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Land Use Planning And Approvals Amendment (Tasmanian Planning Policies And Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2018

Parliamentary Activity - Thursday, 22 November 2018


Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Speaker, I am pleased to provide the Greens' support for this Land Use Planning Approvals Amendment Bill. I am pleased to do that particularly because of the willingness of the minister to have the conversations about concerns raised by stakeholders. There are stakeholders in Tasmania who have spent their career focusing on planning, people who are planners, but also people in legal centres, lawyers, members of the community, and strong advocates for people who are coming to understand the value of standing up and speaking out about things you care about in your communities.

The process of the Tasmanian Planning Scheme implementation that went through this parliament in 2015, the act, caused a lot of anxiety in the community because there were things that were missed in that and a process that was unduly hasty - by the previous minister, I hasten to add. That was unfortunate. One of the things people spoke very strongly about was the grave mistake to rush ahead with creating a Tasmanian planning scheme without overarching policies to guide the development of that scheme.

Here we are today and I am very pleased that the minister has been willing to listen to some of those stakeholders who came together in 2015 and have remained a strong force for good in the community by putting their time into thinking deeply about the issues for planning, how we live, where we put our money and how we manage our resources in this state for the good of us all in Tasmania and to preserve the environment that sustains us.

What we have before us are the Tasmanian planning policies that will sit over the top of the Tasmanian Planning Scheme. I would like to talk about the statewide planning scheme. The process was rushed and widely decried by pretty much every planner from local councils that I listened to in the public hearings process before the Planning Commission. It was also decried for being loose in its language in the wrong places and overly narrow in its language in other places. In planning you would have to accept that you will not please all the people all the time, there is no doubt about that, but the overall view from the community and local government was that that process was rushed and in the scrambling of the eggs it missed some very important code overlays, particularly around cultural and Aboriginal heritage protection, a sufficiently rigorous biodiversity code, and it missed Tasmanian planning policies to guide it.

One of the things it definitely did not do well enough was to protect heritage. There were hundreds of properties removed from the Tasmanian Heritage Register by the Liberal Government and dramatic changes were made to the planning laws under the Tasmanian Planning Scheme that removed a number of protections for streetscapes and heritage buildings that had been in place before that. There is strong concern about the changing fabric of Tasmania in terms of the towns and cities, particularly in relation to building heights, massing density and the ability of people to have say over developments that are within their neighbourhood. The Greens believe that the Planning Commission needs to be able to review the heritage code within the state planning provisions. That is ongoing work that must be done.

We also believe that the current natural assets code has exemptions, gaps, loopholes and vague terms that will continue to encourage landscape fragmentation and degradation and fundamentally threaten the ability for plants and animals to be able to survive given their shrinking habitat, the break in connectivity between landscapes across Tasmania, which happens simply by a death of a thousand cuts, in this case the death of a thousand chainsaws, which is where developments break up landscape and reduce the opportunity for plants and animals to adapt given the changing climate we are all facing. We believe the Planning Commission ought to be instructed to review the natural assets code as a matter or priority and be provided with the resources for biodiversity mapping so there is up-to- date information to provide the appropriate zoning and inform the decisions that are made under the natural assets code.

Something that has also become apparent in the statewide planning scheme as it has rolled out is that there needs to be much stronger opportunities for the Tasmanian community to have their say and level the playing field between developers and individuals or community groups in terms of reducing financial barriers for people to appeal planning decisions and prevent communities from being required to pay exorbitant costs when they want to appeal a planning decision.

We saw the successful appeal the Cremorne community took to the Resource Management Planning and Appeal Tribunal. I did not hear the final estimate but I believe it cost them in or the order of $30 000. That money was raised by the community and it was raised mostly with the tea towel drive - unbelievable, but true. It was raised with events they ran in their small community and was successfully prosecuted through the Resource Management Planning and Appeal Tribunal. It was successfully prosecuted but that is an undue burden for a community to have to bear; $ 30 000 for around 200 households in Cremorne and they shared that cost. They shared that cost because they care so much about their community.

We remain concerned about that there is a onesizefitsall fee designed for the Resource Management Planning and Appeal Tribunal. Instead, there should be a tiered approach depending on who you are, your resources and ability to pay and you would be required to pay different fees.

At the top we have the Tasmanian Planning Scheme. There are many things that need to be amended within the Tasmanian Planning Scheme. There is much work for the Tasmanian Planning Commission. It would be great if this minister took it on, in the context of looking at introducing Tasmanian planning policies, to fix the elements of the Tasmanian Planning Scheme identified by the Tasmanian Planning Commission. The Tasmanian Planning Commission did a fantastic review and they made a series of recommendations. The previous minister for planning ignored many important recommendations. He completely ignored their advice.

After the exhibition period and the public hearings that went on for months and months with councils from all around the state a very common, comprehensive body of evidence was formed that showed substantial parts of the Tasmanian Planning Scheme needed more time to be properly reviewed. The Planning Commission made a number of recommendations that the previous minister did not adopt. That is outstanding work for this minister to revisit, to look at the Planning Commission's recommendations in that report on the Tasmanian Planning Scheme and consider picking them up again . It is not too late. It would be a great thing for this state to do so because, in the context of Tasmanian planning policies, the Tasmanian Planning Scheme is where the rubber hits the road in planning.

Over the top of that we have these Tasmanian planning policies and I return to those the minister has outlined in a moment. I want to look to the higher level of state policies. As the minister said, we have only three. We only ever created three: the protection of agricultural land, water quality, and the coastal policy. As Mr O'Byrne, the member for Franklin, said, we need a firm commitment from the Government to create more. While we accept there is a place for Tasmanian planning policies, which is within the narrow framework of the planning system, we have a desperate need for state planning across some hugely critical areas for our future. The job of state policies is to link agencies together in a united way, so they are not looking at the central issues of our century in a silo fashion.

The Tasmanian Greens believe we need a minimum of six new state policies around big issues that determine the state's security and the quality of every person's life. They are: climate change, settlement transport and infrastructure, biodiversity management, public consultation, health and wellbeing, and cultural preservation.

Climate change must come first. We now know that we, as a global community, have only 12 years to deal with the increasing warming of the atmosphere. We have only 12 years to put in place mitigation measures to reduce emissions to make sure we do not exceed 1.5 degrees of global warming. We have gone over 1 degree. We, as a world, are on track with our current emissions to warm more than 3 degrees. We are seeing extreme, volatile climate changes, much more than climate scientists thought we would at 1 degree of warming. We must stay under 1.5 degrees.

This is not me saying this. I am parroting what the Internaitonal Panel on Climate Change has said in its very severe warning to nations. In the context of that, the first state policy we must look at is a policy on climate change. Fortunately, the previous climate change minister, Ms O'Connor, developed a very good start. It was the climate smart 2020 strategy, which is and remains a comprehensive plan to reduce carbon emissions and adapt to the already extensive changes global warming is causing to the weather patterns of Tasmania. We need a climate change statewide policy to address the management of natural resources such as water and arable land.

The second state policy we need on settlement transport and infrastructure would deal with the fact that successive Liberal and Labor governments have presented population growth figures that appear to have been plucked out of the air or created on the back of an envelope. There has never been any substance behind the population figures that have been presented. That is madness when we are trying to work out settlement strategy decisions. We have to make an informed decision about what the population growth figure looks like if we are going to decide which parts of agricultural land we will protect, and which parts of the lands we might like to protect will have the water we need to water crops this century. We cannot prevaricate any longer.

It is totally interlinked, which is why we have put settlement, transport and infrastructure as whole state policy. The long-term settlement patterns and the transport that connects regions and the infrastructure needed to service them are tightly linked. We are seeing this with the issues with the Southern Outlet. We are seeing this everywhere. All the bottlenecks around the state relate to the large development in population density in an outlying area and councils, because two councils are involved, have not solved the road problem or how you move people between places. We will never get there unless we do that. We can do that in a planning policy but, unfortunately, if we only do it in a Tasmanian planning policy it is only within the planning scheme. It does not address the issue of transport and settlement issues across all the agencies. Health, education and housing all need to be part of the story.

The third area we need a state policy on is biodiversity management. All life depends on healthy ecosystems and having a wide genetic diversity within them. I noticed something when looking at the objectives under LUPAA, schedule 1, something was pointed out to me by Mr McGlone. I acknowledge we have Mr Peter McGlone from the Tasmanian Conservation Trust watching the debate today. If people are not aware, Peter McGlone is from the Tasmanian Conservation Trust. If people are not aware who Peter McGlone is, he is a legend. He has been working for the environment quietly and persistently for a very long time and most people in Planning would have come across Peter. Peter made a very good point about the definitions around what is genetic diversity and what is a healthy ecosystem. What we can see now are great ideas in that schedule in the RMPS but very non-specific language. It is impossible to do anything with those words because there is no meat. What is genetic diversity? What do we mean? If we stray too far from a certain level of diversity, when is it a problem? We need a biodiversity management policy that would improve the functioning of our ecosystems and make sure that we have the precautionary principle and ecological sustainability right at the centre of decision-making across government.

We also need a state policy on public consultation. Community consultation across local and state government in Tasmania has been at a very low bar under the Liberal Government. It is dispiriting and frustrating and now people in the community are coming to understand from the experience so many people had in the public hearings process for the Marine Farming Planning Review Panel for Storm Bay, that it is not only dispiriting and frustrating, it is simply a sham of a rubber-stamping process. People are not being listened to and there are no guidelines about how that must be done. It is the public's right to be actively engaged early and sincerely in decisions. It is not only their right, it makes for better policy and a happier and more robust society. Fundamentally it reduces a lot of angst in the community, which is a problem in relation to the Marine Farming Planning Review Panel and the Storm Bay decision.

We have now a community of people in southern Tasmania and the north-west who have come together united in their outrage at being completely shut out of the process about the expansion of fish farms into Storm Bay and totally silenced. They are now considering what their next step will be. People are desperate. There are people whose livelihoods are on the line here with this decision. There are people whose recreational fishing rights and concerns about the sustainability of salmon farming in that quite particular marine environment of Storm Bay, and who are looking around for other ways to voice their concerns.

It is clearly affecting the reputation of salmon farming in Tasmania. Tasmanian salmon is now on the nose nationally. We do not yet know how much it would bite, so to speak, with Australian consumers, but it is pretty clear when the National Sustainable Seafood Guide puts Tasmanian salmon on the 'do not buy' list. That should be a wake-up call, not only about the decision that was made but about the process for the decision that was made which shut people out of the process. A public consultation policy is essential.

We also need a health and wellbeing state policy and a cultural preservation state policy. I will not go into the details of those other than to flag that a minimum of six statewide policies are required.

We have a number of amendments and have worked with the Labor Party and the minister and I believe the three parties have come to an understanding so we will see where we land in Committee, but it has certainly been productive and, most importantly, the people who are stakeholders feel listened to, which is really valuable.

We will be proposing an amendment which would go to the possibility of substantial modifications for Tasmanian planning policies, if they have been changed after they have been through the exhibition and consultation process of the Tasmanian Planning Commission to ensure that if there are really substantial modifications that are made by the minister after that process, they would return for another opportunity for people to have a say about the substantially changed Tasmanian planning policy.

We also have amendment to check off whether the Tasmanian planning policy criteria have been sufficiently met, if another change has been introduced by the minister. None of that takes away the ability of the minister to make policy but it respects that in Tasmania we have a statutory body, the Tasmanian Planning Commission, which holds the people with the planning skills in this state we have entrusted through legislation to undertake an independent advisory role for government over planning. It is totally appropriate that their advice is sought on changes.

That is all I will say at this point because we have the committee stage to go into and we can talk about the details more when that happens.

Minister, I certainly hope the Tasmanian planning policies are brought on soon because there has been a dearth of planning in this state for far too long and people are hungry to have a say about big issues. I encourage you to take a leaf out of - and you might be surprised to hear me say this - the Australian Productivity Commission's book. The Australian Productivity commission does apparently a very good job of consultation. At the initial stage of developing policy or an idea, they put out a draft issues paper so, for example, there are two ways could go on housing planning policies. You could simply release a housing planning policy to go straight into the exhibition process to the Tasmanian Planning Commission. That, I would suggest, is a very poor path to take because people have no opportunity to shape the scope of the planning policy. What the Productivity Commission does is put an issues draft which gives people an opportunity to say, 'Okay, we're not quite sure whether you've got this or that right, but, by the way, did you know you have missed this whole area over here? This whole area needs to be included in the draft.' Then they put out the draft and consultation is had on that and then they do the formal process. It is the shaping of ideas that people are craving to have a say in, as well as the detail.

What we used to say when I was on the Huon Valley Council is that the problem people have with consultation, the way it is done these days, is that you get given a document and asked whether the toilet block should be brown or grey and that is the only opportunity you have. Instead of asking, should there be a toilet block, should it be here or should it be over there or do you have any other ideas about toilet blocks, please?

I encourage you, minister, to use this opportunity to set a new pathway. The pathway people are craving in Tasmania is to have an early say over the big issues in a meaningful way and for their voice to be genuinely heard. On that hopeful note, that is all I have to say on this part of the bill.