Page 2269 - Week 06 - Friday, 27 June 2008
swallow. And there are a large number of people in the community who actually asked themselves, “These people had stewardship of this property for 26 years. Could they have not stayed there for another two, four, six months, however long it was, and save the territory the money and the eyesore of suddenly having a security guard and a security fence around the area that otherwise could have been maintained?” (Second speaking period taken.)
The other failure of process was the approval that we dwelt upon, the approval of three separate developments on Wentworth Avenue and in the Kingston Foreshore area that do not comply with the territory plan. This was an interesting journey of discovery, shall we say. We had the usual response from ministers for planning and officials who, when they are put under pressure, say, “This is extraordinarily sensitive. We need to go in camera.”
We left that discussion for a while and members of the committee had a lengthy discussion about whether or not it was necessary to go in camera. Then we explored the matter a little further with the minister and officials and it became perfectly clear that it was not necessary to go in camera about this issue. This, quite simply, was a stuff-up. That is a technical term; they use it in ACTPLA a lot. This was a stuff-up.
The ministers always say, “There are thousands of applications that go through ACTPLA every year; no-one objects to them,” et cetera, et cetera. But the ones that fail are standout startlers. And this has to be one—three developments of five storeys, when only four are allowed. Yes, they come in under the height rules but this came about, it seems, as far as we can tell, because one single officer made some decisions that were not peer-reviewed, despite the practices, and because we have a system where one single officer can make an irrevocable decision which is against the law and we cannot do anything about it.
We are going to build buildings on Wentworth Avenue which do not comply with the law, and the people of the ACT can do nothing about it. What about all the other people who want to build on Wentworth Avenue and who would like to build five storeys when only four are allowed? What does it say about the fairness of the system?
There are still a lot of questions to be answered about this. And it may be that we just have to chalk this one up for experience. But we had better learn from our experience because we cannot allow this sort of thing to happen again. This is an abuse of the system. And it is at least an abuse of the system in that an official—and I do not know who this person is, and I do not ever want to know who this person is—approved something; he got it wrong, I hope mistakenly; there was no peer review, despite the procedures in the department. The chief planning executive for years has been extolling to estimates committees and annual reports committees the benefits of the peer review system. On this occasion there was no peer review. And there is no recourse for a decision that was wrongly made.
There are strong recommendations in the dissenting comments in relation to electronic controls to ensure that we avoid the situations of the past. I think it was passing strange that the majority of Labor members of the estimates committee could not