The Age readers were quick in responding to Planning Minister Justin Madden’s article (I sent in a letter but it was not published):
Low density, high amenity can’t coexist
Justin Madden’s defence of his Government’s decision to abandon Melbourne’s green wedges and release huge tracts of land for development demands a response. Attacking critics as elitist is unworthy of a minister.
The proposed low-density developments will lock Melbourne into further unsustainability, with the car the overwhelmingly dominant mode of transport. With global warming and peak oil, this is locking in serious problems for the future. While I hope the new railway projects Madden talks about eventuate, his Government has been in power 10 years without any substantial extension of the rail or tram network.
With current rates of growth we will hit the 5 million population target within 10 years. Unless growth is substantially reduced – and that is not on the agenda – we will then see Melbourne at 6 million, 8 million, 10 million. The 10 people per hectare proposal for the new outer suburbs simply will not be able to cope and Melbourne will continue to devour prime farmland. There are few cities anywhere of the size of 5 to 10 million at the low densities being proposed for Melbourne.
The Government has been reacting to change after it has occurred rather than having a clear vision it is able to implement, while the Opposition remains silent. We cannot simultaneously have high population growth, low taxes, low urban densities, high amenity and a sustainable city. Something has to give. The question is what? Let’s have that debate.
– Peter Hogg, North Melbourne
Far cry from suburbia of today
Justin Madden (Comment, 25/6) declares that he grew up in Airport West and therefore understands suburbia. Airport West is a far cry from the suburbs of today. It has a train, a tram, a vibrant shopping strip with lots of locally owned shops and employment opportunities. Few of the suburbs being built today have these things. Because public transport hasn’t kept up with growth, many households in outer suburbia have higher costs associated with having to run more cars.
This is an added burden on households on the fringe who can least afford it, causing increasing social disadvantage and household stress. It isn’t about snobbery, Minister Madden – quite the opposite. It’s about providing people with appropriate opportunities through better planning.
– Alison Lee, urban and transport planner, Collingwood
Justin Madden’s statement that Melbourne’s growth “is lopsided and needs to change” displays a shocking ignorance of the factors driving sectoral growth, which were well documented in Suburbs in Time, a 2000 report by the Department of Infrastructure. It showed that despite lopsided growth, no major net migration moves to the north and west were occurring. The report concluded that migration patterns showed local, generally outward moves, mainly because of the desire to remain in familiar areas and close to family, friends and work.
The notion that limiting outward growth to the east or south will result in a redirection to the west or north is not supported by research carried out by the Government in 2000.
If constraints to the east are implemented, then land prices will inevitably rise and low-income groups will be greatly disadvantaged.
Increasing divergences between urban research and government policy and actions are deplorable and must be redressed urgently. There is a pressing need to re-establish a multifunction planning and development authority for a Melbourne-based region, staffed by experts, with security of tenure, modelled on the former Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works.
– Geoff Harris, former acting director of planning, MMBW, Bentleigh
The real “elitism”
Justin Madden may not have realised, but the use of the word “elitist” to denigrate those arguing against your point of view went out with the Howard government. To argue against urban sprawl, against 1960s-style planning, against energy-hungry suburbs, is not elitist and to suggest so is insulting to the wide range of people who want to achieve a sustainable built environment.
The real elitism in Madden’s argument lies in the suggestion that Melbourne can continue to spread across vast areas, up to 44 kilometres from the CBD, consuming vast quantities of resources and natural heritage in the process, while in other countries people live happily – and consume fewer resources – in densities far higher than the 10 people per hectare that Madden advocates. As for the suggestion that the city is lopsided; just because the sprawl spreads beyond Cranbourne, does that mean it has to go to the You Yangs in the other direction?
– John Ford, West Melbourne
Stop mad growth
Justin Madden, you have missed the point. “Cultural snobbery” and “NIMBY-ism” are not my reasons for being against urban growth and I strongly doubt they are the reasons held by other Melburnians. We are against the destruction of green wedges and native fauna habitat that results from urban growth. A better answer for Melbourne lies upwards, but a perfect answer would involve an effort to stop this mad population growth.
– Lola Jones, Malvern East
This comment from the article “Property owners slugged an average $64 more”, Herald-Sun, 27/6, infuriated me (aside from the main subject of greedy and wasteful councils):
Wyndham City Council Mayor Shane Bourke said it was not an ideal situation for his residents and businesses to have the highest increase, but said he would listen to residents before anything was set in stone. “It’s one of these things which we’d prefer not to happen,” he said. “But we’ve just had 9000 people move in during the last 12 months and we know we’re going to average about 10,000 people a year over the next 30 years. It’s booming and there are challenges with it, but you’ve got to maintain infrastructure and it’s exciting to have so many people coming to our area.”
“Exciting”? WTF?? More like stressful and unsustainable. Growth should be made a dirty word; it is never good.
“World’s megacities ripe for ‘megadisaster’ ”, SMH, 17/6. A not-very-surprising article saying that cities with high populations are vulnerable to natural disasters (i.e. lots of people killed).