JASON DOWLINGMay 31, 2010
COUNCILS could lose some of their planning powers to a city-wide planning authority, under one of several proposals from an influential business think tank.
The Committee for Melbourne, of which The Age is a member, has released the first of a series of reports on planning Melbourne’s future that argues a long-term vision must address the ”ultimate land size and physical shape of our city”.
The report, to be launched tonight, calls for community debate on a new ”governance structure” for planning, and questions the role of councils in planning.
It argues local councils, elected by local constituents, are not well positioned to deliver strategic planning policy in the best interest of the whole of Melbourne: ”The job of the mayor and councillors of local government councils is to service their local community, not greater Melbourne. It is impossible therefore, to expect the greater good of metropolitan Melbourne to be served by this tier of government, particularly for a city growing well beyond 5 million,” the report notes.
Municipal Association of Victoria president Bill McArthur said the committee’s finding was a ”simplistic view, far removed from reality”.
”Councils have extensive and long-established mechanisms to collaborate across municipal boundaries,” he said.
The report calls for community debate on new governance arrangements for planning. ”We believe that before a structure can be proposed (be it a Greater Melbourne Council, a Minister for Melbourne, a non-political authority such as the old Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works, a refinement of the status quo, or a completely new system), the community must first come together to debate the problems and agree on … a new model for governance”.
The report includes contributions from the state planning and transport departments, as well as the Growth Areas Authority. Arguing that it is inevitable that Melbourne will continue to grow, the report calls for an agreed vision for Melbourne, including on the size of the city and suburban housing density.
The report comes as State Parliament prepares to expand Melbourne by 43,600 hectares in response to rapid population growth – the latest expansion of the urban growth ”boundary”, first set in 2003. Geographically, Melbourne is one of the world’s biggest cities, stretching 100 kilometres east to west.
The chief executive of the Committee for Melbourne, Andrew MacLeod, denied the the committee was suggesting sidelining councils on planning.
”No, what we are saying is there needs to be a visionary planning and implementation mechanism, but we are not going out to say what that mechanism should be,” he said.
On Thursday, The Age will hold a forum as a part of its Project Melbourne series on planning Melbourne’s future. The forum, between 10 and 11.30am, will be streamed live on theage.com.au