning Department Practice Note explains what planning application documents residents are entitled to see and get copies of (at cost) from their council.  Unfortunately, some councils don't follow the spirit of the Prac Note, let alone the letter, but it does at least let you know what you're entitled to ask for.

Due to possible copyright issues with some documents incorporated in planning schemes (eg, references like the ANZ Parking Standards), the Dept. has temporarily withdrawn this Prac Note for minor changes.  However, this won't effect access to the documents you'd normally find in a planning file and you can download the Prac Note by clicking on the pdf link below.

DPCD Prac Note on Access to File Documents


Local Governement Minister sacks councillors

Local Government Minister Richard Wynne has sacked 3 councillors from the Colac Otway Shire, because they walked out of a council meeting.

This will be of interest to many SOS members, who have asked me why certain councillors aren’t sacked, given the issues – including the possibility of corruption – they have with them.

I believe we should be very careful about sacking an elected representative, otherwise the majority can act against the minority – who may be the ones effectively representing local residents.

But if the Minister IS going to sack council members, it should

  • be on the basis of a open and transparent policy
  • be consistently applied
  • be subject to appeal by the councillor
  • be independent of the political party the councillor is a member of.

Therefor, the email I have just sent Richard Wynne is

Dear Mr Wynne

Given your recent sacking of three councillors from the Colac Otway Shire, could you please tell me

  1. what is your policy on sacking councillors – ie how are you going to decide which ones to sack? Exactly what is the criteria?
  2. what appeal process are you going to put in place, if any, that councillors can access?
  3. are you prepared to sack ALP councillors?

I will post the response up on this web site.

Ian Quick

The media release

Media contact: Fiona Macrae 0412 693 182 or 9651 5799
Media release From the Minister for Local Government
Friday, 7 December, 2007
Local Government Minister Richard Wynne has acted to remove three councillors from the Colac
Otway Shire Council due to their failure to comply with the Local Government Act 1989 and
attend a full “Call of the Council” meeting.
Mr Wynne said the decision was made following a series of actions relating to the councillors’
attendance at meetings of Colac Otway Shire Council in late October.
He said all three councillors had walked out of a special meeting convened as a ‘Call of the
Council’ – a procedure specified by the Act which requires all councillors to attend.
“The three councillors attended the meeting initially, but left the meeting before its conclusion,”
Mr Wynne said.
“Whist I understand that councillors can feel passionate about matters that arise in council
business, the most basic duty of a councillor is to govern and to vote on matters. Unfortunately
the councillors involved did not fulfil that duty and have left me with no alternative but to remove
“If councillors fail to remain at a “Call of the Council” meeting, the council’s Chief Executive
Officer is required by the Act to write to the Minister for Local Government, which was done.
“In response, as also required by the Act, I wrote to each of the three councillors involved and
asked them to show cause why I should not make an order that they are incapable of remaining
a councillor.
“After considering each response, I have decided that their reasons for walking out of the
meeting were not satisfactory and therefore I have made orders under the Local Government
Act 1989 that they are incapable of remaining councillors of the Colac Otway Shire.”
The three councillors are Councillors Stuart Hart, Brian Crook and Geoffrey Higgins.
Mr Wynne said the orders, under Section 85(6) of the Local Government Act 1989, come into
effect on Friday 7 December 2007.
“As these three councillors were elected using proportional representation, the vacancies will be
filled using a count-back process. The vacant positions will be offered to the next remaining
candidates from the last election who will be automatically elected.
“In the event that one of the eligible candidates chooses not to accept election, a by-election
would be required within 100 days.
“Once the councillors have been replaced, the council will resume normal duties.”

Councils may be stripped of permit power!!!

In a stunning move against residents, Planning Minister Justin Madden has confirmed he is considering removing Council planning powers to make decisions on permits for key development projects.

Read The Age article.

This would be disastrous, although some Councilors would welcome it because they’d no longer be responsible for making decisions on these contentious, unpopular and time-consuming projects.

This approach has been raised before – by the Development Assesment Forum. Read the summary of our 2004 submission to DAF (below).

But this approach simply doesn’t address the real problem. In most cases SOS is aware of, when a Council reverses a staff planning recommendation, it’s the Councilors who’ve made the correct decision. Rarely do they ever do this without valid planning grounds.

If the Minister really wanted to reduce costs and delays in the planning process, he would simply make some of the basic amenity guidelines mandatory, including simplified and quantitative planning rules.

The key problems with the ‘independent’ panel approach are –

* Who appoints the panel, and who is on it? Do they live locally and understand the area? Is it packed with ‘planning experts’, the SAME people who also work for developers or sit on present Government-appointed panels like those which hear planning scheme amendments?
* How is the panel made accountable to the public? Under the Development Assessment Forum model, that is just ignored.

There are other ways to speed up planning assessments without removing democratic powers from Councils and their communities (the DAF model also removes residents’ appeal rights). And it’s interesting that what the Governement thinks is good for Councils (moving their powers to an un elected panel) they wouldn’t do themselves – no state planning panels have the power to make final decisions, they must pass their recommendations to the (elected) Planning Minister to decide.

July 07 Summary of SOS Submission on DAF (June 04)

Most r esidents only get involved in planning issues when challenged by an impending nearby development so any planning regime in a democracy must allow third party appeal rights It is also often local objectors rather than council planners who find inconsistencies, errors and omissions in development proposals, perhaps because they have the most to lose – a further reason why they must be part of the decision-making process.

Proposals designed with regard for local planning policies and neighbourhood amenity won’t run foul of Council, VCAT or objectors. In contrast, most of the complexity and effort of the planning process is devoted to dealing with proposals that push the envelope.

Most councils in comparable situations have similar turn-around times for making decisions on planning applications, despite the fact that some allow most decisions to be made by staff under delegation while others run most decisions past full council meetings.

The fundamental cornerstone of any planning regime in a democracy is transparency, public control and oversight, which will all be seriously compromised by the DAF proposal. Privatisation of the permit decision process for major proposals will be unregulated (as with the new “pre-certification” process) because to do otherwise would create more layers of bureaucracy than it would save.

DAF panels (unelected) would also make decisions partly on “technically excellent criteria” which can be subjective and may vary in different situations and over time (eg, the improved Rescode “north-facing windows” guideline).


As in most developed countries that protect their cultural and built heritage, local planning policies should be mandatory (heritage, built form and other overlays, etc). Councils spend a lot of effort developing these controls in conjunction with their local community, which is all wasted if they can be ignored at VCAT. Basic Rescode amenity standards are minima anyway and should also be mandatory to safeguard basic living and housing conditions. This won’t adversely affect most developers who already comply with these standards.

Secondly, VCAT should be restricted to assessing council process rather than re-hearing assessment applications. This would force Councils to improve their processes. Amended plans should not be permissible – this just encourages ambit claims. These changes would force developers to get it right first time and not waste taxpayers’ time and money coping with applications that don’t quite meet site limitations or local and state planning policies.

hese simple reforms, without any need for further policy development, would remove most ambit claims and speculative development from the system, freeing up Council time to consider and report on applications of merit. This would thus vastly improve VCAT congestion and Council approval times as well as decreasing the number of inappropriate planning applications and safeguarding the community from inappropriate development.

The Age Article (if it has been removed from their site) –
Councils may be stripped of permit power

* Royce Millar
July 18, 2007

LOCAL councils could be stripped of their power to approve or reject key development projects under a contentious scheme, now before the State Government, aimed at reducing costly delays.

Planning Minister Justin Madden has confirmed he is considering the model introduced by the South Australian Government, under which special panels dominated by unelected planning and design experts determine major planning applications.

The Australian Capital Territory and NSW are moving towards similar models proposed under a federal initiative known as the Development Assessment Forum.

Previous planning ministers Rob Hulls and Mary Delahunty baulked at reducing councillor planning powers, but Mr Madden — who is proving popular in development circles — is open to the idea.

“We are seeking more advice and information on the Development Assessment Forum system,” said Mr Madden, who was appointed Planning Minister in November.

While such a move would be strongly supported by industry groups including the Property Council and Planning Institute, it will be fought by councils and resident groups such as Save Our Suburbs.

“It is a denial of democracy,” Save Our Suburbs president Ian Quick said. “No matter how many problems we have with our local councils, we can at least vote them out.”

Property Council executive director Jennifer Cunich yesterday confirmed she had brought South Australian colleagues to Melbourne to help lobby Mr Madden.

South Australian councils initially opposed the system, implemented early this year, but now seem relaxed about it. “The early indication is that it’s working reasonably well,” Local Government Association of South Australia past president John Rich said. “There is now a more dispassionate look at the development process, which is good.”

But Municipal Association of Victoria president Dick Gross said last night there was no evidence that the South Australian model had reduced delays or costs. He said about 95 per cent of planning decisions were already made without the interference of elected councillors. And he believed communities wanted elected councillors to make decisions on the bigger, more sensitive projects.