We are currently preparing our new Municipal Planning Strategy (MPS)

The Municipal Planning Strategy (MPS) is situated at the front of the Nillumbik Planning Scheme (Clause 2). It provides the ‘vision’ and foundation for the Nillumbik Planning Scheme’s local polices and strategic direction based on the Shire’s location and regional context, history, assets, strengths, key attributes and influences.

The objective of this project is to create a new Municipal Planning Strategy that captures the overarching strategic policy directions of the municipality which is reflective of the Nillumbik community’s current key interests and vision for the municipality.

The new Municipal Planning Strategy will be important planning policy within the Nillumbik Planning Scheme that will be used by Council and the community to implement and execute on the vision and high-level strategic directions that have been established for the Shire regarding the future planning of land use and development in the municipality.

At its Ordinary Meeting of 27 June 2023, Council resolved (among other matters) to adopt the Municipal Planning Strategy (MPS) and amended Clause 74.02 Further Strategic Work and to request the Minister for Planning, under Section 8A of the Planning and Environment Act 1987, to authorise the preparation and exhibition of an amendment to the Nillumbik Shire Planning Scheme to insert the MPS and amended Clause 74.02.

The Officers report and associated meeting minutes are available on our Council meeting minutes and agendas page.

Next Steps

Subject to the above Council resolution, officers will prepare the planning scheme amendment to implement the MPS and Clause 74.02 into the Nillumbik Planning Scheme. The planning scheme amendment process will involve another formal round of consultation whereby the final adopted version of the MPS will be exhibited to the community and stakeholders pursuant to the notification requirements of the Planning & Environment Act 1987, who will have another opportunity to provide comment.

The Municipal Planning Strategy (MPS) is a succinct expression of the overarching strategic policy directions of a municipality. It provides for the planning scheme’s policy foundation, based on the municipality’s location and regional context, history, assets, strengths, key attributes and influences. The MPS supports but does not form part of the Planning Policy Framework (PPF). The PPF and MPS work together to form the strategic basis of a planning scheme.

The MPS replaces the former Municipal Strategic Statement (MSS) and its format and content are progressively being converted in all Planning Schemes across Victoria.

Changes were introduced by the Minister for Planning under Amendment VC148 in July 2018, which introduced new structure to the Victorian Planning Provisions (VPP) that required all planning schemes be translated into a new format to simplify planning policy, making it more accessible and efficient. This included introduction of a new PPF and the introduction of the MPS (to replace the Municipal Strategic Statement).

Before translation, planning schemes were required to have a Municipal Strategic Statement (MSS) that set the vision for a planning scheme although this was very administrative and not particularly concise.

It is however important to note that Amendment VC148 did not translate the current Local Planning Policy (LPP) or Municipal Strategic Statement (MSS) into the new framework.

As required by the State Government, the Minister for Planning undertook a policy neutral amendment of the Nillumbik Planning Scheme to translate the current Local Planning Policies (LPP) and the Municipal Strategic Statement (MSS) into the new format through Amendment C135nill in July 2021 (see the following link for more information). https://www.nillumbik.vic.gov.au/Council/News-and-publications/Latest-news/The-Nillumbik-Planning-Scheme-now-looks-different.

However, as a result of the policy neutral amendment, the MPS as it currently stands in the Planning Scheme is essentially the translated Municipal Strategic Statement (MSS) (i.e. has the same content as the former MSS). At present the MPS in part states that Nillumbik will remain a green wedge through the conservation of its biodiversity and preservation of natural features. As is demonstrated in this statement, the current Municipal Planning Strategy still contains some very valuable content, however a full scale review has not been undertaken since its introduction into the Scheme some 20 years ago and consequently it does not necessarily capture modern land use and development issues/influences that Nillumbik now needs to plan for into the future, for example climate change. Therefore, the now MPS needs to be updated to reflect a modern vision and subsequent strategic directions for Nillumbik. For Council, preparation of an updated MPS represents the best opportunity to capture the community’s current and future views and to set the vision for the Nillumbik Planning Scheme and future strategic work to inform local planning policy.

A planning scheme is a legal document prepared by the local council or the Minister for Planning, and approved by the Minister. Planning schemes apply to all private and public land in Victoria and are generally binding on everyone, with some exemptions.

All planning schemes have a standard structure drawn from the Victoria Planning Provisions (VPP) and specified in the Ministerial Direction on the Form and Content of Planning Schemes. Planning schemes contains policies and provisions that control land use and development including the Municipal Planning Strategy, Planning Policy Framework policies, zones, overlays and other provisions to achieve the objectives of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 in addition to state and local government planning strategies. Simply put however, they have three main parts:

  1. Maps showing how land is affected by zones and overlays.
  2. The ordinance setting out the written requirements of a scheme.
  3. Incorporated documents.

The Planning Policy Framework (PPF) is the policy content of planning schemes. It includes part of the Victoria Planning Provisions (VPP) in the form of state and regional planning policies and local content in the form of local planning policies. The state, regional and local levels of policy are grouped by theme; with directly relevant regional and local policies ’nested’ under the corresponding state planning policy. The PPF operates alongside the MPS to form the strategic basis and framework for planning decision making with respects to land use and dveleopment.

The State Government sets the format for all Planning Schemes in Victoria. A set of standard provisions called the Victoria Planning Provisions (VPP) is established by the Minister for Planning under the Planning and Environment Act 1987 (the Act).

The VPP and the Ministerial Direction on The Form and Content of Planning Schemes ensure that the construction and layout of planning schemes is consistent across Victoria.

The planning authority (usually the local council) drafts the content of local planning policies, including a Municipal Planning Strategy (MPS), and must select the appropriate zones and overlays from the VPP for inclusion in their planning scheme.

Content in the MPS cannot be contrary to State planning policy.

Importantly the MPS is very high level – it does not provide detail that local policy and other provisions within the planning scheme deals with such as the zones and overlays, rather it identifies key influences, issues and objectives specific to the area governed by the planning scheme; in this instance the Nillumbik Shire Council area.

The Municipal Planning Strategy (MPS) must succinctly explain the context for a municipality and provide the overarching strategies for the major land use and development matters that affect it. It does not include detailed policy which belongs in Clauses 10 to 19 (Planning Policy Framework) of the planning scheme.

The content of the MPS should be easily read, expressed in a logical sequence and grouped by related land use and development themes. The preferred approach is to follow the Planning Policy Framework (PPF) themes. This reinforces the strategic linkages between the PPF and the MPS, helps navigation and improves the ease of use of the planning scheme. PPF policy topics are addressed in the MPS based on the priorities of the municipality.

Information that is likely to become out of date before the next review cycle (about 4 years) is advised by State Government to not be included in the MPS.

To ensure the MPS focuses on priorities and provides a clear and direct message about a council’s planning aspirations, the Ministerial Direction The Form and Content of Planning Schemes specifies a word limit for the MPS. The allowable word limit for the MPS is 5000 words (excluding plans).

There are four sections that make up the Municipal Planning Strategy (MPS). These include:

  • Context (Clause 02.01)
  • Vision (Clause 02.02)
  • Strategy Directions (Clause 02.03)
  • Strategic Framework Plans (Clause 02.04)

The sections of the MPS are consistent across Victoria (for those council who have gone through the MSS to MPS translation process) as per the State Government requirements mentioned in the previous section.

Clause 2.01 Context:

The context is a concise half to one page description of the municipality in its regional setting providing a very brief description of the geographic, economic, environmental and demographic qualities of the municipality. These should represent both the opportunities and challenges that establish the key land use and development issues to be addressed in the municipal vision and strategic directions.

The context should set the scene for what issues are important to the municipality and need to be addressed by the planning scheme. There is no need to provide extensive detail or state how the issue will be addressed in the context statement because this is the role of the strategic directions.

Clause 2.02 Vision:

The vision is an overarching statement of intent that describes the type of municipality a council seeks to create. It should be concise, typically half to one page, and can comprise one consolidated statement or a set of statements.

Importantly - the vision must focus on land use and development issues capable of being influenced by the planning scheme. If the vision is derived from a vision statement sourced outside the planning scheme (such as from a council plan that addresses broader issues), that wider vision statement will need to be distilled into a vision for the MPS that focuses on land use and development.

The vision together with the strategic directions and strategic framework plans provide an opportunity to set out the local directions of the planning scheme, consistent with state policy in Clauses 10 to 19.

Clause 2.03 Strategic Directions:

The strategic directions outline how a municipality will implement its vision and manage key issues relevant to the municipality. Strategic directions are the high-level policy intentions for the municipality that provide the basis for matters that are implemented through more detailed policy in Clauses 10 to 19 (Planning Policy Framework) or a planning scheme control (e.g. a zone or overlay).

The strategic directions must be supported by background strategic work that has already been undertaken by a council. If the work to support the strategic directions has not been undertaken, then that matter may be identified as further strategic work in Clause 74.02 (Further Strategic Work) or elsewhere in a council work or business plan, not in the MPS. The strategic directions need to be evidence-based so that they can be reasonably implemented through the planning scheme.

The strategic directions should articulate what is most important to the municipality from a land use and development perspective and provide an understanding of why those issues are important. In particular, they may set out:

  • How state and regional policy will be implemented at the municipal level;
  • Articulate how identified issues will be addressed and how the vision will be implemented;
  • Contain direction on matters such as opportunities for growth, a township or activity centre hierarchy, areas of environmental significance or any other topic that is relevant to land use and development within the municipality;
  • Provide the policy basis for the application of controls and the local policies in Clauses 10 to 19.

Strategic directions should be grouped by theme and identified by sub-headings. The themes should follow those of the Planning Policy Framework (PPF) for consistency and navigability. The strategic directions for each theme may be supplemented with a brief context (generally 1 or 2 paragraphs) to help explain the basis of the strategic directions. While this contextual information is written in the narrative form, strategic directions must be in bullet point form, so they are clearly identified. Each strategic direction should only express one idea.

Clause 2.04 Strategic Framework Plans:

The strategic framework plans are a spatial representation of the key strategic directions for the municipality. The vision, strategic directions and strategic framework plans together provide the ‘big picture’ response to the opportunities and challenges facing a municipality. The strategic framework plans:

  • Should show spatially how the municipality is expected to change as a result of the implementation of the planning scheme;
  • Compliments the policy in the MPS and where relevant, PPF;
  • They cannot replace policy text. For example, a strategic direction must be in the text of the MPS and not solely on a framework plan;
  • They should have a clear link with the strategic directions in the MPS and can be annotated to express the strategic directions on the plans;
  • May show matters such as directions for growth and development, housing frameworks, industrial land supply, productive agricultural land, strategic redevelopment sites, significant infrastructure, areas of environmental significance or areas where environmental risk must be managed or any other matter that the MPS identifies;
  • Should illustrate more than just existing conditions.

The Further Strategic Work section of the planning scheme (Clause 74.02) is a concise list of work a council intends to undertake before the next planning scheme review (occurring on a 4 yearly cycle), which is subsequently then set out in a schedule to this clause. The work must have a land use and development focus and must relate to matters that can be implemented through a planning scheme. It should be noted that this list of further work may not be budgeted for and will require funds to be appointed in future budget cycles to undertake and complete projects.

The identification of further strategic work is useful for a council to set strategic priorities and obtain funding for a project. However, as these strategic intentions are not fully formed and have not had the benefit of strategic work to underpin them, there is a risk that they can be used as speculative policy and lead to decisions being made that are not based on adopted policy.

Importantly to note, the identification of further strategic work is not a requirement of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 and does not form part of the Municipal Planning Strategy (MPS) or Planning Policy Framework (PPF).

Previous community input has been important in preparing the new Municipal Planning Strategy (MPS). The following community engagement program approach was endorsed by Council on 9 February 2021 in regard to consultation around the Our People Our Place Our Future consultation to inform preparation of the Council Plan, Health & Wellbeing Plan, Nillumbik Vision 2040 and the MPS. The program includes the following phases:

Phase 1 – Our People, Our Place, Our Future (OPOPOF) community engagement program involving a Shire-wide survey used to inform the themes within the MPS (February to April 2021). The Climate Action Plan survey was also used to inform the MPS themes (completed).

Phase 2 – MPS themes community engagement involving a review of the existing MPS and planning themes that influence the MPS. It included a six-week survey, four virtual community workshops, extensive internal department workshops and associated communications (August to October 2021) (completed).

Phase 3 – Draft MPS community engagement involving a review of the new draft MPS including specific clause ordinances and maps. Feedback from the Phase 2 has been used to draft a new MPS. The draft MPS has been brought to Council on the 24 May 2022 for its consideration and has been endorsed to be exhibited for community input and feedback. Consultation will involve an online survey or the ability to provide a written submission on the four sections of the MPS and Clause 74.02 as well as correspondences to internal Council departments. Feedback received from this engagement would be incorporated into the final draft of the MPS and brought to Council again for adoption (completed).

Phase 4 - Subject to Council’s adoption of a final draft of the MPS, officers will also seek Council’s approval to seek authorisation from the Minister for Planning to prepare and exhibit a planning scheme amendment to the Nillumbik Planning Scheme to insert the updated MPS. It should be noted that as part of the amendment process, the proposed MPS would be exhibited to the community with submissions called as part of the formal notification period pursuant to the Planning & Environment Act 1987 (yet to commence).

Council developed the Our People, Our Place, Our Future (OPOPOF) engagement program to capture the views and priorities of the Nillumbik community and subsequently to inform the development of a number of key strategic planning documents in line with legislative and regulatory requirements. This program formed the Stage 1 engagement for these key strategies which included the:

  • Community Vision
  • Municipal Health and Wellbeing Plan
  • Council Plan
  • Financial Plan
  • Asset Plan
  • Municipal Planning Strategy and other strategic documents.

During the first stage of this engagement program, (which ran from 15 February to 28 March 2021), Council asked the community to identify what is important to them in relation to their wellbeing, neighbourhood and surrounds both now and into the future. Council also asked the community what areas Council should focus on in order to support the delivery of these priorities and aspirations.

An engagement findings report was subsequently prepared which presents a summary of the key findings from the first stage of the engagement program for the Our People, Our Place, Our Future initiative. The report provides high-level analysis of feedback received from the community during the consultation period. In summary, while participant responses were wide and varied, what was very strongly reinforced through this engagement was that the community want the Shire to be a place where:

Equity, inclusion and participation is championed.

Mental and physical wellbeing is supported.

Liveability is prioritised.

The environment, including the Green Wedge, is valued, admired and protected.

Actions to mitigate the effects of climate change are undertaken.

Risk and emergency management underpins Council’s practices.

To view the detailed findings and results from the Our People, Our Place, Our Future initiative, please click here.

Subsequent engagement phases have since occurred for the various strategies mentioned above in line with their individual document requirements (mostly in the latter half of 2021).

In relation to the Municipal Planning Strategy (MPS), the preparation of the MPS has taken regard to the key objectives within the key strategies/plans, but particularly the Nillumbik Community Vision as the like the Community Vision, the MPS is a ‘future-looking’ document that addresses issues over a longer timescale.

In addition to the Our People, Our Place, Our Future consultation, Council has undertaken work and subsequently adopted a Climate Action Plan which will guide Council’s response to the challenges posed by climate change over the next decade and outlines a twofold approach, involving mitigation and adaptation. The results of this surveys that were conducted for this initiative along with the focus areas and objectives outlined in the adopted plan itself have also informed the preparation of the MPS. Click here to view details of Council’s Climate Action Plan.

Following on from the Our People, Our Place, Our Future engagement program, Council conducted a more specific engagement program for the Municipal Planning Strategy (MPS) through the months of August, September and October 2021 (known as Phase 2).

During the Phase 2 engagement stage, officers consulted on the existing MPS and eleven (11) broad planning themes that influence the MPS, of which were identified from a variety of sources including:

  • Current state and regional planning policy (to ensure alignment);
  • The existing Municipal Planning Strategy (to maintain support for existing local policy context);
  • Our People, Our Place, Our Future survey outcomes;
  • Climate Action Plan (survey) community engagement outcomes;
  • Draft Community Vision – Nillumbik 2040;
  • Draft Council Plan; and
  • Draft Health & Wellbeing Plan.

The 11 themes identified were:

  1. Activity Centres
  2. Green Wedge
  3. Natural Environment
  4. Built Environment
  5. Housing
  6. Economic Development
  7. Transport
  8. Infrastructure
  9. Open Space
  10. 10. Climate Change
  11. 11. Heritage, Arts and Culture

Council officers during this engagement stage conducted four virtual community workshops, created an online survey via Participate Nillumbik, attended seven advisory committee meetings (including the Wurundjeri Cultural Committee), conducted nine internal team workshops, conducted two Youth Council workshops and two Councillor workshops. For the four community workshops, a total of 88 people registered to attend the virtual community workshops and 50 people attended (excluding staff, facilitators and Councillors). In addition to this, a total of 458 submissions were received, with 424 survey responses to themes to the MPS through Participate Nillumbik and 34 written submissions. Submitters to Phase 2 were invited to speak at the 8 February & 8 March 2022 Planning & Consultation Committee Meeting (PCC).

Discussions during this engagement stage explored whether these broad planning themes within the MPS may still be relevant, of importance, or out-of-date. Further to this, this engagement stage also identified whether certain themes that do not feature in the current MPS should be added to the updated strategy. The Phase 2 Engagement – Collated Survey Responses & Written Submission Feedback document provides an extensive list of key sentiments that were identified across the eleven themes. The following are the key sentiments that the MPS can have regard to:

a. The importance of the urban tree canopy and the subsequent impacts of development;

b. The importance of protecting Nillumbik’s unique neighbourhood character;

c. Focus on connectivity including walkability, accessibility, active transport and improved accessibility to Major Activity Centres;

d. Protection of the current Urban Growth Boundary;

e. The importance of conserving and protecting biodiversity and the natural environment with a particular emphasis on the importance on recognising the significance of wildlife corridors;

f. Ongoing management of fire risk;

g. Living more sustainably and implementing Environmental Sustainable Design (ESD) outcomes into the built environment; and

h. Protecting Nillumbik’s heritage buildings, places and culture.

However, it should be noted that some elements of feedback received from the Phase 2 engagement cannot be incorporated into consideration of drafting of the new MPS. These are predominantly due to the fact:

  1. they are not within the mandate of land use and development (e.g. encourage more sustainable practices at home and private vehicle use);
  2. they are too specific for the MPS where it sets ‘higher order’ principles rather than detailed outcomes (e.g. more dog friendly spaces); or
  3. they are seeking a specific land use outcome for personal gain which is not the mandate of the MPS, which is about ‘net community benefit’ – some of the written submissions fell into this area.
The The Phase 2 Engagement – Collated Survey Responses & Written Submission Feedback document as well as the Phase 2 Engagement - Community Engagement Report on Virtual Workshop Sessions held as part of Phase 2 consultation can be found by clicking on the respective links.

Main key areas of feedback for each section of the MPS as identified in the Key Sentiments - Summary of Phase 3 Engagement (refer to document menu) have been considered in amending the MPS as an outcome of Phase 3 engagement.

The following outlines the key changes that have been made to the draft MPS (refer to document menu for tracked changes version of the draft MPS, blue updates being changes made in response to Phase 2 engagement, and red updates being changes made in response to Phase 3 engagement. Note a ‘clean’ version of the draft MPS is also available at the document menu. It should also be noted this package of documents, are not the final planning scheme ordinance – that would need to be generated through Department of Transport and Planning’s online authorising system (ATS) which officers use to update our planning scheme.

Clause 02.01 – Context

a. Added context as to the formation of the Shire by adding ‘Nillumbik Shire was formed in 1994 from the merger of parts of the Shires of Eltham, Diamond Valley, Healesville and the City of Whittlesea’.

b. Added further discussion as to threats to biodiversity and climate emergency by adding ‘As a Green Wedge Shire, Nillumbik's communities and ecosystems face multiple threats as a result of climate change. A large proportion of the shire already experiences high bushfire risk. In recognition, Council have declared a Climate Emergency, and commits to a climate emergency response, and will proactively integrate climate change mitigation and adaptation into all Council actions. (Nillumbik Shire Council Climate Action Plan 2022 – 2032, page 4)’.

c. Added further context including acknowledgement of ‘conservation areas’, and adding key threatened species ‘including the threatened Southern Toadlet and Powerful Owl, and the endangered Eltham Copper Butterfly’.

Clause 02.02 – Vision

d. Including acknowledgement of threats to biodiversity by adding ‘Enhance Nillumbik’s sustainability and resilience to climate change, bushfire and threats to biodiversity’.

Clause 02.03-3 – Strategic Directions – Environmental risks and amenity

e. Under potentially contaminated land, adding ‘apply the Environmental Audit Overlay (EAO) to land that is identified as being potentially contaminated’.

Clause 02.03-4 – Strategic Directions – Natural resource management

f. Under ‘Agriculture’ ‘Promote sustainable agriculture that preserves and enhances food security for the Nillumbik and wider population, and land management practices that minimise adverse impacts on the primary production and environmental values of surrounding land and the catchment’.

Clause 02.03-6 – Strategic Directions – Housing

g. With regard to Strategic Directions include ‘Develop a housing strategy that identifies Nillumbik’s housing needs and the infrastructure needed to support any projected population growth, especially within the existing Urban Growth Boundary’.

Clause 02.04 – Strategic Framework Plans

h. During the preparation of updates to the draft MPS, the Strategic Planning unit gained the capability to prepare and update plans in-house – a function previously not available within the unit.

i. Given there is no budget to outsource actions required update the draft MPS and this new asset, all of the Strategic Framework Plans were updated for legibility and clarity, including:

i. Updates to labelling, hatching and colours to optimise legibility;

ii. Updates to legends, again to provide optimal clarity; and

iii. Inclusion of adjoining local government administrative boundaries onto all plans to enhance the Shire’s overall context to individual adjoining councils.

Clause 02.04-3 – Strategic Framework Plans – Open Space and Recreation Facilities Plan

j. Any reference to the 2023 Northern Trails Strategy has been removed, where only the existing 2016 version already referenced in the MPS within the Planning Scheme (currently) has been retained. It is noted Council are still considering support for the 2023 Draft of the Northern Trails Strategy and particular proposed alignments may not be supported. Should Council resolve to adopt the 2023 draft of the Northern Trails Strategy, an amendment of this plan could be made as an ‘add-on’ to a future administrative amendment as this change would be policy neutral.

Clause 02.04-4 – Strategic Framework Plans – Indicative Land Suitability Plan

k. The Future of Agriculture in Nillumbik (FOAN) Project provided Council with valuable information including mapping based on soil type and depth, climate change impacts and other geophysical characteristics. The intent of the FOAN was to provide a basis to inform government, the local agricultural sector and the broader community of the possible impacts and opportunities for food and fibre production as the climate changes in Nillumbik. The information in the FOAN was developed with the intention of increasing the adaptability and sustainability of agricultural production and provide options for the regeneration of the farming landscape.

l. In advancing recommendations of the adopted FOAN Action Plan, 4 new plans have been prepared (in-house) and added to the draft MPS. Based on the evidence provided within the FOAN, the plans denote indicative (given the scale of the data prepared for the FOAN the plans can only be indicative) areas for certain planting suitability within the Shire for citrus, wine grapes, apples and raspberries. The intent of this data and its analysis was to assist in informing preparation of future policy and strategies to protect the Green Wedge.

m. It is noted areas of conservation are excluded from this mapping and the plans include identification of:

i. Areas which have some properties that render them permanently not suitable for the production of a given crop and have no capacity (for economic or management reasons) to become suitable, i.e., high salinity, very shallow soil profile.

ii. Areas which have some properties that render them temporarily not suitable for the production of a given crop but have the capacity to become suitable through management changes, i.e., pH levels.

iii. The maps are indicative only and decision-making for individual properties should be informed by site-specific land capability or other tests (soil tests, agronomic assessments) etc.

Clause 74.02 – Further Strategic Work

n. Clause 74.02 Further Strategic Work (note a tracked changes version of Clause 74.02 is available in the document library.

o. Clause 74.02 has been updated to reflect the current and future strategic planning reviews, investigations, and preparation, to align to current initiatives and their implementation into the planning scheme i.e. neighbourhood character strategy, housing strategy and heritage review; but also importantly to align to future work that will be required to support implementation into the planning scheme i.e. investigating an ESD policy, developing an urban tree canopy strategy and reviewing the environmental framework within the planning scheme as an outcome of some of the work being prepared as part of the draft Biodiversity Strategy.