«December 2011 Victorian Planning System Ministerial Advisory Committee Initial Report. Geoff Underwood, Chair. Catherine Heggen, Member. David ...»
- Recommendations for changes to any provisions, processes or other recommended actions where appropriate.
18. If necessary, the Committee may deliver its report in stages.
19. The report must include a list of stakeholders who made submissions and those who were otherwise consulted as part of the review.
20. The Committee may respond to submissions on a specific matter collectively rather than provide an individual response to each submission.
21. The recommendations report must be submitted to the Minister.”
3.1 The Journey So Far In the 25 years since the introduction of the Act there have been a number of milestones in the development of planning law and practice in Victoria. They
The introduction of the ‘Day 1 planning schemes’ (February 1988);
The release of the Perrot Committee’s report (August 1993);
The amalgamation of councils into 78 (now 79) municipalities (circa 1994);
The introduction of the Victoria Planning Provisions (1996);
The roll out of the ‘new format planning schemes’ (circa 1999);
The release of Melbourne 2030 (2002);
The introduction of the Urban Growth Boundary (2002);
Melbourne @ 5 Million (2008); and Delivering Melbourne’s Newest Sustainable Suburbs (2009).
There have also been a range of cultural, economic, social and environmental factors which have changed or emerged since the advent of the Victoria
Planning Provisions (VPP) based planning system and the Act. They include:
A more informed community with a higher awareness of planning;
A more risk averse / risk management environment;
Broader ethnic composition of the population;
Increased social and cultural heritage awareness (indigenous and European);
Greater expectations for quicker planning decisions;
A change in the demand for housing types, with a trend towards higher density living;
Greater State and Local Government sensitivity to the electorate / more poll driven;
Forensic scrutiny of decision making and increased expectations of governance;
Fragile economic conditions;
Globalised impacts on economic and financial decisions;
Participation rates in and the increased casualisation of the workforce;
A tighter fiscal environment;
Initial Report - December 2011 9 Victorian Planning System Ministerial Advisory Committee Decreasing housing affordability;
Increased reliance on and expectations of technology;
Greater access to information as a consequence of technology;
The advent of the National Broadband Network; and Environmental awareness / sustainability / climate variability / energy efficiency issues.
There are three key reasons why it is timely to review the current planning
1. The statutory framework within which the planning system operates is now a quarter of a century old, and is overburdened with a multitude of add ons;
2. There have been significant changes to local, national and global conditions that affect people’s lives; and
3. State Government is currently engaged in the formulation of a new Metropolitan Strategy for Melbourne as well as growth plans for regional Victoria in order to accommodate the consequences of change in the local, national and global environments. The introduction of these new strategies should ideally occur as part of any changes to the current planning system.
4. Consultation and Submissions To inform itself on the issues and opportunities to improve the planning system, the Committee considered written submissions and met a number of stakeholders.
Consultation sessions were held between Committee members and a range of stakeholders, with over 130 individuals, groups, associations, peak bodies and local councils having met and made presentations to the Committee. Refer to Appendix 1 – List of Consulted Parties.
The call for formal submissions was undertaken in accordance with the Committee’s Terms of Reference and devised to capture a wide audience. The
call for submissions included:
A notice published in the daily papers (the Age, Herald Sun, Australian & Weekly Times) together with the Victorian local papers between 21 and 27 July 2011. The full list of newspapers that gave notice of the call for submissions is included in Appendix 2 Newspaper Notice Coverage.
On 11 July 2011, a call for submissions was sent to all Victorian municipal councils and key interest groups, including various government, community and industry groups.
Notice was given each week during the submission period in Planning Matters the DPCD’s weekly email subscriber alert service that provides new information on planning initiatives and amendments. (Subscribers include a range of key stakeholders, such as council planners, planning consultants, officers in statutory authorities and government departments, planning students, architects and surveyors).
The Minister for Planning issued a Media Release on 14 July 2011 and his column in the August edition of PIA’s Planning News publication also contained a call for submissions.
The DPCD website included a dedicated webpage for the project with relevant information on the submission process. The same information was made available through Information Victoria for stakeholders without internet access.
The Terms of Reference allowed a minimum of 28 days for submission lodgement. The Committee provided more than 28 days, agreeing to officially accept submissions until 31 August 2011. Late submissions were subsequently accepted up to 15 November 2011 to allow council staff to have their submission endorsed by the Council and to provide interest groups and others added time to coordinate their responses.
The submission process adhered to privacy and accessibility obligations under the Information Privacy Act 2000 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.
A list of submittors is included in Appendix 3 – List of Submittors. Submissions have been made available on the DPCD website www.dpcd.vic.gov.au/systemreview.
4.1 The Approach of the Committee The broad nature of the Terms of Reference made it necessary for the Committee to carefully consider how to proceed with the overall task and how to approach the first milestone in preparing this initial report.
Under the Terms of Reference, the Committee’s first task was to prepare a report and prioritise matters raised during the process of receiving public submissions. The Committee has done this and later parts of this report summarise and prioritise the various submissions under key themes. The Committee also expresses clear views on certain matters and makes recommendations where it is able and appropriate to do so.
In considering the issues that have been raised, the Committee is mindful that it is not the first body to be given the task of reviewing the planning system in Victoria or more correctly, reviewing elements of the planning system in Victoria.
Since the introduction of the Act there have been many reviews. Some elements of those reviews have been implemented. The key reports prepared
since the Act commenced include:
The Perrott Committee Report (1993);
Report of the Advisory Committee on the Victoria Planning Provisions (August 1997);
Final Report New Format Planning Schemes (April 1999);
Whitney Reports 1, 2 and 3 (2002);
Better Decisions Faster (August 2003);
Cutting Red Tape in Planning (August 2006);
Making Local Policy Stronger (June 2007); and Modernising Report (March 2009).
In addition to considering the numerous submissions received, the Committee also informed itself through consultative sessions with key stakeholders, briefings from peak groups and community organisations, conferences with
individuals and by reviewing the considerable research, insight and analysis carried out as part of previous reports.
The Committee is mindful that unlike most of the previous reports and reviews, its task identified in the Terms of Reference is much wider than reviewing a particular segment of the planning system.
The Committee has nevertheless been informed by those earlier reports which have helped the Committee frame its preliminary views about the planning system in Victoria and the areas that require further consideration and work.
As part of its broader tasks following this initial report, the Committee proposes that all previous reports should be assessed for relevance. Some past recommendations may be appropriate to implement as part of today’s reform.
It may also be appropriate to measure the benefit of past changes to the system.
As it is, many aspects of past reports are unresolved. Despite this, they make reasonable recommendations for change. The Committee considers that it is important to bring some finality to the work that has been done in those previous reports, including reporting on those matters that were not implemented.
4.2 Submissions To help direct submittors to focus on matters under the Terms of Reference, the Committee drafted seven questions about the Victorian Planning System.
The questions had the additional purposes of prompting attention to matters of interest and assisting interested parties in framing submissions to the Committee. The questions formed part of the material in the call for
submissions. They are:
1. What is good about the system?
2. What works well and what doesn't?
3. What are the ways to fix the problems and improve the system?
4. How can the planning system be more effective and efficient?
5. How can the planning system be made easier to access and understand?
6. Is the present planning system right for Victoria?
7. Are the respective roles of State and Local Government in the planning system still appropriate?
Though these questions were never meant as headings for submissions, many submittors responded on each of the seven points as if they were guiding considerations.
An interesting outcome from the responses is that many submittors struggled to state what was good about the system, despite the proposition frequently put to the Committee; that the Victorian system was not ‘broken’.
This is true of both submissions and oral presentations. For example, the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) (Submission No. 299) at page 13 of its
“The MAV does not believe that there are major systemic issues with the planning system, but that operationally it is overly complex to administer and not effective in delivering outcomes that councils seek.
Significant shifts are required in the oversight and governance of the planning system, its operation and the procedures used to administer the system for good planning outcomes to be achieved. For this to occur there needs to be a cultural shift within DPCD and allocation of clear accountability for the performance of the planning system.” Louise Wolfers (Submission No. 323) compared the Victorian system to the
New South Wales system and concludes:
“Our present model with a tiered approach for planning policy considerations at the State, MSS and LPP policy framework levels seems to work reasonably well and is relatively easy to understand the various levels of policy consideration.” Notwithstanding, as the large number of submissions and the breadth of the calls for change attest, it is difficult to reconcile the criticisms of the Victorian Planning System with the two propositions that ‘the system is not broken’ and all that is required are ‘significant shifts’.
The Victorian Planning and Environmental Law Association (Submission No.
541) focused on what it called ‘the fundamentals of the system’ which, it said ‘are very strong’. The submission states:
“The statutory framework is generally very clear and readily understood;
The concept of strategic planning leading statutory implementation is consistent with good planning;
There is an appropriately high level of accessibility of the system to the community and ability for the community to participate in the planning process;
All parties have access to independent dispute resolution bodies (in the form of VCAT and Planning Panels Victoria) in a way that is not overly legalistic and which provides fair process and healthy debate;
Compared to other processes within the justice system, the planning system is relatively speedy and affordable.
It is the Association’s position that these fundamental aspects of the planning system must be at least maintained.” All these comments and more are duly noted by the Committee.
A total of 547 written submissions were received and considered by the Committee. By comparison, the current review of the New South Wales planning system records 328 submissions received.
Submissions to this review were received from individuals, organisations such as ratepayer groups and progress associations through to peak bodies and industry associations as well as from 66 of the 79 municipalities in Victoria.
That the submissions were wide ranging in nature was not surprising. Neither were the numerous submissions which reported unpleasant and frustrating personal experiences with the planning system.
A catalogue of submissions was kept to record the details of the submittors as well as the general issues that were raised in those submissions. To help the Committee, the submissions were categorised in themes and key words. This record is included in Appendix 4 Submissions List of Issues.
Although some individuals only submitted on one topic, others (such as councils, peak bodies and industry groups) submitted on multiple aspects of the planning system. Each aspect on which they commented has been recorded.