Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 13 Hansard (21 November) . . Page.. 3967 ..
MRS DUNNE (continuing):
Objectors to the original development application have to be given four weeks to comment. The authority then has to make a final decision. If the authority fails to come to a decision within four weeks of the application, it is to be taken to have confirmed the original decision. This is a matter of some contention which was raised by many of the institutional bodies that made submissions to the Planning and Environment Committee's inquiry.
This raises the hotly debated questions of whether we should turn around the current process and whether, if a decision is not made by within the timeframe, the application is deemed to have been denied. Perhaps we should be more proactive, and if a decision is not made within the timeframe, the application is deemed to be have been approved.
After that people may still go to the AAT if they want to. However, this is seen as a way of avoiding the AAT and is commendable in some ways. It is hoped that this will be a way of resolving some of the conflict that occurs about DAs and that there will be some role for what might be called conflict resolution.
There is still a lot to be explained about the way this would work. It is not entirely clear whether the process will come to an outcome that is satisfactory to everyone. In his presentation speech, the minister said that the new function will enable the authority to engage in effective conflict resolution and revisit decisions in order to achieve better outcomes for the benefit of the community, objectors and applicants, without resort to the formal AAT review process. An arguable down side is that a win any objector thought they had achieved over the development can be immediately put at risk by reventilation of the DA in the AAT. This is an area which I think has some potential for benefit for the community, but it will need to be closely observed to ensure that it does bring about the benefit that is proposed.
MS DUNDAS (6.07): This bill largely consists of minor amendments arising from the main Planning and Land Bill. However, some clauses considerably alter the current operation of Canberra's planning system. I notice that the government decided to retain some power over the granting of leases. While in general leases would be granted by the authority, the minister may effectively call in the decision by ordering an assessment and then deciding the issue directly. This, I believe, undermines the purpose of delegating these decisions to an independent authority in the first place.
This bill also sets out a new framework for the use of call-in powers by the minister. It indicates that the minister must first consult with the authority and the Planning and Land Council before determining a development application. The ACT Democrats agree that this is a slight improvement on the previous system but believe the act should go even further.
The ACT Democrats went to the last election opposing the presence of call-in powers. If the Assembly does not agree that they should be removed from the planning system, then we should at least require a greater degree of accountability to prevent abuse of the planning process.
Furthermore, these consequential amendments substantially alter the process of review of development applications. The planning commissioner will be abolished, and in the commissioner's place the authority will be able to reconsider development applications.