Archive:   Macedon Ranges' Settlement Strategy 2010

Last Updated  23/9/11


See also Villawood archive


When's A Public Meeting Not A Public Meeting?  When It's In Macedon Ranges Shire...

Community Meeting On Settlement Strategy, 7.30pm 13 July, Woodend: BE THERE

Woodend Betrayed By Changes To Settlement Strategy

Council's Settlement Strategy: Submissions Extended Until End Of January 2011

Macedon Ranges' Settlement Strategy Out For Consultation Until December 17th

State Govt's Regional Strategic Plan Puts Growth Agenda In Place For Macedon Ranges: Council Endorses Plan Without Community Consultation

MR Settlement Strategy: Is Macedon Ranges Making The Decisions, Or The State Government?



MR Settlement Strategy Gets The Nod But Only From 6 Of 9 Councillors 

(1/8/11 - P)  Late changes an improvement but not enough to make it a document of excellence. Then Council rendered the Strategy irrelevant by approving a greenfields rezoning in Woodend when the freshly adopted Settlement Strategy says no greenfields rezoning in Woodend... 


A good crowd attended last Wednesday's Council meeting to watch Macedon Ranges Council decide whether to adopt its troubled Settlement Strategy.  Attachments to the meeting agenda included a copy of the 27/7/11 version of the Settlement Strategy.  Director of Planning and Environment, Sophie Segafredo, read the officer's recommendation that the Strategy be adopted. However, prior to the meeting Councillors agreed to make further corrections, and Cr. John Letchford (South ward) sought clarification of whether adoption of these corrections was included in the motion before Council.  After some confusion, Mayor Henry McLaughlin (East ward) moved a motion to adopt the Settlement Strategy with 'amendments as circulated to Councillors' included.  Cr. Roger Jukes (West ward) seconded the motion.  Cr. Neil Manning (West ward) opposed. 


Mayor McLaughlin recapped the merits of the document and process.  Cr. Jukes noted the document represented the community vision for the Shire, and that Macedon Ranges leads the way for other rural councils.


Cr. Manning then spoke.  He acknowledged the latest corrections went a long way but not far enough, and Council needed to show honesty and faith with the community.  He said the Strategy wasn't a good study at all, with deficient consultation flawed by 'listening posts'.  The process used to prepare the Strategy made a mess of method in the way it calculated population, and inclusion of Rural Living zone population carried on the flaws by adding RLZ population to towns, making the [2006 - 2036] population increase for the towns look less than it really was.  He added that the application of Victoria In Future 2008 projections was also flawed because those figures are based on past Federal immigration intakes that were higher than are now occurring, and in his view this made the numbers flawed.  He said he felt exhibition had been badly done, and after that Council had come back with an altered document which wasn't acting in faith with the community.  He said the Settlement Strategy couldn't be called a community document because by Council's actions it had slipped away from community; it was now solely a Council document.  Gallery applause.


Cr. Manning then moved an amendment to the main motion, that the population table [Table 1?], be altered to remove all Rural Living zone population to allow a true representation of township population and growth.  Cr. John Letchford seconded the motion.  Mayor McLaughlin opposed. 


Cr. Manning said the document needed to show the community what the population is and will be in future, in all towns, to provide a true representation to the people.  Gallery applause.


Cr. Letchford thanked councillors for going 95% of the way to getting a better document, and if they could agree to separate Study Area population from township population it would be 99%. Gallery applause.


Cr. Rob Guthrie (South ward) endorsed Cr. Letchford's comments, saying the boundaries counted as population confused people, with the Study Area (including extensive Rural Living zone areas) for Gisborne extending all the way to the Shire's southern boundary, distorting figures.  He asked that the figures be broken down so people could understand what they meant. Gallery applause.


Cr. Helen Relph said she was keen to support the motion but didn't want to upset the integrity of the document. Council had decided early on to include Rural Living.  Director of Planning and Environment, Sophie Segafredo, advised that the numbers could be separated, then added the Settlement Strategy was over-arching for the Shire and actual areas where population is, is not dictated by the Settlement Strategy. 


At this point, the Mayor announced that question sheets had been received from the gallery pointing out that no-one in the gallery knew what was being considered by Council.  He advised people could check out changes at the break, or have them sent to them.


Cr. Manning's motion to remove the Rural Living element from the population table was put, and lost 4 votes to 5.  A division showed:


Crs. Letchford, Guthrie and Relph (all South ward) and Cr. Manning (West ward) FOR. 

Crs. Henryka Benson and Roger Jukes (both West ward), and Crs. McLaughlin, Joan Donovan and Joe Morabito (all East ward) AGAINST. 


Discussion then returned to the substantive motion.


Cr. Letchford commented that the Strategy was 95%, and before the last motion was lost could have been almost 100% right. He said he and Crs. Guthrie and Manning - all of whom have planning qualifications or a strong interest in planning - had worked hard on preparing corrections, many of which had been accepted by the other Councillors.  One point in particular that Council hadn't accepted was having the Gisborne ODP's population of 12,100 in Gisborne replace the Settlement Strategy's 14,700, higher because the Settlement Strategy counts rural numbers in town population. He said the thing to avoid was takeup of that rural component resulting in a sea of terracotta rooves from South Gisborne to Sunbury.  He hoped the Gisborne ODP would constrain growth, and added that Statement of Planning Policy No 8 - and the Peri Urban Study - states quite clearly the significance of Macedon Ranges, and this was of far greater importance to far more people.  He said agreement on the last 5% would have been the clincher.  Gallery applause.


Cr. Helen Relph urged Councillors to support the motion to adopt, and said high level character studies and the Rural Living Strategy were next, where the figures would come out.


Cr. Rob Guthrie, like Cr. Letchford, regretted that the previous motion had been lost, as all it was saying was take the Rural Living numbers out. He said the words 'recommended' and 'target' population must be replaced with 'projected' population throughout the document.  He couldn't accept the figures for Gisborne and Woodend, describing them as still saying to developers 'come here and do it.'  The former Shire of Gisborne had found that to save other values 12,000 was the limit in Gisborne, and that's where the Settlement Strategy should be. The numbers were too high and should be separated out into town and rural living.  He closed by announcing he would oppose adoption of the document.  Gallery applause.


Mayor McLaughlin said the main focus was on numbers, and probably too much focus.  The project wasn't an exact science.  Population numbers weren't predictions or targets.


The vote to adopt the Macedon Ranges Settlement Strategy (with amendments circulated to Councillors) was then put and carried on a split 6/3 vote.  A division was called, showing:


Crs. Relph (South), Jukes, Benson (both West), Donovan, McLaughlin and Morabito (all East) FOR;

Crs. Letchford, Guthrie (both South) and Manning (West) AGAINST.


Immediately following adoption of the Settlement Strategy, an application for a greenfields rezoning (from Rural Living zone Schedule 1 (40ha min lot size) to Low Density Residential) at Woodend came before Council.  Even though the just-adopted Settlement Strategy says "No greenfields rezoning" for Woodend, Council ignored that and voted 7/2 to move the greenfields rezoning amendment forward.  This time Cr. Manning supported the motion, with only Councillors Letchford and Guthrie opposed.


MRRA Says:


First off, to any other Councils contemplating using the Macedon Ranges experience as a model, MRRA's advice is: DON'T.  You can do better.  Much better.


While the gallery had no idea exactly what Councillors were approving for the Settlement Strategy, it quickly sensed the 'white hats' were Crs. Manning, Letchford and Guthrie, and loudly applauded their words.  All other speakers rose and sat to stony silence, and unlike the Woodend public meeting, there was no applause at all this time for Council's Director of Planning and Environment. 


The version of the Settlement Strategy published on Council's website the Monday before showed some improvement.  A copy of the 12 changes endorsed by all Councillors on the night, obtained "in the break", confirms more improvement, removing support for illogical and strategically unjustified actions. For example, references (included after exhibition) to an individual landowner at Clarkefield and including Clarkefield in the Urban Growth Boundary are deleted, as are inappropriate recommendations for changes to Rural Living zones in advance of undertaking a Rural Living Strategy.  Good.


Not good is maintaining the monumental mess created by the Strategy illogically saying Rural Living zones (especially those with 40ha and 8ha minimum lot sizes) are 'residential' zones, and including them in "township" Study Areas and in 2006 and 2036 population figures. Calling these Rural Living zones 'residential' laughably sees the "town" of Lancefield stretching from the Cobaws out to the Mitchell Shire boundary, and Gisborne from somewhere south of Macedon to the Shire's southern boundary with metropolitan Melbourne.  Cr. Manning's move to strip the lingering flaw of 'rural living' numbers out of population figures for the towns sounded refreshingly common sense, but five Councillors didn't buy it. 


The muddle remains. Loopy stuff that skews the Settlement Strategy and its supporting documents, leaving Macedon Ranges Shire with perhaps one of the most convoluted and obscure growth "strategies" ever devised.  If people don't understand the population figures now, unless some light can be shed on what the Strategy means for the towns themselves, how on earth will anyone understand them in 10 or 20 years time?


Not changed is the rampant but yet-to-be-strategically-justified doubling of population at Riddells Creek.  MRRA believes this whopping growth was such a late addition it left exhibited Strategy documents still saying Riddells Creek, Woodend and Malmsbury had limited opportunities for growth due to hazards, character, environmental constraints and infrastructure limitations.  Now Riddells Creek cops the full Victoria In Future population projections that will see the town bigger than Romsey in 2036, and still no-one can credibly answer the question: Why? 


What made the 'limited opportunities for growth' disappear?  The town's got a railway station. So?  Always did.


The only public meeting during the Strategy's exhibition was at Riddells Creek, where residents weren't asked what they wanted but told what they would have. Council's take is that residents didn't mind, don't object, so it's OK.


A planning officer's response to MRRA said "Allowing for growth in towns such as Riddells Creek better positions the Council to constrain growth in other areas.".  Thanks for confirming the Settlement Strategy is really about pushing population targets into the Shire rather than genuinely assessing growth against constraints, but none of the above is STRATEGIC justification for growth that will see Riddells Creek sprawl south of the railway line to the Shire's southern boundary with metro Melbourne.  Why...? Anybody?


Not changed is the increased growth [5,000] at Woodend, quietly slipped in post-exhibition despite overwhelming community support for lower growth [4,400].  Woodend also missed out on a statement that growth until 2036 would be confined to the 520 – 1,230 lots in existing residential zones, even though Council's Director of Planning and Environment seemed to say it would be included at the 13 July meeting in Woodend, and the officer's report to Council on 27 July said it was.  All the Strategy says is an ephemeral 'no greenfields rezoning' at Woodend, a planning principle Council immediately shattered anyway by approving a greenfields rezoning. This application of Rafferty's Rules made it pretty clear why the Strategy doesn't say keep growth in existing residential zones - Council already knew it would be making more of them!


Not acknowledged in the Strategy is the Baillieu government's intention to reinstate Statement of Planning Policy No. 8 as State policy.  The Strategy instead has is a nicely side-stepping statement that State policy is continually evolving. The SPP8 policy itself is at last in the Strategy, although its late and reluctant inclusion highlights that the Strategy and growth levels haven't been measured against SPP8's objectives, and those objectives aren't what drives the Settlement Strategy.  It was conceived and born under the Brumby government which viewed Macedon Ranges as a growth opportunity, not a natural asset.


Not changed is the towering overall level of growth. How is this much compatible with handing future generations a natural environment and a place of special significance?  A prime place to visit?  A contrast with Melbourne?  Why does Gisborne have to have thousands and thousands more?  Why so many more almost everywhere?  Who says?  Why do only a few at Council seem to understand this place has a higher value than becoming another suburb of Melbourne; that with intense infrastructure deficiencies in the Shire, this much growth isn't the rates bonanza some naively seem to think it is? 


Since amalgamation in January 1995, Macedon Ranges Shire has been dogged by poor quality and poor choices, and steered by petty agendas, personal choices and local politics.  Over the years there have been glimpses of something better, but only glimpses, quashed by what seems to be a crusade for mediocrity.  In planning, it's a Shire that rarely shines, and is more often regarded as something of a State-wide joke.  Last Wednesday's Council meeting encapsulated the highs, and the lows.


In the late 1990s, Macedon Ranges Shire attempted to produce, in-house, its new format [VPP] planning scheme.  In 1999, a Planning Panel called that planning scheme "error-ridden and cobbled together", and of such poor quality the Panel considered making Council do it again.  It instead made over 140 recommendations it thought would, if implemented, provide a suitable interim scheme pending further strategic work - such as a Settlement Strategy - being completed.


Twelve years later many of those recommendations still haven't been implemented, and the interim scheme has never been completed. Most residents have first hand experience of how damaging those gaps can be. Yet the Settlement Strategy relies on that incomplete scheme to identify constraints in the towns.  


The Strategy, rather than being a document of strategic integrity, has now been picked over, with parts that don't match and much that doesn't make sense, and over it all sits a vision of growth that is out of step with the direction the State government says it is taking us in.  Error-ridden and cobbled together, indeed.  Macedon Ranges doesn't seem to have moved any further forward than where it was over a decade ago.  History has clearly taught us nothing. 


The last round of changes to the Settlement Strategy primarily removed things that should never have been in it in the first place, but much that will damage the place remains.  While it's a better document than the May iteration - with the key exception of Woodend - it is not the ground-breaking strategic document Macedon Ranges so desperately needed. There is no excellence here, and for that there can be no excuses. 


Whether it's Councillors, staff or consultants, this place never seems to get sufficient people who love it enough to see its fragility, to want to nurture and conserve it, to draw strength and pride from protecting its uniqueness.  Macedon Ranges has instead been allowed to drift to where it is seen by too many as a helpless, tantalizing bauble, ready to be plucked for profit.


The Department of Planning and Community Development, consultants CPG, Council staff and Councillors must all take responsibility for the Settlement Strategy.  MRRA could pat all Councillors on the head for making those late changes, and does (especially those who drove those changes), but even with those changes what are we left with?  


The Macedon Ranges Settlement Strategy:


A document that instead of soaring, as it needed to, will limp across the years.


A set of loose objectives that Council will implement or ignore as it chooses. 


A strategy that doesn't provide clarity but instead muddies the waters. 


An incomplete Context Report, with unforgivable omissions. 


An unusable Moving Towards Sustainable Communities document, if relevance and reliability count. 


Far from a document of excellence, the Settlement Strategy succeeds only in perpetuating the mediocrity that has so plagued - characterises -  Macedon Ranges Shire.  It could and should have been so different. 


The Settlement Strategy isn't just the work of the current Council, its flaws derive from all Councils that have gone before. They didn't get it right either. It's the legacy of years of lacklustre players, of government neglect, of development agendas, of power plays, of an abhorrent Council culture and yes, of community apathy.  All present last Wednesday night saw which Councillors wanted to make a difference (an elephant stamp and gold star for that).  But there just weren't enough of them.


Council has already shown a lack of leadership and responsibility on planning matters by closing the Planning Committee meetings and granting officers more delegated powers. As accountability and transparency wane, planning begins to retreat - again - behind closed doors.  It has been there before, and it's not healthy.


Community confidence and satisfaction with planning was already falling, even before the McDonald's decision in Gisborne that alienated thousands, and Council's debacle of a public meeting and betrayal of the Woodend community over the Settlement Strategy.


We the people still have Council's decision on Villawood's gross amendment application to look forward to. With that vulture circling, Macedon Ranges needs a Council that does know the difference between 'no greenfields' and 'greenfields can be approved'. 


A change of mindset is needed, a new way of thinking, higher standards, more consistency.  Principles do matter, and so does listening to community. Having decision-makers who 'get' all of this may just see Macedon Ranges take its first shaky step away from mediocrity towards magnificence. 


We dare Council to inspire us.


Council To Make 30 Year Decision on Settlement Strategy On Wednesday 27 July

(26/7/11 - P) Latest Settlement Strategy still favours mysterious growth agendas for Woodend, Gisborne, Clarkefield and Riddells Creek.  Is someone still doing Villawood, individual landowners and the Committee for Melbourne a favour?


Macedon Ranges Settlement Strategy, a document which is supposed to set out a 30 year growth path for the Shire's towns, is up for approval at the Ordinary Council Meeting at Kyneton on Wednesday 27 July, 7.00pm.  BE THERE! 


Some changes in the latest version of the Settlement Strategy (available from Council's website improve the document, but changes not made highlight a stubborn refusal to eliminate illogical and unjustified growth for Woodend, Gisborne, Riddells Creek and Clarkefield.

"What's going on?" doesn't stop there. 

The decision Council makes on Wednesday will affect everyone in the Shire until 2036.  It's all of our futures being decided.

Be there - Kyneton Town Hall, Wednesday 27 July, 7.00pm.


Email Councillors with your views. 

Here are contact details for Ward Councillors, and the main towns they represent:


West Ward:  Woodend, Kyneton, Malmsbury  5422 6754  0400 025 309  5422 3887  0400 647 445  5427 3089  0400 026 241


South Ward: Gisborne, Macedon, Mt. Macedon  5428 2916  0401 682 364  5428 8941  0418 348 497  5426 4754  0418 398 856


East Ward:  Riddells Creek, Romsey, Lancefield ** 5426 1535  0400 034 956 *  -  0400 028 507  5429 3614  0400 025 455

*  Mayor  ** Deputy Mayor


MRRA Says:


What's happening at Woodend is unfathomable, and doesn't it make Council look inept and hypocritical...  How can anybody have confidence that the Settlement Strategy delivers what the community has asked for?


The solid persistence of high growth intentions at Gisborne, Riddells Creek and Clarkefield really does smack of someone implementing the Committee for Melbourne's 2010 'put southern Macedon Ranges in the metro area' plan. See Archive  That may have been the previous State government's intention, but the State government has changed and the current government's policy is to protect Macedon Ranges, not suburbanize it.


We've said it before, and we will say it again: time to get the agendas out of the Settlement Strategy, and put the logical and strategically justified planning principles back in.  The document must be able to be held up to the light, and currently it can't be. Wednesday night is the last opportunity to do this. 


Councillors are supposed to set policy and strategy. Wednesday night will give residents a chance to see whether it's Council officers, or Councillors, driving the Settlement Strategy in its current deficient form.  Residents will see:

Who understands planning, and who doesn't.

Who supports growth compatible with protecting Macedon Ranges from urbanization, and who doesn't.

Who supports agendas, and who doesn't.

Who supports the community, and who doesn't.

Very useful information indeed considering the November 2012 Council election is galloping towards us. 


When's A Public Meeting Not A Public Meeting?  When It's In Macedon Ranges Shire...

(15/7/11 - P)  At a public meeting last Wednesday on the Settlement Strategy, Mayor tells public 'you can't speak, can't ask questions', but an emphatic community message gets through in the end

Update (16/7/11): 

Two acknowledgements were overlooked in this article.  MRRA apologizes for this.  For completeness:

On Wednesday night in icy cold Woodend, it was standing room only as 200 - 250 people filled St. Ambrose's Hall for a public meeting organised by Macedon Ranges Shire Council.  The meeting flowed from Cr. Neil Manning's 25th May motion, that Council report back to the community at a public meeting on July 13 after its own meeting with Planning Minister Matthew Guy on June 22.


Mayor Henry McLaughlin addressed the crowd, and announced Council's format for the meeting: people were not allowed to speak or ask questions, nor would Councillors speak or take questions. This stunning announcement was met with instant protests but despite clear community expectations of a dialogue, the Mayor held firm.


Through the Mayor and the Director of Planning and Environment, Sophie Segafredo, Council voiced its views amidst various comments made in defiance of Council's 'cone of silence', then the Mayor announced the meeting was over and everyone could mingle.  A woman in the crowd said "nobody move", and they didn't. 


Local resident John Shaw then stood and put a motion from the floor, even though Council had apparently indicated it couldn't be entertained.  That motion was: 


"This meeting supports low growth, no rezoning and no expansion of the town boundary at Woodend, and expects Council to support and respect the community’s wishes by rejecting the higher growth scenario and re-instating the exhibited low growth scenario for Woodend."  


While acknowledging that responses would indicate the mood of the meeting only, Mr. Shaw's call for a show of hands saw an estimated 97% for the motion, and about 6 people against it.  People then wanted to know if Council would take notice of the 97%, and were told Council had a copy of the motion.   All nine Councillors attended. Representatives of Villawood Properties P/L were also present.


Ms. Segafredo advised that the Settlement Strategy has been revised yet again, removing the lately included recommendations that Clarkefield become a metropolitan growth centre, which she said had not been supported by the Minister for Planning. 


As for Woodend, she said the lately-included higher growth figure of 5,000 within the existing town was about right [it also corresponds with the Department of Planning and Community Development's 'suggested' growth figure].   It wasn't explained why someone thinks Woodend will grow twice as fast over the next 30 years as it has over the past 15 years.


The higher 5,000 growth figure is apparently considered appropriate because it responds to about 9 submissions Council received supporting higher growth (3) or Villawood (6). On the other hand, hundreds of submissions supporting the exhibited low growth scenario (4,400 people in 2036) were received by Council. 


You can now access the re-revised (110714) version of the Settlement Strategy by going to Council's website ( and clicking on Draft Settlement Strategy.  This is the document Council will consider for approval at its 27 July meeting.


MRRA Says:


What a public relations disaster!  Especially for a Council that has already taken a tumble on Community Engagement in the recent 2011 Community Satisfaction Survey. 


The meeting was referred to as a public meeting or worse, a community meeting (we note Council calls it a 'public' meeting on its updated draft Settlement Strategy website page). That raises expectations, as someone pointed out, that there would actually be a conversation between Council and community.  The meeting instead had the characteristics of a lecture, with Council taking no prisoners in telling people what they would have.  Arrogance came across, as if Council is interpreting the Minister's advice - that Council (and community) would make the decisions on the Settlement Strategy - as 'Council can do whatever it likes'.  It can't.  Council's attitude was offensive and disenfranchising, and many left saying Council didn't want to hear, wasn't listening.  Others asked when the next election was due.


The day before the meeting, MRRA met (at Council's invitation) with the Chief Executive Officer and Director of Planning and Environment and was advised the meeting would consist of tables with a Councillor at each where people could express their views individually to the individual councillors.  This was seen as allowing people to 'have their say'.  Eyebrows aloft, we said we didn't think people would go for it, that there was an obvious expectation of a public meeting, public questions and answers, and interaction with Council.  Although the originally-proposed tables were dispensed with on the night, Council ploughed on with a meeting format that was always doomed to fail. 


As for the latest Settlement Strategy iteration for Woodend, if democracy and hard evidence counts there is surely something wrong when Council says there are 'mixed' views in the town.  All the vast majority of residents want is for Woodend to continue to grow as it has for the past 15 years within its existing boundaries.  There are some 520 - 1,230 potential lots available in existing residential zones, and no-one except those who appear to have a vested interest wants any more created, particularly not the despised 'Villawood' proposal.  The Woodend community is not saying no growth, it's saying protect the character and community feel of the town we love and let us hand that on to future generations.  Not rocket science by any stretch.  Why does Council seem to have so much difficulty understanding that?


Villawood Properties P/L and Davies Hill P/L continued their moronic fear and awe tactics by sending a flyer around to households immediately before the meeting misleadingly depicting landmark sites in the town as victims of infill development if their 550 acres of rural land outside the town boundary isn't transformed into suburban utopia.  We hear the companies see Wednesday's meeting as Council missing the opportunity to put aside everyone's fears about 'Villawood', as if 'Villawood' is the centre of the universe.  They patently don't understand Woodend.


Two events after the motion from the floor was put and staunchly supported left an impression.

Time to get back on the same bus as the community, Council!


Some Councillors have referred to the Settlement Strategy as a document of excellence.  It should be, but isn't near that yet.  A document of excellence is owned by the broad community (has strong community support), and never responds to - or even appears to respond to - unjustified agendas and vested interests.  A Settlement Strategy is about a collective, agreed, long-term vision, and excellence is when people look back in 25 years and still applaud the objectivity, wisdom and far-sightedness of decision-makers of the day. 


If Council thinks being in step with the community it represents is as important as the community thinks it is, there is no doubt that Council now has some huge bridges to mend.


First, have the courage to eat some humble pie: acknowledge the major short-comings of Wednesday's meeting, and pledge to not go there again.  Even a large mea culpa may not be enough wash away the anger, cynicism and loss of confidence, but it would signal that Council recognizes the offence, and may recoup some respect for being big enough to admit the mistake. 


Second, take the 'unjustifieds' that are making so many people unhappy out of the Settlement Strategy - for example, the out-of-the-blue doubling of population at Riddells Creek; the surreptitious and inappropriate support for increased Rural Living zone opportunities* in advance of undertaking a Rural Living Strategy; the extra 1,300 people in Rural Living zones slid into Gisborne on top of the Gisborne Outline Development Plan's thumping population increase; higher growth in Woodend and anything that can be interpreted as doing Villawood Properties P/L a favour; and rezoning Rural Conservation to commercial at Mt. Macedon. 

And be mindful that with Statement of Planning Policy No. 8 about to become State policy again, the Settlement Strategy - and growth levels - must be compatible with that policy's objectives of protecting this place from over-development.  Click here to see MRRA's list of problems in the Settlement Strategy.


There is still an opportunity for Council to make amends and get back on track with the community and the Settlement Strategy.  Will Council take up the challenge? 


*  MRRA has been told these opportunities are justified by the Gisborne and Romsey Outline Development Plans.  All we can say is they weren't in the ODPs we read.


Community Meeting On Settlement Strategy, 7.30pm 13 July, Woodend: BE THERE

(11/7/11 - P)  Council to report back to community on its meeting with Planning Minister Matthew Guy

Macedon Ranges Council will hold a community meeting this Wednesday, 13 July at St. Ambrose Hall, Templeton Street, Woodend, from 7.30 - 9.00 pm.  Council will report back to the community, as per its 25 May resolution, on the outcomes of Council's meeting with Planning Minister, Matthew Guy, on June 22. 


A key issue is the Minister's response to substantial changes made to the draft Macedon Ranges' Settlement Strategy at the request of the Department of Planning and Community Development, subsequently supported by Council officers and included in the revised Strategy which went to Council on 25 May 2011:

Woodend residents expressed substantial support for the original Low growth/no rezoning scenario which was exhibited from November 2010 to January 2011. Woodend residents are now demanding to know why these changes were made, and see them as catering for the detested 650 - 1,000 lot Villawood subdivision proposal at Golf Course Hill. 


The Minister for Planning made it clear to Council (and MRRA at its meeting with the Minister on the same day as Council) that what was in or out of the Settlement Strategy was a matter for Council - and the community - to decide.  In other words, the Department's changes can be removed from the Strategy.


Residents are urged to attend the community meeting on July 13th at Woodend (St. Ambrose Hall, Templeton Street, 7.30pm).


Local residents, WRAP and MRRA are urging Woodend residents to attend Wednesday's meeting and make it clear that the Woodend community supports the originally exhibited Low growth scenario. 


The Settlement Strategy will come before Council for adoption on Wednesday 27 July at Kyneton Town Hall, 7.0pm. Residents are again urged to attend this meeting, and to forward emails and letters supporting a Low growth scenario to Councillors beforehand.  Click here for Councillors' contact details.


MRRA Says:


This is your chance, Woodend, to get the future you want for the town.  Not the future Villawood Properties P/L and Davies Hill P/L want, not the future the Department wants - the future YOU want.


How critical the wording is in the final Settlement Strategy is underlined by the appalling behaviour being engaged in by those with the most to lose if the town simply continues to grow as it has for the past 15 years (the Low growth scenario): Villawood Properties P/L and Davies Hill P/L


With mega-buck splashes on full page colour ads in the local press continuing - some not even identified as advertisements - the amount of money - and lies - being thrown at Woodend residents by those companies confirms the revised (May 2011) Strategy advantages them. 


How totally over-the-top is the recent claim that it's "Villawood or infill" for Woodend?  That's just another a big, fat lie that builds on others, like promising hundreds of acres of public open space when that's not even in the application to rezone the land.


How could anyone believe a single word Villawood Properties P/L and Davies Hill P/L say?


The facts are that the options for Woodend are:

  1. infill (development in existing residential zones within the existing town boundary) 
  2. infill (development in existing residential zones within the existing town boundary) AND Villawood

Villawood's gross development proposal won't stop on-going infill development in existing residential zones in the town, but it might lead to "planning blight" where an over-supply of land crashes everyone's property values.  The Settlement Strategy itself says there is ample land already available in Woodend for on-going growth. That land has been there for 30 years, so why make more? 


The meeting on Wednesday is Council reporting to and getting feedback from the community.  And although the Woodend community has said what it wants over and over, it's time to do it yet again, and in a way which can't be be missed by Councillors, or misrepresented by others.  Council needs to hear what YOU want.


There's a rumour that Villawood Properties P/L and Davies Hill P/L expect "equal time", as if the meeting is a debate and they have some standing.  If that's the case, it makes you wonder just where Villawood and Davies Hill get off.  NOTE:  VILLAWOOD PROPERTIES P/L AND DAVIES HILL P/L ARE NOT COMMUNITY, they are development companies.  These companies never were, and never will be, COMMUNITY. 


MRRA believes a Low growth scenario for Woodend within the existing town boundaries is compatible with Statement of Planning Policy No. 8 [SPP8].  As SPP8 will imminently become State policy, the Settlement Strategy needs to deliver that outcome. 


The Minister for Planning has made it clear to MRRA that Clarkefield is not being considered for and will not become a part of the metropolitan area or absorb metro growth, so the new references to this happening in the Settlement Strategy have no support and in MRRA's view, must be deleted, as must the ad hoc and prejudicial recommendations promoting Rural Living development and growth. 


Woodend Betrayed By Changes To Settlement Strategy

(22/5/11 - P)  Revised Settlement Strategy goes before Council on Wednesday 25 May: stamp your foot Woodend - tell councillors to reject unjustified and unjustifiable changes.   See also NoVillaWoodend Facebook Page


See MRRA Letter To The Editor 240511


Settlement Strategy Changed To Put More Growth In Woodend - More People, New Rezoning

Cr. Neil Manning's Notice of Motion

What The Department of Planning and Community Development Said

What You Can Do

Additional Community Information


MRRA Says:

The Process

The Villawood Amendment

Conflict of Interest?

Other Problems With The Settlement Strategy


Settlement Strategy Changed To Put More Growth In Woodend - More People, New Rezoning


There is something really wrong with what's going down with Woodend in the Macedon Ranges Shire's Settlement Strategy.  Under pressure from Villawood's rampant marketing campaign pushing its large Golf Course Hill development (which has been going on since January), Woodend residents rallied against the urban development company and supported a Low growth scenario in the draft Settlement Strategy exhibited over Christmas.  Some 255 submissions and a petition with hundreds of signatures supported a Low growth scenario, which put a population of 4,400 (or an additional 700 people) in Woodend in 2036, and essentially shut Villawood's speculative 650+ lot development proposal out of Woodend's future. 


In March, Villawood applied for an amendment to the Macedon Ranges planning scheme to rezone around half (Avenue of Honour side) of its 550 acres of land  to Residential 1 zone.  The application didn't seek to change the zoning of the other (Tylden Road) half, which remains Farming zone, and consequently the amendment will not deliver the vast public open space areas touted by Villawood as a key feature of the proposal.  Villawood's amendment application requested that the Settlement Strategy be changed from Low to a Moderate growth scenario to accommodate the growth represented by its development. And that's essentially what has happened.

What's not being said is that the revised Settlement Strategy now contains 'lower' and 'upper' lot availability counts in towns.  Woodend, for example, has a range between 520 - 1,230 new lots available, but only the lower 520 figure is used. 


Another critical factor not being taken into account is what's known as the 'churn' rate.  Woodend (and the Shire generally) has around a 50% 'churn' rate.  This means 50% of the population lived at a different address 5 years ago, and it indicates a high turnover of population rather than growth in terms of additional residents.  While some residents move address within a town or the Shire, the bulk of the 'churn' are new residents coming into the Shire/Town and replacing those who are moving out.  It's an important characteristic because  - contrary to developer arguments that existing residents are selfishly shutting others out by resisting wholesale subdivision - it means people do have opportunities to come here, without endlessly building new houses.

A letter recently sent to submitters by Council officers muddies the water by claiming the exhibited Strategy had a Low/Moderate growth scenario for Woodend, and that this gained strong support from residents.  This isn't correct.  Residents supported the exhibited Low growth scenario of 4,400 people in 2036.  The revised Strategy puts 5,100 people in the town in 2036, twice the growth that was exhibited.  Consequently the Council letter, which indicates Council officers support the changes, misrepresents both what was exhibited, and what the people of Woodend said. 


These substantial changes, which introduce a quite different future direction for Woodend, are occurring after exhibition of the Settlement Strategy, and there is no known proposal to take them back to the community for comment before adoption.  The same practice was applied to Amendment C62, which in 2008 saw the Department tell Council to take Statement of Planning Policy No. 8 out of the planning scheme after C62 was exhibited - that is, between exhibition and approval, side-stepping community consultation on the changes. 


West Ward Councillor, Neil Manning, has lodged a Notice Of Motion in response to the changes made to Woodend (see below).


The revised Macedon Ranges Settlement Strategy will come before Council on 25th May, at Kyneton.  It can be downloaded from Council's website:


Cr. Neil Manning's Notice Of Motion


According to a Notice of Motion put forward by Councillor Neil Manning, also to be considered at Council's May 25th meeting, the changes for Woodend respond to a Department of Planning and Community Development [DPCD] requirement that more growth and 'greenfields' * rezoning be included in the Settlement Strategy for Woodend. 


Cr. Manning says the inference is that if Council doesn't make the changes the Department wants, DPCD won't allow the Settlement Strategy to move forward, a tactic also used by the Department on the Gisborne ODP, which didn't go forward until Council accepted substantially higher growth than originally recommended. 


* 'greenfields' rezoning is rezoning of rural land for residential development.


Cr. Manning's motion is that Council call a public meeting, and demand Damian Kennedy (apparently the DPCD officer who issued instructions to Council) come to Woodend and justify the changes wanted by the Department to the community. 


Cr. Manning's motion also calls on Council to organise a plebiscite of Woodend residents asking what level of growth they support for the town, and for the Minister for Planning to immediately clarify the government's and department's positions.


What The Department Of Planning and Community Development Said To Council


A copy of an email forwarded to MRRA by residents (the email is apparently circulating in Woodend) from the Department of Planning and Community Development, dated Tuesday, 19 April 2011 relates to the Macedon Ranges Settlement Strategy.  Click here to see the email. 


The email confirms an officer at DPCD gave directions that the Settlement Strategy be changed, months after exhibition, to increase population growth in Woodend "to reach at least 5,000 by 2036", and also include "some additional greenfield expansion and infill development to respond to a greater level of demand than currently proposed in the strategy.  Reliance on infill opportunities alone would be an unsafe and inflexible option."  


The letter from Council to submitters repeated part of the DPCD edict, but not the part where Council is also told to include 'greenfields' rezoning for Woodend.


There are also comments about services and infrastructure in the DPCD email, where it is implied that Woodend will lose access to services, facilities and infrastructure if it doesn't take the additional growth DPCD wants.  This claim isn't supported by any evidence, and sounds more like intimidation than fact.  The reality is that even though towns like Kyneton and Woodend have experienced  low growth over the last 15 years (with Kyneton experiencing an earlier population loss), neither town has lost services or infrastructure over that time.


The DPCD email also refers to an adjustment being made to the Urban Development Program, and that peri urban areas will be included within the UDP in 2011.  The Urban Development Program was the former Premier's (John Brumby) 'bible'.  It's what is used to justify pushing growth and suburbanization into outlying areas, and developers and their representatives have traditionally had a strong influence over the document (the public usually aren't consulted).  Why is the UDP relevant to Macedon Ranges?  Is the Department saying it has plans to put Macedon Ranges into the Melbourne metropolitan area?  To suburbanize Macedon Ranges?  The revised Settlement Strategy takes up the Department's advice in recommendations newly included for Clarkefield.


Council officers have accepted and already included these DPCD requirements into the revised Settlement Strategy, regardless of the 200+ submissions and petition received from Woodend residents during the recent consultation that supported the low growth, no rezoning scenario in the exhibited Strategy.  


What You Can Do:


With Council officers now backing the Department's changes, Woodend's future is in the hands of our Councillors, who will make a decision at the Council meeting on 25 May (next Wednesday). 

Residents who support a Low growth scenario are urged to:

Click here for contact details for Councillors and the Minister for Planning, Macedon MLA Joanne Duncan and Upper House member for the Northern Victoria Region, Donna Petrovich.


Major issues with the changes are that they:

There is also talk that Council has to do what the Department wants.  Most residents expect Council to do what the community wants. 


Tell Councillors you want them to:

Additional Community Information


Macedon Ranges Settlement Strategy - Community & WRAP Inc initiatives - what you can do, what you should know.


How the community would like to see the revised Settlement Strategy for Woodend changed

Community Flyer

WRAP email to residents


Click here for more discussion of the changes, provided by a local Woodend resident, and click here to see how a Woodend resident so eloquently has their say. 


MRRA Says:


The Process


The Settlement Strategy itself, at page 69, says there was overwhelming support for the exhibited low growth scenario.  The letter from Council says there were few submissions wanting higher growth.  So how does the Strategy get to be changed the way it has?


Our understanding is that as the State government provided around half the funding for the Settlement Strategy, the Department has been involved in its evolution since inception.  Now, suddenly, it seems an officer of the Department, based in Melbourne, says what was exhibited for Woodend is all wrong.  Worse - this person says jump, and Council officers seem to ask 'how high'...  What Council has to resist is being brow-beaten (some might suggest something stronger) into compliance with what appears to be one person's wishes, under threat of the Department not approving any of the Settlement Strategy unless Woodend takes a fall in Villawood's direction.


This approach doesn't even come close to what the Association would consider to be 'good' process.  MRRA holds deep concerns about the standards and objectives (and objectivity) of the process used to arrive at higher growth for Woodend.  In fact, we would ask, is it a process, or a deviation of process?  We would like to see where it is written that the 'process' being engaged in is acceptable or best practice.


The Villawood Amendment


Villawood lodged an application to amend the Macedon Ranges planning scheme to enable its development to proceed in March 2011.  A copy of the amendment application and the Master Plan that underpins it are available from the NoVillaWoodend Facebook Page  Villawood's land is currently in Farming and Rural Conservation zones, which both prohibit suburban subdivision, so the amendment seeks 'greenfields' (conversion from rural to residential) rezoning. If the land isn't rezoned, the subdivision can't proceed.


The amendment doesn't deliver what Villawood has been promising the good folk of Woodend. 


It asks that half the land (the Avenue of Honour end) be rezoned to Residential 1 - the same zone that applies to Carlton or Coburg, which doesn't have a minimum lot size and allows high and medium density housing development.  No rural residential here - just stock standard metro residential zoning.  Then it asks for the Rural Conservation Zone on top of Golf Course Hill to be wound back a bit and replaced with - wait for it - Residential 1.


The amendment also wants an Urban Floodway zone over parts of Five Mile Creek to identify the floodway, but not an overlay to identify all of the floodplain. 


Next up, the amendment asks for a Development Plan overlay. We all know what that means - the developer gets to write their own ticket, while the rest of us have no rights to even know about or be party to decisions on the Development Plan.  This Development Plan Overlay is tied to a Master Plan produced by Villawood in 2010.  That date means the Master Plan doesn't include any of the things Villawood has told the community it would do because the Plan existed well before Villawood began promising.


The other thing about the Master Plan...  Remember all of those expensive, full colour, full page ads Villawood have been running in local papers?  The ones that show the Sewerage Treatment Plant as the bluest of lakes?  The ones that showed just one "Neighbourhoods" area near the Avenue of Honour?   The Master Plan shows that and several more, including one at the top of Golf Course Hill.  If the lone "Neighbourhoods" area in the ads held 650 lots, just how many lots is the Master Plan proposing?


A really big broken promise is that the amendment won't deliver all that public open space that has been marketed to residents as a huge selling point for the subdivision.  All of that land remains a Farming zone, which makes MRRA wonder if Villawood actually owns it.  Even if the amendment went through, which is unlikely, Woodend wouldn't be getting 290 acres of new open space, because it's not even being asked for.


There's another problem with the amendment.  Villawood wants Residential 1 zoning everywhere, including the Braemar sites.  At the same time, the Braemar amendment (Amendment C45) for a second school campus wants Special Use zoning for the Golf Course Hill site.  That means, if Council accepts the Villawood amendment, there will be two amendments running at the same time for the same land but wanting different outcomes.  Can that happen?


One thing is clear.  An amendment to a planning scheme has its own legislated process, quite separate to preparation of a Settlement Strategy.  Now that Villawood has taken the path of applying for an amendment, the whole situation changes.  The application cannot with propriety be regarded as a submission to the Settlement Strategy or, as there has been no consultation or process yet for the amendment, be allowed to influence it.


Conflict of Interest?


The amendment application lodged by Villawood in March 2011 referred to studies it had done in support of the amendment application to rezone its land, and the consultants who had done those studies.


It turns out that the consultants preparing the Settlement Strategy for Council, CPG, are also consultants for Villawood.  CPG has done a flora and fauna assessment for Villawood.


So if the Department of Planning and Community Development persists with changing the Settlement Strategy for Woodend in a way that is seen to advantage Villawood, wouldn't that create a conflict of interest for CPG?  Under those circumstances, could the Settlement Strategy fall over?


Other Problems With The Settlement Strategy


The Association made an 80 page submission in response to the exhibited Settlement Strategy.  The Strategy, along with its supporting documents, was found to be riddled with errors, omissions, anomalies and inconsistencies, and failed to recognize the State level significance of Macedon Ranges. 


We note that a number of improvements have been made to the revised version, not least provision of information about lot counts. 


However, there are still key anomalies, and inconsistencies between different parts of the document.  For example, the Study Areas used as 'town populations' in the Strategy are in fact the population of the towns themselves PLUS the population in Rural Living zones.  This means the town populations used aren't an accurate reflection of and over-state the starting number of people in each town, and blurs the true extent of population increases being put forward.  Another example is that the Strategy says Rural Living zones are Residential zones, when they are part of the State suite of Rural zones.  These and other issues still need to be resolved.


In addition to what is happening to Woodend, the Association is highly concerned with the outcomes in the Settlement Strategy for Gisborne, where an additional 1,300+ people are arbitrarily added to already ample 2036 Outline Development Plan population levels, because the Strategy promotes increased Rural Living Zone development.  Not only is this in conflict with State policy, giving arbitrary support to changing Rural Living zones through a Settlement Strategy (i.e. a Strategy for the towns) is not on.  It lacks rationale and justification, and severely pre-empts any form of strategic assessment and public consultation on Rural Living zones.  Romsey is also subjected to a 'rural living experience'.  


Riddells Creek is slaughtered, with the Settlement Strategy forecasting Riddell will be bigger than Romsey in 2036.  This entails not only almost doubling the population of the town, but extensive 'greenfields' rezoning to create enough lots to accommodate that growth.  At the same time, the Settlement Strategy admits Riddells Creek doesn't have the infrastructure needed to support such growth (doesn't even have enough for the existing population) - but it has a railway station.  This takes the concept of putting people near public transport to laughable limits.  Surely there's need to look at other factors...  The impression MRRA gained was that poor old Riddells Creek copped the 'leftover' population targets for the Shire. There just isn't another logical reason for doing what's being done to Riddells Creek.


Another major concern is the belated change of role for Clarkefield in the revised Settlement Strategy.  With support from the Department of Planning and Community Development (see email), Clarkefield is now included in the revised Settlement Strategy as, potentially, a place to absorb metropolitan growth ('an urban node'), with a view to including it within the metropolitan area and Melbourne's urban growth boundary in future.  What a nonsense!  The recently extended urban growth boundary is uncomfortably and unjustifiably close to Clarkefield, and with this type of premature and speculation-inducing reference in the Settlement Strategy, it seems time to insist that the new State government move the urban growth boundary away from Macedon Ranges.


PLEASE, can all of the self-serving agendas be taken out of the Settlement Strategy?  This important document should be about respecting and preserving the values we all love, not forcing rampant growth and development on us that damages those values.  Some growth perhaps but not this much, and definitely not this way.


Council's Settlement Strategy: Submissions Extended Until End Of January 2011

(23/12/10 - P)  There's still time to tell them to do it again...

Macedon Ranges Shire Council has extended the time to make submissions on the draft Settlement Strategy, from December 17 until t'the end of January 2011'.  No date is given.  For more information, check out Council's website  


MRRA Says:

The bad feeling in our water didn't any better after reading the draft - it confirms someone doesn't know much about Macedon Ranges, and makes some fairly horrific assumptions.


Macedon Ranges' Settlement Strategy Out For Consultation Until December 17th

(14/11/10 - P)   Don't be fooled into thinking this is either about, or good for, Macedon Ranges.  And once again, all we are getting is over 477 pages of information, and crap consultation processes, just before Christmas.  Now that's usually a sign something's wrong...


The  draft Macedon Ranges' Settlement Strategy and supporting documents are on exhibition and you can comment until 5.0pm on December 17th (just before Christmas).  The supporting documents are:

Here are direct links to the relevant documents, or you can go to Council's website,  NB  These are LARGE files, over 20mb all up.


Download: MRSC_Draft_Settlement_Strategy.pdf  (6.4mb)  (104 pages)

Download: MRSCContextReport_030910Part1.pdf  (4.6mb)  (100 pages)

Download: MRSC_ContextReport_030910Part2.pdf  (3.7mb)  (133 pages)

Download: 100903_SustainableCommunitiesReport.pdf  (6.6mb)  (140 pages)


You can also view the hard copies (477 pages) at Council Services Centres (although if you want to take a copy away with you, we hear you may have to pay $30 for some of the documents).


Meagre consultation is proposed with only one public meeting, on Thursday 9 December, 7 - 9pm, at Riddells Creek Senior Citizens Centre, 74 - 76 Main Road, Riddells Creek.


‘Listening posts’ (street stalls) will also be held:

Written submissions can be sent to Manager Planning and Development, Macedon Ranges Shire Council, PO Box 151, Kyneton 3444, or emailed to


MRRA Says:


What a great way to stop people knowing what's proposed for where they live - just go and stand outside supermarkets for an hour or so, and Bob's your Uncle - consultation done. 


It is really offensive for someone to keep claiming there has been (and is) substantial consultation on the draft Settlement Strategy.  Who has been substantially consulted?  It hasn't been the community


The latest round of consultation proposed is pathetic. ONE public meeting, in Riddells Creek (i.e. none in the major towns where most of the excessive growth is being shoved in), and 'listening posts' over two days.  Yeah, right, people will be really focussed on the issues as they race about shopping with the kids.  Maybe tourists will have more time?  The time put into these dickey listening posts could as easily have been devoted to meetings.


We all need to understand that the draft Settlement Strategy is, in reality, the State government's document and is an attempt to squeeze a pre-ordained number of people into Macedon Ranges.  Us residents aren't deciding how many, that decision was made well before the Settlement Strategy came into existence.  No, the Settlement Strategy is about how those numbers are divvied up - where they go. 


It doesn't really matter if population growth will damage the fragile values of the Shire or there are constraints against growth - some of those aren't even recognized.  The mantra is, the State government's growth agenda will be implemented come hell or high water.


That means this isn't an exercise in strategic planning at all.  It's number crunching, and because the consultation is so deficient, it's number crunching someone doesn't want most of us to know about or understand.  The draft Settlement Strategy, contrary to the spin surrounding it, does not allow Council (or community for that matter) to take some control over population growth.  Nup, this is about forcing the government's Victoria In Future population growth projections into Macedon Ranges.


Those Victoria In Future projections are based on what has been happening, not what should happen.  All those units, those horrible subdivisions, that the community has been powerless to stop are the foundation for the Victoria In Future figures (i.e. you had XX then, so you will have XXX in future), and what happens in Macedon Ranges in future.


The draft Settlement Strategy comes across as if nothing much has happened here until now, as if there is no past. Maybe that's why someone doesn't seem to be aware of the importance of the Rural Living 1 zone... 


The Strategy relies to a great degree on what's in our current planning scheme as a basis for identifying constraints.  Mmm, interesting concept, considering our planning scheme is still mainly at the 'interim' stage it was back when it was approved in 2000, and there are probably more constraints missing than are in it.


You will need to start reading now if you want to get through all of the documentation, make a submission, AND have time to prepare for Christmas. 


By all means, please go to the single meeting being held at Riddells Creek, or try to remember to sidle up to the "listening posts" (you might want to take the day off work to get to the Gisborne, Kyneton and Lancefield listening posts - all are on a Friday), or put in some comments by post or email. 


Tell them this isn't acceptable.  Tell them they haven't consulted.  Tell them Macedon Ranges isn't the slop bucket for sopping up Melbourne's population overflow.  Tell them what they are doing would be a whopper of a joke except it's not funny because it's our future, our community, our environment and potentially even our lives that are being so flippantly and carelessly played with. 


Tell 'em to go back and do it again, and this time do it in a way that's realistic and right for Macedon Ranges.  Oh, and start listening to the community for a change.


State Govt's Regional Strategic Plan Puts Growth Agenda In Place For Macedon Ranges: Council Endorses Plan Without Community Consultation

(13/8/10 - P)  That puts around another 20,000 people and 7,000 houses in the Shire by 2036.  And the State government's VC66 amendment has been put in place (also sans consultation) to implement it.  Hello suburbia!  


This week's Midland Express carries a front page story where Macedon Ranges' CEO, Peter Johnston, says Council has endorsed a Regional Strategic Plan (Loddon Mallee Southern Region) that maps out growth for the next 20 years.  The Regional Strategic Plan flows from the Victorian government's new "Regional Blueprint" framework for rural and regional Victoria, and is therefore the State government's plan for this area.


The State government has already changed the Victoria Planning Provisions to make the Regional Strategic Plan the plan that applies to Macedon Ranges. 


On the 27th July, the State government approved amendment VC66, a State amendment to all planning schemes in Victoria. 


On the one hand VC66 belatedly stops the 'urban' elements of Melbourne 2030 being applied to rural and regional areas.  These 'urban' elements are the planning provisions and standards that apply to metropolitan Melbourne that have until now also been applied to places outside the metro area, like Macedon Ranges, with diabolically suburban results. 


On the other hand, VC66 (at Clause 12.03) says the future of rural and regional Victoria is what is writ in the Regional Strategic Plans for each region.  That is, our planning scheme now says that what's in the Regional Strategic Plan endorsed by council for Macedon Ranges is what has to happen. 


There's more...


The Midland Express article quotes Mr. Johnston as saying "There's been quite a bit of input (from council) on a regular basis to that document [i.e. 'our' Regional Strategic Plan]... Council is working closely with Regional Development Victoria..." 


Yet the Plan isn't even available to the public.


As with the Bendigo Corridor Plan before it, which was supposed to have been pulled up in response to Melbourne 2030 (from 2002) but was never publicly released, this new Regional Strategic Plan has never been sighted by the Macedon Ranges community.  There has never been any community consultation on the Shire's future at this Regional level.  That future has now been decided by a distant hand,  and it will see substantial growth in one of the State's most environmentally sensitive and bushfire-prone areas. 


The unbelievable part is that Macedon Ranges Council thought it could make such a momentous decision to go along with the State government's agenda without consulting its community.  Shame on you.


MRRA Says:


We all knew a plan to push Melbourne's excess population growth into Macedon Ranges was coming, and now it's here, courtesy of the Brumby government and a council that either doesn't know or doesn't care (or both). 


MRRA takes no satisfaction from having predicted this outcome.  After all, the State government's behaviour has flagged its intentions for several years.  Think about it...


First off, we had the State government's promise to protect the Macedon Ranges.  Then came the denials that there was even a problem here, and now, hey presto! as night follows day, the secretly prepared agenda for high growth and development is very quietly dropped on us.  No wonder they didn't want to tell us about it - that would have taken courage and integrity.


MRRA has heard from various sources that the Regional Strategic Plan that Council has just endorsed delivers the 2008 Victoria In Future [VIF] population projections, and that it places 'growth corridor' status on Macedon Ranges.  


Victoria In Future figures are projections or forward estimates of future population growth.  They are prepared by the Department of Planning and Community Development in what appears to be just a number-crunching exercise.  They are primarily based upon what has been happening; they are not a considered approach to should happen.  There is no policy (e.g. Statement of Planning Policy No. 8) or strategy (e.g. how many can be accommodated without damaging other values) applied to them.  They are just projections, just numbers.  They are what is predicted to happen, if nothing changes. 


We hear that the State government is insisting these days that Councils deliver these 'magic' numbers, regardless of an area's capacity to do it.


The 2008 VIF projections for Macedon Ranges put another 14,130 people in Macedon Ranges over the 20 years between 2006 and 2026. 


That means Macedon Ranges' 2006 population of 39,989 people is projected to rise to 54,119 in 2026, at 1.4% annual growth from 2006 - 2011, 1.5% from 2011 - 2016, and 1.6% from 2016 to 2026.  54,119 is a 35.3% increase over 2006 and equates to an average annual growth rate of 1.76% every year for 20 years.


The Macedon Ranges Settlement Strategy, currently under preparation (a document significantly funded by the State government), also deals with future population growth, but it has a 30 year horizon (2006 - 2036).   That means a direct comparison can't be made between the Regional Strategic Plan and the Settlement Strategy because they are using different criteria. 


We decided to see what happens if the VIF figures are extended out to 2036.  We used a 1.6% annual (compounding) growth rate (VIF 2016 - 2026 also used 1.6%) to extrapolate the projections to 2036.  On this basis the VIF projections would see a total Shire population of 63,429 in 2036, or an additional 23,000 people.


We then looked at what the Macedon Ranges' Settlement Strategy is doing in 2036.  We have already criticized the consultancy working on the Settlement Strategy for appearing to take an approach of just coming in here and rolling out the State government's growth projections and agenda. 


The Settlement Strategy will specifically define how much and where growth occurs in the Shire.  It will contain the detail in which the devil is often found.  Last seen, the Settlement Strategy seems to be upping the population and growth ante even higher than the broader-based Regional Strategic Plan. 


At meetings held in Macedon Ranges last May, population scenarios for 9 towns were put up at the meetings in a Power Point presentation.  There was a 'LOW' growth scenario, and a 'HIGH' growth scenario. 


The 'LOW' growth scenario would see population IN 9 TOWNS grow from 24,700 in 2006 to 41,500 in 2036, a rise of almost 17,000.  This would put more people in the nine towns than there were in the entire Shire in 2006.


The 'HIGH' growth scenario would see almost 23,000 additional people just in the 9 towns.  NB  The Settlement Strategy has so far not addressed population in rural areas of the Shire. 


We think these figures make our 20,000 look conservative.


Either way, or as a consequence of both, with these non-strategic and rampant growth levels that are being forced on us, the rural, beautiful Macedon Ranges that Victorians and locals love will assuredly be lost to over-population and over-development as the Ranges are transformed into just another suburb of Melbourne. 


There are a couple of other points to be made:

It seems the State government isn't satisfied that it has just taken a huge, huge chunk out of the Green Wedges through the "it-will-never-happen" expansion of Melbourne's urban growth boundary, and is attempting to turn Melbourne into high-rise Hong Kong on Port Phillip Bay, it also has to do over environmentally significant areas that have more importance to the State's future than just being concreted, industrialized and suburbanized.  That's an obsession with growth, growth, growth - at any cost.  It's a 1950's style 'vision' that doesn't extend any further than the expedient and unthinking.  


MRRA last year asked for a meeting with Victorian Planning Minister, Justin Madden, but did not receive a reply.


Who is prepared to protect this place?  At the 2006 State election, MRRA asked all candidates in the Macedon Ranges Shire their views.  We had a spectacular and spectacularly supportive response, with the knockout exception being the Victorian Labor party/government.  Click here to see those responses.


In the absence of any interest or protection from the current Victorian government, MRRA has turned to the Federal arena, asking all lower house candidates in the Bendigo and McEwen electorates what they would do, at a Federal level, to provide the protection Macedon Ranges needs.  Click here to see their answers.


MR Settlement Strategy: Is Macedon Ranges Making The Decisions, Or The State Government?

(29/6/10 - P)  Meagre consultation, shabby process, a whiff of State government agenda and heaps of population growth should be ringing LOUD alarm bells


Four workshops have been held recently in Macedon Ranges - Kyneton, Gisborne, Romsey and Woodend - in the first round of community consultation on the Shire's Settlement Strategy.  These attracted reasonable attendances by residents, with the usual array of real estate agents, developers and others with specific interests, as well as residents. 


The Gisborne and Woodend meetings made it clear growth is not welcome, particularly the type of 'accelerated' growth presented by the consultants.  The consultants, CPG, seemed unable to explain where these extravagant population numbers came from or what areas had been counted to arrive at final figures they presented.  The figures seems to move around almost at will, but the objective seems to be to almost double Macedon Ranges' population in 30 years.  In numeric terms, that's going from 39,000 in 2006 to around 55,000 to 60,000 by 2036. Unfortunately, the whole thing is still at the 'pick a number' stage, although one thing seems certain is that the consultants are on board with the State government's intention to make Macedon Ranges an outlying suburb of Melbourne.


MRRA Says:


Sounds like someone's got an agenda to (at least) double the size of our main towns.  And where are all these people going to live?  We need to keep in mind that the number of people in each household is dropping, so a higher number of houses will be needed to accommodate the same number of people it took less houses to accommodate a few years ago. Where are they to go, without destroying our small towns and communities, without reaching out into rural land, without metro-style 'units' everywhere?


Where's the water to come from?  Where do we get twice as much water to service towns twice as big?


How do we stop twice as many people being killed and properties lost in a bushfire?  HAS THE GOVERNMENT LEARNT NOTHING?


In our experience, competent and comprehensive major strategic projects don't usually start with presenting the community with soaring population growth numbers and asking which towns that growth should go in.  In fact, there was an audible gasp at the Woodend meeting when CPG informed the gathering that Macedon Ranges has the best road and rail infrastructure in the State.  Now that's starting to sound like a sell job to us.


Why do we get the feeling that the CPG consultants seem to have come in here armed with the government's 'suburbanization' population targets, and blurt about how good it is, and the only thing being asked of the community is how and where are all these people to be squeezed in?  Who are the consultants working for - the government, or us? 


Consultation to date is a teensy bit of a joke - during the consultants' presentation, up on the screen "extensive community consultation" flashed by, but hang on, up until then, there had only been some erratic appearances by the consultants outside shops and supermarkets.  That's EXTENSIVE??  Who have the consultants been talking to?


Consultation on a major strategic project doesn't usually start with rolling out numbers, either - how about some public consultation on Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats - SWOT.  About community values?  About the community experience with infrastructure?  About over-population and the damage it is already doing to the special values of Macedon Ranges?


It also seems unbelievably courageous (in a Sir Humphrey sort of way) for CPG to lob up and rely only on overlays in our current under-done planning scheme to identify environmental constraints, and then to call that strategic.  Someone tried that with the infamous Amendment C8 Residential and Industrial Review in the early 2000s, and that amendment fell over monumentally (and embarrassingly) when it was abandoned, on the advice of a Ministerial Advisory Committee, because it lacked strategic justification.  Hmm, could lightning be about to strike twice?   Or will any amendment be assisted by a Ministerial hand helping to overcome difficulties - like what most of us want - to deliver a manic growth agenda?


There's also a big, big problem with the way that whatever is being planned for the 'rural balance' of the Shire seems to be a whopping secret.  That's right, CPG said it will be done later.  Hey, guys, a Settlement Strategy is supposed to be integrated.  The fact that this one doesn't seems to suggest Plan B is for the rural areas to sop up whatever isn't squashed into the towns.  And on that note, the bush telegraph is alive with rumours of wholesale rural living development is about to roll out.  Oops, didn't Melbourne 2030 say that's NOT to happen?


What about fire?  No problem apparently, the consultants are waiting for the Royal Commission's report on Black Saturday to work out whether Macedon and Mt. Macedon are too big a fire risk for further growth.  Wonder if they've ever heard of Ash Wednesday?   Does it count that Woodend is one of the 50 worst fire risk towns in Victoria?   Not yet, it seems...


And poor Statement of Planning Policy No.8.  CPG told the Woodend meeting they had deleted it as a key policy just before that meeting because...  someone at the Gisborne meeting said it didn't count anymore. 


As for the consultants, CPG (formerly Coomes), from their website it seems they've worked on a lot of very large subdivision developments like Hillcroft Estate, South Morang; Caroline Springs Estate, Melton; Aurora Estate, Epping North; Roxburgh Park Estate; Cairnlea Estate, Deer Park, etc.


We would like to know what their experience (if any) is in Settlement Strategies for rural, environmentally-sensitive areas because in our mind, they certainly aren't off to a good start in the credibility or strategic stakes with what they've done so far.  It's so NOT impressive to look like all you've come here with is the government's growth figures! 


The word "underwhelmed" springs to mind... and if we think about it, we will probably be able to come up with some more.


Public Meetings Next Week On Macedon Ranges' 'Settlement Strategy'

(22/5/10 - P)  If you want Macedon Ranges to stay rural, there's only one meeting to go to this year, and this is it! 

Council will be holding meetings in 4 towns next week to get feedback on the Shire's Settlement Strategy, currently under preparation.  This is a critical document which will set down strategies for population growth in the next 20 - 30 years - how much, where and when.  It will underpin all planning decisions. 


Macedon Ranges' residents will need to be on guard for any attempt to hijack this process and push suburban-style growth upon us.


MRRA has issued a media release 'red alert' urging residents to attend these meetings and make sure their views are expressed and heard. 


Meetings will be held at:


Kyneton Town Hall, 129 Mollison Street, 7 – 9 pm, Wednesday 26 May

Gisborne Shire Offices. 40 Robertson Street, 7 – 9 pm, Thursday 27 May

Romsey Community Hub, 96 – 100 Main Street, 10 am – 12 noon, Saturday, 29 May

Woodend Community Centre, cnr Forest and High streets, 1.30 – 3.30 pm, Saturday 29 May


Click here to see MRRA's media release.


MRRA Says:


So far, community 'consultation' has consisted of consultants briefly appearing outside shops and supermarkets.


We've been hearing some whispers that those preparing this document seem to have an impression that our community wants lots of growth and development.  That makes us wonder who they've been talking to... because our experience is most people in this Shire DON'T want that.


There's also something else that doesn't sit comfortably, and that is that it seems the State government is paying in part for the Settlement Strategy, and the State government, through the Department of Planning and Community Development, will expect a lot of say in OUR Settlement Strategy. 


Hmm... The same State government which promised protection, then didn't deliver, and now says it can't be done?  The same Department that said take Statement of Planning Policy No. 8 out of our planning scheme, and which has removed the reference to Macedon Ranges' State level significance from State policy in its review of the State Planning Policy Framework?  Yep.


The question is, does anybody trust them to do the right thing by Macedon Ranges?  Excuse us a moment while we just tick the NO box on that one... 


How important is the Settlement Strategy?  Very.  If we get this wrong, all is lost. That's how important this document is, and those who want a suburbanized and industrialized Macedon Ranges know it too. 


We already know that the Department (and State government) are attempting to push suburban growth into Gisborne with those bizarre and ever-increasing growth figures they keep insisting on in the Gisborne ODP - see how they run!!! 


The Settlement Strategy has the ability to push it everywhere.  It's a document that needs strong community ownership, so be prepared to fight - really fight - for a rural Macedon Ranges.