State Planning Protection In Macedon Ranges
What Is It, and Why Is It Needed?
Preamble: What Makes Macedon Ranges Special?
The resources, features and assets of Macedon Ranges – their extent, rarity, variety, importance and the very concentration of them in a relatively small area close to Melbourne – make Macedon Ranges unique in Victoria. Consequently, sustainability in a Macedon Ranges’ context means preserving that uniqueness for current and future generations of Victorians.
This means giving first and absolute priority to defending the area’s role as the lungs of Melbourne, as a major natural recreation area for the metropolitan populace, as a major Victorian water producer and as an area of highly significant conservation, cultural and landscape values.
The key threats to Macedon Ranges are unchecked growth and development pressures; urbanization of towns; loss of rural land to development; detriment to vegetation, heritage, water catchments and landscapes; and being treated as a place that ‘has to take its share’ without any consideration of the permanent damage to important resources that results when the same generic standards and development principles that apply elsewhere are forced into such a sensitive area.
These losses are happening now because the area lacks State-level policy and statutory protections specific to its very special values and needs.
The primary issue in this place is, how much growth and over-development can occur before other irreplaceable things are lost. We are now finding out. In the last 6 years, the rural character of Gisborne township has already given way to a suburban character; Woodend's Golf Course Hill will likely be the subject of a 1,000 lot subdivision proposal in 2007. At present rates of growth and development Macedon Ranges, as a rural area of State significance, may be extinct within 5 years.
Victoria In Future (2004) projections predict a 1.52% average annual growth rate between 2001 and 2031 - itself a problem. However, Department of Sustainability and Environment annual growth estimates (Victorian Population Growth Bulletins) confirm a higher rate is occurring, as does ABS data:
1997-1998 (1.79%), 1998-1999 (1.85%), 1999-2000 (1.3%), 2000 - 2001 (1.2%), 1996 - 2001 (ABS) (2.1%);
2001-2002 (1.9%), 2002-2003 (1.8%), 2003-2004 (2.8%), 2004-2005 (2.3%).
From experience, it will take more than standard or generic planning controls to reduce development pressures and stop the over-development that is currently occurring. It will also take more than Council finishing the Macedon Ranges planning scheme where even if completed, Macedon Ranges would still fall victim to, amongst other things, metropolitan development standards in ResCode, subservient local policies, and no explicit protection for drinking water catchments. A completed planning scheme wasn't thought sufficient for Yarra Ranges or Mornington Peninsula. Those State significant areas were given State-level controls supported by legislation. Why would a completed planning scheme be enough in Macedon Ranges?
The need to re-instate specific State-level planning protections for Macedon Ranges' rural land and towns is obvious; it is the only viable, long-term solution to the current situation.
State Significance and Introduction Of State Level Protection
‘State Significance’ (3) Means All Victorians Have A Stake In What Happens In Macedon Ranges
The Macedon Ranges and Surrounds area is the ‘lungs of Melbourne’. It encompasses a unique combination of features and resources valued by, and valuable to, the people and state of Victoria. A sensitive, easily-damaged environment, it is a vital component of, and sustains, Melbourne’s liveability.
Major Strengths: Striking natural beauty; high quality landscapes and geological features; drinking water catchments; groundwater and recharge areas; headwaters of important rivers; high quality agricultural soils; heritage; recreation; State forests and parks; rare flora and fauna species; high quality native forests, etc.
Major Constraints: Fire, slopes, infrastructure & water shortages, natural hazards, catchment protection, landscapes, etc.
State Policy (SPP8) Protects Macedon Ranges:
Proximity to Melbourne creates intense pressure for growth and development that damage and diminish State significant characteristics. SPP8 says ‘protect’ comes first.
Statement of Planning Policy No. 8 – Macedon Ranges and Surrounds [SPP8] introduced in 1975: State policy supported by legislation (1).
Integrated policy package. Covers most of Macedon Ranges Shire. Applies to rural land and towns.
Identifies Macedon Ranges as ‘off-limits to urban development’. Lays down principles to resist growth pressures, recognize constraints, restrict development. Sets priorities for development: only if it is compatible with conserving State significance.
Special Planning Controls:
Strong planning schemes to make SPP8 work, to protect water catchments.
Specific zones, created and tailored to recognize sensitivities, restrict damaging development, and get outcomes compatible with State significance: e.g. responsive prohibitions and restrictions, population ‘caps’, very high development standards.
Today, There’s Nothing To Stop Damaging Development
No State Level Policy Protection:
State endorsement lost, the means to implement SPP8 policy lost.
SPP8 downgraded to local policy, over-ridden by generic VPP State policy: SPP8 doesn’t come first anymore.
Protective schemes, ‘prescriptive’ controls lost when ‘discretionary’ VPP planning scheme approved in June, 2000.
Mass of planning work done for former schemes has been left behind.
Clause 14.01-2 (2) says protect, but can’t implement the Clause or SPP8 with VPPs alone. Not allowed to say ‘must’ and ‘must not’ in local policies. ‘Should’ and ‘prefer’ don’t work in Macedon Ranges.
Result: land speculation; ‘suburban’ town standards; houses in water catchments; loss of rural land; vegetation removal.
Macedon Ranges’ Future Role – And Special Attributes - Threatened:
No-one’s measuring development against sustainability principles or its ability to preserve and enhance critical attributes.
The fragility of the area’s natural environment, its open water catchments, significant landscapes, recreational values (especially for outdoor and unstructured recreation) and major conservation values are attributes that are fundamental to the area’s future role. The appropriateness of any development must be tested against sustainability principles and its ability to preserve and enhance these critical attributes. That’s not happening.
The Big Problems
No-one Is Taking Responsibility For Planning In Macedon Ranges:
Council didn’t do the work to finish the planning scheme; no-one made them do it.
VPP planning scheme approved in June 2000 is to ‘interim’ standard only, has never been finished. Most 1999 Panel recommendations (4)and Minister's instructions (5) are still not delivered 7 years on.
MRRA previously called for suspension / investigation of planning in Macedon Ranges. Bracks government said Council was doing nothing wrong. Now says everything is Council’s fault and refuses to ‘usurp’ democracy by intervening (helping).
DSE Bendigo & Labor say it’s Council’s responsibility to prepare a planning scheme. Not taking problems seriously.
Bracks Government’s Broken Promises:
Government hasn’t delivered, is not listening in Macedon Ranges.
In 1998 the Bracks government promised to protect Macedon Ranges and other sensitive areas. (6)
Green Wedge protection given to Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Ranges (YR also has its Regional Strategy Plan). Both are in metro area, both have specific, legislated protection (7).
Macedon Ranges is a rural shire just outside the metro area – ‘left out’ of protection even though closer to Melbourne (8). Equal significance, unequal protection.
Bracks government now refuses to help. Says Macedon Ranges already has State protection; or all problems come from former planning schemes; or Council ‘doing the work’ to finish the scheme would fix everything - none of this is true.
Council Is Not Operating Properly:
No vision, no plan = no rules = no accountability, no direction = ad hoc.
Inconsistency at Councillor level in applying planning principles or ‘same rules for everyone’. Politics are coming into it: planning is being picked over by people with personal agendas rather than a cohesive approach.
Government hasn’t taken up its responsibilities for a Council that isn’t working properly.
Department of Sustainability & Environment:
Doesn’t seem capable of comprehending or running with the ‘Macedon Ranges’ problem. Or is there another agenda?
No departmental pressure for Macedon Ranges to finish the scheme. Pushing ‘growth corridor’ concept. No recognition of State significance.
Poor quality control e.g. Amendments C8 (abandoned), C40 (abandoned), C48 (9).
Potential conflicts with former Macedon Ranges’ CEO heading DSE Bendigo office. MRRA’s requests for Bendigo to be excluded were ignored.
Populate And Perish:
State Government is pushing a growth agenda. Macedon Ranges is being told to take it.
VIF Growth Projections (10) are based on recent uncontrolled growth – are what will happen if we do nothing.
Growth Projections (11) don’t consider State significance, or Statement of Planning Policy No. 8. Government is pushing major infrastructure to support suburban growth – e.g. gas, Melbourne Water connections. Need policy to limit growth in line with State significance.
The Melbourne 2030 Madness:
Suburbia leaping over Green Wedges into rural Ranges
No consultation on Melbourne 2030 in Macedon Ranges – thought it was a plan for Melbourne.
“Urban” elements of Melbourne 2030 – the things that turn Macedon Ranges into Melbourne - are being applied in Macedon Ranges as if it is part of Melbourne. Rural railway stations are ‘activity centres’. Someone thinks the small lot sizes and doubling up of development ear-marked for Melbourne will work here (12).
Not consulted on 2030 corridor plans. ‘Suburban growth corridor’ concept is being vigorously applied. 2030 Network Transport Corridor themes – e.g. catchment protection, no new rural living - aren’t being considered or applied (13).
Yet Melbourne 2030 at Appendix 1 (14) says ‘Macedon Ranges is off limits to urban development’.
Suburban standards even Melbourne rejects
Destroying rural character of towns. Could once choose not to accept Melbourne’s standards, need that choice again.
Irreconcilable Differences Between What We’ve Got and What We Need:
Same controls apply in Macedon Ranges as metropolitan growth areas: same zones, standards, State policies.
Victoria Planning provisions philosophy: generic; city-centric; priority is development approvals.
Statement of Planning policy No 8 philosophy: specific; protective; priorities are catchments, recreation and tourism, conservation, landscape.
Council ‘Doing The Work’ To Complete The Unfinished Scheme Isn’t Enough:
‘New’ doesn’t protect.
Government says ‘do the work’. Just ‘doing the work’ wasn’t sufficient protection for Yarra Ranges or Mornington Peninsula – Bracks government provided legislative and State policy protection (i.e. Clauses 53, 57: VPPs) (15) . Macedon Ranges is an area of State significance: State government has a clear responsibility to ensure planning delivers appropriate outcomes.
Council has made progress (e.g. approx. 2.5% of rate revenue in last three years to planning work, appointed a strategic planner), but doesn’t have the expertise or funds for the scope of work needed, within an acceptable timeframe. Known funding to date: State government $95,000; Council $360,000.
State government must endorse and drive project. MRRA asked Minister Delahunty for State’s ‘best and brightest’ – need planners who are across all elements of strategic and statutory planning at the highest level.
Amendment C48 (Rural Land Review and State Zones): Council did do the work, but C48 isn’t delivering what’s needed. Waited a year for Ministerial approval. Error-ridden, dysfunctional in parts. Ad hoc changes before adoption. VCAT overturned new local policy 4 days after gazettal (16). New Farming zone – doesn’t protect Eppalock water catchment: cattle feedlots not prohibited. New policies and zones aren’t stopping more houses on rural land, hotels in conservation areas.
MR Adrift - Incomplete Picture, Piecemeal Strategies:
No-one’s asking ‘What’s right for Macedon Ranges’?
No integrated ‘big picture’ planning. No-one is looking at Macedon Ranges as a whole Shire, or in a regional and State context as a State significant area. No-one has the whole picture. Strategic work for Macedon Ranges as a single shire is not yet done (Woodend’s strategic work dates from 1974).
Current work is occurring piecemeal: there’s the yet unseen Bendigo Corridor Plan up the middle of the Shire, with the now stalled Framework for A Sustainable Future project (17) wrapped around it, an ODP in Gisborne (Romsey and Kyneton underway; Riddell and Woodend this year), a Rural Living Study imminent, new Rural zones, Small Towns Study, and the wrong parts of 2030 rushing up from Melbourne driven by DSE’s ‘accelerated’ Victoria In Future growth projections.
Piecemeal projects and conflicting policies can’t produce an integrated plan and integrated outcomes; can’t be credible as ‘strategic’ work when things like heritage, floodway, landscape, erosion and salinity overlays are still missing from the planning scheme, can’t credibly assess infrastructure, servicing and other needs when no-one’s got the whole picture.
What Does Macedon Ranges Need?
Equivalent State level policy and legislative protection as is provided to Yarra Ranges. Urgently.
Immediately Provide A State Policy Context:
Make SPP8 State policy.
Spell out the landscape, conservation, recreation and water catchment values of the area in the State section of the Scheme. Include Statement of Planning Policy No. 8 in the State Planning Policy Framework as State policy (18) - recommended in the 1999 planning scheme panel report (19). Supported by Minister Thwaites (20). Not done.
Produce A “Macedon Ranges Strategy”:
Get the big picture. Say what’s right for Macedon Ranges.
Prepare an integrated, whole-of-shire strategy about Macedon Ranges (e.g. Upper Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges Regional Strategy Plan, Great Ocean Road Strategy).
Include SPP8. How much growth before damage occurs? Maintain integrity of township boundaries; recognise capacity for some growth within boundaries without losing rural character. Include open water catchments in Kyneton area; recognize threat of non-rural uses to rural areas; say dwellings on rural lots only if clear capacity to add to the area’s rural character and carry out a rural pursuit: test should be compatibility, not viability.
Identify work needed to complete scheme. Capture pre-2000 strategic work as a starting point, i.e. don’t start from where scheme is now, go back to last credible strategic work before going forward. Funding and professional support needed.
Help Do The Work:
Help produce a completed scheme that puts SPP8 and the MR Strategy ‘on the ground’.
Change VPPs And Legislation:
Exempt Macedon Ranges from VPPs. Restore State policy status, legal basis.
Particular Provisions implement Yarra Ranges’ Regional Strategy (Clause 53) and Green Wedge legislation (Clause 57).
Yarra Ranges’ Regional Strategy Plan is included in VPPs at Clause 53 (State Particular Provisions). Says Clause 53 prevails over VPPs i.e. what Yarra Ranges needs comes first. Give Macedon Ranges same State-level exemptions from the VPPs.
Make it law to protect Macedon Ranges. Let Macedon Ranges say ‘must’ and ‘must not’. Change legislation and VPP scheme to allow Macedon Ranges’ needs to come first (not be over-ridden by other sections of the scheme, especially generic State policy). Provide same level of control as former schemes to implement policy and strategy.
Provide Temporary (Interim) Protections:
Calm and control development while longer-term work is done.
Temporary protections are provided elsewhere (21). Government says ‘not possible’ in Macedon Ranges.
Make Policy Intentions Clear:
Start by saying protection of State significant attributes prevails
In addition to including SPP8 in the SPPF, make a Ministerial Direction or Ministerial statement about planning principles to apply in Macedon Ranges. Say protection of State significance is a priority, prevails over other strategies (e.g. Melbourne 2030). Implement direction/statement with State level Shire-wide temporary policy, particular provision or overlay control (needn’t trigger permit requirement) to make the intentions for Macedon Ranges clear.
Metro standards destroy rural character
Urban solution for urban problems. Recognize density and rural context as critical elements of rural neighbourhood character. Temporarily reinstate former scheme standards.
Suspend/Define Melbourne 2030 In Macedon Ranges:
Which parts apply?
Stop urban elements being applied and ‘growth corridor’ mentality by saying Macedon Ranges is ‘off-limits’.
Apply missing overlays:
Put relevant issues into the scheme, even if only on a temporary basis
e.g. heritage, flooding, salinity, erosion etc. Justification is available: not freshest information, but no overlays means issues are ignored.
Asking For State Protection Is Not New:
MRRA Requests To Governments To Protect Macedon Ranges
Concern for protection has been consistent across governments/councils since 1996. Still asking for same thing because Macedon Ranges still doesn’t have what it needs. Looking for government/political action to benefit broader community and environment.
What Statement of Planning Policy No 8 Means:
Extract from speech by Hon. G.P. Hayes, Minister for Planning, to mark the introduction of SPP8 (Braemar College, May 1976)
“...we must constantly remind ourselves of these values, and what it will cost us if we fail to plan and manage these valuable resources properly.
One often hears the argument that the resources of an area like Mount Macedon have no value at all unless they can be useful to man. Of course there is a lot of truth in that suggestion, but it must never be used as an excuse for man to act like a pirate, robbing, plundering and exploiting the environment. That kind of irrational or narrowly-conceived exploitation is completely unthinkable.
First, this is a multiple use area based on natural resources. This means that water catchments, leisure activities and nature conservation all have a primary importance.
Second, most of the pressures placed on this area come from outside, and most of these come from metropolitan Melbourne. The increasing thousands of visitors every weekend and public holiday must be managed so that they don't destroy the resources, or interfere with the rights of the local community.
Third, any area as attractive as this looks like a great opportunity for the speculator and land developer. Some development is both necessary and welcome, but anyone who is looking for a "fast buck”, or to carve up the land for quick profit just because it is there, can pack his bags and get out.
Fourth, most importantly, in any area like this the local community is of extreme importance. The towns, farms, and the provision of services must be safeguarded and kept at a high quality, so that the aspirations of local people can be satisfied.”
(1) Town and Country Planning Act
(2) Clause 14.01-2, State Planning Policy Framework (SPPF): "Environmentally sensitive areas with significant recreational value such as the Dandenong and Macedon Ranges, the Upper Yarra Valley, Westernport and Port Phillip Bays… the Mornington Peninsula… should be protected from development which would diminish their environmental, conservation or recreational values”
(3) Ministerial Advisory Committee and Planning Panel, Macedon Ranges New Format Planning Scheme, November 1998.
(4) Appendix: 1999 Panel Recommendations still not done.
(5) Appendix: Minister’s Letter approving scheme and further work to be done.
(6) Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Ranges (Dandenongs)
(7) Comparison Chart
(8) Green Wedges Map
(9) MRRA Report to Minister on Errors and Anomalies in Amendment C48 – April 2006
(10) Victoria In Future Growth Projections 2004 (Department of Sustainability and Environment).
(11) Map of VIF Projections.
(12) e.g. Gisborne Outline Development Plan: ‘new town’ at rail station at New Gisborne (reversal of previous strategic work).
(13) e.g. Amendment C21/48 (Rural Land Review) new rural living areas in Calder corridor – opposite to Melbourne 2030 policy.
(14) Appendix 1 Melbourne 2030 – Features of Green Wedges
(15) Appendix: Clause 53 & Clause 57, State Particular Provisions, VPP Schemes
(16) Puican v Macedon Ranges VCAT P2563/2005, 20 February, 2006 (Member Hewet): Local policy conflicted with State policy.
(17) Planning For A Sustainable Future – State funded (Delahunty). Joint State and Council project initiated 2004 as basis for State level policy protection. Pilot project for water catchment protection. Background research work done but brief requirements not yet met – e.g. review of SPP8 (not yet done).
(18) This was also an objective of the stalled Planning For A Sustainable Future Project.
(19) 1999 Panel Report Recommendation – SPP8 to SPPF
(20) Thwaites’ letter circa December 1999 – supports SPP8 to SPPF
(21) e.g. Daylesford, Yarra River, Metro Councils (activity centres/structure plans)