Two dismaying articles from The Age demonstrating an assult on the environment and residents’ rights by the Victorian Liberal government under Ted Baillieu.
“Baillieu reviews green laws”, 12/2. Native habitat is once again under threat due to the Liberal government’s seeking to remove excessive “red tape” (regulations). This despite that biodiversity is already much reduced:
Victorian National Parks Association executive director Matt Ruchel said numerous government and scientific reports over the last decades had shown Victoria as the most cleared and ecologically stressed state in Australia, with high numbers of threatened species.
“Planning reform blocks appeals”, 15/3. The overcrowding and destruction of once-pleasant established suburbs looks set to continue, and residents will not be notified, and have no right to appeal inappropriate housing developments near them. The anger and despair I feel at this is almost too much to be borne. And I am powerless to do anything about it. Planning Minister Matthew Guy is proving just as much an urban vandal as his predecessor, Justin Madden.
And, of course, a main factor behind each issue is Victoria’s continuing and relentless population growth, which is neither inevitable nor desirable (except to businesses such as the building industry which profit from it).
Some collected letters in response to both issues:
THE Baillieu government wants to burn the forests and let cattle eat the high country, supposedly to save us from fires. Now it wants to clear vegetation from the waterways to protect us from floods (The Age, 6/3). Why don’t we all just move to the desert, where they have neither bushfires nor floods?
– Christina Cheers, Sunbury
Fee must include price of extinction
THE article “Baillieu reviews green laws” (The Age, 12/3) highlights this government’s continuing systematic dismantling of environmental protection across Victoria. The native vegetation management framework forced an evaluation of native vegetation to protect our endangered species and ecosystems from development and offset damage done to more common species in areas where development was appropriate.
By “streamlining” the process where no ecological surveys are required, we will not know if the last of an endangered species is to have a house built on the last of its habitat. Will the new “offset fee” build in the price of extinction, as that is inevitable with what is proposed.
– David Blair, Healesville
The most cleared state in the nation
THE National Parks Association noted at the weekend that Victoria is the most cleared and ecologically stressed state in the country. The Baillieu government’s latest plan in its almost daily attacks on what’s left of Victoria’s natural environment is the proposal to burn our forests for electricity (“East Gippsland timber destined for chips, power”, The Age, 13/3). The rationale is to encourage investment in the native forest industry. Investors should note that as the experience in Tasmania demonstrated, the public doesn’t support native forest logging and will not support burning of forests for electricity. There will be no certainty of future government support. It is disappointing that the only vision Ted Baillieu has for Victoria is one in ashes.
– Chris Owens, Lysterfield South
Feed the beast
THE construction of a “forest waste”-fired power station will cost millions of dollars and require a small full-time workforce to keep it going. An asset of that size will need to be fed constantly to “maximise the return on investment” and retain employment. What happens if the fiery furnace ever runs out of “forest waste” fuel? Simple. Just cut down some more trees. Any trees; habitat trees, endangered species, young trees, ancient trees - who cares? The power station will not be a “waste disposal unit”, it will quickly become a business imperative. This is gross environmental vandalism taken to the point of stupidity. Our heritage will just go up in smoke. This proposal needs to go into the furnace. Today.
– Charles Street, Euroa
IT IS like a nightmare to witness environmental gains of the past 20 years being chipped away by the Baillieu government as it appeases the Nationals for getting them over the line.
– Galena Debney, Glenlyon
A house, land – but little else
AS A new government school on Melbourne’s fringe, we experience the daily challenges of life on the edge – “Sick suburbs” (Focus, 15/3). Little infrastructure and no public transport results in our students walking on the roadside to school. Students who are running late and their parents have to form car pools to arrive on time. The nearest shops are more than three kilometres away and the hopelessly inadequate roads are clogged with cars in the morning and afternoon peak periods. Accidents are a regular feature.
But these are only examples of the challenges that these communities face. There are no guarantees for funding of future stages of our school, no liaison between government departments in the development of infrastructure resulting in a new school, and no subsidised local bus routes. The local council is under pressure to provide for an exploding community, existing schools are bursting at the seams, and local state MPs are seemingly unable to do anything to garner support to address these pressing needs. Instead they blame everyone else. In our community, you get the “house and land” package – but little else.
– Michael Fawcett, principal, Tarneit Senior College, Taneit
Get it right at the start
WHILE poor planning in outer-growth suburbs is placing those living there at risk of poor health, the middle-ring suburbs in Brimbank are already there. Poor access to open space, bike paths and other forms of active/passive recreation in suburbs such as Sunshine underscore spiralling rates of type 2 diabetes and childhood obesity that are among the highest in the state. It is vitally important to “plan in” the infrastructure needed to build healthy communities. Trying to “retro-fit” badly needed open space and other social infrastructure in suburbs that are targeted for high population growth is proving near impossible.
– Sean Spencer, Sunshine
Our dead suburbs
I AM disturbed by Melbourne University planning expert Dr Carolyn Whitzman’s suggestion that the best solution to our urban planning crisis is more “mid-rise development” throughout Melbourne. In my experience, what qualifies as “medium density” in the eyes of urban planners involves denuding a typical suburban block of substantial vegetation before cramming it full of as many units as possible. If this sort of obnoxious development continues at its current pace, it will only be a matter of time before our existing suburbs are rendered as lifeless as the monotonous growth corridors.
– Heath McDonough, Eltham
WHY do councils allow big developers to ride roughshod over town planning principles? Logic suggests all new housing estates should have parks and other recreational facilities, shops and health services. Tree-lined streets should be a priority. Why are town planners’ skills not being used by councils and developers? Spend the dollars now on proper urban planning or pay for it later with the huge social costs of obesity, isolation, mental health problems and family breakdown.
– Shelly Gray, Ballarat
Population growth lazy and destructive policy
ADVOCATES of a “Big Australia” need to understand what will be the result: the environmental damage that will be caused, the natural resources and industries that will be needed, and the limits of the land to provide for the number of people that economists and politicians are always demanding.
Victoria’s economy has become heavily dependent on housing, and thus population growth. This is the laziest and most destructive way of propping up the economy. It’s also self-destructive if infrastructure continually lags behind the demands of swelling numbers of people.
Even the best intentions of professional town planning will not be able to avoid creating cities choked by increasingly claustrophobic developments, and urban sprawl along our coast encroaching on prime agricultural land. With Victoria the most cleared and damaged state of the country, we are already in ecological overshoot. Good health and human wellbeing must be taken into a holistic context. “Affordable housing” is an oxymoron while our state coffers depend on healthy housing prices.
– Rod Binnington, Brighton
IT WOULD be only fair if John Brumby and Justin Madden were sentenced to spend the remainder of their years in the far-flung wastelands of Melbourne’s outer limits. Such punishment might cause Ted Baillieu and his ministers to think more carefully about their responses to Melbourne’s planning problems.
– David Hancocks, Carlton
19/3 – on high-density apartment living:
Build on the cheap
A COMMON complaint from residents of new estates is that the facilities shown in the glossy advertising material fail to eventuate. The developer is blamed but the fault lies elsewhere. Planners provide for activities but do nothing positive to bring them about. Entrepreneurial effort is required to bring commercial and public services to markets on the fringe. The planning process creates large single-use zones and severely limits the space allocated to non-residential uses.
Provision of public goods such as recreation opportunities require public bodies to act directly. The developers make financial contributions, but these often become diluted in the general revenue of local government authorities. Also, most new councils lack the access that “old” suburbs had to crown land reserves.
So instead the state tries to do it on the cheap by drawing pretty maps that have little relationship to future reality. Action is required, not even more indicative planning.
– Colin Waring, Korumburra
Stack-’em-up flats erode quality of life
I WONDER how many politicians/developers ever live in the apartments they approve/build. Not too many, I think.
The Age’s Domain apartment guide is full of happy stories about people who have downsized from spacious suburban homes. But these people are living in top-dollar dwellings. For the majority of Melburnians the story is quite different.
I have lived in the inner city for many years, first in a house, and when that became unaffordable, a recently built one-bedroom apartment.
Most people think that as long as the other residents don’t hold wild parties a life of peace and privacy is possible. Wrong. Apartment living can be as stressful as the dreaded open plan office environment.
If I open my window, or the door to my courtyard and the people upstairs are on their balcony I can clearly hear their conversations. Even with all my windows and doors closed I know when they turn switches on and off, close cupboards and doors, shower, use the toilet, have sex, walk, sneeze and cough.
I live in a small, three-storey block of 11 apartments. The mind boggles at what life is like in new, high-rise, 70-plus dwellings. The media needs to stop spruiking apartment living as some kind of wonderful sea change for cashed-up baby boomers and start reporting the very real erosion of quality of life that these dwellings cause.
– Monica Clarke, Port Melbourne