Archives for category: Politics

University case study of the failed Camberwell Railway Station Redevelopment.

The Age

What is the case about?

The Camberwell Station redevelopment was a proposal, many years in the making, to build three and nine storey towers beside and above the 1918 Camberwell Railway Station which services the Camberwell Junction shopping strip on Burke Road and surrounding residential areas (CSTP Pty Ltd v Boroondara CC & Ors, 2009). The development had been in planning since before 2002 by the State Government owned Victorian Rail Track Corporation (VicTrack) which owns the railway station and adjoining land. The development would have seen a mix of lower level business with residential above, but faced criticism from residents, the Boroondara Council and from high profile individuals, including actor Geoffrey Rush, as the development would have been much taller than other structures along the shopping strip, which generally sees buildings of only two storeys, and would have almost totally blocked the view of the railway station from Burke Road. The dispute came to a head in 2009 with a hearing at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) that ruled in the favour of VicTrack and their chosen developer, but with a requirement that some design alterations be made. However, the development was shelved in 2012 following the election of a conservative Government two years earlier (Carey, 2012).

What are the substantive issues in the dispute?

The substantive issues came down to differing policy at the state and local government levels. Policy of the state would like to “facilitate residential and commercial development in existing activity centres with good access to public transport” (CSTP Pty Ltd v Boroondara CC & Ors, 2009). This is consistent with a global governmental push for high density urban living along high capacity transport corridors as cities become evermore populated. In 2010 the then Labor State Government made moves to amend planning schemes to encourage “high-rise corridors” along railway, tram and bus routes, moves that were opposed by the Liberal-National opposition who believed that the policy would lead to “unliveable” conditions (Johnston, 2010).

Camberwell’s Boroondara Council and Boroondara Residents Action Group (BRAG) appear to have agreed with this sentiment and had further worries about neighbourhood character in the “leafy east”. The opponents of the nine-storey station development proposed an alternative development which would have seen a low level structure, consistent with the height of existing Burke Road buildings, and only on the southern side of the site (BRAG, 2009). Whether or not such a development would be cost-effective is unknown, especially considering the cost of railway works including the removal of train stabling and accommodating those trains elsewhere.

(This answer should have made reference to “substantive issues” as set out in Planning Australia by Thompson and Maginn).

What are the planning issues?

At the zoning level, the proposed development was not in breach of planning law as agreed by VCAT. The railway station was zoned as a Public Use Zone (PUZ) and was adjoined by areas zoned Business as well as Burke Road which was a category one main road (CSTP Pty Ltd v Boroondara CC & Ors, 2009). VCAT made note of seemingly conflicting Council planning schemes. The proposed development had been in the planning since at least 2002 and would have been relying on an old 1993 structure plan which came to clash with a new plan released by Council in 2008. The 1993 plan appeared visionary for its time as it pre-dates the Melbourne 2030 strategy, which called for major development in “Principal Activity Centres”, as it encouraged “significant development” at the Camberwell Railway Station site. The new 2008 plan encouraged “low scale” development at the station (Camberwell Junction Structure Plan, 2008, p. 8) but was released the year after the developers had applied to Council for a planning permit. As demonstrated, this new Council plan clashed with State Government strategies that aimed “to create a more sustainable urban form for metropolitan Melbourne” which would see development of a “high level of intensity and scale” in activity centres, close to public transport (CSTP Pty Ltd v Boroondara CC & Ors, 2009).

How has the planning system been applied here?

VCAT made many notes encouraging a balance between state and local government policy frameworks, but ultimately resolved the conflict by attempting to satisfy planning scheme “clause 11.01” that states, “It is the State Government’s expectation that planning and responsible authorities will endeavour to integrate the range of policies relevant to the issues to be determined and balance conflicting objectives in favour of net community benefit and sustainable development…” (CSTP Pty Ltd v Boroondara CC & Ors, 2009). “Net community benefit” and “sustainable development” are the key planning issues for the site at Camberwell Junction. The 2002 Melbourne 2030 plan listed the shopping strip as one of Melbourne’s 25 “Principal Activity Centres” and as such is an area where “concentration of new development” is encouraged (Department of Infrastructure, 2002, p. 33). That, coupled with the 1993 structure plan, made it clear that the proposed development at the Camberwell Railway Station should go ahead. The main limitation of this process was community consultation. Planning applications are judged according to planning law and policy and, where the developer fails to provide adequate consultation, planning assessors can be overrun with complaints that are irrelevant to their main purpose.

What are your thoughts on the effectiveness of the planning system to resolve these disputes?

For the Camberwell Railway Station redevelopment the planning system was effective in solving the core planning dispute, that being differing policy at state and local government levels, but it fails to provide the community with an opportunity to express their thoughts on the design of the development itself rather than whether the development is in breach of planning law and policy. The community consultation “burden” falls onto the developer who really should be required to provide a constructive level of community involvement for a development in place of high community significance. Allowing the community to have their say will result in the best outcome as participants can feel as though they have been included in the design process and can take a piece of joint pride in the result. Failure to allow this may lead to community resentment and possible political interference where the project is not bipartisan.

In 2013, around three years after the election of a conservative State Government, a raft of new residential zones were brought into effect (Peterson, 2014). Boroondara Council moved to apply the most restrictive zone in the new suite to a huge area under its authority. The measure restricted developments to eight metres high and allowed councils to determine minimum lot sizes. While this did not apply to the Camberwell Railway Station site, it can be seen as a possible retaliation against developments like that proposed for Camberwell Junction and demonstrates the importance of bringing the community with you in the development process.


BRAG. (2009, January 31). Camberwell Station BRAG Plan vs Govt Plan [Video file]. Retrieved from

Carey, A. (2012, October 3). Camberwell station development shelved. The Age. Retrieved from

City of Boroondara. (2008). Camberwell Junction Structure Plan – Adopted by Council 27 October 2008. Retrieved from

CSTP Pty Ltd v Boroondara CC & Ors 2009 VCAT 1078

Department of Infrastructure. (2002). Melbourne 2030: Planning for Sustainable Growth: October 2002. Retrieved from

Johnston, M. (2010, June 22). New laws promote high rise corridors. Herald Sun. Retrieved from

Peterson, C. (2014, February 18). NEW RESIDENTIAL ZONES – WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR MELBOURNE [Blog Post]. Retrieved from

Western Distributer

On the face of it the Western Distributor, proposed by Transburban on Thursday 30 April 2015, appears to be quite a compelling and clever project. The new road would spur from the Westgate Freeway near Williamstown Road and head north-east by tunnel and viaduct to Footscray Road and CityLink and would be funded two-thirds by Transurban and one-third by Government. No homes would be acquired, the inner-west would no longer lie sleepless with the sound of trucks through residential streets, but it is the impact on Footscray Road and Docklands which has raised my concerns.

After the road surfaces it would travel by viaduct over the Maribyrnong River and above Footscray Road which is already eight lanes wide with a central median and east-bound service road without the addition of six lanes raised above. A viaduct here is clearly overkill and would look so disgusting that it would attract anti-social behaviour and repel developers when the port and distribution centre have moved on.

Furthermore, Transurban propose extending the new road just east of CityLink which would funnel car traffic into Docklands and Melbourne’s central business district – the opposite of what cities around the world are trying to do. Cars are to cities what saturated fat is to your veins. They are the easy way out, your quick and tasty meal. About three cars transporting three people take the space of a small Melbourne tram carrying up to 70 people each, most of which are already stuck behind private transport. The idea that we should further encourage car travel to the CBD is ludicrous, but this is where we hit a wall.

This road should be about providing easy truck access to Swanston and Appleton docks, much like the East-West Link was secretly about providing truck access to the previous Government’s proposed port at Hastings, but Transurban have proposed this project not because they care about getting trucks off the streets in the western suburbs, but because they believe it will make them a profit. Trucks alone are unlikely to do that. If the state Government alter the project to make it socially acceptable it may no longer be commercially viable, which would remove two-thirds of funding from the table and no doubt increase costs because the Government do not have the skills or expertise to construct the road themselves.

Does this mean we should let Transurban go ahead with the full project no matter the implications? No, certainly not. Below is my proposed alternative to a viaduct above Footscray Road whether or not it happens to be cost-effective.

Footscray Rd - Distributer

The diagram is not to scale, but I have removed four sets of traffic lights between Sims Street to the west and Appleton Dock Road to the east (off the diagram). I propose the Western Distributor should end just east of Sims Street with flyovers running into existing ground level lanes. Trucks which need to access Dock Link Road either to the north or south should loop under Footscray Road on the west or east using underpasses which already exist. Ending the new road here would prevent creating an undevelopable squalor, decrease construction costs and, hopefully, not present itself as the next best way to access the city by private transport.

You may have noticed that I have represented the Western Distributer with only two lanes each way. While I expect the tunnels to be constructed with the capacity for three lanes each way, only providing two lanes, at least initially, would help prevent an unmanageable flow which would need to merge onto Footscray Road.

Finally, while I provide reluctant support for the project as I have altered it, I would ultimately prefer taking port trucks off the road completely in the inner-west by moving freight, bound for the Westgate Freeway, by train to a new distribution centre near the proposed port at Bay West. The rail reserves already exist, they require far less manpower to operate and do not leave such a scar on our communities as are left by large, costly motorways.

Leadership tensions did not come to end after the failed Labor leadership spill in March, instead the speculation and media obsession grew stronger as the polls for Labor continued to fall. At the end of June the push to return Kevin Rudd had grown to the point where Rudd felt he had the numbers to lead a successful challenge against the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and so he did just that.

Rudd’s camp collected signatures from caucus members to petition the Prime Minister to call a spill. This petition has not been released to the public, but as it happened, Julia Gillard, speaking to Sky News, called the spill for 19:00 AEST without ever seeing it.

I have compiled the day’s statements and press conferences. Anything that I have not uploaded myself will be accompanied with a link to the source. I have not included Julia Gillard’s interview with Sky News.

Gary Gray walk and talk. Who is he anyway?

Kevin Rudd says he will challenge.

Bill Shorten announces support for Kevin Rudd.

Chris Hayes, Returning Officer.

Outgoing PM, Julia Gillard, statement.

Outgoing Deputy PM, Wayne Swan, statement.

PM-elect, Kevin Rudd, statement.

Deputy PM-elect, Anthony Albanese, statement (via NewsOnABC).

It seems like a lifetime ago, but back in March, 2013, former Labor Party leader, Simon Crean, called on the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, to hold a spill allowing Kevin Rudd to challenge, the only problem being that Kevin Rudd was not ready. Crean had apparently missed a text message from Rudd that said his position had not changed, Rudd did not have the numbers to lead a successful challenge.

I have compiled the day’s media statements and press conferences. Anything that I have not uploaded myself will be accompanied with a link to the source.

Simon Crean calls for a spill (via NewsOnABC).

The Prime Minister calls spill for 16:30 that afternoon (via NewsOnABC).

Kevin Rudd says he will not stand.

Chris Hayes, Returning Officer.

A short statement from the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.

Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, press conference.

Simon Crean speaks with Leigh Sales.

I rediscovered this little gem while organising one of my hard drives. The Katter Party’s founder takes on The Greens’ Scott Ludlam over live cattle exports with a bit of nuttery slipped in. I think Katter damaged his microphone.

Originally broadcast on the ABC’s Capital Hill television programme. The audio is via SoundCloud.