Tuesday, July 14, 2009

UGB: Urban Growth Blunder

At the last Planning Committee Meeting on Tuesday 14th July, Council decided to make a submission to the State Government on its recently released report euphemistically called 'Delivering Melbourne’s Newest Sustainable Communities'.
I'd like to see this Council take a position within its submission that it does not believe that the UGB expansion is needed nor warranted.

I spoke about this at the meeting.

Speaking Notes - addressing the chamber
The analysis and assessment of implications of these proposals are missing everywhere in the phone-book sized gloss - it's hard to know whether any other planning options were even considered.
The manner in which the State Government has facilitated public comment for these four proposals is also telling. It is strikingly similar to previous consultations on transport plans and UGB expansions that the State has received and then ignored - this is the greatest cause for concern. Why are they asking again and again as if it is not already very clear that the UGB needs to be permanently fixed, and public funds and energy be channelled to address our current problems.

We should have serious concerns about:
· the Aboriginal heritage impacts of the expansion of Melbourne's urban growth boundary, about to be pushed out by up to 46,000 hectares,
· The State Government considering taking over planning powers of these new "growth areas".
· What transport and living costs that these 'new' areas will be locked into, what of the environmental impact? No analysis has been forthcoming.
We should also be very concerned about:
· The relationship b/w the state government and developers following the announcement that, Planning Minister Madden hosted a lunch today to "brief" developers and business "on the vision for our growth areas and the need to fast track infrastructure investment to create jobs" - and to raise funds for the ALP. It seems that a privileged section of the community can buy the Minister's ear at the expense of other citizens. What deals have been done to rezone this land that we don’t know about?

Expansion of the UGB at any place weakens the entire boundary. And as a council poised to be a thoroughfare to the 'new growth areas' we must ask 'When will it end?'
The Infrastructure needs of these new developments have not been assessed against the existing underdeveloped infill areas or efforts to address the strain on the arrangement of our current transport systems.
Where are the plans for the hospitals and health services?
who will foot the bill for the recreational areas? firestations? police stations? ambulance services?
the schools? education and training facilities? arts and cultural facilities?
For a new council for the these areas? who will pay to set this up? Why should all of this necessary infrastructure be left for the community to pay for while the developers walk away with millions of dollars of profits?

The logic behind the assumptions that an increased population will necessitate more housing construction needs to be challenged.
No one disputes that our population is growing, but there is cause to question whether the size of this growth requires more housing construction.

Firstly, as a city west water researcher recently pointed out the government is not even using its own data for this analysis. It is using REIV data. While many owners of private houses have them up for rental, many sit unused and will not appear on real estate lists
Instead of using real estate institute data, it should use its own water consumption data to determine real house vacancy numbers

Secondly, If we are genuine about providing accommodation and not just generating housing development and profits for developers, we should also be doing An assessment of real housing availability in our community.
A thorough assessment of Housing availability should examine rental accommodation but it should also look at all potential spaces including retail office space that is currently unoccupied (and often close to facilities) and hotel vacancy rates which are currently running at somewhere like 70-80% or higher while we have people who are homeless and people who are on huge waiting lists for emergency accommodation.
If we really have a shortage then the only real solution is high quality attractive public housing and yet the intention here seems to be to build huge amounts of private housing which will force our newly arrived communities and vulnerable families beyond the reach of any decent services

We mustn't forget that we are putting people out there, families and households without any thought to their needs future and present.
What kind of metropolitan Melbourne will mutate from this reckless set of policies?
Food security, water security and peak oil will converge to make many people's lifestyles unbearable if we don't plan ahead for the kind of city we're creating.
Professor Laurie Sparke, a leading Australian automotive engineering expert, has just last week warned of an energy crunch that could make the 1970's oil crises seem small-time. He says that in coming years Australia may not be able to buy oil, at any price.

He says that recent research by McKinsey Global Institute predicts a new spike in the price of oil between 2010 and 2013, depending on the length of the current global economic downturn. As soon as the countries that use large amounts of oil -- China, Japan, India and the US -- recover, demand will exceed supply. There are already signs that China and Japan are starting to pick up, and the price of oil has already doubled in the first 6 months of this year. He expects trouble within the next FIVE YEARS.

We don't have time to fiddle around, and now is not the time to build more freeways or suburbs without infrastructure!

There is no case for construction beyond the current UGB.
There are all sorts of things we can do as a society to ensure housing for all our citizens and at a reasonable cost
Before we look at destroying the lungs of Melbourne, we should be looking at all these other options:
We should be abolishing negative gearing that enables the wealthy the buy up housing at a cost to tax payers. So effectively paying for housing that we do not own.
We should properly assess the actual availability of current housing stock using our own data
We should be increasing housing density (particularly of publicly owned housing that will be affordable) in attractive areas around public transport, but we should also make sure that this increased density, is supported by attractive and high quality facilities and services and with proper community consultation

My concern is that it is this Govt's intention to create profits for mates not affordable housing and it is going to leave us, in Brimbank, with disrupted and overstressed services and communities stranded beyond adequate public services.


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