A MOVE by the state government to impose a boundary on Melbourne’s growth and promote development in regional cities has been hailed by south-west leaders.
Warrnambool mayor Michael Neoh, who is also the deputy chairman of Regional Cities Victoria (RCV), said he did not expect the state’s promotion of regional development would be limited to cities close to Melbourne.
He was commenting on the government’s new Plan Melbourne strategy that aims to curb the city’s suburban sprawl by establishing a permanent metropolitan urban boundary and distributing future population growth to other regions.
As part of the strategy, a State of Cities region will be created in which employment, population growth and good transport connections to Melbourne will be encouraged.
That region includes Bacchus Marsh, Ballan, Broadford, Kilmore, Warragul-Drouin and Wonthaggi.
Higher business and residential densities will be permitted in those regional cities and social and cultural facilities upgraded.
Renewal and infill opportunities in the State of Cities region will also be identified to maximise infrastructure investment and utilise surplus government land.
Cr Neoh said the State of Cities region would complement the regional development efforts of the RCV, which represents 10 regional cities including Warrnambool.
“Warrnambool has not been excluded,” Cr Neoh said.
Focusing regional development on regional cities was more effective than “greenfield” areas because regional cities already had much of the infrastructure needed.
However, regional cities needed support to provide more affordable housing and industrial land to attract more development, Cr Neoh said.
He took heart that Premier Denis Napthine gave a high priority to regional development because he had retained the portfolio despite his election as premier.
Great South Coast Group chairman Chris O’Connor said the State of Cities region was unlikely to pose a threat to state support for development in the south-west.
Cr O’Connor, who is also the Corangamite mayor, said while south-west cities were not among the State of Cities region to which the state government wanted to divert development from Melbourne, the state government had changed planning regulations that would foster growth in the south-west.
Cr O’Connor said planning regulations governing farming zones had been relaxed to allow more commercial activity.
“It is pro-growth in farming zones,” Cr O’Connor said.
“It’s taken a lot of red tape out of running a small business in a farming zone, particularly if the product is locally produced.
“They can sell produce off the farm and manufactured goods.
“I think it is good but we will have to watch it,” Cr O’Connor said of the changes to regulations for farming zones.