Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 9 Hansard (23 November) . . Page.. 2500 ..
MR WOOD (continuing):
for particular important works - for example, the Gungahlin Town Centre planning - but let me acknowledge, as Minister, that times were tight in the Planning Authority. This budget brings a 6 per cent reduction to the Planning Authority in the terms here in the budget papers, and that is due primarily to a reduction in the higher level of activity required for the Gungahlin town planning and through efficiency gains. That will be, I think, much the most substantial part of the saving that is required.
Earlier this week the Chief Minister brought down the Stein report and I am wondering, in the context of that report, whether we need to look again at the funding for the Planning Authority. The Stein report has made some very severe criticisms of all the staff in the Planning Authority. Certain people have been particularly identified, but that criticism carries through to all who work there. I reflect, Mr Speaker, that in the last few years we introduced a Land Act that has brought new and substantially increased functions to the Planning Authority. Associated with that, we introduced a new Territory Plan, also with new and increased functions, and, in particular, significant changes to what could happen in Canberra.
Those changes brought an enormous increase in applications going to the Planning Authority. The changes that were made in the B1 zone and the work that went on in Kingston were an enormous amount of work for the authority. Their workload increased tremendously. I was aware of it at the time; but, in the light of the Stein report, I am now concerned that perhaps we did not fund the authority enough. There is ample comment in the Stein report about difficulties in responding to requests from the community. I think we have to look anew at the budget for the Planning Authority to see whether it has been adequately funded. We will all look most carefully at the comments in the Stein report, those very severe criticisms; but, as we do so, and as we make our assessments about that, we must look at the budget as well. We must be sure that this Assembly has treated properly that very large staff in the Planning Authority with the allocation of funds that we have given them.
MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General and Minister for the Environment, Land and Planning (1.09 am): Mr Wood does raise an important issue in respect of the operation of the Planning Authority. It was perfectly plain to me, as I think it was plain to Mr Wood, that there were intense pressures on members of the staff of the Planning Authority in operating the ACT's planning system, almost all of them due, incidentally, to the way in which we as politicians formulated and developed the planning system that placed those sorts of pressures on them. It became incumbent on the Government to identify better ways of providing services, such as either to relieve pressure on those planners or to develop better resources or more resources to help them meet that task.
I commend to the house in that respect the Mant and Collins report, which I tabled earlier today but was not able to speak to because of the shortage of time. I suggest that that does contain some very interesting suggestions about how we might better organise the available resources in our planning system to overcome some of those difficulties. It may not be the full answer. Indeed, I know that there are some problems with the approach; but I think it is essential that we reconsider the structure of planning administration in the Territory, if Stein did not make that absolutely and abundantly necessary anyway, to deliver our services to people in a way that satisfies them without