The Green Building Council of Australia has launched a scathing assessment of the sustainability credentials of Victoria’s Napthine government, which faces an election on 29 November, joining widespread industry condemnation of the government’s policies that have actively discouraged or destroyed programs for greener or more energy efficient buildings.
The GBCA had “scrutinised the Napthine Government’s commitment to efficient, healthy, productive buildings and communities – and the results are in,” GBCA chief operating officer Robin Mellon said.
According to Mr Mellon, the government was out of step with the property and development industry, its own citizens and even its contemporary governments.
In its term of office the Victorian government had failed to commit to any new Green Star rated buildings, other than five Green Star rated railway stations; it had destroyed the highly prized Greener Government Buildings program, it had threatened the Victorian Energy Efficiency Target and it had failed to declare any sustainability ambitions for the massive Fishermans Bend project on the edge of the CBD, which is fast getting under way.
“While we applaud the Victorian Government’s investment in the Regional Rail Link project, which has delivered five train stations with Green Star ratings, the Napthine Government has not committed to any new green building programs or projects during its term,” Mr Mellon said.
And while it was positive to support energy upgrade agreements, these would not work in isolation, he said.
The sentiments echo a growing refrain from industry observers who say that the government has thrown in the towel on sustainability and allowed an almost free-for-all that threatens to trash that state’s reputations for quality and high achievement.
“I doubt if there is anyone in this industry who would vote for this government,” a leading energy efficiency expert told The Fifth Estate several months ago.
On the residential front, the plethora of tall buildings approved by the government, often for development by foreign investors with little regard for sustainability or quality outcomes, has become the topic of a running joke.
One architect from Sydney said he preferred to work in Melbourne because it was so much easier there to get approval. If the City of Melbourne had an objection the remedy was to make the project bigger so that it would fall into the state’s bailiwick, he said.
The normally circumspect GBCA, it seems, has likewise had enough. It launched its first grenade at the Napthine government when the strategic plans for Fishermans Bend were released, saying the government had missed an opportunity.
But that was just a taste.
On Monday Mr Mellon said despite huge support for sustainability among the community and the property and development industry, the Napthine government had shown only “wavering” commitment to more sustainable buildings. It had “not committed to any new green building programs or projects during its term.”
“It is disappointing to see the Greener Government Buildings program disbanded,” Mr Mellon said.
“This program achieved cost savings of more than $1.2 million a year across 16 key government buildings, as well as a reduction of more than 8000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.
“Victoria has the highest number of certified Green Star projects of any state or territory – with 225 Green Star ratings for both public and private buildings. But the number of projects registering to achieve Green Star ratings has dropped in recent years, and Victoria is in danger of losing its leadership status.”
A survey early this year showed the Victorian government was also out of touch with community sentiment on the issue.
According to the results 99 per cent of Victorians said it was important for the state’s hospitals to be efficient, healthy and cost effective, and 97 per cent believed the same for schools.
The GBCA also said Victoria was out of step with its contemporaries.
“Many other state governments around Australia are using the Green Star – Communities rating tool,” Mr Mellon said.
He called on the incoming government to “commit to achieving best practice benchmarks that ensure that all new community- scale developments across Victoria are productive, sustainable, liveable, affordable, resilient places to live.
“In particular, we challenge all parties to commit to Green Star outcomes for the new Federation Square East and the E-Gate projects,” he said.
“Improving the performance of Victoria’s buildings can deliver a range of economic, social and environmental benefits – from reduced costs to improved occupant productivity, health and wellbeing. A commitment to efficient buildings demonstrates fiscal responsibility with taxpayer dollars and the understanding of a sustainable business model.
“Victorians deserve political leaders that can demonstrate their commitment to building a more sustainable future – a more efficient future, a better future – for all Victorians.”