This report includes: Legislative Council Planning and Heritage Inquiry; Australian Heritage Advocacy Alliance Federal election strategy; Royal Exhibition Building, Carlton Gardens, and St Vincent's Hospital; Concerned Residents of Whitehorse Action Group (CROWAG) – Tree canopy cover; Blackburn Village Residents' Group - Tree Canopy cover; Landscape Plans and potential legal protection for trees within; Liddiard Street Hawthorn multistorey carpark; Kilmore land rezoning; Wattle Park - Artificial lighting; Port Gellibrand, Williamstown; Western Highway Campaign; Protecting Westernport's environment; Caulfield Racecourse redevelopment; Planning Rights lost in North Melbourne; Community win in Queensland; A million cubic metres of concrete for North East Link; Residents 3000 monthly update for February; Myth of the Centralised Urban Economy; Nature's Medicine; Third Runway project and 2002 Master plan; Save Water Melbourne - Our population is doubling; National Trust Summer Discovery Trail; Zoos Victoria.
LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL PLANNING AND HERITAGE INQUIRY SUBMISSIONS.
As I have previously reported, the Victorian Legislative Council’s Environment and Planning Committee is conducting an “Inquiry into the Protections within the Victorian Planning Framework”. I made a submission on behalf of Planning Democracy, and attached it to Report No. 5; I am pleased that a number of our supporters made use of it in preparing their own submissions.
Submissions closed on 31 January. A number of groups have provided me with a copy of their submissions and they are great. I am attaching them, or links to them – they are well worth a read. The submission from the Royal Historical Societies of Victoria is a beauty, and there is also a lot of excellent material in the submissions from the Friends of Queen Victoria Market, the Surrey Hills and Mont Albert Progress Association, the Kew Cottages Coalition, Walk in St Kilda and Environs, and Sheila Newman.
You are of course entitled to query the importance of Parliamentary Inquiries. I know better than most that many of their reports gather dust on a bookshelf. However, I think this inquiry is a great opportunity for us to look beyond our own local battles, and reflect on what changes can be made to give us a fairer chance to have our voices heard, and level the playing field. The proposals in these submissions enable us to concentrate and sharpen our thoughts, and learn from the experience and wisdom of others.
They are a great springboard for us to campaign, first, to get the Legislative Council Committee itself to put forward solid, useful proposals for change. Secondly, in a year in which there will be both Federal and State elections, we can seek commitments from candidates for public office to support and implement these reforms.
AUSTRALIAN HERITAGE ADVOCACY ALLIANCE FEDERAL ELECTION STRATEGY
Jackie Watts OAM has sent me the following advice from the Australian Heritage Advocacy Alliance –
The Australian Heritage Advocacy Alliance (AHAA) is an “alliance” of those for whom heritage really matters. Heritage assets, shared by all citizens, have immense value – cultural, environmental, economic and social. All over Australia, irreplaceable heritage assets continue to be squandered or are in jeopardy. Currently there is no effective national heritage policy to preserve, manage and adequately fund Australia’s national heritage assets. Nor is there reference to national heritage on any political agenda.
The 2022 federal election presents a critical opportunity for all heritage stakeholders and enthusiasts to rectify this deficit. The AHAA Federal Election Campaign Strategy will raise awareness among all candidates about national heritage asset issues, heritage policy deficiencies, heritage losses, threats – and importantly propose workable solutions to the national heritage disgrace.
AHAA is determined to ensure that heritage is firmly on the policy agenda of all political parties and on the personal radar of all candidates standing in the 151 electorates across the nation.
The AHAA website will soon be operational. Until then anyone who wishes to join or support or obtain further information about this campaign should email [email protected].
ROYAL EXHIBITION BUILDING, CARLTON GARDENS AND ST. VINCENTS HOSPITAL
The Australian Heritage Advocacy Alliance concern that heritage is not being taken seriously at a national level is underscored by the latest developments concerning the World Heritage Listed Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens. I reported last time on the submissions from the Friends of Royal Exhibition Building (FREBCG) (Margaret O’Brien) and Protectors of Public Lands (PPL) (Fiona Bell) concerning the plans by St Vincents Hospital for the corner of Victoria Parade and Nicholson Street Fitzroy. They urged the Federal Environment Minister to decide that the development was a “controlled action” and could not proceed as proposed. I followed this up with a submission on behalf of Planning Democracy in similar terms.
Unfortunately, the Federal Environment Department has now determined that the proposed action is not a controlled action. This is regrettable, because, in the words of FREBCG, the proposed Aikenhead Centre, at almost 60 metres high, “unashamedly competes with the REB for prominence and dominance”. Furthermore, the heritage significant Brenan Hall should not be lost, but rather integrated into the new building design.
CONCERNED RESIDENTS OF WHITEHORSE ACTION GROUP (CROWAG) – TREE CANOPY COVER
Recently I met with Ross Gillespie and David Morrison from the Concerned Residents of Whitehorse Action Group (CROWAG). CROWAG is an umbrella group made up of Whitehorse resident groups and individuals. We discussed our shared concern about the loss of public open space and tree canopy cover. They gave me a number of thoughtful suggestions about how things could be improved.
For example, they want the City of Whitehorse to make their “Urban Forest Strategy” a reference document in Council’s planning scheme. Councils are preparing urban forest strategies and tree canopy documents, which is good, but they lack teeth. Putting them in the planning scheme would see them taken more seriously by Council and by VCAT. They also suggested “Green Notices” – notices which a developer must show on the property fence which indicate what trees or vegetation are allowed to be removed, and what vegetation is required to be planted and maintained. That way residents could readily see whether developers are complying with their vegetation permit obligations.
After our meeting I was thinking that it would be good if Councils all did an annual “State of the Tree Canopy” Report, including both public and private land. Increasingly the technology is available to make this is a practical option. It would help residents hold Councils accountable for delivering on their promises to maintain and increase tree canopy cover. Perhaps some Councils do this already; please let me know if your Council has a regular Tree Canopy Cover report.
BLACKBURN VILLAGE RESIDENTS GROUP – TREE CANOPY COVER
The Blackburn Village Residents Group is also concerned about protecting tree canopy cover in Whitehorse. Their President Mike Taafe tells me that one of their prime objectives is to save the bush environment of Significant Landscape Overlays 1 and 2 in Blackburn, as well as other Significant Landscape Overlays in Whitehorse, such as SLO 6 in Forest Hill.
The Significant Landscape Overlays have good intentions, such as retaining the dominance of vegetation cover in keeping with the bush character environment, maintaining a tree-dominated landscape, and having the larger rear setbacks accommodate substantial vegetation, including large canopy trees. However, the Overlays are under constant pressure from applications which don’t meet these objectives.
The Blackburn Village Residents Group would like to work with other like-minded groups and people to better protect tree canopy cover. Anyone interested in doing this can contact Mike at [email protected].
Martin Ryan has drawn to my attention one way of protecting trees on private land, which may not be widely known. Many Councils have the ability to require applicants/developers to draw up Landscape Plans and make them part of a planning permit. My understanding is that the circumstances in which they do this varies from Council to Council.
But it is noteworthy that where a tree or trees have been included in a Landscape Plan which forms part of a permit, that they then have legal protection. Councils have to investigate complaints about non-compliance with Landscape Plans in the same way they are required to investigate other breaches of regulations and by-laws. And the matter can be appealed to VCAT. Plantings must not only be planted, but must also be maintained.
It appears that Councils don’t commonly refer to the issue of Landscape Plans when discussing restrictions on removing trees from private land, but they should be encouraged to.
LIDDIARD STREET HAWTHORN MULTISTOREY CARPARK
I have been contacted by Nance Frawley, one of a large number of Hawthorn residents concerned about a proposal to massively increase car parking spaces at Glenferrie Station with a multi-storey development catering for around 490 spaces, over 350 more than exist at present.
Residents are concerned that the proposal represents an overdevelopment of the site, that it will attract traffic to the surrounding streets and increase, rather than reduce, traffic congestion, that it has not taken into account changing transport patterns in the wake of the pandemic and the working from home phenomenon, and that consultation with local residents has been inadequate. The proposal includes a $15 million grant from the Australian Government as part of the Urban Congestion Fund, and may represent a waste of taxpayers’ money.
It would appear that the Boroondara Council, which owns the carpark, should put the proposal on hold, and do some further investigation and consultation.
KILMORE LAND REZONING
The Kilmore and District Residents and Ratepayers Association (KADRRA) advised the Mitchell Shire and Planning Panels Victoria that they oppose the rezoning of East Street land to housing, on the grounds that it has no strategic support, that it is contrary to the strategic policy for the land and is contrary to the Kilmore Structure Plan. As to the south parcel that is reserved for municipal purposes, the re-zoning is premature and should not proceed prior to the determination of the question of whether the reserve status should be removed.
Following a Directions Hearing on 2 February, the Planning Panel has required Council to circulate certain documents requested by KADRRA. Submissions are to be circulated later in February, and the Hearing commences on 1 March.
The KADRRA has a GoFundMe page to help them cover the legal expenses they are incurring through the Panel process.
WATTLE PARK – ARTIFICIAL LIGHTING
Barry Clark Ph.D has submitted a paper to the Victorian Heritage Permits Team titled “Adverse Consequences of Installing More and Brighter Lighting at Wattle Park”. This relates to the proposed artificial lighting as part of $4.3 m works proposed for Wattle Park.
Dr Clark supports the City of Melbourne designation of Royal Park as a “dark park”, meaning it is typically not illuminated by on-site fixtures, for social, environmental, scientific, and economic reasons. He believes a similar approach should be taken to Wattle Park.
He notes that the increasing scientific evidence is that artificial light at night (ALAN) adversely affects living things, not just nocturnal animals. It appears to be contributing to the ongoing world-wide loss of insect populations. ALAN is also a risk for cancer and other diseases. Dr. Clark says that there is no reliable scientific evidence that lighting facilitates safety and security, or reduces actual crime. He recommends that the size of Wattle Park and its existing low level of ambient light at night mean that it should be treated as an A2 Environmental Zone for the purposes of lighting.
Hopefully the Heritage Permits Team will take notice of this considered research.
PORT GELLIBRAND, WILLIAMSTOWN
For 11 years Save Williamstown fought plans for inappropriate development in Port Gellibrand, Williamstown. Charmian Gaud, local activist, tells me their experiences could be helpful to others involved in heritage protection campaigning. They weren’t able to get VCAT to appreciate that Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Plans should relate to the waterfront of the 1830s, which was clearly mapped, rather than 2005. They also had experience of the proposed residential use of land adjacent to Major Hazard Facilities, and the need for better protections for existing and prospective residents. Charmian has also noted that developer engaged expert witnesses share professional memberships with VCAT members.
Lots of relevant material in there for the Legislative Council Committee Inquiry.
WESTERN HIGHWAY CAMPAIGN
Another campaigner who has been there for the long haul is MairiAnne Mackenzie, a farmer on a property near Ararat who has closely observed the progressive widening of the Western Highway. She has been campaigning against the expansion of the highway between Buangor and Ararat. She writes, in a recent article in thefifthestate.com.au, that we are prone to over-estimating the benefits of new infrastructure, and under-estimating the costs.
The 12 kilometre Buangor to Ararat section will shave a miniscule 22.4 seconds off the present travel time. The claimed benefits for traveller safety have not eventuated in other sections of the road which have been expanded. This may well be due to motorists feeling safer on the faster road, and being less cautious, or the greater death and injury toll from higher speed collisions.
The proposed expansion is not justified by travel volumes, nor by economic benefits, which are negative due to the project’s high cost.
On the other hand, losses from increased greenhouse gas emissions, habitat destruction, and damage to aboriginal cultural heritage, have been under-valued, but are highly significant. MairiAnne observes that our energy use is too lavish, and that this will not be simply addressed by greater energy efficiency or renewable energy, which lead to their own environmental impacts.
PROTECTING WESTERN PORT’S ENVIRONMENT
Neil Daly is one of the community campaigners who successfully headed off the AGL plan for a gas import terminal at Crib Point. But given the monotonous regularity of plans to industrialise Western Port, Neil believes the region needs a Strategic Management Plan that would govern future development and protect its highly significant but fragile environment.
Recently he had an Opinion Piece concerning this published in the Bass Coast Post. I am attaching it for your information. He would welcome people who are interested in the future of Western Port making contact with him; his email is [email protected].
CAULFIELD RACECOURSE REDEVELOPMENT
100-year-old trees at Caulfield Racecourse were destroyed in January as part of the Caulfield Racecourse redevelopment. A Christmas Eve amendment by Planning Minister Wynne over-ruled heritage and Council controls on the redevelopment of the racetrack and surrounding area. 42 trees were destroyed, but work stopped after Heritage Victoria issued an interim protection order. Glen Eira Council has also protested about the destruction.
PLANNING RIGHTS LOST IN NORTH MELBOURNE
Local resident Kaye Oddie and other locals are dismayed that the State Government is exempting a nine-storey housing project in Shiel Street North Melbourne, from normal planning processes. The social housing project has been proposed by Housing Choices Australia and has a $26 million grant from the Victorian Government. The application has been made under the Government’s $5.3 billion Big Housing Build program. As a result, it will not go through the usual City of Melbourne planning process, but instead will be determined by the Victorian Minister for Land and Environment, Lily D’Ambrosio.
When I first got involved in politics, the high-rise public housing towers built by the Housing Commission in the 1950s and 60s were regarded as a social disaster, and there even plans to demolish them. It seems they are now back in fashion.
The matter goes to Minister D’Ambrosio rather than Minister Wynne, the Planning Minister, because the State Government thinks it should not be considered by a Minister for Planning and Housing, due to potential conflict of interest. Apparently, they think that a Ministerial colleague is a more independent decision maker than the City of Melbourne!
COMMUNITY WIN IN QUEENSLAND
Clifford Hayes office has drawn my attention to a win in the Queensland Supreme Court by Sunshine Coast residents. The Yaroomba Beach development proposal, from the developer Sekisui House, proposed a seven-storey five-star hotel, along with 753 residential apartments, 98 two or three storey homes, and a retail village.
The Sunshine Coast Council approved it, as did the Planning and Environment Court. However, the community groups Development Watch and Save Yaroomba appealed to the Supreme Court. The Court found errors of law in Council’s codes relating to building heights proposed for the development. The Court also took into account community expectations about the development, and the number of submissions against it (over 9000). A great win.
A MILLION CUBIC METRES OF CONCRETE FOR NORTH EAST LINK
The Herald-Sun Development Reporter Peter Rolfe recently reported, under the headline “Concrete Kings changing the face of Melbourne”, that “Developers with an eye for everything from townhouses and apartments to office blocks and skyscrapers have been buoyed by state and federal decrees to build Victoria’s way out of the pandemic”.
He reported Boral Concrete executive general manager Lloyd Wallace saying there was a “strong demand for concrete across the Melbourne region”. Mr. Wallace said Government projects would increase demand in coming years. “North East Link will consume one million cubic metres of concrete alone in a city that generally consumes around seven million cubic metres each year”.
Apparently, that’s a GOOD thing! I do not like to spoil a party, but the clear message from Paris, Glasgow, and other global efforts to cut our greenhouse emissions, is that more concrete is not a good thing.
RESIDENTS 3000. The Residents 3000 monthly update for February can be accessed via this link: https://residents3000.com.au/.
MYTH OF THE CENTRALISED URBAN ECONOMY.
The pandemic has slayed quite a few sacred cows. One of them is the myth of the centralised urban economy. The myth has been that the people need the CBD. In fact, it’s the other way around. The CBD needs the people. Ross Elliott in Macrobusiness says the myth has been as follows – CBDs are where the majority of people work. Therefore, we can’t have people living far away from the CBD, because that’s where everyone wants to go to work. So we have planning rules to increase housing density in and near the city, and we plough taxpayer dollars into CBD amenity, and into transport networks that serve the inner city.
Ross Elliott says that in Australia the CBD share of metro jobs in major cities is in fact between 10 and 15%. This is typical of a city in a modern western economy – the global average is around 13%. So 87% of people living in cities do not work in the CBD, but rather in the suburbs. And given the rise of the working from home phenomenon, this trend is only likely to increase. Working from home is good for the environment, and good for work-life balance. Property industry lobbyists urging Governments to demand workers return to the city, even in the face of ongoing health risks, should be ignored.
Dr Dimity Williams, from Doctors for the Environment, says that “Most health problems facing our communities right now are lifestyle related, and one of the best discoveries I’ve made is that spending time out in nature will help prevent and treat almost all of them. Getting outside into nature encourages physical activity, which protects our heart and also reduces the chances of us being overweight. It allows for healthy Vitamin D levels to develop, elevates mood, reduces stress, improves focus and may even improve immune function. It is a simple, inexpensive way of managing many complex health problems like diabetes, depression and anxiety.
Time outside in nature is especially important for today’s children who are spending too much time inside, sitting down, usually looking at a screen”. (“Nature’s Medicine”, published in Victorian National Parks Association, Park Watch, December 2017).
THIRD RUNWAY PROJECT AND 2002 MASTER PLAN
Melbourne Airport plans to build a third runway and has released its Third Runway Preliminary Draft Major Development Plan, and 2022 Master Plan. The Plans raise important questions – have the projections concerning Airport passengers and vehicle numbers been reassessed in the light of the coronavirus pandemic, and the prospect of future outbreaks? Which communities will experience more aviation noise as a result? Is it still the Airport’s plan to destroy Grey Box trees on the site? I have written to the Airport raising these issues.
SAVE WATER MELBOURNE – OUR POPULATION IS DOUBLING.
Melbourne Water and other water authorities have launched a campaign to reduce the amount of water we use. Yarra Valley Water Managing Director Pat Mc Cafferty said “With the city’s population forecast to almost double by 2051 and the changing environment affecting water storages over the next 30 years, the 155 litre target is just one of many actions to help secure Melbourne’s water supplies for the future.
Leith Van Onselen, from Macrobusiness, who reported the issue, suggests an alternative idea. If rainfall is projected to fall due to climate changes, and Melbourne is facing chronic future water shortages, how about Melbourne not grow its population so aggressively? I agree. What is the point of Melburnians having a 155 litre daily target on their use of water, when there is no attempt to limit the number of Melburnians each using 155 litres?
NATIONAL TRUST SUMMER DISCOVERY TRAIL
The National Trust still has some of its attractions open for special Summer events. These include Barwon Park, The Heights, Rippon Lea Estate, Old Melbourne Gaol, La Trobe’s Cottage and McCrae Homestead. For a full list of what you can see and do, where and when, go to the National Trust website.
Zoos Victoria is also active over summer. Melbourne Zoo is having a Summer Cinema, an outdoor moviegoing experience, until March 12. On Saturdays in February, visitors to Healesville Sanctuary can stay for the sunset due to longer opening hours. And on weekends until March, Werribee Open Range Zoo is running its Sunset Safari, a great night out with some of the world’s most iconic animals.
That’s all folks!