Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 03 Hansard (Tuesday, 24 February 2009) . . Page.. 860 ..
MS LE COUTEUR: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I thank the minister for his information and I note that I am still waiting for a full briefing on his proposed changes.
Minister, the ACT chief planner, Neil Savery, recently said that a manageable number of development applications is 150 but that ACTPLA is currently dealing with 400 of them. What are you doing to fix this problem? Is the real reason that you are planning to circumvent standard planning processes the fact that ACTPLA appears not to have adequate staff and resources?
MR BARR: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I anticipated some of the supplementary question in my initial answer. I can, of course, repeat for the member that, as part of a range of initiatives introduced, firstly, around the change to the planning system in 2007 and then through 2008 and then through another set of initiatives that I released in December of last year, there has been a significant reassignment and reallocation of resources within the Planning and Land Authority to put more resources into the development assessment area.
As I indicated previously, more than 400 development applications were processed through December to February. There are now less than 300 outstanding. I recognise the comments from the chief executive of the Planning and Land Authority that a desirable number to have in the system is about 150, and that is why this process will continue.
My response to the member’s question would be: does she think this would at all be aided by adding in potentially 300 new DAs from schools all at the same time? This is an unprecedented number and breadth of public works across all schools in the territory. We are moving quickly to respond, but it is important to recognise that in responding to the commonwealth’s time lines we, like all other jurisdictions, will have to move away from a business as usual approach.
It is worth noting, just by way of contrast, how other jurisdictions are responding. In South Australia and New South Wales the governments in those two states are moving a blanket exemption for all projects under the stimulus package—a blanket exemption. All local councils are being bypassed in New South Wales and a similar process is occurring in South Australia. In Queensland and Victoria it is my understanding that infrastructure developments on school sites are already exempt in their planning systems.
Difficult and challenging times require different approaches. Fortunately, this Assembly and this government had the foresight to change our planning system. We now have a capacity, through regulation, to make a simple change to exempt further categories of development on our schools. We will, of course, as I indicated in my public comments last week, provide a set of criteria in relation to building heights and setbacks to ensure that any development on school sites is consistent with the territory plan.
These are a simple and straightforward range of commonsense exemptions that we can make. I have just been passed a note. Another stakeholder has come out in support