Page 1520 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 10 May 2017
from time to time, perhaps to implement a master plan or to rezone some land or perhaps something more minor like correcting a typo. These changes are made through Territory Plan variations.
Most members of the Assembly will be aware that these Territory Plan variations are sometimes very complex and sometimes very painful for communities. Most members can probably remember very clearly all of the difficulties and community upset caused by at least one variation that has affected them over the years.
Because of this potential for community and stakeholder concern, the main Territory Plan variation process includes a formal, statutory consultation period. It also includes a process by which the minister can refer a draft variation to the Assembly standing committee for further investigation. The committee inquiry will often involve public hearings. Ultimately, the Legislative Assembly can reject a variation, item by item, if it wishes to.
But this is not the variation process that is addressed in my bill. There is another process called a technical amendment. This process will have either no consultation or limited consultation. This is where my concern, and the concerns of many people in the community, lies.
The act provides a list of situations when the government can use a technical amendment. It is obvious from the list why this technical amendment process was included in the act. For example, it allows the government to fix a typo without needing to use the full-blown process. This makes sense. The Greens completely understand that the government will from time to time need to fix errors or make other technical paperwork changes.
The problem is that a creeping habit has developed of technical amendments, or chains of technical amendments over time, being used for Territory Plan changes that accumulatively are not minor and actually warrant a community debate. I will give two examples. The first is the building of public housing on land zoned for community facilities which, of course, is a current issue, as we have just seen through petitions presented about public housing being built on land zoned for community facilities.
I am a strong supporter of public housing. I am personally, and the ACT Greens are. We always have been. The ACT Greens believe that access to safe, secure, appropriate and affordable housing is a human right and essential to health and social equity. The ACT has the second highest rate of homelessness in Australia, and there is absolutely no question that Canberra needs more affordable and public housing.
But should it be built on community facilities land? We have a limited supply of this land, particularly as new suburbs seem to have much less than many older ones. This land supply is a long-term community asset. It needs to cater for all of the community halls and places of worship and schools and so on for many years to come. This is the question that should be open for the community to have their say on. We want more public housing, we want more community facilities and we have limited land supply. How we balance that is a difficult question.