Victorian Planning Framework Submission

By on April 5, 2022

A submission was prepared for the Legislative Council Environment and Planning Committee – Inquiry into the protections within the Victorian Planning Framework.

Summary of Issues


• The replenishment of supply of extractive resources is not occurring which will lead to increasing costs for construction materials and hence, housing costs will continue to increase, as demand eventually outstrips supply – especially where competing demand for that resource is being consumed by large projects.


• Quarries need to be located close to where the construction material will be utilised thereby ensuring a lower carbon footprint and less impact on roads as well as cheaper haulage freight costs which carry through to the project and build cost.


• New quarries will provide greater accessibility, choice, quality, and competition in the construction material market that should flow through to improved project construction costs.


• New quarries’ production would contribute towards the rate of supply of extractive resources which is currently not being replenished through approval of new quarries nor existing quarry work plan variations.


• New quarries and existing quarries’ work plan variations would directly contribute to the increasing supply which is a key consideration given that demand is already greater than the highest prediction in the Extractive Resources in Victoria, Demand and Supply Study, 20152050

(https://earthresources.vic.gov.au) (note in other parts of this Study it grossly overestimated the extraction ready availability of construction materials).

Submission

We provide the following submission on behalf of our members:


• The Committee should consider the opportunity to make the Minister for Planning the responsible authority for Extractive Industry land use in the same way that Renewable Energy Facilities are. This will centralise decision-making and better reflect the State-significance of these projects in facilitating key construction and infrastructure projects which are essential to the Victorian economy.

Any recommended change to the responsible authority for Extractive Industry land use must be accompanied by comprehensive guidance material for all applicants, developed in conjunction with key State government bodies such as Secretaries to the Departments of Jobs, Precincts and Regions, and Treasury and Finance, as well as key industry bodies. This will ensure a fair, transparent, and consistent assessment framework which ensures the correct balance is applied to planning decisions.

Further to this, the following referral and notice provisions are sought:
 Section 52 notice – relevant municipal Council.
 Section 52 notice – Secretary to the Department of Treasury and Finance.
 Section 55(4)(a) determining referral – Secretary to the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions.


• The way in which the spatial constraints of earth resources (those which exist in a specific location underground) are considered and weighted by the Victoria planning provisions should be reviewed by the Committee in order to ensure planning decisions for resource extraction are treated with
better certainty and fairness.


• The Committee should examine the role construction materials play in the supply chain of affordable housing and how the Planning & Environment Act 1987 and the Victoria planning provisions can better encapsulate this relationship.


• The visibility, understanding and consideration of the EIIAs within the Victoria planning provisions by practitioners and local authorities should be reviewed by the Committee, particularly given the age of the EIIA mapping is not reflective of the accuracy of the information (as is so often the case in other policy situations) given that resources, once identified, rarely move without significant natural force.


• The Committee should review the adequacy of the Planning & Environment Act 1987 and the Victorian planning provisions, including related guidance material, in providing an appropriate assessment mechanism having regard to existing processes under the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990 and the role of the
Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions in administering this Act. This should particularly examine opportunities to remove duplication and provide streamlining between MRSDA and P&EA matters.


• The Committee should familiarise itself with the supply and demand issues currently being experienced by the extractive resources industry and investigate the appropriateness of standard notice and review practices in
the context of the State-significant role resource extraction plays in Victoria’s economy.

Discussion

Over time, population growth within Victoria has seen a significant impact on urban settlement boundaries as successive State governments strive to maintain affordable housing and provide infrastructure to support residential communities as they grow. Unfortunately, this has occurred at the detriment of the extractive resources industry and related businesses as
residential housing needs have been prioritised over the need to ensure a continuous and sustainable supply of extractive resources.


This has been a short sighted response to increase housing supply which should in theory drive down prices however, it has removed access to the resources required to service that new community’s settlement which has in turn pushed up the pricing of that supply.


As I am sure the Environment and Planning Committee (the Committee) is aware, extractive resources are an essential part of the housing solution. Our members extract, process, and distribute materials which are utilised in:
• New residential estates;
• High rise apartment buildings;
• Essential community facilities such as libraries, schools, sports pavilions, hospitals, and arts centres; and
• Road and rail construction such as the Level Crossing Removal Program, Metro Tunnel Project, West Gate Tunnel Project, Suburban Rail Loop, and many more.

Our members include those with large, vertically integrated business models, as well as small-scale suppliers who can respond nimbly to supply gaps.

The proposed Inquiry into the protections within the Victorian
Planning Framework (the Inquiry) has been instructed to consider the adequacy of the Planning & Environment Act 1987 and the Victorian planning framework in relation to planning and heritage protection. The terms of reference have requested the Committee specifically focus on matters of housing affordability, environment, certainty and fairness in decision making, protecting heritage, and ensuring residential zones are
delivering appropriate housing outcomes.

Considering this, we highlight the following:
• The terms of reference have a heavy focus on residential development and fail to consider the diverse needs of our urban areas and our economy, including the provision of extractive resources.
• The role of the extractive resources industry in supplying construction materials to support housing supply and essential infrastructure has been entirely omitted from the terms of reference.
• No connection has been made between the affordability of housing and the provision of construction materials within the terms of reference.

This is largely reflective of the way in which extractive resources have been managed through the Planning & Environment Act 1987 and the Victoria planning provisions to date. This includes systemic sterilisation of Extractive Industry Interest Areas (EIIAs) by urban development over the past 30 years, particularly within the Melbourne Urban Growth Boundary (UGB), and a breakdown in the capacity for local government municipalities
to adequately understand, assess and respond to proposals for new extractive resources applications, particularly in areas with good market access (i.e., existing urban areas).


This is further hampered by local opposition to new extractive resource applications, facilitated by the notice provisions of the current Victorian planning policy controls, and consistently leading to political decision making by local government Councillors. At best, this creates an ad hoc decision making process for our industry.

Whilst rights of appeal exist in the planning scheme, the consistent need to attend the Victoria Civil and Administrative Tribunal creates time and cost implications for operators. Far from being a one-off, the need to appeal planning decisions at the Tribunal is now considered an embedded part of the planning process for many operators, which simply should not be the case.
We would submit that not only should the Minister for Planning become the responsible authority for Extractive Industry land uses, but that practitioner expertise should be developed within the Department of Environment, Water and Planning in the same way that it has been developed for renewable energy facilities.

Figure 1 – Number of current Work Authorities versus construction material production 2010-2021 (CMPA, 2021)

Accompanied by clear and transparent guidance material for operators, this has the potential to reintroduce a centralised assessment team for the extractive industry, improve knowledge sharing across State government ministries with regard to State-supply and infrastructure priorities, reduce duplication / introduce streamlining between the MRSDA and P&EA, and
provide greater opportunity for monitoring of the sector to ensure Victorian’s have continued and sustainable access to construction resources.


The current lengthy and costly approval process for quarries has been monitored by CMPA since its inception in 2000. Figure 1 illustrates that there is increasing demand for extractive resources. Conversely the number of current work authorities is declining. This is compounded in Figure 2 by the decline in approved work authorities. There are numerous difficult stages in the long journey for an approved work authority or work plan variation with the most challenging being the planning permit.


Note:
• Accounting for a decrease of approximately 20% in quarries reporting production for 2020/21 the approximate production is 68.5 million tonnes (based on the inclusion of 97 quarries reporting production of 0.05 million tonnes in 2020/21) an increase of 6% on 2019/20 despite little immigration and COVID-19. Earth Resources Regulation Annual Statistical Report FY 2020/21, https://earthresources.vic.gov.au/.

Figure 2 – Decline in approval of new Work Authorities versus financial year.

• Not included in Figure 1 is the tonnages for the production of recycled construction and demolition waste which is approximately 6.5 million tonnes in Victoria for 2019/20,
https://www.sustainability.vic.gov.au/research-dataand-insights/waste-data/annual-waste-data-reports.


In Figure 2 the decline in approval of Work Authorities with each consecutive financial year is demonstrated. This is despite an increase in demand for materials over this time.

Unfortunately, due to the workload of the Victorian Legislative Council Planning and Environment Committee and the upcoming State election is unable to hold public hearings this year.


As a result of this, the Committee has made the decision that it will not be holding public hearings for this inquiry but will do a detailed and thorough review of all submissions, prepare an interim report for the Parliament identifying the key issues and key questions and will be making a strong recommendation to the government that a full and detailed inquiry be undertaken at the commencement of the next Parliament.

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