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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 13 Hansard (21 November) . . Page.. 3956 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

election supporting the concept of an independent planning authority, and we clearly stated our aim to ensure that it is both transparent and independent. The Democrats do not harbour an ideological opposition against the public development of land and we see no reason to oppose the land agency for this alone.

However, I do remain concerned about the structure of the Planning and Land Authority. Those two key concepts of accountability and independence are central to creating a functioning authority that will have the ability to take some of the politics out of planning, as well as maintaining community confidence and support. Essential to this is that the Planning and Land Authority maintains its independence from the government and the planning minister. The authority must be able to carry out its functions unhindered by unnecessary political direction or interference from the minister. Minister Corbell has previously stressed his opposition to the overtly political use of PALM by the government, and the Assembly trusts that this will also be the case for the new planning authority.

However, Mr Corbell will not always be the planning minister, and it is vital that we ensure that the authority retains its independence whether or not the minister takes a hands-off stance. One way to accomplish this is to limit the number of avenues for ministerial direction and to ensure that unnecessary ministerial interference can be countered by the contrary opinion of the Assembly.

In particular, the Planning and Land Bill gives the minister two potentially wide-ranging powers to direct the activities of the authority. These are the statement of planning intent and the power of direction. While the minister has previously outlined the uses he envisages for these powers, it is not hard to think of circumstances where they could be abused for political gain. These powers have not been codified in the legislation, and there does not appear to be any intention to do so. The committee inquiry raised concerns with these powers, and I believe that the Assembly should reconsider these clauses before passing the bill.

A second set of considerations relates to how the planning system interacts with the Canberra community. Some consider planning as simply an expert pursuit and believe that if we leave everything to the professionals then everything will be okay. There is, of course, an essential and important role for professional planning in our city. However, the role of the community is fundamental to a good planning system. A good planning system is one that is responsive to the needs and wants of the population and allows the community to participate in how the city is shaped. Good planning comes from developing grassroots ideas and necessities, not imposing control from above. Good planning means that people have confidence in the system and feel some ownership over the process. Yet these ideals have barely registered in the government's development of this legislation.

Community input should not be something that is tacked on to the end of the planning process. It should be present from the beginning. I am disappointed that the government has put forward a planning bill that contains no reference to community partnerships, nor does it include community organisations at any level in Canberra's planning architecture. I have some amendments that will begin to redress this imbalance.

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