Call in Second Retirement Village Application Now!

Legislative Assembly 3 May 2022

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (19:20): (6344) My adjournment matter this evening is directed to the Minister for Planning, and the action I am seeking from the Minister for Planning is that he call in planning application P21/1949 to the Mornington Peninsula shire planning scheme—it applies to a property at 60 Kunyung Road, Mount Eliza—and reject it.

Speaker, I think with you in the chair I have raised matters relating to this property on many occasions in this house over the last three years, perhaps a little bit longer, most recently with regard to planning scheme amendment C270 for a rezoning.

This is the second planning application on this site. The first one was rejected, quite rightly. The applicant has done what—and I do not blame them for doing it—so many applicants do: they put in the ambit claim, put in the big one, then they come back with a smaller one and say, ‘Well, how does this fit?’.

The first application was rejected, and the second one should absolutely be rejected as well. This is a site outside the urban growth boundary. It is a site in the area that amendment C270 seeks to rezone to green wedge. It is a landmark site right on the southern side of Mount Eliza.

What is proposed here is a development with a footprint of nearly 15 000 square metres. It is not a modest, sympathetic extension to an existing facility, it is a massive development—yes smaller than the first one, but it is an absolutely massive development with numerous three- and four-storey buildings.

As I mentioned, it is outside the urban growth boundary. To approve this application would be totally contrary to planning policies that go back to the 1970s in this area.

There is a Mornington Peninsula planning statement, or localised planning statement, that expressly talks about providing a clear separation of the peninsula from metropolitan Melbourne, protecting the character and functions of the towns and villages, protecting areas of special character and having developments sympathetic with, respecting and enhancing the natural environment.

In this case this is a linear development between towns. It is effectively an expansion of the urban area of Mount Eliza.

To those of you who are familiar with the Planning and Environment Act 1987, this would be contrary to the intent of the Planning and Environment Act, where every expansion of the urban growth boundary needs to be agreed to by a motion by this house and by the other place. So this application is totally contrary to every agreed policy.

I request the minister: call it in and knock it on the head.

“CALL IN RETIREMENT VILLAGE APPLICATION”
MORRIS TELLS PLANNING MINISTER

Mornington MP, David Morris, has demanded the Minister for Planning “call in” and reject the application for planning approval for a retirement village in Kunyung Road, Mount Eliza.

The first application lodged for the land was rejected by VCAT on appeal, after an initial refusal by the Shire Council. This time the applicant has taken their case straight to VCAT, by-passing council consideration.

Speaking in Parliament this week Mr Morris said:

This is the second planning application on this site. The first one was rejected, quite rightly…the second one should absolutely be rejected as well.

This is a site outside the urban growth boundary. It is a site in the area that amendment C270 seeks to rezone to green wedge. It is a landmark site right on the southern side of Mount Eliza.

What is proposed here is a development with a footprint of nearly 15 000 square metres. It is not a modest, sympathetic extension to an existing facility, it is a massive development—yes smaller than the first one, but it is an absolutely massive development with numerous three- and four-storey buildings…

To approve this application would be totally contrary to planning policies that go back to the 1970s in this area…this is a linear development between towns. It is effectively an expansion of the urban area of Mount Eliza…every expansion of the urban growth boundary needs to be agreed to by a motion by this house and by the other place…call it in and knock it on the head.

Further information: David Morris on 5975 4799

Approve C270 and Protect the Green Wedge Now!

Legislative Assembly 6 April 2022

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (19:09): (6321) I raise a matter this evening for the Minister for Planning, and the action I am seeking from the minister is that he expedite the approval of amendment C270 to the Mornington Peninsula planning scheme.

Amendment C270—there is a lot of history here—has recently been exhibited, and exhibition closes on Friday.

Normally there would be a very long process from then until the amendment is approved, but I stood up in this house more than two years ago, in February 2020, and asked the minister to expedite the exhibition of the scheme. Two years on, it finally got on exhibition in February of this year. 

Since then I have raised the issue on at least three occasions. The reason I have done that is that this is critical for the future protection of the green wedge on the Mornington Peninsula.

The amendment itself deals with a number of sites that are outside the urban growth boundary but are not currently protected by green wedge provisions.

One is particularly sensitive and is one I have mentioned on many occasions in this place, and that is an application for a retirement village outside the urban growth boundary in Mount Eliza. The first application was knocked backed by VCAT. It is now the subject of a Supreme Court appeal. The second application is currently on exhibition and closes on Friday.

Just to give the house a sense of the scale of this development outside the urban growth boundary, land that is supposed to be protected, its total footprint is 14 963 square metres. There is the addition of three wings to the existing historic mansion, two four-storey and one three-storey; three freestanding four-storey buildings; two freestanding three-storey buildings; 246 car spaces; and a place of worship. So it is a very, very significant development in a totally inappropriate place.

Further down the road we have another application that is not affected by this planning scheme amendment but which seeks to turn an existing nursing home into a much, much larger retirement village with a significant footprint.

Again and again we are seeing these sorts of applications. In part it is a function of the value of the land—I understand that—but either we are serious as a Parliament and as a state about protecting this area or we are not.

I do urge the minister, as a first step in beefing up the protections for the green wedge, to get on with C270 and truncate the process period to the extent that he can, and let us get it approved.

What is Environmental Infrastructure?

Legislative Assembly 9 February 2022

MORRIS (Mornington) (10:07): I am very pleased to rise to make some brief comments on the report of the Environment and Planning Committee which was tabled by the member for Tarneit this morning.

That inquiry was into environmental infrastructure for growing populations. I think the term ‘growing populations’ in recent history has applied to growth areas, but of course we now have a situation where populations are growing right across the state.

One of the first issues that had to be dealt with by the committee was in fact determining what environmental infrastructure is because people have different views.

The committee determined that we would restrict it to public parks and open space; paths and roads where attached to parks and open space, or particularly that; road and rail reserves; sporting fields; public forests and bushland; botanic gardens; wildlife corridors; beaches and access point; and rivers and lakes.

We also were quite definite in terms of what we believed was not included. While it is detailed in the report, essentially that is private land, and that includes not only private backyards and things but green wedges as well, which are of course largely owned privately.

I also should comment briefly on the impacts of the pandemic on the inquiry. This was the committee’s first inquiry where the hearings were done entirely via video link.

While I think teleconferencing works exceptionally well in terms of the delivery of meetings and the normal administrative meetings of committees and even for discussions where people are known to one another, when you are dealing with strangers, when you are trying to extract evidence, it does not work in anywhere near the same way as face-to-face hearings.

In my view, while necessary for this report and I certainly do not criticise the use of it, we should be getting back to face-to-face hearings whenever possible and teleconferencing should not become the norm; it should not be a way of saving money or speeding up time.

We need to be doing face-to-face hearings. On at least one occasion the witnesses clearly had no idea why they were there. While you can manage that in a face-to-face hearing—you can work your way around that—that particular 40 minutes was just a waste of time for everyone concerned.

And of course there is the broader issue of the impact of the pandemic on staff as well, but that is something as members of Parliament we are only too familiar with. But I do want to acknowledge the work of the committee staff under difficult circumstances.

The report is essentially divided into two parts. The first relates to the benefits to be derived from environmental infrastructure and the impact of a lack of access to environmental infrastructure, and then geographically, so inner urban, middle-ring suburbs, outer suburbs, regional and peri-urban areas, and we tacked on the waterways on top of that. There are a host of findings and a total of 57 recommendations.

In terms of the benefits and the costs, there are recommendations around improved access to walking tracks, bike tracks and biophilic design which, just in case you do not know what ‘biophilic design’ is, means the practice of connecting people and nature within built environments and within communities where access is not necessarily available.

There was also quite a lot of work regarding vegetation cover. We know that there is enormous disparity in terms of vegetation cover, particularly between the west of the metropolitan area and the east. To some extent that is a by-product of natural conditions, but the contrast is stark and given that people are living in both places, it is something that the committee actually provides a serious amount of attention to.

There are a host of other issues. Interestingly, while the incidence and the impact of issues varied across the localities, there were in fact pretty much common factors right across. For example, the inner suburbs are very, very poorly served in terms of environmental infrastructure, so it is more about balance and the factors are pretty common right across.

I do want to acknowledge my colleagues on the committee, particularly the member for Tarneit as the chair of the committee, and of course the member for South Barwon before that, and certainly the members for Burwood, Yan Yean, Box Hill and Ovens Valley and the member for Eildon, who is at the table.

I think this is a genuine bipartisan report and I commend it.

1 Mount Eliza Way – Not For Sale

Mornington MP, David Morris, has called on the Andrews Government to abandon the sale of 1 Mount Eliza Way, and to work with the local community to retain this important site in public ownership.

No. 1 Mount Eliza Way forms part of the gateway to the Mount Eliza Village. It is a 2600-square metre block, with an asking price of $2 million to $2.2 million.
Speaking in Parliament this week, Mr Morris said the impact of the government’s financial recklessness is becoming evident with the sale of assets, including this site, to prop up the budget.

“The issue is that the government is doing this with absolutely no warning.”

“This land has been a reserve for as long as anyone can remember, and in fact when I looked at the Landata map last night, it is identified as the Mount Eliza Way Reserve. It appears it was a road reserve purchase that is no longer required and is now being disposed of.”

“The recent report from the Environment and Planning Committee, made the point that requiring highest and best use, which is government policy, leads to loss of sites such as this—sites that have been used for passive recreation for decades if not significantly more. This one probably goes back to the 1960s, when the road was constructed.”

“This is the main gateway to Mount Eliza. It is an absolutely critical site. It will have a significant impact on the treescape if this proceeds and is developed.

1 Mount Eliza Way – Not for Sale!

Legislative Assembly 23 March 2022

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (09:48): It appears the impact of the government’s financial recklessness is becoming evident. In fact they are now selling off assets.

One asset is 1 Mount Eliza Way in Mount Eliza. It is a 2600-square-metre block, and the asking price is $2 million to $2.2 million, so it is a valuable block.

The issue is that the government is doing this with absolutely no warning. This land has been a reserve for as long as anyone can remember, and in fact when I looked at the Landata map last night it is identified as the Mount Eliza Way Reserve.

It appears it was a road reserve purchase that is no longer required and is now being disposed of.

The recent report from the Environment and Planning Committee made the point that requiring highest and best use, which is government policy, leads to loss of sites such as this—sites that have been used for passive recreation for decades if not significantly more. This one probably goes back to the 1960s, when the road was constructed.

The issue with this one, though, is that I understand there has not been much conversation, if any, with the council. The council through third parties have certainly indicated that they would be prepared to consider acquiring the site.

This is the main gateway to Mount Eliza. It is an absolutely critical site. It will have a significant impact on the treescape if this proceeds and is developed.

So I call on the minister to suspend this process until the local community can be consulted properly.

Fisherman’s Jetty – Time for action

Legislative Assembly 10 March 2022

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (17:22): (6274) I raise a matter for the Minister for Ports and Freight this evening, and the action I am seeking from the minister is that she direct her department to work with the Mornington Yacht Club and Parks Victoria to facilitate the transfer of responsibility for the management of Fisherman’s Jetty at Mornington harbour from Parks Victoria to the Mornington Yacht Club.

I raised this matter just a little over a year ago in this house.

Fisherman’s Jetty is a small jetty, in Mornington harbour. It is a relatively minor piece of infrastructure but beloved by many. It has been closed, because its structural integrity has been compromised, since 2020. In March last year I raised the issue. The response I got back was:

… the local port manager … is sometimes required to restrict access to assets, such as has occurred at Fisherman’s Jetty …

Works and planning for Fisherman’s Jetty are considered for funding and prioritised for investment along with other marine assets.

In other words, do not hold your breath.

Well, the Mornington Yacht Club, being experienced in managing this harbour, having managed assets in the harbour for many years, are realistic about the chances of obtaining funding, and they have advised me that they are very much aware that Fisherman’s Jetty is, in their words, not a current priority under the Sustainable Local Ports Framework.

There are 150 or so wharves and other similar infrastructure across the state that require maintenance, and Fisherman’s Jetty just is not going to make it onto that list.
They have had the jetty assessed and they have confirmed that since its construction in 1990 there has been no maintenance, so the jetty is literally falling apart. That is why it is closed. They are, however, prepared to take over responsibility both for the initial repairs to get the jetty back into a fit condition and for maintaining the asset—maintaining a public asset.

A private yacht club is prepared to maintain the asset and maintain access for the public to the facility. But of course these wheels move slowly.

Parks Victoria is the local ports manager. The footprint that the yacht club has in the area does not include Fisherman’s Jetty, and that needs to change.

So I am seeking from the minister the cooperation of her department and Parks Victoria to work with the yacht club so that this public asset can be repaired and reopened and made available to the public again.

Regional Status no threat to Green Wedge

Legislative Assembly 9 March 2022

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (09:57): Last night the member for Nepean during the adjournment debate repeated an assertion that he has made on a number of occasions that according the Mornington peninsula regional status would somehow negate the green wedge controls.

Mr Brayne: Correct.

Mr MORRIS: Correct?

Mr Brayne: Absolutely.

Mr MORRIS: The member knows, and if he does not he damn well should, that the green wedge controls are incorporated in the Mornington Peninsula planning scheme.
If there is any daylight between according the Mornington Peninsula regional status and the green wedge controls, it can be dealt with by the stroke of a pen, by a ministerial amendment.

The member knows that the Minister for Planning is the person entirely responsible for the Mornington Peninsula planning scheme, and if there is any daylight—I do not accept that there is, but if there is—it can be dealt with immediately by a planning scheme amendment.

Now, the fact is that for the last two years I have been seeking to get amendment C270, which will actually protect the green wedge, up—crickets from the Minister for Planning for two years.

Finally, he has done it now. Ten months out from an election he has agreed to it. Do not come in here and tell this Parliament that the Labor Party’s position on protecting the green wedge is superior. And if the member for Nepean—

Members interjecting.

The SPEAKER: Without interjections.

Mr MORRIS: If the member for Nepean needs to resort to scare tactics to get elected at the end of the year, then he needs to reflect on how little he has done since he has been here.

Codes of Practice and Incorporated Documents

Legislative Assembly 9 March 2022

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (18:32): It is a pleasure to join the debate on the Conservation, Forests and Lands Amendment Bill 2022. Many people say, ‘It’s been an interesting debate’, but I have genuinely found this to be an interesting debate and perhaps a low point in the manner in which we operate as a legislature.

Now, I am not having a crack at any of the speakers on any side, but there have been all sorts of commentary. The ruling is that it is a very wide debate —and again, I am not reflecting on the Chair in any way, because the precedent, I am sure, was established much earlier in the debate. We have had contributions about little penguins.

We have had contributions from this side on the timber industry. We just heard lots about the Mornington Peninsula, and I am tempted to take up a few of the points the member for Nepean made, but I will resist the temptation. And we have also heard great slabs, I am sure, quoted from the briefing books.

The reality is most of the contributions that have been made actually have said nothing about the bill. The suggestion that these amendments incorporate the precautionary principle, incorporate the actual detail, could not be further from the truth.

That is the reality. I mean, the amendment is—I have not bothered to count up the words, but it looks like perhaps 100 words in an amendment to section 31 of the Conservation, Forests and Lands Act 1987, and it is a variation on an existing power that relates to codes of practice.

That is all it is. It is a variation to that power. It does not do anything else. Yes, it potentially provides capacity for the minister to then take further action. It sets up the framework. But it does not do any of the things that have been claimed for it during the time I have been in the chamber.

It effectively says that an incorporated document is not only incorporated in the form that it is when it is incorporated but can be subsequently varied, and it gives that flexibility. And then the bulk of the words in this amendment are simply talking about the requirement to gazette the code of practice when it is varied and that it does not come into effect until it is gazetted.

There is no doubt that the timber industry has been a central part of this discussion, and that has played out in the contributions. Indeed there was a fairly long slab in the second-reading speech that talked about what the minister intended to do with the code in terms of the management provisions and whether they should be an incorporated document or whether they should be formally part of the code. But again, while that was a big slab of the second-reading speech, it is not part of the bill before us today; it is not actually what the bill does.

I do have some concerns about the form in which this particular amendment, as minimal as it may be, is being presented and the fact that we are dealing with a discrete bill to add a handful of words into an existing act, on the one hand. I cannot immediately recall the title of the bill that was dealt with last sitting week which incorporated a raft of amendments to a range of justice matters that were so broad that when we were briefed on the bill individual advisers were not able to talk about other sections of the bill, because were the responsibility of a different minister. The only common feature in that legislation was it was in the same department, but it was a very disparate range of matters. And now one sitting week later we are dealing with a bill that simply inserts a handful of words into existing legislation.

But the difficulty I have with this particular bill is not that it is complex. Someone said earlier—I cannot recall who it was—that it is complex. It is not complex. It is 100 words, for goodness sake. It is not complex.

The issue I have is about what it does, because if you work through the impact of the words, what it is effectively saying is that an incorporated document can change but it does not change the code. It really gets down to the point of where the threshold is. How substantial do the changes to an incorporated document need to be before they constitute a change of the code? We do not know that.

A concern I have had basically since I first stood up in this place in 2006 is the fact that so rarely do we actually as legislators have the opportunity to question legislation.

If you read the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee report on this, it notes that it has an issue—if I can find the report—potentially with the parliamentary oversight. The committee will correspond with the minister and ask some questions about how that will be worked through in the context of section 32 of the act. That is a significant question in the consideration of this bill, which we as legislators should have the opportunity to ask.

But of course the reality is we never get to consideration in detail, so we do not have the opportunity to consider and ask about the impact of this clause. I think that is a problem. Yes, it was certainly a Liberal government that introduced the government business program, the guillotine, but it was in response to ongoing bad behaviour, ongoing overnight sittings and just a complete rort of the opportunity to consider matters in detail.


We have now gone the other way, where we get 10 minutes to speak on a bill no matter what the complexity is and we cannot ask any questions. I think it is very, very difficult for anyone, whether you are government or opposition, to say you are doing your job, you are scrutinising legislation appropriately, when we have the system that we do now. It is a criticism that arises out of questions that come up in this bill.

It will not affect me, clearly, but I think we really do need to have a look at whether we are in fact carrying out our duties and the duties that the Victorian public think we should be carrying out when we process legislation in this way.

The other issue with the potential reduction in parliamentary oversight is again one that is becoming more and more obvious. We have had a series of bills come through where there is an effective dumbing down of legislation. What previously would have been in legislation is in fact inserted into regulation. What would previously have been inserted into regulation goes into a code of practice. The reality is that the only people that win out of that are the Victorian bureaucracy, because they take up the powers that this Parliament is ceding to them by taking that approach.

It is important that we recognise this Parliament and passage through this Parliament should not be considered a mere formality. Processing legislation through this Parliament should not be a rubber stamp, and that is pretty much where we are at the moment.

There are legitimate questions about the impact of legislation, as few the words are, and the opportunity is not there to get that clarification which I think it otherwise deserves.

As others have said, the opposition will not be opposing the bill; however, there are some significant not only process issues but practical issues so we know exactly what the impact is. And as the debate has demonstrated, there is a breadth of opinion on that.

Time to Back up Green Wedge Rhetoric with Action

Legislative Assembly 28 October 2021

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (18:19): (6124) I raise a matter this evening for the Minister for Planning. It relates to a property at 60–70 Kunyung Road, Mount Eliza, and the action I am seeking from the minister is that he immediately agree to the exhibition of amendment C270 to the Mornington Peninsula planning scheme.

Speaker, you may be aware, and certainly I am sure many others are, that this is not the first time I have raised this issue in the house. I think the first time I raised the specific matter of amendment C270 was in fact in February 2020, so it is a while back. There have been a number of other contributions and amendment requests related to this property over the journey, and most recently I raised the issue by way of adjournment in August of this year.

The issue with this particular site is it is a large piece of land outside the urban growth boundary but it is not protected by the green wedge provisions that protect 99 per cent or more of the Mornington Peninsula that is outside the urban growth boundary.

It is a historical anomaly. It goes back to the days when the site was occupied by the Melbourne Business School, so it is a special-use zone. The shire quite rightly saw that there was a difficulty not only with this site but with a number of other sites which amendment C270 also covers, and in February last year it resolved to request the minister to agree to the amendment.

At the time the minister responded and said, ‘I’ll look out for that amendment’, and I am sure he did. He is certainly aware of it.

In fact I should say that when I raised the issue again in August of this year the minister was of great assistance and immediately, because he was in the chamber, offered a briefing.

That briefing was conducted within a matter of days—very, very quickly—and I certainly appreciated the speed at which the minister moved and the information that was provided to me. I do not intend to go into the details of that, that shall remain confidential, but I did appreciate the information that was provided.

We are now another couple of months down the track. We are still waiting for something to happen.

The question is whether this government is actually going to back up its rhetoric of protecting green wedges, and particularly protecting the green wedges on the Mornington Peninsula, or whether it is not.

The council support this amendment. I certainly support this amendment. My colleague in the other place Edward O’Donohue strongly supports the amendment. It is time this happened.

The minister has an opportunity to back up his rhetoric with action, and that is what I am seeking from him today.