Sounness moved the motion to accept and added the clause that the financial report ‘disclose’ open space contributions. Delahunty seconded.

SOUNNESS: said that the amendment ‘follows on’ from the Open Space Strategy. Acknowledged the ‘problem’ of lack of open space and that with new development people should have access to ‘new public open space’. Went through some features of the Open Space Strategy such as biodiversity, and how to ‘fund these developments’. Importantly the amendment wants to increase these contributions. Said that the ‘standard rate is 4% and lots of councils have 4%. When there were greenfields developers may have been happy to give a bit ‘of dirt’ but in developed residential areas they wouldn’t want to give up a ‘unit 2 of the third storey’ and so prefer to pay cash. Spoke about the objections and ‘some very good points were put forward about transparency’ and consequently there has been a ‘robust conversation’ amongst councillors and there’s been a ‘number of conversations’ about ‘what’s fair, what’s reasonable’ and comparing to other councils and how all this ‘refers to our future expectations’. Asked a question of Akehurst about why under this amendment the contributions wouldn’t ‘be appealable to VCAT’?

AKEHURST: said that currently there’s a ‘base rate’ based on numbers and that ‘other factors can add to tne percentages’ and these are ‘subjective’ and so can be challenged. He gave the example of ‘proximity’ to existing open space. Went on to say that council assesses one cost and the developer assesses this differently and figure that the money spent on challenging council is worthwhile. This also costs council money in going to VCAT. With the C120 there’s no sliding scale and there’s one rate for ‘every case’ and everywhere and the developer doesn’t have ‘grounds to argue for a discount’. Said that the amendment was there to give ‘more certainty’, more ‘revenue’ and without the associated costs of going to VCAT.

SOUNNESS: said that one of the objections had noted how the money was ‘expended’. He gave the example of the alma club developer paying money and asked how this money was spent in helping achieve open space around the Alma Club. Wanted to know if the amendment ‘speaks’ to the ‘direction’ of expenditure of the levy.

AKEHURST: said that the amendment was ‘about how you raise revenue’ and that the amendment ‘optimises that collection’ and then it becomes ‘up to council how it is spent’. That is then ‘expenditure’ and ‘council has a policy’ that stipulates spending the money on acquisition of ‘new open space’. Council would also have to spend money outside of its collected levies to bring these places ‘up to standard’.

SOUNNESS: then asked that when the amendment goes to the panel whether they have ‘the capacity to direct expenditure’?

AKEHURST: ‘no’ – the panel is bound by the law which says that money raised is ‘spent on land acquisition and improvements to existing public open space’. Said that every council then makes up its mind about spending on existing and additional open space and repeated the policy about spending 100% of the levy on ‘additional open space’ in Glen Eira and ‘zero’ of these contributions on ‘existing open space’. Went on to say that the policy is ‘binding on all staff’ and the use of the ‘revenues’. There will be accounting of the money in ‘each budget and each annual report’ and that ‘there is nothing that council could do’ which isn’t ‘already in place’.

SOUNNESS: reiterated that the amendment basically ‘seeks to increase the revenue’ and that there’s ‘only so much that can be done’ with how the money is spent. Summed up that the amendment wants to implement what the community has ‘endorsed’ in the Open Space Strategy. Said that the objections had ‘raised some issues that have been quite valuable’ and like the landswap it’s ‘very good to see where the money goes’ and that’s why he’s added the clause about reporting in the financial review.

DELAHUNTY: said that open space issues has ‘occupied a lot of councillors’ time’ and that when she first thought of becoming a councillor, open space was one of the ‘platforms’ that she wanted to run on. As a parent she sees ‘how important’ even ‘small pockets of green’ is. The problem is big and it will take a ‘step by step’ process and this included the Open Space Strategy and ‘getting the right people to write the strategy’ and have the ‘public contribute’ to the strategy. Council also ‘took a policy change initiative’ to ‘fence off the funds’ that would be received from contributions. The amendment is now the ‘next really important piece’ in the process. This is the end result of a long ‘calculation that is done by the right people’, and had public consultation. There is now the motion to put this to a panel and she asked Akehurst ‘what does this mean’?

AKEHURST: said that the Minister ‘appoints a panel’. Council and the objectors then ‘put their view’ before the panel. The panel then reports back to council ‘in the form of a recommendation’. Their recommendations could be that the amendment be adopted by council as exhibited, or ‘in some other form’. Council doesn’t have to accept the panel’s recommendations ‘but it would need to have serious reasons not to do that’. It then goes to the minister for approval if council has adopted the recommendations of the panel.

DELAHUNTY: ‘What’s the downside risk’?

AKEHURST: said that the panel might think that the 5.7% ‘is too high’.

DELAHUNTY: councillors had read the submissions and thought that many of the points ‘were correct’. Other things could be ‘clarified’ but she again asked Akehurst ‘what this would do to the process’?

AKEHURST: said that there were a ‘couple of errors’ and these were corrected. Amendments are a ‘statutory process’ and that council can’t change things in any ‘material way’ if it’s already gone on public exhibition. So even if there are submissions that ‘have merit’ but weren’t ‘part of the exhibited’ amendment ‘they could not be incorporated into’ this amendment because they would ‘depart’ from what’s already been exhibited.

DELAHUNTY: then asked whether Akehurst ‘was surprised’ that there were no objections to the 5.7%

AKHURST: ‘yes’

DELAHUNTY: said that she was ‘surprised and delighted’ and that at ‘heart’ everyone ‘understands’ that there are challenges that have to be fixed and she was pleased with community involvement because it’s an ’emotive issue’ but council wants to ‘move on’. Said that Sounness’ amendment will increase ‘transparency’ in ‘making sure they are reported upon’ in a ‘separate and visible line item’ in the financial report. Thought this was good and ‘goes some way’ to answering the submitters ‘concerns’. Said that the submitters ‘did a good job in pointing out those errors’ and that they are ‘pleased that we could provide a stronger submission’ as a result.

OKOTEL: glad that council is a ‘step closer’ to raising the contribution levy. Said that the 5.7% levy is one that was ‘supported by the Open Space Strategy’ and that this provided for a ‘strong reference base’ for this amount. The rate is ‘evidence based’ and she hoped it ‘would be accepted’. She then asked Newton a question about the officer’s report stating that 7 months would be added to the process if it went to a panel and that around $2 million would be lost from revenue and whether projects set down for implementation ‘would be impacted’?

NEWTON: said that when exhibited they estimated that the ‘revenue’ would rise from $2.2 million a year to $6.1 million. Continued that the Strategic Resource Plan is ‘based on current arrangements’ and the ‘extra revenue’ hasn’t been ‘taken into account’. Said that the current budget is resourced but what’s planned for the future in open space will only happen if the ‘amendment is put into effect’ and ‘the longer it takes the less money we will have’ for ‘next year and every other year’.

OKOTEL: then asked what council ‘mightn’t be able to complete’

NEWTON: gave two examples. One was the Booran Road Reservoir which is a ‘very expensive project’ and ‘because the meeting went so well’ council was thinking of ‘accelerating’ the works such as ‘demolishing the walls this current year’ and that’s ‘not budgeted’ but they could with the extra revenue and ‘complete the work earlier’ ‘if the money is available’. The second example was ‘another road intersection’ in North Caulfield and would be ‘similar’ to the Gisborne St/Riddell Parade closure. ‘At the moment there is no money in the ten year plan for that’ but if the amendment came in quickly ‘there would be more money’ so that ‘next year there would be more open space’.

MAGEE: said this could be a very ‘happy story’ that everyone wants. If developers pay the 5.7% then the money will ‘accumulate very quickly’ and council could implement the things listed in the Open Space Strategy. Referred to Newton’s examples and how important the Reservoir is given that council has been ‘talking about this for at least 5 years’. Said that it’s about ‘communities coming together and working together’. Stated that there could be times ‘when processes’ are different and other times when people can say ‘I don’t agree with you but I should work with you’. The amendment ‘benefits all of Glen Eira’ and council is ‘very passionate about’ this. The money isn’t from residents but ‘developers’ and the ‘cost to us is open space’ which council has to keep improving the open space. They can’t do this ‘by procrastinating’. Individuals might have ‘issues’ but the ‘overall good’ is for the community. ‘I’m saying don’t hold it back, don’t stop us’. Some people might say they ‘don’t like’ how council operates, but ‘suck it up’. ‘we need the money’ and it’s the ‘number one issue’ for Glen Eira that everyone should be ‘working towards’. ‘The process we can argue about’ but ‘let’s move on’.

DELAHUNTY: asked Sounness as a green, what the Greens would ‘say’ about the Open Space Strategy and the levy.

SOUNNESS: said that with open space then it’s about ‘improving, expanding’, ‘community access’, ‘equity and fairness’, letting people access a ‘safe, healthy, clean’ space,   so the greens and every party would support this.

DELAHUNTY: then asked that since there’s all this ‘passion’ and ‘feelings around the table’ whether there is ‘another path’ that could be taken so that the projects and money ‘could happen quicker’.

NEWTON: said that there’s ‘only one option’ if there are submissions and that’s to appoint a Panel. There would be a Panel in October and they’d report back to council which council would then consider and report back to Minister. ‘That’s a long time’ and council ‘would not be getting 5.7%’. He was like Delahunty ‘surprised and delighted’ that no one had objected to the 5.7%. Went on to say that if there hadn’t been submissions then council could have ‘adopted’ the amendment ‘tonight’ and written off to the minister tomorrow and it could have been in operation by August.

DELAHUNTY: since there are admissions, then the whole process has to be gone through – ie panel, report back to council, decision by council, sending off to minister and waiting for his approval.

NEWTON: so ‘if the submissions remain, the panel remains’ and all the other processes have to take place.

ESAKOFF: said it was ‘disappointing’ when this is on the agenda and the added costs that will happen. So there will be ‘delays’ or the inability to ‘accelerate’ projects. ‘It’s very disappointing’.

HYAMS: was ‘very p0leased’ that no submissions came from developers but thought that ‘once they cotton on’ to this that they may go directly to the minister and ‘try not to give us as much money’ as council is asking and others might be ‘rushing their applications through’. Said that consultants did ‘the strategic work that justifies the 5.7%’ so they are ‘pretty confident’ that even if developers object they would still get this rate. Perhaps even the developers looked at the ‘documentation’ of the amendment and ‘realised that we do have a solid case’ and they didn’t want to ‘waste their time’ on this knowing that ‘it was going to get through’. Sumbissions pointed out ‘2 errors in the documentation’ which might have ’caused confusion’ so ‘it’s good’ that this has been fixed. Thanked submitters and said that the submissions also ‘raised a number of policy’ questions. Hyams then ‘sought clarification’ from Akehurst by asking whether Public Acquisition Overlays are something that council ‘could or should do as part of this amendment’?

AKEHURST: said ‘no’ that it wasn’t ‘lawful’ and that ‘no council could do it’. Said that public acquisition overlays can only happen by ‘amending the planning scheme’ and to ‘identify the land to be applied’ and the ‘purpose for which it is being acquired’. The minister would have to approve exhibition and wouldn’t get the go ahead if council asked for more ‘land than required’. Council would also have to prove that ‘it has the financial resources to buy the land’ and this is ‘accepting financial responsibility’. If this is in the planning scheme then ‘council can be asked immediately to buy the land’. It can also cause anguish to the owners and that’s why councils only have ‘small numbers of overlays’. Councils generally start by getting the money from levies and then being in a position to buy the land, put in acquisition overlays.

HYAMS: stated that as one submitter said that it’s ‘unreasonable’ that all the money coming in would go to ‘catering for new residents’ and that the ‘140,000 people currently living in Glen Eira miss out’. Asked Akehurst whether it would be applied in this way.

AKEHURST: said council has go ‘not choice’ and that’s why it’s phrased as it is. Said that the amendment isn’t ‘justified if it’s not raising money for future residents’. Claimed that this ‘isn’t bad news for existing residents’ since the Open Space strategy has got projects where the money will be spent and apolicy that council will spend money ‘by other means’

HYAMS: asked Akehurst about the choice of ‘acquiring land or acquiring money’ and that the amendment only has 3 areas for cash contributions listed as preferable, so how is getting a ‘little’ piece of land at the back of a development ‘better than getting money’?

AKEHURST: said that ‘it’s not better’ and that council would be very stringent in what land it accepted and this would really only be if there was a ‘significant development’ and that this wouldn’t ‘happen very often’ because ‘Glen Eira is substantially developed already’.   Council would get cash mainly because development is generally on ‘small to medium sized lots’.

HYAMS: repeated how pleased he was that there weren’t any developer submissions and he thought that the two objectors would have thought that there would be others so they wouldn’t have expected that their submissions would be holding up council. Said that if the submissions ‘are withdrawn we can go straight to the minister’.

SOUNNESS: said this was ‘all about money’. Didn’t want to ‘see concrete’ but ‘useful’ parks, and gardens and the amendment want to ‘seek the mechanism for improving that capacity’. Said councillors ‘elswhere would love to get 5.7%’. Whitehorse is 4% and their plan was done by the same consultants and they’ve now bought 3 residential lots over time. Getting the cash means that council ‘can adjust to cicrumstances’. In western Australia there’s 5% and ‘compulsory acquisition overlays’. When this happens ‘people go nuts’ and say ‘my home is being removed’. Thanked submitters because ‘it’s a champion thing that democracy does’ but was worried that developers will now see that ‘there’s a cut off time’ and will take advantage of this by council getting a ‘rush of subdivisions’ and therefore receiving less money.

MOTION PUT AND CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY

 

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