Category Archives: State Politics

Candidate Survey – Victorian planning in crisis

Results from our Candidate Survey are now rushing in. The survey is live and candidates can respond until election day.

The survey provides a snapshot of planning and infrastructure issues across Victoria. Candidates across the state and across the political spectrum share our concern that we have a crisis in planning in Victoria.

The most important areas of reform nominated are:

  •  “Improved public transport network”
  • Governance to protect integrity and transparency”
  • Diverse and affordable housing”

Trend results showed:

  • Over 90% support political donations reform
  • Over 90% think that the Planning Minister should publish advice relied on and reasons for decisions
  • Over 95% say we need to improve transparency, accountability and integrity

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We need to talk about Planning – Survey of election candidates

Community groups across Victoria have joined together to survey candidates on the conduct and direction of Planning in Victoria.

The Survey was drafted by SOS with input and support from a wide range of groups. These include some of our smallest newest residents groups and also long standing state wide groups like Green Wedges, Protectors of Public Lands, Planning Backlash and the Public Transport Users Association.

The Survey asks about local issues and key issues of concern including:

  • The need for VCAT reform and better protection of local amenity
  • Whether we have a failure of independent, long term infrastructure planning
  • Failure to secure the Urban Growth Boundary and Green Wedges
  • Whether the increasing deregulation and privatisation of planning is in Victoria’s interest
  • Whether Victoria has ‘an inappropriate culture of undue influence and political opportunism’
  • Whether candidates support reform of political donations laws

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SOS eUpdate, 2014 Oct 4

SOS Members Planning Update – 4 October 2014

Read on for these hot topics

(1)The latest from Save Our Suburbs: SOS Candidates’ Survey for Election 2014

(2)Reminder – RACV Board Election – Last-minute call for RACV members to vote before this Tuesday Oct, 7th

(3)Reminder – The Great Population Debate, 5.30 – 7pm, October 13, Deakin Edge, Fed.Square 

(4)Rally – The Future of Public Transport in Victoria, Thurs 16 Oct. 12:45/1 pm start, Parliament steps

(5)East-West Link Updates: From campaigner Andrew Herington

(6)High-rise apartment design standards “coming”:

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SOS support for council legal challenge to EWL planning approval

In mid-July, SOS sent this urgent letter to Moonee Valley and Yarra City Councillors:

Save our Suburbs Inc. strongly opposes the East West Link proposal because of its potential damage to the fabric of inner city life, and because building more freeways attracts more traffic and soon creates more congestion than before. This is confirmed by Melbourne’s own experience with the Monash Freeway, the Westgate Bridge, etc. 

 But building rail links in parallel with freeways attracts commuters back to rail, lowers rail costs/head and frees up arterial roads for those who need to use them – trucks, commercial vehicles and multi-destination vehicles.  This is explained scientifically by the long-established Downs-Thompson Paradox: Continue reading

Key performance indicators omitted from Plan Melbourne

The pro-development focus and lack of transparency & accountability of the final version of Plan Melbourne (May 2014) shouldn’t be under-estimated.

 Under Direction 7.5: “Monitor Progress and Outcomes”, a number of important performance indicators previously included in the draft version have been left out of the final document. These were all vital parameters in measuring how well Plan Melbourne might achieve its goals. These missing Performance Measures include: Continue reading

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)

Are we getting movement on planning issues?

Despite Planning Minister Madden’s disregard for community consultation, there are some general signs that the planning approach promoted by SOS is starting to gain more official recognition.

The recent Local Government Policy Review has recommended a stronger role for local policies, and the Melbourne 2030 Audit Review (while it had terms of reference that were too narrow) is also likely to recommend some positive changes. Continue reading

STOP PRESS! VicSmart draft Bill before Parliament

Planning Minister Guy has introduced into Parliament the Planning and Environment Amendment (VicSmart Planning Assessment) Bill 2012. 

Download the text of the changes proposed by the Bill here

Download the explanatory version of the Bill here


Continuing to bolster the construction industry is not producing the degree of economic flow-on effect the government has hoped for.  Finance for many development proposals is harder to obtain and many proposals with permits remain unbuilt.  Land banking by large developemnt corporations is sustaining unaffordable house prices, the housing market remains flat and the population growth rate peaked in December 2008.

Consequently, this slowdown is the ideal time not to weaken planning controls but to strengthen them to ensure that appropriate development is channeled to appropriate locations in the long-term community interest, especially with the pressing need for development to be more sustainable in light of climate change, peak oil, transport congestion and other inadequate infrastructure.  

VicSmart is to apply only to minor proposals. This will have little effect on the efficiency of overall council assessments because simple cases are already assessed quite quickly once planners finish assessing prior complex applications in their in-tray. But introducing these changes now would legitimise a process that with minimal further modification could be applied later to more complex cases as well.
Denial of third party notification and appeal rights is undemocratic and counter-productive.  The majority of appeals currently clogging up the VCAT system are not lodged by resident objectors but by developers seeking to modify or anticipate Council decisions.  However, resident appeals have a provable benefit. VCAT statistics show that the majority result in extra conditions, with some proposals being refused altogether as unsuitable – both by definition better planning outcomes.  

Consequently, resident oversight is vital in curbing non-compliant proposals and helping ensure that council decisions are more consistent and more accurate (which is often not the case, as per the VAGO report of May 08).

However, while we are strongly in favour of third party rights, it is also unjust and inefficient that such an important area of law and business is reliant on random volunteer resident oversight to help improve probity, consistency and appropriate outcomes.  No other government sector works like this.

Clearly, more mandatory controls based on existing democratically-derived planning regulations is the simplest, quickest and best way to minimise delays and costs for all applications, not just minor proposals under simplified deregulated VicSmart criteria. Wider prescription of existing controls across the board would also eliminate ambit claims and guarantee better and more appropriate built outcomes.

Mandatory controls would also automatically mean far fewer appeals and fewer delays and costs for all parties.  However, the appeal avenue should remain open to both applicants and residents to deal with the few inevitable cases where due process was not properly followed by Council or where the decision was based on incorrect or incomplete information in the application – an oversight function necessary in any democracy.

Ostensibly the only ground of appeal for VicSmart cases would be failure by council to decide the application within the 10-day decision time, but it's not cost-effective now to appeal minor applications, so there will be little reduction in these sorts of appeals under VicSmart.

Existing loopholes are already exploited by unscrupulous developers. So it’s common sense not to rely on the naïve assumption that developers will provide accurate details with their VicSmart applications, especially since councils will be prevented from requiring further information and these applications will be assessed by non-planners.

Hence it is imperative that the Parliament resists these proposed changes.

Contact your local MP to warn them that this legislation is a potentially dangerous and unnecessary erosion of democratic rights which will reduce transparency and produce worse planning outcomes.  It will also set a precedent for future legislation dealing with more complex planning applications such as apartment blocks.

For further comment on VicSmart, see our media release on VicSmart from June 12.

State Government fails to tackle key planning problems

Save Our Suburbs MEDIA RELEASE,  15th May 2012

The Report of the Underwood planning advisory committee released last week fails to include specific recommendations to address the key deficits of the planning regime in Victoria

Instead the committee mostly just recommends reviews, which the government's response mostly agrees with, merely stating that the issue is noted or the process "is underway".

Despite general agreement by all parties on what ails Victoria's planning regime – lack of certainty, excessive delays – the Report and the Government's response fail to tackle the following key planning problems:

– No prescriptive reforms to the permit assessment process that would increase certainty for all parties and reduce costs and delays while producing better planning outcomes in the community interest

– No reform of the flawed VCAT process (a dysfunctional "expert witness" system, the bias and inconsistency of VCAT Member decisions, and the ability to introduce amended plans which just encourages ambit claims). The only specific action cited is an extra $1 million to cut VCAT waiting lists

– No desperately-needed review of the 25yr-old Planning Act, in particular to define and mandate sustainability principles in the face of climate change and peak oil

– No measures to address urban sprawl and prevent land banking by development corporations

– No tightening up of enforcement to get rid of the inefficient dual process of Magistrates Court for punitive orders and VCAT for compliance.

Residents will still have to adopt an oversight role in challenging applications due to the excessive and inappropriate discretion currently exercised by councils (as borne out by criticisms of council permit assessments by the Auditor-General in May 2008). 

This is an unsustainable, unfair and inefficient situation. The only sensible solution is to limit the exercise of discretion and make policies more prescriptive to ensure that the appropriate quality, type and level of development is directed to where it is needed. 

Code Assess may be more prescriptive but it will also simplify controls and remove residents appeal rights – but not those of developers. That's an admission that council decisions will still require oversight, so all parties still need the opportunity to be part of that process.

Finally, there is a desperate need for a comprehensive community consultation process that could underpin a bi-partisan approach to a new state & metro planning strategy, as the Grattan Institute reported last year has been done successfully in many comparable overseas cities. 

Modern deliberative community consultation methods can be used to educate community, industry and government representatives to be able to produce an informed and democratic strategic plan for Melbourne that would also have the support of the community.

But the online community consultation favoured by the Minister can't achieve that goal because it involves no education and deliberation of participants and makes no commitment to taking on board their views.  

Instead, the further cuts to red tape suggested will just deregulate planning even further, rather than clarifying and tightening controls to produce more appropriate planning outcomes.