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Torquay - coastal village under siege from State "plans"

Planning Minister Matthew Guy has told the Surf Coast Shire Council that ''ministerial amendment'' to planning controls for the land is warranted to ''respond to the urgent need to address housing affordability....and proactively manage growth for Torquay-Jan Juc''.  In other words, the Surf Coast Shire Council must cave into State government demands, or they will be forced to!  ("proactively"!)    It will become another ubiquitous part of Melbourne's sprawling housing estates.  It's an attack on democracy, public opinion, and is ecologically destructive.

Matthew Guy's Ministerial Amendment to override Torquay Council

Mr Guy has told the Surf Coast Shire Council that ''ministerial amendment'' to planning controls for the land is warranted to ''respond to the urgent need to address housing affordability, facilitate the establishment of new schools, and proactively manage growth for Torquay-Jan Juc''.  In other words, the Surf Coast Shire Council must cave into State government demands, or they will be forced to!  ("proactively"!)    It will become another ubiquitous part of Melbourne's sprawling housing estates.  It's an attack on democracy, public opinion, and is ecologically destructive.

Mr Guy plans to rezone about 240 hectares of farmland west of Torquay for housing. The council estimates the land near Spring Creek could provide 1900 new homes with an expected population of 4500 people.

Releasing land from agriculture is short-term foolishness when we in Australia have only 6% arable land, and will be harder to produce food without artificial fertilizers. Mr Guy's feigned concern about providing “afffordable housing” is all spin, and something that nobody could argue about. However, it's all deliberately manipulated so that population growth will continually outstrip available housing, and land.

This takeover of land, and the land rezoning process in Torquay is not about being sustainable or ecologically sound.  Developments will mean bulldozing farmland and sensitive coastal areas.  It's about more urban sprawl, something that the Liberals said they would curb.

2008 Torquay's growth planned

(Sunset at Torquay - there are some places that should be reserved for special occasions such as reflection, holidays and recreation- not for everyday living!)
The pressures for coastal development are increasing, with the number of applications for consent under the Act increasing by 32 % since 2003/04

A draft urban development plan for up to
6400 houses on a 600-hectare site west of Torquay,
known as Spring Creek, has ignited a furious local response, with more than 1000 submissions sent to the Surf Coast Shire.

The plan could mean that Torquay more than double in size, with 14,000 residents moving in to the development area in the next 20 to 30 years.

All these submissions and objections are simply so that planners can tick the box “public consultation” and do what they like!

Growth outstrips schools

Back in April this year, the government with its election promise to build a new $20 million secondary college at Torquay North - said the plan to convert the existing school into a prep-to-year six school would go ahead despite public opinion to the contrary. Without a second primary school, Torquay College would swell to about 1300 students by 2015, leading to overcrowding, traffic congestion and a lack of playgrounds.

A housing development at North Torquay was expected to attract another 14,000 people to the area.

2009 Submissions dismissed

The council received 2843 submissions on the Spring Creek Urban Growth Framework Plan, with only about 20 in support. As each councillor rose to reject the plan the crowd burst into applause. The Surf Coast Shire voted overwhelmingly to reject the proposal covering 600 hectares west of Torquay and to review future development policy.

Surf Coast Mayor Libby Mears said that
residents were concerned about how their quality of life and amenity would be affected by Torquay's growth.
As a growth area, rates would inevitably increase to pay for the extra services needed to be delivered, and the infrastructure for swelling numbers of people.

Our coastlines are valuable

People enjoy our coastlines for their intrinsic and recreational value.   This is an example of a government bereft of economic and productive ideas.  Grabbing land, and developing it, brings short-term profits, but long term implication and destruction.  Any "vacant" land is now under threat.    Without housing or other structures, it will be vyed for "development", for economic short-term gain.   

This is not a nimby issue, but one for the greater community of Melbourne, and Victoria.  There is no end to urban sprawl and land grabs while our population is being pumped up continually.   The housing and land "shortages" will never be solved while our government take the easy route to economic growth - via population growth. 

Torquay has been a popular destination for day-trippers and sight-seeing and picnics from the days of Cobb and Co in the 1800s.

It is thought that the Wathaurung Aborigines occupied the area prior to European settlement. Picnickers began to frequent the spot from the 1860s. When the first land was sold in the mid-1880s the locality was known to Europeans as Spring Creek,

It will become a generic sea of roofs, housing estates and towers, thanks to successive State Government “planning” regimes! Plans for overdevelopment along Spring Creek in Torquay could lead to multiple sets of traffic lights along the first 2 kms of the Great Ocean Road! This will kill tourism and destroy any sense of community residents have in Jan Juc/Torquay and Bellbrae.

Environmental Threats of developments

Invasive weeds as the greatest threat to the coast's natural values - dwarfing all other biodiversity management issues combined -and developments will bring more people to the area, more weeks, more traffic and threats to coastal birds and marine wildlife. 

The Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA) Nature Conservation Review: Marine Conservation Priorities and Issue for Victoria.   (April 2010)

Development and urbanisation is a major threat to intertidal and coastal environments. 

Subdivision and urbanization of coastal areas is increasing in accordance with population growth. This is largely occurring around the fringes of existing coastal towns. An immediate consequence has been the reduction of coastal vegetation communities, however there are also direct implications for water quality (storm water, commercial wastes and sewage) and visitation to shore habitats.

Shipping transport tonnage is continually increasing, in accordance with population and economic growth. Some of the increase in international shipping may be negated through the use of bigger vessels. Associated threatening processes include oil spills, groundings, litter/rubbish and effluent dumping at sea, translocation of marine pests and release of toxic antifouling substances, including tributyl tin. Higher density shipping lanes are within Port Phillip Bay, as well as between Port Phillip Heads and Cape Otway, Wilsons Promontory and northern Tasmania.
With our manufacturing industries largely gone overseas, Victoria depends on service industries and commerce. It means we rely heavily on imports, and shipping goods via shipping.

Marine pests and climate change have the potential to catastrophically impact marine and coastal values in the future.  As human populations increase in coastal areas, coastal vegetation is under increasing pressure from urban sprawl, coast developments, weed invasion, disease, ecreational activities and changing fire regimes. Many habitats have become highly fragmented and some, such as coastal moonah woodland, exist only in a small portion of their pre- settlement range.

The economic model based on perpetual and destructive growth

With priorities based on cash-flow and immediate economic benefits, the non-material benefits people obtain from ecosystems through spiritual enrichment, reflection, recreation, and aesthetic experience, social relations, and aesthetic values are being denied and destroyed.

While our economic growth is based on population growth, the wave of land takeovers will destroy Victoria's precious Great Ocean Road coastlines - all justified under the smokescreen of the need for "affordable housing" - something that our government could easily solve if they stopped pumping up our population! 

An economy based on a reliance on population growth is totally flawed, environmentally destructive, economically and ecologically unsustainable and fatalistic.

(Torquay surf beach - the way it should be)


The Torquay issue is akin to metastases breaking out in yet another organ of a cancer sufferer. Victoria and indeed the whole of Australia is in the grip of a terrible process whereby a forceful few are taking advantage of natural and built amenity, undermining it with over development with which they make obscene profits. The effect on the incumbent population is vastly negative. These profiting few will continue until the law of diminishing returns means that they can no longer capitalise on anything further in a particular area-in other words they will have trashed it -and then they will move on and continue with the process.

I have just read the introduction to a history of Melbourne written by Tim Flannery which is profoundly moving . It details the horrific and progressive dispossession of the Aborigines in Victoria especially around Melbourne a century or so ago. The new settlers showed little mercy to the indigenous people driving them further and further away from their home range which were of course the areas of interest to the Europeans, onto smaller and smaller areas of land until only a fraction of the original population survived. The local natural environment was largely destroyed in a few decades and a whole way of life that had endured for tens of thousands of years was at an end. This knowledge is not new to most of us , but the detail in Flannery's account brings those horrific decades to life. My first impulse was to find out how I could help the descendants of these people,at least those who remain near where I live. I kept thinking about this and then realised that the time has passed. It is over and we cannot ever make up for what has happened to the former custodians of "Victoria". Intending no disrespect and not wishing to diminish what happened- a total catastrophe for the Aborigines- we also face dispossession right now. We are a few decades away from finding our lives unrecognisably impoverished. The hardest thing to do is to fight for it but if we do we are fighting for all of us including the descendants of those suffering people. The easier thing is not to see ourselves as under attack and to see others as victims. The word NIMBY is used to dis-empower and embarrass people and dissuade us from sticking up for ourselves.
We see ourselves as sophisticated because we can read and maybe went to university, but we are being robbed in a sophisticated way- through persuasion and being divided amongst ourselves so we can't pull together in our own interests. Just as the Aborigines gave up land in what is now Melbourne for some blankets and tomahawks, we are being persuaded that we are better off than decades ago because of e.g. electronic gadgetry or affordable comfortable furniture. We are being persuaded that we have more than previous generations who went to a place like Torquay, camping there for next to nothing as though they owned it ,freely enjoying its natural offering . All that is finished.

Our whole environment is being progressively ruined with over development relying on and facilitated by very high population growth, and the sale of real estate overseas. Sounds like nothing compared with the trauma to the Aborigines inflicted by the 19th century European settlers. Instead, we are being robbed insidiously,distracted with what we can buy in the shops while that which matters most -- our real estate -- is taken from under us.

Where will this end? Fewer and fewer of us will own our own homes. This is trivialised as "The great Australian dream" but at least most of us had a chance at it and it meant some sort of security especially with a backyard with enough sun falling on it to grow food. The attainment of a home will increasingly be a box (apartment) rather than a house. The coast will be for the rich, not for everyone. Is that not dispossession, too? When that process is complete, what then?

ref. The book I am reading is -The birth of Melbourne- edited and introduced by Tim Flannery

THE Baillieu government has backed down on controversial plans to rezone hundreds of hectares of farmland at Spring Creek in Torquay for new housing after a community backlash.

The Age - Plans for rezoning scrapped

The backdown follows questions of possible conflicts of interest about Mr Guy's appointment of Geoff Underwood as a key planning adviser.

Mr Guy was guilty of bullying (ie "ministerial amendment") and over-riding local council with veiled threats that they must accept his decision, despite public opinion to the contrary.

Matthew Guy, in statement 28th July, magnanimously said "After the Council's vote last night, I have today expressed my desire to the Surf Coast Mayor that we continue to work together to resolve land supply and affordability issues in Torquay, but given the Council is willing to consider other locations apart from Spring Creek, a ministerial amendment is no longer necessary and will not proceed..."

Are they really willing to consider "other locations" to resolve "land supply and affordability" issues in Torquay"?

It's assumes that our "land supply" can be addressed at the same time as our socially-engineered population growth continues. He simply doesn't want to admit defeat, or that our "shortage" of affordable housing is something that is actually motivating our State government rather than being "fixed" or "resolved"!

Successive State governments have been politically sponsored and patronised by land developers and the growth-pushing industries to destroy any affordable housing in Melbourne. With few industries in Victoria except exploiting land, and promoting our "housing shortage", the demand will continue to be exacerbated by population growth. It justifies all the "developments" under the smoke-screen of addressing our shortage "affordable housing"!

Opposition Planning spokesman Brian Tee hoped Mr Guy ''will learn that councils and communities will not be threatened, bullied or intimidated and that he will rethink his approach to planning''. This is rather hypocritical since the Brumby government's Planning Minister Justin Madden maddened the public with his obfuscation of public consultation - and their population boom that caused them to lose the last election.

I think that Victorians can take some heart from the way the Baillieu Government has partially backed away from its previous choice to impose upon the Torquay community the wishes of property developers, but the decision falls a long way short of what Torquay residents need to protect their community and have every right to expect from the Baillieu Government.

'Opposition' spokesman Brian Tee's stance is indeed hypocritical. A decent critical newsmedia would have asked Brian Tee for examples of how his previous 'Labour' state Government treated Victorians, who disagreed with its decisions, any better that the current Ballieu Liberal/National Government has and why they should expect any better from a future Labour Government.

The sorry experience of Victorian voters have with the current Ballieu Liberal/National Government, the 'Labor' Governments of John Brumby and Stephen Bracks immediately before that and the Liberal/National Government of Jeff Kennett is illustration that voters have no real choice between the two major parties in Victoria and would be unwise to place any trust in Labour because of Brian Tee's recent utterances.

Until a party truly committed to protecting the interests of ordinary Victorians against developer greed wins government, or until direct democracy is written into our state and national constitutions, Victorians are unlikely to get anything much better that will endure.