Archive:  Amendment C89

Last Updated  6/10/14



The Good "People Of The Town Of No" Set The Record Straight

(6/10/14 - P)   Residents know it should be the Town of KNOW, not NO, you know...   LPS file  Council Performances 


At the September 24 Council meeting, Cr. Letchford called members of the Macedon Ranges' community "the people from the Town of No".  Why?  Because those people (i.e. most of the submissions to the exhibited Localised Planning Statement, and MRRA) did not support Council's damaging LPS and instead wanted Statement of Planning Policy No. 8 to be retained, au contraire to the Councillor's pro-LPS stance.  That and other nasties at the Council meeting have attracted some seriously uncomplimentary observations about the Councillor and the Council as a whole.  However, there are some who insist the Councillor's slur on the community has been misinterpreted, and what he actually said was "the people from the Town of KNOW", as follows:


"I thought there was a reference at Council to the good citizens of the town of KNOW – the people who know:

MRRA Says:


It's the knowing, and what you know, that makes all the difference.


Donald Rumsfeld (former United States Secretary of Defense - Bush administration), when once asked about the lack of evidence linking the government of Iraq with the supply of weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups, responded:

"As we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know." 

The known knowns in Macedon Ranges Shire are that the people know what's going on at Council. 

The known unknowns include not knowing what and/or who motivates Council to behave in the rock-bottom way it does.  

The unknown unknowns - while unknown - could be anticipated to be just as bad as those known knowns and known unknowns we already know. 

Council may think it knows (who knows?), but when it comes to knowing what counts to the community, the community knows Council doesn't know.   Y'know?



Amendment C89:  Council Does Everything It Can To Avoid The Scrutiny Of An Independent Panel

(1/10/14 - P)  And Cr. Letchford attacks and blames MRRA.  Wrongly.  Again.   Council Performances

At last Wednesday's Council meeting, Councillors (on a 5-3 vote) decided to not refer a revised Amendment C89 to an independent panel but straight to the Minister for Planning for approval.


Council considers C89 to be a minor amendment which corrects anomalies in the Macedon Ranges planning scheme, changing zones and heritage overlays for more than 141 parcels of land.  It is said to be needed to keep the planning scheme up to date and to remove impediments to development produced by scheme errors.  Some of C89's changes respond to written and verbal requests for change from individual landowners. 


Council received 19 submissions to the exhibited amendment, with several (including MRRA's) requesting changes.  In this situation Council is obliged to either make the requested change, abandon all or part of the amendment, or refer it to an independent panel.  Council opted to avoid a panel by abandoning several of C89's proposed changes; deleting another change (apparently an error); and making a late change to reduce an existing Heritage overlay and include a reference to an Incorporated Document, actions that were not part of the exhibited amendment.  Council also requested the Friends of Daly Nature Reserve and others to withdraw their requests for C89 to rezone the Reserve to a conservation zone (as per Council's resolution of December 2012).  When they didn't withdraw, Council declared their requests not relevant to C89, and a change not able to be included in the amendment at this late stage.  With these actions Council achieved its objective of removing all grounds for Amendment C89 to be referred to an independent panel.


The main reason cited by Council for avoiding a panel was costs - claimed to be $10,000 for C89.


Cr. Letchford went further and claimed a C89 panel would cost Council $20,000, a cost incurred because of the "Town of No people" and the "people from the Town of No" [i.e. MRRA].  He said the amendment is a no-brainer, and if it went to a panel, ratepayers would be asking why this money couldn't be spent elsewhere.  He said MRRA's submission defies sense, but Council could now move to the next round and make submissions public.  People, the community, would be able to have a look [at MRRA's submission] and ask why this money could not be spent elsewhere. 


Cr. Letchford in closing agreed with Cr. McLaughlin that Council business costs Council money (Cr. McLaughlin supported moving C89 to a panel), but then derided MRRA saying everything else had been resolved except this one submission and, seriously, it was about changing a word, or an overlay.  The public can now have a look at the submission, and see the cost of a panel to the public purse is needless.  Cr. Letchford made particularly scathing remarks about a C89 change (rezoning the Carlsruhe Freeway to RDZ1) he claimed was being abandoned as a result of MRRA's submission.


He went on to say If there were errors in the amendment, due diligence came into play through DTPLI (the Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure) and the Minister, and if C89 is wrong, the Minister can shoot it back [presumably to Council].  Cr. Anderson (who supported sending C89 to a panel) pointed out Council's position on late changes was inconsistent. Council supported late changes to Amendment C92 (Macedon Restructure Overlay) but was now saying it couldn't do the same with rezoning Daly Nature Reserve.  Cr. Letchford countered Cr. Anderson by saying that C92 was a different process, different information; with C89, Council just wanted to get it correct.


Cr. Anderson questioned the officer present about the proposed Council resolution, which included delegating authority to officers to make changes to C89 after Council voted.  The officer responded that the delegation meant only minor changes could be made, such as wording changes, but nothing material.


The motion to partly abandon Amendment C89, delete a change, alter another and forward the amendment to the Minister for approval was moved Cr. Letchford, seconded Cr. Mowatt.   Cr. Anderson requested a division:  FOR Crs. Letchford, Mowatt, Connor, Hackett and Jukes;  AGAINST Crs. Anderson, McLaughlin and Piper.  Cr. Morabito was absent.


MRRA Says:


We thought everyone knew the Planning and Environment Act requires submissions to an amendment to be publicly available.  The good Councillor's threat to 'expose' MRRA's submission was not only inappropriate, but unnecessary.   It's also eyebrow-liftingly interesting that Council is apparently not seen as having a role in the exercise of due diligence.


MRRA met with Council officers to discuss C89, and although documentation provided to MRRA helped clarify some issues, it also raised new ones.  MRRA's concern with this amendment is that many corrections aren't or aren't sufficiently substantiated as genuine errors;  the amendment itself contains errors; and some changes introduce new errors.  Council officers partially acknowledged this by proposing to withdraw some changes for further consideration, and to add an additional (overlooked) planning control to another.  Council's at-adoption withdrawal of a proposed Heritage Overlay change suggests yet another error.  The Association was not comfortable with nominating winners and losers (doing so would still not have avoided a panel), or confident agreement reached with officers would survive the politics of the Council chamber.  MRRA did not withdraw its submission, as requested by Council, because the amendment isn't reliable, and would benefit from the independent assessment and scrutiny only a panel would provide.


Council responded by abandoning most changes MRRA requested be withdrawn (Council officers had already recommended three of these be abandoned), assuming other concerns were resolved, and abandoning another change MRRA did not request be withdrawn - the Carlsruhe Freeway rezoning.   Cr. Letchford wrongly criticised and blamed MRRA for this change being abandoned when the decision to abandon was Council's, and Council's alone.  MRRA thinks it knows why Council chose to abandon.  Council exhibited part of the proposed Road Zone [RDZ1] zone in the wrong place and was corrected by VicRoads, but there's more wrong.  While C89 rezones the freeway itself to RDZ1, C89 fails to remove the existing Public Acquisition Overlay which was applied before the freeway was built to identify land required to be purchased for its construction.  As proposed, C89 would leave the Carlsruhe freeway with both RDZ1 zoning, and a redundant Public Acquisition Overlay.  C89 also fails to rezone declared local roads constructed with the freeway, leaving them zoned Farming with the redundant Public Acquisition Overlay also still in place.  A panel may have been able to correct this, but now Council will have to start all over again.


Several of the C89 changes Council is sending to the Minister for approval contain errors: remnants of zones being removed are left behind; one change is already the subject of a panel recommendation for it to not move ahead; a road rezoning exceeds the title, as does rezoning for another change;  evidence has not been provided of private ownership of public-zoned land being rezoned to private zones;  a wrong Heritage Overlay is being removed; one piece of land is left with two zones; and the late inclusion of reference to an Incorporated Plan in the Heritage Overlay schedule to protect trees pre-empts inclusion of that Incorporated Document in the planning scheme (it's not there now, and it's not proposed as part of C89).   We wouldn't approve C89, for some obvious reasons.


A couple more things... 


MRRA asked Panels Victoria about the cost of planning panels, and they kindly sent us a list of indicative panel fees.  There is no set fee (such as $10,000) for a panel.  Costs depend entirely upon the nature of the amendment.  Council says C89 is minor amendment, but even using fairly generous expense estimates for a single member, two day panel hearing for C89, our calculation of potential panel costs fell short of $4,000 - a long way from Council's claim of $10,000 and Councillor Letchford's $20,000.  Council needs to disclose contributory costs and justify these claims.


The Mayor's failure to intervene while Cr. Letchford belittled if not bullied community members in Council chamber reinforced already-strong community concerns about poor standards and process at Council meetings.  Even if in attendance at the meeting, victims of such inappropriate behaviour do not have a right of reply - the Mayor has previously stated members of the gallery can be evicted if they speak. 


As for Cr. Letchford, someone recently described the councillor as a bloviater (one who bloviates).   Google throws up various dictionary definitions for bloviate, including:  to talk at length, especially in an inflated or empty way.  To speak or write verbosely and windily   To discourse at length in a pompous or boastful manner.  A key attribute to those that sell. To pretend to understand technical subject matter and sell it to others even dumber than oneself.   While anyone can get it wrong at times, he seems to consistently excel at being misinformed, and in Chamber couples this with a belligerent and disrespectful attitude to any who hold a different view, behaviour which is noted as contributing to this Council's deplorable reputation.  See also 1/10/14 Localised Planning Statement  report