Mary Drost's 90th birthday party took place on 13 October 2021, while Melbourne was still in Lockdown, but you could meet in the open air if you wore masks and were within 20km of your home. I was unable to attend because it was out of my 20km range.
Hi to you all, and particularly to those of you who I do not know. As you will have heard from Mary, I have agreed to take over as Convenor from Mary Drost OAM. In 2005 Mary established Planning Backlash as an umbrella organisation and coalition of community and resident action groups.
"My objective, with your help, honourable members, is to make Melbourne, and even Victoria, a great place to live. Not merely a great place in population size or area to rival such places as Shanghai, New York, London or Sao Paulo. 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. An environment where children can play safely, where the car is not king but a servant.
Walkable patchworks of various styles of housing, where one would enjoy walking, cycling or travelling through by public transport. A city of learning, education, the arts and self-supporting industry, where families and communities can thrive. Where the less fortunate who may be living on lower incomes are not segregated into high-rise towers but live in affordable detached or medium-density housing spread throughout the suburbs. Where their children have the same opportunities as other children. Where ghettos of crime and despair are not created. A city where the environment—the living environment—is prized and of prime importance. A sustainable city or cities in a sustainable state. This can only happen when people are proud of their neighbourhoods and where they, as citizens, have control over what they create—the built form, the environment, the infrastructure. This is what, I believe, we as a Parliament can achieve." (Clifford Hayes, Extract from speech.)
[This speech was paragraphed by candobetter.net editor. It was taken from the unproofed Hansard transcript and will be revised if there are changes.]
Mr HAYES (Southern Metropolitan) (16:54:47): President and honourable members, especially new members, congratulations. I grew up in Brighton, the son of a doctor and a school teacher, so in many people’s eyes I had a life of privilege, but my parents had just bought a house, my father was starting his own medical practice from scratch and I was sent to Gardenvale state school. However, I did not like school, particularly getting the strap in my first few days there for playing in the third graders’ playground.
So when I learned to read, quite well, I told my mum I wanted to leave school. She laughed and told me I had to do another 12 years before I could leave.
I was devastated. By grade 3 my parents were able to send me to Brighton Grammar.
But in grade 4 my father suffered a terrible car accident, which affected him and his earning ability for the rest of his life. Mum worked, which was not that common in the early 1960s, and Dad brought in some money, so we got by okay. My two sisters and I managed to finish at private schools, but my father's situation got worse, and he relied on drinking and heavy medication, which by the end of our schooling left him totally incapacitated.
Being a bit of a rebel and not a great student, I decided on a very different course to the academic life so beloved by my parents. I had become interested in photography and filmmaking, and to my parents’ horror I wanted a career in the film industry. So I left home and went to work.
The Australian film industry was almost non-existent then. I found a job in the nascent television industry with Hector Crawford at Crawford Productions in Collins Street. My first job was on Homicide as a music editor, although I only had the vaguest idea of what that job entailed when I started. Over the next few years Crawfords produced the top three or four highest rating TV dramas in Australia at that time.
I went on to become a freelance film editor, and in 1979 I won an Australian Film Institute award for my part in editing Mad Max.
The PRESIDENT: As tempting as it is, can we hold the applause until the end.
Mr HAYES: However, it was my experience working in the Northern Territory on the feature film We of the Never Never that changed my view on how we treated the first inhabitants of this land, and I came home a firm believer in Aboriginal land rights.
My parents, particularly my father, who was a keen advocate to the few who would listen back then for Indigenous recognition and other social issues, were both academic and left wing in political inclination, which was a pretty unusual stand compared to many of my friends’ parents in Brighton. So I was always interested in politics and comparing and arguing various points of view.
However, it was travelling overseas for six months when I was 24 which opened my eyes on how we lived in Australia. I was trying to find my way around the gridlocked streets of Bangkok, and looking over a bridge I saw swarming below a mass of humanity living in shacks on the side of a city canal, which would be no bigger than the Elwood canal down our way. A couple of hundred people were living down there—working, living and laughing.
I realized that there were many ways to live the life that I thought was normal from my little bubble in suburban Melbourne. I also realized that which so many Australian travellers come to see: we are all so enormously privileged to grow up and live in the open spaces and remaining nature of our suburbs and the surrounding countryside.
I lived in Sydney for a while working as an editor. Here I was in the heart of the film industry and lived the life of a continual after-work party—restaurants, bars, parties, picnics, drinking, eating and all that goes with it. It was the 1980s, and Sydney was a beautiful city and definitely the place to be. Few would disagree that most of the beauty around the harbour has now been spoiled by overdevelopment.
I got married and divorced in fairly quick succession. I bought an old farm house in a small town, Deans Marsh—between Geelong and Lorne—as a weekend retreat, and I became more and more interested in small-scale farming, self-sufficiency, agriculture and alternative lifestyles.
I got married again and we had a daughter followed by a son a couple of years later.
Computerisation had swept through the TV industry, enabling me to work from our farm house but often requiring travel back and forth to Melbourne. I studied for a diploma in applied science, farm management, by correspondence through Melbourne University, with a view to starting a small vineyard, which would certainly supplement my growing wine cellar. That was when devastation struck and my life had to change.
My wife wanted out, citing my lifestyle, the working, the drinking, the parties and generally being away from home too much. I was not much use as a father—and what is more, she was taking the kids. My drinking, smoking and party life had to stop.
I realised my health was being affected and my lifestyle was costing me more than money. I was losing friends, my lucrative business and now what I valued most—my family. I sought help and I found it through an organisation which pointed me to a path of spiritual recovery. As a result I no longer drink or smoke, nor do I take any mind-altering substances except caffeine, and have not done so for many years.
However, I did start that small vineyard on the Mornington Peninsula with a business partner. After a while I managed to reconcile with my family, and though my wife and I did not resume our marriage we became good friends and I had the opportunity to be the father I had always wanted to be to my children.
In 2003 I sold the vineyard and I moved back to Brighton again, buying an older style apartment with a backyard, where I still live today.
While I always had a political interest, my real political activity was about to start in the most unlikely way.
My mother, who still lived in the old family home nearby, told me that a developer had plans to build a 5-storey building of more than 100 apartments right behind her house. The whole street was affected, most of the houses being single storey.
All of our neighbours were up in arms: 'They can’t do this here!’. And the reply from our council: 'Oh yes, they can’.
It was Melbourne 2030, and we had been declared, without our knowledge, to be living in an activity centre.
What is more, the council had plans for more 4 and 5-storey buildings scattered around North Brighton.
Our group of residents decided to run someone against the local councillor. I was the only volunteer, and I ran on the issue, opposing high-rise development.
With huge community support, I was elected by a sizeable majority seeking to maintain our village character. Once elected, I had the full support of council in moving for more restrictive height controls in our village-style shopping centres and surrounding residential streets.
The minister, through his department, would not allow the changes, but after much lobbying he did grant so‑called 'discretionary’ height controls but at heights greater than the council’s decision.
The developers were still not happy and took the council to VCAT, where the VCAT member overruled the council’s refusal, saying discretionary controls gave him the discretion to break them. What is more, he and other members over the years took it upon themselves to give council lectures about our housing policy, developed out of widespread community consultation, for being too restrictive.
VCAT continues to grant permits for building heights far in excess of our meaningless discretionary controls as granted by the state government.
So much for the wishes of the community, or democracy, where elected bodies such as municipal councils can be overridden by a bureaucrat and increasingly by the state government.
This is where I discovered the general attitude of the planning bodies.
Senior planners in the government said to me, 'Councillor, if you don’t want high rise, you must want sprawl’.
I said, 'I don’t want either’, to which they replied, 'Well, where will you put the population?’.
Research showed me how population growth had been ramped up in recent years from a long-term average of 70 000 per annum to 200 000 people per annum. Melbourne is now growing by 2500 people, seeking accommodation, every week.
This fact is used by the government to overpower councils on the issue of planning in particular. Most government planners advocate urban consolidation and the destruction of our valued Australian suburban life. They talk of high-rise schools. Where will the children play?
To achieve this so-called consolidation, governments, planners and developers want to bring in more and more people, not from the outer suburbs but from overseas, to densify the inner city.
Who benefits? The developers and the property industry.
After being elected mayor of Bayside I joined an organisation called Planning Backlash. Led by the awesome Mary Drost, OAM, we represented planning groups with similar issues all across Melbourne and regional Victoria.
This group has led the campaign for greater say for residents and councils and has regularly met with all planning ministers, both Liberal and Labor, up until this minister, who no longer consults with us.
Rapid population growth has been connected with our planning problems.
Around this time I saw Dick Smith’s documentary and found the policies of Sustainable Australia. I came to see that global population growth and the corresponding increased pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, species decline and habitat destruction have made population growth the major environmental problem, both globally and locally.
Yet population growth was not even mentioned by the major political parties, including the Greens.
The Greens advocate lowering consumption, and rightly so, but until they realistically tackle the population issue they cannot address the current rate of environmental destruction and greenhouse gas emissions in this state or in this country.
This issue has nothing to do with race or religion, nor should it. For no matter how much we reduce consumption and the ensuing pollution per person, if we increase the population at the same time, we will make zero or even negative progress.
And we in this country are growing at rates far above the world population growth rate, and our greenhouse gas emissions keep on rising.
A similar charge could be made against the major parties, Labor and Liberal, who cry economic ruin if we reduce population growth by returning to 1980s or 1990s levels of immigration, as our party advocates.
They say the current rapid population growth raises gross domestic product. Yet, as we all know, GDP per head of population growth and wages growth have been stagnant over recent years as we have imported more and more workers.
In 2010 I met William Bourke and joined Sustainable Australia. Their policies on local planning, affordable housing, infrastructure, the environment and a more diverse economy appealed to my frustrated desires, particularly at a local level.
As to planning in this beautiful city and this bountiful state, planning should be a good thing, not like here, with our planning system—deregulated, discretionary and encouraging the atrocious.
Then we, the residents, hopefully with the support of our councils, try to make the proposal less bad. Even this process is under attack, with planning bodies such as the Grattan Institute seeking to remove third-party appeal rights. Even less local democracy is being demanded.
Planning, we believe, should be conceived at the local level, initiated by local planning groups or citizen juries. Planning should then set the agenda, set the social and environmental goals, the population density and height controls. Then developers would have to conform to these established local requirements—a democratic process.
Finally, just before I finish, I would like to thank a few people who helped me take this journey to find my way to this most historic and honourable chamber: William Bourke, our hardworking federal president and an invaluable mentor; Mary Drost, of indomitable spirit, and the committee of Planning Backlash; Richard Rozen and my supporters in Brighton Residents for Urban Protection; Derek, Evelyn, Kerrie, David, Beth, David and John of Restore Residents’ Rights; Jill Quirk, who ran in an election with me; Kelvin Thomson, a former MLA and an early advocate on population growth, who is now my fantastic chief of staff; Noel Pullen, a former MLC, who helped us in the planning battle; Alex Del Porto, James Long, Sonia Castelli and Bayside councillors past and present; my family, especially my two children, Alice and Harry.
My objective, with your help, honourable members, is to make Melbourne, and even Victoria, a great place to live. Not merely a great place in population size or area to rival such places as Shanghai, New York, London or Sao Paulo. 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. An environment where children can play safely, where the car is not king but a servant.
Walkable patchworks of various styles of housing, where one would enjoy walking, cycling or travelling through by public transport.
A city of learning, education, the arts and self-supporting industry, where families and communities can thrive. Where the less fortunate who may be living on lower incomes are not segregated into high-rise towers but live in affordable detached or medium-density housing spread throughout the suburbs. Where their children have the same opportunities as other children. Where ghettos of crime and despair are not created. A city where the environment—the living environment—is prized and of prime importance. A sustainable city or cities in a sustainable state. This can only happen when people are proud of their neighbourhoods and where they, as citizens, have control over what they create—the built form, the environment, the infrastructure. This is what, I believe, we as a Parliament can achieve.
It is important to hear policies from key MPs before the election. Thanks to Prof Michael Buxton, we have a large lecture hall in Swanston Street, on the west side, called RMIT Building 80, and we have room 7 on the ground floor. Take note - it is 3 weeks today - lets fill the hall. (Mary Drost, Planning Backlash).
State Election Forum
Several Ministers and Shadow Ministers have been invited to present their key policies. You can ask questions about what is important to you
SUNDAY, 28 OCTOBER 2018
2.30PM - Sunday 7th of October 2018. Open Public Meeting Stop Over-Development in Melbourne! Speakers: Professor Bob Birrell, Professor Michael Buxton, Mary Drost OAM Planning Backlash, Jack Roach, Boroondara Residents' Action Group, Leith van Onselen- economist. Venue: Zelman Room, Hawthorn Arts Centre, 360 Burwood Road, Hawthorne.
Zelman Room, Hawthorn Arts Centre, 360 Burwood Road:
By train: Hawthorne is a 250m walk from Glenferrie Railway station
By Tram: Stop 75 (corner Glenferrie and Burwood Rds), Tram line 16
How dare the Urban Development Institute of Australia tell the State Government that it should set housing targets for each council to cope with Melbourne's rapid population growth and then if we don't meet the targets they set we will be victimised.  They even specifically mentioned Boroondara and Stonnington as not pulling their weight and referred to NIMBYs. As a resident of Boroondara I can assure the Development Institute that Boroondara is being flooded with buildings to such an extent that the whole neighbourhood character is being ruined, what on earth do they want. High rise on every suburban street?
The real problem is that Melbourne is getting too many people coming to the city. Even Planning Minister Wynne is quoted as saying that Melbourne has the highest growth rate of any city in the developed world. We have been saying this for years as we see it's livability being wrecked. People all across Melbourne are complaining as they see their areas being overcrowded and over developed. The Federal Government must reduce immigration - tell them we are full to bursting. Do they want to turn us into a dense third world city with polluted gridlocked streets?
Many of us are saying, having watched the Royal Commission into the Banking World, that it is time for a Royal Commission to examine the Developers World.
Below is the article that caused the suggestion that we need a Royal Commission into how development is conducted in this country.
"Develop or be punished," by John Masanauskas. (Herald Sun, 2 June 2018.
A DEVELOPER lobby has called for suburbs which don’t pull their weight on housing supply to be punished with less investment in infrastructure.
Urban Development Institute of Australia state CEO Danni Addison said the state government should set housing targets for each council area to cope with Melbourne’s rapid population growth.
“That new housing stock, if delivered, should be accompanied by infrastructure investment from government,” she told a UDIA event yesterday.
“And if it’s not delivered where it should be, then investment in infrastructure in those areas should be restricted.”
Developers told the event councils like Boroondara and Stonnington were not providing their share of new housing.
Ms Addison said there were “politically unpalatable areas of Melbourne where growth is uncomfortable ideologically or from a position of NIMBYism (not in my backyard)”.
“But if that growth were to be followed and serviced by infrastructure, then I think the community would definitely be more at ease,” she said.
Planning Minister Richard Wynne said Melbourne had the highest growth rate of any city in the developed world."
Today Mary Drost, of Planning Backlash, went to a Forum in South Yarra to meet the 14 candidates for Lord Mayor of Melbourne. She says, "We need a good Lord Mayor and not one who will overdevelop and wreck our city even more. These last few years have been terrible. Go and take a look. If you use a search engine to check the population of cities in North America and Western Europe, you will find that Melbourne and Sydney are bigger than all cities except New York, Toronto, London, Paris and Berlin, and add Singapore as that is first world also. We are increasing much too fast - it is wrong."
At the forum, there were ten mayoral candidates and a big crowd of residents. There were probably developers there as well.
They all spoke and then there were questions. Mary had the last question and it was to Sally Capp, Chair of the Property Council and, it seems, a front runner. Mary's question was,
"You are head of the Property Council, so, if a development was proposed and the residents objected to it, but the Property Council urged you to approve it, what would you do?
Sally gave a long answer, which Mary thought really said nothing, seeming to say that she would support the residents if they all thought the same.
Mary responded, "But you hate resident groups, I learned that at Planning Panels."
Mary says she thinks it would be a disaster for Melbourne if Sally Capp gets in. She would vote for Gary Morgan or Michael Burge or Sally Warhaft. At the bottom of her list would be Sally Capp, Ken Ong and Rohan Leppert. She adds that the council has been so dysfunctional, that she doesn't think it is a good idea for a present councillor to be Lord Mayor. Leppert was Deputy Chair of Planning and Ong was Chair. "Think of the damage to Melbourne with their planning in the last few years," she concluded.
Mary Drost, Convenor of Planning Backlash, speaks to the protesters at 'Restore Residents' Rights', a Planning Backlash Rally she convened on the steps of Victorian Parliament, Australia, 8 June 2017. This rally was a huge protest by many residents' and ratepayer groups against the Victorian Government's despotic plan to privatise the planning system in order to provide for an increase in an increase in Victoria's population from approx 6m to 10m by 2050, mostly through immigration, mostly through immigration, in order to satiate the greed of developers who have taken over this country.
I have just come back from 2 weeks in my old home Jakarta. When we went there to live there were 3 million people and it was easy to get around and very manageable. Those were the good days. The Governor, Ali Sadikin, closed the city to more incomers on advice from UN city planning experts as they said the bigger a city gets the harder it is to manage and the mega cities are beyond human management. Immigration was reduced down to those who had work permits. (Immigrants in this case refers to people coming to the city from the countryside). The Governor himself told me the story that the President eventually forced him to open the city to immigration. Population is now maybe 10 million and growing. The city is a total polluted gridlocked nightmare.
There is not enough infrastructure. The city is packed with millions of cars and motor bikes and it takes hours to inch along through this solid pack of vehicles, on every street, everywhere, at all times. If your taxi is immobile in traffic you can jump out and hop on the back of a motor bike. This will be a bit quicker. One has a choice of UBER bikes, GRAB bikes or GO JEK bikes all with their own distinctive helmets with the name in large letters across the back - great business. It is a good idea to cover your nose and mouth against the pollution - you should see what the police wear to protect themselves.
I knew I was seeing Melbourne as it will be in the future if our population keeps growing as it has been and we do not have the money for the infrastructure. Infrastructure is currently estimated to be $200 billion behind right now and remember that Infrastructure Vic said they would be spending $100 billion over the next 30 years. Think how far behind we will be then. What we are seeing in Melbourne right now is what I have seen happening in Jakarta over the years, It will end up like Jakarta now - a nightmare. We are insane to let this happen to Melbourne. We have got to tell the government loud and clear to reduce immigration right now before it is too late.
There are better ways to keep the economy going. The small rich European countries seem to manage by going in for super high tech whereas all we do is build more and more houses. We are being conned by a lazy stupid government with a ponzi scheme. So what happens when we double the population of Melbourne, does it stop there or does it keep growing? If the government still insists on high immigration it should allow migrants to come only if they live in country towns, It should provide jobs for them there and put in fast trains across Victoria connecting the towns. But no, all they do is pack them into Melbourne, in your back yard. Go to Jakarta if you want to see the future of Melbourne or Sydney.
Responding to "Plan Melbourne 2017-2050" and changes to the Planning Scheme which will transfer government powers to private developers, Planning Backlash will rally on the steps of Parliament on 8 June 2017 at 1pm.
RESTORE RESIDENTS' RIGHTS
‘PLAN MELBOURNE 2017-2050’ AND PLANNING SCHEME CHANGES WILL FURTHER REMOVE RESIDENTS RIGHTS.
Rally on the steps of Parliament 8th June at 1 pm.
We demand that residents’ rights are restored and that Plan Melbourne 2017-2050 is amended accordingly.
Not only does this latest ‘Plan Melbourne’ remove more of our rights, the protection provided by the residential zones has been dramatically reduced and 70% of all new development will be forced into our established suburbs. Also multi-storey apartments in your local street will be encouraged with no objections allowed.
Professor Michael Buxton (School of Global, Urban & Social Studies, RMIT) will be the main presenter along with other prominent speakers.
Your’s and your members’ presence will help us to get our rights restored and changes made to protect our homes.
Authorized by Mary Drost, Convenor of PLANNING BACKLASH INC. registered under the Associations Incorporation Act . Planning Backlash is a coalition of over 250 resident andcommunity groups from across Melbourne as well as country and coastal areas of Victoria. PO Box 1034 Camberwell 3124
Candobetter.net Editor: The following document will be handed out at the rally. Please read it, talk it and send it everywhere:
Residents' Bill of Rights
We, the current residents of Melbourne, country and coastal areas of Victoria, call on the government and opposition at all levels to act to protect our homes, communities and cities from over-development.
The current trend of excessive population growth through the ever increasing levels of immigration.
The excessive influence of vested interests and lobby groups upon residential planning and government decision making.
The increasing densification of residential areas and the consequent impact on our infrastructure without commensurate infrastructure upgrades at all levels.
The continual changes to planning law and regulations that provides no certainty for the peaceful enjoyment of our neighbourhoods by the current and future residents.
The continual urban sprawl into Melbourne’s green fringe and farming land.
• Population growth targets to be limited to sustainable levels based on OECD averages which is currently around 0.63%. (Australia’s rate of growth is currently around 1.7% ).
• Infrastructure be upgraded to meet current needs and kept ahead of requirements to meet our cities population growth requirements.
• A bipartisan planning environment that provides certainty and protects residential areas against densification in any form.
• Councils to be the sole “responsible Authority” for issuing planning permits and building permits.
• VCAT’s role to be confined to resolution of legal planning disputes and ensuring that lawful planning regulations are met.
• FIRB rules and penalties designed and strictly applied to prevent destruction of existing housing stock and neighbourhood character by foreign nationals.
• Expansion and development of regional cities and associated infrastructure to support population growth and lifestyle quality.
• Developer donations be deemed illegal with mandatory disqualification, forfeiture, or dismissal from or of any current or future development.
• Protection of current open space and tree canopy with requirement to retain or replace vegetation on all new or redevelopment sites.
• Government, at all levels, legally required to assess and protect the interests of residents ahead of developers’ interests.
• All planning committees and reference groups must have at reasonable resident representation.
• Legislate to ensure permits can be refused where a poll of residents/owners living within 300m radius of the proposed development indicates objection by the majority of existing residents/owners.
• A national uniform code be developed to define minimum dwelling size, minimum open space per bedroom and maximum occupancy limits.
• Enforceable minimum Victorian building standards regulations administered by an independent authority.
• Any breach of a planning permit or building standards should result in a prosecution by the relevant authority or the State or local Government to ensure proper rectification
• Developers to meet infrastructure costs necessary for new developments including drainage, sewage, water supply, telecommunications, gas and electricity.
• Developers to be required to contribute to a general community/Council infrastructure fund, , based on number of bedrooms or estimated improved value of the property.
• Neighbourhood character, architecture and heritage requirements to be met by every new residential development.
• Establishment and enforcement of resident and visitor car parking standards, for new multi-dwelling developments, at the rate of 0.75 spaces per bedroom, for residents and 0.25 spaces for visitors.
• Character protection for heritage and traditional local shopping strips.
[This bill was] Published & authorized by PLANNING BACKLASH, on behalf of it’s 250
supporting residents' groups in Melbourne, country & coastal areas.
PO Box 1034 Camberwell, Vic. 3124
Mary Drost, (Convenor of Planning Backlash Inc), Joanna Stanley (Brunswick Residents Group), and Ann Reid (Convenor of Malvern East Group) met VCAT President Justice Greg Garde on Wednesday April 18. One of our objectives in having this meeting was to persuade him to arrange a forum for residents such as the ones previously arranged by Justice Kevin Bell and Iain Ross some years ago. Both of those men had actually listened to residents and had approached the then Attorney General to have some changes made to procedure so the "natural justice" would get more attention in the Planning and Environment section of VCAT than had previously been the case. Alas, apart from two minor changes no actual reform was permitted.
Justice Garde's reaction to our request was interesting. He said he would speak at a meeting but did not seem interested in following the previous Presidents and arranging a meeting to hear residents' opinions. He explained that VCAT was run by handpicked professionals who followed the rules to the letter.
We raised a number of issues that we residents have with VCAT.
1. The question of expert witnesses having to give sworn evidence
We raised the question of expert witnesses having to give sworn evidence.
His response was that we could ask for it and the Member would consider the request and it was up to the Member to decide if it was necessary. He then said that expert witnesses were entitled to their opinions on a subject and they were not necessarily lying, as it was their honest opinion. Have you ever been at VCAT and heard expert witnesses sworn in? I even mentioned that Maddocks knows of a case where the witness was heard later laughing about what he had said as he believed the opposite. I was ignored.
We explained that when we met with the Senior Adviser to the present Attorney General he was astonished that expert witnesses did not give sworn evidence. Justice Bell just smiled and said nothing.
So we got nowhere with that.
2. We raised with him the fact that applicants (developers) request a certain Member to hear their case.
Justice Garde said that is prohibited and does not happen. I recently heard from a resident that the developer in the case was saying they asked for a Member and got them. We checked this out at the front desk, whether it was true that this happened, and the front desk person verified that they ask and, if possible, they get the one they ask for. Justice Garde refused to believe this.
3. We raised the subject of order of presentation
We asked if it can be changed as we consider it unfair that the one bringing the case goes last. In a court of law they go first. In VCAT council go first, then objectors and then the developer. This gives the developer an unfair advantage as they hear all we say and then set to work to demolish our points. Councils on the whole agree with us on this.
Justice Garde said it did not matter which way it was as the Member will hear from all whichever way it goes. He did not agree that the current way is to our disadvantage. However he did say that a party could request the change and it was up to the Member.
We said we had never known a case where it is changed. Does anyone know a case where it has been changed???
Justice Garde maintains that it is done. We asked for statistics on this and he said all cases are set out on Aust.Li and we could read them. We said we had tried that and we cant find a case. Justice Garde responded that it wouldn't be mentioned in the report. I did explain to Justice Garde that Justice Bell agreed with us on this.
Suggestion by me to people going to VCAT: Next time you are going to speak in VCAT write to Justice Garde requesting the order of presentation be changed so that the developer goes first and you last so that you can hear what they say and answer them.
Justice Garde said to me that you do have the right of reply to which I said, "Last time I was in VCAT and Michael Wright was the Member, I asked for right of reply and was refused."
4. Applicants bringing ammended plans to VCAT and Compulsory Conferences
We raised the subject of applicants turning up to VCAT with amended plans and even now coming to Compulsory Conferences with amended plans. (We believe that amended plans should go straight back to the Responsible Authority.)
Justice Garde responded that amended plans are a good and positive thing and if they can use those to reach a compromise it is the right thing to do.
In our opinion this is hardly Natural Justice.
5. Malvern East group record of members decisions
We raised the study that was carried out a few years ago by a Malvern East Group member, keeping record of which VCAT Member decided which way and we could then see which members gave nearly all their decisions in favour of the developers. We are always nervous as to which Member we get as we know which side they usually favour.
Justice Garde seemed to absolutely deny that this was a proper study and had any relevance. He said he did not select Members but Government officials did that and they choose the people with the right backgrounds and they are trained thoroughly in what to do. They did their job properly and followed Government policy to the letter. Also last year when they advertised positions available in VCAT they had 400 applications - not sure what that means.
What became very clear from the beginning was that there was no point in Justice Garde having a meeting with residents, as we had hoped for. You see, he seems to think VCAT is perfect right now and no change is possible while Justice Garde is President.
So we are planning to meet with the Shadow Attorney General to educate him about how VCAT must be reformed the way residents and councils see as fairer, in case there is a change of Government next year at the election. Meantime the only thing I can suggest, and I am going to do it, and that is next time you are going to VCAT write to the President and ask for the order of presentation be changed for your case.
Stop Press - Just received this minute. It seems that Josh Frydenberg, Federal member for Boroondara and Minister of Environment, has put an interim protection order on St Kilda Road, as it has been sponsored for National Heritage Protection. I knew this has been proposed by a leader of the Liberals and a leader of Labor. A number of us wrote to Josh urging him to do it. Great news!
What a dreadful decision by the Planning Minister and the Premier to approve that giant building for Crown. It breaks the governments own rules about heights in the city. Why have rules? The question has be asked, how did Crown get them to break their own rules? Think of the overshadowing and overlooking. I pity the people living in Southbank with this building going up and they get no say whatsoever whether they want it or not. Interesting the answer given by the Minister on radio Thursday when he was asked about shadowing. He said there would be no shadowing. Really? It has been worked out that the shadow will stretch out for 1km. That is quite a shadow.
Building by building our city is being ruined.
Melbourne used to be more livable despite what the Age says:
Well at least the libs are making an attempt to get South Yarra Station connected. But I think it all should be scrapped and build other things like a train to the airport or one to Doncaster or lots of other places. They are obsessed about this one and it will wreck Melbourne for years. Fine to connect it to South Yarra but do you know that the news trains won't work on the rail we have and the trains are too long for our existing stations. They say that the loop is full. That can be solved by improving the signalling system. In London on the line I use when there, the Jubilee line trains are only about 4 minutes apart. Sometimes at peak I have seen a train disappearing one end and the next one appearing at the other. Why can't we be so clever? We just want to dig up parts of the city and St Kilda Road. http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/liberals-make-another-attempt-to-include-south-yarra-station-in-melbourne-metro-20170207-gu7t9w.html
This is disgraceful from Beaumaris
The government just chopped down all those lovely trees at the Beaumaris Secondary School with virtually no warning. Beaumaris which is so protective of its trees, they have landscape overlays to protect them but the government just do this vandalism. So dishonest that they say they have consulted with the community without mentioning that they did not hear a word that was said - just tick the box - community consulted - tick. Read the article.
Some may already have read the following article in the 'Comments' section of 7th Feb The Age newspaper, from our President Greg Mier. It concerns the (still nowhere near completed) vegetation destruction at the Beaumaris Secondary School site.
Keep your eyes both on the western boundary, and the often overlooked southern ('Community') oval's boundary with Long Hollow Heathland which acts as a vital protective buffer!! The VSBA's latest map, as they consistently have been throughout, is materially misleading. We were even refused a measly two or three metres around the fence lines.
(Submission inside) Plans for the proposed underground railway from north west to south east of the city are not yet finalised. On Friday the 13th the Minister of Planning said the location of the proposed Domain station may be moved and yet the Age announces 14th Jan that work would begin on Monday the 16th. This is clearly vandalism. They are going to start destroying trees and moving gas and sewer lines at the Domain. Remember that St Kilda Road is heritage listed and Heritage Victoria have received thousands of objections and Heritage Vic have not yet made a determination. One has to wonder how much pressure they are under by this State Government in their determination to start digging. We are sick to death of hearing them say they are 'shovel-ready'. How dare the government say that the damage to St Kilda road will be worth it for the advantage the rail will give. The necessity for this rail is being questioned by respected planners in Melbourne. There are far more important road and rail projects that are needed first.
Re: Heritage Victoria – VHR: H2359; P25649, St Kilda Rd
Submission regarding heritage controls on St Kilda Road, The Domain and the Trees and the Gardens
This in relation to the damage by the proposed Metro Underground Railway to the wonderful Boulevard known as St Kilda Road. I write to object to the granting of this permit.
First point to be made is that the routing must be changed. More sensibly the route should be from the north of Melbourne via Southern Cross Station to Docklands and then to Fishermans Bend and from there across South Melbourne and crossing under St Kilda Road in the vicinity of Toorak Road and coming right through and linking to South Yarra Station.
The proposed route does not make sense in that there would be a station at the north of the city and then at the southern end, really duplicating the existing city loop, totally unnecessary. On the other hand it makes much more logical sense to be on the west of the city and include Docklands and Fishermans Bend.
However I really believe that this concept of an underground in that location, using that route, is not going to help Melbourne at all and it will be detrimental to the beauty and heritage of the city. This connection between north and south already exists using Southern Cross Station and Flinders St Station and connecting into the loop. There are far more important railway extensions that should be made first e.g. to the airport and to Doncaster. Why not require MMRA to submit costings and details of alternative routes for public consideration?
It is hard to believe that they would even for one minute contemplate not tunnelling deep enough to avoid any damage on the surface that can be avoided in this significant heritage area. The idea of any cutting and filling rather than using deep tunnel mining throughout from the Arts Centre down Toorak Road and in South Yarra is absurd to the point of stupidity. Why is deep mining tunnelling not being used right through? It should be.
It is thirty plus years since the City Loop was put in. That is deep and I think no cutting and filling was done. The idea of cutting and filling to save money is short sighted in the extreme.
When Singapore want to do something new they send a team around the world to see where it is done best and get them to help. We believe our government needs to re-think this whole plan and route. They should immediately get in touch with authorities in London and ask their help and advice. They are the world’s best, having started their underground in 1863 and have an incredible underground network and only recently tunnelled out 42 kms from Heathrow airport to Canary Wharf and even further east without disrupting anything on top in such a devastating manner as this proposal from MMRA/Lovell Chen would. Or the government could ask Switzerland for help. They dig tunnels through miles of mountain.
But we talk of cutting and filling down one of the most beautiful boulevards in the world. Try doing this in Paris and you would be sent straight to the guillotine.
In contrast this proposal is for cutting and filling down one of the most beautiful boulevards in the world – and that is unacceptable loss and destruction of cultural heritage and the defining character, identity and beauty of Melbourne.
St Kilda Road must not be damaged. It would a tragedy to have all the threatened trees knocked down. It would take many years for them to grow again to maturity. These are mature elms that have been there for probably 100 years. How dare they damage them in any way.
The tunnels should be deep enough to prevent any damage or vibration to anything up on top whether buildings or trees as was done recently in London. (see: the Crossrail project, http://www.crossrail.co.uk/, “A world-class new railway for London and the south east,” with integrated transparent planning and design up-front and the project planned around heritage protection as a priority, including protection of the setting and visual amenity of protected heritage squares in London as a result of either the permanent or temporary works). We believe this application for a Permit should be refused. More time, planning and consideration for protecting and maintaining heritage and the defining landmarks, gardens and monuments of the city should be the starting and guiding principles around which transport and underground railway tunnels are planned.
What is planned in the area of the Shrine is a total disgrace and a disregard of the importance and history and location of this beautiful Shrine in memory of the men and women who have lost their lives in wars defending Australia. It was superbly planned and located in relation to St Kilda Road and the city and the surrounding gardens, and these visual lines and vistas are part of its heritage significance registration, and they should be maintained and left undisturbed. How dare any government propose to turn this into an excavation site wrecking the parks and gardens and trees surrounding it at least for years, possibly damaged forever. This must not be allowed. We, the people of Victoria, rely on you at Heritage Victoria to protect these heritage sites.
This beautiful area of parks and gardens and trees must not be touched and damaged in the dreadful way proposed in this plan and application. In fact there is no need to have a train station in that position, at ‘Domain’, at all. Other locations and routes should be considered, costed and submitted, ones that are not on heritage sites, places and gardens and do not propose to do such dreadful damage to the whole precious heritage, gardens and monuments precinct. The current St Kilda Rd trams and tram stops and the current number 8 tram in its present route are sufficient. As said earlier the underground must be rerouted and avoid this whole area and come under St Kilda Road to link up with South Yarra Station. The plan and proposal is misconceived and would fail the people of the State of Victoria and cause loss of irreplaceable cultural heritage and civic identity and pride.
There are alternative routes that are not on heritage lands and places and that is where MMRA should focus its planning and transport routes, tunnels and hubs.
Whilst we support the development of transport infrastructure, this proposal, shockingly, is situated entirely in heritage sites and lands (St Kilda Road, the Shrine of Remembrance and Shrine reserve gardens and trees, the Domain Gardens, the South African Soldier’s Memorial, and adjacent affected trees, gardens and sites) and the costs of the proposal is heritage devastation, a far-too great a price to pay. It is an unnecessary and completely undesirable destruction of the entire area that is and should be heritage protected. Heritage Victoria should protect this heritage gardens and monuments precinct as a whole, and require MMRA consideration and costings for alternate routes that are not on and through heritage places be made available to the public.
Is that protection not what Heritage Victoria and heritage registration is for?!
South African Soldier’s Memorial
The plans to dismantle and store this borders on an insult to the sacred nature of this cherished memorial. It must not be allowed to happen. Is nothing sacred? Like the Shrine, it is a sacred memorial to the fallen and must be totally protected. Do not allow this to happen to the South African soldiers’ memorial.
This entire area is under Heritage Victoria protection and they would be derelict in their responsibilities if they approve such terrible destruction under their watch, even if they are at odds with the Government Department under which they operate. Their duty must be to protect these important heritage sites of State significance which this area most certainly is even if it means preventing the Government from following their plans.
I and the coalition of 250+ resident groups (representing at least several thousand people of the State of Victoria; some groups have hundreds of members e.g. my local group has 600 members) strongly request this permit application be denied. The proposal is out of keeping with the values and heritage rights of the people of the State of Victoria. We ask that Heritage Victoria acts to stop this proposal and protects our heritage. We rely on you to act in accordance to protect this entirely-heritage registered area and to refuse this permit.
Mary Drost OAM
Planning Backlash Inc
Coalition of 250+ resident groups
Note: Candobetter.net has removed Mary Drost’s home address and email contact for privacy and to prevent spam. You can contact Mary via our contact link at top left corner of this site.
Mary Drost is the convenor of Planning Backlash, a group with a network of 250 residents' groups, which last year held the biggest ever population awareness function in Australia. Recently VCAT issued a very limited survey for users to fill out. Many of the 250 residents' groups in Planning Backlash were formed through bitter experience of appealing to the law via VCAT. Here is what Mary Drost has to say, in her frank and concise manner.
Statement to VCAT re their survey 
I think VCAT is doing a terrible job and not at all what it was intended to do. I refer to the things that most people are involved with and that is planning. For a start you have never before charged people to speak at a case. Now, suddenly, we have to pay, and you don't even put the amount on the form called 'Statement of grounds'. It is very badly done.
Then we residents believe that your Members are the developers' friend and usually give developers whatever awful development they want. In fact you should only be assessing if the council has followed its own rules but instead you set yourself up as the Responsible Authority and that is not your role.
Further it is obvious that the developer's barristers are buddy buddy with the Members, the way they speak to each other. Further VCAT staff have told me that developers ask for the Member they want and that is disgraceful, they get their friend.
Further VCAT should have its own expert witnesses as the ones developers use are only guns for hire who have been known to lie for money.
Then it would be much fairer if the ones bringing the case spoke first. [It is] not fair that they listen to the objectors and then try to knock them down. They [the objectors] like to be the last to speak.
As you can see, I am not happy with VCAT and I am in touch with many people across Melbourne. People are very disappointed by this survey. It has not allowed people to say what they think about planning, very poor survey. You should do a proper one and let people say what they really think. I am happy to discuss it with you anytime. I am Mary Drost Convenor of Planning Backlash, a network of 250 resident groups, all unhappy with VCAT and very disappointed that this survey is such a non event. [Email address left out by candobetter.net editor]
 Some editorial changes to punctuation, spacing and capitalisation have been made for easier reading, since this was originally an entry in an online form.
Here is an update on current overdevelopment trends in Melbourne, by Mary Drost, of Planning Backlash, with references to height and density, the Property Council of Australia, safety and a new activist group, Victorian Building Action Group.
Well finally the government say they are going to limit building heights in the city. Bit too late as far as I can see. Imagine that we have higher density in our city than New York or Hong Kong!!!!!. And they also say they are going to consult with developers and residents. Can you imagine what the developers will be saying? Let us see if the government has the courage to do it against the wishes of developers. But it seems they are not setting height limits, only density.
Well, banks are stopping lending to foreign buyers - that is good news and in another item, the government are increasing the tax on foreign buyers. Still not high enough tax to be a deterrent. Not like smart Singapore who put on a 20% tax, and that stopped it.
There was recently news of the wall collapse. Now there's another one. Here is the link.You might also like to look at the Facebook of the Victorian Building Action Group, whose issue is the shonky building going on in Victoria and what it is doing to people.
Here is some information on the wall collapse:
These ‘accidents’ are a daily occurrence – here are two on one day!
UPDATED Oct 18 Inside is list of names of people running for local councils in Victoria who are members of groups affiliated with Planning Backlash. The list was compiled by Mary Drost, convenor of Planning Backlash, who says it represents 14 councils and it the total she has so far.
This list of names of people running for council who are members of groups affiliated with Planning Backlash. It has been compiled by Mary Drost, who says that there could be more, but those are the ones she has received to date. Mary Drost is the convenor of Planning Backlash, an umbrella group of people from groups trying to get more democracy about planning in local government. At least some of these candidates will have an awareness of overpopulation. Clifford Hayes is also a candidate for Sustainable Population Party of Australia.
Mary Drost writes, "The number of Planning Backlash friendly candidates has now reached 50 in 20 councils. This list is of those who are members of resident groups concerned about the bad development that we are having forced on us. Party politics do not come into it and we certainly hope that those who do get into council listen to the residents who put them there and not to any party policy."
(The comments below about possum-friendliness are not the views of Planning Backlash but of wildlife friendly readers of candobetter.)
Mary Drost of Planning Backlash and the Marvellous Melbourne website has picked up Matthew Guy's 'challenge' on population growth and comes back with the figures and this statement. We look forward to Matthew Guy's response.
Statement re Natural Population Increase of Melbourne versus the Additional Population Increase caused by Immigration
Minister Matthew Guy’s Challenge to me was that
"Figures show that Melbourne would still increase by 500 a week even if there was no immigration. So what do we do about that?"
Firstly, I understand Melbourne is actually growing by more like 1,800 a week (90,000 a year) so natural increase is less than a third of the problem.
This Challenge needed a response using figures produced by others than those representing big business, since they often present only those figures that suit their push for growth and development. Therefore I have consulted with the top names in Australia who have been studying the growth of Australia and Melbourne and below are their findings. I challenge the growth lobby on their biased stand, as evidenced by the fact that they appear to have given you only a misleading fragment of the picture.
The CPUR has prepared new projections for household growth in Melbourne. Given recent demographic developments (including the decline in overseas student enrolments in Melbourne). It is likely that Net Overseas Migration to Melbourne will average around 35,000 a year and that fertility will fall because of the record high price of entry level housing.
Given these assumptions, the number of households in Melbourne will increase by around 750,000 over the next 30 years.
Over the next decade (2011 -2021) the number of households in Melbourne will increase by around 286,000.
Less than a third of this would be needed with balanced migration (zero net migration), which is the world’s average.
There are two sources of growth in the number of households. One end is the young who want to get into the housing market. The other end is the growing older group as the baby boomers replace the currently much smaller number of retirement aged residents. But most of these older households will stay in their houses even though they become 'empty nests' and partners die.
High rise does not solve the needs of young families. They will want family oriented housing, preferably a detached house or if not possible a town house or unit in a suburban setting. Therefore the current forest of high rise apartments will be left high and dry, or will be filled with unwilling and discontented residents. Most of these younger families will have no choice but to move to the fringe because that is where affordable detached housing is likely to be located. Those who want to live in established suburbia will have to compete with immigrants for the limited dwelling units available, because most are occupied by baby boomers.
The burden on cities like Melbourne can be relieved by reducing Australia’s immigration quotas; otherwise the crisis of housing affordability young people already face will get worse. Further the burden on any government trying to solve the overloaded infrastructure problem while population grows freely is enormous.
PROJECTIONS OF AUSTRALIA’S POPULATION GROWTH to 2050 show that for the Big Australia projection (assuming net overseas migration of 180.000 a year – which is around the current outcome) will mean an increase from 22 million now to 36 million in 2050. Of this increase,
4 million by 2050 - will be from natural increase alone
10 million by 2050 - immigration plus children of migrants born in Australia
Natural increase is high at present because the baby boomer generation’s children are now in child bearing age. This is projected to decrease after a decade or so and eventually will stabilise so that births will equal deaths. So it is a short term issue. The biggest problem is the high rate of migration. State governments have a duty to point this out to Canberra. Handling even Melbourne’s current 20-25,000 a year natural increase strains its resources, so the federal government should be encouraged to reduce immigration.
Hence to claim that "growth is inevitable even without immigration" would be dishonest, unless one also mentions that the growth produced with balanced (net zero) immigration would in fact be temporary and fast diminishing.
This information has been obtained from the current studies being undertaken by Dr Bob Birrell of Monash University and including discussions with Dr Tony Recsei of Sydney, Mark O’Connor of Canberra, author of Overloading Australia, Jill Quirk of Sustainable Population Australia and Kelvin Thomson MP.
Federal Labor Member for Wills, Kelvin Thomson, has condemned reports in an article by Josh Gordon, "Push to cut planning appeals,"The Age, 29/11/11, that the Victorian Liberal Government is seriously considering proposals to further reduce the rights of residents to object to inappropriate developments in their neighbourhoods. (Mr Thomson's electorate of Wills, Victoria, Australia, has very high population and development density, with severe traffic congestion.)
The Victorian Minister for Planning, Mathew Guy, is considering industry proposals to reduce the standing of the public to object to commercially-motivated development of their built and natural environment, according to the Age article.
Master Builders Association of Victoria executive director Brian Welch has been quoted as believing that current rules are ''excessively democratic'' and that they encourage ''vexatious objectors.''
Mary Drost, of Planning Backlash and www.marvellousmelbourne.org has said that she would be opposed to any reduction in rights to objection. She later observed that the Master Builders complain that 7% of applications end up in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). "What this says to me is that 93% go straight through. They have nothing to complain about as far as I can see."
The Victorian Treasury department has called for an overhaul of the land-planning framework to reduce conflicting policy objectives between government departments, which it sees as providing excessive scope for appeals.
''The land planning framework should be overhauled to reduce the scope for appeals due to conflicting policy objectives, clarify who has standing to appeal planning decisions and assess the potential for greater use of market instruments to achieve planning objectives,'' according to the treasury briefing document.
Federal MP, Mr Kelvin Thomson, says, “The last thing the Victorian Government should be doing is making it easier for developers to construct more high rise, more apartments and more concrete monstrosities.”
“Premier Ted Baillieu and Planning Minister Matthew Guy when in Opposition were very critical of the former State Government’s handling of the planning system. They have no mandate whatsoever to contemplate measures to further reduce residents say on planning and development proposals.
“The plans being considered by the Liberal State Government would provide less scope to appeal against contentious planning proposals. The Age report suggests that the appeal process could be pared back to cut the number of objectors, on the basis that it costs developers money.
“Such an approach displays an arrogant disregard for the costs that high rise concrete monstrosities impose on local communities- more traffic, more congestion, more carbon emissions, increased pressure on local infrastructure and services, the suffocation of local amenity and the effect on physical and mental wellbeing.
“All too often property developers make handsome profits at the expense of local residents and communities, profiting from infrastructure which local communities have built and paid for, and leaving locals to live with the inconvenience of loss of amenity which comes with more crowded neighbourhoods.
“In my own electorate there are numerous examples of residents and neighbourhoods being short-changed, disregarded, and left to pick up the pieces- such as the Union Street U108 development in Brunswick, the Kodak Redevelopment and former Coburg High School site in Coburg, the Bell St-York St and Cumberland Rd developments in Pascoe Vale, the former Tip Top Site, Nicholson St and 240 Lygon Street developments in Brunswick etc.
“Developers use doublespeak terms like "sustainable", "exemplary design", "efficient planning" and "reduced footprint". These are all code for removing residents' rights to meaningfully object to developments in their neighbourhoods.
“Any further moves to prevent residents from having a say will only damage the quality of life for residents in Melbourne, and take our city down the road of the high-rise concrete jungles of Asia and Latin America.
“The planning system needs to provide residents, local communities and local councillors with a greater ability to have a say on what developments are appropriate for their neighbourhoods- not a reduced one”, Mr Thomson concluded.
Sources:Josh Gordon, "Push to cut planning appeals,"The Age, 29/11/11 and a Media Release from Kelvin Thomson MP, Member for Wills, Wednesday 30 November 2011. Media contact: Anthony Cianflone 9350 5777 or 0424 138 558
Committee for Melbourne growthers are scraping the bottom of the barrel looking for new ways to get people to move to the hated high-rises the property development lobby has planned all over Melbourne. Mary Drost says, "Both Andrew McLeod and Bernard Salt are obsessed with growth. It is exactly this growth that is making Melbourne less liveable as everything is overstretched." Jill Quirk asks, "I wonder if Salt and MacLeod think widows Jeannie Pratt or Elisabeth Murdoch should vacate their premises for a flat in an "activity centre" or is just people who inhabit more modest post war triple fronted accommodation who are being asked to move over ?"
Committee for Melbourne
A group with an apparent interest in land speculation, with the dignified sounding name of The Committee for Melbourne, is pushing a crude barrow to get elderly people to give up their homes. It wants them to agree to be rehoused in high-density apartment blocks and thinks that if the State government lets them pay less stamp duty, they just might be tempted. This was the subject today of an article by John Masanauskas in the Herald Sun, "Lobby group calls for older couples to give up family homes," 17 February 2011.
It is probably not coincidence that, at the same time, Boroondara Council is trying to force 48 so-called "activity centres" (i.e. high rise developments) on its protesting residents. In a hangover from the Brumby government's human sardine policy, the council hopes to attract some of an additional 17,600 people that a few business hopefuls have promoted as likely to arrive over the next 16 years, based on shaky statistical projections.
Bernard Salt, the well-known KPMG spruiker for population growth and megacities, and the CEO of the Committee for Melbourne, Andrew McLeod, have managed to leave some unfortunate quotes for posterity.
Weird, no fun world of statistical cohorts
Herald Sun writer, John Masanauskas, gives the impression that Salt believes that middle Melbourne (whatever that is) is fraught with the probability that "dad's going to drop dead and mum's going to be living by herself in a three-bedroom home". Salt predicts that the iconic 'mum' will eventually "find that the three-bedroom home with a garden and lawn becomes too much for her and she will therefore want to downsize."
In Salt's world, like Brumby and Bracks's macho-small-minded worlds, all women are 'mums' if they aren't girls trying to overcome a 'man drought' [catch his latest book], and all men are 'dads'. One senses that they are doomed, like cabbage moths, to fly and mate, lay their eggs, then die. Some, however, live on past their use-by date and become 'empty nesters', as CEO, Andrew McLeod calls them, opining:
"If they are an empty-nester living near a school they are actually taking a role that from a society's perspective would be better taken by a family."
You get the picture. According to this kind of view, societies and their suburbs should be reorganised into age cohorts. None of this bowls club down the end of the street and the little old lady in the corner shop, or the old man sitting on his porch in the sun, surveying his tomato patch, and the children visiting the lady over the road to climb her mulberry tree and use her grown-up daughter's books and toys, while their mother heads down for a game of tennis and their father takes the dog for a long walk up to the top of the hill to watch the sun set over the bay.
Salt and McLeod seem to have an odd and naively statistical view of societies, where people are labelled according to some of their qualities, like cards in packs, and are okay about being moved around in a kind of Lego world on the whim of some boys who never quite got over playing Monopoly.
Jill Quirk, SPA Victoria
Jill Quirk, President of Sustainable Population Victoria, comments:
"I think the rhetoric from Bernard Salt and Andrew Macleod that widows and "empty nesters" should leave their homes" and move into apartments for the convenience of others who would like to buy their houses is opportunistic , sexist, vulture-like, devoid of compassion or understanding, and the language of Grandpa and Grandma and (quote Bernard Salt) "rattling around in their veneers" is belittling to ordinary people.
"I wonder what the adult children of these targets of the hovering developers and real estate agents think of this blackmail? I also wonder if Salt and MacLeod think widows Jeannie Pratt or Elisabeth Murdoch should vacate their premises for a flat in an "activity centre" or is just people who inhabit more modest post war triple fronted accommodation who are being asked to move over ?"
"Behind the figure of ridicule, the widow, whose husband has "dropped dead" is a person in shock, in grief and who is making a huge adjustment to a major life-change.
Importantly, she perceives,
"The widow is extremely vulnerable and could well fall prey to the kind of persuasion and pressure that Macleod and Salt seem to want to institutionalise so that everyone these people meet will echo the same refrain. 'Don't rattle around in the veneer, it is your civic duty to move out of your house now and let a young family with children at Lauriston and Camberwell Grammar move in.'"
And then she asks an interesting question:
"I wonder what Barry Humphries might say about this. He ridiculed the Australian suburban lifestyle for decades but I don't think he ever seriously thought of disrupting it and breaking it down."
What next? Will Mr McLeod and Mr Salt be investing in cemeteries and urging everyone to buy vertical plots in order to squeeze more coffins in? With the baby boomer curve on course to crash over the next 20 years, it's a sure thing.
Mary Drost of Planning Backlash
Planning Backlash is the name of an umbrella group under which many different suburban groups gather to protect the rights of citizens whose environments and properties are threatened by intensification of development and the population growth that drives this. Mary Drost is their main spokesperson.
Mary says that all of Melbourne will be affected by this population growth and overdevelopment if the Boroondara Council gets away with it, and that the local people are furious that Booroondara Council is continuing a densification plan dating from when Justin Madden was Planning Minister under the Brumby government, which lost power in the last election. Densification will wreck the area, she says, and Planning Backlash is appealing to their State Member, Ted Baillieu, for help based on promises he made before the election.
Mary is actually pictured in John Masanauskas's article in a photo by Ben Swinnerton (which I have cropped above), leaning, smiling, over a picket fence, with a large sunny garden behind her.
"Both Andrew McLeod and Bernard Salt are obsessed with growth. It is exactly this growth that is making Melbourne less liveable as everything is overstretched. Their obsession is taking them to new boundaries, now they want the older people to get out of their houses to make way for the next generation. Maybe they want to euthanase us as well. I am not going to be stuck in a dog box to keep McLeod and Salt happy!"
She adds, "They would have done well at the time of the Russian Revolution, move the mobs into the big houses and let the owners live in one room. How would the grandmothers look after their grandchildren in dog boxes? What a nerve!"
As her own lifestyle shows, everyone is not a poor old used up mum or a dad pining away without purpose. For years, in a tradition starting with her mother, young couples have been living rent-free in a little flat that Mary's husband and she had made at the side of the house. In this way they "get a start in life." In return they help where they can.
"People usually stay about three years and then get their own place, after they have saved a deposit," Mary said. "Sometimes our guests have been young couples who were relatives."
At the moment, she is sharing her house with one couple, who "came back for a while." In the flat on the property there is a second couple.
She thinks and I think that this is a good way to use property. But it's not what Salt and McLeod would want, because their objective is to increase property turnover. Their guiding principle is commercial, not social.
Mary says that her brother and his wife, who have grandchildren, could not do without a big house, as they are "forever having children coming to stay and the families come home for dinner sometimes twice a week."
"What nonsense to say that we should all be moving into dog boxes," Mary exclaims. "Some no doubt want to, but I tell you this, it is the quickest way to give up and age and die. If you want to stay young then stay active. Don't forget that the government wants people to age in place and not go into nursing homes. The Dutch do this very well Australia should learn from them."
Mr Salt's residence
Ironically, Bernard Salt, who looks to be over sixty in his photographs, actually lives in a heritage house a couple of blocks from Mary. We googled the address we were given and provide a picture above. We have removed the name of the street from the picture. Candobetter.net doesn't believe in exposing peoples' addresses unnecessarily, but it does seem on the face of it that Mr Salt talks the talk but doesn't walk the walk, and it is of interest to those dealing with the impacts of his marketing to see where he is actually coming from.
Since her photo and some comments appeared in Masanauskas's article, a number of people have looked Mary up in the phone book and have called her, agreeing strongly with her defense of her right to remain in her home.
 After an unsolicited comment which complained about this exposure of Mr Salt, we canvassed our editors and writers who all agreed that it was relevant to show how Mr Salt lived. It was felt however that the important thing was to convey how he lived, which should include the suburb (of which it seemed typical, and which was the same suburb as Mary Drost's), but not necessarily the street. Therefore we have reduced the information on the photo. Discussion welcome.
September 13, 2010. Last night, when hearing about Mary Delahunty (ex-SBS and ABC journalist) launching her book in Hawthorn, I joined Margot Carroll (Orrong Group Convenor) and Julianne Bell (Protectors of Public Lands Victoria) at the event. Delahunty talked on about herself and family, and nothing about her time in parliament and what she said in her book about we residents.
Report on the Federation Square (Victoria, Australia) Population Forum on 23 April 2010, where Mark O'Connor debated Marcus Spiller.
Report on the Federation Square (Victoria, Australia) Population Forum on 23 April 2010, where Mark O'Connor debated Marcus Spiller.
Put on by the City of Melbourne at the suggestion of Mary Drost of Planning Backlash to Councillor Peter Clarke, the Forum was a very well attended event.
The hall was almost full and, from the clapping, it was obvious where the majority stood. They heavily supported Mark O'Connor, co-author of the book, Overloading Australia, Enviro Press, 2009, who spoke very well against the rapid increase in population in Melbourne. He said there are actually 3 elephants in the room - population, climate change and economic growth.
He called the 'ageing population problem' a "proveable sham", noting that we all age exactly one year per annum.
There were five people on the panel.
O'Connor's main opponent was Marcus Spiller, formerly of the Planning Institute and now adviser to the Ministers of PLanning and Housing. He is still pushing Centralized Planning, just as he was back when Minister Hulls was in charge of Planning.
He may well have a lot of involvement in the current Review of the Planning Act, which promotes centralized planning. Spiller is totally optimistic about a bigger population.
Another panelist, Charles Berger, spoke sensibly. He said that we must do away with 'bigger is better' and go for quality not quanitity He said we must preserve threatened species. He described how our water usage would have to drop with higher and higher population numbers. He also said that there is very little evidence linking population numbers and successful economies.
Saul Eslake, seemed to have moderated his economic views. He said that Melbourne would be different in 2050 with 8 million - not marvellous, more expensive, and more crowded. He said business grows with population growth, but it does not mean people are better off. At present we are losing factories and exporting very little from Victoria and importing a lot.
Kelvin Thomson had been asked to be there but was overseas so could not accept.
Planning Backlash was officially recognized by Cr Peter Clarke in his welcome as being an instigator in them doing this forum.
(Photo of Mary Drost) The Brumby Government tried to undermine this crucial Melbourne Rally and to avoid criticism by announcing they were modifying their offensive Bill, so the mainstream journalists stayed away. But the alternative press is growing and we will not fall for such simple ploys.
Today Victorian activist groups working together stopped legislation which could have defined any local councillor who may have previously actively opposed a particular development proposal as an 'interested party' and hence ineligible to vote. Demonstrators wore tape over their mouths on the steps of Victoria's Parliament.
The photo above shows a crowd of very concerned Victorian citizens, with their mouths taped shut. They were demonstrating on the steps of Victoria's parliament today against proposed laws to gag local government councillors. The laws would have discouraged activists from running for local parliament and incumbent and prospective councillors from engaging with the community.
As Macedon Ranges Residents Association put it, the law "discriminates against those who oppose [a development], without equally penalizing those who propose [a development]."
The protest meeting was organised by unChain St Kilda in association with the Greens, Protectors of Public Land, Planning Backlash and various other community groups.
Correspondence between groups also indicated that activists wished to exploit the publicity these undemocratic laws had attracted in the mainstream press, using the opportunity to signal their increasing concerns about laws negatively affecting democracy, development and the environment in Victoria.
The black tape across their mouths may only be the first of graphic or theatrical demonstrations to get across to the public that governance in Victoria is in serious trouble.
Women activists prominent in defending democracy against developers in Victoria
Largely women protestors on steps of Vic Parliament, mouths taped. (Photo by Jill Quirk)
These photographs and others of similar protests on the same steps in the past few years show that women are playing a major part in Victorian politics today, although not necessarily in the mainstream. We see the women outside, defending democracy, because, unfortunately, the people inside - mostly men - seem more inclined to promote corporate agendas over citizens' rights. Vaguely reminiscent of Suffragette and Temperance movements, because of their predominantly female component, protests against development take long-term stamina in the face of apparently irresistible commercially-backed trends which have most of our elected representatives spellbound or hog-tied. One woman can be seen here wearing braces on her arm. This is Mary Drost, who, remarkably, was not stopped from coming despite two broken arms. Julianne Bell, of Protectors of Public Land, is another extraordinary human being who has succeeded in uniting groups from all over the [ever more] sprawling city of Melbourne.
Serge Thomann and Greg Barber
Despite this gender-trend, Victoria also has some wonderful male activists. Two men who played strong roles in the protests today were Serge Thomann of unChain Saint Kilda and Greg Barber, Greens MLC.
Unchain St Kilda movement
"Unchain St Kilda" is the product of a movement which, in the absence of useful formal process, rose in disgust against unnecessary and unwanted intense commercial development proposed for a triangle of land overlooking the promenade in the beach suburb of Saint Kilda, widely perceived as the last straw in a series of council-facilitated unrepresentative attacks on residential ammenity in that suburb. (Saint Kilda has also been the site of a series of despicable Port Phillip Council-led attacks on wild-life in the local Catani Gardens - See video investigation). Unchain St Kilda is "an incorporated association, no A00051216V. Its members are a coalition of people, from all walks of life, who live, work and visit St Kilda, brought together by our outrage at the size and focus of the proposed commercial development on the St Kilda Triangle Crown land."
Unchain St Kilda members running for Port Philip Council
The proposed law would have automatically disqualified many of the members of Unchain St Kilda from voting on the issue if they win the next Port Philip Council election. Apparently they have enough committed members to replace the entire council at the next local elections. The timing of the proposed new law and the decision by Unchain St Kilda members to run for council seemed a particularly unhappy coincidence.
The movement's "Save St Kilda" campaign has three objectives:
- To restore 3rd party objection rights (in order to enable a proper objection process)
- All 3 tenders include a huge retail component. We want to hold City of Port Phillip (COPP) to their promise the ‘Triangle Site’ wouldn’t become a ‘mini-Chadstone’
- To hold City of Port Phillip (COPP) to their promise the ‘Triangle Site’ would incorporate ‘large’ open public spaces like a ‘town square’ – a place for YOU, the locals to meet.
"Attack on local democracy - stopped in its tracks!" -- Greg Barber
Greg Barber, Member of Parliament for the Greens, first alerted many of us to the Bill which was proposing to muzzle activists in council. Tonight in an email headed, "Attack on local democracy - stopped in its tracks!" he wrote,
"Just a few minutes ago, tonite, parliament successfully amended the government's bill, to remove the offending clause from the Local Government Amendment (Councillor Conduct and Other Matters) Bill 2008.
All non government parties voted for the amendment, which completely removes 78D part (b)
Many thanks for all your help and congratulations on your campaign. Amazing what can be done when parliamentarians and the people work hand in hand."
The letter below, which was part of the successful campaign, describes the danger which has, this time, been averted:
More about that law that won't go ahead now
Christine Pruneau, Secretary of the Macedon Ranges Residents' Association Inc., who is a remarkably clear writer, sent the following letter to Victorian Upper House parliamentarians to ask them to reject legislation that could define any councillor who may have previously actively opposed a particular development proposal as an 'interested party' and hence ineligible to vote.
The Association writes to ask you to please not support 78D (b) (ii) in its current form. Macedon Ranges Residents' Association Inc fully supports increased accountability and transparency, however we don't believe this provision will deliver effective or equitable outcomes, for the following reasons:
There isn't sufficient definition of what 78D (b) (ii) means and encompasses. E.g. What is objection and what is comment, and who decides? Which submissions, about what? Which matters? What counts, what doesn't? How specific or how broad? Does a submission preferring red bricks over grey in an Urban Design Framework create a conflict of interest in considering the UDF? Are objections or submissions at State and Federal level included? Does a written question at Council count, and if submissions on Council budgets do, why not submissions on associated Council Plans?
It's retrospective. E.g. Would an objection to cutting down trees 20 years ago veto voting on a proposal to plant trees on the same land now? How will anyone know who made which objections and submissions on what, and when?
It intimidates and diminishes democracy: those who actively participate or oppose, if elected, could have difficulty meeting community expectations for representation; it could influence decisions on whether or not to stand for election; it could deter people from participating in consultation and objection processes for fear action now may hamstring them later.
A person needs a law degree to understand any nuances or connections between this provision and Winky Pop, and most people who would work with and implement this law won't have that level of expertise, leaving its application open to wide interpretation, confusion and abuse. E.g. What distinguishes objections and submissions addressing policy and strategy from those promoting personal interests or gain, and who decides?
From an explanation given in yesterday's Age, it will target planning rather than all Council issues and responsibilities Councillors deal with.
It discriminates against those who oppose, without equally penalizing those who propose. Why aren't those who have applied for planning applications included? Letters of support for an application? Meetings and deals with developers?
It penalizes those who operate openly with written submissions in the public domain, but would not pick up those who operate with a nod and a wink, who favour a quiet word, who have others lobby for or represent them or their views. In the end honest people will be disadvantaged, without equal disadvantage to those who already operate surreptitiously.
It won't improve disclosure, and we doubt it will improve honesty. There would be those who have spoken, and those who vote but never speak.
We ask that you please consider these points before voting on Tuesday.
The seriously undemocratic nature of Melbourne's planning and environment policies and laws is reflected in the rise of so many suburban protest groups, no longer able to rely on the system and the government to oversee moderate fairness.
Groups came from Broadmeadows, Darebin, Carlton, Southbank, Maribyrnong, Seddon, Hobsons Bay, Bayside, Stonnington, Malvern East, Carnegie, Boroondara, Whitehorse, Doncaster, Kingston, Mt Eliza, Camperdown, Daylesford and several other suburbs. More registered but were unable to be there for a variety of reasons. Nevertheless, a wide spread of Melbourne was directly represented.
Some groups probably stayed away because because they feel so disillusioned with VCAT.
The chairs of the "Community Consultation" meeting were the VCAT President, Justice Kevin Bell, and Deputy President Helen Gibson. Gibson was reported to have initially seemed reluctant to allow community group representatives to speak.
Eventually Gibson seemed to respond to pressure and spokespersons from most of the groups present spoke -- often eloquently -- of the problems that the State development policy and the VCAT system were inflicting on the people of Melbourne.
Complaints that VCAT-Justice is only for the Rich
Issues raised included the unfairness of professional developers being able to afford top barristers and expert witnesses when many councils are no longer able fund the community right to oppose unwanted developments.
Two suggestions for solutions to this problem came forward. One was that a blind bank of experts be set up and applicants would take whichever was available. The second suggestion was that the barristers and experts be cut out of the VCAT hearings completely, with a return to a level playing field. In this case the developers, residents and councilors would represent themselves.
Brookland Greens, Casey Methane gas scandal
An attempt was made to raise the case of how VCAT had overturned Council objections to developers going ahead with building a new suburb, Brookland Greens, on a landfill. Justice Bell, however, arbitrarily ruled out discussion of individual cases, causing resentment among resident group members present.
This scandal concerns hundreds of residents of the new estate who have been told they may have to leave their homes for at least a year because of explosive levels of methane gas in a nearby landfill. Casey Council subsequently froze rates for Brookland Greens, costing that city $1m. The council fears massive compensation claims. A Herald Sunarticle said that,
"The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal must accept responsibility for approving the housing development so close to the landfill.
Casey Council and the Environment Protection Authority rejected the developer's original plans, but still the controversial housing estate went ahead. "
Community consult no real dialogue
The Malvern East group told of how they had written in advance about a number of issues to be raised and had been told they were not suitable items. They said that they had then written to Justice Bell asking what would be suitable, but had received no reply before the meeting.
Justice Bell admitted that he had not replied.
The subjects that the Malvern East group had been discouraged from raising were, nonetheless, all raised by other groups at the hearing.
The Seddon group claimed that VCAT only uses the policies from M2030 (Melbourne 2030, Victoria’s State development policy) that support development and ignores the policies that protect neighbourhood character.
Change the role of VCAT to serve electorate better
The argument was put, in a variety of ways, that VCAT should no longer have the role of a planning authority. It should instead become a review board with the task of ensuring that councils follow their own policies.
VCAT rewards developers for bypassing councils
The community groups felt that developer should not take their amended plans for review by VCAT. They should bring them back to the councils concerned. And, if they did bring amended plans to VCAT they should be told to take them back to council to be looked at again.
VCAT spokespersons response was that they were trying to save councils time and money.
But many see the role of VCAT as a rubber stamp for State policy which is no longer democratic and prioritises steamroller developments over Victorians’ human rights to self-government and control over their environments.
Developers abuse 60 day periods for review and VCAT approves
A sixty day review period is being abused by developers, in the view of numerous community groups. They say that developers delay getting information to councils and then rush off the VCAT because they know they have a better chance of getting it approved by VCAT.
"VCAT unelected, unaccountable and system has lost all respect from community"
VCAT President, Justice Kevin Bell, and Deputy President Helen Gibson were told that VCAT was unelected and unaccountable and the community has lost all respect for the system.
The issue was raised that councils often pass an inappropriate development because they say VCAT will approve it so residents are wasting time and money to oppose it. Many bad development proposals don’t even get to VCAT, because councils have no confidence in VCAT.
It is a cause of resentment that the local people and local councils usually know better about their area than VCAT, yet they are overruled by VCAT the majority of times.
The significance/outcome of this VCAT community consultation
Members of the community groups that attended this VCAT meeting wondered if President Bell or Deputy President Gibson either listened or heard the residents’ views on this occasion. One activist wrote, “As an optimist I hope so, as a realist, I doubt it. They have heard from the community [before] and as usual they will ignore it.”
Despite this many remained prepared to go on fighting.
Mary Drost said that she felt proud to be there with “so many really great people who are trying to keep the Marvellous in Melbourne, as well as coast and country.”
It is important to document these reactions to the VCAT Planning ‘Consultative’ forums. These are historical civil steps in an increasingly serious battle by Victorians to regain democracy for their city and State.
Rod Quantock is currently appearing in First Man Standing at Trades Hall in Carlton, 03 9659 5699, but here he is in a stand up role for democracy (which does seem very funny in Victoria) at the Mary Drost-led rally in July.
This film was made on the occasion of the Planning Backlash rally against the horrific, undemocratic changes being forced on Victoria's population, more about which you may read and view by going to the Marvellous Melbourne website at www.marvellousmelbourne.org, where you will find an example worth following of how to organise a rally and motivate people to confront government and undesirable policies.
How could a comedien not get involved in Victorian politics? Or Brisbane ones? Or West Oz ones or ...
You can see Rod live in his new show called, First Man Standing!
'First Man Standing'
Wed to Sat, 6 Aug to 6 Sept, 8:00pm
Trades Hall, Carlton
Tickets: $20 - $35
Bookings: comedyattrades.com.au or 03 9659 5699 or at the door. (Rod recommends 'at the door')
For his political courage in speaking out against undemocratic, but mainstream media and government endorsed, growth, actor, Geoffrey Rush deserves particular historic recognition from Australians. He launched a new website: Marvellous Melbourne at https://marvellousmelbourne.org. Candobetter.net editor 12 January 2017: Unfortunately, eight years later it is no longer maintained, so we have removed the link. Candobetter.net remains one of its memorials. However the problem those optimistic protesters set out to solve has grown every year into a behemoth that threatens many of our institutions and certainly our way of life, all over Australia.
On Sunday July 6, 2008, Planning Backlash held an impressive public meeting in Mooney Valley.
Speakers included Blue Wedges activist, Jenny Warfe, and Actor Geoffrey Rush.
The meeting focused on the imminent threat of two key changes to government powers:
- New residential zones that remove residents’ rights to object to or even know about planning applications, and
- Removal of Councils’ planning powers by the Victorian government.
Jenny Warfe evoked the ultimate pointlessness and crudeness of dredging operations in OUR Port Phillip Bay.
Geoffrey Rush launched a new website for Planning Backlash, called Marvellous Melbourne at marvellousmelbourne.org.
He spoke movingly of how utterly Melbourne will be transformed over the coming years. He also intelligently and courageously questioned the necessity for the population growth currently being imposed on Victorians, and raised the question of the optimum size for Melbourne.
For his courage, Geoffrey Rush deserves particular historic recognition from Australians. Although it is common for people at candobetter.org to challenge the grotesque premises and impacts of endless growth, a professional actor depends upon the mainstream media to a great degree. He therefore takes enormous risks in speaking out against politics which profit the mainstream media and which it heavily endorses. Indeed, it is largely because the mainstream media endorses undemocratic growth and the governments which provide it, that we have had this growth and its frightening and demoralising effects imposed upon us.
"Is development the same as progress ? What makes the difference ? Is growth sustainable ? Is there any such thing as 'big enough'? What do we want to sustain ?"
"Are elected governments just dictatorships between elections ?"
It states that,
"Planning is off the rails in Melbourne", and asks, "What is happening in the country and on the coast ?"
It concludes, "This site is for you. It is an attempt to celebrate the best of Melbourne - and to encourage you to explore what was, what is, and what could be."
Details to hand are sketchy, but other speakers were a Leongatha area resident who told of how the imposition by the Victorian government of a desalination plant has forced hitherto non-political residents to come out in organised protest to protect their environment and way of life. A woman from Kilmore, where high density living is being imposed, described how antithetical this was to the community's wishes, since Kilmore is a town which people deliberately chose to live in for a relaxed lifestyle and open space. A Stonnington councillor spoke about the massive and unwelcome changes which are looming for that area.
I believe that that other indefatigable campaigner against bad treatment of native wildlife, horrible planning decisions, and undemocratic population growth, actor Rod Quantok, was also there, but I have no actual report.
SPA(Vic) President, Jill Quirk, said, after the meeting, "The over all feeling I got from the afternoon and all the speakers was expressed pain and anxiety over losses continually suffered because of "development" and the consequent erosion of our environment as well as the loss of democracy entailed in the pace and magnitude of what is happening now in Victoria."
Let's hope that Marvellous Melbourne will extend to represent the rest of Victoria, and that similar sites will rise to represent every state in the country, since almost every settlement on this continent is at the mercy of corporatised growth and related forms of exploitation, which our corporatised governments have completely failed to protect us from. Candobetter will try to promote all such democratic initiatives.
We will try to include details of other speakers and speeches as they come in. Please post comments on this article, supplying details of speakers and speeches, if you are able.