What is open space?

Open space refers to land that can be used by the community for outdoor recreation and leisure including things like walking, jogging, relaxing, playing, cycling, dog walking and organised sport. Open space is also land used for preserving nature, providing green spaces for the community, local wildlife and managing of stormwater, such as parks, gardens, waterways, sports and even streetscapes.

Why are we updating our open space strategy?

To ensure that our community continues to enjoy Darebin’s open spaces today and into the future, we need to plan to protect, enhance and increase our open spaces. Darebin’s population is growing and we need to make sure we have the right amount and quality of open space for our entire community.

Since Darebin’s Open Space Strategy was created in 2007, a lot has changed in the local area including:

·  the declaration of a climate emergency;

·  a significant increase in Darebin’s population; and

·  an increase in apartment living.

This new strategy will assist Council to deliver a comprehensive, connected and well-managed system of open spaces to meet the needs of the community today and into the future.

Was the community consulted on this?

Yes. To understand how the community values its open space, we undertook municipal-wide community engagement. During March and April 2018, we asked how people use open space in Darebin, what they value about open space and how things could be improved. The feedback and ideas generated by the community informed the development of the draft open space strategy.

Council then released the draft open space strategy for consultation in November and December 2018. This community feedback has been incorporated into the final strategy, Breathing Space: The Darebin Open Space Strategy.

What did the community tell us?

The community told us loud and clear that they strongly value Darebin’s open spaces, bushland character and that being in nature provides many positive benefits including being able to relax, unwind, escape from busy city life, go walking (especially with a dog), exercise, meet up with family and friends and explore.

Many people expressed concern about the amount of open space needed to respond to rapid growth, change and development happening throughout the municipality.

What is the difference between the old strategy and Breathing Space?

The below table summarises some of the main differences between the old strategy and Breathing Space.

What is biodiversity?

Biodiversity is the variety of living things in a given place or space including plants, animals and even microorganisms. The greater the variety of species, the higher the biodiversity.

Does the strategy include specific actions for each park or open space area?

No. The draft strategy does not go into detail to identify what specific changes are planned in every one of Darebin’s parks. Instead, the strategy describes what facilities, plantings and features could be developed in each category of park or what is missing in a given area or precinct.

Breathing Space will be used to guide the planning of open space improvements.

How are we going to achieve the aims of the strategy?

Breathing Space is a long-term project for Council. The idea is that each year projects driven by the strategy would be submitted for funding in Council’s budget and rolled out gradually over time. One of the key actions of the strategy is to increase the open space levy to ensure the quality and quantity of open space provisions and services meet the needs of Darebin’s growing community.

What is an open space levy?

An open space levy is a mechanism in the planning scheme that allows Councils to secure funds to provide new open space or improve existing open space in response to a growing population.

An open space levy is required by Clause 53.01 of the Darebin Planning Scheme and is legislated under section 18 of the Subdivision Act 1988.

What is the existing open space levy in Darebin?

Darebin’s current open space levy rate is between 2 - 5%, starting at subdivisions creating two additional lots and increasing with each additional lot up to five, with 5% being the current maximum rate. This is much lower than many other councils and much lower than what we need to protect liveability of the city as it grows.

Does the open space levy apply to all development?

No. The open space levy does not apply to a typical dual occupancy development where only one additional lot is created. It also does not apply to land that is not subdivided, like a granny flat or studio to the rear of a property. A person who proposes to subdivide land to create two or more additional lots (to an existing lot) must make a financial or land contribution to the Council for public open space.

Why do we need to increase the public open space levy rate in the municipality?

The City of Darebin is experiencing significant population growth and this is forecast to continue. The current open space contribution rates are inadequate to meet the needs of the future population.

Council engaged sector-leading planning and economic consultancy firm, SGS Economics & Planning to analyse open space contribution requirements. The report provided showed that, with no increase in contribution rates, there will be a per-capita reduction in the amount and quality of open space provision in Darebin.

An increase to the open space levy is needed to achieve the targets set out in Breathing Space: The Darebin Open Space Strategy. An increased levy will help ensure that the quality and quantity of open space will meet the needs of our growing community.

How much will the levy be increased by?

Councillors will discuss the proposed levy increase later in the year.