What's in store for planning in Victoria?

WITH new Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu officially sworn in yesterday, the planning landscape in Victoria looks set to change after eleven years of Labor government. The Liberal-National Coalition released their 'Plan for Planning' during the election campaign with a vision for a "fair, consistent and transparent planning system that delivers certainty to residents, to councils and to businesses."

Mr Baillieu yesterday named his cabinet of 22 ministers, with Matthew Guy retaining his former shadow portfolio and named Minister for Planning.

The 26-page plan foreshadows audits, departmental restructuring and amendments to the urban growth boundary (UGB). It also signals the end of Melbourne's current metropolitan planning strategies, Melbourne 2030 and Melbourne @ 5 million.

The Coalition has committed itself to conducting a two-year consultation program to determine the best model of metropolitan planning for Melbourne and "will work towards" establishing a new "outcomes-based" metropolitan planning strategy based on ten principles.

Whilst the Coalition "reaffirms its strong support for immigration to Victoria as a key component of our state population growth", it intends to remove some of the Labor policies implemented to accommodate population growth, in particular, Clause 16 of the State Planning Policy Framework that supports higher intensity development along public transport corridors.

Instead, the Coalition looks to edges of Melbourne by aiming to ensure that there is a twenty to 25 year supply of land available. Further, it seeks a "defined" and "permanent" growth boundary along existing natural markers or infrastructure routes but allows land owners to opt out of boundary expansion. How these conflicting policies will coexist is unknown.

A population strategy for all of Victoria will be developed with an investigation of new population corridors in regional and peri-urban municipalities. The Coalition also states that it will work with relevant municipalities to assess "logical inclusions" in Melbourne's growth boundary.

The Coalition has stated that it will move to amend or repeal Labor's Growth Areas Infrastructure Charge (GAIC) legislation to enable a model where the charge is payable 100 per cent at the Statement of Compliance stage. In an effort to encourage the decentralisation of employment, it also proposes to examine the removal of the GAIC on land that is zoned commercial or industrial in order to remove "a tax on employment land".

The Growth Areas Authority (GAA) and the Development Facilitation Unit are to be abolished and replaced by a new Urban Planning Unit (UPU). Unlike the GAA, the UPU will have the benefit of a metropolitan perspective as it is not focused solely on growth areas.

The UPU would be tasked with managing population growth, improving operational and regulatory processes and identifying areas of planning delay in local and state government. The Coalition states that the UPU will be designed to "reduce the burden of planning regulation".

A Housing Affordability Unit is proposed to be established within the Department of Planning and Community Development (DPCD) to provide a "whole-of-government overview to the Planning Minister about state and local government policies, legislation or procedures that could be reformed to help improve housing affordability."

The DPCD is also proposed to be the home of a new Peri-Urban Council Unit that will assist peri-urban councils with long-term strategic planning, structure planning, population management and environmental and biodiversity issues.

Undertaking audits is a favoured approach of the Coalition, with the plan proposing a state government-owned land audit, a land supply audit, green wedge land use audit, an audit of all government-owned heritage properties and a liveability audit.

An audit of all government-owned land within the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) will be conducted to identify sites for potential future development. A biennial land audit will be conducted in Melbourne and Geelong to ensure that land supply is adequate, seemingly at odds with moves for a "permanent" UGB. Finally, the liveability audit aims to determine the adequacy or inadequacy of physical and community infrastructure in Melbourne.

Other ideas promoted in the document include: exempting certain forms of native vegetation removal from native vegetation controls, such as at roadsides or for fire breaks; requiring the Planning Minister to provide 48 hours notice to any council prior to calling in a development application; limiting access to VCAT for the review of determinations for projects which are deemed to "comply substantially" with the relevant Municipal Strategic Statement (MSS); and a full review of Victoria's planning zones.

It is clear that the existing planning regime in Victoria will be altered by the new Coalition Government. The development of a new metropolitan strategy could learn from Melbourne 2030 and deliver a solid plan that is backed by sound implementation measures. The liveability audit, combined with the new Urban Renewal Authority, could provide the means necessary to ensure that urban development is located in appropriate and sustainable locations. On the other hand, indications of an expanded urban growth boundary provide reason for consternation with the future direction of planning in Melbourne.

The future of planning in Victoria is also likely to be affected by movement at the national level. Last year's COAG agreement to reform metropolitan planning systems, the current Productivity Commission investigation of state planning systems and their effect on cities, the development of a new population strategy for Australia and the establishment of Infrastructure Australia and the Major Cities Unit will certainly influence planning. As will the recently released discussion paper, 'Our Cities – building a productive, sustainable and liveable future', released by the Australian Government in anticipation of a new national urban policy next year.

The following is an edited and condensed version of the policies and plans contained within the Liberal-National Coalition's 'Plan for Planning'. For full details please visit the Liberal Party Victoria website at <>. Alternatively, the full PDF version of the plan can be accessed directly from this link.

The Victorian Liberal Nationals Coalition Plan for Planning


Development Assessment Committees will be replaced by Planning Referral Authorities (PRAs). which will:

  • Be triggered on an opt-in, opt-out basis via a vote of the relevant municipality;
  • Be able to apply to any geographic area of any municipality, as deemed by that municipality;
  • Be able to form the responsible authority for any application within a municipality; and
  • Legislate that the Chair of each five member PRA must come from a list of names nominated by municipal, local and industry bodies.


For fire retardation purposes:

  • Land will be exempt from native vegetation rules if [vegetation removal] is for a fire break, when approved by the relevant municipality. Land that is within six metres from the edge of a home is also exempt from native vegetation requirements if it is being cleared for fire retardation purposes; and
  • Exempt land within six metres of a sealed roadside from native vegetation requirements, when being removed for road safety or firebreak purposes.

For the environment:

  • Retain and expand the Bush Tender program as a way of allowing all Victorians to play a part in retaining native vegetation and tackling the issue of pest weeds in rural Victoria.


An online Infrastructure Development Register of state and local government infrastructure projects in Victoria will be established to ensure that the private sector can help reduce the infrastructure backlog.

The Register will be administered by the Department of Planning and Community Development and will feature a central register of infrastructure projects planned and anticipated by all state departments and local governments in Victoria.

The Register aims to facilitate contact between private firms and the local government area or state government department listed as the government entity responsible for the project listed.


An audit of all government-owned land within the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) will be conducted to identify sites for future development, such as the VicRoads site in Kew.

The audit will identify what land in the Melbourne metropolitan area and regional cities could be used for future housing supply.


Engagement and consultation with building associations relevant stakeholders to adopt the national code to ensure that all new homes meet higher energy efficiency standards. The standard will also apply to major renovations or adjustments to existing homes.

The Coalition will also work towards ensuring that all existing homes meet an average 5 star energy rating, as soon as possible. Meeting this target will require working with the Commonwealth Government to effectively implement in Victoria their energy efficiency initiatives.


Localised planning statements will be established for key areas around Victoria.
These new Statements of Planning Policy will apply to: Mornington Peninsula, Yarra Valley, Macedon Ranges and the Bellarine Peninsula.


An anti-corruption Commission for Victoria will be established which will have the power to investigate planning decisions in Victoria.


A new Urban Renewal Authority will be established and tasked with the identification of inner-urban areas that may be suitable for large-scale urban renewal and management of the transition of these areas to a mostly residential base. The Authority will also audit all government-owned land within the UGB to identify sites for future development.


The Coalition will seek to have twenty to 25 years of land supply in growth areas for Melbourne, Geelong and other major regional cities across Victoria.

A biennial audit of land supply in Melbourne's and Geelong's growth areas will be conducted to ensure adequate supply exists. The audit will be conducted by DPCD and will only recommend UGB expansion if population and housing demand projections determine it necessary.

The Coalition aims to work with relevant municipalities for the immediate assessment of logical inclusions in Melbourne's UGB to facilitate billions of dollars worth of housing development.


The Coalition will establish a new Housing Affordability Unit within DPCD to provide a whole-of-government overview to the Planning Minister about state and local government policies, legislation or procedures that could be reformed to help improve housing affordability.


The Coalition will require that the annual statement to Parliament on the use of ministerial intervention contains a list of all external lobbyists who have held meetings with the Minister, the Minister's staff or the Department of Planning regarding projects that have been called in by the Minister.

The annual statement will also be required to contain approvals facilitated by the Minister's department; the number of planning scheme amendments rejected by the Minister; and any transfer of responsible authority status

The Coalition supports the Minister's right to retain the use of intervention powers but will establish strict guidelines.


The Coalition will require the Minister to give 48 hours notice (business days) to any council where the Minister is calling in a development application so that representations to outline municipal concerns can be made.


The Coalition will build a new outcomes-based metropolitan planning strategy for Melbourne based on the following ten principles:

  • Honest and genuine community engagement and consultation
  • Restoring integrity, transparency and certainty to the planning system
  • The sustainable growth of Melbourne
  • Respecting and preserving urban character
  • Clearly identifying areas for urban renewal and future development zones
  • Integrating and optimising existing and future infrastructure and service provision
  • Clarifying where urban densification in clearly identified areas can occur
  • Ensuring the social, economic and environmental well-being of the community is preserved and promoted through the planning system
  • Protecting existing parks and open space from development
  • Aiding housing affordability.

Councils will be required to have a sustainability provision in their Municipal Strategic Statement within the first term of government.

The Coalition will conduct a two-year consultation program to seek the best model of metropolitan planning for Melbourne and will work towards establishing a metropolitan planning strategy.


The Coalition will abolish the Growth Areas Authority and the Development Facilitation Unit and create a new Urban Planning Unit (UPU) that is committed to managing population growth, improving operational and regulatory processes and identifying areas of planning delay in local and state government.

The UPU will assume responsibility for all of the functions of the Growth Areas Authority as well as the Development Facilitation Unit, and will have jurisdiction that extends to all metropolitan municipalities, not just growth areas.


All councils with Central, Principal or Major Activities Areas will be required to define their boundaries within the first three years to provide certainty on exactly where large-scale urban change will occur.

Councils will also be required to develop new population strategies for all Central, Principal or Major Activities Area to determine the service and infrastructure requirements to accommodate population growth.

A trial practice of code assessment will be initiated in activities areas to give greater clarity as to what can be built and where and to improve regulatory delay.

The Coalition will remove Clause 16 of the SPPF that supports higher-intensity development along public transport corridors.


The Coalition will conduct a full review of Victoria's planning zones to ensure they are functioning correctly and their schedules are still relevant.


The Coalition will conduct an audit of Green Wedge land use with input from local councils and communities, to determine whether the current land use schedules in each municipality are the most appropriate for Green Wedge land.

The Coalition will also provide ministerial discretion to permit any government, Catholic or non government school to build and operate an educational facility within land zoned as Green Wedge and possibly allow religious facilities, eco-hostels or wineries to use land that is smaller than the current minimum lot size required.


The Coalition will allow regional councils the flexibility to alter land use within farming zones to protect prime farmland for agriculture while respecting the rights of landholders.

Local councils will be given the flexibility to review the operation of their farm zones and in particular whether the 40-hectare minimum subdivision rule is appropriate across all non-township areas of their municipality.


The Coalition will establish a new Urban Interface Zone (UIZ) to increase flexibility and housing choice on the outskirts of cities and towns, particularly in regional cities. The new zone will allow councils to establish a lower density residential buffer between farming zones and residential zoning and will encourage a diversity of development on the edges of our cities and towns.

The new UIZ will allow for housing on a minimum lot size of 2 hectares and will be determined by local government.


The Coalition will examine the ability for interface councils to split their municipality into urban and rural areas for state government funding purposes.

A Peri-Urban Council Unit within the DPCD will be established and will act as the first port of call for peri-urban councils and assist them with long-term strategic planning, structure planning, population management and environmental and biodiversity issues.

Any such examination, of the ability of councils in interface (rural/urban fringe or "peri-urban") areas to split their municipalities into urban and rural for state government funding purposes would include consideration of the needs of Victoria's 48 regional and rural councils and would ensure that they would not be any worse off under such flexible arrangements.


The Coalition will conduct a whole-of-government audit for the Melbourne metropolitan area in order to determine the gaps in physical and community infrastructure in Melbourne. This audit will consist of:

  • Gathering data on all metropolitan municipalities' realistic population growth possibilities;
  • Auditing the full capacity of Melbourne rail, tram, bus and road networks;
  • Auditing the use of existing and any future bikeways for Melbourne;
  • Auditing the full capacity of Melbourne's water, sewerage, gas and electricity systems;
  • Assessing climatic conditions as well as current and forecast water use and predictions to ascertain Melbourne's water usage targets and needs;
  • Auditing the presence or absence of community facilities in all suburbs across Melbourne; and
  • Ascertaining the information and communications technology (ICT) capacity of all of Melbourne's suburbs.


The Coalition will develop a population strategy for all of Victoria, not just for Melbourne and conduct an investigation of new population corridors in regional and peri-urban municipalities.

Population corridors and extension of existing infrastructure in regional cities will be considered in a statewide approach to managing Victoria's population growth for the long-term.

Further, the Liberal Nationals Coalition reaffirms its strong support for immigration to Victoria as a key component of our state population growth.


The Coalition will support detailed coastal mapping of our coastline in preparation for storm surges and probable sea level rise and respect existing land rights for owners of private coastal land, and where a local permit is granted, ensure that sustainable private development can occur, but at private risk.


The Coalition will restore fairness and certainty to the planning system for wind farms and will ensure:

  • That the placement of turbines will be no less than two kilometres from the nearest home unless a contract between the resident and wind farm developer is agreed;
  • The reinstatement of local government as the planning authority for wind farm applications;
  • The establishment of a shared payment system for landowners whose properties are within one kilometre of the nearest turbine, as a compensation mechanism for adjacent landholders;
  • The establishment of 'no-go' zones for wind farms at places such as Wilson's Promontory, the Mornington and Bellarine Peninsulas, Surf Coast and Great Ocean Road regions, McHarg and Macedon Ranges, Dandenong and Yarra Ranges and sections of the Bass Coast;
  • The exclusion of wind farms in or near national and state parks, designated tourist areas and designated regional population growth corridors; and
  • The public availability of all data on the energy output of wind farms.

The Coalition will also establish new guidelines relating to the construction and operation of wind energy facilities to monitor noise and strobe lighting impacts on nearby residents, as well as shadow flicker and bird kills at wind farm sites.


The Coalition will remove the power of Catchment Management Authorities (CMAs) to override planning decisions of local councils and ensure that they act only as a referral authority rather than de facto responsible planning authorities.


The Coalition will remove the current planning exemption for new packaged liquor outlets. New bottle shops will be required to justify their presence in the community in the same way as other licensed premises.


The Coalition will:

  • Require all councils to complete a Municipal Heritage Strategy to record the built and landscape environment of each municipality, adding another level of protection for communities, better protecting areas and buildings from significant change and complementing existing strict heritage protections;
  • Require all heritage registrations to be based on processes that are open and transparent, and which are fair to all parties;
  • Conduct a full audit of the future maintenance and improvement requirements of all government-owned heritage properties to ascertain the investment needed to guarantee their future upkeep; and
  • Require all municipalities to notify all impacted residents from the placing of any heritage overlay no less than 28 days prior to the adoption of the placement of the overlay in writing.


The Coalition will establish a state register of significant public land as a form of further protection from future governments selling such land off in secret and a way of protecting open space as population grows.


The Coalition will increase the transparency of any public land sale by setting up an open and public process where the relevant minister must set out before Parliament the reason for the sale of the land before its disposal.


The Coalition will assess all public parkland and open space requirements across Melbourne to ensure that as the city grows, adequate open space and parkland exists for public use.


The Coalition will:

  • Legislate to limit access to VCAT for the review of determinations for projects which are deemed to comply substantially with the relevant Municipal Strategic Statement (MSS);
  • Require councils to advise a council view on the degree of MSS compliance, with their determinations;
  • Provide for VCAT to determine whether an application for review qualifies on the grounds of substantial compliance; and
  • Publish clear and transparent guidelines on the determination of substantial compliance.


The Coalition will move to amend or repeal Labor's Growth Areas Infrastructure Charge (GAIC) legislation to enable a model payable 100 per cent at the Statement of Compliance stage. The requirement for non-government schools to pay GAIC on land they currently own in growth areas will be removed.

The Coalition will also examine the removal of GAIC on land that is zoned commercial or industrial, thus removing a tax on employment land.


The Coalition will support the development of a central planning body to become the responsible planning authority for all developments within the City of Melbourne that exceed 25,000 square metres.


The Coalition will work in partnership with the City of Melbourne towards the establishment of a new football oval and associated sporting facilities such as netball and basketball in the Docklands precinct. Land will also be set aside for a dedicated place of worship.


A new Urban Design Panel, chaired by the Victorian Government Architect, will be established to oversee design competitions for government-funded public infrastructure and community projects.

The Coalition also aims to restore independence, authority, independent funding and a fixed four year tenure to the office of the Victorian Government Architect to give Victoria an architectural guardian over the built form of our state.


A Strata Title Improvement Unit within the Department of Infrastructure will be established to work with relevant industry groups to develop strategies to assist bodies corporate to maximise the potential of their properties and to deal with significant maintenance issues. It will also encourage local governments, real Estate agents, property managers and bodies corporate to develop improvement plans.

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