Category Archives: Community Consultation

ANOTHER “FAIT ACCOMPLI” – CAULFIELD PARK TREES

Below is an email GERA has sent to each Councillor re yesterday’s early removal of trees in Caulfield Park. For the past month, the Friends of Caulfield Park (FoCP) have been campaigning against the removal of 39 (later reduced to 21) trees in the park to allow for the expansion of sporting ovals.   Full details of FoCP’s campaign are available on Facebook and their website

Although works were scheduled to start in January, 2014, and Council was fully aware of community opposition to the removal of the trees (including this morning’s presentation of a petition to State Parliament) Council removed the trees yesterday morning.  Leader Article 10/12/2013

IMG_9185 T

Each dirt mound represents a lost tree.

Email from GERA to Councillors (10/12/2013)

Below are two self explanatory emails,

  1. the first from GERA to our members and associates, commenting today’s removal of  trees in Caulfield Park and Council’s stated goal of encouraging community participation in the decision making process.
  2. the second from Friends of Caulfield Park (FoCP), which in addition to commenting on Council’s arguments for the tree removal also comments on their assessment of Councils performance.

 Could you please comment on

  1. your opinion of, and justification for, the original proposal – removal of 39 tree for the expansion of 2 sporting ovals (no need to comment on the spurious arguments already disputed by the FoC, unless you disagree with their “spurious” nature)
  2. your opinion of, and justification for, Council’s alternate proposal of saving some trees and the “possible” relocation of 13 others (an alternative not included in the original proposal – yet which arguably should have been)
  3. your opinion of the alternate proposal presented by the FoCP – pros and cons
  4. Your position (i.e. vote) on the removal of the trees today as reported by Mayor Pilling and the date of the meeting at which this voting occurred

Email from GERA to Members and Associates (10/12/2013)

GERA has received the below email from the Friends of Caulfield Park re the removal of 39 parkland trees to provide for the expansion of 2 sporting ovals.

Scheduled to commence in January, 2014,  in the midst of much, extremely vocal, community opposition and presentation of an alternate plan and on the eve of the presentation of a petition (signed by 500+) to the State Government (Caulfield Park is Crown Land, managed by Council), the trees were cut down this morning (10/12/2013).

At a social function early last week, I along with other residents, raised the Caulfield Park 39 tree removal proposal with newly elected Greens Mayor Neil Pilling.    Mayor Pilling recognized that it had become a bigger issue than was expected but believed a compromise solution would be found.  Given the Council’s actions today, it is needless to say that GERA is not only appalled but does not disagree with FoCP’s assessment of Council performance against Council’s stated goal of encouraging community participation in the decision making process.

GERA joins FoCP in urging members to contact Councillors to voice their dissatisfaction.

Email from Friends of Caulfield Park advising tree removal (10/12/2013)

Council “thumbs it nose” at the Community

 Like storm troopers, the secret executioners gathered in the early hours of this morning and, instructed by the administration and its officers, swooped on the 39 trees and cut them down.

 The mayor said all the Councillors were behind this move.

 He said there was nothing wrong with this action.

 We disagree.

 We know not all the Councillors were behind him and were kept in the dark about this destruction.

 We believe that the Mayor and the administration realised that the FoCP petition of over 500 names (gathered in less than a week) would be presented to Parliament tomorrow and that their plan to cut down the trees would be in jeopardy.   They thought once cut down they were gone and they could proceed with their ill-conceived plan in peace.  With the Festive Season upon us we would all forget their contemptuous action and let them get on with it.  This is bureaucracy at its arrogant worst in overriding community wishes.

We have shown how their justifications for cutting down the trees are fabrications.  So what is the real reason for their determination to proceed, no matter what the community thinks?

 If anyone knows the background to their hidden agenda, please drop a note to PO Box 2511 Caulfield Junction 3161.  It appears that they are somehow beholden to sports clubs above all other interests.  Something is rotten in the City of Glen Eira

 David Wilde is handing in the Petition on the Parliament steps tomorrow at 9 am and would like others to join him.  …… We realise this is short notice, but please do your best.

 What next?  The Council thinks it can thumb its nose at us.  They need to learn that the community is not impressed with their anti-social, anti-community behaviour.  There are two issues here. The one is the loss of the trees, and the other is the Council’s total disregard for the expressed concern of the community about this matter.

 Let the Council know what you think of them.  Here are their contact details.  Email, message and phone them and tell them their behaviour is no longer acceptable.  Tell them we want those trees replaced with mature trees where those that were cut down previously stood, and that they cannot spurn the community in this way.

NEW PLANNING ZONES – THE “FAIT ACCOMPLI” CONSULTATION APPROACH

Since the 5th August, 2013, announcement of Glen Eira’s  introduction of the new planning zone (the first Council to do so) much has been said/written in the State and Local Media and on various social networking sites – commentaries on the zones have been both  positive and negative.

When the new planning zones were first announced  in September, 2012,  GERA made a submission to the Minister and website comments (GERA website “New Planning Zones”).  Since then Glen Eira Council’s continued silence (despite repeated requests from residents and in contrast the majority of other Councils) on the implementation of the zones has made meaningful comment impossible.  The information released by Council since 5th August is scant and includes “before and after maps” which are difficult to compare (street identification) and inadequately identified commercial zones (same colour as parks and schools).

BEFORE (download full page map)

Minimal Change Picture

AFTER ( download full page map)

New Zones Picture

The 5th August announcement makes it apparent that the assumption that Council was working on the zoning changes and would present them for community consultation prior to seeking the customary Ministerial Approval was flawed.  Residents will not be given the opportunity to have input into the zones (boundaries or content) that they deserve and have a right to expect – Council is presenting residents with a fait accompli. 

Full details of the planning zones are scheduled for release tomorrow (23/8/2013) – after gazettal ( ie. legal enactment).  Shortly thereafter GERA will comment on the zones (boundaries and content).  This current posting will therefore concentrate on Council’s implementation of the zones interspersed with some background details.  Please note that, in line with our September 2012 posting, GERA expects that there will be both positive and negative aspects within the zones.  Residents in the former minimal change areas that are now designated as Neighbourhood Residential Zone are likely to be grateful while residents in the formerly designated Housing Diversity areas that are now designated General Residential or Residential Growth Zones are less likely to be grateful.

To revert to Glen Eira’s zone consultations – the new zones were first proposed in September, 2012, and were formally enacted in July, 2013.  On enactment, Councils were provided with a 12 month window (i.e. until June, 2014) for community consultation and formal drafting their zone designations and schedules.   Unlike previous zoning (ie. Minimal Change/Housing Diversity/Activity Centres etc.) which related to areas, the new zones and schedules enable Councils to plan for the development of their municipality in much greater detail (eg. street by street, lot by lot).  The content of the zones was prescribed by the Minister and the Schedules, attached to the zone, provided Council with discretionary control options (eg. set backs – hence the Glen Eira’s two divisions of the General Residential Zone).

Glen Eira, like all Councils is required, under the Planning and Environment Act 1987,  to review their Planning Scheme every 4 years.  Glen Eira’s last review of the planning scheme involved community consultation end of 2009/beginning 2010, with review results being formally published and submitted to the Minister in August, 2010.

Please note that

  • Since the last planning scheme consultation, significant developmental and demographic changes that have occurred in Glen Eira
  • The zones provide much greater level of detail than previously allowed
  • Council was legally bound to review the Planning Scheme in 2014
  • Zone implementation provides Councils with a 12 month drafting and consultation opportunity

The above indicates that Council had a unique, timely opportunity to consult the community at a detailed level by either delaying zone implementation or bringing the review forward.  Yet, despite the Mayor describing the zone implementation as being the “biggest planning change in Glen Eira’s history” and other Councils actively informing and involving residents, rather than consulting Glen Eira Council opted, under Section 20 of the Planning and Act, to apply for a community consultation exemption and a Ministerial Amendment (C110) to the Glen Eira Planning Scheme.    The next opportunity for residents to comment on the planning scheme will be 2017/18.

The Local Law requires Council decisions, unless those decisions are covered by Councillor approved delegations of authority to Administrative staff, to be made at open Council Meetings.  (Delegations of Authority being intended to provide the Administration with the necessary authority to conduct the day to day activities of the municipality).   The decision to apply for a Section 20 exemption was not made at an open Council Meeting, nor is any discussion on the Section 20 exemption recorded in the Councillor Assembly Records.  This raises serious governance issues re Council decision making (who made the decision – it is hard to argue that such a major change to the planning scheme fits within delegations of authority) and how Councillors can request a Section 20 exemption to consult the community (those most impacted) without it being discussed at an open Council Meeting.

At the 13th August, 2013 Council Meeting (the first open discussion of the zones since September, 2012), no mention was made of the Council’s Section 20 Application.   As for the lack of community consultation, only Councillors Okotel and Delahunty expressed concern, all other Councillors who spoke indicated it wasn’t a significant issue as

  • The Minimal Change/Housing Diversity policy has been in place for over 10 years and is well understood by residents.  The new zones are a direct translation.
  • Council undertook extensive community consultation during the 2009/2010 Planning Scheme Review and is aware of what resident aspirations.
  • Undertaking community consultation would not have resulted in any significant difference in zone application outcomes.

While it is possible to dispute all above points in detail on many grounds (eg. current level of detail, residents understanding, number of participants, exclusion of post 2009 residents and existing residents who didn’t participate etc.) , suffice it to say that residents can form their own views as to the quality of the above arguments, Councillor performance of their legal and moral obligations and how re-assuring residents find Council’s claims of openness, transparency, responsiveness and “working together to achieve the best possible outcome”  

To re-iterate a point made earlier residents have advised GERA of many requests made to Council, and individual Councillors, regarding zone implementation and community consultation.  While we cannot repeat all of them, attached is a dated extract of public questions  asked by residents (which Council is legally bound to answer, not merely respond to). While being fully aware of how slowly that the wheels of government move, GERA again leaves it to residents for form their own views on the timing/quality/semantics of the responses and to note references to Ministerial Direction without mention of Council’s Section 20 application for that direction.  For those interested in verifying the public questions a link to the relevant full Council Minutes is provided in the foot notes.

GERA’s position on the new zones is that, in line with our initial objection lodged with the Minister, while there are some aspects of the new zones (eg. mandatory height limits, greater detail) that are welcomed there are also some adverse offsets (eg. creep of commercial activities into  Neighbourhood Residential Zones, restricted third party rights of appeal) which will be the subject of a later post.  GERA believes the community should not only have been informed of the zones, schedules and their implications, they should also have been given the opportunity to review and provide input into Council’s introduction of the zones.  Council denied residents that opportunity by lodging a Section 20 exemption from consultation and request for a Ministerial Amendment.  Council has also delayed making full zoning details available to residents until after the zones are enacted.  It is a  fait accompli approach to consultation.

Please note:  All residents should pay careful attention to the information provided tomorrow.  The new zones are not a direct translation of the previous Minimal Change/Housing Diversity Areas, nor have the “transitional” General Residential Zone 2 (GRZ2) been “carved” out of Housing Diversity Areas rather than Minimal Change Areas.   An example is Ercildoune Street, Caulfield North, in close proximity to the Alma Village Local Centre – previously the street was designated minimal change.  Under the new zones, the Alma Village Centre has been expaned to include Ercildoune’s western side (now zoned GRZ2) while the eastern side is designated NRZ1 (ie. minimal change).

FOOTNOTES

Full Council Meeting Minutes – July 02 2013 – Public Questions Item 11.4

Full Council Meeting Minutes – July 23 2013 – Public Questions Item 11.4

Full Council Meeting Minutes – August 13 2013 – Public Questions Item 11.4

COMMUNITY PLAN – THEY DIDN’T LISTEN

The Community Plan represents the community’s views and aspirations for Glen Eira’s future growth and development over the next 4 years.   As such, it provides the framework for the Council Plan/Strategic Resources plan which outlines how Council will allocate resources to meet the community’s aspirations expressed in the Community Plan.  The Budget is a detailed allocation of resources for the first year of the Council Plan/Strategic Resources Plan.

GERA has, therefore, focussed on the Community Plan, since it is the cornerstone for the subsequent Council Plan/Strategic Resources Plan and the Budget.  Obviously, shortcomings in the cornerstone will flow on to the subsequent plans.  In making this submission GERA has concentrated efforts on the four major interrelated issues raised by residents at the community forums.

The GERA submission follows.

+++++++

Introduction

Our submission focuses on the four major areas which are of concern to residents:

  1. Traffic management & Parking
  2. Inappropriate development & general planning
  3. Open space, and
  4. Governance & community participation

1.      Traffic Management/Parking 

1(a) Traffic

The stated strategic objective is “to promote the safe movement of pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle traffic by effectively managing and improving roads, footpath and bicycle lanes together with balancing car parking opportunities”.  The first strategy is “improve safety and movement of road users and provide a fair and equitable balance of parking”.   This is not a strategy and does not provide any meaningful information on what mechanism will be used to achieve the objective or how it can be monitored.   What is missing in this strategy is the clear enunciation of the mechanisms that will be used to achieve the objective and which clearly establishes how the outcomes of the objective can be measured.

Council proclaims that ‘safety’ of all road users is a priority. Yet, the Actions proposed do not address safety clearly enough. Far more is needed than the placing of a ‘speed trailer’ in a few streets or even 40 ‘community consultations’. What is required is the total integration of the Bicycle Plan, the Transport Plan and expenditure. The Action Plan does not achieve this integration and the suggested measures provide no quantifiable means of assessing whether ‘safety’ per se has been achieved. Thus it is impossible to determine how rates have been expended.

Sadly, Glen Eira does not possess a separate ‘walking/pedestrian’ policy, even though its statements place pedestrians first. If our suburbs are to be made ‘safe’ for pedestrians, then there is nothing in the community plan which is geared towards ensuring this. Current international best practice is to manage roads via what is called a Road User Hierarchy. Basically, this ranks the most vulnerable road users (pedestrians and cyclists) as the number 1 priority with the last priority being a single occupant vehicle.   Given Council’s long standing focus on main roads, rather than local streets, one can’t assume that Glen Eira, unlike other Councils eg. Stonnington and Port Phillip, has adopted this philosophy.  Further these councils have implemented various road treatments which fully support such a strategy – ie. creating speed humps which are incorporated into footpaths to ensure safer pedestrian transition across roads. These councils also erect barriers on corners to protect pedestrians. Hence the vision of these councils is matched via practical strategies and funding. This is lacking in Glen Eira.

1(b) Parking

 Council makes the statement that “parking demand outstripped parking supply within Glen Eira many years ago”. Council introduced a Residential Parking Permit Scheme to address these issues, yet Council’s application of this scheme is ad hoc and random at best. Residents are continually faced with both medium and high rise developments on major roads which have been granted parking permits in the nearest adjacent local residential streets. These streets are already ill equipped to cater for the existing parking demand much less the increased burden imposed by developments. If Council is serious about addressing this problem then it must ensure that the Residential Parking Permit Scheme is applied rigorously across the entire municipality and that any development that will increase the number of dwellings per lot is excluded from this scheme.

 2.      Inappropriate Development & General Planning

 This is the most disappointing aspect of both the Community Plan and the budget. Residents have long made it clear that their concerns cover the entire municipality rather than only select neighbourhoods. They have also made it clear that they expect council to hold to its MSS to protect the social and environmental amenity of the entire municipality. The proposed strategies and measures do not come close to achieving any of this.

Even the recent Planisphere report consistently refers to ‘over-development’ that is not sympathetic to the neighbourhood character. Council’s approach to this entire area is piecemeal and unco-ordinated. Further, residents have never been told why Glen Eira does not possess, or has NOT even attempted to introduce and develop many of the following:

    • Glen Eira does not have structure plans
    • Glen Eira does not have interim or permanent height controls
    • Glen Eira does not have any development contributions levies
    • Glen Eira does not have a transitions ZONE for dwellings bordering Housing Diversity Areas
    • Glen Eira does not have clearly defined Housing Diversity Areas that are mapped and publically available/accessible
    • Glen Eira does not have a Commercial Centres Policy
    • Glen Eira does not have a Parking Precinct Plan
    • Glen Eira does not have a Public Realm strategy
    • Glen Eira’s public open space policy dates back to 1996
    • Glen Eira’s Neighbourhood centre policy relies on data from the early 90’s
    • Glen Eira’s policies are inequitable where it is claimed that 20% of the municipality should bear the burden of the majority of developments
    • Glen Eira’s delegatory powers largely exclude councillors and cede all control to unelected officials when it comes to planning decisions
    • Glen Eira rarely uses ‘experts’ to support residents at VCAT ( in contrast to other councils)

As per the previous strategies and measures for the Traffic and Parking section, the proposals for the strategies in the Planning section are also deficient in that they fail to provide clear, measurable outcomes which will assist in achieving the strategic objectives.

3.      Open Space

Primarily, the introduction to this “theme” relates to the significant benefits of open space (both for a community and individuals) and how little Glen Eira has (i.e. lowest amount of open space per capita of any Melbourne Municipality).  This is in line with the issues residents have raised for many, many years and are issues which will continue to remain for many years as the number of high density developments explodes and subdivisions decrease the amount of private open space in minimal change areas.

Glen Eira’s record in the acquisition of public open space is not commensurate with residents’ aspirations. In fact, over the years Glen Eira has probably sold more than it has acquired. What little open space remains is being further eroded via the ‘redevelopments’ of pavilion after pavilion which increases the buildings’ footprints, often necessitates expansions of car parks and access roads, and in the end, are probably under-utilised. Again, residents are never provided with data that would support the contention that such ‘developments’ are valuable ‘community hubs’ rather than a drain on limited resources.

It it also worth making the point that Council includes such buildings as part of its capital assets (as are roads) but they remain non-realisable assets. Millions upon millions has been expended on such projects at the expense of basic infrastructure such as roads, traffic calming, drainage, and other essentials (which are also capital assets). Expenditure on most of these ‘essentials’ has in fact declined in recent years.

Council claims to collect over $1 million dollars in open space levies. Yet this money is not employed in the purchase of further open space. Rather it is skewed towards more and more sporting grounds and facilities, instead of passive recreational use. The prime example of this is the failure to introduce community gardens which residents have raised for years and years. Even  this budget  and the potential use of the Booran Rd Reservoir ignores this possibility and offers designs which in large part are geared to more sporting ventures.

The centre of the Racecourse ‘development’ is another case in point where Council has successfully minimised publicly available open space for Racecourse usage.

It is indicative perhaps of Council’s attitude to the importance of open space as the foundation of planning, that its extant policy dates back to 1996. Nor does council have a public realm strategy which places the issues of open space as central to all planning activities and which was brought out clearly in the recent community consultations.

In all of the strategies and measures included in the Community/Council Plan, open space is inextricably linked to ‘sporting facility upgrades’. This is a limited and deficient interpretation of what open space should entail and its importance to the community.

4.  Governance & Community Participation 

The Good Governance Guide  defines good governance as

    • Participatory
    • Consensus oriented
    • Accountable
    • Transparent
    • Responsive
    • Effect and efficient
    • Equitable and inclusive
    • Law abiding

How well are any of these standards incorporated into the community plan? And how well are the strategies that will achieve these outcomes enunciated? We believe that very few of these standards have been addressed in the draft Plan. For example, informing the community is not a substitute for real participation, consultation, or even transparency. Nor does it guarantee ‘efficiency’ and ‘inclusiveness’ – all of which are a continual source of frustration to residents.

Most of the measures cited are either legal requirements, or simply confirm actions which are already in place. There is nothing innovative, or which addresses the issues of real consultation and participation. For example: agendas and minutes have been available on council’s website for years; as has the reporting function of Council’s quarterly reports. It would be far more useful if such reports were clear, accurate, comprehensive and informative.

GERA would also like to make the comment that whilst the Community Plan notes many council policies such as the Asset Management Strategy, Open Space etc, many of these policies are not featured on council’s website. Many that do, are remain hopelessly out of date. It is most unfortunate that when council proclaims its adherence to various policies and how well they are working, that residents are denied access to these vital documents. All policies should be available and easily accessible.

C87 REVISITED – NEIGHBOURHOOD CHARACTER

GERA is disappointed with the entire C87 amendment process. It’s content,  it’s ramifications, and it’s failure to take due recognition of community wishes. The C87 amendment was discussed at the last Council Meeting (1st May, 2012 – Minutes – Section 9.1).

Background 

This Amendment sought to implement what is described as “new” prescriptive planning tools of the Neighbourhood Character Overlay (NCO) and the Design Development Overlay (DDO)* to some of the previously defined Significant Character Areas (SCA)*.

* For an explanation of the NCO, DDO and SCA, please refer to GERA’s earlier posting (17th February, 2012), under the Topic of  “C87 – Neighbourhood Character”.  Please also note that the NCO and DDO are not “new” prescriptive planning tools – in 2002 when Council sought to introduce SCA’s as a planning scheme reference policy, the Independent Planning Panel recommended use of the prescriptive NCO and DDO rather than the loosely worded SCA guidelines.  In 2008 another Independent Planning Panel re-affirmed the use of NCO’s and DDO’s rather than the SCA guidelines.

The C87 amendment sought to

  • exclude 4 previously defined SCA’s due to “mixed and extensive overbuilding”
  • 11 of the original SCA’s are to remain, however, 3 of them are to be split as their “different architectural styles warrant separate/different controls”.   In the case of  Queens Avenue and Derby Crescent the connecting streets will be excluded as  “new developments undertaken in these adjoining streets have lowered the significance of those areas”.
  • Include 3 streets not previously identified as SCA’s but which are now recognised as “having a relatively intact streetscape with many of the original buildings remaining and well preserved  …  where later overbuilding has occurred, these have generally been respectful of the established neighbourhood character”

* Again, for details there areas please refer to GERA’s earlier posting (17th February, 2012).

In total Council received 59 submissions commenting on Amendment C87 –

  • 17 residents residing in the SCAs supported the amendment
  • 15 residents residing in the SCAs did not support the amendment
  • 27 submitters objected because “their property or neighbourhood is not part of Amendment C87, and they think it should”  …  These residents “put strong arguments why the amendment should have encompassed their properties”.

With regards these 27 submissions, the Administrative Officers Report states This category of submissions request changes which go beyond the scope of this amendment in the form it was exhibited to the community. Any property that was not included as part of the exhibited amendment cannot now be included in this amendment. 

The suggested way forward for this category of submitters is to encourage them to put their views to the independent panel. The panel may, through their reported recommendations to Council, come to the view that some properties, not currently part of the amendment, are nonetheless worthy of NCO or DDO protection. It would then be open to Council to consider a new amendment process to include these properties”.

GERA’s Comments

GERA is extremely concerned by the officers “suggested way forward”.  These concerns are:

  1. If the Council considers the submitters requested changes to be “beyond the scope of this amendment” then the Independent Planning Panel (who will review the amendment under the guidelines contained Council’s  C87 Explanatory Note) “may”  (i.e. likely) adopt the same view as Council.
  2. The councillors unanimous resolution was that Council Supports the Amendment as exhibited, at the panel hearing subject to the following changes” (which were the exclusion of a Poath Road, Murrumbeena property and the reclassification of Normanby Road, Caulfield North as a minimal change area).  How is it that, as a result of the community consultation process,  properties which were not included cannot now be included yet properties which were included can now be excluded.
  3. The Council Meeting Minutes state that “The consultants who undertook the review of Neighbourhood Character were asked to comment on the submissions to assess if any changes to NCO boundaries/areas could be justified. Attachment 2 to this report lists submitters’ addresses, the issues raised by each submitter and provides an officer comment on each submission and recommended changes to the exhibited amendment (if any)”.  In line with open, transparent and accountable governance, GERA believes the full consultants comments should be included in the minutes – “an officer comment on each submission” is insufficient and residents have the right to view the comments submitted by the consultants (particularly as it impacts their property). 
  4. GERA does not support the comment that if the Independent Planning Panel recommends inclusion of properties not currently included in the amendment that “it would then be open to Council to consider a new amendment process to include these properties”.   Commencing  a new amendment process to include these properties is not dependent on a recommendation from the Independent Planning Panel, Council could proceed with a new amendment if it chose to.   GERA supports submitters who wish to lobby Council for a new amendment process. 
  5. GERA is concerned that the Planisphere Report may not have been as comprehensive as it may have been.  The Planisphere Report includes the following comments:
    • Section 1.2 Methodology – “The level of significance for each area with significant neighbourhood character was undertaken by way of two surveys – a framework survey of the entire municipality and then a detailed survey of all SCAs – and subsequent comparative analysis”
    • Section 1.2.1 – Framework Survey
      • “ The methodology for the framework survey included a windshield survey of random residential streets throughout the entire municipality
      • A preliminary survey and assessment was also undertaken of the fifteen SCAs listed in the Minimal Change Area Policy of the Glen Eira Planning Scheme (Clause 22.08), as well as potential areas of significant neighbourhood character recommended by Council”.
    • Section 1.2.2 – Detailed Survey

“A detailed street-by-street survey was undertaken of the 15 SCAs listed in the Planning Scheme, as well as an additional twenty-two streets that showed potentially significant neighbourhood character attributes”.

GERA believes it would have been appropriate to ask for residents input prior to commissioning the Planisphere Report.  This would not need to be an expensive or time consuming process (eg. a notice requesting community input on Council’s website and in the Glen Eira News) and would have been in line with Council’s claim of encouraging community participation.

Will Council Listen?

At the recently well attended Community Plan Consultations the Mayor, Cr. Jamie Hyams, made a point of emphasising the importance of the Community Plan.  This Plan represents the community’s views and aspirations for Glen Eira’s future growth and development.  As such, it provides the framework for the Council Plan which outlines the means/actions Council will undertake to ensure that residents’ aspirations are achieved.

Cr. Hyams outlined the views expressed by residents at the last Community Plan Consultations (2008) and showed how Council had listened and incorporated those views in the resulting Council Plan.   To illustrate how well Council listened to residents, the example of Open Space was used. The Glen Eira Municipality has long been recognised as having the least available open space in the Melbourne Metropolitan area  (VEAC – Metropolitan Melbourne Investigation – Discussion Paper, page 185)  – as housing density grows, Glen Eira’s open space per capita continues to fall.

As per Cr. Hyams, Glen Eira Council heard the “more Open Space” and used the below points to outline what Council had achieved.  Theses actions, together with comments from GERA, are as follows:

 1.      Dog off leash area distance from play ground decreased from 50m to 20m.

GERA questions how moving a “virtual” boundary in existing parkland achieves “more open space” or improved open space.

 2.      Council and the Melbourne Racing Club (MRC) entered an agreement in which the MRC will undertake landscaping for the centre of the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve (estimated cost $1.8m).

 When Queen Victoria agreed to the creation of the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve (1885), the reserve was set aside for three equal uses – that of racecourse, public park and public recreation area.  While there may be some disagreement (thorough bred racing activities vs. public access) about some of the reserves access restrictions, the centre of the racecourse has always been a public park and recreation reserve.  Therefore the centre of the racecourse has always been legally regarded as open space. The proposed ‘development’ of the centre does not in fact add any additional open space to the city and its residents.

 Over the years (including recent years) Council has done little to ensure that the centre of the racecourse has been maintained for its intended purpose.  Indeed, the area in the centre of the racecourse has been whittled away (taken by training tracks and facilities) and much neglected.

 That the MRC has now seen fit to do something about landscaping the centre is related to Council’s approval of the MRC’s proposed development of the nearby MRC freehold land (between Station Street and Normanby Road, Caulfield North).    Housing an expected 2,500, this development, without increased open space will cause Glen Eira’s per capita open space ratio to fall further.   GERA does not believe that Council’s inclusion of landscaping the centre of the racecourse can be seen as an ‘achievement’ which expands on already existing open space.

 3.  Purchase of two house lots which jutted into Packer Park and their incorporation into parkland.  (112 & 118 Oakleigh Road, Carnegie – cost $1.92m)

 While GERA applauds this purchase, GERA is aware that Council’s original proposal to acquire the properties provided for funding the purchase by selling the former Packer Park Bowling Green (2743 sq m) for multi-unit development.  Fortunately, as a result of resident outcries and adverse publicity, Council dropped the proposed Bowling Green sale and  converted it to parkland. (Leader, 18th August, 2009).

GERA is aware also that Council is not charging multi-unit developers the full  Public Open Space Contribution/Levy.  This Contribution is capped, by the State Government, at 5% of land value (payable at the time of subdivision into separate property titles or strata titles).  This levy is to provide Councils with funding (from developers) for the acquisition of new parkland and improvements to existing parklands.

 Unlike other Councils (e.g. Port Phillip – 5% across the board since 2011, Manningham – 5% since 2006), the Glen Eira Open Space Contribution/Levy, (DPCD – Glen Eira Planning Scheme) established in 2006, is summarised as follows

  • The number of lots in the subdivision capable of containing a dwelling.

2 lots – not listed

 3 lots – 2%

4 lots – 2.5%

5 lots – 3%

6 or more lots – 3.5%

             Location increments are

  • If the site is in McKinnon, East Brighton, Ormond or Bentleigh – 0%
  • If the site is in Carnegie, Murrumbeena or East Bentleigh – 0.25%
  • If the site is in Caulfield, Caulfield North, Caulfield South, Caulfield East, Glen Huntly, Elsternwick or St Kilda East – 0.5%

 Council’s 2010-2011 Annual Report – Financials, page 146, show Open Space Contributions for 2011 as being $1.630m and 2010 $1.664m.  Conservatively, GERA estimates that had Council charged the full 5% this revenue would have doubled.

 By not changing the Open Space Contribution/Levy to 5% in 2006 and 2008, (which is a zero cost option), Council failed to listen to residents “more open space” and the result is higher profits to multi-unit developers and increased parkland acquisition and maintenance costs to ratepayers.  The cumulative lost revenue (effectively a ratepayer subsidy to developers) is mind-boggling.

 Clearly Cr. Hyams list of  ‘achievements’ needs to be seriously questioned when it comes to open space and what progress this council has made in actually ‘listening’ to residents.

The big question is will they listen any better in 2012?

Community Consultation

Consultation –Principles and Practice

One of GERA’s most important concerns is the necessity for effective advertising of Council activities  and consultation between Council and the community it serves. Council’s public  statements on this are encouraging but its actions do not back up its public statements

An example is from the Glen Eira Council website – Community Engagement Strategy

“Community engagement provides an avenue for the community to become involved in local decision making and encourages collaboration from all members of the Community.  Based on the principles of democracy, social inclusion and accessible government, we are actively seeking to involve members of the community in our decision making processes.  

… We will work on an ongoing basis with the community to ensure that community ideas, concerns and aspirations are listened to and understood, and that community knowledge is harnessed for the benefit of all.”

We, more often than not, see inadequate and segmented consultation, along with scanty  information.  The most recent example is the Melbourne Racing Club’s Caulfield Village Development (also known as C60).

On some issues (usually minor) Council consults reasonably but on others (usually large) its performance is extremely  poor – advertising is inadequate or late; obviously concerned organizations are not directly  informed; the volume of mailed notifications to residents is inversely related to the magnitude of the project – restricting the volume and quality of feedback.

Although the Glen Eira News frequently states that “community consultation is a vital part of Council’s  planning and decision-making processes”,  such consultation appears too often to come too late in the process.  “Community consultation” is treated as a mechanism to inform the  public of what has already been agreed upon – to collect comment and to explain away why  there is no need for amendment. Council does not appear to appreciate, except in rare cases, that consultation is a two way process of exchanging views and explaining the  reasons for them. Consultation needs to come first for effective investigation and good  outcomes.  Putting consultation last is a waste of resources, time and community patience.

We make a strong plea to Council to reconsider the importance of this “vital part of  Council’s planning and decision making processes”, and to recognize this in Council  statements and actions.  We also make a  strong plea for Council to put consultation in its proper place and to adopt principles that can apply to all its planning decisions.  This will strengthen both the Council and the  community.