Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria Region) presented report, including appendices, extracts of proceedings and minority report, together with transcripts of evidence.
Laid on table.
Ordered that report be printed.
Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria) — I move:
That the Council take note of the report.
I am pleased to table the Environment and Planning Reference Committee’s report on the inquiry into environmental design and public health in Victoria. In doing so I note that there is a minority report. As is the practice, I have only just been furnished with a copy of that report this morning. I have not had an opportunity to examine it, and I may or I may not make comment on it at a later stage.
My purpose is to go to the actual business of the inquiry, because that is what the stakeholders and the witnesses are interested in. The committee received its terms of reference for the inquiry in April last year, and they are outlined on page 5 of the report. The committee received 63 written submissions and heard verbal submissions from 61 witnesses. The terms of reference enabled professionals in the areas of public health and environmental design, planners, local government, government departments, community organisations, academics and interested individual members of the community to put their case.
The general topic is one that all of us experience in our daily lives, and we are all driven by wanting to ensure that we live in a more sustainable, healthier, affordable, accessible and connected living environment,
This report examines some of the complex contributors to public health and wellbeing and how they can be influenced by urban planning and the design of places in which Victorians live. Through the findings and recommendations of this inquiry the Victorian government has the opportunity to improve the quality and design of the built environment in ways that promote and encourage positive health outcomes for all.
The committee was encouraged by the high level of public interest in the inquiry.
It was opportune that the Planning Institute of Australia held a joint built environment and health promotion sector forum at the Municipal Association of Victoria building early in the inquiry, which assisted the committee in an informal sense in gaining an understanding of the general framework from which a number of organisations were working. It was an excellent opportunity to meet a range of individuals who have a real passion in this area. All of them were eager to take the next step beyond their own experience as practitioners and beyond the research that had been conducted over a period of time.
Apart from the individual submissions, several joint submissions were also received.
The included a submission from the Obesity Policy Coalition, which comprises the Cancer Council Victoria, the Victorian branch of Diabetes Australia, VicHealth and Deakin University, and another from the Alcohol Policy Coalition, which comprises the Australian Drug Foundation, the Australian Heart Foundation, VicHealth, Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre and the cancer council. A further joint submission came from Physical Activity Australia, the Victorian Local Governance Association, Planning Institute Australia, the Victorian Council of Social Service, SunSmart and the City of Port Phillip. All these organisations have been working in this area for some time, and they are all singing from the same song sheet.
We collectively simply cannot do nothing in this area.
The evidence is overwhelming, and we must be proactive in linking the built environment to public health in legislation, policy and guidelines, as well as in combating chronic disease, developing active transport networks and ensuring there is adequate public space. The public health and planning community is at the forefront of the policy space. It is now time for the government to grab the baton and demonstrate its leadership. Health and wellbeing cannot continue to be an optional extra.
It is opportune that the planning act is being reviewed, and I hope the government takes this opportunity to factor many of the recommendations of this inquiry into its deliberations on the planning act.
Unfortunately, I am allocated only 5 minutes to talk on this report this morning. It is important that I sincerely thank all the organisations and individuals who played a role in this inquiry and who took time out from their normal duties to add to the body of work upon which the committee deliberated. I particularly wish to thank the members of the staff of the committee secretariat for their research, writing and administrative assistance: Mr Keir Delaney, secretary, Dr Rosalind Hearder, research officer, and Mr Anthony Walsh, the research assistant. It is fair to say the committee had some fraught and testing times, so I particularly acknowledge the high degree of professionalism and the enormous capacity for patience that the committee staff demonstrated time and again.
This is a solid report. It is meticulous and has extensive footnotes and a bibliography which identifies the evidence received by the committee. I believe the stakeholders involved in this inquiry will be supportive of the report and its recommendations and will recognise that their voices, research and experiences have been incorporated in the report. I commend the report to the house.