On Tuesday evening Glen Eira City Council basically washed its hands of nearly all responsibility for the introduction of the new residential zones. According to their version of events:

  • They had nothing to do with numerous areas in Glen Eira suddenly changing from Minimal Change to General Residential Zone. It was all the Minister’s fault!
  • In response to numerous public questions over the past few council meetings they had no idea about when and if public consultation would be held – it all depended if there was a ‘discrepancy’ between the old and the new zones. Well there are plenty of ‘discrepancies’ yet public consultation never eventuated!
  • Dates as to when amendments or proposals went into the department and/or minister just don’t exist.
  • They don’t even have a copy of the amendment when the Minister thanked officers for their ‘submission’. Semantics at its best! Council’s ‘submissions’ are surely available!
  • They claim not to know anything about the most relevant bits –ie the schedules. Yet, they were in constant ‘discussion’ and even quote from the upcoming schedules. These constitute the most important part of the amendment since it is councils which are able to determine standards etc.

Every single aspect of this entire saga is besmirched with dissembling, and untruths in our view. The fact that everything has been conducted in secret and without community input is indefensible. All of this goes to the heart of governance. Please note that:

  • Amendment C110 does not rate a mention in the Records of Assembly yet it was obviously ‘discussed’ but hidden under the rubric of ‘residential zones’.
  • Nothing was stated in any media release, much less the plot that was clearly being hatched
  • Where and when was the decision made not to engage the public? Clearly behind closed doors and not in accordance with the Local Government Act that stipulates that council decisions are made on the chamber floor and not in little tete a tetes behind locked doors.

The most damning indictment of this council and its operations comes from VCAT itself.  In a hearing that took place on a Minimal Change Application on June 27th (ie well before the various public questions were put): the member writes

Council is proposing to include the subject site in the Neighbourhood Residential Zone. Although this proposed change does not have any bearing on the decision making regarding the subject proposal, I note that the Neighbourhood Residential Zone allows for two storey high, dual occupancy developments.

(See: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/vic/VCAT/2013/1382.html)

So here we have the ludicrous situation that VCAT is privileged to information that the community is denied! And us poor ratepayers are supposed to swallow the guff that emanates from this administration and its lackey councillors. Council knew, probably a year ago, what it was about to do and all these responses were designed to avoid the truth and hide the facts.

There’s much, much more however. In the carefully crafted spin that accompanies the agenda item and what’s up on Council’s website, we find the following paragraph:

VCAT has generally followed Glen Eiras Housing Diversity and Minimal Change policies. A reading of VCAT judgements over the years shows that VCAT commonly applies the Minimal Change policy, not because Council has a policy that says that higher density development is not appropriate on the subject site but because Council’s Planning Scheme has gone on to identify Housing Diversity Areas where such development is more appropriate.

We’ve done a tally of all objections to VCAT going back nearly 2 years that involved Minimal Change Areas, ignoring those developments that included student housing, or non-residential uses in residential areas. The table below includes the address of the property; the council decision as to whether or not to grant a permit, and the final VCAT decision on the permit.

The facts reveal that NOT ONLY VCAT but Council itself does not follow its own Minimal Change Policy. VCAT did not ‘generally follow’ this policy and it certainly did not ‘commonly apply’ it either.

Of the 33 VCAT decisions, Council agreed to 7 permits. All were then agreed to by VCAT and the original conditions imposed by council were either relaxed or withdrawn completely.

VCAT overturned 11 where council had refused. Hence more than HALF of the VCAT decisions relating to Minimal Change areas went the way of developers – either through council granting permits with conditions (and being watered down by VCAT) or overturning council’s decision OUTRIGHT. Why any of this should change is open to conjecture and will not only be revealed in the details of the schedules, but on the decision making of council planners. Will they continue on in their merry way ignoring many of the ‘standards’ and grant permits when only half of the criteria are met? That remains to be seen. Our view is that a leopard does not change its spots!

Finally, we need to point out that the table below only deals with those applications that end up at VCAT. What decisions are made by delegation are largely unknown – there are no locations given, no minutes, no planning officer reports. None of this ends up in the public domain. The abysmal record of secrecy and lack of transparency is most evident here. With the advent of C110 we do not hold out much hope that things will change given the history of this administration and the failure of councillors to insist on proper governance. When practically all control is handed over via delegations then councillors are not fulfilling their legal duties of oversight and representing the best interests of the community. When councillors accept shonky reports without question, they again are failing to exercise their legal mandates.

Address Council Decision (permit) VCAT decision (permit)
60 Neville Street, Carnegie No YES
10 – 12 Cromwell Street, Caulfield North No No
2A & 2B Huon Grove, Bentleigh East No Yes
41a Godfrey Street, Bentleigh No No
312  Glen Eira Road, Elsternwick No Yes
9 Brian Street, Bentleigh East Yes Yes
28 Griffith Street Caulfield South No No
24 Marara Road, Caulfield South No Yes
16 Miles Street, Bentleigh No No
280 Ormond Road, Ormond No Yes
2 Tovan Akas Avenue, Bentleigh. No No
11 Fallon Street, Caulfield No No
304 Glen Eira  Road, ELSTERNWICK, VIC, No No
3 Osborne Avenue, Bentleigh Yes Yes
7 Irving Avenue, Murrumbeena Yes Yes
5 Yendon Road, Carnegie No Yes
3/18 North Avenue, Bentleigh No No
37a Amelia Street, McKinnon No No
466 Kooyong Road Caulfield South Yes Yes
9 Brian Street, Bentleigh East No No
9 Latham Street, Bentleigh East No No
5 Pell Street, Bentleigh East No Yes
142 Booran Road Glen Huntly No No
688 Inkerman Road, Caulfield North No Yes
2 Mawby Street, Bentleigh East No No
19 McKittrick Street, Bentleigh Yes Yes
No. 5 Service Street, Caufield North YES Yes
6 David Street, St Kilda East No Yes
6 David Street, St Kilda East No No
2 Osborne Avenue, Bentleigh No Yes
113 Bambra Road
No Yes
29-31 Hawson Avenue, Glen Huntly No No
25 Tambet Street
Yes Yes