It never rains, but it pours
Russell Degnan

Perhaps the Planning Minister and her shadow just wanted to get outside while it is sunny, but there was lots of planning articles in the Age in the last few days.

Kenneth Davidson wrote a diverse, rambling and largely incorrect article on his own bugbears, while obliquely referring to the panel report on the controversial Smith St. proposal (no link, the DSE website is crap). As I've mentioned earlier Davidson is basically anti-development at all, which is why he seems to think Smith St. - a street that was notorious for its drug problem only 5 years ago - will be "ruined" by this proposal. Accusations that developers are being enriched by the planning system are just rubbish. He quote Miles Lewis in the panel hearing referring to compensation - an area that Lewis goes into detail on in Suburban Backlash. The quote:

"An owner or developer should not reap windfall profits due to changes in planning controls. If the council's existing height limits in this area are set aside, whether due to Melbourne 2030 or for any other reason, then the property owner is in effect handed a packet of money. It is absolutely reasonable that a proportion of that unearned gain be garnished for the public good."

This is not consistent with the planning laws. Developers don't get compensation for changes to your potential land uses because of planning controls. To suggest that they should pay it when the lottery wheel swings round the other way - by planning scheme changes, or by simpler things like new infrastructure - is rubbish. Unless Davidson wants to change the whole nature of compensation under Victorian Planning law of course.

In other news though:
Boorondara residents are whiners. Well we knew that. But what about this throw-away comment down the bottom of the article:

Opposition planning spokesman Ted Baillieu yesterday vowed to scrap the State Government's urban growth boundary, a cornerstone of the metropolitan planning blueprint Melbourne 2030.

Mr Baillieu said the boundary was contributing to a land price rise on Melbourne's fringe. The Liberals would probably want to "re-engineer" the blueprint, he said, with legislation to remove the growth boundary and a review of the land designated as "green wedge".

However, Mr Baillieu stopped short of promising to scrap Melbourne 2030, which he described as a "dud".

The problem with writing and implementing a strategic plan is that if it does what you wanted it to do, aggrieved parties hate it and threaten the government until they dump it. And if it doesn't it is not worth the paper it is written on, so the government dumps it. The real beauty of Melbourne 2030 is that it is managing to do both simultaneously.

Want to protect something in Melbourne? Plant trees. The views from the botanic gardens are to be protected again. The green wedges are to be protected, as is the greenery related to heritage or neighbourhood character (if it ever gets off the ground). Views are useless in a larger sense, but they are relatively easy to plan for, so that's something.

Government doesn't consult local council. Government denies it. Local council is insulted. Maybe planning articles just mean it was just a slow news day?

And finally, a piece of madness to warm the heart. Colin Fraser has got all giddy watching the television series on Victorian era engineering projects and wants to build dams in Queensland to send water to the southern parts of Australia. Or perhaps to the Middle East if the last few paragraphs are any indication.

Two points: One, eco-systems work on a purely local level, dependent on a complicated number of inputs. It depends where on the Flinders River you take the water from how much an effect taking three percent will have. Likewise, water tanks on houses might be "small dams" but except that they remove stormwater from some stormwater systems that might need them, they have a fairly neutral effect on the local environment. Big dams do not. Piping water thousands of kilometres to replenish the Murray-Darling means putting the water in the right places at the right time to achieve the effect the original dying eco-system needs.

Which brings me to point two. The great Victorian engineering feats didn't tame their environments. They were a way of protecting themselves from them, but they still suffered within them, be they railways, sewer systems, bridges or ships. Dams are an attempt to tame the environment, and they have been spectacular failures as often as great successes. Damming the Flinders River, and pumping water mostly uphill over several thousand kilometres to put more water into areas of Australia that already have a major salinity problem from over-watering, is a fairly high-risk way to solve non-existent problems.

Sterner Matters 22nd August, 2004 22:43:09   [#]