Minister is aiming for a positive legacy

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.”

These are the sort of words that CBD residents have been longing to hear from a State Planning Minister, so let’s hope we can look back in four years with gratitude for a job well done.

“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.”

From a CBD perspective, Mr Wynne is on the money.  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.”

“I am very cognizant that in all these CBD residential developments that you get quality, amenity, a decent size of apartment to live in, which is activated at the ground floor level and which contributes to the public realm,” he said.

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.”

And, when asked specifically, whether or not he would support a CBD structure plan to clearly articulate and define future development, he said: “In my conversations with the Lord Mayor, I couldn’t have found a more willing or co-operative partner in this.”

“That’s why you will see, over time, not only a mature and respectful conversation with the City of Melbourne, but very much moving towards partnership around many of these strategic issues.”

Asked whether or not that meant we could expect a CBD structure plan during his term, the minister said: “I’ve answered that question.  That’s all I’ll say.”

Mr Wynne says he not against height, as long as it ticks the various amenity boxes.  And he certainly appreciates the wisdom of urban renewal close 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.”

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