Bracks' plan has lost its way
AFTER just three years, the Bracks Government's much trumpeted 30 year plan for Melbourne is in tatters.
In recognition of its fundamental flaws, this week the Bracks Government announced major changes to the Melbourne 2030 plan. It should have junked it and started anew.
The central theme of Melbourne 2030 is that our traditional suburban lifestyle is unsustainable.
It must therefore be replaced by denser, high-rise living, concentrated in a restricted number of areas with less reliance on cars, more public transport and more public green spaces.
While this may fit the preferred lifestyle of the planners, it goes directly against the preferences of the vast majority of Melbourne residents.
Melburnians have a strong desire for their gardens and their own stand-alone home. While some people prefer apartment living, they are a very small minority.
They also like their cars and have integrated them into their lifestyle.
The metro area already has an abundance of public parks, one of the city's great strengths.
Melburnians want reasonably priced houses and they want to be treated fairly and with due process when it comes to development of their own property and their suburb.
But the plan largely sees the preferences of Melburnians as something that needs to be changed and controlled.
At its core the plan restricts the amount of land available for housing; this will necessarily result in high land value. Indeed, this is what has already happened.
The plan has also altered the rights of many land holders -- giving additional rights and windfall gains to some and removing rights and inflicting losses on others.
The character of many suburbs is being changed by the government. And these decisions have often been made in a haphazard manner without due process.
Of course politicians are responsive to the preferences of their electorate, particularly when it concerns their homes.
And the Government is fully aware of the failure of the plan. Developers are also keenly aware of its faults and its political instability. Some are getting richer from gaming the plan.
In response, the Bracks Government this week announced a significant expansion in the supply of land to address rising land prices; changes to boundaries to allow a greater spread of development rights; and a new planning office to oversee the announced changes.
It also announced a tax of $8000 per block to recoup for itself the scarcity of rents it created with the plan.
While this addressed some faults, it gave rise to new ones.
The decisions give developers a clear signal to lobby for further boundary and zoning changes.
The new tax locks in the higher land prices created by the plan and provides a new instrument for governments to gouge landholders.
The solution lies with starting again with a market-based approach which considers people's preferences and is based on open competition rather than political influence.