More Dodgy Decision Making in Justin Madden's Planning Department ?

The Ombudsman's recent Report on the Kew Cottages and St. Kilda triangle developments records that early in the Kew development process the then Executive Director Heritage Victoria, Mr. Ray Tonkin, recalled feeling some pressure from the developer (DHS) to advise them informally on the Heritage status of Kew Cottages, rather than to go through the public consultation and State Heritage nomination process required by the Victorian Heritage Act.

The Ombudsman concludes that, "the heritage issues led to uncertainty, considerable delays and significant additional costs for all associated with the project. It is unfortunate that a nomination was not made by the Department of Human Services (DHS) at the beginning of the exercise.." (295) and that
"in my view it was unfortunate that the Executive Director, Heritage Victoria, provided informal advice on the site early in the project." (297)

However, despite the Ombudsman's recommendations, it now it appears clear that further 'informal' advice provided by the Executive Director of Heritage Victoria has once again been used by the Kew Cottages developer - this time in a bid to get the Planning Minister, Justin Madden, to make changes to the State Government's approved Master Plan for the site.

Brian Walsh, Kew Cottages Coalition President, said today that the current use of a previously unpublished letter written over two years ago by the former Executive Director, Mr Ray Tonkin, in June 2008 appears to be designed to avoid going through the proper public consultation and Permit Application process required by the Victorian Heritage Act.

Mr. Walsh said, "Like the Windsor Hotel email scandal, this looks remarkably like another game for the 'Mad Hatter's Tea Party'.

"This time the game looks more like an Alice in Wonderland version of "Pass the Parcel". A Developer gets an 'informal' approval wrapped up in paper from one of Mr. Madden's public servants, holds onto it for two years, and then when the music finally stops, gleefully hands it on to another public servant working in Mr. Madden's Department in order to claim a big reward from Mr. Madden.

"Unfortunately, Mr. Madden's team all seem to have forgotten that the rules of the Heritage Game say that Public Servants are not supposed to play 'State Heritage Significance' with Property Developers in secret. The rules say that to be fair to all Victorians, public servants must also invite the public to play too.

Mr. Walsh said, "We have written to Mr. Jim Gard'ner, the Executive Director of Heritage Victoria in Mr. Madden's Department requesting that he implement the Ombudsman's Recommendation 13 regarding informal Heritage advice of this nature by:
• publicly cancelling all such advice provided by Heritage Victoria officers regarding the Kew Cottages Development;
• formally withdrawing Mr. Ray Tonkin's letter of 30 June 2008 to Mr. Brad Evans, Walker Corporation;
• inviting Walkers to seek his formal advice by making a public Application for a Heritage Permit as required by the Act; and
• formally consulting the public before he forms a view on the proposed works."

Mr. Walsh said, "Dodgy decision making in Mr. Madden's Department has got to stop. In June this year The Age revealed that builders and property developers have bankrolled Victorian Labor with donations running into millions during its decade in office. State Heritage sites such as the Windsor Hotel and Kew Cottages are too important to be dealt with in this way."

• Delahunty memoir reveals developer sway on planning, Melissa Fyfe, The Sunday Age, p.3, 22-Aug'10
• Main Drive Kew Buyers Beware ! , Aug'10

For details on KCC Media Releases please contact:

Brian Walsh,
Kew Cottages Coalition
PO Box 2317
Victoria 3101
Reg # A0044698H

M: 0414 979 300
W: with the word "SUBSCRIBE' in the subject line..