This is a very long post, so apologies. The length is due to the gravity of the issues – namely, the lack of transparency and consistency in anything council does or states. Even worse, is the fact that councillors seem incapable/unwilling to even comment, much less challenge the obvious spin and distortions that are emblematic of council’s approach to public questions on strategic planning.

At Tuesday night’s council meeting several public questions focused on the Housing Strategy consultation and the recently adopted Carnegie Structure Plan. Please consider the following carefully.

Carnegie Structure Plan

When the structure plan came up for decision at the 9th August council meeting, both Zyngier and Penicuik in particular commented that they had been concerned about the overshadowing potential with the proposed increased heights in Koornang Road. However, they had seen the relevant documents and were satisfied that this would not be a ‘problem’. Pennicuik even stated that after talking with officers she was ‘assured’ that there would be ‘enough sun’ in winter for Koornang Road. As with Pennicuik, Zyngier also confirmed that he had ‘seen the simulation’ for the shadow diagrams. Zmood brought up the point about the Built Form Frameworks. Neither of these vital documents were available to the public. Hence the following public question –

Question:  Several comments at the last council meeting in relation to the Carnegie structure plan, were that the overshadowing and built form frameworks reports would be made available to the public. It is nearly three weeks later, and the documents are yet to appear on council’s website. Why and when will these important reports be published?

Response: They haven’t been put on the website because the amendment is yet to be authorised by the Minister for Planning. Once Ministerial authorisation is received, the full suite of reports and information will be made available as part of the formal amendment exhibition.


The implication of the above response is that background documentation can only be available once the amendment has been authorised for public advertising. There is nothing in any legislation that we can find which supports this interpretation.  Councils can decide what they wish to put into the public domain!

Even here, Glen Eira is staggeringly inconsistent. For example: the recently adopted Glen Huntly structure plan DID INCLUDE shadow diagrams – PRIOR TO MINISTERIAL APPROVAL! Like Carnegie, Glen Huntly is also a major activity centre. So, the question must be asked, why the far more fulsome publication of documents in one instance and the with-holding of important documents in another? Admittedly, what was published for Glen Huntly was not the entire report, and the diagrams were practically impossible to decipher (deliberate?) – but at least they were public and before any vote was taken! Here are some screen dumps illustrating this:

The result of all this (apart from lack of consistency and transparency) is that when Carnegie is finally advertised, residents will undoubtedly have to plough through hundreds upon hundreds of pages, analyse them, write their submissions, and then be prepared to front up again at a planning panel which invariably supports council in their recommendations.

When such vital issues are up for decision, then why isn’t the public privy to the full background documents which are fundamental to such decision making? Is it that council fears that if residents could see the ‘simulations’ prior to the decision, then some might actually proffer their views as to the accuracy and efficacy of the reports – and hence potentially place some doubt in councillors’ minds? Are we still in the universe of residents should be kept in the dark and only allowed a say once decisions are made?

Housing Strategy Consultation

Over the past 18 months or so, community consultation reports on various important issues have had one common characteristic – summaries instead of full disclosure of all comments, emails, questions asked and answered.  Even with the appalling and biased survey questions, residents have been denied access to the complete range of responses. The result is that when these feedback reports are presented to councillors they are forced to rely on the summaries alone, rather than having the opportunity to read the entire gamut of responses. In other words, their decision making is compromised since it is not based on complete and unedited information.

The Housing Strategy consultation and its feedback has been tainted by these processes – ie no mention of the feedback from the town hall forum; no mention of the questions residents asked and the responses they got in the face-to-face sessions with officers; no mention of how any of this fits in with the IAPP2 principles of ‘consult’ and ‘involve’. The following public question sought to address such issues –

Question:  At the last Council meeting, a resident stated that residents’ concerns at the Town Hall meeting on May 5th were verging on white-hot anger and that these concerns have not been clearly articulated or addressed in Council’s Draft Housing Strategy consultation report. This is a common theme around the inadequacy of the Draft Housing Strategy consultation and as examples, 1) Residents were on mute at the Webinar and could only ask written questions. 2) Despite over 100 attendees, the Town Hall meeting was used by Council as a question and answer session only. 3) Recent face to face meetings were conducted after the completion of consultation. Why didn’t Council use the Town Hall meeting, the webinar and the recent face to face meetings to genuinely listen to the community concern raised and document key findings as part of the Draft Housing Strategy consultation?

Response: Council is yet to decide on the final form of the Housing Strategy. Consultation on the strategy ran for over 11 weeks and there were a variety of methods used to both inform, and gather feedback and input from, the community.

All feedback received will be taken into consideration when a decision is made later this year.


Readers will note that the question asking for complete ‘documentation’ on the consultation was not answered. It was simply ignored with the perennial vague ‘promise’ of being ‘taken into consideration’.

The Housing Strategy itself is replete with vague promises and generalisations, especially about improving landscaping, and the importance of tree retention, the urban forest strategy, etc. Yet, there is nothing within the strategy, or the accompanying officer reports, that tell residents how this will be achieved. Numerous questions on the proposed removal of the mandatory garden requirement in areas zoned GRZ, and how this will achieve better landscaping outcomes remains unanswered. Council’s consistent response has been that all of this will be revealed down the track with future amendments! In the meantime councillors are faced with the dilemma of endorsing a housing strategy that lacks detail!

Thankfully, not all councils operate in the same manner that Glen Eira does. Bayside for example has recently completed its community consultation on the preferred character statements for areas zoned GRZ. The questions asked on this alone put Glen Eira to shame! But more significantly, they also produced the intended zone schedules that could be used to accompany the schedule changes. In other words, they did not have to wait for ministerial approval in order to advertise. They allowed residents to see their full proposals well before it got to that stage and to proffer their views on the proposals. In Glen Eira it’s all kept secret!

Here are some examples of the schedule changes as published by Bayside in its agenda.


The onus is clearly on councillors to put a halt on an administration that repeatedly fails to inform its residents; that repeatedly fails to answer (rather than respond) to public questions; that repeatedly seeks endorsement for major policies and strategic planning documents without providing the necessary information to residents or councillors that ensures informed decision making.

The onus is also on councillors to ensure that processes for every single operation is consistent – ie Glen Huntly events compared to what has happened with Carnegie! Finally, sitting there like stoned mullets in absolute silence does not get the job done. In fact, silence signifies ‘consent’.