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«December 2011 Victorian Planning System Ministerial Advisory Committee Initial Report. Geoff Underwood, Chair. Catherine Heggen, Member. David ...»

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Adequate funding should be made available at local and state level to employ regional enforcement officers, with an option for an officer to operate across municipal boundaries; and The powers of entry and inspection in the Planning and Environment Act 1987 should be modified to match the corresponding power under the Local Government Act.

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7. Leadership of the Planning System A number of the submissions discuss the leadership of and culture within the planning community in Victoria, including comments about the role of the Minister, DPCD and the State and Local Governments, and the need for greater vision and leadership.

7.1 A Vision for Victoria Numerous submissions express the desire to see the development of a visionary strategy or some form of long term strategic plan for Victoria which links planning, population and infrastructure. The Committee for Melbourne’s (Submission No. 450) states:

“In order to influence and direct the character, configuration and services of the State as it grows there must be an assessment of the current state policy planning framework. A spatially focused long term vision for Melbourne and its supporting regions must be developed to

address:

The ultimate land size and physical shape of the city and its regions Optimal population densities for the metropolitan and suburban residential areas The identification of future transport corridors and other key city building infrastructure The identification of employment corridors link to transport corridors The location and character of central activity areas beyond the central business district.

Melbourne’s role and interface with neighbouring regional cities and peri urban areas.” A recent newspaper article made the following observation on strategic

planning in Australia:

“Even the time frame of strategic plans is similar. Planning documents for Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide look out 25 years to 2036 while southeast Queensland and Perth work on a 20 year blueprint. Why don't strategic plans look 40 or even 50 years into the future? Why aren't we envisioning what our largest cities might look like in 2051?

After all, the Australian Bureau of Statistics provides population projections to this year. Doesn't it make sense to be determining now

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where land needs to be quarantined for future housing, industry, transport and parklands?”3

The article made the further observation that:

“It was the Melbourne at 2030 plan, released in October 2002, that set the 21st century strategic planning agenda in Australia. All other current strategic plans followed the Victorians. I think it is Melbourne that is the intellectual stronghold of strategic planning in Australia.

The planning agenda, vision horizon and key ratios that apply in that city end up being only moderately modified in later plans for other states.

And I suspect that Melbourne continues its lead in the national planning agenda with documents such as Delivering Melbourne's Newest Sustainable Communities. (Notice the word ‘sustainable’ inserted into the title. It wards off the evil spirits of negative public sentiment. If it's sustainable it's warm and cuddly.) Not only do the Victorians set the planning agenda, they also determine the politically correct language to use. If you are a developer seeking development approval in any part of metropolitan Australia, make sure you read and understand planning documentation coming out of Victoria. And make sure you use the language of the Victorians: insert the word sustainable into the title of your project. It has an oddly calming effect on the planning community.” The article observes that intellectual resources clearly exist in Victoria to develop a Vision for the State.

The development of the Metropolitan Strategy and the eight regional growth plans will contribute to developing this Vision for Victoria. However, it would seem more logical for these place specific strategies to take a lead from a Vision for Victoria so as to give expression to an overall strategic framework plan for the State.

The expression of such a Vision would benefit from a bipartisan commitment to a common goal. A strategy or vision that can be funded appropriately to deliver services and infrastructure for the longer term and provide certainty to those involved in the planning system, would be welcomed by the community, the development sector and all tiers of government.

The Vision for Victoria should be a document that provides leadership to the public and private sectors. It should indicate where investment in infrastructure will occur to meet the needs of the community and industry and 3 Melbourne Sets Planning Agenda for Other Cities - The Australian, 3 March 2011

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provide a level of assurance that orderly planning for Victoria is being undertaken.

The Bulky Goods Retailers Association (Submission No. 501) considers there is

a need to substitute what remains of the Melbourne 2030 strategy:

“The BGRA believe there is a current lack of clear policy that informs the planning system particularly in relation to Retail (Retail Policy Review 2007) and the broader strategic growth framework for Melbourne (Melbourne 2030). This Policy uncertainty is critical to the future of Victoria and needs to be resolved as a priority of the State Government.” This concern with Melbourne 2030 and the desire to create a new strategic plan for the State is not limited to the private sector. Community organisations





such as Peninsula Speaks (Submission No. 518) advocate for:

“Replacement of Melbourne 2030 with a new metropolitan planning strategy for Melbourne.” Local government is also seeking direction from the State to allow the development and implementation of both State and local policy. Moreland City

Council (Submission No. 409), states:

“The Victorian planning system is currently operating inefficiently, delivering poor quality outcomes and as a result creating disillusion of planning within the community. One of the fundamental components of the Victorian planning system is a significant emphasis on policy based controls and decision making.

As part of any changes to the system we should be striving for a planning system that places Victoria at the forefront of proactively addressing emerging land use and development issues and that provides a clear framework for our preferred future. A new State wide blueprint for Victoria should include clear actions for implementation from State to local level. Include significant public engagement in the preparation of a State wide plan and policy.” The Committee believes that the Vision for Victoria should also provide the framework to guide infrastructure agencies in their planning to ensure the appropriate lead up times can be factored in to supply services to meet the needs for growth or consolidation.

The adoption of such a high order strategic plan would also provide direction to State Government departments, which often undertake individual departmental planning and function in silos.

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Finally, establishing a Vision for Victoria would guide and inform planning undertaken by the other two tiers of Government; local and federal. If such a document could be implemented there is a real opportunity to co ordinate funding streams for the effective delivery of services and infrastructure. This could then increase efficiency in the planning system and reduce negative sentiment from the community and development sectors.

Submissions refer to the lack of a spatial representation in Victoria’s current planning system. The Municipal Association of Victoria’s submission highlighted the need for greater spatial interpretation of the planning system to allow better ownership by councils and improved comprehension by communities.

The graphical expression of ideas can be extremely valuable in providing guidance to decision makers and other users of the planning system. Any spatial representations should start at the top, in a Vision for Victoria, then cascade down to a municipal level to provide a cohesive picture.

Many submissions highlight the issue that a greater degree of leadership is required from State Government in relation to the future planning of the State, so the development of a Vision for Victoria seems a logical improvement on how strategic planning is undertaken. The Victorian Planning and

Environmental Law Association (VPELA) states in its submission:

“Members expressed a concern that currently there is an absence of clarity of Victoria’s planning agenda.

Government and Departmental leadership is crucial to the setting and implementation of Victoria’s planning agenda. Some members of the Association have suggested that effective organisational change is required. That the tasks of managing State, regional and metropolitan growth require stability and the capacity to implement long term plans.” KEY FINDINGS A Vision for Victoria

The Committee strongly supports:

The development of a Vision for Victoria that aligns the medium to long term planning and infrastructure needs of the State;

The development of the Metropolitan Strategy and associated eight Regional Growth Plans; and An alignment of the Vision for Victoria, the Metropolitan Strategy and the eight Regional Growth Plans, and a spatial representation of their objectives.

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7.2 The Role of the Minister The role and powers of the Minister for Planning are set out in the Act. The Act allocates duties, tasks and responsibilities to the relevant Minister and casts him or her as the focal point and primary decision maker under the system.

The Act gives a wide range of powers to the person holding office as the

Minister for Planning. They include powers:

That make the Minister the planning authority to make or amend the VPP and the planning schemes;

That position the Minister as the person responsible for dealing with and deciding on certain planning permit applications;

To administer and enforce the provisions of the Act;

To give directions about the administration of the Act and therefore the system overall to government departments and agencies as well as other bodies including municipalities;

To acquire land;

To enter into agreements about the use of land; and To set and implement planning policy.

The Act has the responsible Minister as the ‘head of the system’ and puts the mandate in position to direct planning outcomes. The manner in which various ministers over time have carried out their responsibilities has drawn positive and negative commentary according to the standpoint of the commentator.

The positive view is that the Minister has intervened to resolve disputes and reduce delays. The negative criticism historically is that successive Ministers have too much power and opportunity to act unilaterally when making a decision.

Numerous submissions argued that the role of the Minister needed to be

changed. The reasons stated include:

The politicisation of the role of the Minister in controversial matters;

The need to transition the role of the Minister from operational matters to strategic issues; and The disempowerment of local decision makers and the exclusion of community input.

Nic Maclellan (Submission No. 494) states:

“Powers of the Minister and State Government Department should be clarified and codified.

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In our area of Brunswick, there is intense frustration at the way that the Department of Planning and successive Planning ministers can override local processes of consultation, negotiation and agreement.” In relation to Ministerial interventions, the City of Port Phillip (Submission No.

404) comments:

“In recent years, ministerial interventions have been driven by economics rather than by outcome and policy. Any process designed specifically for ‘State significant’ projects should be open and transparent. The process must clarify why a project is deemed to be of ‘State significance’ and why the local planning authority cannot adequately consider it.

It should not be a process that seeks to remove local planning authority involvement in order to facilitate development, thereby seeking to avoid the rules applied to everyone else. In legitimate processes for projects of true State significance the local authority should continue to have a place at the table and a role in the process.

The State Government should review the ministerial guidelines for intervention to ensure that decisions are consistent and protocols for interactions with Councils are outlined.” DLA Piper Australia made the following comments in relation to the Minister’s

role:

“There are three key structural issues which we consider need to be addressed as part of any reform.

The first is the need for some form of statutory separation between the Minister and the department. A key problem, which undermines much of the planning system, is the failure of the Department to take accountability for the operation of the system and a lack of leadership in policy implementation and the administration of the VPPs. Many officers in the department see themselves as an extension of the Minister and are either unwilling, unable or afraid to express a view independent of the Minister. There is a misunderstanding about the relationship between the Department's administrative roles and the statutory roles of the Minister.

The answer lies in either creating some form of statutory department independent of the Minister (akin to the old Town and Country Planning Board) or to create a statutory position such as the 'State Planner' at Deputy Secretary level who would have responsibility for the implementation and administration of the state planning system.

This will allow officers of the department to advocate and accept accountability without the excuse that they were somehow fettering

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