GE Governance


Democracy in Glen Eira is moribund. Decisions are made by this administration prior to any so called ‘community consultation’. Even councillors are denied access to all relevant data either in time for the thousands of pages to be digested properly, or with-held completely. Ultimately, all this means is that decision making and community consultation in Glen Eira is a joke!

Whether it is McKenzie or Torres, the decision to NOT PUBLISH all community responses in full on the Housing Strategy is the most recent case in point. This has now expanded to include contentious projects detailed in the current agenda. We will itemise our concerns with these two projects.

Alma Village Pop-up Park

We have to query the value of any consultation (ignoring of course the effect of the various sub-standard questions asked) when residents who decide to respond are not provided with enough information to come to some reasonable conclusions as to the proposed project. For example, in the above ‘consultation’, there are plenty of drawbacks, plus residents have never been informed as to:

  • The final estimated cost of the project
  • The number of residential/road car park spots to be lost
  • Traffic analysis dates from 2018 and is therefore way out of date
  • Not even a consultation ‘summary’ report included – it is incorporated into the officer’s report

Interestingly, this officer’s report does include the following:

Page 556 of the agenda states:All feedback received is attached.

Page 561 states: All feedback received is included as an attachment with names and identifiers removed.
One letter from a local business and property owner is included with all details.

None of these attachments are included in the agenda! Our commiserations to the officer since it is obvious that the decision to with-hold the full feedback was done following the writing of this report! Decisions on the run no doubt as a result of community criticism.

The report itself recommends that council proceed with the pop-up park, despite the fact that we are told that the feedback results were ‘split evenly’ between those who supported the idea and those opposed. When nearly half of respondents are opposed, then surely some re-thinking is necessary? But no! The project is still pushed onwards!

Circular Economy Feedback

For this ‘consultation’ we do get a ‘summary consultation’ report. Sadly, there has also been some late editing/censorship for this item. In the contents page we are told that the actual survey questions for both the ‘community members’ and for ‘businesses’ are included as Appendix A and Appendix B. THEY ARE NOT!

As per normal, what we do get is a ‘summary of themes’ rather than a full insight into what people said or wrote, plus some demographic info.

COMMENT(S)

Recent decisions to with-hold information and commentary from residents is deliberate and has nothing to do with ‘transparency’ and privacy’. If identifying information could be removed in countless previous consultations and all feedback published, then it should also apply to the most important consultations such as the Housing Strategy and the structure plans. Council has therefore entered the new realm of censorship in the hope that residents will accept the spin, and bullshit that typifies council’s reporting in these matters.

We have had of late survey after survey, where the questions fail to address the central issues and proposals of the item. Most are Dorothy Dixers, designed to elicit the response required. They do NOT seek to garner what the community really thinks or wants. They are prepared in order to substantiate the decision that this administration has already made. We do not even know if councillors have any say in the creation of these questions. The Community Engagement Committee certainly does not – when in fact they should be a vital component of the process.

But even more alarming is council’s failure to adhere to the IAPP2 scenarios of engagement and to inform residents of the ‘influence’ their input can and will have. All consultations in Glen Eira do not even come close to the ‘involve’ or ‘collaborate’ criteria. Most are simply ‘inform’ and with ‘consult’. It remains a top-down approach. Here are the selected options, now pick one! The money splurged on these bogus consultations is simply mind-boggling. But naturally, we will never be told how much!

By way of contrast, we ask readers to have a long, hard look at what Bayside is currently doing on one of its consultations, and which they have done for all of their important consultations. That is letting residents know well in advance the extent of ‘influence’ they can have. Various methodologies are then implemented to ensure these criterion are met. Not so in Glen Eira. All residents are told is that the feedback will be ‘considered’.

Here is the Bayside approach:

See: https://yoursay.bayside.vic.gov.au/MelroseStreet/community-engagement-overview

Finally a recommendation to readers:

  • If you are providing any feedback to council directly, then we believe it is imperative that you also cc your comments to all councillors. This can be easily accomplished via this email: councillors@gleneira.vic.gov.au. Our suggestion is based on our real doubt that councillors are informed fully as to what residents say/want. Communicating directly with them will ensure that the ‘gate-keeping’ of this administration is reduced.
  • Public questions should also be sent to councillors. We again doubt that councillors have much time to digest the public questions and certainly not too much time to provide responses in the record of assembly meetings held just prior to entering the chamber.  

Here are the closing remarks by Athanasopolous on the Caulfield Station Structure Plan which was voted through on the casting vote of Magee.

One must seriously doubt whether Athanasopolous has ever read the Glen Eira Planning Scheme, or for that matter, given close consideration to officer reports. In his closing remarks presented above, there was the statement that council does not ‘seriously consider’ whether something is ‘excellent’, ‘good’ or bad. That he says ‘is not a consideration for us’.  Nothing could be further from the truth! If the planning scheme had indeed been read then he would have found the following clauses –

To promote design excellence which supports the ongoing significance of heritage places.

The replacement building displays design excellence

Demonstrates architectural design excellence. – Carnegie/Elsternwick/Bentleigh DDOs

Planning should promote excellence in the built environment ….

Avoid visually intrusive design which confronts the established architecture of the centre and
dominates the surroundings

Ensure the highest possible standards of built form and architecture, through contextually
appropriate design that adheres to the policy statements contained in this policy and principles
of economic, cultural and environmental sustainability and universal design

Whether the design is innovative and of a high architectural standard

To top this all off, these statements from the officer’s report of 1st September 2020 (pages 43 and 50) on the 7 Selwyn Street, Elsternwick application, unequivocally embrace the concept of ‘design excellence’. We quote:

Subject to the recommendations of Council’s Urban Designer regarding some of the materiality, it is considered that the proposal displays architectural design excellence and will be a significant architectural contribution to Elsternwick.

The design of the building achieves design excellence and will be a landmark building within the municipality

Whilst it is true that no clear ‘definition’ applies in Glen Eira, at least some other councils have taken major steps to ensure that ‘design excellence’ features prominently in their assessment of high rise dwellings. Here is what Moreland has done.

Other incredible statements relate to the simple black and white dichotomy that everyone should either accept or reject the notion of 1300 apartments. The problem with this is what is not stated. The Caulfield Station area will NOT simply include 1300 apartments. Combined with Caulfield Village the total could be in the realm of 4,400 as stated in the Charter, Kramer Keck analysis.

Even if we accept this 1300 number (remembering that heights will be discretionary and hence could be higher than proposed, thereby facilitating more apartments) his statements are far too simplistic. Allowing 1300 apartments might be fine IF –

  • There was adequate open space provided
  • Overshadowing was negligible and included the winter solstice
  • Buildings were of the highest 7+ efficiency/sustainability
  • Heritage was protected for individual sites and for surrounding precincts
  • Car parking was adequate
  • Landscaping did not include ‘potted’ trees
  • Wind tunnels were avoided
  • Housing diversity – ie 1, 2 and 3 bedroom apartments. The Charter Kramer report states that the overwhelming majority will be 1 and 2 bedroom places.

There are plenty more points that could be added to the above. Not even mentioning some of these vital components is Athanasopolous’ way of ignoring all facets of decent planning and presenting an argument that is deliberately one sided.

Athanasopolous goes on to claim that no decision on third party objection rights has been made. That all council is saying at this point is that they will ‘consider’ the potential for this. Really? If third party objection rights are viewed as important, then surely it would already have been in the draft? Leaving everything in abeyance until the fine print of the amendment is revealed does not do residents any favours. All it does is skew the odds in council’s and the MRCs favour since going to a planning panel has repeatedly shown how these panels basically support council and developers.

Finally, if the objective is to ‘achieve the best possible outcome for our community’, then there is absolutely no reason why this can’t be achieved NOW in the draft plans and well before things are set in concrete via the amendment. We repeat what we have stated in the past –

Yes this is a ‘framework’ plan, but once it is agreed that 20 and 12 storeys (discretionary) set the parameters, then any ‘controls’ that are introduced later, will not be geared to 7 storeys, or even 9 storeys. They will ‘cement’ what is proposed in the draft. The game is already up at this stage .

We maintain that the role of a councillor is to ensure that his vote is based on sound ‘evidence’. That means looking objectively at all facets of proposals – the positive and the negative – and then coming to a decision. Athanasopolous fails to do this repeatedly. His approach is to reduce everything to the simplest black and white dichotomies, to ignore even mentioning most planning components if they are ‘inconvenient’ and to railroad through decision after decision that facilitates what most residents would see as definitely ‘inappropriate development’.   

It has become a council tradition that public questions are not ‘answered’. Instead we get ‘responses’ that basically ignore the question and substitute a myriad of weasel words, spin, and deliberate obfuscation. In short, we conclude that the outcome is deliberately evasive and potentially dishonest.

We say dishonest because at last council meeting several councillors who voted against the Caulfield Station Structure Plan basically contradicted the responses given in a public question – thereby revealing what was the true state of affairs.

Here is the question and the response. We have bolded the important sections.

Item 8.2 of the agenda is recommending councillor endorsement of the draft Caulfield Station Structure Plan. Given that this precinct will potentially house up to 8000+ individuals and contain the tallest building forms, the decision carries great import for the municipality. Asking councillors to therefore endorse a plan that will set the aspirational vision for the future, should be based on clear, hard ‘evidence’. At any stage throughout this long process, were councillors provided with hard copy research and documentation as to the following – overshadowing data; set back requirements; traffic analysis; the complete survey responses? If so, what is/are the precise date(s) that councillors were given access to each of these nominated items? If not, and if councillors have as yet not been provided with all of the above, then I respectfully submit that they are in no position to complete what should be ‘informed decision making’!

Response: The draft Caulfield Structure Plan, which was presented at the 22 February 2022 Ordinary Council Meeting, was accompanied by a Housing and Economic Analysis prepared by consultants Charter Keck Cramer.

In response to your specific questions:

  •  Councillors were provided with overshadowing data prior to the 20 September 2022 Council Meeting.
  •  Building heights and setback requirements and guidelines have formed a significant component of the structure plan. This work and other content of the structure plan were the subject of several Councillor briefings ahead of the draft structure plan being endorsed for consultation.
  • • The draft and final Caulfield Structure Plan have been informed by traffic assessments prepared by consultants at the request of both the Victorian Planning Authority and Council. Further review has been conducted by Council’s strategic transport and traffic engineering officers. The data shows that the activity centre road network has capacity for the extent of growth envisaged. Traffic analysis and traffic management is an ongoing process and will continue to be reviewed as the structure plan is implemented.
  • • Councillors have been provided with the summary of consultation responses. Copies of all survey responses and all written submissions received during consultation were issued on September 13.

COMMENT

The most important aspect of this response comes in the first paragraph. We are told that councillors were provided access to the shadow diagrams PRIOR to the council meeting. NO DATE IS PROVIDED!!!! Zyngier addressed this when he stated that councillors were given access ‘last weekend’. We interpret this to mean September 17th – 3 days before the council meeting and over the weekend. We also believe that several Jewish councillors (and perhaps others) do not engage in council business over the Sabbath, or a weekend.

The question asked for SPECIFIC DATES to be provided. The only date mentioned in the response is September 13 for consultation feedback. It however refers to only ‘survey responses’ and ‘written submissions’ as being provided ‘in full’. It does not include emails sent to councillors, questions asked at the forums (and the responses provided at the time). One could also query whether September 13th is even enough time for councillors to fully digest the feedback.

Secondly, ‘building heights and setback requirements’ were ‘subjects’ presented at councillor briefings BUT ONLY for the ‘structure plan being endorsed for consultation’. That occurred late last year before February council meeting with the recommendation to go out for consultation. This is completely distinct from the current situation which sought endorsement. We also do not know whether these councillor briefings included hard copy documentation or simply ‘summaries’ provided by officers! We remind readers that the original draft plan had 25 storeys and 12 storeys for the Kambrook Road area. So what is the ‘evidence’ for the changes and the evidence that supported the first iteration?

If council had been working on the structure plan for months and months as claimed, then there is absolutely no excuse for the failure to provide councillors with ALL documentation well before the 20th September. The question and its conclusion that ‘informed decision making’ becomes impossible is reasonable and accurate. As we’ve stated several times, in Glen Eira residents and councillors are viewed as annoying impediments to the administration’s rule and power. But when it descends into evasiveness and deliberately misleading responses, then we are in deep trouble.

By way of contrast, the following screen dump, shows how far this council has come in implementing what is basically a ‘censorship’ program. Five years ago council could release far more data. Not so today.

Adding further insult to injury, Cr Zmood asked whether the shadow diagrams could be published on council’s website. Slavin responded that they would be made public. When pressed for when this would occur, the answer was ‘this week’. Two points on this:

  • At the time of writing (Monday morning) we have not been able to locate the file on council’s website. Surely all it takes is the press of the computer button to upload the document? Or is this administration hoping that residents and councillors forget all about this ‘promise’?
  • A recent public question queried why certain documents were not made public in regard to the Carnegie Structure Plan. The response was that they would be made public ONLY after they had received authorisation from the Minister to advertise the amendment. This of course raises the question as to why one set of background documents are to be with-held in the case of Carnegie, and why a similar document can be made public for the Caulfield Station plan. Both are structure plans; both require ministerial approval; both will eventuate in amendments. Council cannot pick and choose. And it should not take pressure from residents and councillors to ensure that everything this council does is completely transparent and accountable.

Finally, we urge all readers to carefully listen to what councillors had to say about the Caulfield structure plan. It reveals major dissatisfaction and concern as to what is being allowed. And more importantly, it raises fundamental questions as to how this administration operates and its timely and relevant release of information to its decision makers – ie councillors!

The Zyngier comments –

The Esakoff comments –

The Pennicuik comments –

The Zmood comments –

As for the Athanasopolous and Magee comments, we will comment on them in the next few days.

Last night’s council meeting made it abundantly clear how divided this council really is. The Caulfield Station Structure Plan was decided on the casting vote of Magee. Cade was on leave so the vote to adopt the structure plan was 4 to 4. Magee as chairperson/Mayor then used his second vote to pass the structure plan.

The voting was:

FOR – Magee, Athanasopolous, Parasol, Zhang

AGAINST – Esakoff, Zyngier, Szmood, Pennicuik.

What residents must realise is that the continued propaganda of ‘only the first step’ in the process and that the (much) later introduced ‘planning controls’ will ensure great outcomes, is pure bunkum! Once the parameters are set, as this structure plan does, then the eventual planning controls MUST relate to these parameters. For example: the plan sets the height of a discretionary 20 storeys for one site and a heap of 12 storeys discretionary elsewhere. The future planning controls will NOT then attempt to reduce such heights. They will simply tinker with the edges and probably provide only ‘guidelines’ for important things such as setbacks, etc. Nor does the plan provide any firm commitment as to objector rights, overshadowing just in case the discretionary heights are suddenly not 20 storeys but 25 storeys, etc.

This process has happened again and again in Glen Eira. It is a sham, that ties the hands of residents and councillors. Further, the end result will only be formal submissions to a draft amendment that means going to a panel. In our time of observing this council only once has a panel sided with residents in recommending against council.

Over the past few years we have seen this administration do everything literally arse-backwards. This cannot be anything but deliberate we believe in the attempt to set the groundwork that furthers and facilitates the council agenda of more and more growth – regardless of whether or not such growth is needed. We now have:

  • Amendment C220 with its framework plan designating ‘incremental change areas’ BEFORE a housing strategy is completed.
  • We have structure plans BEFORE the housing strategy
  • We have the removal of residential areas from the latest DDO’s so that these have now reverted back to their original zoning of 4 storeys instead of the prescribed 3 storey mandatory that the previous Amendment C157 created.
  • We have community consultation that is anything but and the refusal to publish all feedback
  • We have the sidelining of councillors and the community consultation committee in overseeing the creation of survey questions
  • We now have councillors asked to make major decisions prior to the full evidence being provided to them – or certainly provided in time so that careful assessment, discussion, and decision making can occur.
  • We have consistent rubbish (and that is the only way to describe) the nonsense that flows from the mouths of Athanasopolous and Magee. The tragedy is that last night 2 councillors did not utter a word to explain why they voted as they did – Zhang and Parasol! Surely the community deserves to know the rationale behind their votes?

Our advice to councillors is simple. If you have major concerns with various planning proposals, then voting in favour of the proposal does not do the community a favour. All concerns need to be addressed and remedied prior to being voted in. If the plans are so full of holes, then they should be sent back to the drawing board and redone!

We will comment fully on some of the arguments presented in our next post(s).

 We would also like to commend Esakoff, Zyngier, Zmood and Pennicuik for their efforts last night. It is obvious that they have spent much time thinking about the issue. Whether the same can be said for the other councillors is questionable. They appear to be merely following whatever the State Government and other vested interests want! The victim is undoubtedly the community, and all notions of democratic and sound governance. The benefactors remain developers!

Over the past few weeks we’ve received quite a few emails from unhappy residents. We believe that their views are important and that they raise major concerns with what has been obvious in this municipality for a long time now – that is the apparent failure of QUALITY CONTROL and DECISION MAKING.

When residents pay for over 1400 staff, then they have every right to ask the following:

  • How well and often are contractors monitored for the quality of their work? Who signs off on the final job as being completed properly? Is this individual fully qualified to do so?
  • Who pays for any ‘corrections’?
  • Why do the same contractors who have performed below par keep winning tenders?
  • Why has every major project undertaken by this council resulted in either court cases, delays, and budget blowouts?
  • Does the left hand really know what the right hand is doing in Glen Eira?
  • How often does spin and false claims as to ‘consultation’ results feature in Glen Eira?

Addressing some of these questions, we publish two of the emails we’ve recently received. We have removed all names from the emails.

CASE #1

Dear Glen Eira Debates, 

I wanted to alert Glen Eira community to the very misleading article in the latest Glen Eira news. 

I also emailed the mail@gleneira.vic.gov.au and await a response.

I was appalled to see how the article on page 15 of Glen Eira news September 2022 Titled ‘Growing the urban forest in our streets’ completely misrepresented the reality of what happened in our street. 

Many residents were against the removal of the large native trees that had lined Salisbury street for well over 30 years (that is when we moved in and most of them were already matured trees). 

We were told all the trees had to go as some were too wide for a pusher or wheelchair to fit on the footpath. We were assured that native gum trees would be planted to keep in the street character and still provide food and habitat for the native wildlife abundant in the street. 

Due to very poor coordination of the planting, the new native gum trees were planted in January 2019 during one of the hottest day on record that month and then not watered regularly. 
As a result, several died and instead of replacing only the dead ones, we were informed that all will be removed and replaced by Crepe Myrtle trees. As a reply to our complaints, we were told that it had already been decided at a meeting of the council team who wanted ‘an avenue like feel’ so all trees had to be the same. Absolutely ridiculous for our small street that is an extension of Caulfield park where trees are of all sorts and where we had lost all the diverse native trees that flowered at different time of the years to feed wildlife throughout the year. 

The Crepe Myrtle trees look pretty for a few of weeks when in bloom, but are bare for 4 months per year and will never provide the shade, habitat and food that the old mature native trees provided. 

Our front gardens are now so much hotter that we have to water when I rarely did it before with the shade from the peppermint gum on the footpath. The few remaining properties with a garden have since then also been inundated by possums that do not have any more native trees to feed and live in anymore. Since removal of the native street trees in 2019, the possums have been eating my camellias and leaves of citrus trees which they never did before. 

So you can understand how upset we have been to see this disappointing project depicted as a consultation project with ‘residents who informed the design and planting’ and  that ‘will double the tree canopy in Salisbury Street’.
Furthermore, the new permeable paving around the trees is very slippery when it rains. I fell when rushing to my car and slipping on it. We now know not to step on it when it rains. 

I would like to see a retraction or correction of the article but doubt that will happen. 

Any suggestion?

Thank you very much, 

CASE #2

Greetings Councillors,

Below is an email I sent to Town Hall and Mayor McGee.As usual I got ZERO RESPONSE.

Maybe some of you I hear are more interested to know why Capital Work and routine maintenance are so poor in recent times, as shown by examples below. It starts with good long term competent staff being moved on and replaced by “friends” without key selection criteria or skills to do the job.Why did XXXXX employe a previous acquaintance from his previous Council Mornington Shire as Capital Works Manager when XXXXX is skilled in sustainability not capital work delivery. His prior appointment was also a Mornington acquaintance XXXXX in a senior role.

Why was Works Manager XXXXX moved on when depot functioned brilliantly and is now disfunctional with poor morale.Why was XXXXX highly experienced financial director moved on and replaced with someone who does not have the experience to spend a multi million dollar budget.

But back to recent work?

Who is paying for this remedial work at East Village as Town Hall won’t answer. XXXX removed Council Supervisor XXXX from the site after he refused to sign off on shoddy work. He even toured site with XXXX and agreed work QUALITY was terrible. So why now multiple contractors later VicRoads inspector has ordered new kerbs to be Jack hammered out by excavator and replaced. 

IS RATE PAYERS MONEY BEING USED TO PAY FOR THIS A SECOND TIME GIVEN CONTRACTORS HAVE LONG MOVED ON??

Can someone ask this question in a meeting as Mayor and CEO refuse to deal with me in any form…….

This once great financially responsible council is falling apart, has no standards , and falling further in debt under current leadership and residents ratepayers and general public are appalled by current standards of both maintenance and new work

Kind Regards

Exif_JPEG_420

The current agenda features the ‘final’ (Council’s wording) Caulfield Station Structure Plan. If residents were hoping for some major changes they should be mightily disappointed. Adding to the disappointment are the usual characteristics of council’s reporting procedures – ie

  • A befuddled ‘summary’ of the community consultation and no publication of all responses
  • No detailed strategic justification for any of the minor changes included. For example: why in the first version was it thought that 25 storeys was okay and now it has been reduced to 20 storeys (all discretionary – but this is never stated clearly!) What is the rationale supporting such changes? Where is the ‘evidence’ for the first version and now the second?
  • All ‘planning controls’ are consigned to the never-never land of sometime in the future.
  •  No mention per se of parking; traffic; social/affordable housing; quantifying all open space, etc. etc. etc.
  • No clear indication of objector rights – language is typically vague – ‘could’, ‘may’ etc.
  • Relying on 8.3% open space levy. Why? If Virginia Estate claims to have 10% levy and far less potential dwellings (3000), then why should the MRC only be expected to fork out 8.3% when the potential number of dwellings here will be at least an additional 2,500+ on top of the 2000+ for Caulfield Village?
  • Given that the need for ‘housing diversity’ is the cornerstone of the justification for the countless proposed zoning changes in the draft Housing Strategy, then why is council content with allowing high rise towers that will predominantly consist of single and two bedroom apartments. This has already been acknowledged in the published Charter et al document from the first version.
  • No rationale provided to support the creation of 8 storeys in a Heritage Zone along Derby Road

Below we feature some direct quotes from the officer’s report. Please note carefully the spin, the deliberate omission of detail, plus the lack of all strategic justification. Yet councillors are expected to vote this in next Tuesday. What this amounts to is voting for something that cannot in any shape or form constitute ‘informed decision making’!!!!!!!!!

The Structure Plan provides direction for the Caulfield MAC to accommodate significant population growth due to its proximity to Caulfield Station (Metro rail improvements) Monash University, Caulfield Racecourse Reserve and a range of shops and services. In the context of Glen Eira, the Caulfield Activity Centre is positioned to accommodate some of the “heavy lifting” with regards to population growth across the municipality.

COMMENT: So if we combine East Village (3000 dwellings) and Caulfield Station (another additional 2,500+) that’s at least 5,500 of the 12,500 ‘required’ by 2036. With all this ‘heavy lifting’ why do we therefore need a Housing Strategy that proposes zoning and heights that will facilitate far more than 7000 over the next 25 years?

Drafting of planning controls will consider situations where notice and review rights in the ACZ schedule could be switched on. This may include specific sites or applications which exceed proposed development guidelines and where the community should have an opportunity to comment, including the more sensitive residential interface precincts of Kambrook, Booran and Grange. This detail will be further explored and refined in the next stage, during the drafting of the planning controls. Importantly, adoption of the Structure Plan as recommended in this report does not pre-empt any future Council resolution on draft planning controls.

COMMENT: Activity Centre Zones as written in the Victorian Planning Provisions, do not have objection rights. This can be changed by Council and several councils have already done this. In Glen Eira, residents and councillors have to rely on ‘could’ and ‘may’ instead of any firm commitment as to what council hopes to achieve – regardless of whether or not it is accepted by the Minister for Planning! Furthermore, if we are to wait for planning controls that might eventuate in 12 months time, then council will undoubtedly argue that the structure plan has set the stage and these ‘planning controls’ are simply implementing what the structure plan says. We go back to our previous point – how on earth is it possible to vote on something that will set the future when so much detail is not forthcoming?

The CSP (Caulfield Structure Plan) will bring many benefits to new and existing populations. This includes review of gaps in community and development infrastructure in the area. Affordable housing needs and provision may also be addressed through advocacy with public land owners and through negotiated development outcomes.

COMMENT: Here we go again – ‘may be addressed’.  Whatever ‘gaps’ currently exist in infrastructure is unknown yet the recommendation is still to vote on something so unclear. Given that council’s pathetic Social Housing/Affordable Housing policy only aims for 5% we will be lucky to achieve any significant increase of such housing from this development. Once again, the MRC will be laughing all the way to the bank!

Here are some crucial questions that all residents should be demanding answers to:

  • Why is it in Glen Eira that the most important survey responses are not published and available for full scrutiny by residents?  All that is put into the public domain are inadequate ‘summaries’?
  • Why is it in Glen Eira that every major strategy is consigned to the ‘never-never land’ where both councillors and the community are told that the essential ‘planning controls’ will only be done sometime in the future? Yet countless policies and strategies are asked to be endorsed prior to the specifics being known – ie the Housing Strategy of late.
  • Why are survey questions so continually and abysmally poor and undoubtedly designed to elicit the required responses?
  • Why are public questions so frequently provided with responses rather than fulsome answers?
  • Why can other councils run engagement processes that are far superior to what occurs in Glen Eira? See some of our previous posts on this issue?

With the proposed zoning changes depicted in the draft Housing Strategy, Council has shown itself  incapable of remedying  all the mistakes of the past. Over the past few years, we have had admission after admission that council got it wrong when it introduced (in secret) the residential zones in 2013. Since then, there has not been a review of the zoning. The only changes proposed to rectify the stupidity of the past is to rezone heritage areas from RGZ (4 storeys) to NRZ (two storeys). A little too late we say, when some streets have already had 4 storey developments erected!

As for the other ‘mistakes’, we quote directly from council documents which state categorically that ‘radial’ zoning is inappropriate given that this creates multiple zonings in single streets. Council has claimed that this is what they wish to correct and avoid with the Housing Strategy and the Framework Plan. Here’s what was stated:

While the radial zoning makes sense at plan view, the result creates inconsistency and conflict in local streets. Areas within some streets, have all three residential zones represented. In some instances, this means that four storey apartment buildings and low-scale detached housing are supported by the zones in close proximity. …….Where practical the plan uses the road network as a border to best manage transition between different zones. (Appendix C – Page 4: Background document to the Bentleigh Structure Plan – 2017)

the transition of zones in the middle of residential streets has been an issue of community concern. The Bentleigh Structure Plan seeks to significantly re-address the configuration of zoning in Bentleigh to remove, where possible, apartment development proposals in long residential streets ….(Agenda: 27th February, 2018 – page 2 of item 9.2)

These issues are consistent with the community concerns raised when apartment buildings are proposed in low scale residential streets. The Quality Design Guidelines look to address these issues by focusing apartment buildings on main roads and encouraging medium density garden townhouses, rather than apartment buildings, on local residential streets. (agenda: 27th February 2018 – page 4 of item 9.5)

In certain areas such as the residential land south of Centre Road (ie. Mavho, Loranne, Mitchell and Robert streets) transitional issues are caused by irregular ‘radial’ zone boundaries and multiple zones within a single streetscape. This creates inconsistency with four storey apartment buildings and low-scale detached housing in the same street (November 7th 2019)

All of the above are admissions of what is wrong with the 2013 residential zones. One should reasonably expect that with the current Housing Strategy and ‘new’ structure plans for Carnegie, Elsternwick & Bentleigh, that such errors will be corrected. But no, not in Glen Eira. History is allowed to repeat itself – this time as pure farce!

Here are some screen dumps from council’s current proposals. Please look carefully at the number of streets that retain their ‘radial’ zoning with the result that scores will have multiple zones and/or schedules within the one street – something that we’re told is to be avoided! Adding further to such inept planning is the fact that council has no control over what will be built. Apartment blocks can be created in any street – they do NOT have to be townhouses as ‘required’ by council.

Worse still is the latest DDO’s for our major activity centres. Instead of including residential areas in the new DDO’s, they now only cover the commercial and mixed use sites. What this means is that the previous DDO is now defunct and hence residential areas such as Mimosa Road in Carnegie revert back to its earlier zoning of RGZ (four storeys). Both the 2017 and the 2018 DDO’s had earmarked this as 3 storeys.

Council has been absolutely silent on this aspect of the latest DDO’s apart from saying that the Housing Strategy will deal with the residential areas. Yet the above screen dump clearly shows that Mimosa is zoned as RGZ and by the time that council gets around to even considering zoning for the residential areas we could be looking at another few years. Plenty of time for developers to make hay!

More disconcerting is the question of why council went along with this latest DDO. Did they protest? Did they ask for this? What discussions took place between the department and council officers? Is the rationale again to simply allow more and more development in our residential streets – regardless of whether Glen Eira is meeting its housing projection figures? And the ensuing silence and lack of real explanation is unacceptable. We can only conclude that council by its failure to fully inform residents is simply part of a strategy to keep the public as ill-informed and silent as possible!

Thus countless streets throughout Glen Eira will continue to have multiple zones. Others will have multiple schedules. And there is not one single word of justification for why this should remain so given council’s previously quoted statements.

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.

COMMENT

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.

COMMENT

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.

CONCLUSION

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’.

The following screen dump comes from Monash City Council’s agenda for their meeting tonight. Glen Eira councillors voted against such a register recently, arguing that processes were already in place and that all councillors act with integrity. It would appear that the Local Government Inspectorate doesn’t think that such assertions are enough and has urged all councils to introduce a public register of all councillor meetings with developers. Given the rate of major developments in Glen Eira, such a move must be supported by the new crop of councillors if they are truly committed to full transparency in their roles.

Below is the Monash resolution, plus the relevant Inspectorate comments:

Local Gov Inspectorate: July report.

Next Page »