My book The Victorian Planning System: Practice, Problems and Prospects is now available from Federation Press.
My book Movie Towns and Sitcom Suburbs is out now through Palgrave Macmillan.
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RCI Planning is my consultancy providing expert advice, VCAT advocacy and statutory planning services in the Victorian planning system.
Tag Archives: matthew guy
The changes currently proposed to the zones are extensive, covering all major categories of zone (residential, business / commercial, industrial, and rural) and involving multiple significant changes to each zone. The proposed reforms mix together changes that were contemplated under the previous government and the subject of considerable work (the “three-speed” residential zones) with others that have appeared with little foreshadowing (most of the others). Very little information or strategic justification has been provided with this package.
I am a keen proponent of planning system reform and in previous submissions to reviews and writing on system reform have prided myself on providing constructive criticism. Unfortunately the paucity of information makes it difficult to be positive or constructive about this review as the information provided gives a striking sense that these reforms have been rushed and poorly thought through. They also appear to involve policy shifts – notably a weakening of activity centre policy – that are inappropriate ahead of the completion of the Metropolitan Strategy.
Looking through the DPCD’s proposed new zones you can draw a number of conclusions about what the strategic beliefs underpinning them are, even where those beliefs aren’t really spelt out in the material released by DPCD (as I noted the other day, the material accompanying the review is a little thin, to put it mildly).
One of the underlying assumptions seems to be that we don’t need to worry about activity centres so much. The Minister has already moved to allow more kinds of big-box retail to move to industrial land outside of centres (which I talked about here and here); these new changes would allow small supermarkets and offices to join that exodus.
There isn’t a very clear statement in the material about where this leaves traditional activity centre policy. However, speaking to a regional paper, the Minister has given more idea of what his thinking on the issue is.
The above was Matthew Guy’s response yesterday morning to Michael Buxton’s opinion piece in The Age about the announcement of new zones.
Buxton’s article was perhaps a little extreme, if only because we lack the detail to confidently make some of these charges. But if people are leaping to assumptions, Guy needs to accept the blame for that, since he is the one who has decided to announce the zones without releasing any meaningful supporting information. And whatever arguments you might have with Buxton, this isn’t an appropriate way for the planning Minister to engage with legitimate criticism of his policies by one of the state’s leading planning academics.
Freedom from Information: My FOI Submission to get Release of the Residential Zones Advisory Committee Report
Sir Humphrey: How are things at the Campaign for the Freedom of Information, by the way?
Sir Arnold: Sorry, I can’t talk about that.
– Yes Minister, “Party Games”
Victorian planners will have seen the announcements about new zones this week. This is a big planning story and one I hope to write more about once the detail is available. But it also marked the conclusion of my own curious adventure through Victoria’s Freedom of Information procedures.
Through 2011 I had been thinking a bit about residential zones, and contemplating writing something for Planning News about how zones could better facilitate the rolling out of local housing solutions. My thinking had been that the focus on fast, medium and slow-growth zones, evident in the earlier discussion papers, was misplaced. For me the focus needed to be not so much about setting different “temperatures” of redevelopment, with all the political challenges that can involve, but instead being more specific about the forms preferred development should take.
As I thought about how such controls could work, I became increasingly frustrated that the Advisory Committee report on residential zones, finished in 2009, was not publicly available. This was, after all, the biggest single piece of work on the subject, and DPCD and the Minister had sitting on it for more than two years. I asked DPCD for it, but got the expected answer: they weren’t releasing it until the government’s response was ready.
This is an attitude to the release of information that has been getting more prevalent and which drives me crazy. It wouldn’t hurt anybody for such a report to be in the public realm while a response is being considered, as has occurred for numerous reviews in the past. So I lodged a Freedom of Information request seeking the Advisory Committee’s report.
I don’t have time for a detailed post about Matthew Guy’s extraordinary decision to tell DPCD to change its advice to him about the Ventnor rezoning. But then, who needs one? Thanks to the good work of the opposition and The Age, the facts are now out in the open, and they speak for themselves. You wonder why he couldn’t just disregard the advice, rather than seeking for it to be changed… But then this kind of stuff, like Madden’s Windsor debacle before it, defies explanation. As I said then, good governance would actually be the canny political strategy in these instances.
I did, however, want to make one quick point about Guy’s conduct here that I haven’t seen made anywhere else, and that’s the contrast between the approach of the state government versus local government in a situation such as this. At state government level, the Minister can direct the Department to change its advice and top bureaucrats will acquiesce. In considering how bad a piece of behaviour that is by the Minister, it is worth considering that if he had been a councillor in local government, his request would have been not just poor governance, but actually illegal.
Both Rupert Dance over at Plantastic and Designerific and Alan Davies at The Urbanist weighed in with good posts on Matthew Guy’s mooted mega-CBD. This got a big run in the Herald Sun first thing on the Friday before last, followed by a catch-up story later the same day by The Age. (The Herald Sun were obviously fed the scoop: perhaps The Age is being punished for its vigorous pursuit of Guy over the Ventnor rezoning).
Guy’s press release is here, and the map is reproduced below (click to see the original PDF). Oddly, there’s no explanation that I can find for the yellow blobs, though we can infer from their location that they’re industrial precincts. The DPCD website carried an almost comically non-committal story essentially just saying “Matthew Guy said some stuff: here’s a link,” so we can’t look to them for clarification.
I’m on crikey today – here – expanding on my thoughts from the other day about Matthew Guy’s Big Box retail reforms, and on Ministers forsaking planning merits in favour of quick political fixes.
There’s not much point editorialising about the proposed introduction of a user-pays fast-track system at VCAT (as reported in The Age today). The case against is pretty much self-evident, and well enough laid out by various parties in that story; and even those who support it will see it as a necessary evil, rather than the ideal way to resource the justice system. But I thought it was worth going back to what Matthew Guy said to Planning News about VCAT when we interviewed him, before the election.
Back when I was writing for Planning News, I wrote an editorial about Justin Madden’s handling of the Windsor Hotel debacle. My point then was that politicians are not well served by the over-manipulation of their communication, which ends up alienating the public and cutting politicians off from legitimate sources of feedback. It has therefore been great to see that the new Victorian Planning Minister Matthew Guy has kept up with his twitter account and is obviously writing the posts himself rather than letting a media person do it. So rather than the usual drip feed of press releases, Guy’s account is full of obviously self-generated content that a media adviser would have probably tried to talk him out of, such as salutes to Joh Bjelke-Petersen and amusingly childish baiting of Labor politicians. To his credit, too, he has been responding directly to various tweets sent to or about him. (Update – 19/1/2011: He has now protected his tweets. I can’t see them now so I have no idea whether he’s deleted them or not).
Neil Mitchell: I would take Bob Brown and put him in cage with the looters and scam artists and put him in a river .. he’s a dill
While a re-tweet isn’t necessarily an endorsement, there is no suggestion by Guy that he is posting it as, for example, an example of an unhelpful contribution to the debate. Where do we start with this?