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Melbourne leads the nation in sustainable planning, but the 20-minute city may remain a dream

The City of Melbourne’s new planning amendment will ensure building and development brings long-term financial benefits to building owners and long-term health and productivity benefits to building tenants.

But the Victorian Minister for Planning’s vision for a 20-minute Melbourne may remain a dream unless the Minister engages with industry to establish clear and measureable objectives.

Australia’s authority on sustainable buildings and communities, the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA), welcomes the introduction of Planning Scheme Amendment C187: energy, water and waste efficiency, which was approved by the Victorian Government on 4 April 2013.

“We congratulate the City of Melbourne for demonstrating leadership by implementing Planning Scheme Amendment C187, which will drive the development of buildings that are more energy and water efficient, and reduce the amount of waste going to landfill,” says the GBCA’s Executive Director of Advocacy, Robin Mellon.

New office, retail, education and accommodation development of more than 2,000 square metres will be assessed against clear best practice benchmarks set out in the local planning policy.

“By referencing Green Star and other industry rating tool performance measures, the new local planning policy provides a common language and consistency for those in the property and construction industry looking to build large-scale developments in the Melbourne local government area.

“This new planning policy provides confidence that future building developments will be healthy places to live and work and efficient to operate. Importantly, it requires large developments of more than 5,000 square metres to achieve independent, nationally-recognised 5 Star Green Star ratings, which equate to ‘Australian Excellence’,” Mr Mellon explains.

Ensuring Melbourne has a long-term plan is also high on the political agenda.  The Victorian Government’s discussion paper, Melbourne, let’s talk about the future, was released by Victorian Planning Minister, Matthew Guy, late last year to spark debate about what Melbourne should look like in 2050.

The discussion paper explores how to create a ‘20-minute city’ and proposes nine principles to guide the future metropolitan planning strategy for Melbourne.

“By approving the City of Melbourne’s local planning amendment, Minister Guy demonstrates a commitment to removing barriers and empowering local councils to get on with the job of bettering local communities in practical and measurable ways.

“However, it is important that the Victorian Government’s long-term planning strategy avoids empty rhetoric by including benchmarks and indicators of success that will enable both government and the community to track progress.”

“If Minister Guy is to create the ‘20-minute city’, or more importantly, is to create a well-connected city, as this discussion paper proposes, then governments at all levels will need to work together - and with industry.

“We encourage the Victorian Government to reach out to the Green Building Council of Australia and other key industry stakeholders to benchmark best practice and establish pathways for achieving better communities and cities,” Mr Mellon says.

“The GBCA’s Green Star – Communities rating tool, developed in consultation with Places Victoria, is a method of measurement that can assist the Victorian Government to achieve its vision,” he said.

“Just as the City of Melbourne’s new planning law sets realistic best practice benchmarks for buildings, the same approach must be adopted for whole city planning.  Any metropolitan area is a collection of communities, and we are keen to work with the Victorian Government to realise its vision for Melbourne as a network of best practice, accessible, affordable and liveable communities,” Mr Mellon concludes.