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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 ]