Statutory Context of the Metropolitan Planning Authority
In the financial year 2012-13, Melbourne saw the largest population growth of any Australian city, with an increase of 95,000 people. This statistic gives an indication of the significant challenges for present and future city planners who will have to deal with an increasing demand for housing and limitations on space. The Metropolitan Planning Authority (MPA), formerly the Growth Areas Authority, is now actively at work in planning Melbourne’s new growth areas. MPA is led by senior professionals from planning and local government fields. Its current CEO, Peter Seamer, has a background in planning and management encompassing both government and private enterprise roles. Its Board comprises the Chair, former AV Jennings and Delfin CEO Chris Banks AM, and four other members from government, planning, building and business backgrounds. The majority of its funding is received from government contributions, around $4.6 million for the year ended 30 June 2013. MPA’s powers, functions and objectives are established under the Planning and Environment Act 1987 (Vic) (‘PE Act’). MPA’s powers are to (emphasis added):
- do all things necessary or convenient to enable it to perform its functions and achieve its objectives; and
- enter into any agreements, contracts or arrangements related to its functions, powers and objectives, without limiting its powers.
Given these powers, it is critical to understand MPA’s functions and objectives. MPA’s functions are to:
- make recommendations and report to the Minister on— the planning, use, development and protection of land in growth areas; and the use and expenditure of levies collected in growth areas under development contribution plans; and if requested by the Minister, any matter relating to the functions and powers of the Growth Areas Authority or any other matter relating to land in Victoria or an objective of planning in Victoria; and the Minister’s functions and powers under this Act in respect of growth areas; and
- carry out any function conferred on the Growth Areas Authority under Part 9B; and
- at the direction of the Minister, to provide a municipal council with advice requested by that municipal council on any matter relating to land in Victoria or an objective of planning in Victoria; and
- carry out any other function conferred on the Growth Areas Authority under this Act.”.
MPA’s objectives are to:
- ensure that development in growth areas occurs in a coordinated and timely manner;
- ensure that infrastructure, services and facilities are provided in growth areas in a coordinated and timely manner;
- promote sustainable development of land in growth areas;
- promote housing diversity and affordability in growth areas;
- promote employment opportunities in growth areas;
- ensure that land is provided for commercial and industrial purposes in growth areas in a coordinated and timely manner; and
- foster the development of communities in growth areas.
MPA’s powers allow it to do all things necessary to enable it to perform its functions and achieve its objectives. As its functions extend only to making recommendations and reporting to the Minister, it is frequently reliant upon other Government departments. For example, in regard to conservation planning it appears in practice to defer completely to the Department of Environment and Primary Industries. Additionally, planning authorities and responsible authorities may delegate powers to the MPA or its CEO. Planning decisions in urban growth areas are particularly complex and multi-layered. Environmental and conservation elements of growth area planning can involve Australia’s International treaty obligations and compliance with Federal Environmental legislation. Given the complexity of MPA’s role in liaising with multiple government departments and the profound significance of its role, its statutory functions as an advisory body are curious. It is important to remain aware of its limits – as co-ordinating middle man between the Minister, local Council and the multiple road, drainage, water, fire and other authorities deeply concerned with growth area planning – and ensure that it is acting accordingly. Cameron Algie 18 June 2014 FOR A PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE CLICK HEREFOR THE PDF VERSION.  Plan Melbourne, State of Victoria, Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure, 2014, p.3.  “The new authority has been formed from the expanded legislative basis, resources and staff of the Growth Areas Authority (GAA), which previously completed the majority of its planning activities in Melbourne’s seven declared growth areas – the municipalities of Cardinia, Casey, Hume, Melton, Mitchell, Whittlesea and Wyndham.” http://www.mpa.vic.gov.au/about/our-role/background/, accessed 18 June 2014.  The Board comprises Chris Banks AM (Chairman), Leonie Hemingway JP, Bill Kusznirczuk, Ian Munro and Di Fleming; http://www.mpa.vic.gov.au/about/board/, accessed 16 June 2014.  Growth Areas Authority, Annual Report 2012-2013, State of Victoria, Growth Areas Authority 2013.  S46AQ, Planning and Environment Act 1987 (Vic); functions and powers are set out in ss46AN-46AZF.  s46AT, Planning and Environment Act 1987 (Vic).  Growth Areas Infrastructure Contribution, Part 9B, Planning and Environment Act 1987 (Vic).  s46AS, Planning and Environment Act 1987 (Vic).  s46AR, Planning and Environment Act 1987 (Vic).  s188(1)(c), Planning and Environment Act 1987 (Vic).