Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 7 Hansard (17 August) . . Page.. 2310..
DR FOSKEY (continuing):
achieve a six or nine-month delay in a decision on whether a development proposal should be agreed to. That is what occurred.
The particular example I would like to give, which really focused my attention on this, was the decision by the Australian Taxation Office to award its very large tenancy agreement to Queensland Investment Corporation with the section 84 development. It was one of the single largest commonwealth tenancy agreements ever entered into in the ACT, to accommodate over 5,000 ATO staff in new buildings in section 84. The developer came forward with a development application to accommodate their prospective tenant, the Australian Taxation Office.
The objectors to that development proposal were overwhelmingly the other parties which were unsuccessful in gaining the ATO tenancy. They were either the owner of the building currently occupied by the ATO, which obviously was fairly reluctant to lose such a significant tenant, or the owners of other existing buildings or potential new buildings which had been unsuccessful in securing the ATO tenancy. They sought to prolong their commercial battle through the development application process. That was, in my view, completely inappropriate. It is not for the planning system to adjudicate on where a particular tenant goes, but that is what those development proponents were seeking to do. So for that reason, and for a range of other examples similar to that example, the government decided to make the change to this regulation.
I need to stress that, whilst opportunity for review to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal has been removed by this regulation, it does not remove all avenues of review. For example, review is still possible by the Supreme Court. Traditional review under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act is still available. That is, I think, an appropriate check. The advice given to Dr Foskey in her briefing by Mr Savery, the chief planning executive, was entirely accurate. The reasons for the regulation that he gave to her were also entirely accurate.
The ACT Planning and Land Authority, under law, is the decision maker for a development application unless the minister exercises his or her power to call in and determine an application himself or herself. It is not a delegated power from me to the chief planner. It is a power held by the chief planner in his or her own right and he or she delegates that power to officers of the authority. So it is an independent statutory decision; it is not a decision taken by the government, unless the minister exercises the call-in power, which is a very rare occurrence.
The other issue that Mr Savery raised in his advice to Dr Foskey is also worth elaborating on. He made it clear that issues around what planning policy should be and issues around what the territory plan does or does not permit should be dealt with in the forums where those decisions are made-that is, here in the Assembly when variations to the territory plan are debated; in the planning and environment committee, where variations to the territory plan are considered; and through the public consultation mechanisms occurring around the planning and environment committee's consideration or occurring around ACTPLA's own consultation processes on territory plan variations-because that is where those policy decisions are made. But the consideration of a development application should not be an opportunity to revisit a fundamental disagreement with a policy decision in the territory plan. Unfortunately, that is one of the issues that occur, particularly in our town centres, in Civic and in our industrial areas.