More action needed on the DACs. The dreaded Development Assessment Committees.
This article is about the dangers of passing a law to create these DACs, which have been fought off twice but keep coming back because the developers and their friends in government want them - not because they are good for the rest of us.
Mary Drost of Planning Backlash writes:
"The matter has not yet been debated or voted on in the Upper House. It will come back to Parliament on Tuesday the 10th November.
People who have read through the Bill say that it is even worse than they had thought.
"It really puts the power into the hands of the Minister to do whatever he wants in all Activity Centres. He appoints 3 out of the 5 committee members. The other 2 can be council officers or councillors who will in effect have no control. For example, is there street level parking in your shopping centre? They could take it over and build on it and there is nothing you or your council can do.
Put that together with the changes in the Planning Act that are coming through which will give any one, including developers, the right to put amendments to the Minister to changes protective overlays, such as tree protection or heritage overlays, so they can build whatever they want wherever they want.
Plus giving the minister increased powers of compulsory acquisition.
Think what real trouble we are in.
Then please take action again and send off emails to the opposition parties in the Upperhouse Libs, Nationals, Greens, DLP.
Names and addresses are on the #10;<p>We need to put the pressure on.">
What's going on?
In 2002 I completed a 100,000 word plus thesis called the Growth Lobby [in Australia] and Its Absence [in France], about the Relationship between the Property Development and Housing Industries and Immigration Policy in Australia and France. In this work I asked why Australia had such rampant population growth and France did not.
Why did I do this?
Because I was greatly perturbed by the amount of damage that was already being done in the name of population growth. To me it was obvious that, as well as costing the environment, this growth had a social cost - it was a threat to democracy. It was obviously destructive to democracy because it was going ahead by stealth and without consultation or approval by Australians. As the process has become more obvious and overt, the subtle bypassing of democracy has now turned to flagrant attempts to suppress democracy, through new laws.
I used a political science method for explaining why undemocratic, unpopular processes persisted without arousing public protest. The method predicted that, where you have focused [financial]beneficiaries of an unpopular process, those beneficiaries recognise the source of their benefits and organise to keep them coming. However, where you have 'diffuse costs' (as in the costs the public pay for population growth and overdevelopment) most people cannot identify the source of those costs, nor that others are also bearing them, and therefore they cannot organise against them. This is exactly what has been happening in Australia with the Growth Lobby, where a small group of people recognise that they are receiving concentrated financial benefits from population growth and infrastructure expansion, and lobby to preserve and enhance that advantage. (The opposite situation prevailed in France, with population growth and housing counted as a public cost and few opportunities for the private sector to benefit financially from population growth in the French system, which is quite different from Australia's.)
But the situation in Australia where the majority of the population are kept in the dark about why they are all paying more and more and losing everything to growth, can be preserved only as long as the ignorance can be preserved, generally by selective information dissemination in the mainstream press and government.
Whilst the internet made it possible to have an international global real-estate bubble of grotesque proportions never seen before, with private migration agents, conveyancers, solicitors and universities touting for overseas immigrant customers, and newspapers expanding into international real estate dot coms, all financed to the hilt by banks that charged us interest for financing this extravaganza, the internet has also made in possible for some of us to work to educate the public about what is being done to them in the name of Growth. And, gradually, groups have adapted to this knowledge and they are fighting back, saying in effect, "We are not going to pay with our lives and freedom for beneficiaries of the Growth Lobby to get rich and walk all over us. It may have taken us some time to figure out what was happening, but that doesn't mean we are stupid."
Who defends the DACs?
Below I make a belated response to an article by Jennifer Cunich,
"Opposition to planning reform will halt development", Thursday, 11 June 2009
Jennifer Cunich is a Property Lobby Australia spokesperson and blogger, as you will see if you visit the site-link above. Quotes from her article appear here in bold italics. My responses appear in ordinary font.
MS CUNICH: The government is under attack from community groups, councillors and NIMBY’s rallying in Melbourne against proposed planning reform.
I think that the people Ms Cunich calls NIMBY's are actually citizens with a democratic right to object to planning 'reforms' that they don't want. Ms Cunich does not seem to understand that citizenship carries rights to democracy. She seems to think that governments are there to tell people what to do, rather than the other way round. Her attitude mirrors the government's, but the government is a dictatorship and the attitude is a bad one.
MS CUNICH: Around 300 local activists staged an anti-development rally against on the steps of Parliament House on Wednesday 10th June.
Just on the numbers: Planning Backlash estimates somewhere around 600 people because there were three hundred balloons involved, one per person, and many people demonstrated without balloons - perhaps as many again as the 300 that had balloons.
MS CUNICH: Campaigning on a range of planning issues, from the introduction of Development Assessment Committees through to green wedge politics, local community groups are trying to polarise the community.
MS CUNICH: The Property Council has been a vocal supporter of the government when it comes to making tough decisions that speed up our planning system.
I have often wondered what happens to the Government when it tries to resist the Property Council. I would like to know the identiy of all the members of the Property Council to see how they are placed to pressure the government. For instance, is there a relationship, formal or informal, between the mainstream media corporations and the Property Council? Because sometimes it looks to me as if, whenever property developers fear they will be contraried by the government, the newspapers and other media, start badmouthing the government.
MS CUNICH: While DACs do not go far enough, they are a step in the right direction and will go a long way to easing the planning bottlenecks our Victorians face daily.
This strikes me as a hidebound statement. We are having bottlenecks because the Property Council and similar growth lobbyists have prevailed upon successive governments to deliver more and more population growth. So our numbers are overwhelming the current infrastructure. DACs seem to be just a way to force development through despite objections. What is the point in having a vote if your government and big business can do that to you?
MS CUNICH: The debate has been skewed toward a vocal minority, arguing all proposed planning reforms will take away residents democratic rights.
How does the writer establish that the people arguing against planning 'reforms' are a minority? I would argue that I established some time ago that the people arguing for the 'reforms' are in the minority - the minority that benefits financially from population growth and infrastucture expansion, because they own land banks, engineering plant, housing finance institutions, shares in banks, building materials etc.
I would argue that calling the protesters a 'minority' doesn't make them one. And what, pray, is wrong with defending residents' democratic rights? The alert reader will ask, "Who derives the greater financial benefit? People rallying for democracy in the cold? Or developers lobbying the government for growth and fewer taxes? And from that, whose word would you trust on democracy?
MS CUNICH: We do not understand why the DACs are being met with heavy opposition. DACs are independent panels, with representation from both levels of government, state and local, making decisions in line with local policy, how much more democratic can that be?
Well, Robert Clark put it quite well in Parliament the other day. Here is a quote:
"Once created, the new DACs will act in lieu of the responsible authority for all developments within their deemed operational areas, as determined by the ministerial order. The order will specify the class of development to which it applies and the areas it covers.
Each DAC will consist of five members. Three, including the chair, will be appointed by the Minister for Planning, and two will be nominated by the relevant municipal council from a group of five persons who are councillors or members of staff of that council.
The even greater half of the problem is the extraordinary price at which it comes in terms of intrusion on local communities, the diminution of the capacity of local communities to have a say in their own destiny, and the undermining of the role of local government councillors. The government appears to be treating local government councillors with disdain and disregard.
The government has the nerve to call this bill a partnership with local government, whereas in fact it will take away the existing responsibilities of local government to make decisions on planning permits and offers councils only two places out of five at the table of development assessment committees. The government is doing that on an extraordinarily limited and constrained basis.
To start off with, because councillors will have only two places out of five they will always be at risk of being outvoted. The second-reading speech claims that there is going to be an independent chair, but when members look at the bill they will see there is nothing of the sort — the chair is to be appointed by the minister as are the two other non-council nominees.
The local community representatives can be either councillors or members of staff. I think it will be highly likely that councillors will find it virtually impossible to become involved with a DAC. If they do, they are certainly going to be under extraordinary constraints.
There are confidentiality provisions governing members of DACs. The councillors who take part in them are almost certainly frequently, if not always, going to find themselves outvoted. They are then likely going to come under attack from the local community."
Source: Robert Clark, Member for Box Hill inVic Planning Legislative Bill enslaves Victorians to Growth Lobby
MS CUNICH: More and more councils are influenced by groups, such as Planning Backlash, that advocate the BANANA approach – building absolutely nothing anywhere near anyone.
Well, gee. We can all indulge in name-calling:
And more and more growth lobby groups advocate the BEDD approach - Build Everywhere and Damn Democracy.
Of course, BBOUPUDs - Big Beneficiaries of undemocratic processes undermining democracy - would see people who fight for democracy as bananas, wouldn't they?
Thank heavens Planning Backlash, Concerned Councillors, Protectors of Public Land and others are having some effect. If they were not then we would all be at the mercy of the Property Council of Australia, which the government is a member of. Ms Cunich might think that this is a good idea, but she is in the minority - the one that benefits from growth.
MS CUNICH: Developers and the community seek certainty in the planning process. Councillors should work with their local communities to develop sound policy, ensuring everyone knows what the rules are from day one.
Hmm, let's see: "If they cannot have democracy, let them have certainty", said Marie-Antoinette, referring to the angry peasants.
MS CUNICH: The rally also attacked the governments plan to expand the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB).
MS CUNICH: The Property Council has consistently argued the UGB needs to be flexible to ensure Victoria continues to deliver an affordable housing product and maintains its competitive advantage.
MS CUNICH: The Property Council has however expressed concern about the new Growth Areas Infrastructure Contribution (GAIC) and its implementation. The GAIC appears to be intrinsically linked to the expansion of the UGB. The Property Council gave in principle support for the levy in 2005 and whilst the amount is not in question, the implementation is.
MS CUNICH: The development community and the community at large are sick of waiting for major infrastructure projects to be delivered.
MS CUNICH: As stated, we have growing concerns around the implementation of the new Growth Areas Infrastructure Contribution and are eager to make sure that the infrastructure delivery meets the needs of local communities but does not cripple the residential development sector.
Surely it is up to the local communities, rather than a distant body of commercial speculators, to decide what they need and what they don't need. How could the Property Council, apparently with so little interest in the rights of citizens, presume to direct them like children?
MS CUNICH: The Property Council is urging the government and the Growth Areas Authority to work closely with the the Property Council in determining how the funds from this charge will be delivered directly to those communities in the Growth Areas.
MS CUNICH: Growth is not a dirty word. Growth means more employment opportunities, more revenue to provide much needed community infrastructure, and more choices for Victorians. However, growth must be managed in a sustainable manner and be shared by all Victorians. It is time the community supported the government in its attempts to keep Victoria moving and encouraged
Growth IS a dirty word when growth costs most people a heck of a lot more pain than it delivers benefits. Growth, particularly in property development and housing, is the process that has led to the global depression, loss of jobs, homelessness, constant disruption and destruction of democratic processes. Growth has driven up land for housing and agriculture costs and water costs. Because these have gone up the costs of everything else have gone up. Wages - if you have a job - cannot keep up with these rising costs. Business cannot keep up with them either, because, as well as wages and dividends, businesses must also pay for rent, fuel, power, water and all the things that require land. In the growthist economy advocated so constantly by the Property Council of Australia and similar powerful entities, basic costs render manufacture uncompetitive. In the end even the corporations - the financial institutions and the developers have to go under as all of their customers do. That is what is happening to Australia and the English speaking countries particularly. Furthermore, why should people settle just for jobs? They should be entitled to as of right to land for food to supplement their incomes. But now, even as every price is set to rise inexorably and we are told, furthermore, that this is only what we deserve, the possibilities of growing food are daily diminishing with land-inflation and planning ideology outlawing back yards.
Nothing about benefiting the public here:
The Property Council's vision is to become an integral business ally of members.
The Property Council's mission is to champion the interests of the property sector."
And to think that Mr Brumby joined the government up last year! See "Living in a destruction zone".