On Monday 13 November, we (City of Boroondara Council) responded to the housing statement released by the State Government in September with councillors unanimously voting to raise concern on the erosion of community rights.

The State Government has proposed 32 planning reforms, many of which give the Minister for Planning greater power over local planning matters. The changes reduce community and local government input on local planning decisions for housing and, in some cases, take decision-making powers away from councils.  

The State Government’s statement was released without consultation with councils, even though local government plays the key role in planning for their local community. 

As Council, we have the appropriate resources, knowledge and systems in Boroondara to understand and respond to community needs and achieve the most appropriate outcomes for our City. 

We have prepared a Housing Strategy and we support additional housing being provided in the most appropriate locations such as Camberwell Junction.

Following media coverage of our position on the housing statement, some commentators focused on the state’s proposal to allow people to build granny flats in their backyards. While building a granny flat without adequate Council planning controls can be disastrous for neighbouring properties and neighbourhood amenity, the issues are much larger than the building of homes in people’s back yards.

This is simply the tip of the iceberg, the real iceberg is the constant and gradual erosion of community and Council rights in planning matters.

The State Government’s incremental changes to the planning system over the last 5 to 6 years under a planning reform agenda has had various triggers, or reasons to justify the changes, such as:

  • State Government infrastructure projects
  • Social, community and public housing
  • COVID-19 economic stimulus responses
  • State significant projects, and
  • Operation Sandon’s IBAC report on Casey Council.

The latest rationale for drastic changes to our planning system is the State Government’s response to the national housing crisis.

It has not always been clear whether the changes will actually address the purported issues which are put forward, and that is certainly the case with housing – the evidence does not support the contention that local government is the problem with housing supply, there are much broader economic and policy issues affecting housing.

What is common in each of the State Government’s changes is the removal of local community input on local planning decisions, taking decision-making powers away from Council, removing community influence and creating a system which will lack transparency.

The State Government has expressed the view that local government planning processes are detrimentally impacting the supply of housing for the community, and as a quick fix, they are suggesting they should take over key planning decisions to address the issue. There is simply no evidence which demonstrates the State Government will be able to deal with planning decisions faster, or that it will lead to better decisions, an increased supply of housing and improved affordability.

In fact, when the State Government removed us from our role as the responsible authority on 2 State Government projects in Boroondara, Markham Estate and Bills Street Housing redevelopment, it took years for them to finalise permits and commence construction.

We have a firm view that broad community notification and third-party appeal rights are fundamental to a fair, transparent and effective Victorian planning system. We’ll continue to advocate strongly for this result and for appropriate community engagement on all reforms.

We have responded to the Minister and Department of Transport and Planning to address the various issues we’ve identified with Victoria’s Housing Statement. Download our full response below.