By Michael Giles
YOU’VE got to expect it I suppose… politicians wanting to play politics in the last days of an election campaign.
It’s what they do. It’s what gets them up in the morning.
We saw it again at the weekend when the Labor Party issued a statement about wanting to protect the Bass Coast from developers, and also from the Liberal Party who they say tried to “ruin the laid-back lifestyle of people who choose to make their home in the small communities along the Bass Coast by putting the interests of developers ahead of local residents”.
“Former Planning Minister Matthew Guy grossly expanded Cape Paterson’s town boundary and rezoned 24 hectares of pristine coastal farmland overnight for a housing estate at Ventnor, on Phillip Island, despite clear community and council opposition,” they say, promising to “make sure this can never happen again by declaring the Bass Coast a Distinctive Area and Landscape under the Planning and Environment Act 1987”.
The statement tries to kill two birds with the one stone – the opposition leader Matthew Guy and the sitting member for Bass Brian Paynter.
The declaration, they say, will trigger a requirement for a Statement of Planning Policy which will set strict height controls and tighten town boundaries to protect the environment, landscape and local lifestyle.
Hopefully there will be a public process whereby the local community can have input into this Statement of Planning Policy.
But there’s a bigger problem here.
The government is basically saying that there are severe problems with the Bass Coast’s planning scheme, with the excesses it allows and the fact that the state’s processes, without a ‘Distinctive Area and Landscape’ overlay, are powerless to protect us.
That may be so but what does it say about the rest of the state?
This issue cannot be seen in isolation from a system of local government that is broken.
It’s broken because local
councils have virtually no control over their CEOs.
It’s broken because of the high rates paid by country folk, relative to their city counterparts, especially the farmers.
It’s broken because local government has become an out-of-control ‘wages factory’ serving its employees first and the community second.
And it’s broken because there’s no accountability for putting appropriate planning measures in place, no accountability for dealing with applications in a timely manner and no accountability for reducing the cost of bureaucracy so that much-needed community infrastructure can be put in place.
The problem is two-fold and it’s wider than the situation here in Bass Coast. If an Andrews Labor Government is really serious about fixing the state’s planning/development woes and the excesses of local government, rather than just point-scoring, it needs to have a complete overhaul in both areas so that the interests of the community are better served.