Finally, some movement on Macaulay

Finally, some movement on Macaulay
Sean Car

The state government has finally budged on progressing the Macaulay Structure Plan, following further pressure from the City of Melbourne last month to respond to its proposal to unlock urgently needed open space along Moonee Ponds Creek.

Councillors were scathing at their May 21 Future Melbourne Committee (FMC) meeting after renewed efforts to gain information and updates from the state regarding all-important plans for the creek corridor and Macaulay continued to fall on deaf ears.

In considering the next steps of the City’s advocacy plan and improvement projects for Moonee Ponds Creek, Cr Rohan Leppert lashed the government for failing to respond to any of its requests for information since March.

At their FMC meeting on March 19, councillors criticised the state government for its lack of progress in revitalising the city section of the creek and called for answers as to when the trail in Docklands would be reopened to the public.

As part of a motion calling for the immediate release of the Moonee Ponds Creek Implementation Plan, Lord Mayor Sally Capp wrote to Minister for Planning Sonya Kilkenny shortly after the meeting seeking answers for the five-year delay.

As part of her correspondence with the minister, Cr Capp also sought information regarding the exhibition of the Macaulay Structure Plan, which councillors endorsed back in June 2022.

The Structure Plan outlines planning controls for development in the Macaulay urban renewal zone, as well as the mechanisms for helping unlock critical open space for the thousands of future residents – some of whom have already started moving in.

 

 

The council purchased a site for a new park besides the creek at Chelmsford St, for which it is currently seeking community feedback. However, it wants to acquire further land for open space from VicTrack which owns several sites along the creek.

Speaking last month, Cr Leppert said despite the council’s “very best” efforts to get more information from the state government, it hadn’t received a single response to any of its enquiries.

“We asked the Minister for Planning if we can have some insight into why you’ve sat on the authorisation of the Macaulay planning scheme amendment, which is vital to purchase VicTrack land that will unlock open space for all these new apartment buildings that she’s very willingly approving as often as she can. No response,” Cr Leppert said.

“We asked the Planning Minister again for an update on the state government’s attitude towards why that Moonee Ponds Creek Implementation Plan is still no closer to materialising in public.”

“The website as of today still says it was submitted to government in 2019 – update pending five years later. No response from the planning minister.”

 

I am quite angry that we don’t have so much as a short letter of response saying ‘thanks, we’re on it. We’ll have a response soon.’ Where is the state government on matters of planning, development, environment, and all things Moonee Ponds Creek? It is bitterly disappointing.

 

Finally, following further pressure from the council and media coverage on the issues in June, Minister Kilkenny authorised for the public exhibition of the Macauley Structure Plan on June 4.

However, the community still awaits information regarding the revitalisation of Moonee Ponds Creek, with the implementation plan understood to still be under review by the Department of Transport and Planning (DTP).

Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece said while the release of the Macaulay Structure Plan represented a “step forward”, “these things really should be able to be progressed more quickly.”

“With every month that passes, more apartments are approved without the supporting infrastructure and the green open space that Melbourne is meant to be famous for,” Cr Reece said. “With today’s decision we can now proceed with a public consultation and statutory process that will eventually allow us to deliver the structure plan for a world-class suburb.”

But with rising land prices and the inability of councils to unlock open space from build-to-rent projects, of which there are currently three under construction in Macauley, Cr Leppert said ongoing delays to these critical planning policies could prove costly.

 

 

“With those new homes we have to do integrated planning and if we don’t have the mechanisms in place to acquire land and build the parks, it’s only going to make the job of future governments and future councils so much harder because the cost of land is just going to go through the roof,” Cr Leppert told ABC’s Drive program on June 4.

“Open space contributions come at the point of subdivision, and Victoria’s now the capital in Australia for the build-to-rent housing typology so that stays in ownership of the developer and the homes aren’t subdivided … and can avoid paying the open space contribution.” 

“That’s not stopping the council from looking for new open space and we have purchased some land already, but it is an emerging issue with this new housing typology. It is going to make it trickier to tie open space expenditure to revenue because we won’t be collecting that much revenue from build-to-rent.”

“The council has been proposing mechanisms and trying to unlock this [VicTrack] land since September 2012 and the state government has given us every indication that they’re imminently going to announce how we’re going to join up state and local government to do this, but that was 12 years ago.” 

The council is also still awaiting responses to its queries regarding the ongoing closure of the Moonee Ponds Creek trail in Docklands from Minister for Development Victoria Colin Brooks, as well as from Treasurer Tim Pallas about the replacement of trees as part of the West Gate Tunnel project.

Councillors moved forward with their advocacy plan for Moonee Ponds Creek on May 21 despite the delays from government, the latter of which Cr Leppert said were “completely unacceptable”.

“We’re going to keep advocating because we know that our own urban renewal areas aren’t going to succeed unless we unlock that open space,” Cr Leppert said.

“This is vital for healthy communities. These aren’t luxury ambitions. These are absolutely fundamentally necessary things that need to happen.”

“I thank our team for putting together an advocacy plan and a series of next steps, including meeting with key community groups and building together a bit of a coalition of like-minded stakeholders who can help us to continue to advocate in the months ahead.” •

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