Thursday, October 25, 2007

Land use planning to resist 'tree changers'?

The Age outdid itself today yesterday in ‘Tree Changers Bring Gloom with Rural Boom’. Who is the journalist ‘Clay Lucas’ who wrote this? The Age website says Clay won a United Nations ‘Media Peace Award’ in 2005 for a study of ‘multicultural Melbourne’, written with Claire Miller. Why does that sound just so, so believable for an Age journo?

I refer jokingly these days to the Age as Melbourne’s Pravda but I doubt it would espouse this type of low-level socialist, muddle-headed nonsense.

Lucas is concerned with the effects of city people wanting to buy country properties. While this increases asset values held by country people - the median house price in 2001 in country Victoria was $121,000 while by 2006, it was $220,375 - it calls for planning because country areas will be ‘swamped’ according to academic town planner Trevor Budge.

‘An influx of ‘tree changers’ to some of Victoria's most beautiful rural towns may cause serious development pressures unless growth is properly managed, planning experts have warned’.

In some areas ‘58% of new residents had never even lived in a rural area’. Well, golly gosh.

‘Many planners were now asking whether Victoria needed to establish a tree change taskforce’, Mr Budge said. (my bold)

‘In some of these places, the locals can't buy a house or the person who wants to work at the local tourist office can't afford to live there.’ Oh no!

In fact, with externalities or distributional considerations giving people the right to trade their properties into the highest-valued use maximises society’s gains from land. You might want to control land acquisitions if externalities were involved but it is difficult to discern that specific externalities will stem from the identity of a purchaser as a former urban or rural dweller.
Nor are distributional issues arise from the identity (uban, rural) of a country land purchaser.
It is just that when something increases in value fewer people will want or be able to buy it.
Finally if zoning restrictions to protect biodiversity are inadequate they should be reformed but this case for reform is, again, independent of the identity of the land purchaser.
Or is this so-called analysis yet an instance of the ancient fallacy (derived from mercantilism?) that being a farmer is a socially-worthwhile activity while other sections of the economy are simply parasitically dependent on agriculture?

Hat tip to Tim Blair.


derrida derider said...

The Age has traditionally had the most left-wing perspective of any major paper in Oz - IIRC we used to call it the "Spring Street Pravda" back in the 1970s. It's certainly to the left of its Fairfax stablemate in Sydney (which campaigned heavily against Labor at the last state election).

Not that that's bad by any means - it goes a little way towards offsetting the longstanding and massive rightward slant of all the Murdoch papers.

Eric said...

I read this on the News website a few months ago and I thought it didn't really add up.

Demand in the big cities has always been high. Any demand in tree-towns is a partial balancing. Decreasing demand in big cities seems a good thing.

Change in house prices is good or bad depending on if it's the house you own or the one you'd like to buy. The long-standing residents of such a tree-town would see their house values increase, so the typical local who wants to buy a house has family whose assets have increased, and if not, they're still paying less than if they were in Melbourne.

hc said...

dd, I don't think the biases cancel out in their effects. As I have posted before the consistent biases in both the Australian and the Age immiserise the Australian public.

I think the Age just lacks quality journalists of integrity.

mlesich said...

If town planning laws in Melbourne weren't so restrictive, I suspect house prics wouldn't be so outrageous which would mean that people wouldn't have much of an incentive to move into the country

Joel said...

Considering that Melbourne manages to fit most of the state's population into less than 1% of it's land area, you would think that the rest of Victoria would have more than enough land (99% of the state) on which to build NEW houses so that everyone who wanted to could have a house. A quick flip through the paper of record in rural Victoria, The Weekly Times, shows that an industrious individual can buy 23 square, three bedroom plus study, two living area, two bathroom kit home for $80,000. Just supply your own land, planning permites and labour.