Planning and Environment Act 1987 - Planning Scheme Amendments

June 17, 2020

Mr T SMITH (Kew) (10:45): I rise to speak on one motion that contains two planning scheme amendments: a planning scheme amendment for the Upper Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges Regional Strategy Plan and indeed a motion for the City of Whittlesea planning amendment C203.

The reason why Parliament is debating these motions is that under the Planning and EnvironmentAct 1987 any potential alterations to planning amendments that interact with the urban growth boundary (UGB) must be ratified by the Parliament. I have been briefed on these matters; I was briefed on Tuesday afternoon. It was only brought to my attention that this was coming before the Parliament on Monday afternoon.

Now, I must say—and I do appreciate the minister’s office’s time yesterday afternoon—I would have liked a little bit more time to get my head around some of these issues.

The City of Whittlesea planning amendment C203 is not a controversial amendment, however, and it has been driven by council process—but that council obviously has had some genuine issues in recent years. It was dismissed some months ago by a local government minister who has also been dismissed by the Labor Party. The CEO of that council at the time that this planning amendment was brought forward is someone with a cloud over his head. Given the controversies at the City of Whittlesea, the controversies surrounding the Minister for Local Government that dismissed that council and the controversies surrounding the CEO, Mr Overland, who has got a number of questions to answer with regard to his behaviour and performance as the former Chief Commissioner of Police, I would have thought that a little bit longer for me to delve into those issues would have been appropriate, and I know that the Leader of the Opposition in the upper house, Mr Davis, will have something further to say about that evening when this is debated in the second chamber.

On the face of it though—and I genuinely mean this—there does not appear to be anything hugely controversial about this, particularly C203. I do note that there will be 64 hectares of land transferred outside of the urban growth boundary to the council for the purposes of the Quarry Hills regional parkland. That is to be commended. Public open space is very important, particularly in one of the fastest growing suburbs and areas of our state. The use and development of 30 hectares outside the UGB for a winery and vineyard—it would be somewhat hypocritical of me to be critical of that development, and I note that the Minister for Planning was very supportive of it being turned into a vineyard as well. The rezoning of 15 hectares inside of the UGB for residential development—I just hope that the planning processes around that development have appropriate infrastructure built with it, that there is a plan to accommodate population growth and that it is not just simply a one-off but that there is some thought given to a holistic plan to ensure that that part of Melbourne, as fast as it is growing, is interconnected with other local communities.

In terms of what is being proposed for the Upper Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges Regional Strategy Plan, these are quite complex planning matters. We were briefed yesterday afternoon. I do note from the council report from the May 2017 Yarra Ranges Localised Planning Statement that there was quite significant community consultation. And if I can quote this document:The Group—that is the community reference group—has overwhelmingly supported the history of the Regional Strategy Plan being reintroduced to the document for Council adoption. The feedback received commented on the need to provide a direct connection between the Localised Planning Statement and the Regional Strategy Plan. The history of the RSP documents key milestones relating to the development of the RSP as well as summarizing the current relationships between the RSP and the Planning and Environment Act 1987.

Now, the Upper Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges Authority was established in 1977 by the Hamer government. This is one of the great legacies of Rupert Hamer, one of my predecessors, a member for Kew—the green wedge. This was the beginnings of the green wedge movement and ensuring that Melbourne’s sprawl and indeed certain parts of our great city were protected from development forever. That is one of Sir Rupert’s great legacies.

Mr Wynne: An enduring legacy.

Mr T SMITH: An enduring legacy, I agree, Minister for Planning, which has ensured that the Upper Yarra Valley remains as beautiful today as it was in the 1970s and that the townships in and around the Upper Yarra Valley are protected. I do note that what is being proposed seems eminently reasonable:

"The economic effects will ensure that local businesses will be able to diversify and change with local needs whilst not encroaching outside the boundaries of the township and establish users in Launching Place and Wesburn will be protected. The amendment is expected to have positive economic effects in allowing for quarry operations. The amendment should not have any detrimental impact on employment through existing areas used for extractive industry and should result in more public and private sector investment in the immediate and surrounding areas. The amendment is expected to have additional economic effects in allowing for quarry operations subject to obtaining a planning permit and work authority."

Now, that all seems quite reasonable. There has been no community outcry, there has been actually community support. It has been a council-driven process. I put on record again I would have liked a little bit longer to have understood these matters. I would have thought, given that these planning amendments apply to completely different council areas in totally different geographic locations around Victoria, that they should have been separate motions, because if we were of the view to oppose one and support the other, we should have had that opportunity. I do not actually understand why this has been moved with such haste, but it is what it is and we will not be opposing this motion. On that,with 5 minutes to go before question time, I will sit down.