By Rowan Forster

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy has defended claims he back flipped on State Opposition planning policies after unveiling a plot to introduce a population cap in Casey and Cardinia.

In June, Mr Guy said the region had grown too quickly – despite rezoning Green Wedge land for the enormous Pakenham East development when he was Planning Minister.

At the time, he said: “Melbourne cannot continue growing at this pace until our roads, transport and services infrastructure catches up.”

One month later, speaking at a Housing Industry Association breakfast, the Member for Bulleen cited the need to “flush the market” with new land opportunities.

Later that day, Mr Guy announced an elected Victorian Coalition would release 290,000 new lots for homes in Melbourne’s fringes, including Cardinia.

He has now promised to halt “urban claustrophobia” if elected in November.

However, Mr Guy has maintained that his population cap and proposed land release are synchronised policies, working to steer population into the most suitable areas.

“Unplanned, unmanaged population growth is killing Melbourne’s liveability,” he said.

“If we don’t take action now, Melbourne will go from the world’s most liveable city to an urban claustrophobia.

“These localised population limits and targets are to assist with decentralising our population and protecting our communities from overdevelopment.”

He has nominated Casey, Cardinia and Wyndham as the regions under the greatest pressure.

Under the proposal, a Population Commission would be created, with the power to establish planning controls to prevent new housing approvals in the city’s most bustling municipalities.

“Planning restrictions on suburbs and towns will only be lifted once infrastructure and the number of police, doctors, teachers and healthcare workers reach specific levels,” Mr Guy added.

Deputy Premier James Merlino was among the first to criticise Mr Guy for the two pledges. “Only 10 weeks ago, Matthew Guy was going to send a million more people to Wyndham, Cardinia and Casey,” he said.

“Now he is promising to lock up those very same areas.

“Matthew Guy simply cannot be believed when it comes to planning in this state.”

However, the plan is likely to garner support in Melbourne’s south-east – with residents becoming increasingly infuriated by overpopulation and lacking infrastructure.

Fiona Clarke, who has lived in Pakenham for nearly two years, said she initially made the trek to escape the “hustle and bustle” of Melbourne’s inner-suburbs.

She welcomed a population cap, if it meant the State Government would act to upgrade roads simultaneously.

“If they’re going to do this, they have to be improving infrastructure at the same time,” she said.

“If it’s a plan to slow down the growth while the roads and the public transport catches up, then that’s a smart move.”

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