Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 02 Hansard (Thursday, 6 March 2008) . . Page.. 658 ..
MR SESELJA (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition) (5.17): The opposition will be supporting the motion. From the outset, the opposition has supported moves to simplify the planning system in the ACT—indeed, the introduction of a new territory plan. The territory plan forms a critical part of our planning framework in the ACT. A comprehensive overhaul of the plan presented both opportunities and very real concerns as all stakeholders sought to ensure that the overhaul was complete and that there would be little need to retrospectively correct the plan.
Within the context of the housing affordability crisis and limited commercial land opportunities within the ACT, a reduction of process was obviously in the interests of both the commercial and residential markets. Whilst the government had the support of the opposition, there were very serious concerns raised regarding the initial draft of the plan. Generally, the attitude of the opposition to planning in these past few years has been much more constructive than what we saw from the former shadow planning minister, Simon Corbell, who seemed to take the attitude of opposing anything that was done by the government of the day. That is not the attitude we have taken in opposition.
Feedback from both the broad community and key industry stakeholders suggested that the initial reforms did not address all of the requirements of the overhaul and, further, created new problems that would need to be dealt with. The first draft was severely criticised by industry groups, which led to a delay in the implementation. With regard to both the industry and opposition’s concerns, the issue of policy neutrality was raised. The true lack of policy neutrality in the drafted plan could potentially have led to the loss of development rights whilst concurrently offering a windfall in certain cases.
The opposition supported and respected the move of the government to establish the working group representing industry associations. The consultations have hopefully produced a plan that meets the needs of both the community and industry. Certainly my position on the delay was that, whilst it was unfortunate and I think it would have been better if we had not had to have the delay, given the draft that we had it was better that the time was taken to try and get it right. We hope that the version that is being approved today will stand the test of time.
I turn to some of the detail of the new territory plan. The minister noted—the opposition has noted it too—the stripping of the overlay protecting open spaces surrounding school sites. Obviously this is a precursor to eventual possible development of the closed school sites by the Stanhope Labor government. I wonder how it fits in with the ACT Labor Party’s policy from the 2001 election, which was to “identify and classify Canberra’s open space network in consultation with the community” and which said, “Following this, an ACT Labor Government will move to have these land use policies entrenched, by referendum, in the Territory Plan.” I guess we will continue to wait with bated breath for this referendum.
At the same time, we are not opposed to the removal of this overlay. It clearly signals an intention on the part of the government, but we will look very closely at their plans for particular development at closed school sites and whether or not they fit in with