Here is the email sent to MRRA members, the day after MRRA met with Macedon MP Joanne Duncan.
5th August, 2009
Dear MRRA Members,
Yesterday MRRA President Brian Whitefield, and Secretary Christine Pruneau met Joanne Duncan MP to discuss the Keep Macedon Ranges Rural petition. MRRA had last year asked Joanne to present the petition to parliament (it must go to the Lower House, and must be presented by an MP).
The meeting proved very disappointing. Instead of finding Joanne enthusiastic to present the almost 3,000 signatures and support the aims of the petition, we were instead challenged to provide evidence of how protection could be provided and would work, told protection couldn’t be made to work, and to prove where what we are asking for already exists – why make an exception for Macedon Ranges, we were asked. Joanne said she had expert opinion that what we are asking for cannot be done, which seems to overlook the facts that this government promised protection in 1999, former Planning Minister John Thwaites agreed that Statement of Planning Policy No. 8 should be made State policy, and former Planning Minister Mary Delahunty confirmed the government would protect Macedon Ranges and provided funding for work to support protection to commence. There were difficulties in getting the point across that this is a strategic planning issue, and should be referred to those with expertise in strategic planning.
Joanne also commented that Melbourne’s growth needs to be accommodated, and our argument that growth in Macedon Ranges needs to be measured against capacity to accommodate it without damaging other important values seemed to be seen as arguing for Macedon Ranges to again be made an exception.
We did not get the feeling that Joanne was committed to driving for the changes needed to protect Macedon Ranges from overdevelopment, or that they would supported by the government.
Before leaving, we asked for a meeting with the Minister for Planning, Justin Madden, but it would be unlikely (a) we will get an answer within a month and (b) we will get a meeting (we have unsuccessfully asked for one before).
After almost an hour and a half of going around in circles, we brought the petition back with us, and now need to consider the Association’s options. We have a sense of responsibility to those who signed the petition to not waste it, and of being in a position of trust to make best use we can of the petition as confirmation of community support for action.
Below are some options for ‘next steps’ the Association could take, and we are asking for your feedback.
Give the petition to Joanne to present to parliament
However, we feel that without total commitment from the local member to getting State level protection for this area, there may be a risk that the petition will be ‘buried’, and not accorded the recognition or weight it deserves. There is also a feeling that the government will continue to do nothing, particularly after Joanne advised that ‘it can’t be done’, and at times seemed to assume Macedon Ranges is already protected by current planning provisions.
Contact the Opposition Leaders in the Lower House, Ted Baillieu and Peter Ryan, with a request for questions to be asked about how the government will respond to the petition.
Write to Joanne expressing our deep concern with what we saw as her and the government’s lack of support and commitment, advising the Association is reconsidering its options for presenting the petition to parliament.
Contact opposition parties (Liberal/National/Green/DLP). Ask Ted Baillieu/Peter Ryan to present the petition to the lower house of parliament, and lobby these and the heads of other parties for support and exposure in the Upper House
Issue a press release informing the community of this action and the reasons for it.
Option 2 will result in the government severing contact and/or support for MRRA (and Macedon Ranges/State protection). There will no longer be scope to try to persuade the government to act to protect. On the other hand, if the government is defeated at the next election, the protection we seek may well be supported by the alternative government (note: the Liberal party supported State protection at the last State election, and action to protect Macedon Ranges was also supported by most candidates in this area).
Your comments and ideas are welcome. We probably need to have a plan of action ready within the next few days, so please get your input to us asap.