The Minister for Planning Mathew Guy was the guest speaker at the July UDIA lunch.

The Minister used this opportunity to promote the recent implementation of the new zone reforms, in particular, the new Commercial and Residential Zones.

With regard to the new Commercial 1 Zone (C1Z), the Minister spoke of freeing up former Business 2 Zoned (B2Z) land to allow for the use of a dwelling ‘as of right’ with the purpose of the C1Z allowing for residential development (unlike the former B2Z).

In terms of the new residential zones, the Minister addressed ‘industry’ concern about Council application of the residential zones and the fear that the Neighbourhood Residential Zone (NRZ) (the most restrictive zone) may be applied across entire municipalities as a blanket for no development.

The Minister acknowledged that some Councils may seek a higher proportion of land to be covered by the NRZ however, he expected the Residential Growth Zone (RGZ) (the pro development zone) to be applied in all municipalities with the application of this zone to be abutting activity centres offering good access to facilities and public transport.  The Minister made no mention of whether there would be any intervention measures should municipalities decide not to implement the RGZ.

The Minister also discussed VicSmart, which is due to be implemented in the coming months.  VicSmart will require Councils to consider minor planning permit applications within 10 days.  It was advised that should a Council fail to make a decision within the prescribed time period, the applicant will have the right to appeal to the Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) straight away.  Given the minor nature of these applications, we anticipate that it would be rare for an applicant to appeal on the grounds of failure and while this initiative sounds good in theory, it will be interesting to see how it plays out in practice.

On the whole, it was a good presentation from the Minister who responded well to several pertinent questions from the floor.