Melbourne will be a better city if residents have a say in planning: report | The Age

Jason Dowling

October 18, 2010

    An aerial view of Melbourne's CBD.

    An aerial view of Melbourne’s CBD. Photo: Craig Abraham

    Give residents a say in planning and Melbourne will be a better city for it.

    That is the conclusion of a new report released today that will make welcome reading to many Melbourne residents feeling disconnected from current planning decisions.

    The report by the Grattan Institute looked at eight successful global cities that were ”reasonably comparable” to Australian cities and concluded ”residents must be involved in decisions”.

    ”Those cities that made tough choices and saw them through had early, genuine, sophisticated and deep public engagement. This level of engagement is an order of magnitude different from what happens in Australia today,” the report found.

    An increase in ministerial planning interventions and delays at Victoria’s planning tribunal and at council level has led to calls from community groups and industry for reform of Victoria’s planning process.

    Some have called for a new metropolitan planning authority.

    But today’s report, Cities: who decides?, finds that engaging the public in planning and decision making was far more important than creating a new planning authority.

    The Institute’s Jane-Frances Kelly said no cure-all would be found in changing structures.

    “Nor, for that matter is resident engagement. But as we try to manage growth — and make effective choices that actually stick — our best bet is go give city-dwellers a real say,” Ms Kelly said.

    She said one researcher from Portland in the US, contrasted the Portland approach to engagement to that in the UK and Australia, where ”there seems to be a culture that consultation is about telling people what the planners have decided”.

    Ms Kelly said the way ”consultation” was conducted in Australia was not engagement with the public.

    The report found successful cities often had a ”trigger moment” that generated the required political will for change in the approach to planning.

    ”I can imagine that the anxiety around population growth that there is in Australia could be the trigger,” Ms Kelly said.

    The report also found successful cities had a consistent strategic direction in  planning across political cycles.

    The cities examined in the report were  Vancouver, Toronto, Seattle, Portland, Chicago, Austin, Dublin and Copenhagen.

    Municipal Association of Victoria president Bill McArthur said involving local communities in planning decisions made implementation easier.

    “Communities are well placed to provide input into the development of local neighbourhoods and the long term vision for maintaining Victoria’s much-desired liveability qualities,” he said.

    “Democratic input rights should be protected not diluted in preference of fast decisions, which can’t be undone and may not be the best long-term solutions,” Mr McArthur said.


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