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The best job in town

01 Apr 2015

The best job in town Image

By Shane Scanlan

New Planning Minister Richard Wynne says he’s got the best job in town.

“People say I’ve been training for this for 20 years and maybe I have,” he said.  “So I want to bring all of what I’ve learnt to try to use this term of government to put into place longer-term strategies for our city.”

“I am very passionate about the city.  I was the lord mayor of this city.  I know this city intimately.  I know it as well as anyone knows it.  I walk it.  I live it.  It’s where I have grown up,” Mr Wynne said.

“I’ve lost none of my enthusiasm for it and that’s why you enter public life – to put in place good things, good structures.”

He is talking design standards – “We have lower standards than Sydney.  It’s both physical size and urban amenity. They go together.”

He is talking amenity: “In terms of light and overshadowing, I have a position which is very clear on this.  I am looking towards amenity.  What gets approved during my time as a minister will be high-quality development which addresses the street and is active on the street level, that deals with some of the impacts of wind, and over-shadowing.”

“I will not approve developments that rely on borrowed light.  I simply will not approve them.  That is just not on.”

“Similarly, developments that over-shadow our parks, over-shadow the bay, over-shadow the rivers I won’t approve.”

“And you don’t want to be looking out of your apartment into someone’s kitchen or their lounge room.  You want at least a civilised level of space between them.”

But, just as he is very happy to talk about amenity, he is equally tightlipped about what might be in the wings regarding his relationship with the City of Melbourne.

Apart from saying that he is retaining the right to determine planning applications for buildings greater than 25,000sqm, the minister gives the impression that something significant is happening.

He warms up with: “I’ve met with the Lord Mayor and we see a crucial role for the City of Melbourne and the State Architect in terms of the decision-making around that.”

The council has been asking for significant developer contributions to pay for the social infrastructure to support the current population boom.  On this subject, Mr Wynne said: “We’re looking at that all at the moment and it’s probably wise that I don’t go much further at the moment.”

He certainly appreciates the wisdom of urban renewal close to the city centre.

“When you think about the fact that the demographics suggest we are going to have to house 100,000 people a year until 2050, that’s a massive challenge for any government,” he said.

“We’ve probably got, within 5km of the GPO, 30 year’s worth of developable land.  We’re not short of it, but let’s get it right.”

Docklands finds itself in the middle of this remaining urban redevelopment.  To the south we have Fishermans Bend and to the north and west we have E-Gate and Arden-Macaulay.

On Fishermans Bend, the minister says it is wrong to conclude that the new government has less interest in the area.

“We are more than hot about how to fix the mistakes,” he said.  “The previous government just overnight rezoned the land to Capital City Zone, massively lifting the value of the land and, not surprisingly, the development community has moved in seeking to take advantage of that opportunity without any proper assessment about what key infrastructure was needed – trams, trains, public open space, schools, community health facilities, libraries – stuff that needs to be in the public realm.”

On E-Gate, he says it is still to be determined which government agency will develop the 20-hectares.

“That’s still to be resolved.  But that’s okay,” he said.  “This is a really important parcel of land which the state controls completely. And we want to get it absolutely right.”

One thing you can expect to find at E-Gate is inclusionary zoning for social housing.

As a former community activist and later as a housing minister, Mr Wynne says he has been advocating for inclusionary housing for 20 years.

On future developments on government land, he said, he is aiming for up to 15 per cent social housing.

“We will trial it and see how it goes,” he said.  “We’re looking for somewhere between 10 and 15 per cent of social housing and it doesn’t always necessarily have to be within the development but the opportunity will be there for the developer to sell into the social housing market.”

“That’s a developing policy and we’ll be looking to develop that over this term of government.  It’s not a silver bullet but it’s going to help a lot in terms of supply.”

“We’re saying to the development community ‘this has already been tested in the market place’ and these units sold like there was no tomorrow.  So there is nothing to fear in mixed developments.”

Mr Wynne says Melburnians have embraced apartment living.

“Some 44 per cent of all dwellings built last year were apartments,” he said.  “It’s an extraordinary shift towards apartment living. People are taking it up and they’re taking it up with enthusiasm and that’s why we want to ensure that when we plan for this massive development going forward that you’ve got in place all of that key infrastructure – that you’ve got the tram networks and that you’ve got the train.”

“The metro tunnel is going to be the best game shifter that we’ve had since the City Loop.  That’s why places like placed like Arden-Macaulay are going to be so important, because you’re going to have near the North Melbourne Football Group and major transport interchange.”

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