Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 02 Hansard (Thursday, 6 March 2008) . . Page.. 661 ..
DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (5.29): I thank the government very much for allowing me to have an extension of time because my contribution will take a little over 10 minutes.
While the consultative process that has accompanied this reform has been extensive, I am concerned that it is so extensive and so complicated that most people and groups in the community have had neither the will nor the resources to get on top of the material and gain a clear view of the implications inherent in the proposed planning system. It has certainly stretched the resources of my office to keep track of this project. I am grateful for the contributions made by a small number of non-government organisations and individuals and for the briefings I have received from various community groups who have relayed their concerns to me.
I would like to put on the record that I have been impressed by the willingness of ACTPLA, the LDA and the government to provide briefings for me and my staff. I have also been impressed by the standard of those briefings; I congratulate everyone involved. I heard a great number of very welcome social, environmental, water and energy efficiency intentions expressed at those briefings. Nonetheless, I have serious doubts that these legislative instruments are adequate for the task of transforming these good intentions into realities.
The Greens are highly dubious about the desirability of removing various regulatory checks and balances which have developed in response to actual problems which have emerged in the past with regard to inappropriate development proposals. While I welcome the removal of some constraints and expenses that attach to such things as single-storey residential developments and various minor structures like pergolas and verandas, I think that the removal of consultative processes and appeal mechanisms has gone too far. I have serious concerns that other agendas may be being pushed here.
When we submit these reforms to the test of whose interests these proposals appear to serve, we see that the principal beneficiaries seem to be the relevant lobby, and the biggest losers appear to be concerned members of the community and community groups, who will now be reliant on the responsiveness, expertise and goodwill of the planning authorities and the government to take their concerns on board. I have heard of so many cases where ACTPLA officials got it wrong—where they failed to apply their own rules—and this was picked up by community organisations and empowered individuals, that I fear that that trust would be misplaced. Power has been concentrated in the hands of ACTPLA by removing various consultative bodies and independent merit review tribunals. Whether ACTPLA and the LDA have the competence and the political will to oversee the planning system in the interests of making Canberra a place where people will want to live in 2050 remains to be seen.
I was not reassured by the LDA’s rejection of the necessity to bring in specialist community, environmental and energy efficiency planning expertise—instead relying on existing staff, who lack the expertise, which they admitted, to educate themselves, and presumably to re-evaluate their professional and personal perspectives, so that environmental and energy efficiency considerations inform and sometimes take priority over more traditional planning priorities. While this is a laudable aim, I do not think it is realistic. And, from what I have seen, I do not think that the LDA as