Page 1269 - Week 04 - Thursday, 10 April 2008

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I do thank ACTPLA officials for the briefings in relation to these regulations and other aspects of the planning reform. I know that I could seem to be making light of the enormous task that ACTPLA officials undertook in bringing the reforms to fruition—a major project. But I hope they appreciate my concern over the apparent lack of urgency or priority given to a far more urgent project. I am concerned that these changes will make it even harder to implement energy efficiency standards by leaving so much to the discretion of the builder.

I have been told that the prolific use of these call-in powers by the previous planning minister was largely the result of commercial interests abusing the appeal processes to delay and damage their competitors, and I do not doubt that this is true. But such abuses were not the only reason why the minister used his call-in powers. These regulations should include provisions which circumscribe when the minister can exercise those call-in powers. Additionally, they could copy provisions from some other jurisdictions and ensure that call-in powers are not beyond independent review. I have no confidence that the call-in powers as they currently stand will not be abused either by this government or a future Labor, Liberal or even business club party government. These regulations should reinstate the right of interested parties to challenge all planning decisions when they perceive actual breaches of planning legislation.

Other jurisdictions give tribunals the power to strike out matters that are perceived to be an abuse of process by commercial competitors. That is the right approach. They also give courts and tribunals penalty provisions to punish any such abuses. Was this approach considered? Indeed, was there any genuine attempt to revisit and solve the problem of malicious and anti-competitive legal actions by means that did not disenfranchise community interests as well?

I suspect that the argument of abuse of appeal mechanisms by developers is a convenient smokescreen to remove those pesky do-gooders from getting in the way of ACTPLA, the LDA and the developer clients. I also suspect that the Planning and Land Council was axed because it too was seen as a pesky do-gooder that did not always cheer on demand. Whatever happened to the Labor Party’s commitment to neighbourhood plans and neighbourhood planning principles? They have not been recognised in these regulations or anywhere else in the planning legislation that I have seen.

While some of the features whose absence I am criticising probably do not really belong in these regulations, the trouble is they are not anywhere in the planning legislation. This being the Assembly’s last chance to insist on these features in the current tranche of reform documents, this has to be where I choose to mourn the passing of those regulations. They state that the expansion to boundaries of town centre maps is consistent with the view that third party appeals should not be available within the commercial areas of these town centres.

How wide can the exemption boundaries be drawn before it becomes untenable to call them town centres, or policy-neutral changes for that matter? The whole idea of prohibiting community appeal rights on the basis of some arbitrary geographical

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