FRANKSTON AND GREATER DANDENONG PLANNING SCHEMES
I rise to make a contribution in relation to the planning scheme amendments, which will come before the house in two tranches. The first tranche relates to Frankston planning scheme amendment C93 and Greater Dandenong planning scheme amendment C174, which are the subject of my initial contribution, and that will be followed by Wyndham planning scheme amendment C156. For the purposes of orderly debate, these amendments will be dealt with in two tranches for the reason that we will not be opposing the first two amendments, being those to the Frankston planning scheme and the Greater Dandenong planning scheme, but I foreshadow that we will be opposing the second tranche, which is amendment C156 to the Wyndham planning scheme.
In the context of this being a contribution from the opposition to the debate on the first item of business — that is, Frankston planning scheme amendment C93 — and by way of initial comment, it is important that we have the opportunity as a Parliament to scrutinise these planning schemes, particularly where they encroach on land that is designated as green wedge land.
There is a lengthy historical perspective to this which reaches back to the great days of the former Liberal governments and the great legacy of Sir Rupert Hamer, which was built upon by successive governments. The genesis of the green wedges was to ensure that we struck a balance in managing growth. Frankly, I think that when Sir Rupert Hamer and others envisaged the green wedges they did not expect our city and the broader urban conurbation in metropolitan Melbourne and Victoria more generally to reach the population levels we have now.
There is no doubt that Victoria is the place to be.
It is the place of choice for many communities, both for interstate migration to Victoria, which is certainly very positive, and for many overseas migrant communities that choose Victoria for permanent residency. There are very good reasons for that because, as we know, successive governments in New South Wales have had to confront some very complex and difficult planning issues in their state. It is fair to say that a previous government in the state to the north, as I well recall, put up the shutters and said there was no more room for migration into New South Wales, which was a great folly by that government — that it was not open and prepared to embrace all the fantastic opportunities we derive from the communities that seek to join us here in Victoria, whether it be migrant communities and professional immigrants who choose to come to this state or interstate migration to Victoria as well.
In terms of interstate migration to this state, it is an extraordinary success story, and I submit to the house that certainly in part the extraordinary return of people to Victoria has very much been due to the sustained investment by the previous government, particularly in the areas of education and scientific research. People would have heard me talk in the house in the past about what I call the billion dollar boulevard of Flemington Road, where the most extraordinary investment has been made in public infrastructure. The Royal Children’s Hospital is not only a first-class children’s hospital but also a first-class research centre.
There is the Bio21 Institute just a little up the road, which, again, is a groundbreaking research facility, the likes of which is the envy of every state in Australia.
Further up the road is the rebuilt Royal Women’s Hospital and the extraordinary redevelopment that is occurring in the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, which is being constructed, as we speak, on the dental hospital site and which will house not only the primary care facilities of that magnificent institution — one of the great institutions of this state — the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, but also all those researchers who are attached to the Peter MacCallum research centre. There is also the synchrotron in the Monash University precinct.
Why do I paint this picture? I paint this picture because this is about how governments need to manage population increases. That is essentially what the green wedge legislation was about when it was first envisioned by that great Liberal visionary, Sir Rupert Hamer. It was about saying that, yes, we need growth and need to encourage growth in this state, but not at the expense of our livability or of what was so eloquently described as ensuring that the lungs of the city are healthy. We need to have green wedge spaces that provide a respite from the hustle and bustle of the urban conurbation so that we have the opportunity to visit parts of our state where we can enjoy what is best about nature and what is best about the restorative aspects of being in a natural environment.
That is very much a part of what the green wedge philosophy was about, and that is why, when we come into Parliament and scrutinise these changes to the green wedges, we should never forget where they came from.
What was the genesis, and what was the thinking of the people who came before us? What were they hoping to achieve for the greater good, for the common good of our community and for the state more generally? When we come into Parliament and look at any encroachment on or amendments to green wedges, we look at that in the broader context of the common good, and that is why we need to scrutinise all these amendments very carefully.
It is appropriate, as is done genuinely and on a bipartisan basis, that people look in detail at the amendments and consider them in a timely manner. The other aspect of that is that appropriate checks and balances are put in place before the amendments come before the Parliament. In those contexts, the opposition will be looking to see whether there has been appropriate opportunity for the voice of the community to be heard.
It is my broad view and that of the opposition in general that there ought to be an opportunity for planning decisions, particularly when they have a significant impact on amenity, to be addressed and dealt with in a public and transparent way and that the voice of the community be heard in that process.
That approach is obviously reflected in the process that councils go through in exhibiting proposed amendments to planning schemes. The process is lengthy. It provides an opportunity for members of the committee to make submissions on the development of the proposed amendments, and independent panels are established. In many respects a thorough and vigorous process is gone through to ensure that all the views of the community are encapsulated. That includes the local authority, as an elected level of government, having the opportunity to express its view about proposed amendments before they come forward to the minister for ratification and then subsequently before this chamber for final consideration.
If members consider this in a sequential way, they will realise that it really starts at the community level. It is then dealt with through the local authority, the elected voice of the people at a local level. Independent panels deal with technical matters pertaining to some of the proposed amendments. Recommendations are then made to the minister of the day and ultimately to the Parliament. That pretty robust process has been adopted for many years, and it has held its own over a long time. Nonetheless, I wish to address a couple of matters that pertain to amendments to the first two planning schemes — that is, the Frankston and Greater Dandenong planning schemes. I refer in the first instance to amendment C93 to the Frankston planning scheme. The proposal is for 5 hectares of land at
525-559 McClelland Drive, Langwarrin, to be taken out of the green wedge to allow expansion of the Peninsula Private Hospital, which currently is located on the northern part of the site.
As I indicated earlier, no concern about this proposal has been expressed by the council, and it has gone through the standard process that I outlined earlier. The land includes an area of remnant indigenous vegetation affected by a significant landscape overlay and an environmental significance overlay. The panel process is important because the panel found that those overlays will continue to provide direction about how the vegetation is to be protected from development.
There have been instances of a parcel of land being included in zoning that is somewhat anomalous in that it sits within the green wedge zone. Over time a number of those have come up within what are called logical inclusions reviews, which the government took to the election as its planning policy. This is perhaps one of the better cases. Looking at this part parcel of land, you could suggest that the proposed amendment does make sense.
The council believed that the master plan for the expansion of the hospital was designed to protect much of the remnant vegetation, which is to be maintained as a net gain offset, in accordance with the Victorian native vegetation management framework. If in relation to how parcels of land are developed what are often competing demands can be balanced and, as in this context, they respect and indeed protect native vegetation, members across the Parliament would agree that will be a very good outcome.
In the panel process, the panel accepted that removal of the land from the green wedge zone would have imperceptible impacts on the promotion of the key features and values of the Mornington Peninsula green wedge. The environment assessment panel accepted also that, on balance, the area’s removal from the green wedge zone was a reasonable outcome. In broad terms this seems to be a very sensible proposition. Something I have not to quite been able to get to the bottom of is of interest in relation to this. Council members did not seem to have a unanimous position on this parcel of land. I guess at one level that is a bit disappointing. I am not sure what the arguments were because I was not at the council meeting, but obviously something was contested. I do not know the particular circumstances of it, but more generally one would have thought — given the very thorough process that has been gone through, including the independent panel and the fact that it is a relatively modest parcel of land to be used for a health service, with native vegetation being protected — that a unanimous vote by council members could have been anticipated. I note that two councils took a dissenting position. Be that as it may, they are the circumstances around the proposed amendment to the Frankston planning scheme.
The second matter that I touch upon in my contribution relates to the proposed amendment to the Greater Dandenong planning scheme. It is proposed that sections of land be removed from the established green wedge zone. Again the amendment has been recommended by the council and supported by an independent panel. The council has indicated that from when the urban growth boundary was introduced in 2002 there have been mapping errors in respect of four parcels of land. Members will well recall some of the history of the development of the urban growth boundary and other matters that attached to that, in relation to levies, fees and so forth that might attend on development.
They were very hotly contested issues, and they were finally resolved after a bit of a deadlock. I think we have a pretty balanced approach to how development might occur on those growth boundaries.
However, we need to look in a broader sense at how we want those communities, which are reaching out to the urban growth boundary, to develop, not only in the context of the development of the housing product itself, because developers more generally are very cognisant of the need to develop homes that are efficient and properly oriented in terms of solar orientation and the emerging technologies around solar and so forth, but also to ensure that those communities are connected to jobs and to public transport.
We know there are great challenges around that for this government and for the minister at the table, the Minister for Public Transport. However, there are also challenges for us as a community about how we want to ensure that the quality of life that many of us enjoy in the established suburbs is shared evenly right across the Melbourne metropolitan area and in regional Victoria.
We do not want to find ourselves in a situation where there are haves and have-nots and where people are experiencing transport poverty simply because of a lack of adequate and reliable public transport. Those people find themselves having not only two cars but in some cases three, and they suffer the inefficiencies and obvious cost that entails.
The urban growth boundary is a planning tool designed to consolidate urban conurbation in a way that is sustainable not only from the point of view of environmental sustainability but also economic sustainability and social sustainability. As we know, in Victoria and in Melbourne we have one of the most urbanised communities in the world. We are constantly stretching out, but we do not want to see a circumstance where people are pushed so far out on the urban fringe that they become dislocated from the services they require in a civil society.
If we look at areas along the Geelong road, particularly in the city of Wyndham, we see that those areas are experiencing massive population growth and an extraordinary numbers of births — more than a classroom a week of children are being born — it gives us a sense of — —
I thank my colleague for that clarification. In one municipality 62 children a week are being born — that is, three classrooms a week. It is an extraordinary figure. That is why the urban growth boundary is an important planning tool in managing growth and ensuring that we have truly livable communities. At the moment the risks we run are that with the constant pressure to push out we will dissipate the opportunities that an urban growth boundary provides to consolidate growth.
We are not talking about ridiculous high-rise developments but instead doing this in a very sensible and logical way and taking communities with us in this debate.
I say ‘us’, and I mean that in a truly bipartisan way. This is an issue for government and this Parliament, because in my view ultimately our responsibilities as elected members of Parliament are to ensure that whatever contribution we make in this place and for whatever period of time we make it, we leave the place better for the contribution we have made. I think that maintenance of the urban growth boundary is a fundamental tool in that. It is fundamental also that we listen to the aspirations of local communities and elected local councils and truly understand the struggles they are undergoing. The Wyndham City Council is a prime example, with 62 children a week being born. Think of the services that will be required — —
My colleague tells me that in Melton is 42 children a week. Think of the pressures that those councils are under. It is an opportunity for us at the federal, state and local government levels to try to come to grips with how, as a community and as parliamentarians, we are going to address these questions going forward.
The Greater Dandenong planning scheme amendment seeks to address four parcels of land that the council indicates are mapping errors in the urban growth boundary. I note that the Defenders of the South East Green Wedge Inc. say these are anomalies that should be corrected. That is an important consideration.
As I said earlier in respect of the Frankston amendments, where there is an expression of the council and an expression of the local community in support of these sorts of amendments, we can come into the Parliament with comfort and say, ‘Not only has the process been thorough and in order, but all the potential affected communities have had an opportunity to have a say’.
In relation to the parcels of land at 462 Springvale Road and 81-83 Clarke Road, this land is used by the Khmer Buddhist Society. It is a bit less than 1000 square metres of land and is zoned part residential 1 and part green wedge. The amendment will sort out what is an obvious mapping anomaly. The second parcel of land at 516-522 Springvale Road, Springvale South, is the site for a Country Fire Authority station. Of that 2200-odd square metres of land, something in the order of 400-odd square metres is zoned green wedge, so sorting that out is a self-evident thing to do.
The third parcel of land at 159-171 Clarke Road is the site of a Buddhist place of worship, and it abuts the contiguous parcel of land at 173-191 Clarke Road, Springvale South, which is a transport depot for the storage of heavy machinery storage and maintenance of vehicles. Both are zoned public park and recreation zone.
If we just reflect on those cases, we realise that the Khmer Buddhist Society is well established; we have the Country Fire Authority fire station, which clearly is a mapping anomaly; and in relation to the third parcel of land, we have a Buddhist place of worship which abuts a heavy machinery storage area. Clearly this is not pristine green wedge land, and the situation ought to be sorted out. That is why we are not opposing the amendments.
Just to reiterate the position we have taken on the Frankston planning scheme, this is obviously a parcel of land which will assist the Peninsula Private Hospital with its aspirations for some modest expansion and at the same time will also protect native vegetation land in the area. I think it is an appropriate check and balance, and in both cases is supported by the local authority. They are common-sense amendments. On that basis we do not oppose either amendment.