Wednesday, September 18, 2013

talking dandenong ranges issues with minister guy

localised planning statements and the bushfire management overlay

Yesterday I met with Minister for Planning, Matthew Guy, to talk in the main about Localised Planning Statements and their role in protecting the Dandenong Ranges (not to mention the broader Yarra Ranges as well).

I’ve long been concerned about the ability of councils to be able to put effective measures in place that protect and enhance what’s special about their area. It was heartening to learn that the Minister is very keen and supportive to give Yarra Ranges Council the autonomy it needs in developing a Localised Planning Statement that reflects the community aspiration for Yarra Ranges. It was good to discuss and get greater understanding on comments made by the Minister in Parliament back in August.

It was also good to hear that the Minister is determined that there be a strong and weighty planning tool to offer protection to municipalities that have special characteristics and along with Yarra Ranges, Mornington Peninsula, the Bellarine and Macedon Ranges also have the ability to develop Localised Planning Statements.

Council’s strategic planners have already commenced work on the development of the Yarra Ranges Localised Planning Statement and I look forward to further discussions with the Minister once the draft has been endorsed by council. Rest assured I will continue to work with the Minister to ensure the best outcomes for the Dandenong Ranges community.

On another note I also talked to the Minister about the unintended consequences of the new Bushfire Management Overlay (BMO) and how that is playing out in Yarra Ranges and specifically in the Dandenong Ranges. It was important to talk about the constraints, I have for a long time expressed concerns about the impact of the BMO which to me was legislation on the run, rather than a well considered and careful approach on how to meet the recommendations of the Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission.

There were a range of issues canvassed with the Minister including community aspiration to live in bush areas and the need for more flexibility within the overlay, about building to ‘flame zone’ requirements and the consideration of bushfire shelter in place options. I also talked about the constraints of meeting the vegetation defendable space clearance zones in areas with relatively small subdivisions (the Dandenongs) and conflicts with other planning controls such as the Erosion Management and Environmental Significance Overlays. We briefly discussed the CFA role in assessing defendable space and the impact of VCAT decisions on current assessment practices and the need to see reform and clarity in this area. 

It was good to have the opportunity to speak to the Minister directly about these issues as the BMO will have enormous impacts on the ability of people to build, rebuild or renovate their properties on land covered by a BMO. I look forward to seeing work in this area to meet the recommendations of the Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission but provide a sensible way forward without the unintended consequences we see at the moment.

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