Tag Archives: Baw Baw Shire

What is adequate community consultation when it comes to major planning decisions?

Dr. Malcolm McKelvie at Drouin Community Group meeting

The rezoning proposal in Drouin (C108) being decided by the council next week is a great example of planning on the run and should be reconsidered.
In a nutshell, the proposal places medium density housing lots (up to 33 dwellings per hectare) in areas about 6 km from the centre of town and amongst current low density, non sewered housing (2 dwellings per hectare). It contradicts previous documents outlining the plans for urban growth in the shire, is being introduced in a hurry, sloppily, without proper consultation with the public and defies common sense in the use of infrastructure. What disturbs me in particular is the lack of consideration for the future challenges of global warming and the end of cheap energy.
If local government and the community had ongoing, substantive and meaningful participation in planning decisions there would not be hastily given and ill thought orders from the state planning minister to the region, the notice regarding the planned changes would not be distributed to only a select few adjoining landowners just a few days prior to community consultation sessions and nor would the time given for consideration of the change and submissions due be a matter of days to weeks. Proper planning should be evidence based, well considered regarding existing transport, infrastructure, biodiversity and open space as well as the wider issues of preserving agricultural land and adaptation to the warming climate and give interested members of the public sufficient time to read, digest, consult and discuss it.
If the shire thinks their process will increase public confidence in the planning system it is sorely mistaken. There is disbelief that the documents presented contain basic mistakes and inconsistencies, that the consultation sessions have been poorly advertised and held at times of the day difficult for working people to attend. For public submissions to be made one day and a council decision the next beggars belief that due consideration will be given to those submissions.
Kevin Roberts and the people who attended a community meeting this week are right to be upset. They heard from an experienced local councilor in the UK who said that a similar process in his council would take 2-5 years to be completed and any planning decision would need to be evidence based with plenty of time for community consultation.
There is a clear need to plan for increased population in our shire. There is also a clear need to ensure that population growth does not compromise our ability to grow food, maximizes the efficiency of existing infrastructure like the train station, sewerage systems, shopping areas and access to schools and health facilities. If the local population is to increase substantially there is also the need to plan for substantial new kindergarten and school places, child care, healthcare facilities, business and industrial sites, shops and community facilities. Hastily placing medium density housing six kilometres from such infrastructure and amongst existing low density residential living areas let alone up to the boundary of a battery hen enterprise without proper consultation is a recipe for discontent and regret in future years.

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Standing up for Narracan

I have lived in Moe, Warragul or Yarragon for the last 20 years and have done my best to provide great healthcare to my patients as a rural GP, while running a successful small business. I’m also a husband and father to 3 girls. I’ve been involved with the Baw Baw Sustainability Network since its inception. I was a participant in the Baw Baw 2050 community consultations where the overwhelming desire of the group was to preserve the rural landscape of West Gippsland.  We have some of the most productive farming land in the country but also face rapidly rising population and urban sprawl. We need to plan to design tight urban boundaries, with higher density residential spaces ensuring cycle and pedestrian access to more locations which will allow us to preserve our ability to grow food and keep our rural landscapes.

The rising world population and our agricultural producers’ clean green image paint a rosy picture of opportunity to expand our food production and earn more income for the region through exports. The introduction of coal seam and other forms of onshore gas mining is clearly contrary to the interests of farmers and consumers and I stand as the only candidate from a major political party that has undertaken to stop any expansion in this industry if elected to government.

The reason I am involved in politics is to create change. It disturbs me that our society is pushed and pulled by forces that I believe are out of step with common sense, majority opinion or protection of basic needs. As examples, please consider these situations. More of our children are becoming obese with grave consequences for their health and well-being while health and public policy experts are calling for restrictions on junk food advertising to children. No such action is taken because policy makers value the right of corporations to advertise more than they value our children’s health. There is overwhelming evidence that the global climate is changing due to human influence through the burning of fossil fuels and if not addressed immediately we face enormous harm and even collapse of civilization and yet policy makers are reversing the small gains made in creating change. The state Liberal government has restrictions against wind farm development based on the lie of “infrasound” causing harm. Eighty percent of the population support voluntary euthanasia.They recognize the distress caused to those people dying of prolonged terminal illness and their families yet attempts to legislate are thwarted by the other major parties for reasons I do not fully understand.

Many voters are suspicious, wary or hostile towards politicians in the wake of scandals involving political party donations in return for favourable policy outcomes that are not for the society’s wellbeing. We have seen evidence of outright dishonest conduct by a few, lying to get votes or hypocritical behaviour seen in government compared to opposition. More and more voters are recognizing that policy is favouring corporations ahead of community interests and rather than get angry and active they become disengaged and apathetic. I want to connect with those feelings in people and move our society in the direction of common sense, true parliamentary representation of community wishes and above all in protecting us and our children from the looming effects of global warming.Rising temperatures and sea levels, acidifying oceans, severe weather events and loss of biodiversity spell catastrophe.

Gippsland is rich in natural resources. We have forests, freshwater, coal, oil and gas, fisheries and beautiful landscapes that underpin a strong tourism sector. For over 200 years, we have exploited these resources and in order to sustain them we need to change our ways. Timber and related products have always been very useful. Over time, we have depleted the area of old growth forest including rainforest to the extent that we have forced many species to extinction due to habitat loss. The Greens and I are very supportive of a strong, sustainable timber industry but one that is based on harvesting plantation-grown trees. I’ve been a member of the Gippsland Agroforestry Network for longer than I’ve been a member of the Greens and am well aware of the issues surrounding milling of plantation trees, competing uses for agricultural land and the decline in the forestry industry. There is no doubt in my mind though that a farm incorporating agroforestry plantations can be as, if not more, productive than bare paddocks and provides a diverse source of income.

In order to avoid catastrophic global warming we need to leave four fifths of the known fossil fuel reserves in the ground. Though blessed with huge reserves of coal and gas, Gippsland and the world will be better off leaving them alone. Our skilled workforce needs to be diverted to powering our state with renewable sources of energy and it just so happens that Gippsland is also a rich resource for wind and geothermal power. We have the industrial base to serve also as a manufacturing hub for renewable energy plants installed elsewhere, for example solar thermal plants.

Energy efficiency, that is reducing the power bill by using less, is a huge opportunity for us. Homes that are built to the “Passive House” standard typically use about 10% of the energy of a modern building. This is possible by ensuring good solar access, super insulation and draught sealing. It makes sense to change building standards and to craft programs to retrofit existing buildings. We will live more comfortably and spend less on energy as a result. There will be enormous numbers of skilled jobs to achieve these goals.

As an example of the different approach I would take to local jobs consider the recent announcement by the state Liberal government of granting $25 million dollars to a Chinese company to produce briquettes from Latrobe Valley brown coal for export. That is tax payers money going to overseas business owners to produce a product that is harming people in the process of mining, burning, transport and CO2 pollution. The same $25 million could have been used to kickstart 25 local businesses like Earthworker who will manufacture solar hot water systems. That is taxpayers money going to locally owned enterprises that are making a product that reduces pollution, saves people money and as a result more money flows through the local economy. I don’t think this is a difficult concept to grasp. I don’t think you have to be a Greens supporter to think it is a good idea but it seems that in order to get results like this you need to vote for me and the Greens, as Labor and Liberal are unable to deliver common sense.

We deserve better as a local community, we need a strong local representative, unsullied by donations from big corporations and therefore able to act for the common good. I believe I am that person, being honest, community minded and willing to work hard for a better, more caring society for all of us.

Dr Malcolm McKelvie