Whose PALS are they?

Whose PALS are they?

PALS, for Pro Active LandownerS, is a Facebook group which was ‘set up by a local landowner Karen Egan, which originated from the lack of representation of landowners within the council of Nillumbik

These people are not shy in putting themselves forward. Recently a document was uploaded to their  Facebook page, presented as a submission to the Community Panel set up as part of the GWMP review process.  In the introduction it claims that

‘The current Council was elected in significant measure as a result of the coalescence of PALS to ventilate and advocate for the interests and rights of landowners in the Shire who are proud in their assertion of responsibility for the foundation, maintenance and majority ownership of Nillumbik’s cherished and widely envied Green Wedge.’

So given that landowner Karen Egan is now Cr Egan, their claim to be a successful lobby group would appear to be supported.  And based on that they are suggesting that they have some kind of ‘mandate’. As nothing more formal than a Facebook group that claim would appear to be specious, but certainly they have a very focussed voice on Council.

Although submissions were not requested the PALS document is available to the Panel via an internet link,  at the end of a 436 page document, along with every other bit of input received during the ‘community engagement’ phase of the project.  Most  of the document is an extended diatribe against all that is supposedly wrong with how landowners have been treated by the Council, the current GWMP, the planning scheme and all the ‘red tape’.  Distributed though the document are what appear to be policy positions, such as

  • ‘less (sic) controls and legitimate landowner/Council cooperation’ will result in an ‘improved Green Wedge’.
  • More people should be encouraged to live in the Green Wedge to
    • help accommodate Melbourne’s growing population;
    • to contribute to the health of the community and the landscape.
  • The GWMP should encourage people build or to start businesses in the Wedge
  • Nillumbik should use the Dandenongs and the Yarra Valley as models to emulate in relation to the establishment of ‘profitable and viable enterprises’.

What PALS are doing here amounts to redefining the Green Wedge. No longer the ‘lungs of Melbourne’ or the place where the urban sprawl is halted, it is an opportunity for dream homes and for opening an array of businesses. No longer an asset of the world’s most liveable city, it exists for those who live there.  Implicit in their position is that the current owners of Green Wedge land should be free to ‘look after’ their property as they see fit, and somehow that will result in healthy communities in a healthy Green Wedge.

Their vision is so at odds with the planning scheme, and so much further beyond what could possibly achieved by a recast GWMP, that they have been unable to come up with anything that would be suitable for consideration as part of the GWMP review process.

Tourist Clusters in the Green Wedge?

Tourist Clusters in the Green Wedge?

Mebourne’s green wedges exist because far sighted politicians created the legal framework which protects them from inappropriate development. This framework is regularly amended in response to changing circumstances such as evolving bushfire safety requirements, new studies of particular environmental values, or in order to resolve inconsistency or to make administration simpler.

A poorly designed or badly motivated amendment has the potential to allow the degradation of our green wedges, so it is vital that amendments be transparently and effectively assessed for their likely effect. A case in point may be C117.

The core of the legal framework is a hierarchy of planning provisions, from State to Local. C117 is an amendment being proposed by the Manningham Council to apply to the Manningham Green Wedge only – but the issues it addresses and creates are not unique to Manningham. They apply to all green wedges, so we all need to pay attention.

C117 was preceded by a ‘Rural Land Uses Position Paper’, which is incorporated into the proposed amendment. The thrust of this report, and the amendment, is to recognize the decline of traditional agriculture in the Manningham Green Wedge, and to see the problem in terms of the ‘limited commercial development activity within the RCZ in recent years’, and to encourage tourism development.

The issue of tourism development is already a major issue in areas such as the Mornington Peninsula Green Wedge. Here proposals for major projects are already the subject of planning permit applications, and the existing planning scheme provisions are proving not strong enough to prevent the approval of major built developments that destroy the very rural values that are fundamental to the purpose of the Green Wedges.

The proposed C117 planning scheme amendment will, if allowed to proceed in its current form, significantly increase the risk of opening up the Manningham Green Wedge to major urban built form development. Also of major concern is the potential for the proliferation of business and tourist development across the municipality resulting in the domination of buildings and associated infrastructure and the urbanisation of the Green Wedge.

One item interest is the suggestion of ‘cluster tourism development in the Green Wedge’. The term is not explicitly defined in the position paper, but it refers to what it sees as an existing instance:

There is a strong existing tourism cluster around the Ringwood-Warrandyte Road between Warrandyte and Warrandyte South. Opportunities exist to concentrate tourism land uses around this cluster.

This area in South Warrandyte is not a good advertisement for planning, and in the absence of any definition of a tourist cluster in the amendment it is hard not to see it merely as a way of rationalizing the relaxation of green wedge controls.

C117 was on exhibition until 16 April and the WCA put in a submission, written by Alan Thatcher, that details our concerns. You can read it here. The next step is for the Manningham Council to consider the community submissions, and if the objections cannot be satisfactorily addressed ask the Minister for Planning to convene a panel to consider the submissions.

The planning panel process allows for further submissions and at the end of the process the panel presents recommendations to the Planning Minister.