Report on the Heritage Protection Forum; Where to from here; Federal Elections; Australian Heritage Advocacy Alliance 2022 Campaign; Save Lake Knox; Brunswick - good and bad news; Submissions open for Melbourne Observatory Lighting Works; Wattle Park Update; Kilmore Land update; Queen Victoria Market update; Mt Eliza Village entry way; Elsternwick Structure Plan; Glenlyon; Hawthorn Institute of Education to become apartments; Sprawling cities are over-running global biodiversity; The battle for the sky; Skills shortages good friend to Aussi workers, Lord Mayor not so much; Coming events.
HERITAGE PROTECTION FORUM
The Heritage Protection Forum we held on Saturday 9 April at the Hawthorn Library was an outstanding success. It was attended by 50 representatives of resident action groups and supporters. The presentations and discussion were excellent. I will report on the key takeaway messages concerning heritage protection separately, but here are some of the issues and concerns that were raised:-
Ministerial “Call-ins” are too frequent, and last too long (eg Kew Cottages).
We need a specific Minister for Heritage.
There needs to be more and better resourcing for heritage protection work.
VCAT is too pro-developer and needs to be more independent. The abolition of the Planning Appeals Tribunal in the 1990s, with VCAT taking over planning, has been a failure.
Councils should be able to set mandatory height limits.
Demolitions should not occur without a Planning Permit having been issued for the replacement dwelling(s).
Good planning should be able to incorporate and build on heritage.
Local Heritage Overlays have lost their power. Putting a Design and Development Overlay on sites which already have a Heritage Overlay is an invitation to developers to demolish, and is at the heart of why the Corkman Hotel was bulldozed.
The Local Heritage Unit of Heritage Victoria should be restored, as should financial support to Councils to carry out heritage studies.
Heritage Protection of “World” Heritage and “National” Heritage is inadequate – see the Royal Exhibition Building and the Carlton Gardens.
Caulfield Racecourse – The State Government permitted $1/2 billion worth of work, without any apparent regard to heritage issues, leading to dozens of heritage trees being axed before a heritage protection order put a halt to it.
Keeping the façade – facadism – is not heritage protection. It is not how Europe protects and showcases its heritage.
Developers who illegally demolish should be made to rebuild the building, or lose development rights on the site.
Covenants are not properly enforced.
Melbourne’s rapid population growth gives developers the upper hand, and undermines heritage protection.
Heritage Victoria has only 2 enforcement officers, and is hopelessly under-resourced.
Queen Victoria Market is being managed by a private company with the City of Melbourne as its only shareholder. This leads to a gobsmacking lack of transparency, at the expense of heritage concerns. “At grade” carparking is essential to the Market’s viability as a Market, but is being undermined.
Property developer contributions to political parties and candidates corrupt the process and should be banned.
The Suburban Rail Loop has not had a proper business case, and is taking away planning power from Councils over large parcels of land.
Fines and penalties to stop illegal tree removal are inadequate, and need to be increased.
11 storey towers in Brunswick have been approved without regard to their impact on neighbouring parklands and residents.
There needs to be more support for traditional trades, skilled workers in heritage protection, and for the owners of heritage listed buildings.
My thanks to everyone who attended and contributed, and made the event such a success – in particular Clifford Hayes MP, Felicity Watson from the National Trust, Dr Charles Sowerwine from the Royal Historical Society of Victoria, and Dr Jackie Watts from the Australian Heritage Advocacy Alliance. Professor Michael Buxton was a late apology due to a death in the family, and I have extended our condolences to him and his family.
I have attached a Herald-Sun Report, which focusses on the issue of the adverse heritage impact of the Significant Investor Visa, and refers to the Forum.
HERITAGE PROTECTION – WHERE TO FROM HERE?
With the Legislative Committee Inquiry into planning and heritage protection being unfortunately parked, as I reported in Convenor’s Report No. 8, many people have asked me, where to from here?
The Heritage Protection Forum, and the high quality of many of the submissions to the Legislative Council Inquiry, provide plenty of guidance on the way forward. This being an election year, we need to take the opportunity to press MPs and candidates to commit to changing the rules – the present ones aren’t working.
As you can see from the Forum, there are many issues we could pursue, and indeed even the list above is not exhaustive. But I know from experience that MPs and candidates are time poor. For that matter, so too are journalists, resident action groups, and the general public. The simpler the message, the more likely it is to cut through (think “Stop the Boats” or “Build That Wall”).
That said, the things we ask for and campaign on need to be sufficiently substantial that they would make a difference if they were implemented. I suggest the following priority actions –
Ban political donations by property developers (as happens in New South Wales and Queensland).
Restore the integrity of the Heritage Overlay – no Design and Development Overlays where a Heritage Overlay is in place.
Take the planning appeals function off VCAT and establish a dedicated Planning Appeals Tribunal. Give Councils the power to set mandatory height limits.
Eliminate the distinction between “significant” and “contributory” heritage, by eliminating the expression “contributory”, and instead refer to “individual” or “precinct” heritage listings.
Remove money spent on housing from the calculations of entitlement to the Significant Investor Visa.
Restore the Local Heritage Unit of Heritage Victoria, and provide financial support to Councils for local heritage studies.
I hope you find this Plan useful. Of course, there is no obligation on anyone to follow this Plan word for word. One size does not fit all, and some groups may have different priorities.
That said, my experience is that citizens and groups have most success lobbying when we advance a common message, and have common asks. We are winning the battle when an MP or candidate says to their colleagues – “I am being lobbied a lot about heritage”, and is able to remember and repeat some or all of what we are asking for, and their colleague says “Yes, I am getting that too”.
The Federal Election has been called for 21 May. It is an opportunity for resident action groups to approach MPs and candidates and seek their support on the issues of concern to us.
While many of these issues can be dismissed by Federal MPs and candidates as State or local government matters, when I was an MP and candidate, I didn’t do that. I reasoned that voters were more likely to support me if I tried to help them. And Federal MPs do meet up regularly with their State and local counterparts, sitting next to them at Citizenship Ceremonies, Anzac Day events, political party Branch Meetings etc. Buttonholing Federal candidates and MPs is, in my view, not a waste of time.
If you do contact MPs and candidates, there are 3 areas you can consider raising. The first is the set of issues being championed by the Australian Heritage Advocacy Alliance. I will report on the Alliance in a moment; it is clearly Federally focussed.
The second concerns issues which are clearly in the Federal domain. Margaret O’Brien, of the Friends of the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens, has drawn to my attention a weakness in the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act. A reply she received recently from the Federal Environment Minister, said that it “remains the responsibility of the person proposing to take an action to refer their proposal if they believe there is likely to be a significant impact”. This is a classic ‘Dracula in charge of the blood bank’ conflict of interest. We need stronger use of the EPBC Act, either through amendment or enforcement, to protect World Heritage values.
Another issue is the way the Significant Investor Visa counts money spent by foreign applicants to demolish a house and build a new one, but not money spent buying an existing house. This is an incitement to buy and demolish, which the Royal Historical Society called out in its Legislative Council submission. Money spent on real estate should not be counted.
The third set of issues is the 6 point Heritage Protection Plan I have outlined. If you do visit or contact MPs and candidates, please let me know what responses you receive. This is a work in progress, and all feedback can be useful. If you want to know more about dos and don’ts in lobbying MPs and candidates, feel free to give me a ring or send me an email.
AUSTRALIAN HERITAGE ADVOCACY ALLIANCE
The Australian Heritage Advocacy Alliance 2022 Campaign is up and running. It has developed a federal election strategy to raise awareness that the current heritage asset preservation policies are failing. It invites supporters to email examples of heritage assets either lost or under threat to [email protected]. For further information contact Dr Jackie Watts OAM at [email protected], or go to the AHAA website – see #solutions">https://ahaa.net.au/analysis-and-solutions/#solutions, or https://ahaa.net.au/heritage-lost-threatened/.
Ian Royall from the Herald-Sun has reported on the Alliance, with quotes from Jackie and myself, and the report is attached.
The need for action to better safeguard heritage has been underscored by two recent examples brought to my attention by Brighton residents. Florence Court (circa 1888) is an outstanding cultural, historical and architecturally significant Victorian residence. It has a Heritage Overlay and a National Trust classification. None of this has prevented approval being granted by VCAT for the demolition of significant heritage features and the construction of a “shipping container” second storey addition.
Residents have also noted the demolition of 2 beautiful old houses at 52 Black St and 10 Male St, which should have had heritage overlays, to be replaced by blocks of flats.
SAVE LAKE KNOX
On Sunday 3 April I represented Planning Democracy at a Rally to Save Lake Knox. Lake Knox is a wetland with a wealth of waterbird life, including the endangered Blue-billed Duck. I could see the Blue-bills from the adjacent path. Incredibly, Development Victoria has proposed to Knox Council that Lake Knox be drained to facilitate a large housing development! Lake Knox is an artificial lake, but so for that matter are Queens Park, Coburg Lake, and the lake in the Botanical Gardens, and no-one ever proposes that they be paved over for housing.
The rally was very well attended, and speakers included Clifford Hayes MP, and local MP Nick Wakeling, as well as local environmental experts.
One of the event organisers, Anthony Bigelow, says Development Victoria, a government agency, has deliberately or ignorantly failed to comply with a range of legal environmental obligations. He asks if anyone else has had this kind of experience. So, readers, over to you – if anyone has had experience of dealing with Development Victoria, please let me know, and I will pass it on to Anthony.
BRUNSWICK – GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS.
The good news from Brunswick is that VCAT has rejected Bunnings application for a megastore at 145 Glenlyon Road Brunswick. Locating a major warehouse and timber yard close to the intersection of Lygon St and Glenlyon Rd would have created a traffic nightmare, and the VCAT decision recognises this. It might come in handy for resident action groups opposing large developments due to their additional traffic congestion. Congratulations to the Brunswick residents who have campaigned long and hard to have their voices heard.
The bad news is that VCAT has approved an 11 storey tower on the edge of the Brunswick Central Parklands. VCAT has permitted Mirvac to build 500 Build-to-Rent apartments, ignoring the 1400 plus residents who objected to the tower. “Scale it down – Protect Brunswick Parks” came together in 2021 to protest applications by property developers Stockland and Mirvac to build two 9-storey towers at 429 Albert Street, and two 11 storey towers at 395 Albert Street.
These towers, if built, will overshadow, divide, and adversely impact on Clifton and Gilpin Parks. They will create an appalling precedent for tower sizes in Brunswick and beyond. I am meeting shortly with “Scale it Down” residents to discuss what action is possible from here.
SUBMISSIONS OPEN FOR MELBOURNE OBSERVATORY LIGHTING WORKS
Submissions remain open until next Tuesday 19 April for comment to Heritage Victoria about Permit P34916 for the installation of lighting and bollards at the Melbourne Observatory, Birdwood Avenue. Melbourne Observatory is a highly significant cultural heritage place, on both the National Heritage List and the State Heritage Register. Submissions should be sent to [email protected] or posted to Heritage Victoria, PO Box 500, Melbourne, Vic 8002. Further information is in an Attachment.
WATTLE PARK UPDATE
Parks Victoria has released its Wattle Park Master Plan for comment. Meanwhile the National Trust has joined with local residents in expressing concern to Heritage Victoria about Parks Victoria’s plans. It has written to Heritage Victoria to say that additional lighting in Wattle Park could have adverse ecological impacts, and impact on the heritage values of the Park. The Trust notes that the Masterplan and Conservation Management Plans have not been completed. It says that the planned works should not be done until the Conservation Management Plan and Masterplan are done. It also expresses concern that the proposed construction of a new playscape, and upgrades to the picnic area, do not address the conservation or incorporation of the existing tram body picnic shelters.
Residents continue to oppose the removal of 17 trees, excessive night lighting, and the prospect of damage to over 450 trees for path works, and the heritage Lone Pine.
KILMORE LAND UPDATE
The Public Hearings have concluded concerning the Kilmore Racing Club’s application to rezone land at East Street. The Panel Member has 20 days to prepare his report. Once the Report is given to Council, Council is required to consider the recommendations. Council could adopt them, or not.
I have attached a local media report from the North Central Review about this issue, which includes quotes from me querying the way some of this land has been transferred from public to private ownership.
QUEEN VICTORIA MARKET UPDATE
Here is a photo of a 7 Eleven on the Queen Victoria Market Carpark, put there as part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. Traders fear it is part of a creeping corporatisation of the Market, at the expense of its cultural heritage. “At grade” carparking remains fundamental to the viability of the Market as a Market.
11. MOUNT ELIZA VILLAGE ENTRY WAY
The South-Eastern Centre for Sustainability has contacted Minister Jacinta Allan concerning the future of 1 Mt Eliza Way, located at the corner of Mount Eliza Way and Nepean Highway. The Department of Transport owns the site, but is seeking to sell it. The site is at the gateway to Mount Eliza. Community members believe the site should remain in public hands, and not become a residential development, both for road safety reasons and for environmental reasons.
The State Government could withdraw the site from sale, or negotiate with the local Council to have this gateway retained for public purposes.
ELSTERNWICK STRUCTURE PLAN
Local residents are concerned about Glen Eira Planning Scheme Amendment C228. The amendment purports “To conserve and enhance those buildings, areas or other places which are of scientific, aesthetic, architectural or historical interest, or otherwise of special cultural value. The amendment supports the protection of heritage and neighbourhood character values in commercial and residential areas in the three activity centres”.
But residents say the amendment does nothing of the sort – that in fact it is about allowing more development in activity centres and extending discretionary height restrictions.
It was Gough Whitlam who said that the sport of rowing was a good preparation for politics – you were trained to face in one direction while heading in another!
Overdevelopment is not just a city problem. The Glenlyon District News carries a message from the Hepburn Shire Mayor in answer to a question that “Unfortunately, there is no ability to place moratoriums on development proposals in the Victorian Planning system”. Therefore, decisions regarding development in Glenlyon will continue to be made under the present scheme, until the Glenlyon Structure Plan is in place.
It also carries the sobering message that buyers of rural land at Glenlyon carry the risk that Council will assess their proposed dwellings as being high risk to groundwater quality. Developers and real estate agents can go for it, but buyers should beware.
HAWTHORN INSTITUTE OF EDUCATION TO BECOME APARTMENTS
Now Australia never has a problem with skill shortages, do we? So, no need to worry that the Hawthorn Institute of Education, which amalgamated with the University of Melbourne in 1996, and was closed by the University in 2016 as “surplus to requirements”, has now been sold to property developer Hampton.
Hampton plans to develop 300 apartments on the 1.62 hectare site, with an end value of $400 million.
Why stop there? Perhaps our Universities could turn all their campuses into apartments – it would likely be very lucrative, and enable our Vice-Chancellors to keep paying themselves more than the Prime Minister, and more than the Vice-Chancellors of Oxford and Cambridge. And why not develop the site yourself, and cut out the property developer middleman? After all, Universities have become migration agencies, so it’s not such a big step to become property developers.
SPRAWLING CITIES ARE OVER-RUNNING GLOBAL BIODIVERSITY
Professor Bill Laurance and Jayden Engert have just produced a paper finding that “One of the most important demographic events of the past half-century is the dramatic growth of urban areas worldwide”. Growing cities, they say, tend to engulf and devour their surrounding lands, often at the expense of biodiversity. Burgeoning cities are a very serious driver of biodiversity decline, comparable with the impacts of agriculture and forestry.
The global proliferation of cities is being driven by two things. First, population growth. Earth’s population has risen 5 fold since the beginning of the 19th century, and will continue to grow apace this century. Second, the proportion of city-dwellers is growing. More than half the global population now resides in cities, and that is expected to increase to two-thirds by 2050. Urban areas will double to triple in global extent between now and 2050.
THE BATTLE FOR THE SKY
Anne Heath Mennell has sent me a report by the London Garden Museum about their campaign to save access to London’s sunlight. They were contesting an application by a property developer to build luxury flats up to 26 storeys high in the heart of Lambeth Village. The flats would have cast the interiors of the adjacent social housing into an unacceptable level of gloominess.
During that battle they found out that current guidelines only require a park to have 2 hours of sunshine a day, as measured on 21 March. In other words, a park can be in shadow, or darkness, for 22 hours per day. The Greater London Authority is seeking to make this 2 hour rule official policy!
The Garden Museum seeks to increase the two hours to six, for the playgrounds, parks and wildlife reserves of London, for the benefit of its people, plants and pollinators. They say it is a battle for the sky. They say that every time a new skyscraper is built, a piece of the sky is sold forever. London is getting darker. For ever.
They point out that sunlight is essential for health. Vitamin D deficiency is a big issue in London. And people instinctively gravitate towards sunlight. Shaded areas attract fewer people. It becomes a vicious circle. If an area doesn’t look safe because people don’t go there, this becomes a deterrent to using it.
Sunlight is also important for the vegetation in the parks to thrive. Many species do not do well in full shade. The full report is called The City That Sold The Sun, and you might well find the evidence in it relevant to your battles to stop high rise towers.
SKILLS SHORTAGES GOOD FRIEND TO AUSSIE WORKERS, LORD MAYOR NOT SO MUCH.
The Australian Financial Review reports a survey of 300 hiring managers finding that over 80% were now likely to invest in training and upskilling to help mitigate skill shortages. Large consultancy firms are dramatically expanding their graduate programs, and entering into partnerships with universities. Deloitte will hire more than 1300 graduates this year and PwC has opened an Adelaide-based skilled services office that aims to create 2000 jobs over the next 5 years. As Macrobusiness, who has reported on this, says, what’s not to like?
The same can’t be said of Melbourne’s Lord Mayor, Sally Capp, who has been lobbying the Federal Government to give unlimited post-study work visas and then permanent residence to international students who study at an Australian university. This stands the whole purpose of education on its head. Instead of enabling young Australians to gain skills and find secure jobs, universities end up being the agents of job insecurity, casualisation, and falling real wages. The Lord Mayor’s former employer, the Property Council, is even asking the Victorian Government to offer $15,000 grants to anyone who relocates from interstate or overseas! So Victorian taxpayers are now going to pay people to come here?
Saturday 16 April 10am to 3pm. RIPPONLEA ESTATE EASTER SATURDAY MARKET DAY. Activities for children, gold coin donation. To register your attendance, go to the National Trust website.
Monday 18 April to Monday 2 May. 2022 AUSTRALIAN HERITAGE FESTIVAL. For information about the program, see the National Trust website.
Friday 22 April 7pm to 8.45 pm. WATTLE PARK NIGHT SKY TOUR, at Wattle Park. This is a free “Walk in St Kilda Rd. & Environs” nature care heritage event. Wattle Park is proposed to be nominated as an Urban Dark Sky site. Bookings are required.
Saturday 23 April 10am to 2pm. ELECTRIC VEHICLE FESTIVAL, 62 Pascoe Vale Road Moonee Ponds, opposite the Civic Centre. Presented by Moonee Valley Sustainability and Electrify Moonee Valley. For more information contact [email protected]
Sunday 24 April 12.15 to 3.30pm. A TREE FOR GALLIPOLI – MOVE THE HOUSE. Planting of 51 trees, including a descendant of the original Lone Pine, at the corner of Lorne Street and Sahara Way, adjacent to the Merri Creek, Fawkner. Anzac Day event, sausage sizzle included.
Anonymous (not verified)
Sun, 2022-05-22 08:45
Big Population pressure ignored by Lib/Lab/Greens in election 22