Matthew Guy’s permit scrutiny

Bec Fary / July 12, 2013 10:04 AM

Last week Victoria’s Planning Minister Matthew Guy announced a “red tape blitz” to cut planning permit times, claiming one in six planning permits will be spared long delays. 

But the “revolutionary” introduction of the new ‘VicSmart’ system comes in the wake of a shaky couple of years for Victoria’s planning system.

Carley Nicholls, the woman behind a contentious 2011 housing subdivision proposal on Philip Island, has spoken out about secret meetings she took with the planning minister.

On September 8 2011, Guy approved a rezoning plan for Philip Island, much to the dismay of residents, the local council, and even Miley Cyrus:

Phillip Island is such a magical place, it would be a shame to see it change. #REALLIFEFERNGULLY

— Miley Ray Cyrus (@MileyCyrus) September 20, 2011

Only one submission to the Bass Coast Shire Council on the issue supported the rezoning, and that was from the owner of the seaside farm in question.

Carley Nicholls, who has since been revealed to be the property’s owner, says Matthew Guy had a “kitchen table meeting” with her before the permit approval, where he expressed his support.

The premier’s office and the Liberal party weighed in to protest the rezoning, leading to a hasty back-flip. On September 22, two weeks after the initial approval, Guy announced he would not proceed with the Phillip Island rezoning.

It’s now been revealed the rezoning scandal was at the same time Guy was taking secret fund-raising meetings with other property developers.

Guy has been found to have intervened in the planning process by helping property developers who each paid $10,000 to a Liberal fund-raising arm so they could attend private dinners.

Referred to Victoria’s anti-corruption watchdog in May over the allegations, the planning minister has copped some bad PR in recent months.

So Guy’s VicSmart announcement could be an effort to instil some confidence in Victoria’s planning system.

In a press release, the minister’s office said VicSmart would “reinforce Victoria as having the most efficient planning system in Australia”.

“Years of red tape additions to the State’s planning system has done little to deliver any real outcomes. VicSmart is a real game changer,” Guy said in a statement.

“Cutting planning red tape is a huge win for confidence and certainty in the Victorian planning system and reinforces to councils, investors and communities that the Coalition Government is getting on with the job of simplifying our planning system.”

VicSmart is set to give the state government more time to think over “permits that require greater analysis”.

“The transference of many of these smaller permit applications from regular planning processes to the VicSmart system will free up huge amounts of time, energy and resources for local council planning departments, allowing councils to focus on permits that require greater analysis.”

Maybe the Planning Department should have used “greater analysis” back in 2011. 

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