MRRA Calls Public Meeting To Give Residents A Voice On Planning Issues:

(26/4/05)

 

 

 

“Our Towns, Our Environment – Our Say!”

 

Following are extracts from the presentation given by Macedon Ranges Residents’ Association at its ‘Say NO To Suburbia’ meeting, held in Woodend on 16 September, 2004.  They give an overview, in simple terms, of what’s wrong in Macedon Ranges.

 

 

Why Is State Level Protection Needed In Macedon Ranges?

Because Macedon Ranges Shire is environmentally sensitive, and its values and resources are important, not just to us, but to the state of Victoria.  For example, our forests have long been known as ‘the lungs of Melbourne’, and Bendigo gets drinking water from here.

 

Some say it’s a campaign to stop all development.  It’s not. The State protection we’re asking for is what we had before:  careful, controlled development; high standards; environment and rural character protected.  Who could object to that, except those advantaged by the present chaotic situation?

 

Residents have told MRRA they want more control over what happens here.   We’re presently being told what we’ll have by VCAT, and what we’re getting isn’t what most people want.  We need State government help to change what’s happening.

 

 

What Went Wrong?

 

Our former planning scheme was a plan for us.  Not Melbourne… not Warrnambool… not the rest of the Victoria: just Macedon Ranges.  In it, we made our own rules. They were legally binding and said ‘no’ to development that damaged things that are important to residents and our environment.  The scheme recognized our limitations, and the values and resources we wanted to protect, and demanded high standards for development.

 

We lost it all in 2000 when the Bracks’ government signed us up to the new Victorian planning system and our current, unfinished planning scheme.

 

The ‘one-size-fits-all’ Victorian planning provisions are applied State-wide and promote ‘anything, anywhere’  development, which the so-called experts call ‘flexibility’.  Time is proving that this planning system is an environmental and social experiment that’s going horribly wrong, and not just in Macedon Ranges.

 

Under the new State planning system, only the State government can say words like ‘no’, ‘must’ and ‘must not’; we’re only allowed to say ‘discourage’, ‘should’, ‘prefer’ or ‘may ’.  Only the State government can make rules; we’re only allowed to make local policy.  And many of you know from recent VCAT decisions how well our weak words and local policies work.  They don’t.

 

Current planning law says State beats local.  That means if we say something that’s different from State policy, what we want doesn’t count.

 

So, until our local policies are endorsed as State policy, until the State government allows us to have our own rules, until we can say ‘no’, ‘must’ and ‘must not’, even if we completed our current planning scheme we still wouldn’t be able to stop over-development or the suburban invasion.

 

“The meeting will give residents a chance to get their message across.  In a nutshell that message seems to be ‘Keep Macedon Ranges Rural’. That can’t happen unless things change.”

 

 

What’s Happening In Macedon Ranges?

 

Not being able to say ‘no’ has seen Macedon Ranges swamped by environmentally damaging and urban-style development.

 

 

Who’s Responsible For The Mess?

 

Hands up:  Former Macedon Ranges’ Councils (administrators and Councillors), the former Kennett government, the current Bracks government.

 

From 1997 to 2003, Macedon Ranges’ Council was out of control.

 

Despite constant community objections, and residents wearing a path to Spring Street protesting Council’s behaviour and calling for intervention, neither the Kennett nor Bracks governments acted to bring Macedon Ranges Shire Council into line.

 

The former Kennett government gave us the `anything, anywhere’ Victorian VPP planning system, and planning law that allows ‘State’ to dominate ‘local’.

 

The Bracks government hasn’t done enough to change it.

 

The Bracks government also promised to protect Macedon Ranges, and it hasn’t.   We’ve been waiting six years….

 

 

Five resolutions put to the meeting received overwhelming support:

 

“This meeting, representing a broad cross section of the Macedon Ranges community, resolves:

 

That the Macedon Ranges’ community calls for bi-partisan political support for interim and long-term State planning protection for Macedon Ranges Shire.

 

That the State government provide all necessary support to the Macedon Ranges Shire Council and community to ensure long-term State level planning protection for the Macedon Ranges.

 

That the State government provide immediate interim planning protection for the whole Shire to control development pending completion of the necessary strategic work and planning scheme improvements.

 

That the meeting’s resolutions be forwarded to the Victorian premier, the planning and environment Ministers and relevant sitting members, and their counterparts in opposition, with a request for an urgent response.

 

That the Macedon Ranges Shire Council be requested to expedite its strategic planning program aimed at providing more effective guidelines and controls in the urban and rural areas.”

 

The Macedon Ranges we love is in danger of disappearing.

We say fix it, and fix it fast.  We will not tolerate any more finger-pointing or hand-wringing.  We are not going to take ‘no’ for an answer.

 

 

What Do We Want?

 

We want a Strategy – a plan for our future – that’s about Macedon Ranges Shire and puts Macedon Ranges’ interests first.   Don’t push Melbourne 2030 on us – we want Macedon Ranges’ 2030.   And we, the community, want to be involved in its preparation.

 

The State government has given Council some support to begin preparing a Strategy.  We welcome that help, but it’s not enough.  And we can only hope that any new Strategy will not be based on the failed C8 amendment, which fell over, because it wasn’t strategic.

 

We want planning law and the planning system changed to give us the ‘rules’ we need at State level to have permanent planning protection.   Yarra Ranges and Mornington Peninsula have their own rules, don’t tell us we can’t have ours.

 

We want a planning scheme that puts the Macedon Ranges’ Strategy on the ground, that defines this place and puts its interests and our values first, that protects our towns and our rural land, that speaks in black and white and makes it clear what’s ‘yes’ and what’s ‘no’, that makes high standards and protecting rural character and environment a ‘must’ not a maybe, that has the weight of State policy and the law behind it.

 

We want immediate introduction of an interim control on development while the Strategy and planning scheme improvements are completed.  Some say this can’t be done.  We say it’s within the power of government to put temporary protection in place, and there’s already a precedent.  In the 1970s interim development orders were applied to Macedon Ranges to control development prior to the introduction of planning schemes.   We say, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

 

 

Is There Broad Community Agreement?

 

To test that, I would like to read an extract from a speech given in 1976 by the Hon. G. P. Hayes, then Minister for Planning, to mark the introduction of Statement of Planning Policy No 8 – Macedon Ranges and Surrounds.

 

Listen very carefully, because at the end of the quote, I will be asking you to answer an important question.

 

Quote

 

“...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.”

 

End of quote

 

These are the principles that used to apply in Macedon Ranges. They were upheld by law and delivered by our former planning scheme – protections we no longer have.  Here’s the question:

 

Do you want these principles and protections re-instated in Macedon Ranges Shire?

 

THE OVERWHELMING RESPONSE WAS:

 

YES.

 

It’s pretty clear that the Macedon Ranges’ community / Council / Residents’ Association / and Conservation Society are all saying the same thing:

 

Protect Macedon Ranges!

 

We put our politicians on notice - democracy is government of the people, by the people, for the people, not of the people by the developers for the developers.

 

Our future depends upon what actions you take, and so does yours.  We are not going to go away.  We will be watching all of you, and we won’t support those who don’t support us.