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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 13 Hansard (21 November) . . Page.. 3954 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

on the Federal Golf Course, which was promoted by the former Liberal government but ultimately rejected by the Assembly.

The Planning and Land Authority may approve development applications, but in many cases this power is constrained. In cases where there are objections to a development application, the final decision may be subject to appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The government has proposed the addition of a new stage in this process where applicants can seek a reconsideration of a decision. I can see some value in keeping these disputes out of the AAT, but I am concerned that only the applicant is given this right and not an objector. No doubt this point will be discussed further in the detail stage.

While having day-to-day independence, the chief planning executive of the Planning and Land Authority will still need to be appointed by the government in the first place. Having a statutory Planning and Land Authority will achieve nothing if the person appointed is a mate of the government, has vested interests or is not sufficiently qualified for the job. The Assembly will have an important role here in scrutinising this appointment. I am concerned that the bill does not include any qualifications for the chief planning executive. To gain the community's respect for the authority, I think it is important that this person be a recognised professional in the planning field.

Another initiative that will need to prove its worth is the minister's establishment of the Planning and Land Council to give advice to the minister and the authority. This council does have the potential to provide independent expert input directly into the planning process and to bring more accountability into the process. Again though, its worth will be largely dependent on who is appointed to it. It should also not be regarded as a replacement for existing consultation processes with the broader public and with residents groups.

The other major part of this bill is the establishment of the Land Development Agency, which will carry out land subdivision on behalf of the government. We have all heard the bleatings of the land developers and their Liberal Party mates over this. Whatever arguments they raise, it is quite clear that primarily they do not want the government to take away the profit they are currently making from land development in the ACT. They also seem to forget that private land development is a relatively new phenomenon in the ACT. Canberra was built from nothing by the federal government, and particularly the NCDC, as I mentioned earlier. Private land development really started to occur only after self-government and could be regarded as an aberration at a time when the Assembly was still working out the best way of proceeding with planning and land development after self-government.

Land is the ACT's greatest asset and the Assembly and the government must make sure that it is used in the most appropriate and sustainable way. It should not just be sold off to the highest bidder for them to make a buck out of. Given the small size of the ACT, the land development market is not a fully competitive market. There is a limited number of land developers and considerable vertical integration with building construction companies. I have received a number of complaints from people looking for a block of land in Gungahlin to build a house of their own design who have found that all the best blocks have already been sold to builders who spec-build houses. The choice becomes reduced to a limited range of house and land packages.

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