Population growth in the Macedon Ranges looks set to become a key issue for voters in the seat of Macedon at November's state election.
About 200 people turned out to a public meeting at Gisborne last Tuesday, hosted by the Macedon Ranges Residents Association, to discuss concerns over the state government's draft Localised Planning Statement for the Macedon Ranges.
While the MRRA welcomed the government's first step in delivering the protection it promised at the last election, in the form of legislation introduced in parliament in December that declared the Macedon Ranges an area deserving special protection, it is critical of the LPS for township settlement boundaries it describes as an "accelerated urban growth path".
MRRA secretary Christine Pruneau said the LPS was essentially the previous council's agenda of growth and economic development - a direction that was rejected by the community.
Ms Pruneau said those gathered at the meeting resolved to convey to both the government and the opposition that the LPS was "completely irreconcilable with the government's commitment to protection and unacceptable in every regard".
The pressure is now on incumbent Labor MP Mary-Anne Thomas to ensure the government's plan truly delivers the state-level protection it promised, with Liberal candidate for Macedon Amanda Millar weighing into the debate last week.
Ms Millar was among those who attended last week's public meeting and said she, like others in the room, was strongly opposed to Labor's proposed LPS which "opens the door to development on an unprecedented scale in this region".
"Locals are calling for the Statement of Planning Policy Number 8 - enshrined in 1975 by the Hamer Liberal State Government when Athol Guy was the Member for Gisborne - to remain as the foundation of enduring protection for our unique townships and natural environment," Ms Millar said.
Feedback on the draft LPS was to have closed yesterday, but late last week Ms Thomas advised she had requested the minister extend the consultation period for an extra two weeks due to the level of interest exhibited by the community.
"The draft Localised Planning Statement, which provides the machinery behind the legislation, focuses on three key areas: a long-term vision for the region, planning policy for protecting our region's significant features and creating settlement boundaries that limit township growth," Ms Thomas said.
"It is vitally important we get this right as we want the LPS to provide enduring protection to 2068 and beyond and to serve as a model for other communities in Victoria."
To provide feedback on the draft Localised Planning Statement go to: www.engage.vic.gov.au/macedon-ranges-localised-planning-statement
Submissions close March 5.