Cr Anthony Marsh*
I WELCOME MP for Flinders Zoe McKenzie’s support for a better deal for the Mornington Peninsula in terms of access to federal and state government funding programs (“Region status confusing and costly” The News 9/8/22).
She is right in saying the peninsula’s metropolitan classification does not recognise that 70 per cent of it is rural in character. We also agree that because of this classification, the peninsula misses out on much-needed funding designed to support regional areas.
Where we disagree is over how best to tackle this issue. Our extensive research and planning advice tells us that reclassifying the peninsula as regional is not the answer. It would require uncertain and lengthy legislative changes, and the devil would most certainly be in the detail.
Classifying the peninsula as a regional area would mean land outside the urban growth boundary would no longer be subject to the Metropolitan Green Wedge Protection provisions (clause 46AC) under the Planning and Environment Act 1987. Equally, the Metropolitan Green Wedge Core Planning Provisions (clause 51.02 of the planning scheme) would no longer apply.
It begs the question, why risk losing the long-standing planning protections for our green wedge in the complex process of changing the peninsula’s legal classification?
Instead, we propose a new peri-regional status, which recognises both our metropolitan and rural characteristics.
This new status would allow the peninsula to keep the benefits associated with access to metropolitan funding as well as gain eligibility to apply under regional programs. This will provide more opportunities for our agricultural, tourism and cultural sectors and safeguard our green wedge. It’s a win win.
Importantly, the creation of a peri-regional designation could be achieved by simply expanding the criteria on key regional funding programs to include peri-regional councils. Any government could do this quite easily, and it does not risk a stalemate if the government of the day does not have the numbers in parliament to pass changes to the relevant Acts.
There is a precedent for this approach. In June 2020, a group of six regional councils successfully secured recognition of their more urban characteristics through a peri-urban classification and gained access to key metropolitan funding streams.
We are proposing a similar approach but seeking recognition of our regional/rural characteristics. Yarra Ranges Shire has joined with us to ask for a similar classification so that we can both gain access to key regional funding streams.
We are confident our peri-regional advocacy has the potential to deliver a much better long-term outcome for our community, rather than seeking regional classification and risking the uncertain results that process would entail.
This issue is too important to become politicised. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss our peri-regional approach further with all political candidates and members of parliament over the coming months.
To learn more about the shire’s peri-regional advocacy visit: mornpen.vic.gov.au/periregional
*Anthony Marsh is the mayor of Mornington Peninsula Shire.