Protecting democracy and public amenity
Presentation by The Hon. Kelvin Thomson, Convenor of Planning Democracy, to Combined Residents of Whitehorse Action Groups, (CROWAG) Wednesday 15 February, Blackburn Lake Visitor Centre.
Presentation by The Hon. Kelvin Thomson, Convenor of Planning Democracy, to Combined Residents of Whitehorse Action Groups, (CROWAG) Wednesday 15 February, Blackburn Lake Visitor Centre.
If the Minister for Agriculture were to endorse at least one officer from each local council under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (POCTA) provisions (section 18), this would add at least 120 new animal welfare officers/inspectors to combat animal cruelty within their area. This would alleviate the workload of authorised enforcement agencies i.e.( RSPCA/VicPol) in the town or city in which an alleged offence has occurred. A section should also be added into POCTA as it was back in the 80’s before it was repealed, that half of the fines from a successful prosecution be paid to council and the other half to state revenue. This would also give council an incentive to work toward costs as RSPCA now do subsequently no out of pocket expenses.
In the past I have advocated for an Independent Office of Animal Welfare, but further research and forward thinking has changed my mind and I therefore submit the following suggestions regarding the above.
There are 120 municipalities in the state of Victoria, each have a local laws team that deal with animals including the Domestic Animals Act and other related acts of parliament. Some councils/shires may already have their officers endorsed under section 18 of POCTA to enforce and act under the provisions of POCTA.
From the 120 councils/shires each have officers that total at least 1 and some 12+ in the bigger councils and towns i.e. Shepparton, Bendigo, Ballarat, Geelong and Casey. Casey was the first to prosecute under POCTA new puppy farm sections successfully. If the Minister would endorse at least one officer from each council under POCTA provisions (section 18) that will at least give animal welfare 120 + new officers/inspectors to combat animal cruelty within the region of their area.
This would alleviate the workload of authorised enforcement agencies i.e.( RSPCA/VicPol) in the town or city in which an alleged offence has occurred. Plus a section should also be added (into POCTA) as it was back in the 80’s before it was repealed, that half of the fines from a successful prosecution be paid to council and the other half to state revenue. This would also give council an incentive to work toward costs as RSPCA now do subsequently no out of pocket expenses.
Training of these officers are on par with RSPCA inspector, rangers having the opportunity of courses offered prior to starting their occupation at council. Court and prosecutions would also be on par with RSPCA procedures.
RSPCA could then engage in their policies of supplying pet ambulance services, animal rescues, education and rehoming.
Barrie R Tapp
Animal Cruelty Hotline Australia; Dipl. equine studies, Police academy det training; JP.
"People have a right to a say in the character of their street, and their neighbourhood. The principle of subsidiarity, of devolving power to the lowest practical level, is important. It is indeed good for people’s mental health if they have a say, and bad for their mental health if they feel powerless. My Bill does two key things – it requires VCAT to follow properly made Council decisions, and it gives Councils, rather than Ministers, the last word on height controls. Hayes says, "At present VCAT is out of control. Its proper role is to ensure that Councils don’t act in an arbitrary or capricious fashion [...]. But VCAT behaves as a Planning Authority in its own right, telling Councils that although the Council wants a height limit of, say, 4 storeys, they think that 6 storeys would be better! Councils should be able to put in place mandatory height controls at a height acceptable to the community. The high rise buildings being approved by Planning Ministers are not in the best interests of residents, overshadowing them and turning Melbourne into a soulless concrete jungle. Communities should have a say in relation to height limits." (MP Clifford Hayes in speech to Protectors of Public Lands Vic. reproduced here.) (Photos by Jill Quirk)
Thank you for the invitation to speak with you this afternoon and thank you also for the opportunity to represent you in the Victorian Parliament. I am aware that it is a great honour.
I want to congratulate the Protectors of Public Lands on what you do. Protecting the public domain is very selfless, unselfish work. It is also often thankless and difficult work. They’re not making any more land, but we are making many more people, and the resulting clash over the uses to which land should be put are becoming more acute with every passing year.
And of course the increasing price of land in our suburbs has made open space immensely valuable in dollar terms, leading to landowners including Commonwealth and State Governments looking to sell it off and make a real estate killing. Yet the population growth that drives the escalating land price also makes open space more valuable than ever AS open space – keeping our city and suburbs cool, giving us public places to walk, meet or rest, helping our mental health.
Just a fortnight ago the journalist Noel Towell reported in The Age that the State Labor Government is poised to massively ramp up its sales of publicly owned Crown land around Victoria, with more than 2600 hectares set to go under the hammer.
About 150 sites in Melbourne and country Victoria are listed as on the market for future land sales in a sell off that dwarfs the 533 hectares sold in the past 10 years.
Last week I asked a Question without Notice in the Legislative Council about this Report as follows – “Given the dramatic ongoing decline in open space per capita in Melbourne as a result of population growth of well over 100,000 per annum and the alarming decline in Melbourne’s vegetation cover, will the government investigate offering these parcels to local Councils for a nominal amount subject to an enforceable condition that they are turned into, maintained and retained as public open space?”
I am well aware that people in this room have spent a lot of time trying to stop the State Government selling off public land, often involving Government agencies offering the land to Councils at inflated prices that amount to duress, and a scam, where the public is being expected to pay for land that we already own. The Minister’s reply was polite, but not very encouraging. That is why your work is so important, keeping Governments and their Departments and agencies honest.
I see the clash over using land for public open space, or for other uses – which are often in themselves good and socially beneficial, such as facilities for women’s sport – played out time and time again in my Electorate. I have the good fortune to represent a significant area of beautiful Port Phillip Bay beachfront, and that is an area of great conflict. We have proposals to add a large restaurant to the Brighton Life Saving Club as part of its redevelopment. We have a proposal from a café lessee to take over and develop an area where public toilets are located at North Point. We have proposals to extend the opening hours for a café/restaurant at Ricketts Point.
Each of these proposals can sound reasonable, and many of us like to eat or drink by the beach or foreshore, but their sum total is to kill off the connection with nature that is the very thing that makes the beach attractive in the first place – to kill the goose that lays the golden egg.
Unfortunately – and I think your late Secretary and driving force, Julianne Bell, grasped this with great clarity – there is hardly a blade of grass or grain of sand that isn’t being eyed off by someone who wants to make a dollar out of it or appropriate it for their own benefit. It’s not just in my part of the world – I know of the battle, for example, in historic Footscray Park, where the well connected Melbourne Victory soccer club is seeking to establish a large stadium in parkland close to the Maribrynong River. And of the Warrnambool Racing Club’s appropriation of the beaches between Warrnambool and Port Fairy to train racehorses, to the detriment of other beach users, particularly the endangered Hooded Plover.
Often when land is appropriated and vegetation bulldozed elaborate promises are made about offsets elsewhere. In my experience these undertakings are seldom honoured. For example 10 years ago when a previous State Labor Government expanded Melbourne’s Urban Growth Boundary to allow for massive development in Melbourne’s west it said developers would have to pay a habitat protection levy which would enable the purchase of areas of grassland which would offset the development. 10 years later it has emerged that at the present rate of progress it will take the Victorian Government 100 years to purchase the amount of grassland it promised to protect at the time!
And just last week it introduced a Bill to amend the levy. For starters I am disappointed to read that the Habitat Compensation fee system is being renamed the Environment Mitigation Levy. It is the loss of habitat that is the core issue here, and we should never lose sight of it. I am also troubled to learn that property developers are talking about how well the Government has consulted with them over this Bill, when I don’t think it has been consulting with environment groups at all!
In my first speech to Parliament in February I set out my vision for Melbourne – to make it a great place to live, not merely a great place in population size to rival such places as Shanghai, New York, London, or Sao Paolo. Such greatness would be mere obesity, with all the disadvantages of such.
Not a city or a state where people are crammed into dogbox apartments, living on crowded and congested streets in an environmentally unfriendly concrete heat island, but a spacious city with open skies, open and tree-filled streets, with gardens.
Unfortunately this is not the direction in which Melbourne is headed. Since Australia’s migration programme was turbocharged and effectively trebled some 15 years ago, Melbourne has been growing at a rate of over 100,000 people each year, and is now growing at around 130,000 people each year. This has had numerous adverse impacts on our quality of life – traffic congestion, housing unaffordability, loss of vegetation, wildlife and open space. One of the consequences of Melbourne’s rapid population growth has been an attack on local democracy. Residents have lost their right to a say in the character of their street, their neighbourhood and their community.
Consistent with my election commitments I moved a Private Members Motion in May, aimed at restoring local democracy in planning issues and curbing the power of the Victorian Civil & Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). The Motion called on the Government to give more power to local councils to defend their communities from inappropriate developments.
In particular it called on the Government to amend the Planning & Environment Act so that VCAT was required to give effect to local planning policies, rather than just taking planning schemes into account. It also called on the Minister for Planning to implement mandatory height controls, rather than discretionary height controls, where Councils sought them.
I was delighted that this motion was passed in the Legislative Council with the support of the Liberal opposition and my crossbench colleagues. It is very unusual for a Motion to pass in either House without the Government’s support.
I believe there is a real mood for change in the community to fix a planning scheme which is biased against local residents and skewed in favour of property developers. I am now preparing amendments to the Planning & Environment Act which would give legal effect to the sentiments in my Private Member’s Motion. I believe these amendments would help restore the balance and give local residents a genuine say in planning decisions. I am encouraging residents and community groups to support my campaign for greater local democracy in the Planning & Environment Act.
People have a right to a say in the character of their street, and their neighbourhood. The principle of subsidiarity, of devolving power to the lowest practical level, is important. It is indeed good for people’s mental health if they have a say, and bad for their mental health if they feel powerless.
• The Bill does two key things – it requires VCAT to follow properly made Council decisions, and it gives Councils, rather than Ministers, the last word on height controls.
• At present VCAT is out of control. Its proper role is to ensure that Councils don’t act in an arbitrary or capricious fashion, for example by allowing one person to build four units on their property, and refusing to allow a next door neighbour with the same size property to do the same. But VCAT behaves as a Planning Authority in its own right, telling Councils that although the Council wants a height limit of, say, 4 storeys, they think that 6 storeys would be better!
Councils should be able to put in place mandatory height controls at a height acceptable to the community. The high rise buildings being approved by Planning Ministers are not in the best interests of residents, overshadowing them and turning Melbourne into a soulless concrete jungle. Communities should have a say in relation to height limits.
That said, I am absolutely aware that giving Councils more power is not a silver bullet, and that Councils can and do make poor decisions.
• It is not true that people who oppose high rise are NIMBYs, or that they favour urban sprawl. They don’t want the high rise forced in ANYONE’s backyard. What the State Government needs to examine is the premise that Melbourne has to keep increasing by 130,000 people each year. That’s the issue that people are never given a say about.
• Melbourne’s rapid population growth, combined with enforced urban consolidation, has resulted in a paving over of open space and a loss of vegetation and wildlife, when in times of climate change we need our vegetation, front yards and back yards. Urban consolidation has turned suburbs into heat islands. Population growth has driven traffic congestion and road rage. It has driven housing unaffordability and homelessness, and population growth has driven the construction of high rise buildings which are full of defects and even unsafe.
• Property developers have done well out of this government sponsored building boom of the past 15 years, but ordinary residents have not. Their quality of life has declined, and it will continue to decline unless legislation like this puts power back in the hands of ordinary people.
A study in December 2017 found that high-rise living had adverse impacts on mental health. It found that sharing semi-public spaces with strangers can make residents more suspicious and fearful of crime. Many feel an absence of community, despite living alongside tens or even hundreds of other people.
There is a fear of isolation. During ongoing research into social isolation among older people in the English city of Leeds, residents of high-rise buildings reported feeling lonely and isolated – some were afraid to even open their front doors.
Many advocates of high density living claim that it is better for the environment and climate change than suburban sprawl. Studies have shown this to be not the case. One 3 year US study in 2017 found that living in a high-rise tower in Chicago was much less environmentally sustainable than moving to a house in the suburbs. Apartment dwellers consume more energy, spend more of their time travelling, and use their cars more.
In terms of embodied energy in construction high-rise fared even worse. The project found that high-rise buildings required 49% more embodied energy to construct per square metre, and a stunning 72% more on a per person basis.
As has been noted before, the most energy efficient building is the one that already exists. Unfortunately State Governments have paid way too little attention to this and have made it far too easy to demolish existing houses, even those of heritage significance.
The idea that high density apartments, which require more lighting and air conditioning, are more sustainable than detached houses, which can have solar panels, rainwater tanks, and front yards and back yards with trees, shade and open space, is contradicted by the evidence.
So what needs to change? In my view, it’s not complicated. Two words - local democracy. Give the local residents the power in relation to planning. The Planning and Environment Act 1987 was supposed to establish a framework for planning the use, development and protection of land in Victoria in the present and long-term interests of all Victorians. It is my contention that it has been changed by successive governments so that it does not achieve those objectives.
The bill I will present seeks to do this in two ways. First by directing planning authorities and VCAT to consider and give effect to local planning policies which have been approved by the Government. Secondly by allowing Municipal Councils to set real height limits, including mandatory controls, which cannot be undermined by either State Government or VCAT.
Under my bill the Minister for Planning will be required to accept Council proposals for mandatory height limits, rather than arbitrarily raise the limits or make them discretionary and therefore worthless, as he does at present.
The bill will also make VCAT consider Strategic Planning Policies developed by Councils. What’s more, it will instruct VCAT to give effect to such local planning policies as expressed in the Local Planning Policy Framework.
I encourage your members to contact your local Members of Parliament by phone, email, letter, or in person, to encourage them to vote for the Bill. And on Sunday 10 November, in the week before my Bill gets debated in the Legislative Council, there will be a Rally at the Elsternwick Plaza, next to Elsternwick Station, at 2pm. I encourage you to attend, and bring others!
My bill is a modest proposal that is intended to start the process of giving back planning controls to local communities through their elected councils.
I hope it will not only be a shot in the arm for local democracy and genuine community say, I hope it will act as a brake on rampant habitat destruction. The key driver of habitat destruction is population growth. Sadly environment groups seem to lack the courage to stand up and say this. One honourable exception I came across recently was Jeff Davis, Assistant Director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Habitat at a June 2019 meeting of the Southern Resident Killer Whale Task Force, who said “Population Growth is the Top Challenge for Conserving Habitat”.
He was followed by a Task Force Member G.I. James, who works with the Lummi Nation’s Natural Resources Division, who was prepared to tell a few home truths about the threat to the orcas –
“We’re worried about the population that’s going to be here in the next 25 years and we can’t even address the problems that are being created by the people who are here right now. We think we can have it all. We can have the roads, we can have our cars, we can have our businesses and we can still have those natural resources that depend on the very same things all that destroys”.
Indeed. I thank the Protectors of Public Lands for everything you have done, and are doing, to protect the quality of life in Melbourne from overdevelopment. It is often hard, unrewarding work, but it is very important in maintaining our quality of life, and not allowing it to quietly slip away.
I hope you can join my fight for a better, not bigger, Australia, and I and my office are always ready to assist you in any way we can.
Clifford Hayes, MLC,
Sustainable Australia Party
Southern Metropolitan Region.
Direct: (03) 9530 8399 | 0458 750 700
Business Address: 206 Bay Street, Brighton
The marches yesterday were really impressive, but there is a way that school children could be many more times effective in carving out their future on these issues. Australian and State governments are pretty resistant against democratic protests, and anyhow, our governments at all levels don't have much of a clue about what to do about providing energy to our increasing populations. Schools and schoolchildren could exert much more pressure and constructive effort at a local level and we hope they will.
I am trying to imagine myself as a 15 year old back at school and trying to make my own decision regarding the Climate Change rally today, planned weeks in advance. How capable would I have been to assess the science on Climate Change? Actually, even now I don't think I can really independently assess the data. I understand that greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere and are associated with higher temperatures. I understand that the world production of Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GGEs) is increasing and that they come from the burning of coal, oil, and wood or anything combustible and are mitigated by the process of photosynthesis performed by trees and in fact all plants including plankton in the sea. Thank you plants and trees!
In Melbourne we are reducing our tree cover hand over fist as we build over our gardened suburbs far more densely. We add more GGEs as we add more people, since they all use electricity, they all in one way or another use cars or other transport. They consume goods, the production of which causes GGEs.
So I imagine how I would respond to the choice of attending a large rally whose purpose is to send a message to our federal government seemingly thumbing its nose at concern over climate change. In my 15 years would I have noticed any changes personally? I read about melting ice at the poles, I see You-Tube videos of polar bears unable to hunt due to loss off their ice environment. I hear of terrible droughts and fires in Australia often attributed to climate change. My teachers appear to be in favour of students taking half a day off school to attend the rally. What do I do? The popular kids are all attending the rally. If I don't, how will I be seen? What will be the fallout? Whatever I do, will be public as far as my peers are concerned. I have to make a decision and make my first political statement.
People are talking about being "on the right side of history." Of course when my own children ask me what I did I will want to be on the right side of history. However, the issue is somewhat intangible, abstract and seems to rely on a leap of faith. I don't want to be called "climate change denier." That sounds very much on the wrong side of history! I need to be a "believer." A bit of self talk is needed. I feel passionately about the natural world and I see assaults on it every day even where I live. Climate change affects the natural world but the science is complex for me, I have to take it on faith and I don't feel comfortable with this. Despite my misgivings and insecurities, I'll have to go today and join my classmates. I'm taking a punt that I am on the "right side of history." My parents do not approve of my attending but have said it is up to me.
I'm ambivalent but I am going.
I am a schoolteacher, and I am on my way to the Climate Change march. I am also ambivalent.
What are the children going to be learning in their 'first political statement' based on righteous indignation and general demands? I'm afraid they are going to be learning their first lesson in their political impotence. Because, as an adult who has tried to stop over-population, over-development and habitat destruction in this city and this country, I know that the government and the press are entirely capable of ignoring indignation on the steps of parliament from multiple residents' action groups.
As a teacher, I also do not dare to question this approach to environmental concerns, because, if I do, I will become a pariah. However I will tell you what I think we should be doing:
Our schools should not be marching in the city. We should be marching, if we are going to march, to our respective local councils, with carefully thought out lists of demands. First, we should be asking our local councils to make laws against tree removal and habitat destruction. Next on our list would be to ask them to investigate and cost new alternative power options and local food production options. Our schools should then put their science and other teachers to work with the children to examine the logistics and possibilities of these new technologies in the field - locally. What better place for us to learn to be effective, and to engage politically on energy and production than in our own communities and biophysical environments? This would also open up local careers in alternative industry avenues in energy and resources and planning. Youth suicide rates would drop, since political engagement close to home is an antidote to feeling worthless and powerless.
How might we notify the community of our serious intent on these matters? School children should be turning up, with their teachers, to every attempt to remove a tree in their local community and stop it until it is carefully evaluated. Perhaps we could form tree councils with others in our localities in order to promote alternatives to moonscaping our neighbourhoods.
How long, I wonder, would it take before we all realised that there should be local limits to growth? That would put a spanner in the authoritarian regime of planning for population growth and development. Thereby, by combining local action all over the country, we would accomplish far more than any Paris climate change conference.
I guess that is why we are all marching instead.
The effectiveness of recycling services across Australia is being seriously questioned as new research shines a critical light on waste management efforts. The findings of the first of a series of surveys by UNSW Sydney to better understand community attitudes to important issues, come as the growing waste problem around Australia and globally intensifies after a ban in January by China to no longer accept certain recyclable materials it had been taking from other countries. Most people, across all States and demographics, believe the recyclables they put out in their council bins are ending up in landfill.
Professor Veena Sahajwalla, Director of UNSW’s Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) Centre, said rising stockpiles and increasing use of landfill – in the absence of a coordinated government solution to our growing waste problem – had not been lost on consumers and they wanted action.
“Each council is fending for themselves right across Australia and while the meeting of Federal and State environment ministers earlier this year made an important announcement about a new National Waste Policy stating that by 2025 all packaging will be re-usable, compostable or recyclable, we don’t have to wait another seven years for this decision to come into effect,” Veena said.
“There is much that can be done right now given that scientifically-developed and proven methods are currently available through the green microfactory technology, yet the Federal Government is now also pushing on with an investment of $200 million into so called ‘waste to energy’ projects that actually destroy forever waste materials that can be used over and over as a renewable resource.”
Key findings show:
- 65.4% believe recyclables put into council bins goes to landfill; 69.5% female, 51.4% aged 18-34, 75.1% aged 65+
- 49% of people believe green and ecofriendly efforts will not have an effect in their lifetime; and 63.8% of those aged 65+ see no benefits being realised
- 72.4% of people would recycle more if the material was reliably recycled.
People are also confused about which levels of government – local, State, federal, or all three – are responsible for their local waste and recycling services. In fact, some people think industry, not government, is responsible for waste management.
But what is overwhelming is the Australian public’s determination for our governments to do much more to better manage recycling and investment into technology such as microfactories.
91.7% of people say is it very or somewhat important for Australia to invest in microfactory technology to ‘reform’ most common waste into re-usable ‘high-value’ materials, and 80.4% support government investment in this technology to reduce landfill and create jobs.
“It is clear on this issue that people want action, and they want governments to invest and do something now,” Veena said. “A number of councils and private business are interested in our technology but unless there are incentives in place, Australia will be slow to capitalise on the potential to lead the world in reforming our waste into something valuable and reusable.”
“Rather than export our rubbish overseas and to do more land fill for waste, the microfactory technology has the potential for us to export valuable materials and newly manufactured products instead. Through the microfactory technology, we can enhance our economy and be part of the global supply chain by supplying more valuable materials around the world and stimulating manufacturing innovation in Australia.”
The NSW Environment Minister launched the world’s first demonstration e-waste microfactory in April this year. This showcases a process developed by the UNSW SMaRT Centre, which transforms the components of discarded electronic items like mobile phones, laptops and printers in to new and reusable materials that can then be used to manufacture high value products. There is no need to dump this eWaste, when it can be used to produce high value metal alloys, carbon and products such as 3D printer filament.
UNSW is also finalising a second demonstration microfactory, which converts glass, plastics and other waste materials in to high value products. Mixed waste glass is used to create engineered stone products, which look and perform as well as expensive marble and granite. Wood, plastic and textile waste is used to create valuable insulation and building panels.
Our e-waste mircofactory involves a number of small machines for this process and they fit into a small room. The discarded electronic devices and items are first placed into a module to break them down. The next module may involve a special robot to extract useful parts. Another module uses a small furnace to separate the metalic parts into valuable materials, while another one reforms the plastic into filament suitable for 3D printing.
A microfactory can involve one or a series of modular machines and be easily transported or relocated to where a stockpile or suitable site exists. Costings show an investment in some microfactory modules can pay off in less than three years. Glass stockpiles alone amount to more than one million tonnes per year nationally. In total, Australia produces nearly 65 million tonnes of industrial and domestic solid waste each year, but it is now cheaper to import than recycle glass here. About 60 per cent of waste is reportedly recycled but much of this is low value.
“Our new recycling and reforming process via what we call a microfactory has the potential to deliver economic and environmental benefits wherever waste is stockpiled,” Veena said. “The main impediment to deploying these new methods is the lack of incentive by governments for industry to adopt them.”
Veena said green microfactories can not only produce high performance materials and products, they eliminate the necessity of expensive machinery, save on the extraction from the environment of yet more natural materials, and reduce the impact of burning waste and dumping it in landfill.
UNSW, through its ARC Green Manufacturing Hub, has developed this technology with support from the Australian Research Council and is in partnership with several businesses and organisations including recycler TES and manufacturer MolyCop. And through the Commonwealth funded CRC-P initiative, SMaRT is partnering with Dresden, which makes spectacles, in the use of recycled plastics.
Adam Creighton and Oliver Marc Hartwich
Centre for Independent Studies: 2011
The report is about local councils being at the coalface of population growth. Their ability to adequately provide basic infrastructure for more people will affect how Australians perceive the costs and benefits of population growth.
See also: Stop beating about the bush and talk about Big Australia in Sydney Morning Herald of 4 Aug 2010. Includes broadcast talk by Ross Gittins on Julia Gillard's election promise to reduce immigration
Population growth affects a council’s budget. It usually results in extra revenue from charges and rates, but it also requires extra investment in infrastructure and increased spending on services. If we want to find out how local government is predisposed to dealing with population increases, we need to understand how extra revenue and extra costs play out in practice.
A report in the local Leader newspaper, Wednesday 17th July:
RATE RISES HIT HOME HARD
Homeowners will soon receive their council rates notices and the news won't be good.
No council across Melbourne has managed to hold its rates increases at the 2.5 percent inflation mark.
In contrast, several shires in regional Victoria say they will achieve a rates increase at or below inflation.
Across Melbourne, the hardest hit ratepayers are in Nillumbik. They will pay an extra 9.95%, an average rise of $210.
Budgets will also be stretched in Banyule, where rates will rise 7.95 per cent, or $110, and Casey rate are going up 7.5per cent, or $114.
Moreland is the best performer and has managed its lowest rise in a decade - 2.9 per cent, or $41. Others to get the tick of homeowners approval are Bayside and Glen Eira (both up 3.5 per cent) and Whitehorse at 3.9 per cent, or an average of $49.
Maroondah is to be commended for chopping its expected rise from 5.6 to 4.9 per cent, acknowledging that its residents were doing it tough.
As rates and household bill continue to to rise faster than inflation, councils must do more to explore hardships and relief programs.
Researchers conducted an online survey of all 558 local governments in Australia (mayors and chief executives). The survey comprised 18 questions. Four key findings emerged from the 120 valid responses (or 21.5% of the entire sample):
• Local governments have been raising property rates to meet the costs of population growth.
These rises are more likely in more populous and rapidly growing communities.
• Almost one-third of respondents, particularly larger councils, said population growth was damaging their bottom line, and that they were concerned about upgrading infrastructure.
•About 80% of respondents use developer levies to help pay for the costs of population growth.
Levies are used more widely by larger councils, and particularly in NSW and Queensland.
•Only a fraction of respondents thought their existing revenue mechanisms were wholly adequate. Indeed, more than half of the respondents in NSW and Queensland said the current setup was not satisfactory. Overwhelmingly, local councils think better access to ongoing revenue streams would alleviate some of the pressures of accommodating extra population.
Former US Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill once famously said, ‘all politics is local.’
No sector exemplifies this better than population growth. As population grows, people require new houses, schools, health services, roads, and waste management facilities. A growing population in Playford has to be addressed in Playford. If Queanbeyan needs a new school, there is no use building one in Mount Barker.
Alexis De Tocqueville, the great French liberal writer, observed with envious approval the success of local governments in New England in the United States when he toured there. He wrote in the 1830s:
The strength of free peoples resides in the local community. Local institutions are to liberty what primary schools are to science; they put it within the people’s reach; they teach people to appreciate its peaceful enjoyment and accustom them to make use of it.
Local governments obtain much of their revenue from rates, a form of land tax levied on the unimproved value of land within the local government jurisdiction paid directly by landowners. About 80% of local government revenues come from rates, fines and user charges for use of local services. The easiest way for councils to collect taxes is to base them on land value.
Despite the economic boom in Western Australia and Wanneroo, the city does not generate enough revenue to build extra infrastructure for its growing population. Residents are already dealing with more traffic, loss of amenities, and crowding of public services—and yet they are being asked to pay for accommodating more people. The local council raised its rates by 6.9% in its 2010–11 budget.
Altogether, a majority of councils increased rates to deal with population growth. There were, however, some variations among states.
Unsurprisingly, the degree of population growth influenced the use of rate hikes. The stronger the population growth, the more likely rates were increased to cope with it. Larger councils were more likely to increase rates, while smaller councils were more reluctant.
The financial effects of population growth on a council’s bottom line are ambiguous. Councils face higher costs associated with providing infrastructure and services for extra residents, but earn more revenue through increased rates and additional grants from state and federal governments.
More than half the survey respondents believed that population growth had a positive net effect on their council’s bottom line, citing the long-term benefits of population growth over the significant short- to medium-term funding shortfalls.
Smaller councils believed that the positive financial effect of population growth outweighed the costs of development. With bigger councils it was the reverse.
There is no perfect solution to the concerns that local governments have about their ability to finance the costs of population growth. Government, of whatever size, will always desire more funds. Council rate revenue, however, comes after new population, and is not sufficient to cover larger upfront capital costs that a surge of new residents requires. Moreover, rates may not increase very much if the new population is housed in higher density residential apartments
and rates are levied solely on the value of land.
Their results indicate that mayors and senior management of local governments believe financial constraints are impeding their ability to manage the inflow of people. Almost one-third of our survey respondents believe additional migration is a net cost to their budget.
As a result, councils are increasing their rates, penalising existing residents—hardly an inducement to embrace change—or using developer levies, which push the cost of new development wholly onto developers and potential residents.
Australia’s Angry Mayors: How Population Growth Frustrates Local Councils
#D9EAF5;">Update, 27 June 2014: Added links to other stories, including more recent stories, about the Mitchell River Flying Foxes, in response to #comment-126189">more #comment-126190">comments: Flying Foxes hounded from their habitat (July 2013(?), Environment East Gippsland), Council keen to remove bat-attracting trees (23/1/14, ABC), Chester backs push for Bairnsdale bats removal (21/5/14, ABC), Flying foxes torment Bairnsdale community like bats out of hell (14/6/14, Herald Sun).
#D9EAF5;">Update, 27 June 2014: Other stories, including more recent stories, about the Mitchell River Flying Foxes: Chester backs push for Bairnsdale bats removal (21/5/14, ABC), Flying foxes torment Bairnsdale community like bats out of hell (14/6/14, Herald Sun), Council keen to remove bat-attracting trees (23/1/14, ABC), Flying Foxes hounded from their habitat (July 2013(?), Environment East Gippsland).
There is a breeding colony of grey headed flying foxes at Bairnsdale in poplar trees along the bank of the Mitchell River in Bairnsdale. It is now threatened by the East Gippsland Shire. This article, by Bob McDonald, contains a fascinating history of flying fox colonies in early Victoria, as well as some keen scientific observations. (Photos also by Bob McDonald.)
This letter is first to request submission to the federal process. http://www.environment.gov.au/
( See end of article for what you can do to help.)
In 1999 the species was classified as "Vulnerable to extinction" in The Action Plan for Australian Bats,#0066cc">#0066cc"> and has since been protected across its range under Australian federal law. As of 2008 #0066cc">#0066cc;font-style:italic">the species is listed as "Vulnerable" on the #0066cc">#0066cc">IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. from the wiki article #0066cc">#0066cc">http://en.wikipedia.
The grey-headed flying fox summer nursery colony has been on the Mitchell River Bank for 10 years. This species, despite what DSE and some zoologists say - has been present in Victoria continuously. The removal of colonies from Sale and elsewhere last century, accompanied by the removal of vegetation they require for a summer breeding colonies had seen these colonies lost to the south of the state. The creation of a rainforest in the Melbourne Botanical Gardens and later, around 2002-03 the growth of poplars with a dense weedy understory at Bairnsdale, has enabled them to establish two summer breeding colonies. The one from the Botanical Gardens was forcibly evicted and the grey headed flying foxes moved to red gums on the banks of the Yarra River where they suffer a significantly increased mortality rate.
The East Gippsland Shire, in response to resident’s complaints, established a process to fell the poplars in stages and replace them with native vegetation - continuing 'revegetation program'. Unfortunately designing these plantings no consideration has been given to the basic physical requirements of the grey - headed flying foxes nursery area. From past experience vegetation will have to be least 2-30 years of age or even much older before it can provide the physical structure - especially shelter from sun - required.
The properties affected - 2-5 - have a legitimate grievance - but no steps have been taken to mitigate the impact of grey-headed flying foxes on these properties. The noise volumes experienced by residents and frequency has not been measured and proximity of the flying foxes to the properties has not been mapped. The proposal of the Shire here; http://www.eastgippsland.vic.
IF ANY TREES ARE CUT DOWN PLEASE RING DREW McLean 0417 418 070 and 02 6274 2384 IMMEDIATELY. UNLESS FEDERAL APPROVAL IS GIVEN THE PENALTIES ARE FINES AND/OR JAIL SENTENCES.
I have attached an article that I wrote in last weeks (Bairnsdale) Advertiser and basic internet searches will reveal both that Grey-headed flying foxes are likely primates http://www.batcon.org/index.
I am doing what I can but I would really appreciate any help and assistance that any of you could generate. Submissions for the federal process (see below) close on the 15th of February. The council date for closure of submissions finishes on the same day - but Kate Nelson of the East Gippsland Shire indicated on local ABC Radio yesterday that the council will be clearing the poplars out over 18 months. This will lead to the death of grey-headed flying foxes, especially the young, and the loss of the breeding colony and apparently pre-empts the process established by the shire.
The alternative approach is outlined in the letter below and involves continuing the rainforest revegetation on all available public land, developing tourism potential and only removing the poplars in two or three decades time when the grey headed flying foxes move on.
Before the council takes any further action it must;
1. Abide by the Australian Federal Law
2. Actually evaluate the nuisance caused to a few residents by the fruit bats and undertake measures to reduce their impact
3. Pay for or jointly fund research to determine what the physical parameters are for this nursery colony,
a. the temperature range within the colony,
b. the current mortality rate of young and adult grey-headed flying foxes and the cause of that mortality
c. collate all the known counts of animals in this colony and undertake a monitoring the numbers of adults and young
4. Measure the noise nuisance caused to residents and undertake research to determine what mitigation measures are required and install those that do not impact grey-headed flying foxes such as sound barriers etc.
The point Bob is trying to get across is for people to send submissions to: Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
GPO Box 787
Canberra ACT 2601
Link for submissions http://www.environment.gov.au/
Send copies to the East Gippsland Shire and The Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water etc.
East Gippsland Shire address:
Grey-headed Flying-fox Feedback
PO Box 1618
Bairnsdale Vic 3875
Email correspondence can be sent to [email protected]
All feedback must be received by 4.00pm on the 15th of February 2013.