September 22, 2015  |  

Planning and Environment Amendment (Infrastructure Contributions) Bill 2015

Tuesday 23 June 2015

I am pleased to make a contribution to the debate on the Planning and Environment Amendment (Infrastructure Contributions) Bill 2015. It has been quite a big week in planning. Already we have seen some stronger protections for Victoria’s heritage outlined by the Minister for Planning. In the Ivanhoe electorate planning matters are critical to the local community. They drive the thinking of a lot of people and a lot of community engagement.

While some of the reforms outlined by the government in this bill go particularly to some of the growth areas, there are salient points about how developer contributions play out in the community in my electorate in making sure that we get a fair contribution from developers. We have local communities whose members make great contributions to parkland and in the services they offer. They work in their local communities, they run sporting organisations and they pay their rates. In doing all that, they create great communities, and they add not only value in community building but also a monetary value, which many outside that community seek to take advantage of.

Developers also bring with them a potential to add value through jobs and infrastructure as well as services in those communities. Ultimately that is off the back of the sacrifice and work of locals, who do so not only through their labours but also through their biggest financial commitment, which is to live where they do in their community. They want to make sure not only that their councils have the capacity to deliver on infrastructure in those communities but also that those who seek to make personal profit and windfall gains from the local community have an opportunity to make a contribution back to the community. That can be in many ways. It might be in relation to car parking or services.

What is important is that in some of the infill development that happens in the middle belt of suburbs and around the inner city, in places like my electorate of Ivanhoe, the developer contributions are reasonable and there are open and transparent arrangements. When developments are proceeding or may take place and are supported in our community, we must know that there will be a contribution from which the community will benefit. That is particularly so where developments might be resisted.

For those of my colleagues who represent electorates much further afield, in outer Melbourne, progress on developer contributions and the way policy in this space has developed over several parliaments has been a fraught issue. Growth area contributions have been the subject of pretty hostile discussions and debates. Those discussions have been about the expectations of local communities, those who choose to land bank in some of those communities and councils that desire and consider they have an obligation to provide services in those communities but also have pressure around how development proceeds and how the communities are accountable for what services are provided.

The main point I want to make in supporting the changes is that they really add to and expand the capacity of councils to be engaged in discussion and delivery and to have some autonomy in how developer contributions are leveraged and managed. They provide a clearer pathway both for significant investment by developers and also for local communities, so that they can have an expectation of what those investments will be and when they will be delivered. How they balance those with local projects is critical for councils and the state government so that local communities can get an understanding of what services they can expect to be provided out of developer contributions.

What needs to be much more part of the discussion is how communities are engaged to support ranges of development that sometimes can be controversial and significant and that could change the nature and neighbourhood character of a suburb. It is important to make sure that developer contributions are seen not as a curmudgeonly impost that is fought against but as a contribution to growing the community. Everybody wins — developers win, the economy wins and local communities have not only a development that stands for all time but also investments through developer contributions that make a substantial change. That can be through the provision of internal infrastructure, roads and parkland, and other services that are made available to local communities.

I realise many other members wish to speak on this bill, so I will leave my contribution at that. However, it is particularly important to make sure developers understand that they need to make contributions and support councils and government in providing the services that not only make a community and add value to that community but make it attractive for developers. Those who come afterwards want to know they will have services funded to meet their expectations of a liveable community. The additions and changes proposed in this bill go a long way towards continuing to firm and strengthen the expectations communities have around developers and the contributions they are obliged to make.