Legislative Assembly 21 September 2022
Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (10:34): It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to make some comments on the Environment and Planning Committee report into apartment design standards. I thought I was not going to get this opportunity, but I am delighted that it has arrived.
The report was tabled around about 2 August. The committee, exactly a year before in August 2021, was tasked with looking at current apartment living standards in Victoria; considering improvements that could be made, focusing on liveability, the development of apartment buildings themselves as well as communal areas; and then looking at what people are doing in other states, nations and jurisdictions across the world in terms of apartment design standards.
In response to those terms of reference, the committee made 66 findings and some 35 recommendations, and I will come back to a couple of those towards the end.
I did want to make the point, though, that this hearing was conducted in part during the COVID lockdown, but we were very lucky that conditions eased in February and we were able to go back and talk to a number of witnesses face to face. We had some public hearings over at St Andrews Place. We were able to get out and look at apartments, and obviously that physical inspection is critically important in a task like this.
I did want to make the point for future committees: if you feel like, ‘Oh, we don’t want to drive to Shepparton, we’ll do it online’, resist that temptation because you do not get the reaction from the people you are talking to—you do not see the body language, you do not necessarily get to pick up on the facial expressions—and you do not get to see things on the ground.
Can I suggest that while it might be easier and allegedly more efficient you do not get the input that you need. From being able to actually see things on the ground, to interact with the community you get a much broader picture of whatever the issue is you are addressing and see how the particular subject plays out in a range of scenarios across the state. So I do make that point.
I acknowledge the members of the committee, my colleagues the members for Eildon and Ovens Valley and, I think briefly in this inquiry, the member for Evelyn, and I also want to acknowledge the member for Burwood, the member for Yan Yean, the member for Box Hill and of course the chair, the member for Tarneit. She made some kind observations about my work on the committee, and I want to acknowledge those and thank her for them.
I also want to recognise the secretariat. I think the member for Wendouree actually read out a few of the names that I am going to read out, which indicates the fluid nature of the committee staff, particularly during the pandemic. During the period of this inquiry we had two committee managers: Igor Dosen from late February and Nathan Bunt in the run-up to the end of January. Aimee Weir came on board with the committee on 4 April. Raylene D’Cruz also came on board on 4 April. Katie Helme was on board until 1 April and then moved across to the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee. Helen Ross-Soden has been with the committee for the four years; she has been there for the whole journey—the only member of the committee staff that made it through. I just want to acknowledge all of those people. It is not easy to pick up an inquiry halfway through, when the inquiry phase is done, and then try and come up with a report, and I think the committee has managed to do that quite effectively.
Of course we looked at overseas jurisdictions, as I mentioned; we looked very much at what was happening in Melbourne and did a literature review in terms of other jurisdictions across Australia. We focused on dwelling amenity, building amenity and performance, and external amenity as well.
We have a great opportunity in this state it comes to urban consolidation, but it is something that has been a battle for the entire time I have spent in public life.
We really need to do something about the amenity of multi-dwelling developments. We need to protect the amenity, but equally we have got to protect agricultural land. We cannot just keep expanding and expanding, but we should not be achieving that consolidation at the expense of amenity.
People should not be asked to sacrifice amenity simply to stop that urban expansion. Some clear minimum standards I think are required. We have identified those in the report. We need to encourage smarter development.
We need to encourage development that is a genuine alternative to detached housing. I think there is a lot of good work going on. We need to do more. I commend the report.