In a coll-e-bulletin article earlier this year, we raised a number of questions in relation to how the new Labor State Government would address changes introduced by the former Coalition Government and how pre-election promises would be implemented.

As we head into the second half of the year, the answers to some of these questions are beginning to become apparent.  An update on our earlier article is provided below.

1.          What will happen to the Metropolitan Planning Authority (MPA) and Places Victoria?  Will these authorities be merged or will responsibilities shift?

The State Government has already announced that the MPA will no longer be responsible for assessing planning permit applications in Fishermans Bend however, it has been given the task of driving the development of individual precinct plans and an overarching infrastructure plan.

We have heard nothing more about the future of Places Victoria nor about the Victorian Planning Authority.

2.          Will a new metropolitan planning strategy be developed or will Plan Melbourne continue to guide the growth of our City?

The Minister for Planning has announced that he will reconvene the Ministerial Advisory Committee that undertook the consultation phase and developed the draft version of Plan Melbourne.

The Labor Government has committed to a new round of community consultation which will take place in the second half of this year with a presumably revised metropolitan planning strategy to be released in early 2016.

We understand that the new Metropolitan Planning Levy that commenced on 1 July 2015 is intended to support the operations of the MPA and the implementation of Plan Melbourne.

3.          How will Infrastructure Victoria and Projects Victoria operate, will they replace Major Projects Victoria?

The State Government introduced legislation into Parliament last month to set up Infrastructure Victoria, which will be an independent body that prioritises infrastructure needs, ensuring a continuing pipeline of projects.  The authority will be required to establish a 30-year strategy identifying short, medium and long-term projects.  Sounds like a positive step, provided real action follows.

We hope that this authority will take some of the politics out of infrastructure planning and provide greater certainty about the delivery of major infrastructure projects.

4.          Will the Labor Government implement the Standard Levies for development contributions?

The Minister for Planning introduced the Planning and Environment Amendment (Infrastructure Contributions) Bill 2015 on 6 June 2015.  This Bill is based on the recommendations of the Standard Development Contributions Advisory Committee that was established under the previous government.

The Coalition Government had planned to introduce the new infrastructure contributions system on 1 July 2015 however, we understand from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) website that it is not expected to be introduced until early 2016.  DELWP is working with an Implementation Reference Group to finalise the details of the new system before it commences operation.  The new system will apply to greenfield growth areas and strategic development areas where a development contributions plan does not yet apply.

5.          Will we see further changes to the residential zones?

We understand that the Government has committed to an independent review of the Coalition Government’s process of applying the residential zones.  Planning Minister, Richard Wynne, has stated that some form of review will occur before the end of this year into the issues with the implementation and workings of the new zones.

We note that the Minister recently approved planning scheme amendments in the City of Yarra and City of Moreland which applied the reformed residential zones and associated schedules.  The neighbourhood residential zone was applied to 74 per cent of residential areas in Yarra with no application of the Residential Growth Zone.  In Moreland, the Neighbourhood Residential Zone now affects 66 per cent of land.  We are unaware of why the Minister approved these planning scheme amendments before the independent review has been done.

6.          Will we see a major change in the decisions issued by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) if it is required to take into account the weight of community opposition to planning proposals?

The Minister for Planning introduced the Planning and Environment Amendment (Recognising Objectors) Bill 2015 into Parliament on 26 May 2015.  This amendment would require decision making authorities, including VCAT and councils, to take into consideration (where appropriate) the number of objections to a planning permit application in the consideration of whether development or use of land would have a significant social affect when considering a proposal.

We will be interested to see whether this change has a significant impact on the decision-making process for applications that attract a high level of public interest.

7.          Will the State Government introduce minimum apartment standards?

The Minister released a discussion paper titled ‘Better Apartments’ on 14 May 2015.  The State Government is seeking input on how to address concerns about the amenity of apartment developments.

An online survey and submission form will be available until the end of July 2015.  Stakeholder consultation is expected to occur between July and August this year with draft guidelines to be released towards the end of the year and a final report handed to the Minister in mid-2016.