Page 1083 - Week 04 - Tuesday, 8 April 2008
approved list of attachments which may encroach over an adjoining road or public place will be listed in the definitions of the amended act. This list is presently limited to pretty unobtrusive attachments—basically eaves, gutters, downpipes and awnings. The act will be amended so that additional forms of attachments cannot be prescribed other than by regulation.
We are satisfied that this is a pretty sensible way of ensuring that the ambit of allowable attachments will not be extended without the opportunity for review by the Legislative Assembly. If we have any problems with a future proposed regulation for this unobtrusive kind of attachment, the Assembly could debate disallowance at that time.
There is nothing new about permitting encroachments of attachments to buildings over adjoining public land. The minister said in his address in December that there has always been a legal means to provide for approval. Until now, that means has been administrative and has entailed a cumbersome process to seek a direct grant, with the payment of a fee. This process is a pretty silly way of dealing with guttering. I am very pleased that this bill will remove these unnecessary administrative hurdles for something as simple as approving domestic gutters and drainpipes.
It is a pleasant surprise indeed to see the ACT government reducing some of their fee revenue for once, as small as it is. As a government, their record has been one of successive tax increases every year. We have seen many a new tax from Labor and I thought I would never see the day they would wind back a nuisance tax, but here we have it. Of course, real credit is probably due to the Government Solicitor’s Office for identifying that existing mechanisms were defective. Credit is also due to the New South Wales government for establishing a model that has worked successfully and which the ACT government has been able to cut and paste.
In complimenting the government for endorsing this reduction in revenue, the opposition notes that this is not a tax abolition; it is just a narrowing of the number of cases to which the fee applies. I was interested to see what the impact of the fee would be. In response to opposition inquiries, the government advised that the fee for a direct grant at present is $4,447 and the fee for a lease variation and consolidation is $1,510—quite a bite in the neck for someone who wants permission to attach the gutters and drainpipes to their unit. We are advised that there have been only three or four of these applications per year, so Labor will not be forgoing too much revenue. This change means little to government but a lot for individuals who have footed the bill in the past.
The opposition is satisfied with the arrangements in this bill for approving encroachments over public land. Before it automatically approves registration of the plan containing a minor encroachment, ACTPLA is required to satisfy itself that there is no danger to public safety, there is no unreasonable interference with the amenity of the neighbourhood and there is no public interest reason against approval of the application. These are reasonable tests and I think they cover the field of potential concerns in a sufficiently broad way. The opposition will therefore be supporting the bill.