(13/8/10 - P) That puts around another 20,000 people and 7,000 houses in the Shire by 2036. And the State government's VC66 amendment has already been put in place (also sans consultation) to implement it. Hello suburbia!
This week's Midland Express carries a front page story where Macedon Ranges' CEO, Peter Johnston, says Council has endorsed a Regional Strategic Plan (Loddon Mallee Southern Region) that maps out growth for the next 20 years. The Regional Strategic Plan flows from the Victorian government's new "Regional Blueprint" framework for rural and regional Victoria, and is therefore the State government's plan for this area.
The State government has already changed the Victoria Planning Provisions to make the Regional Strategic Plan the plan that applies to Macedon Ranges.
On the 27th July, the State government approved amendment VC66, a State amendment to all planning schemes in Victoria.
On the one hand VC66 belatedly stops the 'urban' elements of Melbourne 2030 being applied to rural and regional areas. These 'urban' elements are the planning provisions and standards that apply to metropolitan Melbourne that have until now also been applied to places outside the metro area, like Macedon Ranges, with diabolically suburban results.
On the other hand, VC66 (at Clause 12.03) says the future of rural and regional Victoria is what is writ in the Regional Strategic Plans for each region. That is, our planning scheme now says that what's in the Regional Strategic Plan endorsed by council for Macedon Ranges is what has to happen.
The Midland Express article quotes Mr. Johnston as saying "There's been quite a bit of input (from council) on a regular basis to that document [i.e. 'our' Regional Strategic Plan]... Council is working closely with Regional Development Victoria..."
Yet the Plan isn't even available to the public.
As with the Bendigo Corridor Plan before it, which was supposed to have been pulled up in response to Melbourne 2030 (from 2002) but was never publicly released, this new Regional Strategic Plan has never been sighted by the Macedon Ranges community. There has never been any community consultation on the Shire's future at this Regional level. That future has now been decided by a distant hand, and it will see substantial growth in one of the State's most environmentally sensitive and bushfire-prone areas.
The unbelievable part is that Macedon Ranges Council thought it could make such a momentous decision to go along with the State government's agenda without consulting its community. That's a disgrace.
We all knew a plan to push Melbourne's excess population growth into Macedon Ranges was coming, and now it's here, courtesy of the Brumby government and a council that either doesn't know or doesn't care (or both).
MRRA takes no satisfaction from having predicted this outcome. After all, the State government's behaviour has flagged its intentions for several years. Think about it...
First off, we had the State government's promise to protect the Macedon Ranges. Then came the denials that there was even a problem here, and now, hey presto! as night follows day, the secretly prepared agenda for high growth and development is very quietly dropped on us. No wonder they didn't want to tell us about it - that would have taken courage and integrity.
MRRA has heard from various sources that the Regional Strategic Plan that Council has just endorsed delivers the 2008 Victoria In Future [VIF] population projections, and that it places 'growth corridor' status on Macedon Ranges.
Victoria In Future figures are projections or forward estimates of future population growth. They are prepared by the Department of Planning and Community Development in what appears to be just a number-crunching exercise. They are primarily based upon what has been happening; they are not a considered approach to should happen. There is no policy (e.g. Statement of Planning Policy No. 8) or strategy (e.g. how many can be accommodated without damaging other values) applied to them. They are just projections, just numbers. They are what is predicted to happen, if nothing changes.
We hear that the State government is insisting these days that Councils deliver these 'magic' numbers, regardless of an area's capacity to do it.
The 2008 VIF projections for Macedon Ranges put another 14,130 people in Macedon Ranges over the 20 years between 2006 and 2026.
That means Macedon Ranges' 2006 population of 39,989 people is projected to rise to 54,119 in 2026, at 1.4% annual growth from 2006 - 2011, 1.5% from 2011 - 2016, and 1.6% from 2016 to 2026. 54,119 is a 35.3% increase over 2006 and equates to an average annual growth rate of 1.76% every year for 20 years.
The Macedon Ranges Settlement Strategy, currently under preparation (a document significantly funded by the State government), also deals with future population growth, but it has a 30 year horizon (2006 - 2036). That means a direct comparison can't be made between the Regional Strategic Plan and the Settlement Strategy because they are using different criteria.
We decided to see what happens if the VIF figures are extended out to 2036. We used a 1.6% annual (compounding) growth rate (VIF 2016 - 2026 also used 1.6%) to extrapolate the projections to 2036. On this basis the VIF projections would see a total Shire population of 63,429 in 2036, or an additional 23,000 people.
We then looked at what the Macedon Ranges' Settlement Strategy is doing in 2036. We have already criticized the consultancy working on the Settlement Strategy for appearing to take an approach of just coming in here and rolling out the State government's growth projections and agenda.
The Settlement Strategy will specifically define how much and where growth occurs in the Shire. It will contain the detail in which the devil is often found. Last seen, the Settlement Strategy seems to be upping the population and growth ante even higher than the broader-based Regional Strategic Plan.
At meetings held in Macedon Ranges last May, population scenarios for 9 towns were put up at the meetings in a Power Point presentation. There was a 'LOW' growth scenario, and a 'HIGH' growth scenario.
The 'LOW' growth scenario would see population IN 9 TOWNS grow from 24,700 in 2006 to 41,500 in 2036, a rise of almost 17,000. This would put more people in the nine towns than there were in the entire Shire in 2006.
The 'HIGH' growth scenario would see almost 23,000 additional people just in the 9 towns. NB The Settlement Strategy has so far not addressed population in rural areas of the Shire.
We think these figures make our 20,000 look conservative.
Either way, or as a consequence of both, with these non-strategic and rampant growth levels that are being forced on us, the rural, beautiful Macedon Ranges that Victorians and locals love will assuredly be lost to over-population and over-development as the Ranges are transformed into just another suburb of Melbourne.
There are a couple of other points to be made:
In 2006, ABS census showed an average of 2.8 persons per household in Macedon Ranges Shire, which is higher than Melbourne, Victoria and Australia (2.6) because there are a high number of families here. Even sticking with that 2.8 figure, there would still need to be another 7,143 dwellings in the Shire to house another 20,000 people. Where are they to go? Add to that the fact that 10.9% of the dwellings that existed in 2006 were unoccupied - second or holiday houses - a trend that is likely to continue, not all new dwellings built in future will house additional population, which means even more houses will be needed. And then there is the predicted major increase in one person households, which means yet more houses will be needed to accommodate the same number of people.
The State government, in Amendment VC66, made it mandatory for all areas of Victoria to have enough land available to cater for 15 years' growth. Logically, that means Macedon Ranges should have enough land set aside and ready right now to house half of the projected population increase to 2036.
It seems the State government isn't satisfied that it has just taken a huge, huge chunk out of the Green Wedges through the "it-will-never-happen" expansion of Melbourne's urban growth boundary, and is attempting to turn Melbourne into high-rise Hong Kong on Port Phillip Bay, it also has to do over environmentally significant areas that have more importance to the State's future than just being concreted, industrialized and suburbanized. That's an obsession with growth, growth, growth - at any cost. It's a 1950's style 'vision' that doesn't extend any further than the expedient and unthinking.
MRRA last year asked for a meeting with Victorian Planning Minister, Justin Madden, but did not receive a reply.
Who is prepared to protect this place? At the 2006 State election, MRRA asked all candidates in the Macedon Ranges Shire their views. We had a spectacular and spectacularly supportive response, with the knockout exception being the Victorian Labor party/government. Click here to see those responses.
In the absence of any interest or protection from the current Victorian government, MRRA has turned to the Federal arena, asking all lower house candidates in the Bendigo and McEwen electorates what they would do, at a Federal level, to provide the protection Macedon Ranges needs. Click here to see their answers.