Candidate Survey – Victorian planning in crisis

Results from our Candidate Survey are now rushing in. The survey is live and candidates can respond until election day.

The survey provides a snapshot of planning and infrastructure issues across Victoria. Candidates across the state and across the political spectrum share our concern that we have a crisis in planning in Victoria.

The most important areas of reform nominated are:

  •  “Improved public transport network”
  • Governance to protect integrity and transparency”
  • Diverse and affordable housing”

Trend results showed:

  • Over 90% support political donations reform
  • Over 90% think that the Planning Minister should publish advice relied on and reasons for decisions
  • Over 95% say we need to improve transparency, accountability and integrity

The survey was conducted by Save Our Suburbs and supported by 18 other community groups, representing thousands of concerned Victorians. The results were released on the SOS website today.

“The purpose of the survey was to draw candidates’ attention to key planning issues and to provide information for voters,” said Ann Birrell, SOS Vice President.

“Every week, groups like ours receive calls from distressed residents, trying to save their street, park or shopping strip.  People expect clear planning rules, integrity in governance and decisions in the long term public interest.”

“Instead they find a culture of secrecy and non disclosure, conflicts of interest, favoured access and undue influence, and a perception of corruption.”

“What can you say when the Planning Minister takes a decision from Council or the Courts to decide the matter behind closed doors, in favour of a political donor and does not even have to give reasons?”

“Once in Government both the Liberals and the ALP have a track record of continuing to deregulate our planning and governance system, in complete disregard for the long term public interest of Victorians. As a result we are about to see a third Victorian Government lose office on partly on planning issues.”

“Voters are entitled to know before the elections whether the next government will be any different from the last,” said Ann Birrell.

Live Trend Results:
Latest update of individual responses: 141122 Planning Survey Candidates RO


Most candidates have given detailed responses and attempted to grapple with the complexities of planning. It is disappointing that Liberal candidates have not responded. Nevertheless, the results provide a useful overview of planning and infrastructure issues, priorities and concerns across Victoria.

We are pleased to see some ALP candidates who may be part of the next Government express support for reform of VCAT and amendment of the Planning Act to better reflect community concerns and the public interest.

The trend results show some stark disparities between the views of independent and minor party candidates, and the Liberal and ALP policy and action to date:

  • Over 90% of respondents support reform of the Planning Minister powers, reforms not supported the Liberals and the ALP
  • Less than 5% felt Victorians support ‘the increasing deregulation and privatisation of planning that successive Governments have introduced over the last twenty years’. Only Rise Up Australia candidates expressed support for the Liberal and ALP policies of deregulation and privatisation

Other results include:

  • Over 95% support the ‘need to improve transparency, accountability and integrity’
  • Over 95% support 14 day reporting of all donations over $1000, with 85% supporting developer bans
  • Overwhelming support for greater precedence for Ecologically Sustainable Development (89%), Green Wedges (98%), public transport (95%) and for local policy and amenity (83%)
  • Over 90% support a requirement that the Planning Minister publish reasons for decisions
  • Over 80% support VCAT reform to make it fairer and more accessible

There is a serious level of uncertainty (28%) over the new planning zones.

Individual Results:

Transport issues, car dependence and lack of infrastructure planning are major concerns across Victoria.

Inappropriate development, overdevelopment and the lack of both consultation and objection rights were major urban concerns. Lack of planning for schools, loss of green open space and protection of the Green Wedges were wider common issues.

Many supported the governance concerns held by community planning groups and the ‘need to get planning and transport freed from political cycles.

Many rural candidates expressed concern about productive farm land being carved up for car-dependent new estates and concern about development on crown land, in sensitive landscapes and in national parks. Access to emergency services and internet coverage, hospitals and schools were major infrastructure needs. Others identified coal mines, wind farm restrictions and climate change emergencies as negative issues that need to be dealt with much better by government.

Groups supporting the Survey include:

Green Wedges Coalition
Protectors of Public Lands
Planning Backlash
Public Transport Users Association
Ratepayers Victoria Inc
Save Albert Park
Yarra River keepers Association
Docklands Community Association
Residents Against Inappropriate Development in Doncaster
Fitzroy Residents Association
West of Elgar Residents Association
East Enders
Western Region Environment Centre
Appropriate Development for Boronia Group
Darebin Appropriate Development Association
Citizens for a Liveable Melbourne
Moreland Planning Action Group
Save Moonee Ponds
Blackburn Village Residents’ Group

 * Results are live, trends may vary a little over time. Current version to 22/11/14.

We need to talk about Planning – Survey of election candidates

Community groups across Victoria have joined together to survey candidates on the conduct and direction of Planning in Victoria.

The Survey was drafted by SOS with input and support from a wide range of groups. These include some of our smallest newest residents groups and also long standing state wide groups like Green Wedges, Protectors of Public Lands, Planning Backlash and the Public Transport Users Association.

The Survey asks about local issues and key issues of concern including:

  • The need for VCAT reform and better protection of local amenity
  • Whether we have a failure of independent, long term infrastructure planning
  • Failure to secure the Urban Growth Boundary and Green Wedges
  • Whether the increasing deregulation and privatisation of planning is in Victoria’s interest
  • Whether Victoria has ‘an inappropriate culture of undue influence and political opportunism’
  • Whether candidates support reform of political donations laws

The survey results will published early November and will be used to inform voters, particularly in marginal seats.

Further Inquiry – See survey and media release attached
Ian Wood   (President, Save Our Suburbs) 0424 104 274
Ann Birrell  (Vice-President, Save Our Suburbs)  0419 550 538

Candidate Survey on Planning issues 10 October 2014

Media Candidate Survey 10 October 2014

Victorian Environment and Planning Community Groups, including:

Save our Suburbs
Green Wedges Coalition
Protectors of Public Lands
Planning Backlash
Public Transport Users Association
Ratepayers Victoria Inc
Save Albert Park
Yarra River keepers Association
Docklands Community Association
Residents Against Inappropriate Development in Doncaster
Fitzroy Residents Association
West of Elgar Residents Association
East Enders
Western Region Environment Centre
Appropriate Development for Boronia Group
Darebin Appropriate Development Association
Citizens for a Liveable Melbourne
Moreland Planning Action Group

Please contact SOS at if you wish to be included as a a supporting organisation

Glen Eira Residents Association AGM

On 6 November 2014, the Age featured an excellent Focus Report, It’s all go in the election zone.

The article highlights the discontent in Glen Eira with the impacts of the new zones and the fact that people were not consulted.

The article states ‘In a fortnight, Save Our Suburbs will hold a specially convened forum in Bentleigh on the zones’. However, this forum is convened by the Glen Eira Residents Association for the AGM on 19 November at the Bentleigh Club in Yawla St.

The meeting starts at 7.00pm and SOS president Ian Wood will be guest speaker at 7.30pm.

See Focus Report at

Election Candidate Survey reveals Crisis in Planning and support for political donations reform

The early results of the Candidate Survey reveal widespread concern across Victoria. See below for details of Survey.

There is a very high level of concern over ‘how Melbourne is developing’ and that we have an ‘inappropriate culture of undue influence on public decision making’. All candidates support the need to improve transparency, accountability and integrity, with overwhelming support for political donations reform.

There is a very high level of concern over ‘the increasing deregulation and privatisation of planning that successive Governments have introduced over the last twenty years’. All candidates agree that ‘the marketplace alone can not address planning issues that involve long­ term social, environmental and economic impacts’.

The candidates also express very high levels of concern over the lack of certainty in our planning scheme, with overwhelming support for minimum mandatory standards and for limits on Ministerial discretion. There is also strong support for reform of VCAT to make it fairer and more accessible. There is a serious level of uncertainty over the new zones.

There is also overwhelming support for greater precedence for Ecologically Sustainable Development, Green Wedges, public transport, and for local policy and amenity.

Candidate Responses are being collated and will be posted over the next two weeks.

Petition for political donations reform

SOS supports political donations reform.

Victoria has some of the weakest electoral donation integrity laws in Australia. 

SOS would like to see all donations over $1000 disclosed. The Federal Liberal Government recently increased donation disclosure levels to over $12,000. We also need timely reporting of donations, within 14 days as in certain UK and USA elections, not up to 18 months as in Victoria. We would also like to see a ban on certain classes of donation eg developer donations, as in NSW.

Rob Oakshott has started a petition calling for reform. See details and the link below:

To: The Governor-General of Australia

Help for residents to argue on Rescode guidelines at VCAT


“VCAT debunks Chak Lai Li decision” - Ian Wood, President SOS & Member PIA

Rescode specifies objectives, standards and decision guidelines for development application assessments. Objectives describe the desired outcomes that must be achieved, standards specify the requirements to meet those objectives, and the guidelines cite the issues Council must consider in deciding if an application meets the objectives.

But is an objective automatically met just because the corresponding standard is met?

VCAT’s interpretation in Chak Lai Li v Whitehorse CC (Red Dot) [2005] VCAT 1274 (30 June 2005) was that because standards contain requirements to meet the objective, meeting a standard must mean that the corresponding objective has been met.

However, the 2004 Department of Infrastructure practice note “Understanding the Residential Development Standards” argues the opposite – if the particular features of a site or neighbourhood mean that applying a standard wouldn’t meet the corresponding objective, an alternative design solution to meet the objective is required.

That DOI interpretation was upheld by VCAT in Lamaro v Hume CC & Anor [2013] VCAT 957: “Chak Lai Li ….. contains no discussion or interpretation about where the decision guidelines fit in or the use of the words “should” and “must” at the beginning of clause 55 under the headings ‘operation’ and ‘requirements’.”

Under “Requirements”, Rescode says development MUST meet all objectives. The decision guidelines must also be considered, and they apply to both the quantitative and qualitative parts of an objective.

The purposes of Clauses 54 & 55 include encouraging residential development which is responsive to the site and the neighbourhood and provides reasonable standards of amenity for existing and new residents.

As the Tribunal in Lamaro concluded, mere application of quantitative standards doesn’t necessarily achieve the purpose of clause 55, because a qualitative judgment must be made in each neighbourhood and site context.

Consequently, objectors can now use this decision to argue their case better at VCAT (and with councils) against inappropriate designs that fail to adequately consider local character and site context

NOTE: Perforated Metal Screening with its regular pattern of closely-spaced round holes is one example where a standard can be technically met but where the objective isn’t. PMS is occasionally used in residential developments to reduce overlooking. Most types technically meet the Rescode overlooking standard of 25% or less openings, but are effectively transparent when viewed from more than a few metres away because of the diffraction effect created by the rows of regularly-spaced spherical holes.

Thus occupants have an unimpeded view during the day through a window or balcony fitted with perforated metal screening, while the reverse is true at night. Maximum transparency occurs when viewing from a dark area to a more brightly lit one.

Consequently, perforated metal screening is used mostly for the screening of large facilities like multi-storey car parks, where light and air can enter while the interior is screened from view.

For more detail on the diffraction effect of perforated metal screening, see:






The Great Population Debate – two very different perspectives on our future

Last Monday, on 13 October, at the Deakin Edge, the Lord Mayor and ALP Kelvin Thompson presented two very different views of Melbourne and the impact of population growth.

Robert Doyle started the debate enthusiastically defending population growth, saying increased population made for a more interesting city and ‘generates prosperity’. He boasted about how well Melbourne City had grown, how proud he was of the number of coffee shops and rate of CBD development and population growth. He defended multiculturalism, suggesting opponents of population growth must be anti multiculturalism. He said we could have clever growth. He drew parallels with the way we reduced water consumption in the late 2000s. He said Melbournians needed to adapt. He said we could put 2.3m people along existing infrastructure hubs, using only 6% of Melbourne’s land. In any event, he said he didn’t know how it could be stopped. He said ‘population growth was inevitable … because this is what we are’.

Kelvin Thomson had a very different view of Melbourne, a ‘high rise boom dominated by high rise buildings – not only poor design but in the wrong places’ and the CBD as ‘Cold Big and Dysfunctional’. He spoke about more intrusive government, increased inequality and crime, economic impacts and infrastructure failure with higher population. He referred to impending environmental crises – ‘treating the Earth as a state in liquidation … with many species on a short, fast road to extinction’. He said our kids did not have the opportunities we had and faced an ‘axis of … housing shortage, unemployment, education debt and increased depression’. Thomson also had very different ideas of social justice and economic imperatives and referred to success of low growth Scandinavian countries with low currencies, low unemployment, free education and budget surplus. He concluded saying that we faced a ‘world broken by rapid population growth – global warming, poverty and terrorism, made by those who own the world [corporate interests, those promoting growth]’.

After lengthy question time, almost entirely supporting less growth, Mary Drost from Planning Backlash thanked both speakers. She then asked whether they supported a referendum on the population growth policy. Thompson supported the referendum, Doyle reluctantly conceded but seemed to suggest there wasn’t much point to a referendum!

Video of the debate can be found at:
Video of questions can be found at:

SOS Newsletter 31: Residents Voice 30 September 2014

SOS Newsletter #31:  Members will have recently received a copy by post & now the online version is here : SOS Newsletter Residents Voice 30 September 2014

In this issue:

  • President’s Address: Key Performance
  • Indicators cut from Plan Melbourne
  • STOP PRESS – VCAT fee hike cuts appeals
  • SOS supports challenge to EW Link
  • Implementation of New Residential Zones
  • Help with Rescode for Residents at VCAT
  • Beware s89 appeals!
  • Avoid Dual Occupancy by Stealth
  • Coming Events

SOS Newsletter Residents Voice 30 September 2014


SOS eUpdate, 2014 Oct 4

SOS Members Planning Update – 4 October 2014

Read on for these hot topics

(1)The latest from Save Our Suburbs: SOS Candidates’ Survey for Election 2014

(2)Reminder – RACV Board Election - Last-minute call for RACV members to vote before this Tuesday Oct, 7th

(3)Reminder - The Great Population Debate, 5.30 – 7pm, October 13, Deakin Edge, Fed.Square 

(4)Rally – The Future of Public Transport in Victoria, Thurs 16 Oct. 12:45/1 pm start, Parliament steps

(5)East-West Link Updates: From campaigner Andrew Herington

(6)High-rise apartment design standards “coming”:

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