Cardinia Planning Scheme: Amendment

I rise to make a contribution on behalf of the opposition to the Cardinia planning scheme amendment. In doing so, I note that it is not common practice for us to be debating planning scheme amendments such as this.

The process that attends planning scheme amendments in the Parliament is usually by way of a disallowable instrument whereby a planning scheme amendment is put before the house for a period of, as I recall, 10 sitting days, and if at any such time a member wishes to bring the debate on, the matter is obviously then debated in either house. I raise that because I think it is important that we take an affirming position as a Parliament and have the opportunity to debate these matters, particularly as they relate to changes in the green wedges.

Those who know the history of the development of green wedges in this state will remember that they are a legacy of a former Liberal Premier, Rupert Hamer, who is no longer with us. Through his public service he left many lasting legacies not only for this Parliament but also for the state because of the foresight of his government in relation to the green wedges, the arts and various other areas of public infrastructure. They have stood us in extraordinarily good stead over many years. It is because of his great legacy that green wedges became part of the urban fabric of this state and are described by many people as the green lungs of metropolitan Melbourne.

In acknowledging that legacy, I think it is important that when changes are proposed to the green wedges we have the opportunity to ventilate them in both houses of this Parliament. As the minister indicated, the changes that are being dealt with here are relatively minor in the broader scope of the green wedges. I will deal with some of the history of that in my contribution to the debate. As I indicated in my introductory comments, we do not oppose the amendment.

The planning scheme makes changes to zoning and subdivision in a way that I think could best be described as very modest.

The land affected is a small hamlet called Cora Lynn in a green wedge south-east of Pakenham. There are about 12 dwellings within this small conurbation. It is currently zoned as special use zone (schedule 1 — horticultural preservation), but the block sizes and land use make this zoning inappropriate because it is not agricultural land. It could find a more productive end use, and that is essentially the proposition that is before us today.

It is proposed that the area be rezoned to a

low-density — and low-impact — residential zone and that a restructure overlay be applied to the land. The new zoning will reflect the actual use of the land. The land will still be zoned green wedge, but any further changes to the zoning or the subdivision of the land will require parliamentary approval. As I have indicated, that is an appropriate check and balance when we are dealing with such precious parcels of land.

In addition, two parcels of land will be affected by the changes. The first, as the minister rightly advised us, consists of six lots of land at 460 Bayles-Cora Lynn Road, which are currently owned by the one property owner. The proposal is to consolidate the six lots into two and allow for the construction of a dwelling on a lot which does not already contain a dwelling. The second lot, at 462-464 Bayles-Cora Lynn Road, consists of two lots, and the proposal is to allow for the construction of a dwelling on the lot that is without a dwelling. Currently the size of the lots means they cannot be sold as farmland, and the proposal will allow for the lots to be sold and for any future purchaser of the property to have the right to build a home on the land. Other similar applications were considered as part of the process, but they were not considered by either the council or the independent panel.

It is important that we pause for a moment to acknowledge that there is very significant support for this proposal.

It has been supported by both the council and an independent panel. In moving to address the panel’s report, because there are some interesting aspects to that report, I could pause at this stage and move to it after question time or I could continue now. Which would you prefer, Acting Speaker?

The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Blackwood) — Order! That is very kind of the member for Richmond. He will have the call on the resumption of the debate.

Sitting suspended 1.00 p.m. until 2.03 p.m.

Business interrupted pursuant to standing orders.

Prior to the luncheon adjournment I indicated that it was worthwhile looking at the report of the independent panel, which underpinned the decision by the local authority to support this amendment to the Cardinia planning scheme. As the independent panel’s report indicates, the amendment has had a long gestation. It originated in 2006 from a request initially made by the owners of 460 Bayles-Cora Lynn Road to construct additional dwellings on that land.

In February 2007 the council requested that the then Minister for Planning authorise an amendment that would amend the schedule to the special use zone to provide for the construction of a dwelling at that address subject to a restructure of the titles, but, as the Attorney-General indicated in his contribution earlier today, authorisation at that time was not given by the minister. However, in 2009 the council resolved to prepare a broader amendment, which included much of the land in the Cora Lynn settlement within a low-density residential zone, and to use a site-specific control to allow an additional dwelling at 460 Bayles-Cora Lynn Road.

At the time it was a prudent decision by the then minister to really go away and say, ‘Let’s not have a spot rezoning of this. Let’s have a broader look at it and see if we can in fact encapsulate all the issues that need to be addressed in this small but significant hamlet within the one, broader planning scheme amendment’.

That is where we have arrived at today, and this amendment proposes the use of the restructure overlay rather than a site-specific control. I think by and large that those on both sides of the house who take an interest in planning matters would regard this as a much more appropriate, and can I say more encompassing, approach to addressing these questions.

The panel heard from a number of representatives, including one of the property owners, not surprisingly, and representatives thereof. It is interesting that the panel agreed with the council that the majority of allotments in Cora Lynn are residential in nature and have a small agricultural component and that the amendment would recognise this rural locality through the application of the low-density residential zone but restrict further developments in accordance with the restructure overlay.

The property at 460 Bayles-Cora Lynn Road, which is one of the properties subject to this amendment, provides for additional development in the form of an ability to apply for a permit for a second dwelling at the site. The property consists of six titles with common ownership.

The rezoning and application of the restructure overlay to 460 Bayles-Cora Lynn Road was supported by the panel. Indeed 462-464 Bayles-Cora Lynn Road is owned by the Jorgensen family, who made representations to the panel, as is appropriate for them to do. The panel noted that it had some difficulty in supporting the proposed amendment in relation to this site because, unlike the land at 460 Bayles-Cora Lynn Road, no direct planning benefit is derived from a restructure of lots in this case. However, on balance, the panel has decided to support the council’s position for a range of reasons, which — for those who are particularly interested — are outlined in the panel’s recommendations.

The third site is 706 Nine Mile Road. A Ms Lechte sought the inclusion of her property at 706 Nine Mile Road within the low-density residential zone and the restructure overlay, again with provision for an additional dwelling on the land.

She submitted that this property was properly part of the settlement of Cora Lynn as this land was formerly a school site consisting of three titles that were consolidated into one at the time the land was transferred to private ownership in the 1990s. There is currently a single dwelling on the land-holding of, I understand from the panel’s report, approximately 18 300-odd square metres. Ms Lechte submitted that, due to its former school use, this land is not being used for agricultural purposes.

The council did not support this submission, and noted that the land was neither within a multiple title nor isolated from farmland in the same manner as the land at 462-464 Bayles-Cora Lynn Road, and council considered that the land did have potential for agricultural use as part of a larger land-holding.

Subsequently, and I guess not surprisingly, the panel agreed with the council that it would be inappropriate to modify the amendment to allow further subdivision of Ms Lechte’s property at this time and until that further strategic work is undertaken.

We can learn a couple of lessons from what is at one level a relatively modest change to the green wedge legislation. Firstly, we have in place a robust scrutiny of any proposed modifications to the green wedge. Those who heard my earlier contribution, particularly in relation to the great legacy left to us by former Premier Hamer in relation to green wedges, would be aware that it is absolutely appropriate that this house and the upper house have an opportunity to scrutinise these matters and to assure themselves that any modifications to the green wedge legislation are not of a deleterious nature but enhance both the spirit and the application of green wedge policy.

The second significant aspect is that this proposal has the support of the local authority, which is important, and that an independent panel has scrutinised the application, looked at it very carefully, agreed with the applications from two of the property owners but not a third, and required that property owner frankly to do a bit more strategic work and to be part of a broader strategic overlay and planning for this residential hamlet.

There are important lessons for government in this matter. Obviously as an opposition we will be scrutinising this or any proposed changes to green wedges. We have a legislative tool available to us to embark on this important work. In that context what we have before us are relatively minor changes to the green wedge legislation, and we do not oppose them, but we signal to the government and to the minister in the other house that we will be looking very closely at any proposal that seeks to undermine either the spirit or the application of green wedge legislation in metropolitan Melbourne.

Opposition members understand that this is crucial public land. When the green wedge legislation was passed, the Premier of the day, Mr Hamer, eloquently said that these green wedges would be, to use his terminology, the lungs of our city. We must ensure that we are diligent in ensuring that we maintain those aspirations and their application and do not seek to diminish or undermine what was at that stage fundamental and important public policy and planning policy. In the context of the minor changes before us, opposition members do not oppose the amendment to the Cardinia planning scheme.