Victorian Government releases reports by Residential Zones Standing Advisory Committee

THE proposed application of Victoria's new residential zones lacked rigour and was not adequately justified in some cases, according to the Residential Zones Standing Advisory Committee appointed by the Victorian Government to advise on the implementation of the new zones.

With the state's new zones coming into effect from July this year, Planning Minister Matthew Guy appointed the panel in February to provide advice on the method and application of the proposed new residential zones into a local planning scheme.

The new zones – Residential Growth, General Residential and Neighbourhood Residential – replaced the Residential 1, Residential 2 and Residential 3 zones. The zones were introduced to provide greater certainty by making it clearer where protection exists and where development can occur.

As part of stage one of the Committee's work, 14 councils accepted an offer to have their proposed residential zones reviewed by the Committee, and an 'Overarching Issues' report was prepared in June to respond to the overall issues related to the 14 draft amendments and the operation of the new residential zones.

Key issues and concerns highlighted by the Committee in its 'Overarching Issues' report included:

"Applying the NRZ excessively beyond its intended purpose and without sound justification envisaged by PN78 [Practice Note 78: Applying the residential zones 2013] is very likely to compromise the ability to meet the projected growth in households in a way that also addresses choice, affordability and diversity in housing supply (page 9).

"The proposed application of the new zones lacks rigour in some instances and has not been adequately justified in some cases (page 10).

"While it was anticipated that current housing policy and strategies in some municipalities would present a sound basis for the delineation of zones, some municipalities do not have such policy in place. In other municipalities, relevant strategy is significantly outdated or was not prepared in a way that can easily implement the statutory tools now available in the new zones (page 10).

"The Committee is conscious that future rezoning from either the NRZ or RGZ, after they have been introduced, may well be difficult due to likely opposition from the community and those with an intention to develop land. This supports a conservative approach to applying the new zones (page 27).

"The Committee supports the preparation of housing strategies as a way of informing zoning choices. Housing strategies need to address strategic needs of the State and local policy framework to provide choice, affordability and diversity of housing options, as well as protecting areas of identified character (page 24).

"To establish a housing strategy that can adequately underpin the full use of the new zones, the Committee considers an integrated approach is required that addresses character in conjunction with housing capability, market choice, affordability and capacity. To create such housing strategies will take time and should relate to broader regional planning (page 28).

The Committee made eight recommendations in its 'Overarching Issues' report; all of which have been accepted by the Victorian Government in its response. The Committee also prepared individual reports to address the issues associated with the specific local council amendments.

A second stage of the Committee's work is currently under way and includes proposed planning scheme amendments in Bayside, Darebin, Melbourne, Nillumbik, Whittlesea and Yarra.

More information about the Residential Zones Standing Advisory Committee, including its report, is available from the Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure website at <>.

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