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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2014 Week 2 Hansard (20 March) . . Page.. 614..

example, in May 2004 the Assembly passed the Gungahlin Drive Authorisation Bill to allow that project to proceed and not be held up through litigation. In August last year the Assembly passed a resolution in support of legislation to expedite the development of the proposed secure mental health facility at Symonston. The government has made it clear that the light rail corridor through Northbourne Avenue is a priority project.

These are some examples of key infrastructure in the territory that have significant community benefit. In my view there is a need to establish a systematic, transparent approach that would allow the government of the day to declare a project or area to be a high priority and to have it proceed with efficiency and certainty. There is a need for a system to permit the government to put such priorities to the public for comment and to put the proposal and comments before this place, the representatives of the community of Canberra. This bill, therefore, seeks to put in place such a system.

The details of the proposal are relatively straightforward. In summary, the bill puts in place a process for recognising and giving priority to a special precinct area or a project of major significance and for these areas to be given priority through the planning process.

Under this bill the minister will be able to direct the Planning and Land Authority to consult on a draft proposal to establish a special precinct or declare a project of major significance. The proposal for a special precinct area might include proposed territory plan variations such as rezoning.

The proposal is subject to public consultation for a minimum of 30 working days. The proposal and analysis of comments is put to the minister and then to the territory executive for its revision or approval. The executive must assess whether the proposal meets relevant criteria. In particular, the executive must be satisfied that the proposal will provide a substantial public benefit.

Also, for special precinct area proposals the executive must be satisfied that the proposal is consistent with the planning strategy. The executive must be satisfied that a draft declaration of a project of major significance advances the economic, environmental or cultural development of the territory. In assessing whether the proposal satisfies these tests the executive must take into account public comments. After public consultation, the proposal must be put to the Assembly for consideration and the Assembly may disallow the proposal. If the proposal is not disallowed, the relevant territory plan variations and the project declaration take effect.

Importantly, the priority proposals and the associated territory plan variations will not be able to proceed unless and until they have been the subject of public consultation, approved by the territory executive and put before the Assembly for the disallowance period. This key feature ensures that the government priority is fully examined and critiqued by the elected representatives of the community before it is put into effect. This bill is, in this sense, first and foremost about transparency and accountability for key priority government projects. The bill is also about efficiency. There are a number of efficiencies in relation to this new process for key projects. The bill inserts new part 5.3A into the Planning and Development Act. This new part will permit the government to recognise and give priority to a special precinct area.

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