The old saying of Lies, Damned Lies & Statistics depicts perfectly the spin department of Glen Eira. Definitions are non-existent and methodologies as to how various figures are derived remains unexplained. The spin doctors simply publish a figure with some neat ambiguous statement and these are purported to represent the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Far from it.

Several recent examples come from a Media Release and a sentence from last week’s Caulfield Leader (and repeated in a story this week)– “the tribunal (ie VCAT) approved 489 dwellings the council initially refused”(Caulfield Leader – page 9). The Media Release stated – “During the 2014-15 financial year, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) approved 489 dwellings that Glen Eira City Council had refused” (July 2015). What these quotes and figures don’t reveal is:

  • How many of these purported 489 dwellings were the result of council no longer opposing a permit due to the developer submitting an amended application?
  • How many of these cases didn’t make it to a full hearing but were ‘mediated’ or were part of a ‘directions hearing’ at which council caved in?
  • Thus, is the figure of 489 based simply on ‘initial’ rejection or rejections that stood firm and were taken to VCAT for a full hearing and subsequent decision?

Much more significant, is the question of WHY VCAT granted permits for any of these supposedly refused applications? Over the past few months we have featured several VCAT decisions where the members have highlighted a litany of council stuff-ups and lack of adequate representation at the hearings. Time and again the public record of the decision shows that Council reps show up and are either ill-prepared, often provide spurious arguments, or are basically hamstrung by the Planning Scheme itself. We are in no way suggesting that VCAT is without fault and that the legislation governing this body is adequate. What we are alleging is that Council should start fixing its own house of horrors instead of continually and persistently resorting to the blame game where VCAT is portrayed as the sole villain.

To justify our claims, we’ve taken the time to go through every single published VCAT decision for the past financial year. Council claims 489 dwellings were approved. Our total is 288! (see below). Of these decisions however, we urge residents to carefully consider the comments made by the members and to note:

  • Conditions set by council that are contradictory or simply nonsensical
  • The lack of protection afforded by the planning scheme itself
  • Policies that expired in 2007 and have never been updated
  • And far too often, the lack of competence by council itself

All of this however begs the essential question. If council is finding that its claims are repeatedly knocked back by VCAT, then why, oh why, has there not been any attempt to ‘fix up’ the gaping holes in the planning scheme? Why, oh why, will there not be a planning scheme review for 6 or 7 years? And why oh why do our councillors continue to stand idly by and accept this situation?

Here’s the evidence. Hearing dates are provided together with address, proposal, and members’ comments. For ease of reading, we’ve uploaded a pdf version HERE  as well as the png images below –

35 Murray Road_Page_135 Murray Road_Page_235 Murray Road_Page_3