Dear Mayor Sullivan, Deputy Mayor Aitken & Councillors,
Planning for Geelong’s Growth
We openly write to you on behalf of the Urban Development Institute of Australia, Victoria (UDIA
Victoria), the Property Council of Australia (the Property Council), and the Committee for Geelong
UDIA Victoria, the Property Council and the CfG collectively represent tens of thousands of members
in Geelong and broader Victoria. Our combined membership base is broad, including public and
private residential, commercial, industrial, and retail property development organisations.
UDIA Victoria, the Property Council and the CfG are independent, non-partisan, membership-based
organisations that give industry a voice in the policy-making process. Collectively we tackle the
issues having the biggest impact on Victoria’s and Geelong’s liveability – spanning topics such as the
planning system, housing affordability, infrastructure, sustainability, employment and the economy.
The Property Council and UDIA Victoria are the leading advocates for Australia’s biggest industry and
biggest employer – property. The property industry represents 13% of Australia’s GDP, employs 1.4
million Australians (more than mining and manufacturing combined) and secures the future of 14.8
million Australians who have a financial stake in property through their super funds.
By 2047, Greater Geelong will be internationally recognised as a clever and creative city-region that
is forward looking, enterprising and adaptive and cares for its people and environment.
UDIA Victoria, the Property Council and the CfG strongly support Council’s clever and creative vision
and recognise the unique benefits of Geelong’s designation as a UNESCO Creative City of Design.
At the upcoming November Council meeting, we understand officers are likely to table reports in
relation to the sequencing of Precinct Structure Plans in the Northern and Western Geelong Growth
Areas, the Pakington Street and Gordon Avenue Urban Design Framework (Pakington North
Precinct), and the Rippleside Urban Design Framework.
These matters are of significant importance in the context of the above-mentioned joint strategic
objectives and are therefore of substantial interest to our members.
Our open letter stems from our shared concerns in relation to the debate that took place at the
September and October Council meetings in relation to the South Geelong Urban Design
Framework, the Geelong Saleyards Precinct Plan, and the Highton Village Urban Design Framework.
Notwithstanding the concerning various alternative motions that were put forward, we do recognise
and appreciate that the South Geelong Urban Design Framework and the Geelong Saleyards Precinct
Plan were ultimately adopted in accordance with the recommendations of Council officers.
Geelong’s growth is occurring rapidly – the largest percentage increase in population of any major
Australian city in the past decade. Geelong has overwhelmingly attracted investment in greenfield
development to supply our recent growth.
The 2021 Census indicated that Greater Geelong has experienced a 52% increase in greenfield
dwelling stock since 2016. This represents the single largest increase of any category of dwelling type
in any city throughout Australia during that 5-year period. The equivalent increase of dwellings
within urban Geelong was less than 10%.
This trend of heavy reliance on greenfield development – and its largely single-dwelling typology – is
concerning in the context of Geelong’s existing dwelling mix. In total, 87% of Greater Geelong’s
115,750 dwellings are already separate houses. Only 13% of dwellings are semi-detached and units
(11%) or apartments (2%).
Compared to the 2016 Census, we have an increased proportion of households that are couples with
no children, and a lower proportion of households that are families with children in 2021. We also
have an increasing proportion of retirees (65 years old and over).
Put simply, the demographics of our city are changing with its rapid growth. We need to
accommodate those changes with a greater diversity of dwelling choices.
As Councillors responsible for adopting the Greater Geelong Settlement Strategy in 2020, we
appreciate your understanding of the importance of increased urban density. The Settlement
Strategy identifies the ongoing imbalance in Geelong’s growth and rightly seeks to deliver a
minimum ‘50/50’ split of infill and greenfield development by 2036.
We understand that at this moment, approximately 20% of Geelong’s growth is being delivered in its
established areas – well shy of the adopted 50% target.
This aspiration reflects that a balanced approach to growth is required and that growth in greenfield
and infill settings are complementary to each other to ensure a vibrant, yet affordable, city.
Increased urban density has significant benefits. The potential development yield of any individual
site has a direct relationship to its ‘building performance’. In the Geelong context, improved building
performance creates the capacity for larger buildings to provide for increased investment in
architectural design excellence, environmentally sustainable design and construction, public realm
improvements and the capacity to accommodate social, affordable and/or inclusive housing. For
obvious reasons, development of this type is best placed in locations with easy access to public
Diminishing the potential development yield of a site – for example, from 8 to 6, or 6 to 4 storeys –
removes the market capacity for investment in these built form outcomes that will provide broader
community benefit and directly respond to the community’s clever and creative future vision and be
worthy of its designation as a UNESCO Creative City of Design.
A diminishing yield will likely result in a lack of market interest, underperformance of new built form
outcomes, and ultimately, increased pressure on existing non-urban areas in the municipality.
Our members regularly inform us that it is difficult to achieve an economically feasible outcome
when building heights are limited to 4-5 storeys. Whilst construction costs within Geelong remain
comparable to Melbourne, sale prices are considerably lower.
On top of this, the majority of the precincts subject to the various Urban Design Frameworks will be
subject to Windfall Gains Tax as land will need to be rezoned to deliver on the frameworks. This
additional tax will even further exacerbate the feasibility challenges of low to mid-scale inner urban
We (the broader development industry) must find a way in which alternative housing options can be
provided in all inner-Geelong suburbs in order to allow for aging in place, first home buyers,
rightsizers and the variety of housing choices that existing and future Geelong residents will seek.
Whilst we respect and cannot discount the views of the immediately impacted local residents who
are typically the most vocal, by nature they are most interested in protecting the status quo and
often do not have the interests of the broader community at heart.
Low to mid-scale projects do not always produce favourable outcomes for the community as they
often result in low-quality architecture and a reduced ability to ‘give back’ to the public realm.
Without development contributions resulting from development approvals, much needed public
realm upgrades are significantly curtailed.
The reality is that a certain height and yield is required to justify private expenditure in relation to,
amongst other things:
• High quality design and architecture,
• Social and affordable housing,
• Public realm upgrades, and
• Active and public transport upgrades.
It is important to stress that greater height limits do not automatically equate to a loss of amenity to
surrounding local residents. Interface treatments can be appropriately managed via built form
controls (such as what is articulated in the various Urban Design Frameworks). Not dissimilarly, car
parking and road network upgrades can be appropriately managed.
In formulating your views on the sequencing of Precinct Structure Plans in the Northern and
Western Geelong Growth Areas, the Pakington Street and Gordon Avenue Urban Design Framework
(Pakington North Precinct), the Rippleside Urban Design Framework, and any future matters of
similar importance, we request that you strongly consider that:
• The vocal minority do not always represent the views of the wider community and do not always
have the best interests of the wider city/region in mind.
• Whilst we respect and cannot discount the views of the immediately impacted local residents,
by nature they are most interested in protecting the status quo.
• Council’s Settlement Strategy seeks to accommodate 50% of Geelong’s annual residential
growth within its established urban areas – at present, approximately 20% of Geelong’s growth
is being delivered in established urban areas.
• In order to come close to achieving the targets set by Council, Council must urgently approve
these Urban Design Frameworks and immediately commence others.
• Not only must Council urgently approve these Urban Design Frameworks, but Council must also
ensure that these Urban Design Frameworks allow for feasible outcomes to be achieved,
ensuring that the precincts do not simply remain idle into the future.
• Low to mid-scale projects do not always produce favourable outcomes for the community as
they often result in low-quality architecture and a reduced ability to ‘give back’ to the public
• Reducing the preferred building heights as a result of feedback from a vocal minority is not
reflective of the interests of the broader community.
Whilst a number of our members are already owners within these various precincts, we expect that
many will invest within these areas once the various Urban Design Frameworks are approved.
Lastly, by way of a specific example, engagement on the South Geelong Urban Design Framework
first commenced in mid-2019. Now that the South Geelong Urban Design Framework has been
adopted, a planning scheme amendment process will now commence and will likely take in the
order of two years to complete. The consequence being that the approval and implementation of
the South Geelong Urban Design Framework will have taken over five years from start to finish.
Whilst we appreciate that these matters are complex and sensitive for Council, Council must
respectfully find a way to drastically reduce these timeframes in the future.
We look forward to continuing to work with Council on these critical matters.
Should you wish to discuss these matters further, please contact the Chair of the Geelong Chapter of
UDIA Victoria, Nick Clements on 0413 397 531, the Chair of the Geelong Chapter of the Property
Council, Nat Anson on 0427 722 146, or the Chief Executive Officer of the CfG, Jennifer Cromarty on
0413 241 033.
Chief Executive Officer
Victorian Executive Director
Chief Executive Officer
Committee for Geelong