Thoughts on planning

The drafting of a Planning Scheme; State, Local and Municipal planning policies, as well as the determination of what land within a municipality gets which zonings, are all undertaken as part of a democratic process.  This statement is not an invitation on the relative virtues or not of a democratic system (or our democratic system), it is simply a statement of fact.  The Greater Dandenong Planning Scheme is an example of but one of many Planning Schemes state-wide which are part of this land use management and development process, which includes the rights to apply for the development of land in accordance with those democratically developed process, or to object to them through a fair process if one feels aggrieved at what is being proposed or approved.

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When council rate relief is bad

In response to the Coronavirus pandemic, some local councils have announced, or are planning, an across-the-board rate freeze.

A rate freeze is a bad idea for these reasons:

Council rates are a “wealth tax”, not an income tax. Rates are calculated using property values. To quote a council CFO, six out of seven ratepayers are not negatively affected by COVID. A general rate freeze gives a benefit to the maximum number of voters, but most of the relief dollars go to the wealthiest landowners.

Under a general % rates cut or waiver, wealthiest landowners get the most $ relief
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“Social distancing” is the problem

Most people won’t keep their distance. I have been in a few public places in the last few days and haven’t witnessed any discernible difference in people’s behaviour.

That is why the “social distancing” policy is mostly ineffectual because:

  • it’s seen as rude to deliberately distance yourselves from others, particularly in a social setting.
  • personal risk of the virus won’t hit home to many people until someone they know has the virus.

Unfortunately, shut-down is the only next step worth taking. This removes places that people can come together and transmit the virus.

Masks are the new fashion

I wear a mask whenever I come within two metres of another person. If you come within two metres of another person, you should be wearing a mask.

People are infectious with the virus for four days before symptoms appear. The most common transmission occurs not from surfaces or hands, but from breathing. It surprises me that more in my local community are not wearing masks – in other countries, it is default behaviour to wear a mask even if you have no symptoms. Given that there are now projections for 50,000 to die in Australia, you could save a life by wearing a mask.

A four day incubation period with no symptoms. Any mask is better than no mask. Act as if you have the virus.

Coronavirus and social media

The way that news is propagated to the public has changed.

Before social media

Before social media, important government announcements in Australia were efficiently transmitted via:

  • two newspapers in each city; and
  • five television channels in each city.

The situation now

Now, a large proportion of the public’s primary source of news is via social media channels. News-related posts are mixed in amongst posts about cats and selfies.

This makes it more difficult during crisis situations for government to communicate a consistent message to the public. There is no consistent timing for social media posts to appear in a user’s feed, so it can happen that news stories can be out of sequence in a user’s news feed, resulting in misinformation and confusion.

What needs to happen?

In future, government should legislate so that in a crisis:

  • Government posts are mandated as highest priority across the main social media used in Australia; and
  • Mandated SMS text messaging should be used for official government information.

Planning application flowchart

I’ve put together a draft guide on the council planning process. Please don’t hold me to the complete accuracy of it. I’ve just done it to try to explain the quite complex process when residents object to a planning application.

1 objection
1 objection
2 or 3
objections
2 or 3…
4 or more
objections
4 or more…
How many objections?
How many objections?
Decision made by council planning department
Decision made by council planning…
decision to approve
decision to approve
decision to refuse
decision to refuse
Decision made at public council meeting by elected councillors
Decision made at public council meet…
Recommendation made by council planning department
Recommendation made by council plann…
Meeting between applicant and objectors
Meeting between applicant and object…
residential
residential
non-residential
non-residential
Type of application?
Type of application?
Yes
Yes
Decision appealed by objectors?
Decision appealed by objectors?
Yes
Yes
Decision appealed by applicant?
Decision appealed by applicant?
Victorian Civil Appeals Tribunal
(VCAT)
Victorian Civil Appeals Tribunal…
Final decision
Final decision
Yes
Yes
Decision appealed by applicant?
Decision appealed by applicant?
Application received
Application received
Advertise the application:
newspapers
letterbox drop
Advertise the application:…
Council receives objections
Council receives objections
Council receives objections
Council receives objections
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