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Wednesday, 15 February 2012
Page: 1387

Mr KELVIN THOMSON (Wills) (13:46): Property developers in Victoria have too much power. They had too much power under the former Victorian Labor government and they have too much power under the Victorian Liberal government. This was stunningly revealed by the Age today in its report that, before planning minister Matthew Guy rezoned farmland on Phillip Island to allow it to become housing, his office was contacted twice by a former Liberal minister, Rob Maclellan, on behalf of property developer and Liberal Party member Jim Hopkins.

Mr Maclellan rang Matthew Guy's chief of staff, Meg Bartel, about this issue—which was not hard for him seeing that Ms Bartel was a former staffer of his. Shortly afterwards, Matthew Guy overrode the Bass Coast Shire Council and the recommendations of two independent planning panels and approved a housing development on the farmland.

While the decision was reversed following a public outcry, it is a stark illustration of how much access to government property developers in Victoria have. Ordinary residents cannot just pick up the phone to ministers and their chiefs of staff. The Victorian Liberal government must listen to residents, not property developers, when it comes to planning issues. It must not use the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, the VCAT, or dodgy ministerial interventions like this one to deprive local communities of their rightful say in the character of the neighbourhood in which they have chosen to live.