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Planning, Development and Infrastructure Bill

Below is my speech on the Planning, Development, and Infrastructure Bill currently being debated in Parliament. 

Mr WINGARD  ( Mitchell ) ( 22:17 :37 ): I rise to speak on the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Bill and to acknowledge the speakers on my side of the house who have already spoken on this bill. Unfortunately, my speech is starting much like many of theirs and much like it does on so many bills this government puts before the house. The government has written this bill and already drafted 70 amendments: can you believe it? The government has not made clear what regulations they want to attach to this bill. We are being told that 46 areas are yet to be created.

A draft of the charter for community participation deliberately is not available: yet again there are too many unanswered questions, and the government is just hoping the people of South Australia will not notice their poor handling of this matter or others before the house. I have been contacted by a number of local councils and other stakeholders who already have been mentioned by members before me, so I will speak mostly on behalf of the two local councils in my electorate.

The City of Marion is still looking at the legislation; it has not debated the bill yet. Unofficially it has indicated they have some concerns, but I will not put their issues on the record until they contact me with their formal position. The City of Onkaparinga on the other hand provided a much more detailed finding, and local ward councillors, Heidi Greaves and Gary Hennessy, both contacted me personally to voice their concerns. Mayor Lorraine Rosenberg sent through a 41-page, in-depth report, and I would like to table some of the findings here tonight.

To start with, it is pointed out that the planning minister wrote to the mayor in September 2015 referring to a website and phone number for further information. It encourages the council to take advantage of the website resources and various forums and workshops. However, it was also noted that there was no specific invitation in the letter to the council to provide comments. The council had concerns about the lack of time they have had to fully appreciate the content of the bill, but that is nothing new for this government; that is the way they operate. There is an overarching concern that has been the underlying theme in speeches across the night and that is a lack of transparency and a lack of consultation.

I refer to a document sent to me by the City of Norwood, Payneham and St Peters as well referring to this bill and they talk about the lack of consultation with government. In fact, they say there are many instances under the bill where provision is not made for consultation with councils, which is concerning. For example:

There is no consultation on the establishment of sub-regions, the decision to initiate an infrastructure scheme and the funding arrangements under an infrastructure scheme (even  where the C ouncil is to contribute to its funding). T he C ouncil requests  that this aspect of the B ill be reconsidered. 

But, again, I say it is no surprise. This government is very secretive in the way it operates and does not divulge to stakeholders what is, in fact, going on. The development industry as a whole has indicated that sufficient time has not been provided for the detailed review, particularly where legal support has been engaged. Other concerns that have alarm bells ringing with this bill are that nothing has been presented on the planning and design code, and the line on the map for the urban growth boundary is not available for review.

It sounds absurd, I know, but in this bill the government is proposing an urban growth boundary although it will not show where it is. It has been suggested that this sits in the arrogant camp or the inept camp—you can make up your mind where it falls. I will leave that to you to decide: putting an urban growth boundary line in the bill and not letting people know where it will run is unbelievable. Again that theme of highlighting a lack of detail rears its head with this bill, and others delivered by this government.

The Onkaparinga council have stated that they do not support this bill in its present form. I do not think any member has managed to find anyone who supports this bill in its current form, but I will outline a few of the Onkaparinga council's concerns.

… Council has made a concerted effort to engage in each stage of the reform process. 

In short, they will not support this bill in its present form and some of the points they raise centre on the following:

 Many of the reforms recommended by the Expert Panel could be achieved through amendments to the Development Act and the Development Regulations. Many 'blockages' in our present system are caused by our archaic definitions and concepts, particularly in the Regulations, which have not been amended to overcome modern demands and Court authorities which affect their meaning. 

 The Bill is difficult to support whilst much of the finer detail that will inform its implementation is left to regulations, the Planning and Design Code and design standards and practice directions. 

So just take that in for a second: the government is moving a bill with 46 regulations and they want people to submit their thoughts and have their say, and they want to pass it through this house, when they have not actually put those regulations on the table. Sounds absurd? I think it is.

 Whilst the Bill reduces the role of councils and the community in planning and assessment processes, the consequence of such decisions will continue to rest with council and its community. 

That is another concern that the City of Onkaparinga has raised.

Council queries whether sufficient resourcing will be provided to DPTI to create and implement the Planning and Design Code, and the new system. Planning decision-making processes consume considerable resources and from our experiences with DPTI, delays in DPAs are common place, as are delays in referral reports and other matters handled by the Development Assessment Commission (DAC). Considerable additional resourcing will need to be provided to DPTI to handle the implementation and management of the proposed new system. 

You can see it is just not clear and the council has concerns. They also go on to say:

 The bill contains many cost-shifting measures which will require council to fund the implementation of the new system (particularly the e-planning system)—   and I will talk more about that in a moment— and essential infrastructure. Council is opposed to these mechanisms and urges the state government to remove them. These cost-shifting mechanisms have the potential to compromise council's ability to deliver services to its community. 

The council is not clear on how this bill runs. In fact no-one is clear on what is happening with this bill and that is where the concerns are arising. Other things pointed out by the City of Onkaparinga are that objects and duties are not supported:

 The Council submits that the objects of the bill be amended to better balance competing factors in the planning system and the needs of our community.  This can be achieved through expressly recognising the need for balance in managing economic prosperity with orderly development that is sensitive to social, cultural and environmental factors. 

In fact, it has been pointed out by a number of stakeholders that environmental factors are not mentioned at all throughout this bill. The City of Onkaparinga also does not support the planning policy documents and planning and design code which I have already mentioned, but:

Council recognises the government's intent to create a series of planning policy documents to replace the planning strategy and to create a streamlined and integrated Planning and Design Code, supplemented by design standards. 

The Bill contains no detail as to whether council will be consulted by the Minister when these documents are prepared. The new Planning and Design Code should be informed by our understanding of place first (as articulated through our Development Plan), rather than be amended post-implementation to reflect this. 

The council believes it ought to be involved up front and throughout the development.

The council has raised other issues under that same heading. They raise the fact that the point behind these statements is to raise concerns about the ability of DPTI to achieve a planning and design code which is effective, consistent and which properly accounts for local needs where appropriate without significant funds being provided to it. They are worried about the funding that is going to go to DPTI.

The assessment panels as well are not supported by the City of Onkaparinga. Restricted pathways are not supported:

 

 

Council is very concerned that there is no requirement to inform council of a restricted development other than through the public notification mechanism. Councils should be kept notified of such applications due to the community interest they generate. 

The council believes they should be advised as soon as the State Planning Commission (SPC) receives and categorises an application as restricted, to ensure that they agree that it is a correct determination and correct procedure.

Ministerial assessment and alternative assessment pathways for crown development and infrastructure are also not supported by the City of Onkaparinga. Reduced public notification and loss of appeal rights are also not supported. The council notes that the bill is likely to result in reduced public notification and reduced appeal rights. While the council appreciates this is predicated on improved up-front discussion with the community on matters of policy, such as through the new citizens participation charter, the council respects these changes will not meet community expectations and will create additional angst in response to development occurring throughout the council area.

Essential infrastructure funding is not supported. It is something that a lot of members have talked about already this evening and that I have raised previously as well. The council is concerned by:

…the potential breadth of the essential infrastructure delivery scheme and extremely broad definition of 'essential infrastructure', which can include additional infrastructure designated by the Planning and Design Code and the regulations. The definition of essential infrastructure should be limited so that its breadth can only be increased through an amending Act of Parliament to ensure public confidence in the delivery scheme, particularly given that it proposes a form of indirect taxation to fund infrastructure. 

It is no surprise that the council has identified that this government is looking at another form of taxation and, as they claim, an indirect taxation to fund infrastructure.

Further, the council is concerned that the Bill does not propose any express mechanisms to ensure that the savings to be achieved by the scheme will be passed on to the purchasers of new allotments of land by developers. Without such a mechanism, the intended savings to first home owners to increase rates of home ownership in South Australia arguably will never be achieved. 

The council understands from comments made to various forums that the passing on of savings will be left to the market.

Other points that the council has not supported include entry onto land. The council is wholly opposed to the new provisions that require local government to be involved in the access to land through the bill. Most development applications in the Onkaparinga council area require retaining walls, fences and other structures that cannot be constructed without entering onto neighbouring land. The resource implications of these provisions in issuing notices, considering applications for authorisation and enforcing these provisions are significant.

The City of Onkaparinga submits that such matters should be left to individual landowners to resolve between themselves, as is currently achieved through the Fences Act. Involving councils in such matters will only result in resource implications and will not significantly improve development outcomes. The City of Onkaparinga is not in the business of being a mediator in civil matters between neighbours. It is simply not their role and the provisions of the bill should be deleted altogether. That is what they conclude by saying when talking about entry onto land. Clearly, we can see that it is not supported.

Amendments to the Local Government Act 1999 are not supported, either. Enforcement and compliance is supported subject to amendments. They say:

Council notes the new enforcement and compliance 'tools' of adverse publicity orders, civil penalties, enforceable voluntary undertakings and the recovery of economic benefits. However, [the council is] concerned these mechanisms are made only available to the proposed State Planning Commission and not councils. 

They query the intent behind this and say:

Creating new enforcement tools exercisable by the Commission only gives rise to community expectations that the Commission will use those tools. Without significant resourcing being provided to the Commission, these tools are ineffective. 

Again, more concerns are being raised by the City of Onkaparinga.

E-Planning, I said I would mention, and that is supported subject to satisfactory funding arrangements. Again, we can see the theme of the issues being raised by the council, with funding being a notable concern. They say:

Council is pleased to see the 'framework' for the state-wide planning portal. If the portal is developed consistent with the Bill's framework and appropriately resourced, it will provide a sophisticated lodgement and information system, increase openness and transparency in the planning system and will increase public access to planning documents. 

The council, however:

…urge the government to carefully consider the fees and charges for access and use of the online planning portal as many of [the City of Onkaparinga] residents are elderly and/or on low incomes and would not be able to afford significant fees and charges to access this system. 

Council currently has an operational e-planning system in the City of Onkaparinga and they strongly encourage the state government to undertake meaningful consultation and collaboration with the City of Onkaparinga and other councils who have undertaken such projects in establishing the portal. They say:

There is opportunity to save significant time, money and resources by analysing and exploiting the work already undertaken by councils in developing their own systems. 

The council will be willing to share their experiences with the government in this regard. That is something I will keep very close watch on, because there is a great opportunity, with the support of the councils involved, where bringing all the systems together can potentially save money for ratepayers and save money for the people of South Australia, because we know at the moment people are hurting in their hip pocket. So the e-planning system and the option is being put forward for the government to work with the councils and look at some ways that they can all come together with work that has already been done and save a lot of money for people in the Onkaparinga council area in particular. Local heritage is supported in principle. The council goes on to say:

We support the inclusion of local heritage places within the proposed Planning and Design Code, which is intended to be an integrated and comprehensive list of places of local heritage significance. However, it is essential that the existing local heritage places in council's area be 'carried over' or incorporated into the code, so that the important protections afforded to those local heritage places are not lost. 

Tree protection is supported in principle but the big issue and the common theme that has come through from all the speakers before me tonight and is pointed out in the conclusion of the council's submission is the time frame for submissions. They say:

Council notes there is no formal consultation process for submissions and comments on the Bill…We would appreciate clarification on the government's intentions concerning the progress of the Bill and further consultation intentions. This will enable proper engagement on the details of the Bill and ensure that it benefits from the combined wisdom of local government and the development industry. 

Clearly, there are issues here amongst a lot of the key stakeholders, as I have pointed out, and taking the time to talk about one of the councils in my electorate, the City of Onkaparinga, has made it abundantly clear that this government has forced this through and not consulted, as would be seen fit. A lot of organisations, including the City of Marion, have struggled to get together an assessment of this bill.

We have mentioned already that 70 or more amendments have been made to the bill since it has been put forward, and there are 46 regulations which the government is keeping secret and will not allow anyone to see. Again, it beggars belief, and I can understand why people are very confused, but that is the way this government does business. They do not like to let people know what is going on. In fact, they like to keep things secret, and they like to trick South Australians wherever possible.

Having gone through all those proposals, I must commend the City of Onkaparinga for being ahead of the game and putting together these issues with this bill. You have to be ahead of the game because this government will be sneaky and try to get their legislation or regulations through without stakeholder involvement. They will be as sneaky and as tricky as they possibly can. That is what they do, and that is what they give to South Australians. I believe South Australians deserve a heck of a lot better.

Unfortunately, like many others, in the brief time line that has been given, the City of Marion council did not have enough time but, when I do receive their thoughts and concerns, I will forward them on to the minister. Sadly, as this government has proven, whilst we will put issues forward, we will want to discuss things and we will want to debate things with them, it is very unlikely that they will listen.

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