Readers could be quite charitable and claim that what comes out of Magee’s mouth is the result of ignorance. He might even believe what he says! At the other end of the spectrum we face the conundrum of how could a councillor who has been in this position for 12 years straight get it so wrong, so often, on basic facts that he played a role in adopting/creating? Or are his statements nothing more than spin, obfuscation, and deliberate misrepresentation(s) of the truth?

We’ve gone through Magee’s comments at the recent Tucker Ward ‘Meet the Candidates Forum’ and present them below with our commentary on what he has said. Here is his allotted first statement. All candidates were given an initial 3 minutes to address residents.


POINT ONE: Magee claims that the ‘Victorian Planning Scheme’ and council’s planning scheme are ‘two entirely different documents’. No they are not! There is only one, and one only, planning scheme. This consists of the Victorian Planning Provisions, but there is also scope for councils to introduce their own policies, schedules, zonings, etc. In fact, over 25% of all planning schemes leave plenty of scope for individual councils to incorporate their vision.

POINT TWO: We are told that the ‘Glen Eira Planning Scheme’ is ‘our scheme’, ‘the one that the community put together’. This logic then goes on to claim that when people oppose an application, then ‘they don’t approve what the rest of us have said we want’. If only this were true and that the Planning Scheme does in fact reflect what residents want! Consider this:

  • The vast majority of resident responses to the structure plans were vehemently opposed to what council decided upon. The majority did not want 12 storeys in Carnegie and Elsternwick. Nor did they want more sites rezoned for higher density development.
  • Planning Schemes are supposed to be reviewed on a regular basis. This council applied for extension after extension to avoid reviewing the scheme. It was only when Wynne refused council another 2 year extension that the 2016 review was undertaken. Thus from 2010 to 2016 there was no community input. Furthermore, the 2010 ‘review’ basically featured formal submissions, and 3 poorly attended ‘information sessions’.
  • What has often been trotted out by council is that the community asked for height limits in 2010 and these were granted in 2013. Yet the 2010 planning scheme review does not contain any mention of height limits!
  • Significantly, Magee only refers to height in his reading of what might constitute ‘inappropriate development’. No mention is made of the countless other factors that council has failed to implement such as: decent permeability standards, tree protection, site coverage; overshadowing. We are still waiting for any Water Sensitive Urban Design policy or an Environmental Sustainability Design to make it into the planning scheme – 5 years after residents clamoured for this!

POINT THREE: Once again Magee trots out the usual scapegoat – VCAT. The claim that in 2016/7 there were 500 apartments ‘that wouldn’t have been built’ totally ignores the fact that VCAT’s  role is to apply council’s current planning scheme. If the scheme is so deficient, and so full of loopholes that favour developers, then why has Magee sat on his hands for 12 years and accepted this deficiency? Nor are VCAT’s decisions to overturn council refusals anything new. The 2010 Community Plan also lamented the fact that 500 dwellings (since 1999) had been granted a permit despite council’s refusal. This ‘problem’ was therefore not new and certainly known by all concerned. All that has changed is the rate of development and this council’s failure to adequately plug all the planning scheme loopholes – or at best, attempt to plug them.

POINT FOUR: Whom to believe? Magee clearly states that a ‘structure plan’ is coming for East Bentleigh. Yet taking the responses given to numerous public questions and from comments made by officers, all that has been ‘promised’ is Urban Design Guidelines. The term ‘structure plan’ has carefully been avoided in commitments made for East Bentleigh, Caulfield South and Caulfield North! We remind readers that these are usually nothing more than ‘guidelines’ and generally feature as ‘reference documents’ in Planning Schemes. Their ability to ‘control’ planning is therefore very limited.

POINT FIVE: According to Magee only 150 people in the municipality keep telling them what is wrong and 150,000 people think that things are ‘right’. If Magee honestly believes this, then we are truly in trouble!

Finally, let’s tackle the real question of how much power councils do have. It is true that any planning scheme amendment is eventually signed off by the Minister. This council has repeatedly stated that Wynne is to blame for changes to the proposed structure plan amendment for Bentleigh & Carnegie in particular. Our questions are:

  • How hard did council fight? What evidence did they present? Or did they simply cave in without a whimper? Is this why grants are freely flowing to Glen Eira?
  • Why can other councils achieve much better outcomes than Glen Eira? For example: mandatory height limits in neighbourhood centres (Stonnington); Nepean Highway height controls of 5 storey discretionary whilst Glen Eira wants at least 12 storeys on the other side of the highway (Bayside)?; mandatory 3 storey height limits in 28 out of 31 activity centres in Boroondara? The list goes on and on. So why oh why can other councils achieve what Glen Eira has spectacularly failed to achieve for its residents?

Magee has been part of the problem for 12 years. He can’t be part of the ‘solution’!