A Walk in the Park


The City of Boroondara craves more parkland. Council wants open space within 500 metres of all residents without crossing a major road. This is a worthy objective that will improve the health and wellbeing of all, and every local government should embrace the idea.

There are a few problems.

Boroondara will have to buy land from private owners over the next 15 years.

The map of areas needing additional parklands is a speculator’s happy hunting ground. In many areas, Council will have to buy land from private owners.

Anyone with a compass could narrow down Boroondara’s buy options to a handful of lots. Buy and hold. First prize: compulsory acquisition at triple the market price. Second prize: own land next to the brand new park.

Wasteful and behavior-distorting as that process may be, the really, really dumb part is where the money is to come from.

Boroondara intends to fund the purchase from developer levies.

Council says: “Most subdivisions will be expected to pay a cash contribution toward acquisition and development of new open space on behalf of the forecast population, or else to upgrade existing open space that will be used by them.

That sounds grand. Someone else – not ratepayers, not existing owners – is paying. The devil is, Boroondara foresees less than a thousand additional new private dwellings each year. Most will be single home redevelopments, not ‘subdivisions’. So the pool from which ‘developer levies’ can be sucked is very small.

“The estimated residential population of Boroondara in 2011 is about 168,000
persons. This is forecast to grow to about 184,000 persons by 2026, a 10 per
cent increase of around 16,000 people. More than 9,000 new (private) dwellings
are forecast to be added to Boroondara’s housing stock between 2011 and 2026.”

Perhaps they plan to peel the dollars off commercial developers? No that sector is tiny too:

“Between 2011 and 2026, 170,000 square metres of additional commercial and retail space is forecast to be constructed, that would result in an increase of about 7,000 employees across Boroondara.”

This is poor economics but the political benefits are simply fabulous.

  •  A small number of developments will fund parkland for all.
  • Multi-unit construction will be stifled.
  • The rebuilding of Boroondara’s ageing housing stock will be deflected to single-dwelling construction.
  • Extra parkland will enhance Boroondara’s leafy green reputation.
  • Speculators will flock to invest in parkland-deficient areas.

Existing property owners will love the City of Boroondara for keeping density down and enforcing scarcity. Every consequence of Council policy lifts land prices. All this from announcing a simple parks program.

[Highly detailed maps to plot your speculative purchases and an extensive explanatory commentary are available at
http://www.boroondara.vic.gov.au/your_council/your-say/open-space-strategy ]


  1. Roger08-12-2011

    Perhaps the council’s ultimate plan is to drive up rate income on the back of inflated property prices, due to the factors mentioned. This increases revenue without being seen as the bad guy – very sneaky.

  2. Gavin R. Putland08-12-2011

    Roger: Higher property values don’t automatically translate into higher revenue from rates, because the “rate in the dollar” isn’t fixed; the council first decides how much revenue it wants, then works out the “rate in the dollar”.

    So the policy isn’t about maximizing revenue. It’s about appealing to NIMBY/YIMBY voters who don’t want higher-density redevelopment, but do want parkland as long as they think someone else is paying.

  3. Michael Renehan11-12-2011

    There appears to be a government/Council plan to increase housing density in order to satisfy immigration policies but I dont know the detail as yet. It also appears that Council is intending to spend megadollars on the open space exercise and believes that the ratepayers/developers/future homebuyers will be enticed to pay the cost through various rate/charges.
    Surely the Council should seek the ratepayers opinion on these matters through a referendum before it spends any of our money.
    Is there a Boroondara ratepayers Association which is able to investigate the situation and get the Council to listen?

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