Page 3313 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 18 September 2013

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This provides an important opportunity for people with a strong interest to provide comment and a formal mechanism for consideration of those community views. In addition to public comments the decision-maker, whether that is the planning authority or the minister, is required to consider a range of matters including the objectives of the zone, the suitability of the land where the development is proposed to take place, advice from entities and the probable impact of the proposed development.

Madam Speaker, no application has yet been received. We do not know if the proposal will trigger the need for an environmental impact statement under the Planning and Development Act. What we do know, though, is that if a development proposal for a solar farm at this site is received it will be required to be accompanied by an assessment of environmental effects addressing impacts on the amenity of surrounding land uses, rural character and the role and character of the hills and ridges as a visual backdrop to this setting.

Examples of key matters that the planners will have to assess on receipt of any application include visual impacts, impacts of glare on road users and aircraft, ecological impacts, bushfire hazard management, heritage-related impacts, water use and management, and site management during construction. It would be completely premature to make any commitments about the use of ministerial call-in powers in relation to this proposed development, given that no formal development application has been received by the Planning and Land Authority at this time.

I must note that these powers can be used to approve or refuse a development, and form part of a statutory function granted to the minister under the act designed to protect the broader public interest. To make a commitment surrounding the use of the call-in powers without first allowing the statutory procedure for doing so and without knowing the details of an application would be improper and no different to the principle of the Assembly asking me to approve something without a development application.

The key differences when a decision is made about the use of call-in powers is that the minister makes the decision, instead of the authority. The decision cannot be amended and there is no third-party appeal. But it is not the case that there is no public consultation or that it is foreshortened. As I have indicated in my earlier comments, it is quite clear that that process is followed to the letter, regardless of who the decision-maker is.

An example of the recent application of the call-in provisions was the decision I took in relation to the Royalla solar farm. I determined that the proposal should be approved in that instance because it would provide a substantial public benefit for the broader Canberra community. It would abate hundreds of thousands of tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions over its life. It would generate jobs and investment in our city. I considered in deciding that application the advice from a variety of government entities, representations from the community and the proponent’s response.

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