Judge John Bowman Acting President
Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal 55 King Street Melbourne VIC 3000
25 February 2008
Re: VCAT Website – Front Page
I am writing to express my concern about the reference to the VCAT determination regarding the Camberwell Junction Development under the “What’s New” section of the VCAT Home Page (see copy of page enclosed).
As VCAT is intended to be an independent court of appeal, the placement of this item as a key reference point to planning decisions appears to be inconsistent with VCAT’s independence.
As someone who attended the VCAT hearing, I heard the statement of support for the development read out by Michael Wright SC on behalf of the Minister for Planning, Justin Madden, at the commencement of proceedings. The government’s strong support of the development is reflected in the VCAT determination and although the site is appropriate for development, it was the view of the team of town planners assisting Boroondara Council that approximately 9 storeys ought to have been the maximum height. However the decision by VCAT supports the development as proposed, ie one 14 story and two 9 story towers (106 apartments). The State government considers this to be a benchmark development.
It is in this context that I draw attention to the promotion of this determination. VCAT planning decisions are located on a separate site and I am not aware of previous determinations having been highlighted on the VCAT Home Page.
As an individual who believes in upholding the integrity of systems within all levels of government I consider that this form of promotion constitutes a lack of distance from State government and therefore a lack of independence by the Tribunal, which serves to undermine confidence by the public in its role.
I would be grateful if you would investigate this issue and include it in your handover to Judge Kevin Bell when he commences his appointment on 31 March 2008.
I look forward to hearing from you on the outcome of your enquiries.
cc Ms Samantha Ludolf, CEO, VCAT, Attorney General Rob Hulls