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arrangements for regional planning and development and that the Commonwealth intends to engage in bilateral discussions with other interested States and Territories along similar lines. There may be some scope under this framework for the ACT to develop agreements relating to cross-border issues.
The next item was a proposal from South Australia to support the establishment of a benchmarking project covering the planning and development system. Such a program would allow the various bodies to learn from the experience of parallel bodies elsewhere in Australia. With Victoria dissenting, the meeting supported the development of a benchmarking system and agreed that the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute should submit a proposal to develop the program.
Item 4 on the agenda was of particular concern to the ACT. It dealt with compliance by Commonwealth bodies with State legislation. The issue was raised by Western Australia, which has had some unhappy experiences with proposals from the Federal Airports Corporation to redevelop an airfield site. The ACT was interested because of its experience with the erection of masts for mobile telephones and similar telecommunications facilities, where Commonwealth legislation provides that such developments are not subject to local control. The matter generated considerable debate, and the meeting requested the Commonwealth Government to convene, as a matter of urgency, a working group of officials to determine how the issue of compliance with State planning, environment and heritage laws by Commonwealth-related businesses could be progressed, and to report to Ministers within six months. The State and Territory Ministers also resolved to support the concept that upon privatisation of airports owned by the Federal Airports Corporation - do not panic; that is the Federal Government’s privatisation program, not ours - operations must be required to comply with relevant State legislation.
The next item related to the relationship between Federal and State legislation on the processes of assessment of environmental impact. Debate on this matter was inconclusive, primarily because the Commonwealth regarded this as a matter for Environment Ministers rather than Planning Ministers and was not willing to endorse environmental impact assessment processes of the States and Territories. This matter clearly needs to be taken further. It has particular significance for the ACT, where both the Commonwealth and the Territory have legislation covering environmental impact assessments and related matters.
Of the other items, most were reporting on action that is currently taking place or which has recently been concluded. A draft report on the OECD conference on cities and the new global economy was circulated, and Ministers noted the work undertaken by the Australian urban and regional development review. The Commonwealth tabled two further discussion papers prepared by the review. Entitled “Financing the Fringe” and “Smart Planning Not Sprawl”, both papers dealt with aspects of providing infrastructure at the edges of growing cities.
Also noted were the progress in the development of a comprehensive response to the recommendations of the report by the Prime Minister's urban design task force and the work by the Australian Building Codes Board leading to improvements to the Building Code of Australia. Other resolutions related to the evaluation of the better cities program, a report from New South Wales on its approach to post-remediation of contaminated sites and a report from the Indicative Planning Council for the Housing Industry on the likely demand for housing.