Page 317 - Week 01 - Thursday, 12 February 2015

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The Greens have spent quite a while considering the merits of this bill and whether it was the right thing to do. I have come to the conclusion that this bill strikes the right balance between ensuring that the government is being open and transparent on light rail related planning and development issues and establishing a system that allows light rail to be rolled out in a timely and functional manner.

It is certainly worth clarifying that this bill does not extend to any other development proposals that may arise within the light rail corridor that are not directly related to light rail tracks or infrastructure. The approvals for installing light rail are already complex, given that the NCA approves proposals within the median strip and ACTPLA approves proposals outside this.

This legislation introduces six key changes to our planning legislation. Firstly, this bill introduces a clear definition of a development related to light rail. I know there are many concerns that this is the clause that will be abused, but the criteria as outlined in section 137A of the bill are very clear and specific. The proposal must facilitate the construction, ongoing operation and maintenance, repairs, refurbishment, relocation or replacement of light rail track or clearly light rail related infrastructure within one kilometre of existing or proposed light rail tracks.

The definition of “relevant infrastructure” is restricted to things such as fencing, access roads, parking, station amenities, entry and access points, substations and signalling and control facilities. This does not allow for infrastructure for any other kind of rail, including that it cannot be used for heavy rail or high speed rail.

The second key feature is that it restricts three avenues of community legal review for, and only for, DAs that fall under this legislation—that is, those directly related to light rail or light rail infrastructure. Firstly, it removes ACAT merit review. There is an interesting debate to be had about ACAT review, as it can be a very time-consuming process. It has been suggested that it would be preferable to review and reform the ACT process rather than remove access rights. This would improve the ACAT experience across the board, and not just for major government proposals. This is a worthy suggestion but unfortunately not one that can be done in a useful and timely manner right now. For now, the proposal in this bill is the best path forward in this area. It is also worth noting that proposals for light rail within the median strip are approved by the NCA, as Minister Corbell noted, and already exclude ACAT merit review.

The second avenue is that it removes Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act matters. I note that if the bilateral agreement with the federal government on EPBC matters is not progressed through the federal parliament, noting that it has been stuck in the Senate since mid last year, these clauses relating to protected matters may never commence.

The third area is that it requires any common law appeals in the Supreme Court to be lodged within 60 days. This should not be a large restriction on the community. I believe two months is enough time to ascertain whether someone has decided that they are so opposed to a proposal in the case of light rail infrastructure and whether there are grounds to appeal it while also giving timing certainty to the proponent.

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