The Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) issued a report in August 2017 on Effectively Planning for Population Growth.
VAGO observes that Victoria has experienced strong population growth since 2011, with the population forecast to grow from 6.1 million in 2016 to 7.7 million by 2031. Rapid growth is creating unprecedented challenges for infrastructure and service delivery, especially in growth areas where services are limited and generally lag behind population settlement.
The timely provision of birthing, maternal and child health (MCH) and funded kindergarten services is important for the health and wellbeing of babies and young children, particularly as these services can identify health and developmental risks in children at an early stage.
In this audit, VAGO assessed whether state planning is meeting the needs of the rapidly growing population for birthing, MCH, funded kindergarten services, and related infrastructure, in greenfield growth areas and established suburbs. In particular, VAGO assessed whether there are clear accountability mechanisms to assure the Parliament and the community that relevant government policies are effectively implemented and helping achieve intended outcomes.
VAGO made a total of 11 recommendations, including six directed to the Department of Environment, Land, Water, and Planning, three for the Department of Education and Training, and one each for the Victorian Planning Authority, and the Department of Health and Human Services.
VAGO recommends that the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning:
1. in collaboration with key state and local government agencies, develop and advise government on mechanisms that will support them to:
– participate effectively in the precinct structure planning process (see Section 2.3)
– integrate precinct structure planning proposals into their planning and delivery processes (see Section 2.3)
2. develop guidelines that clarify the concept of ‘timely’ provision of services and infrastructure for new communities (see Section 2.2)
3. in conjunction with the Victorian Planning Authority and the Department of Health and Human Services, monitor the effectiveness of the precinct structure planning process for health precincts (see Section 2.3)
4. assess the implementation outcomes of existing precinct structure plans to continuously improve the process (see Section 2.3)
5. further develop and clarify the governance and oversight arrangements for the Office of Suburban Development, including assigning leadership and accountability arrangements to support its planning and delivery coordination functions (see Section 2.3)
6. develop and implement an outcome evaluation framework to periodically review how effectively the Office of Suburban Development is contributing to greater certainty in the timely delivery of services and related infrastructure for local communities (see Section 2.3).
VAGO also recommends that the Victorian Planning Authority:
7. implement the Plan Melbourne 2017–2050 action to ‘prepare a sequencing strategy for precinct structure plans in growth areas for the orderly and coordinated release of land and the alignment of infrastructure plans to deliver basic community facilities with these staged land-release plans’ (see Section 2.3).