Over the past week there have been numerous announcements about the Residential Zones and their implementation. First off the 7pm ABC News stated that Boroondara and Glen Eira were to be the first to introduce the new zones. Next came 2 Age articles where again Glen Eira was mentioned as being first cab off the rank. Even the Minister’s Media Release this week highlighted the fact that he thought that many councils would introduce the zones within 4 months.

We don’t for a second think that there is nothing to these stories. Such stories don’t just happen. They must have originated from somewhere! You don’t just pluck one or two councils out from 79! What irks us even more is that for the past year not a single statement has come out about the new zones from Glen Eira councillors or administrators – except for the formal submission. Residents have not been informed about a single thing. We do not know:

  • Whether there will be any public consultation – which has already been ongoing in countless other councils
  • Whether the shambles that constitutes Housing Diversity and Minimal Change will remain untouched?
  • What the available height limits will be. Remember nothing is mandatory in Activity Centres.
  • Whether Council will abide by the minimalist ResCode standards or attempt to introduce their own?
  • Or whether this council is content to rely on plans drawn up eons ago with no further local analyses and comprehensive planning – despite the burgeoning population and the growth of dwellings?

What makes us even more suspicious regarding the intent of excluding the public is that under Section 20 of the Planning and Environment Act, Council has the power to simply request the minister to authorise an amendment without formally notifying residents or seeking submissions. Further, Council’s response to 2 public questions on Tuesday night has only added fuel to the suspicion that residents will be left out in the cold and that the new zones are already a fait accompli.

One question specifically asked when council would begin its public consultation process. The answer was incredibly brief – “Council has not yet decided” and typically uninformative. The other question noted the media reports. Council’s response was that they don’t control the media. True, but when the Leader has in the past published negative articles Council was very quick to denounce and deny the articles. No denial was proffered to this question. We do not for one moment believe that nothing has been decided. And, if ‘undecided’ then what does it say about the overall planning capability of this council and getting their act together in a timely fashion? These zone reforms are important. Council has had a year to decide on the appropriate time. It is far more likely that this answer has as much veracity as countless other public statements by council. We firmly believe that:

  • This council will secretly and surreptitiously introduce the new zones
  • There will be no public consultation whatsoever
  • The anomalies and injustices of planning will continue

If we are right, then every single resident in Glen Eira should be outraged. The Minimal Change and Housing Diversity zoning is a failure. It is a myth that 80% of the municipality is protected. Housing Diversity areas have expanded and expanded to now include all major roads and those roads with trams. Activity centre and neighbourhood centre ‘borders’ have also grown – especially if they are anywhere near a railway line. Thus if anything, it is no longer 80/20 but a conservative 70/30. Furthermore, most high density is in these growing areas where we’ve had 8, 10 and 12 storeys approved. It is no longer a single application for dual townhouses. Blocks of land are now seen to quite comfortably accommodate 3-4 storeys and 30 units. And even in the much lauded Minimal Change, if the land is on a corner block, or happens to be a tad larger than the average, or lies a few hundred metres from an Activity Centre, then it’s become the norm for multi-unit development.

Our guesstimate is that as a result of this cramming, perhaps 50% of Glen Eira’s population now resides in these areas. Council of course hasn’t undertaken a ‘review’ of its Housing Strategy since the dark ages and it wouldn’t surprise us at all if they have absolutely no idea of population densities in each suburb. That’s the sort of work that needed to be going on over the past few years and definitely needs to be going on now – BEFORE any arbitrary zoning lines are drawn on the municipal map. If any of these figures are available, then we simply challenge this council to produce them and argue its case.

What is even more discriminatory is that these high density areas are not accorded the basics of social and environmental amenity according to this planning scheme. They lack adequate open space provision; landscaping; onsite car parking. They are also subject to greater site coverage and it is not considered too bad if 25% of dwelling don’t get natural sunlight. That is the legacy of this planning scheme and its creators. And this is what will continue if the zones are simply rubber stamped. In 2002 people did not realise the repercussions of the amendment which established all this (c25). Now it is clear to everyone. Residents must have a say on their future. If not, this council should be dismissed.

Finally, we include the consultation program that Stonnington has set out for the next few months. Its willingness to engage and encourage residents is the total reverse of what happens in Glen Eira on so many fronts.

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