Proposed McDonalds in Tecoma

Mr MERLINO (Monbulk) – I raise a matter for the Minister for Planning the other place regarding the proposed McDonald’s outlet in Tecoma. The action I am seeking is that the minister intervene to ensure that the number of objections to a proposal are given appropriate weight at Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal hearings. In this case and in others members of VCAT have made it clear that the number of objections absolutely does not have weight.

Members may well be aware that recently a VCAT panel handed down a decision to approve the construction of a McDonald’s facility in Tecoma. This is a disgraceful decision that in no way reflects the views of the community or Yarra Ranges Shire Council. More than 1300 objections were lodged, which is a massive response from a community whose members are always engaged on planning, and council unanimously voted against this proposal.

What may be appropriate in a fully urban environment is simply not appropriate in an area such as the Dandenongs. People live in the Dandenongs and tens of thousands of tourists visit the Dandenongs precisely because the area is not another suburb of Melbourne. The issue here is one of precedence. If we have a McDonald’s in Tecoma, there is nothing to stop a KFC being established in Belgrave, a Hungry Jack’s in Kallista and another McDonald’s in Monbulk. Before we know it, the Dandenongs will be littered with these fast food franchises, which is exactly not what the majority of the residents of my electorate want and not what Melbourne, interstate and international tourists who visit the hills want.

At the moment VCAT members do not consider it to be their role to give weight to the number of objections to a proposal. In reading from the VCAT decision, it says:

… the tribunal has consistently found that planning decisions are not to be based on the numbers of objections.

There is a similar example in Stonnington. The Stonnington council is going to the Supreme Court on this very issue. In the decision on the proposed development on Orrong Road, VCAT in its decision said:

… the number of objections to the proposed development was an irrelevant consideration.

In an interview with Jon Faine on 15 October, the minister said:

I would have thought at general principle that if you have a large number of objections that are from different people, clearly different submissions, as opposed to the same submission which is being submitted 54 times hypothetically, that is giving you an indication of a weight of public opinion and I would have thought that that would be taken into account.

Jon Faine asked:

So public opinion should be a factor VCAT takes into account?

The minister said:

Well, in my view, yes, it should be.

He indicated that he was prepared to work with the Attorney-General to deal with this issue. VCAT has approved the McDonald’s proposal. It is a disgraceful decision and in no way takes account of the huge weight of opinion against this proposal.