Sustainability advanced in the City of Melbourne

By Maeve Bannister

City of Melbourne councillors have unanimously passed two key environmental motions, combining as a major step toward the council reaching its goal of zero net emissions by 2040.   

Planning Scheme Amendment C376 Sustainable Building Design, which went before councillors at the Future Melbourne Committee (FMC) meeting on September 18, defines standards for building better, more energy-efficient buildings.  

The new planning controls would apply to residential and commercial buildings, and cover sustainable design, waste reduction, transport, water and resource use. 

The standards would apply to new buildings as well as alterations and additions of a specific size to existing buildings.  

Chair of the council’s planning portfolio Cr Nicholas Reece said the standards would create living and working environments which were healthy, light-filled and not expensive to run. 

“The City of Melbourne has declared a climate and biodiversity emergency that requires us as a city to take action, and we know that buildings contribute to over 60 per cent of emissions in the city,” Cr Reece said. 

According to the amendment, Melbourne and Brisbane are the two highest emitting capital cities in Australia.

But deputy chair of planning Cr Rohan Leppert said that Melbourne’s planning controls and policies were inadequate compared to other cities in the environmental standards and building quality space. 

“We’ve fallen well behind not just other states in the Commonwealth, but most developed nations planning regimes when it comes to requiring basic standards for energy efficiency and ecologically sensitive design,” Cr Leppert said. 

The council will now seek authorisation from Minister for Planning Richard Wynne to publicly exhibit the planning scheme amendment. 

The council’s CEO Justin Hanney will also write to Minister Wynne calling on the state government to establish a mandatory state-wide planning provision to “champion environmentally sustainable design.”

The support of the new planning scheme amendment was followed by another unanimous outcome, as councillors passed the Green Factor Tool.

The first of its kind in Australia, the Green Factor Tool is a voluntary measure for developers to see the green elements of building designs in the planning stages.

Chair of the council’s environment portfolio Cr Cathy Oke said the tool was a “game changer” in terms of reaching targets for canopy coverage and biodiversity in the city. 

“Like a lot of what we do in our urban landscapes team at the City of Melbourne, we bring the evidence, we work with the experts, we make sure that we develop a tool that responds to the biodiversity in ecology and the climate that Melbourne is in,” Cr Oke said. 

With 70 per cent of Melbourne’s municipality privately owned, the tool would provide developers with specific examples about how to integrate environmental measures into their buildings.

“It allows [developers] to build the building that they want to build, but also bring in the nature and the water sensitive, urban design that is absolutely needed to call Melbourne the city of the future,” Cr Oke said. 

Despite the tool being voluntary, Lord Mayor Sally Capp said she hoped it would be well utilised by developers for the benefit of the city. 

“We’re looking to introduce new elements of the planning scheme to actually enforce certain outcomes with the Green Factor Tool, and the way that it works is a very user-friendly way to bring valuable information to enhance projects,” the Lord Mayor said. •

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