The big message to the new Labor government in Victoria is deliver better, more sustainable outcomes – from urban planning to public transport, housing affordability and energy efficiency programs. Among calls from stakeholders in the built environment is for the new government to retain the Victorian Energy Efficiency Target, as promised, and to restore the much valued but little understood Greener Government Buildings Program, which was axed despite massive anticipated savings to taxpayers.
The Andrews government today announced its ministerial team, which features nine women out of a cabinet of 22, the highest proportion of women in an Australian government.
Relevant portfolios to the built environment include:
- Lisa Neville: Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water
- Richard Wynn: Minister for Planning
- Lily D’Ambrosio: Minister for Industry, Energy and Resources
- Martin Foley: Minister for Housing, Disability and Ageing
- Jacinta Allen: Minister for Public Transport
Property Council Victoria executive director Jennifer Cunich said PCV would welcome the reactivation of the Greener Government Buildings program, as well as the new government honouring its pre-election commitment to stick with the Victorian Energy Efficiency Target.
“The Property Council supports market based initiatives such as the VEET scheme,” Ms Cunich said.
PCV also urged the new government to apply best-practice sustainability metrics to the Fishermans Bend urban renewal precinct.
“The Property Council supports a community based vision for sustainability in Fishermans Bend. The potential to incorporate precinct-wide solutions for Fishermans Bend presents a unique opportunity for turning the precinct into a global leader in urban renewal best practice,” Ms Cunich said.
“We believe this vision is best expressed through the aims articulated in the Green Building Council of Australia’s Green Star – Communities Rating Tool.”
Other priorities PCV has for the new government include:
- Confirming as quickly as possible the status of the East West Link project and negotiating a new use for Victoria’s share of Commonwealth funding for the project. [Fairfax Media reported on Wednesday that some of contractors for the project including Lend Lease were considering not pursuing a massive contract termination fees that could run to $1.1 billion, in order to have better access to alternative work on offer from the new government. And the Herald Sun reported today (Thursday) that the federal government was considering not demanding repayment of $3 billion earmarked for the East West if it could be spent on other “shovel ready” infrastructure.]
- Developing and commencing a new long-term pipeline of major infrastructure projects and designing an effective framework for their proposed Infrastructure Victoria governance body
- Creating a new Minister for Retirement Living to manage investment, tax obligations and Aged Care Rule reform
- Implementing Plan Melbourne
- Maintaining a freeze on Victoria’s tax regime, including no new taxes or increases, and also developing a long-term strategy for easing the state’s property tax dependency
Ms Cunich said the election result was “unequivocal” and that the property industry looked forward to working with the new government on moving Victoria forward.
“The Victorian property industry faces many complicated challenges over the years ahead,” Ms Cunich said.
“The Property Council has taken special note of Mr Andrews’ election debate commitment to not increase or introduce new taxes this term.
“At present, the property and construction industry contributes $15.8 billion or 24 cents in every $1 of state revenue raised. This is clearly a disproportionate burden on an industry responsible for 8.9 per cent of Victorian GSP.
“Any move to wind back the new government’s tax freeze promise would represent a fundamental breach of trust with the Victorian people. The Property Council intends to make sure the Andrews government honours this promise.
“The Property Council urges caution in regard to how the new government manages the East West Link project contract. Ripping up a signed contract will have serious ramifications for Victoria’s international investment reputation and we urge the government to tread carefully.”
Green Building Council of Australia sees a chance to rebuild Victoria’s green reputation
The GBCA said the new government was “a golden opportunity for Victoria to reclaim its status as the greenest state”.
“Victoria has the highest number of certified Green Star projects in the country – with 227 Green Star ratings for both public and private buildings. While the number of projects registering to achieve Green Star ratings has dropped in recent years, Victoria now has the opportunity to reclaim its leadership status,” CBCA chief operating officer Robin Mellon said.
“We are encouraged that the Victorian Labor Platform 2014 outlined a strong commitment to sustainability – environmental, social and economic. We look forward to seeing this commitment translate into policies and programs that will deliver better Victorian buildings and communities.”
Mr Mellon said the GBCA would be advocating that the Greener Government Buildings program be reinstated, and that the incoming government commits to Green Star outcomes for healthcare and education projects, including 13 schools due for construction under Public Private Partnerships over the next three years.
He also said the Andrews government needed to ensure more sustainable outcomes for Fishermans Bend, as well as other urban renewal projects such as Federation Square East.
“Fishermans Bend represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to deliver an efficient, productive, sustainable community that will be home to 80,000 Victorians,” he said.
“The Napthine Government’s failure to commit to a Green Star rating was a massive missed opportunity – one that we will be looking to the new government to rectify.”
Australian Institute of Architects Victorian chapter wants decisive moves for liveability
One of the key issues for the Victorian Chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects was the need for the Andrews government to ratify the draft apartment design standards prepared by the Victorian Department of Planning.
President of AIA Victoria Peter Mallat told The Fifth Estate the quality of apartments being designed and constructed in Melbourne had dropped over the past five to 10 years, and this was one of the reasons for the high vacancy rates being reported in areas such as Docklands, Southbank and the CBD.
“The level of amenity within the apartments and in common spaces is low, and they are difficult to let,” he said.
“There should be a general standard that is part of the regulatory environment. Our main concern is that there should be public benefit from these regulations.”
One of the key considerations covered by the guidelines is a mandatory requirement for public open space and landscaping within the site envelope of apartment developments. Currently, many apartment developments are extending to the edges of the site boundary and provide little – and in some cases zero – public open space or landscaping.
Mr Mallat said Fishermans Bend needed to be properly masterplanned, and he called for a review of the planning and the existing development approvals to ensure land was immediately reserved for government uses such as education and public open space, as well as land reserved for retail.
The rushed rezoning of the area and rapid-fire approval of major high-rise projects before planning had taken place was “problematic”, he said, and showed that the previous government was acting with the interests of developers in mind, not the greater public interest.
Because many of the projects were “flipped” – onsold with development consent before construction – Mr Mallat said there was an opportunity for the government to revisit those approvals and “plan properly”.
“Planning and urban design and transport [generally] should be a wide public discussion.” Mr Mallat said.
“The construction industry needs to be nurtured by government and it needs a regulatory environment that serves the public interest, and that certainly includes sustainability. Melbourne has the opportunity to be the education city and the green city, and we need to keep that front and centre or we will miss opportunity.”
Mr Mallat said the government must also prioritise homelessness, housing affordability and access through “proper research and policy”.
He said the East West Link was an example of costly short-term policy moves.
“Linking two freeways that are already at capacity is not solving the problem [of congestion].”
Environment Victoria – doorknocking and surveys show environment is high on the agenda
Environment Victoria said the election result was a “victory for grassroots mobilisation” but that the new government would be “publicly held to account if it failed to improve the State’s environmental record”.
“People from all over Victoria have told us how important environmental policies were to securing their vote,” Environment Victoria chief executive Mark Wakeham said.
“Environment Victoria doorknocked more than 11,800 homes in some of Victoria’s most marginal seats including three of the sandbelt seats which changed hands.
“In the electorates of Frankston, Mordialloc, Carrum and Forest Hill more than 2000 undecided voters pledged to vote for the environment and received an Environment Victoria scorecard ranking the major parties’ environment policies in the days leading up to the election.
“Increasing renewable energy, shutting down hazardous and outdated coal fired power stations and securing a healthy future for our people and natural environments were all issues of significant concern to the people we spoke with.
“Labor will need to implement all of its pre-election commitments and more to even begin addressing these concerns.”
Australasian Railway Association advocates for more public transport spending (of course)
The Australasian Rail Association was waiting to hear where the other $8.7 million dollars for the Melbourne Metro Rail was going to come from, given Labor’s $300 million pre-election commitment to the $9 billion project, but is positive about the overall commitment to improving the safety, and capacity of both light and heavy rail in Victoria.
“Important reforms have been outlined included in Labor’s Project 10,000 transport plan, which include the removal of 50 of the state’s worst level crossings, the construction of the Melbourne Metro Rail, and the establishment of the Victorian Transport Building Fund which will fund these important infrastructure projects through asset recycling schemes,” Australasian Rail Association chief executive Bryan Nye said.
“Victoria has more level crossings than any other state in Australia and a large number of collisions and near hits. The removal of 50 of these dangerous intersections will improve the efficiency of the rail network and the safety of drivers and pedestrians.
“The construction of the Melbourne Metro Rail is also welcomed, and will undoubtedly improve the city’s heavy passenger rail network, however greater guarantee on the successful roll out of the project is needed with Labor committing only $300 million thus far towards the $9 billion project.
“I also encourage the Andrews government to consider Melbourne’s’ light rail network, the largest in the world, and the rolling stock and infrastructure requirements needed to meet the growing demand being placed on operators.”
The Wilderness Society seeks action on Great National Forest Park Plan
The Wilderness Society called on the new government to implement the Great National Forest Park Plan, which included the establishment of a Victorian Environment Assessment Council Inquiry to determine the scope and tenure of a new reserve to protect Mountain Ash forests, home to the state’s emblem, the Leadbeater’s possum.
It also recommends an Industry taskforce be established to fast-track the Maryvale paper mill into utilising plantation and recycled fibre instead of native forest woodchip pulp.
“Time is running out for the Leadbeater’s possum and for the flagging native forest logging industry. Fortunately the government has been handed a ready-made solution to both problems if it wants to show visionary leadership for regional Victoria,” Wilderness Society Victorian campaigns manager Amelia Young said.
“Together with regional development packages, declaring a new park and modernising the [paper] industry will boost jobs, tourism and the economy of a region still recovering from the tragic 2009 Black Saturday bushfires.
“The Andrews government has the opportunity to be remembered as the government that implemented a positive plan that’s good for the environment and good for jobs, and actually saved the state’s animal emblem from extinction.”
Australian Industry Group expects a jobs focus
Victorian Australian Industry Group director Tim Piper said the new government’s lower house majority promised greater stability in the Victorian Parliament, and that AIG would be working closely with the incoming ministers on moves to regenerate the economy.
“Business can work well with the Labor government especially as it implements its election commitments around employment and industry policy which have the potential to make a difference,” Mr Piper said.
“The new government’s policies around jobs, purchasing local products, skills development and a commitment to infrastructure spending are all potential positives for the economy.”