by Ellen Sandell
The inner north of Melbourne, like Kensington where I live, is one of the best places to live and raise a family.
The access to community facilities, the diversity and the vibrant arts scene are just some of the reasons we choose to live here.
I love that our community will fight to protect our shared spaces and services — the proponents of the East West toll road learnt that the hard way when they tried to build a highway through the middle of our parkland and community!
The challenge for us is to protect the livability of our little pocket of Melbourne from those who are looking to make a quick buck at the expense of the community.
I have been alarmed by the huge rate of unfettered growth, particularly of poor-quality, small apartments, in inner Melbourne, and the lack of consultation, democratic processes and community infrastructure that goes along with it.
The recent poor decision to remove notice and appeal rights for residents living in parts of North Melbourne and Carlton is just another example of the community being sidelined when it comes to planning.
I am especially concerned by the lack of infrastructure planning that goes alongside the increase in development. If the government wants to continue to grow Melbourne’s population — what about the parks, schools, health care and public transport that will be put under pressure? Why is this being ignored?
Continuing to build large, poor-quality developments with little regard to public space and community services, simply to maximise developer profit, is a road to ruin for our city.
While there are many reasons for this sorry state of affairs, there are two issues I see as real root causes of these problems: political donations from property developers; and businesses receiving two votes to residents’ one vote in Melbourne City Council elections.
Last year I attempted to introduce a Bill to Parliament to ban donations by property developers to politicians. It is scandalous that planning ministers get the final say on multimillion-dollar developments, while at the same time both major political parties run on cash handed out by developers themselves.
NSW finally banned this kind of corrupting behaviour, but in Victoria the major parties continue to pretend there is no problem — they even voted to refuse a debate on my Bill in Parliament.
This year I will also continue to campaign to remove the Melbourne City Council gerrymander, where businesses get two votes while residents get only one, entrenching support for pro-developer candidates and making it incredibly difficult for community-minded candidates to get a say.
Another important reason I care so deeply about these campaigns, and about planning, is because of their impact on inequality.
My seat of Melbourne has one of the largest amounts of public housing in the whole country, and housing affordability is a critical issue here. The public services we have in North and West Melbourne are especially valuable where residents might not have a backyard, or may rely on vital public services to survive and thrive.
Yet public health services, schools and parkland are under increasing pressure as the population of Melbourne grows. If we keep building new apartment towers without regard to affordable housing and public open space and services, then we risk exacerbating these kinds of social inequalities.
The Greens in Melbourne, including myself at state level, Adam Bandt at federal level, and Rohan Leppert and Cathy Oke on the council, have a plan to keep Melbourne livable, and it starts with reining in the influence of property developers. I hope you can join me in calling for reform. What we have here is too valuable to lose.
For any issues you’d like to raise with me, you can always contact my office on 9328 4637 or you are welcome to pop in for a chat at 146 Peel Street, North Melbourne.
Ellen Sandell is the Member for Melbourne in the Victorian Legislative Assembly and a representative of the Australian Greens.