MRRA Press Release

3rd May 2005

No Money, No Help: “Macedon Ranges, You’re On Your Own”


Poor Departmental Advice Sees State Government Turns Its Back On Macedon Ranges:


“You Already Have Everything You Need”


Macedon Ranges Residents’ Association (MRRA) reps met Minister for Planning Rob Hulls in Kyneton on Friday and left feeling battered and angry after the Minister told MRRA the State government will not provide the State level planning protection it promised in 1998 or further funding.


Local MP’s Joanne Duncan and Geoff Howard are credited with arranging the meeting although neither contacted MRRA.  Geoff Howard didn’t attend.


“We went looking for a lifeline and have instead been left to sink.” said MRRA Secretary, Christine Pruneau.  “We held great hopes going in but the meeting wasn’t about listening to us, it was about the Department of Sustainability and Environment hectoring and lecturing us in an attempt to discredit what we said.  We were staggered at the poor quality of advice given to the Minister by Mr Lee Phillips of the Department of Sustainability and Environment.”   For example:


DSE: There is no ‘State section’ in a planning scheme.

MRRA: Section 7 of the Planning and Environment Act says otherwise.


DSE:  All parts of a planning scheme are equal.

MRRA: Section 7 (4) of the Planning and Environment Act says State policy beats local policy.


DSE:  Local policy is law.  Anyone not implementing local policy is breaking the law.   Ergo, Macedon Ranges has State protection because Statement of Planning Policy No 8, a local policy, is law.

MRRA: That’s not how VCAT sees it.


DSE: Macedon Ranges doesn’t need a regional strategy; regional planning is an anachronism because regions are now included in amalgamated Shires.

MRRA: Melbourne 2030 and Green Wedges are examples of regional planning. The State government is presently spending $13.5 million on the Great Ocean Road Region Strategy (GORRS).


DSE:  A Municipal Strategic Statement (MSS) Review and some Neighbourhood Character overlays will fix everything in Macedon Ranges.

MRRA: That’s not what independent planning panels for Amendments C8 and C21 said.


DSE:  Macedon Ranges already has what it needs, all the tools are available, we’re just not using them properly.

MRRA: Macedon Ranges, a rural shire, has the same zones, standards (ResCode) and State policies as designated growth areas in metropolitan Melbourne.


DSE:  Heritage overlays can’t be applied until Council does a heritage study.

MRRA: Council already has two authoritative heritage studies.


Based on this advice, the Minister said the State government won’t act to protect Macedon Ranges.  He agreed he could change the Victorian Planning Provisions (VPP’s) but as Macedon Ranges already has Statement of Planning Policy No. 8 as local policy (i.e. law), no change is warranted.


While another $100,000 for the Bendigo Regional Corridor Plan has been added to the $95,000 State funding Macedon Ranges received last year, MRRA was told there will be no more money because ‘Macedon Ranges was extremely lucky to have already had more funding than metropolitan Councils’.


“We aren’t impressed.  The Macedon Ranges’ community hasn’t even been consulted about the Bendigo Corridor Plan so it’s fairly insulting of the government to count money it’s using to implement its own agenda, not ours, as a benefit to Macedon Ranges.  Expecting us to tug our forelocks at $100,000 or even $195,000 is really rude when our Council is spending $360,000 in one year on basic strategic work and estimates another $1 million is needed.  This is one of the reasons we asked the government to help.  It will take Council years to do this work, and all the while the urban agenda will just keep on rolling out.  Obviously, protecting Macedon Ranges from urban development would get in the way of that agenda.” 


MP Joanne Duncan floated the idea that nothing is happening today that couldn’t happen under our old planning scheme.  “We suggest Ms Duncan take a look at the Essendon-style high density development popping up everywhere.  The people living next door won’t have any trouble telling her what’s happening now that couldn’t before.  Her comment that some people are telling her Macedon Ranges already has too many restrictive controls left us wondering who she’s listening to - obviously not most people in Macedon Ranges.”


MRRA recognizes the Minister is a busy man, has only just come to the planning portfolio, and is dependent on departmental advice.  “What’s truly frightening is that important decisions are being made based upon such appalling advice.  We actually felt very sympathetic towards the Minister.  We’ve seen a lot of spin and porkies come out of the department in letters and responses, particularly from the Bendigo DSE office, but Friday still shocked.  Even the Minister’s later press release gets it wrong.  Whoever wrote it seems to think protecting green wedges means Macedon Ranges is protected.  That person should look at the map. Macedon Ranges Shire isn’t a Green Wedge area – the Green Wedges stop at our southern boundary.”


MRRA told the Minister in its 31st January letter that it saw him as someone capable of controlling the department, rather than the other way around.  “We still believe that but it was clear to us on Friday that the department is firmly in control and wants it to stay that way. This has implications across the State, not just in Macedon Ranges.  We urge the Minister to seek some expert, independent planning advice outside the Department – the Planning Institute of Australia, Planning Panels Victoria and the Victorian Planning and Environmental Law Association would be good places to start.  We’d then very much like to talk to him again.”