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Tag Archives: planning in victoria
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.
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 consultation for the review of the new residential zones, announced back in July, is about half over. A great deal of mockery has been directed at the supporting information provided for us to consider: a ten page discussion paper and four double-sided fact sheets, available on the DPCD webpage. But what kind of strategic work underpinned previous reviews? Well, there are a few obvious comparisons.
Browsing the DPCD consultation page for the Metro strategy the other day, I noticed that they have set up a page on Melbourne’s strategic planning history. It provides valuable access to a range of strategic documents for download, right back to the 1929 plan for general development (although, frustratingly, technical limitations of DPCD’s website have apparently forced them to be broken up into multiple PDFs). It allowed me to fill some gaps in my own library, but also got me thinking about the possibility of sharing a much wider collection of Victorian planning documents.
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.
Credit where it’s due. When I commented on the proposed pay-for-speed initiatives at the major cases list at VCAT last September, I argued (as did pretty much everyone) that what was really needed was extra funding across the list. VCAT is in a bad way at the moment, clearly struggling to clear its cases in a timely manner: the persistent rumour is that they lack the money to put on the Sessional Members that are needed to deal with the Planning List. And now Matthew Guy has announced what amounts to an emergency funds injection, specific to planning:
The Victorian Coalition Government has committed $1 million to tackle the backlog of planning cases before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).
Announcing the initiative today, Planning Minister Matthew Guy said the funding would enable approximately 800 cases to be finalised and reduce the waiting list by up to six months.
Interestingly, the press release hints at looming twelve month waiting periods, which is even worse than the eight or nine months I’ve heard of:
“Eighty per cent of cases currently on the Planning and Environment List have been waiting at least six months to be heard, and without today’s initiative were likely to wait a further six months before a hearing date was confirmed,” Mr Guy said.
Whether it’s a year or eight or nine months, the waiting times are ridiculous and make a mockery out of the various “circuit-breaking” measures that exist to allow applicants to resolve disputes or move past an intransigent council. For example, there’s no point appealing a council failure to determine an application within 60 days when VCAT are likely to be slower than the council.