17 December, 2013


The main message in BRAG's submission is that"if you double the population you have to double the infrastructure".
With Melbourne's population set to double by 2050 you would think that any plan for the future of Melbourne would contain a set of objectives and strategies to update and build the necessary infrastructure but, apart from the extension to the eastern freeway and some motherhood statements,
there is very little in the way of any real planning.

For instance there is nothing on schools or hospitals. the rail links to Doncaster and the airport get a passing mention, but there is very little in the way of detail for upgrades etc or finance.

BRAG's submission is attached - see above.

More on the New Residential Zones

Boroondara Council has lodged its zoning proposals
with the Minister for approval but, in the meantime the development industry has been very active in lobbying against the new zones screaming that they will be locked out of the residential suburbs.

In the case of Boroondara's proposal they are right, for our council has identified about 70-80% of Boroondara as Neighbourhood Residential Zone and the rest as General Residential Zone with a small section as Residential Growth Zone(partly as a result of our lobbying and the fact that most of Boroondara is residential).

However, other councils' planners with their tunnel vision, which is to push for more and more development, have reacted quite differently. Many councils are proposing to have more of their residential areas identified as either General or Growth Zones with not too much in the more protected Neighbourhood Zone.

For instance, in the Greater Geelong area the council is proposing to have hardly any residential areas in the Neighbourhood Zone. This is very much against the Minister's idea of trying to protect our residential areas from rapacious and unacceptable development. One area, which contains mostly lovely old Edwardian homes, is identified for growth. This is pure vandalism. And Greater Geelong is not the only one for many more councils are trending in the same direction. 

It seems that the development lobby is gaining ground because money talks. Check out what Charter Keck Cramer have to say on the subject (see attached above). 
We wonder just how this will all pan out.

We will keep you posted.

18 October, 2013


The new planning blueprint just released called "Planmelbourne" will replace "Melbourne 2030. The document identifies nine strategic principles each with a set of "directions" to cope with projected population growth of nearly 8.5 million in Victoria by 2051 with about 6.5 million in Melbourne.

The document has 176 pages with a considerable amount of information so we have briefly summarized
the main points in the attachment above.Quite a lot of planning principals contained in Melbourne 2030
reappear in the document although it is a much broader plan and contains some predictable solutions as well as some that will raise concerns for many residents. 

17 September, 2013

New Residential Zones Approved for Boroondara

For years BRAG has been lobbying both the Minister for Planning and our council to "protect what we love about our neighbourhood". The Minister agreed to consider a new zoning system that would rely on neighbourhood character as a means of restricting what could be built and what could not.

Boroondara Council quickly conducted a survey of the municipality to identify precinct characteristics and this has now been used to map out new residential zones. 

At a meeting of the council's Urban Planning Special Committee on 16th September, the committee approved implementation of the Neighbourhood Character Study and the new Residential Zones as set out in the attachment (see above - a map of the new zones is on page 17)

When approved by the Minister, the new zones will offer the protection we have wanted for so long against unacceptable, opportunistic, infill development and it will be much more difficult for
VCAT to over-rule proper council planning decisions.

BRAG thanks the Minister for Planning, Matthew Guy, for introducing these changes for they will return planning power back to our council which is what we have been advocating for the last 10 years.The Coalition election policies promised this and now it has been delivered.

19 August, 2013

Unsellable apartments in Melbourne

Further to the post below we attach an article from The Age -19 August 13- in which a 15 square meter apartment in Carlton listed for sale at $165.000 has been pulled off the market because the banks won't accept it as security. We don't blame them, who would want to buy one? 

There are many of these apartments being built by overseas investors to let to students and 457 Visa holders. Most are of poor quality - see the post 5th July 13 below- and after a few years they will become the future slums of Melbourne.

To give you an idea of just how small they are, the one bedroom bedsits are about the size of a small car parking space or small caravan.
Why are we allowing this downgrading of our city by money grubbing overseas investors ?

For more on this subject click on the attachment above.

28 July, 2013

Melbourne's Housing Stock - Boom or Bust

Victoria and especially Melbourne imports much yet produces little that the rest of the world chooses to buy. It hasn't always been so but as our manufacturing base moves offshore, we have increasingly relied upon the building and construction industry for our economic growth.

We have been opening up land for development, built more and more houses to settle in ever more people who migrate to Australia who also plan to live well and import much while exporting little.

Over the last year or so our Minister for Planning has been approving far too many apartment towers in the inner areas of Melbourne which is likely to result in an oversupply of small apartments that will be hard to sell or rent. So what is the outlook for our housing market ? While some commentators argue that we could be headed for a housing price crash in Melbourne, Monash University's Bob Birrell says that "those planning Melbourne's future have not come to grips with the causes of Melbourne's housing affordability crisis. The provision of even more high-rise apartment blocks or further extension of the Urban Growth Boundary will not provide a solution".

Recently the introduction of the Metropolitan Planning Strategy has suggested that we investigate putting more emphasis on regional development and unlocking the unused capacity of our middle and inner suburbs. While regionalization might be part of the solution the introduction of reformed zones for our suburbs, which is aimed to protect them from opportunistic infill, will make "unlocking" them for more housing densification impossible.

One of the drawbacks for apartments is that construction costs for larger apartments is prohibitive making them unaffordable for the family market. Most coming on line are less than 70 square metres (many are just 45 or 50 Sq. mtrs) which are mostly purchased off-the-plan by investors,with many marketed to overseas investors. It is becoming clear that we are building too many smaller apartments and the trend is towards even smaller apartments of low standard. 
(see the post below).

Labor's Melbourne 2030 plan was a failure and has been scrapped but the proposed Metropolitan Planning Strategy (MPS)which is to replace M2030 is also doomed to fail unless the Minister and his planners start thinking outside the square. 

We suggest a good start would be to reduce our immigration numbers and drastically cut back the massive visa programs (that are subject far too much manipulation) and thus reduce demand.

For more on this subject refer to the attached article from Michael Yardney which appeared in a recent Melbourne Property Buyers Agent's publication.

23 July, 2013

ABC Reports Large Scale Fraud of Australia's Visa System

Our Immigration Department is not in control of who comes in to Australia. Immigration Agents issue many visas and it has been reported that far too many of these agents issue dodgy travel and work documents which has resulted in fraud rates approaching 50 per cent to thousands of Indian students and skilled workers and 457 visa holders.

We know that this is happening in other countries too, it is not just in India.

The fraud figures obtained under Freedom of Information by the ABC Fact Check Unit show out-of-control large scale fraud.

For more on this, check out the attached report issued by ABC Radio Australia. In this report there is one alarming case of a a man entering Australia under a false identity. He had previously been deported and was eventually caught and re-deported. But what is worse, his immigration agent who was living in Australia was also under a false identity and he had helped many others to come in to Australia under false papers.

While the refugee intake is a large problem costing us many millions to manage, the unseen arrival of so many more who enter on false visa arrangements or manipulate the system is costing us much more. It has been reliably calculated that for every new arrival, Australia has to spend an additional $200,000 per new arrival for required infrastructure upgrades. 

Its time our politicians took control of who comes in to this country rather than leaving it in the hands of dodgy immigration agents.

05 July, 2013

Asian Financed Developers Build Poor Quality Apartment Towers

Our Governments currently cannot stop Asian investors building tall apartment towers in our cities says the head of the Victorian Public Service, Andrew Tongue, even though planning experts say the apartments are often of poor quality.

Marcus Spiller, a well known planner, says that many city apartments often are not very good adding that we are creating housing stock that is pretty ordinary and not very adaptable. One of the reasons is that Asian developers do not need to have their shoddy apartments pre-sold like Australian developers financed by Australian Banks do, because offshore funding is not subject to the same checks and balances that Australian Banks demand.

With around 50% of Melbourne's city apartments sold off to overseas investors ( in Sydney the percentage is nearer 80%)the whole process is handled overseas and is going to leave us with poor housing stock that will require massive maintenance in the future. 

So what will happen then when the Body Corporate fees skyrocket to cover these costs and no one wants to rent or buy these shoddy apartments.

It is time that Australia woke up to the problems associated with selling off our cities to overseas investors. And let us not forget the increasing amount of our farmland being sold off to overseas 
investors but that's another story. (See the post "Selling off the Farm" below)

Wake up Australia !

04 July, 2013

New Residential Zones Announced

The Minister for Planning announced on Friday 28th June 2013 the new zones including a Neighbourhood Residential Zone (NRZ) that will require new construction to meet neighbourhood character requirements as set by council as well as a mandatory maximum height of 8 metres.

The new NRZ will help to protect our residential areas from unacceptable,opportunistic, multi-storey development in Melbourne's suburbs

Some councils have already carried out their neighbourhood character studies and are ready to proceed in identifying where the different zones will apply in their own municipalities. It will be essential that councils get cracking so the zones will be in place before the next election because the Shadow planning Minister, Brian Tee, is not in favour and intends to push on with the very flawed Melbourne 2030 planning blueprint and no one wants that.

BRAG has lobbied hard to have our residential areas protected and we thank the Minister for Planning, Matthew Guy, for listening to us and making these changes possible.

Refer the attached media release for more information.

Reformed Residential Zones for Victoria

The Minister for Planning has introduced new planning zones which will affect all of us. The Neighbourhood Residential Zone (NRZ)will offer protection against opportunistic infill development but the commercial zones will open up opportunities for greater high and medium density development.
The new zones are:-

  • Activity Centre Zone (ACZ) ( Commercial 1 & 2 zones)
  • Comprehensive Development Zone (CDZ)
  • Mixed Use Zone (MUZ)
  • Residential Growth Zone (RGZ)
  • General Residential Zone GRZ)
  • Neighbourhood Residential Zone (NRZ)
For many years we have been campaigning for protection for our residential areas from inappropriate/unacceptable development and we believe that that the Minister for Planning is firmly committed to provide such protection through the residential zones, especially the Neighbourhood Residential Zone and the General Residential Zone. It is reasonable to expect that most residents will want to be in the NRZ or the GRZ because they are designed to "respect and preserve neighbourhood character". Councils are responsible to draw up neighbourhood character guidelines so just how accurate these are to the reality will be important (see item below posted on 9th June 2012). We are hoping that more weight will then be placed on neighbourhood character when appeals are heard at VCAT. To date VCAT has not really taken much notice of neighbourhood character when deciding upon residents objections.This attitude to neighborhood character by VCAT must change.
What the new NRZ & the GRZ could provide for is that, if your local area is mainly single storey with some two storey homes on garden blocks, then any new development will have to be sympathetic to that style. Councils will be responsible for identifying the zone boundaries and will be able to set height limits. Third party rights to object and appeal will apply.
We understand the Minister will personally sign off on the Councils' zoning but the interesting point is that, in the past, such planning changes have usually been handled by senior officers in the DPCD under delegation arrangements. Generally the DPCD has pushed for more hardline changes so council officers have tended to lodge applications that they think might be accepted by DPCD resulting in regulations that suit developers but not residents.
It is now up to our new councillors to complete the Neighbourhood Character Study quickly so we can gain some protection before it is too late................... STOP PRESS Refer attached media release announcing the new zones

18 May, 2013

Record Population Growth 23 Million & Counting

Our record population growth is putting real pressure on our infrastructure which is one of the side affects of our immigration policies.

Victoria's economic dependence on building and construction to fuel economic growth relies on bringing in more and more migrants. This is in reality nothing more than a massive Ponzi scheme with Melbourne the fastest growing city bursting at the seams and with overloaded infrastructure.

Both the federal and state governments are having trouble balancing their budgets and cannot raise enough money to build new roads, new railways or upgrade our overall infrastructure to meet our current needs let alone what will be required when our population is doubled within the next 30 to 40 years.

Kevin Rudd was an advocate of a "BIG AUSTRALIA" and it was one of the issues that went against him continuing in office. One of the first announcements by Julia Gillard was to appoint a Minister for Population saying "Australia should not hurtle down the track towards a big population" but nothing has changed. 

For the full story see the attachment above.

08 May, 2013

BRAG's Activity Centres Submission to Boroondara Council

A copy of BRAG's submission to Boroondara Council on it's Activity Centres Strategy is attached- see above.

Residents who live some distance from the identified Activity Centres may consider the Strategy proposals may not affect them but those who live nearby to one of the Centres should take note of the points raised in the submission about the 400 metre convention.
They could face the prospect of a multi-storey apartment block being built next door.

09 April, 2013

Boroondara Council's Activity Centres Strategy

The attachment above is BRAG's original submission to Council and we have not changed our view on this issue.
Note: Council did accede to our recommendation to remove the Local Centres from their Strategy but nothing else has been changed. There are still 31 of our local shopping centres targeted as Activity Centres. 

We urge you to make up your own mind and send in a submission on Council's current plan.

Remember, the current Coalition Government has scrapped Melbourne 2030. Unfortunately while it is dead we are yet to bury it. So help us to do so.

04 February, 2013


The degree of foreign ownership of our rural land has doubled over the last 25 years from 5.9% up to 11.3% according to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural & Resource Economics & Sciences. Forty five million hectares of our agricultural land has some level of foreign ownership and this number continues to increase.
Should we be worried?

On the eve of Australia Day 2013, our largest farming property, CubbiStationpassed into majority ownership by a Chinese textile maker, Shandong RuYi along with massive water rights from the Culgoa River and the Murray Darling Basin.

More than half of our milk processing is in foreign hands. Half our wheat export industry is controlled by foreign companies. Three foreign milling groups account for nearly 60% of our raw sugar production - including a subsidiary of the Chinese state owned COFCO Corporation - and 40% of our beef & lamb is processed by foreign firms. Nearly 10% of our irrigation water licenses are owned by foreigners.

This is just a sample of what is going on, we could keep listing examples but suffice to say the trends are very worrying. It is incongruous that we substantially increased scrutiny of overseas investment in residential real estate in 2010, with all foreign purchases of residential real estate being subject to FIRB scrutiny, yet when it comes to rural land the level of scrutiny is not so stringent with only purchases in excess of $244 million looked at (which relates to a single purchase while multiple purchases that collectively exceed that amount are ignored).

Why is it essential to scrutinise the purchase of a Gold Coast apartment but not the purchase of a large area of rural farmland?

What is worse, our farmers are being squeezed on two fronts, foreign land buyouts and the price war between the major food retailers which in turn are being pressured by the foreign competitors Aldi and Costco, leading to cost cutting resulting in the farmers being pressured to take less for their produce.

Consider this : If someone asked you whether Mildura Fruit Co was an Australian company you might say yes. It packs and sells fruit grown in the Mildura region It has three directors who are Australian and one born in New Zealand(as of 16 July 2012). It is owned by Sunbeam Foods Group Ltd based in Mildura which has the same directors and secretary as the Mildura Fruit Co so it looks very Australian. However, Food Holdings P/L trading as Manasson Foods Group Ltd, owns 100% of Sunbeam Foods which owns 100% of Mildura Fruit Co. Last November Manasson Foods Group was acquired by Bright Foods Holdings P/L. The shareholders of Bright Foods Holdings are Bright Food ( Australia) Co. Ltd. and Geoffrey Erby.

Now Bright Food (Australia) Co. Ltd. sounds Australian enough but it is in fact a Chinese company based in Hong Kong. Its ultimate owner is Bright Food ( Group) Co. Ltd. which is 50% owned by the Shanghai Municipal Government and the remaining 50% by other Shanghai Government owned companies.

What a tangled web they weave.

In a rather week response to all these shenanigans The Australian Federal Government released a "National Food Plan Green Paper" which outlines options for our food policy. It is seeking feedback with submissions to be lodged by 30th September - go to the link http://www.daff.gov.au/nationalfoodplan/national-food plan or just "Google" National Food Plan.

(The above is largely a condensation from a speech made to Independent Retirees on July 2012 by Kelvin Thomson MP, Member for Wills).