The latest and crudest example of Council’s desperation and public relations gone mad is the pathetic exercise that comes in Item 9.1 of the current agenda. It is Akehurst’s puerile attempt to gild the lily and to justify the new residential zones. We have to say that this must go down in the annals of Glen Eira City Council as its most ineffectual and lamentable effort – and we also suspect that Akehurst must in his heart of hearts feel the same. Poor man. Council is obviously feeling the heat from a growing chorus of outraged residents and this is the corporate response – propaganda, and mistruths at the drop of a hat!

The stated purpose is quite grandiose – To inform the Council of changes which may increase building height and density in other municipalities but which will not apply in Glen Eira. Please note the careful equivocation here. Nothing is certain, things ‘may’ change in other councils. The premise is set – Glen Eira is above and beyond the best council; untouchable because of its wonderful residential zones. Of course, the only point that is made is HEIGHT and the assumed resulting density. But more on this later.

Akehurst is quite correct when he writes – Authority to re-zone land rests with the State Minister for Planning. No Council has the power to zone or rezone any land. It’s just a great pity that Akehurst didn’t go on to say that it is Councils who do the planning and designing and analysis of their municipalities and then go on to figure out where zones should be. That is then put to the minister and department for approval. He also neglects to say that the role of council is to advocate strongly on behalf of residents. Hard to advocate we say when residents haven’t been asked and the zones as they currently stand are based on figures and projections from the 1990s. At least Akehurst had the sense not to cite ‘consultation’ from 2010 which was the previous excuse. Now it is strictly 2003. Yes, the zones are based on “consultation” that took place in the dark ages.

There’s also the usual sleight of hand with this next sentence – The Minister announced that he would rezone land into the three new residential zones by way of Ministerial Amendments. No, that is not what he said and in no way does it present the full picture of that time. In fact Guy’s Media Release of 5th March 2013 contained this statement – “Importantly, these zones will be at the discretion of local council and it will predominately be the view of the local community that informs which zone should be applied where.” http://premier.vic.gov.au/media-centre/media-releases/6183-reformed-residential-zones-bringing-new-certainty-to-melbournes-neighbourhoods.html

Casting further doubt on Akehurst’s claims is the Governments Advisory Note 50 dating from July 2013. Of relevance here is this quotation from page 3 for those councils who feel that their policies are ‘ready to go’ – as Glen Eira claims – ie the ‘neutral translation’ line. It states categorically –

A council can begin preparing an amendment to implement the new residential zones. This may include a request to the Minister for Planning to prepare the amendment and use his powers under Section 20(4) of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 to exempt himself from the requirements of giving notice depending on the earlier consultation informing the housing and development strategy and its implementation

http://www.dtpli.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/229871/AN50-Reformed-residential-zones-July-2013.pdf

So we’ve again got the ‘may’ word. As for the ‘earlier consultation’ bit, we wonder if it ever entered the Minister’s head that such consultation might also apply to data originating in the last century. We doubt it! The import however is that the onus is again on council to REQUEST the minister to act, whereas the Akehurst claim would like everyone to believe that it was the minister acting unilaterally and without any input or consultation from council. What this page 3 also makes very clear is that council had various options it could have taken. It did nothing except operate in secrecy and in deliberately misleading its residents when asked specific public questions.

Akehurst then rambles on about council’s letter and how adamant it was in maintaining the current status quo of minimal change and housing diversity. Height again rears its ugly head but no mention is made of all the other ‘protections’ that could have been afforded via the respective schedules and which countless other councils have taken up.

Other claims made by Akehurst are also very very suspect. Of course nothing is council’s fault – the Alma Club rezoning had nothing to do with them. They didn’t even know about it. Factually Akehurst is dead wrong here too. In claiming that the Alma Club was the only ‘change’ is incorrect. Tovan Akas was rezoned. Large sites were now under the standards of General Residential Zones and not the previous minimal change zones. They also put their heads together to concoct the wonderful escape loop of subdivision prior to applications in order to subvert the very policy of two dwellings per lot in Neighourhnood Residential Zone. Of course, none of this gets a mention.

The most incredible porkies in the entire document come towards the end of the Akehurst effort. If the wording of the ‘purpose’ is changed, then why should Glen Eira be exempt? Akehurst then makes the following extraordinary statement –

Glen Eira is understood to be the only Council which has this mandatory height limit.

What utter nonsense! Here are some examples of other councils having height limits in their RGZ that are lower or equal to Glen Eira’s –

LATROBE COUNCIL – RGZ2 – HEIGHT LIMIT OF 9 METRES (http://planningschemes.dpcd.vic.gov.au/schemes/latrobe/ordinance/32_07s02_latr.pdf)

STONNINGTON – RGZ2 – 13.5 metres – (http://planningschemes.dpcd.vic.gov.au/schemes/stonnington/ordinance/32_07s02_ston.pdf)

It should also be pointed out that there are quite a few councils that don’t even have RGZ in their planning schemes. Instead, they have relied on numerous General Residential Zoning schedules to implement their finely grained schemes. As we’ve noted before, Stonnington and Bayside have plenty of GRZ schedules that include some that have a 9 metre height limit. Further, even for Greater Dandenong which was the second council to have their zones ratified their attempts to limit the damage is evident in their schedule to the RGZ. Note all that they have included in comparison to Glen Eira’s cave in. Greater Dandenong was able to achieve a site coverage of 70%. Glen Eira has 80%. Greater Dandenong has standards on landscaping, fences etc. Glen Eira is silent on all of this.

greater dandenong

The most outrageous statement of all comes in the final recommendation – That Council notes that the maximum height limits achieved last year are providing greater protection to Glen Eira than in other municipalities.

Height is only a fraction of what could be seen as constituting ‘protection’. Of far greater importance is:

  • Where the RGZ zones are placed – are they only along main shopping strips or main roads which people could live with, or do they engulf entire quiet residential streets that are now being destroyed – such as Mavho, Penang, Loranne, Bent, Glen Orme and hundreds of others?
  • If 52 units can be crammed onto one site, then ‘density’ is not exclusively dependent on height, but on size of dwellings, permeability and site coverage, landscaping requirements, etc. All of these considerations do not rate a mention in Council’s view of planning and do not feature in the zoning for RGZ and neither do they feature in the GRZ zones.

The more Council insists on issuing such misleading and deceptive public relations exercises the more residents should start thinking that this is not the sort of council that is serving its populace as it should. When trust is lost, when public pronouncements can’t be believed, when self aggrandisement and continual cover ups occur, then there is definitely something rotten at the heart. Right now it is reeking to high heaven!

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