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Vic Auditor General Report shows Vic Planning and Development is reckless, incompetent; makes recommendations

The Victorian Auditor General notes that Victoria's population grew from 5.5 million in 2011 to about 6 million in 2016, and is expected to reach 10 million by 2051. That is in 34 years! Responding to this madness, the Auditor General has recommended the introduction of "a risk-based approach to development assessment processes and guidance materials, by developing clear, simple assessment pathways that ensure applications are progressed in a transparent way in proportion to the potential risk, impact and cost, and in accordance with community expectations reviewing efficiency indicators to support the application of a risk-based approach (see Section 2.2.2); [the strengthening] of accountability requirements for decisions by applying better-practice principles for discretionary decision-making and transparent public reporting, including publishing reasons for all planning decisions, and publishing advisory committee reports within three months of the committee handing its report to the Minister for Planning (see Sections 4.2 and 4.3.1). [It has also recommended working] with councils to complete the performance measurement framework for the planning system so that it provides the relevant information and data at the state and local levels to assess the effectiveness of the planning system, measure the achievement of planning policies and support continuous improvement of the planning system through monitoring the effectiveness of reforms (see Section 5.2)." Will this help Victorians and Australians to halt the environmentally dangerous and antisocial development push from growth lobby governments? This is an excellent and informative report that will be of use to anyone wanting to understand our current predicament and the relevant bits of the law. It includes the subject of loss of agricultural land and how so defined and a summary of the objectives of the Planning and Environment Act 1987, which have an ironic flavour under the present Victorian regime. [Emphases by editor.]

Access the Report

Full report as HTML

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  (5.5 MB)

PDF of the presentation

The following are selections from the "Findings" part of the Report:

Assessments that were not comprehensive were inadequate due to a number of reasons:

- assessment against state planning policies is difficult due to the vague policy objectives and lack of measurable indicators
- gaps in statewide guidance on challenging planning issues, such as housing diversity and affordability
- no statewide guidance on what the Act's concepts of net community benefit, sustainable development and acceptable outcomes cover, and how they might be assessed in a way that is in proportion to the scale, complexity and risk of the planning proposal being considered
- limited consideration of potential adverse environmental, social and economic factors
- in-house assessment report templates that do not adequately reflect the requirements of the Act or the VPP for integrated decision-making.

Past reforms have had little impact on fixing other systemic problems impeding the effectiveness, efficiency and economy of planning schemes. As a result, many of the issues prevalent before the 1996 overhaul of the planning system have re-emerged: These include:

- vague and competing state planning policy objectives and strategies, with limited guidance for their implementation, which reduce the clarity of the planning system's direction in meeting state planning objectives
- a lack of specific guidance to address key planning challenges, such as social and affordable housing, climate change and environmentally sustainable development
- an overly complex system of planning controls in local planning schemes—councils add and amend policies and controls to try to provide clarity and certainty to their schemes in the absence of clear guidance at a state level
- DELWP's and councils' performance measurement frameworks being unable measure whether the objectives of the Act or state planning policies are being achieved
- lengthy delays in the processing of planning proposals, leading to set time frames not being met and unnecessary costs for applicants.
- These systemic weaknesses exist because of the poor uptake and implementation of review recommendations. This is due to:

-a lack of clear prioritisation, time frames, actions or resources to support the implementation of recommendations by planning departments or government
-a lack of continuity in reform processes and commitment to their implementation due to changes in government or government policy
-poor project governance and oversight, with frequent machinery-of-government changes to the planning department and its systems, and the absence of a good project management structure to oversee the implementation of recommendations.
As a result, the planning system is difficult to navigate and implement, and it places an unnecessary burden on local government, DELWP and applicants to administer and use.

The objectives of the Planning and Environment Act 1987

Planning objectives, section 4(1)

  • to
    provide for the fair, orderly, economic and sustainable use, and development
    of land
  • to
    provide for the protection of natural and man-made resources and the maintenance
    of ecological processes and genetic diversity
  • to
    secure a pleasant, efficient and safe working, living and recreational
    environment for all Victorians and visitors to Victoria
  • 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
  • to
    protect public utilities and other assets and enable the orderly provision
    and coordination of public utilities and other facilities for the benefit of
    the community
  • to
    facilitate development in accordance with the objectives set out in (a), (b),
    (c), (d) and (e)
  • to
    balance the present and future interests of all Victorians.

Planning framework or system
objectives, section 4(2)

  • to
    ensure sound, strategic planning and coordinated action at state, regional
    and municipal levels
  • to
    establish a system of planning schemes based on municipal districts to be the
    principal way of setting out objectives, policies and controls for the use,
    development and protection of land
  • to
    enable land use and development planning and policy to be easily integrated
    with environmental, social, economic, conservation and resource management
    policies at state, regional and municipal levels
  • to
    ensure that the effects on the environment are considered and provide for
    explicit consideration of social and economic effects when decisions are made
    about the use and development of land
  • to
    facilitate development which achieves the objectives of planning in Victoria
    and planning objectives set up in planning schemes
  • to
    provide for a single authority to issue permits for land use or development
    and related matters, and to coordinate the issue of permits with related
  • to
    encourage the achievement of planning objectives through positive actions by
    responsible authorities and planning authorities
  • to
    establish a clear procedure for amending planning schemes, with appropriate
    public participation in decision-making
  • to
    ensure that those affected by proposals for the use, development or
    protection of land or changes in planning policy or requirements receive
    appropriate notice
  • to
    provide an accessible process for just and timely review of decisions without
    unnecessary formality
  • to
    provide for effective enforcement procedures to achieve compliance with
    planning schemes, permits and agreements
  • to
    provide for compensation when land is set aside for public purposes and in
    other circumstances.

Source: VAGO, from the Planning and Environment Act 1987.

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Good luck getting better processes around this. See the following:

"reforms to planning laws to curb frivolous or vexatious objections to
high density developments and increased investment in urban transport."

Thankyou Matthew!!

This reminds me of one of those sagas most of us have read about in kids books and comics where the hammer has reached it's zenith and is about to come crashing down! You know it's going to hurt, you know the injuries that are going to be inflicted will be horrific, but you are to stupefied to do anything about. You are like stunned mullet with your eyes transfixed upon the hammer waiting for that crushing blow.

This is the Australian housing market! Unable to accept that it's overheated, it steps on the gas with an all too familiar result. Everybody knows that this is the case, but nobody (those who have control of the market - governments, banks, property developers, &c) has the intestinal fortitude speak up, to ameliorate the problem or even batten down the hatches. They don't care! They won't be the ones lining up at the soup kitchens, they've made their money. It'll be the stunned mullets watching the Great Australian Scam unfold.

What profession must make solid strategic plans, and always have to cater for excessive and ad hoc growth? The Plan now really is no Plan, just damage-control and retro-fitting to cope with unplanned growth! How many Plans have their been for Melbourne, all to be amended or superseded? They are shuffling the goal post in an effort not to avert the growth!.
It's just ad hoc, mayhem and about appeasing property developers and the mortgage industry. Would there really be any Master Plan that really catered and assessed the needs and values of future generations? We've had population booms in the past, when we had the Gold Rush, 19th century, and the great Post War immigration- but they were not scams that we have now- of "skills shortages"! Now it's growth without a purpose, simply to fill houses - our main industry now!

Did anyone watch Q and A last night (28 March 2017)?

Towards the end a young woman in the audience asked if government policies regarding immigration and foreign purchasers in the real estate market were affecting housing affordability for young Australians. Every panel member avoided this suggestion extremely adroitly, even a singer who I'd never heard of.

They all played it like poison ball, avoiding the issue, even the singer who uncomfortably declared that his children would probably not be able to get into the housing market.

It is more important obviously NOT to mention the "I word" or the "F.O. word" on television than to do something about making sure your own adult children get housed.


Dereliction of duty
When Treasurer Scott Morrison urges regulators to clamp down on loans to investors in the housing market, he reveals a disturbing trend among governments at federal and state levels – an abrogation of their responsibility.

While leaving decisions to an "independent" umpire may shield politicians from unpalatable outcomes (for example, the Fair Work Commission's decision on penalty rates), the public is denied the right to hold responsible the appropriate people. The blame does not lie with public servants or statutory authorities, but politicians. The government has levers to ease pressure in the housing market. We expect it to use them.

Ramesh Rajan, Camberwell