6:11 AMThe Big Worry
Please read the 'Plan Melbourne Refresh Submission Form' which is available from the council website for the council meeting on Feb 2, 2016.
Manningham council is dominated by one big worry – the environment. They know this. And they know they that a large number of people are not in agreement with them.
In short, Manningham council is pursuing their own agenda. And to their mind, those who don't agree with them are misguided or wrong and need to be convinced of the truth.
This is a bit hard to spot at first. If you read the Melbourne Refresh document it would be easy to say that Manningham council is concerned about 'a broad range of issues'. But that is not really correct. Many of the issues that concern Manningham council tie back to just one issue – the environment.
Please allow me explain.
There is nothing wrong with low cost housing. However that is not really all that Manningham Council is referring to here. Low cost housing means smaller housing, often described as higher density housing where a larger number of people live using much less land. Affordable housing generally means that more people can be housed in a much smaller space.
Such affordable housing does not contribute to the urban spread of the suburbs into agricultural land on the periphery of the city. Manningham council does not want the urban fringes of Melbourne to spread further and place pressure on the environmental value of surrounding land (please see below).
20 Minute Cities Within A Big City.
Not having to travel far to work is a good thing. No one likes long drives into and out of the city during peak hour, in heavy, slow traffic. But again, this is not really what Manningham Council is getting at. To Manningham council a 20 minute neighbourhood means that everything you need is within a 20 minute walk or bicycle ride. That is, there is no need for you to own a car (page 4).
Manningham council does not like cars. They don't want you to drive your car. When you see how they report car ownership in Manningham (see pages 6,7) you are left with the impression that Manningham council does not really want you to own a car either. What they want you to do is walk or bicycle to all the places that we need to go – that is to shops, employment, etc.
Let's take a closer look at their document.
Manningham council wants to discourage you from driving your car to somewhere that is well serviced by public transport.
"There should be a focus on people movement (and not private vehicle movement);
Reduced maximum car-parking rates for locations well-served by public transports are supported;
An increase in the minimum parking requirement for bicycles in urban and built form are encouraged" (Page 4).
The council's Plan Refresh submission seems to be recommending, if you look at the context, that the number of parking spaces be reduced at places well serviced by public transport. Instead bicycles are to be favoured. The same thing is said again on page 7.
However, reducing car parking spaces at 'places well served by public transport' is going to have consequences.
It can stifle business. I wonder how businesses at Tunstall Square or Jackson Court will be effected if they significantly reduce the number of car parking spaces available there?
I understand that the Victorian State government adopted a similar policy some years back. Shop owners complained about the effect this policy was having on their business. However the Brumby state government would not listen. It was not until the Ballieu government came to power in 2010, that the shop keeper's complaints were heeded and changes were made to street parking.
Finally consider how Manningham council reports car ownership when speaking of the Doncaster Hill area:
"Importantly, there is also low car ownership (85.5% compared to 92.4% for Manningham City." (page 7).
It would appear that the 20 minute city is really about reducing our dependency on cars.
Locking Down a Permanent Border Around Melbourne.
What they mean here is 'locking down the existing urban growth boundary" (page 2). Manningham council does not want residential development to go beyond it's existing boundaries.
Now I like the natural environment just as much as anyone else. I don't want to see it ruined or spoiled.
But with our council, the environment is an obsession. And they know their views are extreme and many don't agree with them. So they try to hide or deflect attention.
Please let me explain how they do this.
The reasons they give for a permanent urban boundary are:
One reason is their real reason – to protect the environmental value of the green wedge. The other reasons are meant to deflect criticism. Please allow me to explain.
Our council knows that 'protecting the agricultural value of land' is complete nonsense.
People stop farming land when urban areas approach for very simple reasons. Firstly the close proximity of domestic animals make it largely impractical to farm sheep, cattle, deer, etc. Second land tax makes farming unprofitable. As urban areas approach farm land, the value of the agricultural land increases dramatically. And state government land tax is relentless. It was land tax that made the Eastern golf links unworkable. Similarly land tax made the Morrison Bros nursery untenable. And similarly farming becomes unprofitable.
So what about the reason 'protecting lifestyle issues'?
That also is meant to deflect attention. A while back the state government was going to permit large blocks of land bordering the green wedge be subdivided. Manningham council then let slip their real concern.
Manningham council did not want these large blocks of land to be subdivided because they acted as a buffer between highly developed suburban areas and the green wedge. The council thought that if higher density suburban development were allowed to spread to the border of the green wedge, it would compromise the environmental value of the green wedge. Also Manningham council, at that time, spoke about lifestyle issues.
But wait a minute. If people decide to subdivide their land and sell it for a profit, that is a lifestyle choice. If someone decides to buy a smaller block of land, that also is a lifestyle choice. If someone wants a larger block then they buy further out from the city and that too is a lifestyle choice. The real issue is that the council wants to retain larger blocks of land close to the green wedge for their own reasons. If larger blocks of land are subdivided away from the green wedge, the council does not mind. In fact, Manningham council is for it.
It seems that just everything that is important to Manningham council ties back somehow to the environment.
You can see this elsewhere in their documents. The environment, in one form or another, is always present. Other reasons for their policies may be given. But, as far as I can tell, the environment is always there. And when you consider their other reasons, you realize that they are really red herrings meant first to deflect our attention from their real obsession and second make Manningham council appear balanced and sensible in their policy decisions.
Manningham Council is aware they do not represent most ratepayers in this matter.
And how do I know this?
Because they understand that they need to "more clearly articulate the values of green wedge and peri-urban areas to be protected" (page 2).
Apparently a sizable body of people do not agree with them, and they are aware of this. But in their mind, they are right and everyone who disagrees with them is wrong, so they need to be 'convinced' or 'educated'. The issue needs to be 'clarified' for those who don't agree.
Basically Manningham Council's fanaticism can be summed up by the graphic they used on the front cover of Manningham's Submission to this Plan Melbourne Refresh. See if you can spot how all these issues tie together.
This is what occupies our council's thoughts. And many ordinary people are simply wrong because they do not share their fanaticism.
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