The Circle of Life: Plan Melbourne, Zones, and Notice Rights

Zones

The big planning story of the last few weeks has been the release of the draft new metropolitan strategy, Plan Melbourne. I don’t yet have any detailed comments to make on the plan itself, as I haven’t had a chance to look through it in detail. However I did want to highlight one aspect of the plan relating to notice rights around housing, as it closely relates to a few things I’ve written about before here (namely the new zones and VicSmart). This is something that I know has been widely discussed in the industry, but I haven’t seen an informed version of the discussion in the wider press. I also thought it would be worth covering just to spell out some of the chapter and verse of what has previously been said on this topic, since a fair few of the relevant documents are either hard to find or simply no longer available through the Department’s website.

On the day that the strategy was released, there was a fair bit of publicity about proposed exemptions from notice and review for medium and higher density housing. This is an important issue because it relates to the roll-out of the new zones that is happening as we speak: the government launched new residential zones in July, and Councils have a year to choose where to apply them. Any change in how they are to work is therefore an urgent issue, which potentially needs to be resolved much sooner than the metropolitan strategy.

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The Wrong Idea Not Implemented Properly (Submission on VicSmart)

Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius!

This is my submission to the recent VicSmart review (with a few minor corrections). Obviously it is partly based on my Planning News article “Breaking the Land Speed Record in an Engineless Car,” but it is considerably expanded.

Introduction

The new VicSmart provisions are the culmination of a long push towards implementing two closely related reforms: Code a\Assessment and a fast-track permit process. These ideas have been central to the planning reform agenda of DTPLI and its predecessors for some time. It is seven years since Code Assessment was put on the reform agenda by the Cutting Red Tape in Planning report, and ten since Better Decisions Faster floated a “short permit process.”

Throughout this period there has been a lack of clarity about how code assess and a short permit process would work. These measure have been sold in reviews such as the Modernising Victoria’s Planning Act work by floating a false idea that the system currently operates on a one-size-fits-all model. This is not the case, as myself and many other submitters to previous reviews have pointed out. The system currently includes various systemic measures to fast-track simple matters (permit exemptions, notice exemptions and the like) and Councils routinely employ streaming measures of various degrees of sophistication.

The confusion on such points, and the lack of focus throughout the refinement of Code Assessment on drafting specific codes to use with the system, has now led to a seriously compromised fast-track process. The proposed VicSmart measures show a poor understanding of the distinctive challenges of simple / fast-track statutory planning work. They create unreasonable demands on Councils while not providing Councils the tools that will be genuinely helpful in pursuing applications more quickly. Instead they create additional complexity that will actually hinder existing successful fast-track measures.

VicSmart as currently released will be counterproductive. It should be abandoned in favour of more genuinely facilitative measures.

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Links for my Talk Tonight

Hill Valley

I am talking tonight at Loop, and this post should appear by the magic of WordPress as I’m speaking. I thought it may be worth providing links to a few of the pieces of writing that explore things I touch on in my presentation.

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Breaking the Land Speed Record in an Engineless Car: The Challenge of VicSmart

Neil with his pedal car

This post was originally written for the August 2013 issue of Planning News and hence was a bit constrained for length. My full submission, with quite a bit more detail, is here.

The new VicSmart provisions, announced during July and currently open for comment, are the culmination of a long push towards implementing two closely related reforms: code assessment and a fast-track permit process. These ideas have been central to the planning reform agenda of DTPLI and its predecessors for some time. August marks seven years since code assessment was put on the reform agenda by the Cutting Red Tape in Planning report, and ten since Better Decision Faster floated a “short permit process.”

Throughout that time the measures have been sold in terms that make them hard to argue with. Certainty! Speed! Efficiency! Yet in the absence of the specifics it has been unclear how the Department would resolve the challenges to realising such a best of all-possible-worlds outcome.

Now, with the release of draft provisions, we have our answers. VicSmart is code assessment… only without any codes. And Councils are expected to drive this engineless car very fast indeed.

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I’m an Event!

All I Desire

For anyone who is interested in hearing more about my PhD research, I will be discussing it at Loop Bar in Meyers Place, Melbourne, on 25 July. Details about how to book at this link, although oddly it doesn’t mention the price ($20 for PIA or WPN members, $25 otherwise). (Update: here’s a proper flyer).

The write up of my talk is as follows:

How do the media’s depictions of cities and towns inform the way in which we would like to live? And what happens if we try to build the media ideal?

In the 1940s Hollywood movies such as It’s a Wonderful Life depicted the ideal small town; in the 1950s TV shows such as Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best painted a similarly idyllic picture of suburban life. Such imagery helped to market the new postwar era of suburban prosperity; but they were also a source of discontent as people grappled with the reality of dispersed, centreless, car-oriented suburbs and found them wanting compared to media imagery. Are Hollywood’s fictitious communities an impossible fantasy? Or are they a cultural memory of aspects of community that we left behind in the postwar era?

This presentation will trace the evolution of such images of community in post-war Hollywood films and television, and look at attempts by planners and developers to build places that live up to that imagery. It will draw on fictional examples from the 1940s through to more recent productions such as the The Truman Show, Pleasantville and Mad Men, as well as a photographic tour through built environments such as studio backlots, the New Urbanist town of Seaside, and the Disney-built town of Celebration.

It will be a multimedia extravaganza, so come along. The booking link again: here.

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World War CG

World War Z

Max Brooks’ novel World War Z is a faux-documentary account of a zombie apocalypse, comprising a series of first-person accounts from around the globe as the undead take over. It essentially tries to game out the zombie apocalypse: if such an outbreak really occurred, using the rules we saw in George Romero’s classics, how it would actually play out? Could humans survive? And if so, how?

It’s an intriguing book, and its single-mindedness in thinking through its scenario to logical conclusions has justly made it a classic of the zombie niche. Yet it presents some obvious problems as a basis for a film narrative, and especially a big summer blockbuster. It lacks a central protagonist (the witness accounts are told to a central investigator character, but he’s essentially a passive, off-screen narrator). Its events take place over a decade, and in disparate locations. And it involves such massive, large-scale carnage that it presents budgetary problems for any adaptation. At the same time, those things that make it challenging to adapt are also much the same things that offer a point of difference from the glut of other zombie properties on the market (the 28 Days films, Romero’s Dead films, the Zack Snyder Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, TV’s Walking Dead, and all the rest).

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Miniature Melbourne (Updated with Disaster Footage)


With my dual focus on film and urban planning I couldn’t resist this great short film by Melbournian Nathan Kaso using tilt-shift effects to give the illusion of Melbourne as a giant train set (or possibly a more functional version of the newest SimCity). While I know applications like Instagram have made tilt-shift overly familiar as a creative device, there’s a big difference between using it well and using it badly. Kaso knows how to use it well, with an excellent choice of subjects, time-lapse to enhace the toy-like effect, and very evocative use of sound and music.

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Planning for Melbourne’s Future (60 Years On)

Magnus

The consultation period for the review of the Melbourne metropolitan strategy has just finished. I didn’t make a submission and haven’t really had much to say on the topic. This is despite my usual boundless enthusiasm for getting wound up by planning reform measures, and the fact that this seems to be the biggest thing on the planning agenda: certainly it seems to be the last well-resourced thing left happening at the increasingly besieged DPCD.

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3.14159 out of 4 Stars

Life of Pi (Ang Lee, 2012)

Life of Pi

Ang Lee’s Life of Pi is one of the most visually beautiful movies I have seen. So was his Brokeback Mountain. But here’s the thing: the two films are beautiful in totally different ways. Lee is such a strong and versatile director that he seemingly reinvents himself for each movie; you could love every one of his movies but still not consider him as your favourite director, because he’s like a different one each time.

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Let the Sky Fall

Skyfall (Sam Mendes, 2012)

Sam Mendes’ Skyfall is an unusual Bond outing. It follows closely on from its predecessors Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, continuing their rebooted take on James Bond. Yet at the same time it reaches back to before the reboot, reinstating many elements of the older series. And even as it attempts to knit together the old and new Bond, in key ways it is unlike any of the previous entries.

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