The Greens plan for a Royal Commission into urban planning, rezoning and sales.
Over the last two decades, several significant decisions and deals have been made that have called into question the integrity of Victoria’s urban planning system.
Questionable decisions to rezone large swathes of land have handed very large windfall gains to land bankers, speculators and developers, in many cases giving these landowners hundreds of millions of dollars in profit. With the capital and access to politicians who are able to make favourable decisions to benefit their interests, vested interests have wielded too much influence on successive planning ministers. The Greens want to take away the honeypot that is driving improper decisions, and have proposed a 75% windfall rezoning tax. Read our tax plan here.
The power over urban renewal projects like Fishermans Bend and the Docklands were effectively handed to developers, resulting in poorly-planned high-density development dominated by towers and poor liveability. In the Docklands project, parcels of land were sold for less than 100th of their value at the time. The land for the Kensington public housing redevelopment was also undervalued and sold far below market price, and it was sold to a developer with ties to the government.
Planning ministers have increasingly exercised their power to exempt themselves from public notice to ‘call in’ planning decisions for ministerial approval, removing the right of communities and councils to have a say and in some cases ignoring the advice of their own planning experts.
The system stinks of corruption, secretive dealings and bought influence. Ventnor, Fishermans Bend, the Docklands urban renewal project and the Kensington Public Housing redevelopment are just some examples that raise serious questions about whether conflicts of interest were properly managed and whether the public interest was ultimately served. Mathew Guy’s settlement deal following his decision to rezone farming land at Ventnor on Phillip Island, then repeal that decision has been the latest in a series of sagas that have plagued our system.
Victorians are sick of being stuck with murky, dodgy planning decisions. Instead of planning for a liveable Melbourne, successive planning ministers have yielded to the demands of wealthy developers and corporations. It’s time that we conducted a comprehensive investigation into the true extent of developer influence in planning, and reformed our system so that it puts the public interest first, not profit.
The Greens are calling for a Royal Commission into decisions that have made by successive Victorian Planning Ministers dating back to the Kennett Government that have raised serious questions of propriety. These decisions are ones that have been questioned because of concerns that either due process has not been followed, significant conflicts of interest were present, or were not in the public interest. With Victoria’s current planning system vulnerable to corruption and undue influence, it is critical that a proper, expansive and serious inquiry be undertaken to investigate acts of corruption and improper practice by key decision makers.
Our Commission will specifically investigate the following decisions:
- The rezoning and all related decisions about Fisherman’s Bend by both Matthew Guy and Richard Wynne.
- The Ventnor rezoning of land in Phillip Island by Matthew Guy.
- Decisions by Planning Ministers to expand the urban growth boundary since 2000.
- The Andrews government’s decision to demolish part of Federation Square to make way for an Apple megastore.
- The Docklands redevelopment under Jeff Kennett and Robert Maclellan.
- The Kensington public housing redevelopment and associated subsidised land sale.
Terms of Reference
The Commission will investigate the integrity of the decision making that preceded and resulted in all the planning decisions listed above and any similar and/or related decisions.
It will look specifically at the following aspects of each decision:
- Whether the rezoning and ancillary planning decisions were made in the interest of the Victorian public;
- Whether conflicts of interest were present that impacted the decisions being made;
- If favourable decisions were made where conflicts of interest were present;
- The relationship between political donations and planning decisions in each of the examples cited for investigation;
- The integrity of the decisions made in relations to the Planning and Environment Act and the limitations of the Act to prevent improper actions;
- The impact of the cited decisions on housing affordability and property prices;
- The weaknesses of the strategic and statutory decision making framework that governs planning and rezoning decisions that occur in Victoria as exemplified in the cases investigated by the Royal Commission;
- How the urban planning system and related decision-making could be strengthened to improve the integrity and robustness of decisions that are made, and ensure the public interest is served.
The Royal Commission will be conducted over 18 months and have broad ranging powers of inquiry to investigate these matters. The Greens will commit $10 million to fund the Royal Commission.