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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 6 Hansard (19 June) . . Page.. 2146 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

functions according to these principles. But if he has not, then I flag that we would aim to do this by amending Planning and Land Regulations 2003 by specifying these things in the requirements for the content of the agency's business plan.

The minister tabled a draft of these regulations when he presented this bill. He also spoke to these regulations and how they specify which matters the Planning and Land Authority refers to the Planning and Land Council and the process for preparing and approving the Land Development Agency's business plan. I will speak briefly to them now and then in more detail in the event of our moving a motion of disallowance in order to amend them.

The draft regulations provide for a fairly broad range of circumstances in which matters will be referred to the council, and that is good, but in our consultations we have heard different arguments about whether this is the best arrangement. For example, it has been suggested that, rather than simply specifying what the minister and authority can or must refer to the council, we should, in addition, allow this expert body to determine for itself what it should provide advice on-that is, initiate advice on its own motion where it perceives a need.

According to this argument, leaving the initiative solely with the minister and the authority has them presuming to know the council's mind on where advice on planning issues is called for. In other words, if it is worth seeking the council's advice, it is worth allowing them to have a view on what they provide advice on. A contrary argument that came through our consultations said that the model for the council was not one whereby it should be seen to promulgate policy or attempt to steer planning policy from the outside, so to speak.

An argument in between was that, in practical terms, there are probably ways that the council could slip in advice it thought important that might not be strictly what was asked for in its narrowest terms, and it would be difficult and perhaps politically unwise for a minister to stop that. It would be interesting to hear this minister's perspective on this. In any case, I understand that to change this aspect and provide for the council to initiate its own advice would require an amendment to the Planning and Land Act rather than just these regulations. On balance, I think it is something we would hold off on, preferring to see how the new planning system as proposed works in practice. However, we are still considering the issue.

Another matter in these regulations that we are wary of is the provision in regulation 4(2)(a), relating to defined land. This seems to allow for an exception to the circumstances in which the council's advice must be asked, in that it would exempt draft plan variations that relate only to defined land.

The defined land concept is already problematical in that it allows for the Territory Plan to be varied without any public scrutiny and thereby lends itself to potential abuse, as occurred with Harcourt Hill. That was an example of the previous government's destruction of remnant native woodland, despite having had the benefit of knowledge of its value and an opportunity to revisit the original boundaries.

Some years on, and with a Labor government that espouses a commitment to sustainability and the preservation of woodlands, it seems that not so much has

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