Saturday, May 15, 2010

SOS Metropolitan Strategy Review May 2010

Comment on discussion paper:
Sydney Greater Metropolitan Region
12 May 2010

The planning strategy adopted for the Metropolitan Region will have many long
term and irreversible consequences. The Government’s aims are listed in figure 2
of the Metropolitan Strategy Review 2036 Discussion Paper. By use of the terms
“city of cities” and “urban renewal” the document indicates a predetermined
intention to continue with the strategy of higher-densities in existing communities
(termed “urban consolidation”). This is despite it being readily apparent that this
strategy over nearly two decades has failed to achieve the benchmarks stated.
Concurrent with these policies having been applied more aggressively than
anywhere else in the world and with respect to the aims stated in the discussion
paper it is readily apparent that:
• Liveability has declined. Services have deteriorated, congestion has
increased, and charges have risen.
• Economic competitiveness of New South Wales, now the worst performing
of Australian states, has plummeted as business and people move to other
• Fairness has declined as housing costs have risen to be among the highest
in the developed world. Many, especially the young and the underprivileged,
are now fated to never be able to own their own homes.
• The environment has not been protected as gardens, green space and
heritage within the city are destroyed to make way for unit blocks while the
environmental footprint per person has continued to rise
• Governance has deteriorated as democratic rights of ratepayers are
trampled on by taking away the planning powers of councils. There is now
much dissatisfaction with the manner in which individual planning decisions
are made. The public perception is that development is mainly for the
benefit of developers and politicians with whom they have a close
relationship. The latest example is a proposal for compulsory acquisition of
homes for development purposes.
Reasons for the failure of these high-density policies are documented in appendix

It is vital that the Commonwealth Government organise an objective study to
ascertain the number of people that Australia can sustain. The most suitable body
for such a study is the CSIRO. The New South Wales Government should insist
that such a study be undertaken.
If the population is to increase development should aim at developing towns across
the whole state. This should include:
1. Whole of State Development and repopulation of declining regions
2. A viable decentralisation policy. A mix of incentives and infrastructure provision
can be used to deal with the time and distance issues raised by decentralisation.
These include high-speed rail, top class telecommunications and personal and
company tax incentives.
3. The creation of satellite cities. Each to be as autonomous as practical and
linked by high-speed transport and communications. The planning for each satellite
city would emphasise:
• the creation of green belts
• optimal location from an environment perspective – upstream of agricultural
• good transport networks - easy walk/bike/public transport to centre and a
road network designed to facilitate public transport routes
• optimal environmental design – water reuse in city and downstream, thermal
properties, power cables underground, sustainable plantings
4. Judicious expansion of Sydney. This will be better environmentally than
increasing densities. The infrastructure for these greenfields (or near greenfields)
sites should be funded by the State and/or Commonwealth
5. Higher densities, where feasible, for those communities where the majority
through their local council express this wish which will evolve over time. As land
values in the community increase more and more ij that community will be inclined
to want to develop or sell to a developer. A community should have the right to
veto a development proposal unless this can be shown to be undisputedly against
the larger public interest.
Full advantage should be taken of the availability of Federal infrastructure funds.
Method of Implementation
Instead of specifying land where development can take place, the Department of
Planning should specify where development in the State cannot take place. It
should be left to the private sector to initiate and develop new areas with
Government taking a more passive supervisory role. The Department of Planning
should ensure that properly designed user fees, markets and incentives are in
place to optimise market-driven development for the long-term benefit of the wider
The planning and creation of new area developments should be shared between
the Department of Planning and local communities. The role of the Department of
Planning should include:
• Specifying where development cannot take place
• Establishing general principles
• Planning for and establishing major infrastructure
• Dealing with matters of genuine state significance
• Coordinating those matters that cross borders of local communities that
cannot be dealt with efficiently at local level.

District Local Authorities (DLA)
An outline of one possible scheme follows as an example, here for want of a name,
termed “District Local Authorities”.
Developers would prospectively purchase land in suitable unrestricted areas that
comply with the principles of the Department of Planning relating to development.
The developer would apply to the Department for the creation of a “District Local
Authority” for the area. A public hearing before an independent determining
authority such as the Land and Environment Court would be held to determine the
application. The application would include an environmental impact statement.
Hearing submissions should be sought from the Department of Planning, the local
Shire and interested members of the public. Applicant criteria that would have to
be satisfied would include financial capacity, expertise and historical performance.
The determining authority would have to be satisfied that the local community is in
favour of the development.
The developer would subdivide the land. Requirements to be fulfilled would include
such matters as:
• Complying with a state standard statutory minimum local environment plan
and standard development control plan
• Complying with a minimum requirement for internal and external
• Complying with standards relating to sales promotion
• Establishing financial guarantees that could be used to compensate the
subdivided lot purchasers if the development eventually does not go ahead
• Provide sales contracts for purchasers that at least include adequate
standard consumer protection clauses and information.
In addition to statutory minimums for land development, developments would most
likely need to feature desirable facilities such public open space otherwise the plots
ultimately will not sell.
Fixed interest bonds with some State and Commonwealth participation would
finance infrastructure. In the event of competing applications vying for such funds
there should be a tender process with awards being determined by, for example,
the minimum requirement for public funds per residential lot produced.
The developer would write protective covenants for property owners that
• Comply with general principles set out by the Department of Planning
• Specify the particular building and living conditions that will apply to the
particular development
In conjunction with the Department of Planning the developer would create an
owners’ association or a board of directors (which would become the District Local
Authority) to subsequently enforce and modify the initial covenants. In consultation
with the Department, the District Local Authority would determine and enforce all
necessary charges such as rates to repay its portion of the infrastructure bonds and
to provide local facilities and services.
In time such Districts may amalgamate into council areas.

A turning point?

Save Our Suburbs has another article in the prestigious international New Geography publication. Many Australians are most concerned about just how their children and grandchildren will ever be able to afford to buy a house, even with both partners working in good jobs. They will be doomed to be perpetual renters of a box in the sky as the Great Australian Aspiration of owning a family home with a backyard fades for ever from their dreams. The subject of this New Geography article is on how state government high-density policies cause this excessive housing cost.


BNET Interview

On 11 May Save Our Suburbs was interviewed by Phil Dobie from the website BNET. You can listen to the live interview on

Once on the site, to start listening turn on your computer speaker and click the button with the arrowhead that is above the photograph