Town planning and the questions floods?

In the wake of the most recent Queensland floods, questions are being raised about the best way to implement town planning in high risk flood zones. Residential, agricultural, and industrial zones were hit, as well as important parts of various towns’ infrastructure, some for the second time in three years, which begs the question: is rebuilding in these areas the best idea? Insurance companies, faced with tens of thousands of insurance claims, are questioning whether councils in the flood-affected regions are doing enough to prevent people from occupying high risk zones. In return, councils are strongly supporting the town planning solutions they have in place, while searching for more ways to protect their residents.

It’s not just Queensland who is at risk of flooding, with parts of NSW and Victoria also being hit by floods in recent years. With global warming, La Nina, and deforestation making floods more and more common, every town planner or advisor needs to update their knowledge of flood plains, river paths, and the water tables in their specialist locations. Check with your local regional council and state government for any flood risk management documents they have published, as many councils may be upgrading these documents in light of recent developments.


Author: Michael Grochowski

Michael Grochowski Article

Plans for Melbourne’s growth corridors taking shape

VICTORIA’S Growth Areas Authority has released its draft Growth Corridor Plans for the decades ahead.  The plans set out the strategic direction for future urban development of land within Melbourne’s Urban Growth Boundary. The plans identify four growth corridors for Melbourne.

Included in the plans are areas for housing, jobs, transport, town centres, open space and key infrastructure for Melbourne’s newest suburbs and explain how land brought into Melbourne’s Urban Growth Boundary will be used.

The plans for the four growth areas, the Melbourne West Growth Corridor, Melbourne North, Melbourne South East and Sunbury, replace the 2006 Growth Area Framework Plans.

The GAA says the plans are a key plank in ensuring delivery of the government’s policy to release 50,000 new housing lots by 2012 providing Melbourne with the best planned land supply in Australia, and taking pressure off inappropriate developments in existing suburbs. It is expected that the release of new development land will go a long way to checking the issue of housing affordability.

The high level plans also provide certainty for zoning and biodiversity protection, while also ensuring Victoria’s continued growth and prosperity for the future.

Commenting on the plans, Committee for Melbourne CEO, Andrew MacLeod, said the draft plans demonstrate that the government is thinking strategically about Melbourne’s future but added that “new developments can be a very expensive way to accommodate population growth.”

Mr MacLeod said Melbourne should capitalise on infrastructure in existing suburbs and said the city can get better as it gets bigger, but only if it has a plan in place that can support medium to higher densities.

Whilst increasing the urban density in older established areas of Melbourne is necessary and desirable, this does not, and should not, take away from the significant benefits that new suburban residential developments offer the thousands on new arrivals into Melbourne as permanent residents each year.

Governments cannot ignore that fact that Melbourne is a very attractive place to live and will continue to draw new residents for decades to come.  A government that lags behind in its obligations to support growth with adequate infrastructure will do so at its peril.

Michael Grochowski – Land sales up and prices remain firm

Recent data shows that the volume of vacant land transactions has risen for two successive quarters, despite the fact that overall volumes are still sluggish. But this needs to be offset against the reality that land values have not fallen and will not fall in the future.  Large areas of prime residential land in growth corridors of our major and regional cities are continually being acquired by developers.  By controlling land ownership, these developers are in a very strong position of set and maintain price controls over land in residential housing estates

In a recent article published in the Australian Financial Review (12 July 2012), Ben Hurley explains what is happening

The volume of residential land sales has increased nationally but remains at near-historic lows, according to an industry report. In the three months to March, land sales increased by 6.8 per cent, according to the Residential Land Report, a joint effort between the Housing Industry Association and property information provider RP Data.

“It’s encouraging that the improvement was broadly-based across the states,” HIA senior economist Andrew Harvey said.”  With the exception of Adelaide, all the capital cities saw increases in the number of residential lots sold.

“However, the overall level of sales remains low in an historical context and we will need to see more quarters of growth to infer anything other than the possibility that sales volumes are merely bouncing along the bottom of a deep trough.”

RP Data research director Tim Lawless said the volume of vacant land transactions had risen for two successive quarters but remained at a low level.

Sales over the March quarter were half the volume of the three months to September 2009.

“Considering mortgage rates have moved about 55 basis points lower since March it is possible we may see a continuation in this trend of improving buyer activity but we have a long way to go before land sales get back to what might be described as normal levels,” Mr Lawless said.

“One of the barriers that may be stifling demand for vacant land is the fact that land prices haven’t seen any sort of correction like what was recorded across the established housing market.”

Land prices rose around 1 per cent over the year nationally and 3.5 per cent across the capital cities, he said.

The weighted median residential land value in Australia increased 1.5 per cent over the March quarter to $195,466, and the capital city median value by 2.6 per cent to $222,458.

Michael Grochowski