Archive:   How Do We Stop Overdevelopment?

Last Updated  21/3/07



See also Planning



Close To 2,000 Existing Rural Lots Left Off New Macedon Ranges' Planning Scheme Maps

(18/3/06 - SP)  The list of mistakes keeps growing as Department of Sustainability and Environment shafts Macedon Ranges again

MRRA has sent an email to the Minister for Planning, Rob Hulls, alerting him to a major problem with the new planning scheme maps produced after approval of Amendment C48.  By MRRA's count, close to 2,000 (1,800++) existing lots in rural zones have simply vanished - all 44 maps in the scheme are affected but the highest proportion of lots are missing from the Romsey, Woodend, Malmsbury and Kyneton north areas.  Note:  The maps we used were downloaded from the DSE website at Planning Schemes Online.  Click here to see the email sent to the Minister and an example of the missing lots.


MRRA Says:

There seems to be one problem after another for Macedon Ranges coming out of the Department - lots missing from maps; errors in Amendment C48: part of Amendment C38 taken out of the scheme, policy maps that overlap (one area has 4 policies applied) and that don't match policy areas, inclusion of Rural Living zones even though the Panel Report recommended, and Council agreed, they be abandoned, only one zone schedule for two different minimum lot sizes, and so on.  This builds on past planning disasters for Macedon Ranges such as the 1997 draft new format planning scheme which had to be totally rewritten before adoption in 2000 (at our cost); Amendment C8 - abandoned (at our cost); and recently Amendment C40 - abandoned (at our cost - the Panel Hearing proceeded based upon advice from the Department).   Not only is this bad news for Macedon Ranges from the perspective of making progress on fixing planning, lack of Departmental quality control is also wasting bucketload after bucketload of ratepayers' money.


Macedon Ranges Doomed?  C48 Isn't Enough - We Need State Level Protection

(10/3/06 - P)  What's the point of having Local Policy?  C48 was only 4 days old when VCAT bowled it over

Many people have probably heard by now that VCAT has overturned a decision by our previous Council to refuse a permit for a house in a rural zone near Carlsruhe.   VCAT member Laurie Hewet overturned Council's refusal just 4 days after Amendment C48 was gazetted.  In reaching his decision, Member Hewet said that the new Agricultural Landscapes Local Policy, which says "construction of a dwelling is contrary to the continued use of the land for productive, sustainable agriculture", should not be used as a de facto prohibition and in essence, it was set aside.


MRRA Says:

It would have been interesting to know what decision Member Hewet might have reached had he indicated as much note had been taken of Clause 12.03 Rural Residential (State Policy), the Minister's Guidelines for Open Potable Water Catchments (State Guidelines) and the newly introduced Clause 22.19 Northern Catchments Local Policy, and a 100ha minimum lot size (all of which also apply to this land), as was taken of Clause 22.20 Agricultural Landscapes Policy.  Yes, the land is within an open water catchment, and in the Bendigo Transport Corridor - aren't they two places where State policy says rural residential development should be controlled?


So much for Minister Hulls telling MRRA local policy is law, and anyone not implementing local policy is breaking the law.  Not working Minister - we need State level policy protection, as Yarra Ranges has.


And so much for Amendment C48 - this VCAT decision tells us our brand new local policies for rural land aren't likely to work at VCAT.  And so much for the new State rural zones, so far they're not helping us get the outcomes we need either.


Is it yet another  case of more Macedon Ranges' ratepayers money having been wasted on an incompetent or impotent amendment?  We say again, where's the Department of Sustainability and Environment's quality control?


We also note that the policy statement Member Hewet had so much difficulty accepting, "construction of a dwelling is contrary to the continued use of the land for productive, sustainable agriculture", was changed, without consultation, between exhibition of the C21 amendment and the Minister's approval of it.


Macedon Ranges' Planning Scheme Goes "Clunk" As Council Drops All The Balls On C48

(10/3/06 - P)  Applications for houses in rural conservation zone don't comply, but what the hell, give 'em a permit anyway

What a comedy of errors Wednesday night's Planning Committee meeting produced as Council considered two applications for houses on small lots in rural zones.  Both applications were on land immediately upstream of Campaspe Reservoir, which produces Woodend's drinking water. First off, neither application had been referred to Western Water, the relevant authority for the Campaspe Reservoir catchment.  Then, for one application Council wanted 4 lots consolidated into one lot of 37ha before it would approve a house, yet it didn't want the 3 lots in the other application likewise consolidated (into a 32ha lot) before approving.  Perhaps that was because this application wanted TWO houses approved (same house plan), one each on lots 1 and 3, in addition to the existing dwelling on lot 2.


Three Councillors declared an interest in the '2 house' application (Gyorffy, Guthrie and Relph) because the applicant was a Council staff member, known by all 9 Councillors - the other six Councillors (Harvey, Connor, Letchford, McGregor, Neil and Bleeck) did not declare an interest.  The assessing officer recommended refusal of the 2 house application as it did not meet planning scheme requirements introduced under Amendment C48.  But the report also included a recommendation to approve.  A planning officer present at the meeting was asked to clarify if the 2 house application did in fact meet C48 and policy requirements, and advised the Committee it did not.


Compliance with planning scheme and policy requirements not being a noted strength of our Council, 7 Councillors then voted to have an officer approve both applications under delegation when comments are received from Western Water.  Crs. John Connor moved and Helen Relph seconded the 4 lot application.  Crs. John Letchford moved and John Connor seconded the 2 house application (Crs. Tom Gyorffy and Rob Guthrie opposed).


MRRA Says:

Could it be that Macedon Ranges has done it again by electing a majority of Councillors who neither know nor care about planning processes, or the planning scheme?


We'd be grateful if anyone can tell us the name of the process Council engaged in (i.e. approving applications before a referral authority has commented and leaving it up to a planning officer to sort it out after the fact).  Wasn't a deferral indicated until all of the pieces needed to make an informed decision were available?  What happens if Western Water vetoes the applications?  Will our poor Councillors then have to make another 'cracker-jack' decision?


We know Cr. Guthrie seems to take his planning scheme everywhere he goes, and note Cr. Gyorffy has brought his copy to a few meetings, but we wonder if any other Councillors have even opened it, or as importantly, understand what it says we want here in Macedon Ranges...  Do they understand that a planning scheme is a legally binding document?


Apparently most of our Councillors are floundering with the concept of having the same rules for everyone, of sticking to what the planning scheme requires, and of getting outcomes that are right for Macedon Ranges.  MRRA has previously noted the prevalence of 'good idea', 'lovely people' and 'nice spot' planning 'principles' in Council's decision-making.  The fact that the 2 house proposal didn't meet planning scheme requirements seemed to 'click' with only 2 Councillors - the ones who have shown an interest in our planning scheme.  Based on a local real estate agency's press releases, the granting of the permits has just increased the value of the land by some 80% - 90%.  Quite a windfall.


MRRA has complained for years of poor standards within Council's planning department.  Those standards have been raised to the point where much (but not all) of the work done by officers is of reasonably good quality, and occasionally of very good quality.  What hasn't changed is the 'political overlay' that hangs over our planning decisions. 


A 'variable' Council such as ours provides quite some justification to those promoting Centralized Planning - a system where Councils are stripped of their planning powers and all decisions are made by a regional planning authority.  This is being strongly pushed in some quarters, and we hear it may be gaining support within the State government.  Is that where our inept Council is going to take us - a regional version of VCAT?   Our reading is that most in the community would prefer decisions to made locally, if only we had Councillors who were capable of understanding planning isn't about how you feel on the day, or making decisions based on whether you know/feel sorry for/dislike applicants, or any other whim.  Planning is about delivering a plan, and that plan is in the planning scheme. 


A Council that has no vision and hasn't a clue what it is doing (but thinks it does) would be the result MRRA feared, and predicted, after the Council election last November.  Didn't these same people, as candidates, put up those (increasingly empty-sounding) promises of fresh starts, standing up for our environment, fixing planning, protecting Macedon Ranges, providing leadership and - let's not forget the most popular one - 'listening to the community'?  


MRRA's representative's opinion after this meeting was: hypocrisy was laying about a foot thick across the floor.  Maybe MRRA could give ignorance, arrogance and stupidity a run at the next meeting as well...


Independent MP Criticizes Minister For Planning Over C48

(1/3/06 - P)  Dianne Hadden calls for Minister Hulls' resignation over errors in amendment

Click here to see Dianne's press release


The Ink's Not Dry On C48 And Already Amendment C55 Is Trying to Wind It Back

(27/2/06 - P)  Council goes for Ministerial amendment to rip out 'superfluous' referral and permit requirements

Last Wednesday's Council meeting saw a proposal put forward by Mr. Barry Green approved by most Councillors (Crs. Gyorffy and Letchford opposed it) that will see a number of existing referral and permit requirements removed, including a change to Amendment C48.  Says a lot about our Council, doesn't it?  As MRRA understands it, the Councillors hadn't even seen C48 when they made the decision to support pushing C55 forward to the Minister for Planning for a Ministerial amendment.  Which means us mere residents don't get a look-in or a say.


Pop The Corks!  Recent VCAT Decision Says Macedon Ranges Isn't Like Melbourne

(27/2/06 - P)   It's a stunning statement of the bleeding obvious and what we've been trying to get through to the government for years

The recent Really Good v Macedon Ranges VCAT decision (Member Quirk - P2272/2005) should almost be bottled.  The application sought approval for two units behind an existing dwelling in Gisborne, a proposal seen as over-development and not supported by VCAT.  The decision says (in respect of Gisborne township):  "This is also a township and it does not necessarily mean that urban consolidation should be the same in a township such as this as it is in the metropolitan area."   Now that's the simple message we've all been trying to get across but no-one seems to be listening.  Macedon Ranges' residents know by looking around them that this isn't Melbourne.  And they know that if something isn't done to make a distinction between what's here and what's in Melbourne, we soon will become Melbourne.


Large Use and Development Proposals Fall Before C48 And New Rural Zones

(27/2/06 - P)  Macedon Lodge and Live Game Ranch are among the first to go

The introduction of Amendment C48 brings good news for those who have been fighting large development proposals in rural areas, or more correctly, in sensitive environmental areas.  MRRA's understanding is that applications for a Live Game Ranch (that is, a proposal for shooting live game) in Pastoria and another for a Convention Centre and Spa at Macedon Lodge on Mt. Macedon have been withdrawn as both are now prohibited under the new Rural Conservation zone.  The proposal for a retirement village at Macedon House in Gisborne is still 'alive' because the applicant is seeking a 'spot' rezoning (C52) of the Rural Conservation zone (which prohibits the development) now applied to the land.  As 'spot' rezoning usually makes a mockery of the concept of strategic planning, we would hope the State government starts sending that message to Councils and Councillors who see 'spot' rezoning for individual applications as an acceptable way to get around planning scheme strategies and controls.  It just doesn't seem to occur to them that the development might be in the wrong spot...


Fame And Shame As Amendment C48 Gives - And Takes Away!

(27/2/06 - P) New rural zones, strategies and policies are in, but lack of departmental quality control is obvious in this error-ridden document

Amendment C48 is here.  Changes relating to Amendment C21 (Rural Land Review) and the new State rural zones are law. Overall, that's a couple of steps forward for protecting rural land in Macedon Ranges Shire, but at the same time, clumsy technical errors in the amendment also take us backwards.  We can also look back with pronounced regret at the inappropriate development that has 'got up' in the 12 months we waited for C48 because VCAT didn't think it was a seriously entertained, or a 'likely-to-be-approved', amendment.


MRRA has gone over the C48 amendment in detail and found some really amazing mistakes.  For example, Clause 21.07 of the Municipal Strategic Statement (MSS) as exhibited with Amendment C21 in 2003 has simply been transferred in total into the planning scheme (including spelling errors), and the same Clause that was in the scheme taken out - a straight substitution.  It seems nobody checked for later amendments before substituting the 2003 version. The end result is that C48 wipes out changes made to the MSS in Amendment C38 (a 2004 Ministerial amendment made by then Minister for Planning Mary Delahunty).  Macedon Ranges now finds itself where it was in 2003 on strategic directions for Management of Urban Growth and Development - a strange result from an amendment that didn't even address urban issues.


Another aggravation is the difficulty people have had getting all parts of the approved amendment.  There are pieces missing from "approved amendments" on the DSE website, the Macedon Ranges Planning Scheme at Planning Schemes Online still doesn't seem to have been updated, and new planning scheme maps - integrating C48 changes with other existing zones - are still not available online some 10 days after gazettal and almost 3 weeks after the Minister signed off on the amendment.


MRRA Says:

'Thank you' to Minister Hulls for signing off on much-needed, improved controls for rural land in Macedon Ranges.  But the amendment in its current form will create confusion (and undesirable outcomes in urban areas) and we suggest timely correction and clarification of its technical faults is needed.  MRRA is currently compiling a comprehensive list of these.


As importantly, we'd like to know how they occurred in the first place.  We'd like some answers about how the Department of Sustainability and Environment put such a sloppy document before the Minister, and we'd also very much like to know why it took 12 months to prepare such a poor standard of document - we couldn't see 12 months' work in the final product!  And let's not forget the missing bits and maps people are still waiting on...


MRRA doesn't expect the Minister to be across the fine detail of an amendment, but we do expect the department to be.  The impression we gained was that there was 'nobody home' when it came time for a final, professional quality control assessment of C48.  Macedon Ranges has had similar problems in the past with the disasters that were the draft new format planning scheme amendment and the abandoned Amendment C8 (Residential Review).  We say that's just not good enough.  Heads should roll.


State Government Finally Acknowledges Macedon Ranges Is NOT Protected by State Planning Policy Framework?

(18/5/05 - SP) Minister For Planning’s Response To Question In Parliament Conflicts With Advice From Former Minister

Shadow Minister for Planning, Mr. Ted Baillieu recently asked a question in State Parliament about the effectiveness of existing State policy (i.e. Clause 14.02-2) in protecting Macedon Ranges.  MRRA had asked that the question be raised, as local MP’s and their supporters persistently claim Macedon Ranges is already protected at State level through Clause 14.02-2 of the State Planning Policy Framework.  Minister for Planning Rob Hulls responded by letter, a copy of which has been forwarded to MRRA.  In his response, the Minister advised that “the State Planning Policy Framework is not a mechanism for controlling development” whereas former Minister for Planning, Mary Delahunty (in a letter dated 28 October 2004) told MRRA that “State level planning protection is provided to the Macedon Ranges through the State Planning Policy Framework”.    The conflicting nature of these responses again raises concerns about the quality of advice provided to Ministers for Planning.