Urban planning is one of the more wicked problems facing state politicians. To caricature, politically powerful groups a) dislike urban sprawl, c) want to develop stuff for sale, d) want affordable housing, and most significantly, e) intensely oppose development anywhere near them. As such, it’s an easy place for opposition parties to score points. As such, it’s not surprising that both the Greens and the Coalition have released planning policies, while Labor hasn’t put out anything new.
After regularly giving the major parties bollockings for micro-policies, it’s a refreshing change that the Liberal document is reasonably detailed. It’s perhaps indicative of the relative ability levels on the Coalition front bench, given that planning and mental health (two areas in which comprehensive policies have been released), are the responsibilities of Matt Guy and Mary Wooldrige respectively. But on its merits? It’s a detailed, comprehensive strategy to pave paradise, put trees in tree museums and put up parking lots all the way to Ballarat, Bendigo, Seymour and Traralgon. It’s a recipe for the Houston of the South.
The Greens policy plans to place a permanent urban growth boundary around Melbourne – and, interestingly, major regional cities. By contrast, the Liberal plan will:
- Seek to have 20 to 25 years worth of land supply in growth areas for Melbourne, Geelong and other major regional cities across Victoria;
- Conduct a biennial audit of land supply in Melbourne’s and Geelong’s growth areas to ensure adequate supply exists
- Establish a new structured process for the biennial review of the UGB in growth areas, with clear timeframes and a transparent process
- Work with relevant municipalities for the immediate assessment of logical inclusions in Melbourne’s UGB to facilitate billions of dollars worth of much-needed development-ready housing projects.
The coalition’s document notes – rightly – that the current government does cave on a regular basis on the existing UGB. But their solution is an “urban growth boundary” that is no boundary at all.
That said, the coalition’s policy does provide something an escape valve for the constant battles over urban infill development – if you’re building houses from Ballan to Nar Nar Goon, it might satiate developers enough to keep the burghers of Booroondara blissfully unaffected. The Greens policy calls for increased development density, particularly around transport hubs. Great, in principle. But given all the angst in the inner suburbs about high-rise development – or any change at all that upsets some amphormously-defined “character” – how do they expect to actually achieve this?