The sharks are circling

It’s hard to get motivated in January, isn’t it.  Hot, sunny, lazy days stretching out, holidays and no work, the beach, sultry nights, who doesn’t like summer?

But each year the media feels obliged to remind us that every time we go to the beach, there are sharks out there, hungry, circling and thinking how delicious we look.  But notwithstanding a bit of a surge in shark attacks locally in recent years, there is a better chance of being killed or injured driving to the beach, particularly if you’re driving on holidays.

There is also a better chance of being killed by coconuts falling on you, bee stings, pushbikes, your pet or someone else’s, cows, mosquitoes, champagne corks, or your wife or husband.  And whatever you do, keep away from hospitals – they are really dangerous places. Even DIY at home will get you before a shark will. 

They reckon the chance of being attacked by a shark across the globe is a one in 3,748,067 chance.  There is a much, much higher risk of some stupid daggy politician trying to kiss your baby.  So if you restrict your concept of shark to being the famous sea-bound predator, the chances of a shark ruining your life is pretty low.

But let’s talk about real sharks - rapacious, life-threatening, environment-ruining, craven, hungry, gluttonous, voracious but insatiable and threatening your quality of life, then summer not only brings with it shark stories, but the usual government commitment to fix planning.  Oh no, not again?  Because it’s in planning and development that the real sharks circle.

The announcement by Planning Minister Rob Stokes a couple of weeks ago to make amendments to the EP&A Act tried the three card trick - making housing easier to build, so there’s more of it and it’s more affordable.  Haven’t we seen that before?

But when it’s accompanied by rabid support from the white shoe brigade in the Property Council, the Urban Task Force and the UDIA, then we’d better look out.  They are three organisations never happy to accept the idea that planning instruments are primarily there to ensure that communities are protected and the public interest preserved when developers see a vacant site and get all hot and excited about building something monstrous on it to make themselves a motza, but always under the guise of doing everyone a favour.

We can’t do any better than providing links to two great articles that say it all so much better than we could.

First, the brilliant and incomparable Elizabeth Farrelly in the Sydney Morning Herald on 14 January under the heading “Call me a cynic, Sydney’s planning changes just won’t deliver” - not only a beautifully written opinion piece but a constructive and thorough defence of the primacy of the public interest.  If only all opinion pieces and commentary was as good as this.

Second, and on a smaller and more accessible scale, is an article also from the Herald on 18 January by Jacob Saulwick - addressing the inconsistency of the Government’s commitment to better design while at the same time proposing two-storey terrace housing to be included in complying development - without any consideration to the other aspects of Victorian development that make terrace housing compatible and socially welcoming like lane ways and parkland and in a way that would remove any consideration from the community of design.

In January we’re allowed to draw upon the incomparable and compelling contributions of others and contract out our arguments. 

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