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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 10 Hansard (13 October) . . Page.. 3030 ..


MS TUCKER (10.39): I present the Land (Planning and Environment) Legislation Amendment Bill 1999, together with its explanatory memorandum.

Title read by Clerk.

MS TUCKER: I move:

That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

This Bill primarily contains two amendments. The first amendment deletes references in the Land (Planning and Environment) Act to the Minister's call-in powers to revoke a referral of a development application to the Commissioner for Land and Planning for determination. The second amends the Land (Planning and Environment) Regulations to allow third party appeal rights against decisions to approve development applications for single dwellings that do not comply with performance measures in the design and siting code for single dwellings.

Let me address, firstly, the call-in powers. This issue goes back to the Stein inquiry in 1995 into the administration of ACT leasehold. Stein raised the need for an independent planning authority in the ACT to restore and secure public confidence in the planning and leasehold systems and to lessen the level of perceived political involvement in planning administration. The Government rejected this recommendation, but agreed that a strong, statutory, independent decision-maker should be the arbiter of contentious development applications and that separating decision-making from administration is critical if the planning system is to be credible, transparent and simple.

The Government established the position of Commissioner for Land and Planning to perform this role as part of amendments to the Land Act at the end of 1996. However, the Government did not want to give away too much of its power. It retained call-in powers to enable the Minister to call in for its decision "a major proposal of territory-wide significance". It is significant, however, that this statement, made in the Assembly on 28 March 1996, appears to be the only public statement by the Government on the criteria on which it would use its call-in powers.

Since the introduction of the call-in powers, I understand that there have been eight occasions when they have been exercised. On examination, it appears to be more the case that the current and previous Minister used these powers to fast-track the development applications and avoid third party appeals on those applications. It should be noted that, when a Minister exercises these call-in powers, not only is the Commissioner for Land and Planning by-passed but also all appeal rights against the development application immediately lapse under the regulations to the Land Act.

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