In the weeks before last month’s Council elections in Victoria, The Age newspaper carried a series of interesting articles about the rising influence of developers over right-wing Councillors.
While both Liberal and Labor Victorian State governments have continued to consolidate power over major planning applications into their hands and away from local Councils, the process is not yet complete.
Local Councils – in particular, the City of Melbourne, which covers the CBD and surrounding suburbs – still have the ability to at least considerably slow down and eat into the profits of greedy developers.
The mining boom has taken the life out of the economy on the east coast by sucking in investment dollars and driving up the value of the currency. Local industry, tourism and education have all been hit. One area to escape the east coast economic flat-lining has been property investment and construction.
Big money is being made by local and East Asian capitalists by buying ex-industrial sites, getting them rezoned to residential and then building as many stories of matchbox apartments as they can.
To smooth and speed this process, these developers want compliant Councils and Councillors.
The Age articles outlined the massive donations made by developers to candidates in the recent City of Melbourne elections. For example, Robert Doyle, who was re-elected as Melbourne’s Lord Mayor asked a city developer to donate between $50,000 and $100,000 in return for ‘Town Hall access’.
It is only a matter of time before developers try to influence other Councils by way of donations to candidates and parties as well as seeking State government intervention to overrule and even sack Councillors or Councils that stand in their way.
This process shows the need to build political organisations that refuse to accept donations from big developers and businesses. That is the only way people can be assured that parties will truly represent the views of ordinary residents and stand up to profiteering at the expense of our local neighbourhoods and communities.
By Stephen Jolly