State overriding community rights, says MAV

By Rob O’Brien
The Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) has appealed to the State Government to be more transparent over its policy of fast-tracking development proposals.

In an announcement yesterday, the Brumby Government said that its decision to fast-track five significant developments over the head of local government would create 13,700 jobs and a $1.6 billion boost to the Victorian economy.

Planning Minister Justin Madden said key projects including housing, retail and office space developments would now be delivered in the timeliest manner possible.

“The Brumby Government is taking action to secure jobs and Victoria’s economy by fast-tracking key projects of state significance,” Mr Madden said.

However, the President of MAV, Bill McArthur, said that the decision to override community concerns on planning proposals was setting a bad precedent.

“From a business point of view, the MAV sees jobs growth as important, but we also see the rights of the local communities as important as well,” Cr McArthur told GovernmentNews.

“What we’re very keen to see is a transparent process which the government stated it would be when they first announced this fast-tracking.

“As it’s turned out, with their running-audit [of all planning applications], they’re picking out ones they believe need a hurry on."

Mr Madden said he wanted to deliver certainty for Victorian communities and facilitate the development of projects such as the rezoning of the Amcor paper mill site. 

But McArthur said that the fast-tracking was taking away the rights of people to have an input into the planning process.

“Bad planning decisions remain forever,” Cr McArthur said. “Jobs – yes, very important, but bad planning remains with communities forever.”

“The community involvement which was promised is not there. We understand and recognise the planning process and that the government can call in any planning application that it so desires.

“If we can work in partnership with the state government to fast-track some of these decisions, that’s fine. But I think to be fair, you look at the process of a rezone coming through the minister’s office, and it is not a quick process.

“I think we’re being held out as a whipping boy, when probably it’s not just local government to blame with regard to planning processes.”

The Planning Minister will take action on the following projects:

•    Rezone for mixed-use the Amcor paper mill site: The former 17-hectare Amcor paper mill site development will begin in 2011 and provide in-excess of 2,000 homes as well as retail, office and community facilities along the Yarra River;

•    Become the responsible authority for Pentridge Prison redevelopment: The $1 billion redevelopment already underway of the former Pentridge site will provide more than 3,000 construction jobs and 3,500 ongoing jobs and provide up to 1,400 homes in Melbourne’s inner-north and retail development as part of the Coburg Principal Activity Centre;

•    Refer the Werribee Plaza to a Priority Development Panel: The proposed $250 million expansion of Werribee Plaza will begin in 2010 and includes a new department store, additional speciality shops, food and leisure facilities and parking and has the potential to provide 2,000 construction jobs and 2,400 ongoing jobs;

•    Rezone land for the Waurn Ponds shopping centre: The proposed $50 million expansion of the Waurn Ponds Shopping Centre to begin this year will provide up to1,800 direct and indirect jobs; and

•    Become the responsible authority for the Monash University redevelopment, Caulfield: The $350 million development at Monash University’s Caulfield campus also due to begin this year will create 1,000 construction jobs include new education, retail and office buildings, and house 800 students.

“These projects will provide a significant boost to the Victorian economy and today’s announcements are a direct response to the challenging times we face,” Madden said.

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