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Huntingfield Housing Land Supply Order

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 5 September 2019

Tags: Planning

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I will not be speaking for long on this rubbish motion. It is Thursday, it is not private members' time, it is not Government private members' time, and we have a motion on the books which has no action attached to it and no tangibles for people who need housing. It is simply an exercise in self-congratulation. It is regrettable and cynical to use the parliament's time in this way and it points to a really weak legislative agenda and a desire for the Government to try to look good in the social and affordable housing space. It does not look good and it has not looked good since it came to government.

I hope this does not upset you, Ms Standen, but I agreed with pretty much everything you said. It was very hard to argue with the facts you laid out.

Ms Standen, Ms Butler, myself, Mr Tucker, the member for Lyons, and Mrs Rylah are all on the housing inquiry which this parliament established in order to address what is clearly a housing crisis. Ever since we established the inquiry and started listening to evidence, the truth of the housing situation in Tasmania, not just in the city, is coming to light. The depth of the housing need in this state is something that requires urgent attention and it is not going to be dealt with by the housing land supply order for Huntingfield.

Mr Jaensch - Every bit counts.

Ms O'CONNOR - That is true, Mr Jaensch, every bit does count, but it is disappointing that we still have not had a clear statement from you, as minister, about what quantum of the proposed 450 houses will be social and affordable housing.

Mr Jaensch - It's in the report.

Mr O'Byrne - 'Up to'.

Ms O'CONNOR - Up to - that is right. All of that said, it is very clear that although this was a consultation process that slipped out of the Government's control because, as Ms Standen said, there was no commitment to meaningful consultation on the Huntingfield land supply order, what has happened is that people in that community have rightly expressed their concern. I would say many members of this House have received many dozens of emails from concerned residents who did not feel heard, but it is clear that they have been heard and there has been a level of sensitivity to the community angst about the original draft housing supply order.

When you have a look at the contrast between what was originally put before the community in the draft and what we have now, it is a substantially improved housing supply order. That is a win for the community, because the community made its voice clear that it wanted to be heard and to a very significant extent, process issues aside, this reflects that the community's concerns were taken into account.

It is pretty clear that there are a number of quite -

Ms Standen - The Government's two local members aren't here to listen to this debate which shows the level of respect and concern that they have.

Ms O'CONNOR - Yes, it is very odd that on a motion which the Government brought forward proudly for there to be only the minister and Mrs Rylah in the Chamber representing the Government. However I recall yesterday during Labor's private members' time that it was just the Leader of the Opposition and for a period of time the member for Braddon, Ms Dow. I do not know what that says, but it says something.

There have been a number of significant changes made to the draft housing supply order.

Mr O'Byrne - I wasn't allowed in. It's not fair, I was chucked out.

Ms O'CONNOR - Waah, call a wambulance, Mr O'Byrne.

Mr O'Byrne - I haven't heard that for quite some time, since the school ground.

Ms O'CONNOR - We want to thank people who came from the department to brief Dr Woodruff on the Tasmanian Greens' behalf on the changes and the final supply order that was tabled in the parliament. It is pretty clear that the area zoned for higher density has been significantly reduced. That is a direct response to the concerns that were raised by residents. The area zoned for open space has increased and open space breaks have been included between the residential zoned areas. The two local business zones have been reduced to one and that zone no longer borders on existing housing or schools. There has been an extra five-metre setback from the Peter Murrell Reserve, which is a very significant natural area that demands protection and sensitivity in relation to development around it. It is also a habitat for pardalotes. It is very important that we protect the Peter Murrell Reserve.

I feel quite strongly about the Huntingfield development because the master planning for the development began when I was the minister for housing. I believed then and I still believe that with Huntingfield the intent of Housing Tasmania and the housing innovations unit is to deliver a quality housing development. That and protecting the Peter Murrell Reserve was the driving objective when I was minister. There is a band of significant Aboriginal cultural heritage that runs just along the northern boundary of the Peter Murrell Reserve. Protecting those attributes is really important. I believe to a significant extent that the supply order does that.

We have also received detailed responses to some of the issues raised by the community in our briefing. I do not want to do the minister's job for him but I do want to talk about the process after rezoning.

A master plan will be developed containing the specifics of the proposal. This will likely go out for public and council comment in October or November this year. A final document will be prepared in early 2020. Minister, when you make your reply on this notice of motion you might restate that commitment to listening very carefully to the community and the council through the finalisation of the master plan that goes to council. The master plan, if it is endorsed by the council, will have to conform with a future subdivision application to council. If the master plan is not endorsed by council criteria outlined in the housing supply order will have to be met in the subdivision application.

The subdivision application and any future development application will go through the normal planning process allowing for public comment. I believe, minister, when I checked with you earlier today, that the process from here provides three opportunities for public comment and input into Huntingfield?

Mr Jaensch - Yes.

Ms O'CONNOR - At least three opportunities. Thank you, minister.

Mr Jaensch - As well as the three that have already been, through the regional land use strategy, the council's land use strategy and the draft order.

Ms O'CONNOR - It is only truly accurate and fair to count one consultation over the specifics of the Huntingfield housing land supply order. That is the one opportunity to date that people directly affected by what happens on the Huntingfield site have been given an opportunity to feed into the land supply order.

If the master plan is not endorsed then criteria outlined in the housing supply order will have to be met in the subdivision application. The subdivision application and any future development application will go through the normal planning process, through the Kingborough Council, which has rightly been aggrieved at the way this has been handled to date, for public comment.

The master plan is intended to address the number of the issues raised and be binding on future applications to council. The master plan, on our information provided through that briefing, will address commitments to social and affordable housing, infrastructure requirements for the development and the number of lots that are finally decided upon through the housing land supply order. Is that correct, minister?

Mr Jaensch - Yes.

Mr O'Byrne - Is this question time?

Ms O'CONNOR - You have to take every opportunity in here, Mr O'Byrne. I am restating why we believe that the final housing supply order for Huntingfield that has been laid on the table in here is a significant improvement on the draft that went out six to eight weeks ago. I am laying out our reasoning for being more comfortable with this.

I will add that the community is not yet reassured. This is a challenge for the minister and the people he works with in Housing Tasmania and the housing innovations unit, as Ms Standen said, to engage in a meaningful way with the people who still feel aggrieved. The reason they feel aggrieved, as Dr Woodruff said, is because of this Government's history of being secretive and undermining the planning system in Tasmania and the public's right to have a say.

We are speaking on Labor's amendment but I want to foreshadow that we have a further amendment, which has been distributed. I have given a copy to Labor and to the Speaker. I am looking for my copy for the minister. Dr Woodruff and I have spent a good five minutes looking for it and I cannot find a spare, so let me read it to you, minister.

Mr Jaensch - An amendment to the amendment?

Ms O'CONNOR - Yes.

Madam Speaker, I move -

That the motion be amended by deleting all clauses and inserting instead -

(1) Acknowledges that Tasmania's housing crisis has occurred due to the Liberal Government -

(a) under-investing in social and affordable housing;

(b) doing too little too late to regulate short-stay accommodation; and

(c) pursuing aggressive population and tourism growth targets without any forward thinking or planning.

(2) Calls on the Liberal Government to -

(a) significantly increase their investment in social and affordable Minister for Housing;

(b) introduce regulations to prevent growth in short stay properties and tight rental markets; and

(c) undertake comprehensive settlement and population planning.

(3) Agrees that instead of patting himself on the back, the minister should spend his time in the House bringing forward meaningful legislation to improve housing outcomes for Tasmanians.

One of the most significant pieces of legislation that applies to people who are in both the public and private rental market is the Residential Tenancy Act. The Residential Tenancy Act, as it currently stands, is insufficient to protect the rights of renters from landlords who are gouging, from substandard rental accommodation, from rental accommodation that has inadequate heating or insultation. There need to be amendments made to the Residential Tenancy Act lifting those minimum standards to make sure that everyone who is in a rental house, whether it is in the private or the public rental market, has their rights to safe, secure and liveable housing upheld by the law in Tasmania. We will be watching this Government on the Residential Tenancy Act. We have flagged bringing some amendments forward.

We want to see this minister and this Government take seriously the soaring rents in Tasmania. We have had people come to us who have been slugged with, in one fell swoop, rent increases of $50, $70 or $100 per week. A single parent family with children who are dependent on some way or another on Commonwealth income support, cannot cope with rent increases on that scale.

Mr Jaensch - That is why we have a commissioner and that is why they issue orders. As you know, because you have the answers to your questions. Do not misrepresent that. There is control.

Ms O'CONNOR - Which answers to the questions? That we put on notice?

Mr Jaensch - Yes.

Ms O'CONNOR - Well, you may have signed them but I have not seen them. Were they tabled today?

Mr Jaensch - No, have they been tabled? I have seen the answers to your questions.

Ms O'CONNOR - They are lost in the bureaucracy somewhere, Mr Jaensch. I do not have the answers to the questions we put on notice three weeks ago, and now that you, by interjection -

Ms STANDEN - Point of order, Madam Speaker. As we are at a bit of a juncture here, for clarification I request some information from the member. We are on an amendment to the amendment, but the amendment from the Greens is worded as an amendment to the original motion rather than amendment to the amendment.

Ms O'Connor - That is why I read it into Hansard and said that the motion be amended by deleting all clauses.

Madam SPEAKER - Someone wiser than me will work this out.

Ms Standen - Could we get some advice? Just so we understand procedurally, that's all.

Ms O'CONNOR - I am happy to wait for some advice.

Madam SPEAKER - You can keep talking.

Ms O'CONNOR - As I was saying, if the current arrangements for tenants in public and private rentals were adequate, we would not still be hearing from constituents who are getting slugged with rents that are unaffordable and, we would argue, unjustifiable. The current framework with the Residential Tenancy Commission in Tasmania is clearly inadequate, Mr Jaensch, because it is not protecting tenants from landlords gouging.

Mr Jaensch - Any mechanism requires referral.

Madam SPEAKER - The member's amendment is in order.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you, Madam Speaker. I wanted to put onto the Hansard some of the evidence that has been presented to the inquiry about particularly at-risk cohorts in an incredibly tight housing market. The testimony we heard, for example, from the Youth Network of Tasmania, which represents the interests of 85 000 young people aged 12 to 25, makes it clear that this is a particularly vulnerable cohort of Tasmanians who require social and affordable housing. In the private rental market, the evidence we heard is that young people are being squeezed out of a rental market where a property is advertised and 40 to 50 people turn up to inspect and may apply and it is invariably not the young people who get that rental.

The testimony of YNOT is that young people are being turned away from homelessness services, that they are experiencing the dark side of the two-speed economy, and it is the side of the two-speed economy that the Government never talks about. I have not heard any minister in this Government talk, for example, in any meaningful way about the soaring level and the tragedy of youth unemployment in Tasmania, and when young people cannot find a secure home it is that much harder for them to access education, skills training and employment.

I encourage all members of this House to have a look at some of the submissions that have come into the housing inquiry. There is a number of excellent submissions. The one YNOT has put forward contains four key recommendations, which are:

engage with young Tasmanians experiencing housing stress and homelessness to identify solutions and inform future policy;

regulate the short-stay tourism accommodation industry to encourage investment in the private rental market;

greater investment in social housing and prioritisation for young people in areas with reliable public transport and access to services, including education, employment and health care; and

explore and invest in alternative long-term supported accommodation models for young people.

We also had testimony from Laurel House, an excellent service in the north and north-west of Tasmania to provide supports to victims of sexual assault. The testimony that came before the inquiry from Laurel House was very firm that there are people now on the waiting list who are highly traumatised and have experienced shocking sexual assault violence. That means they are being turned away at a time when they need support the most. Laurel House has called for much more responsive Housing Tasmania policies for the victims of sexual assault and domestic and family violence. They make the point that there is a direct link between sexual domestic violence and homelessness and that in fact it is the leading cause of homelessness.

The testimony to the committee was that the shelters are bursting to overflowing. In these situations, it is often children who are hurt the most and are pushed into homelessness. In broad terms, Laurel House makes it clear that the fastest growing at-risk group for homelessness are single women over 50. This is potentially a hidden cohort of homelessness because these women are often quiet about their circumstances and will rely on the kindness of friends and family for a roof over their heads.

Laurel House recommends increasing the affordable medium-term and long-term housing options for people escaping domestic violence, increasing the supply of one-bedroom units or supported housing models and providing financial assistance for housing costs for a temporary period for people escaping domestic and family violence to access or to remain in private rental housing as a long-term option. They recommend that social and affordable housing providers should relax their eligibility criteria for people escaping domestic violence, especially those with children, and this would allow particularly women, who are predominately affected, who may technically have a home or a name on a title but no financial means or income to access affordable housing programs.

We also had a very interesting presentation to the inquiry from Hobart City Mission about the causes of the current housing crisis. As we know, the reckless and negligent under-investment in increasing the supply of social and affordable housing for the first three budgets of the Hodman Liberal Government has most certainly contributed towards this crisis, as has the explosion of Airbnb, unchecked and unregulated.

The Hobart City Mission submission talks about some of those demand side factors that have increased the demand for social and affordable housing in southern Tasmania in particular, which include: one, a natural increase in housing demand from young Tasmanians entering the home ownership market; two, increased migration to Tasmania from mainland states; and three, an increased number of international students enrolling to study at the University of Tasmania. In the evidence that we heard the population of international students is about 5500 and every one of those kids needs a roof over their head too. There are also significantly increased tourism numbers coming to Tasmania.

Mr Jaensch - And people are not having to go away to get a job anymore as much.

Ms O'CONNOR - Actually, there are a lot of young people leaving the state, Mr Jaensch, and there is a whole range of reasons for that. In fact I encouraged my children to leave the state and to go and learn some more about the world and then come back, settle down, invest their skills in this place and have a family, hopefully, although in a time of climate emergency I am no longer telling my children that they should have children. You cannot tell your kids to do or not to do anything when they are adults but I am not particularly optimistic about the world that my grandchildren will be in.

Mr Jaensch - You as a grandmother?

Ms O'CONNOR - I would be all right.

Hobart City Mission also points to net migration to Tasmania. This goes back to the point you were trying to make, Mr Jaensch, that net migration to Tasmania in the last year totalled 6500 people. The Government has committed to a population of 650 000 people by the year 2050. If the climate keeps going the way that it is, we will have more people than that here in the year 2050. It is highly problematic when you set a target for population but you do not have a plan for dealing with population and settlement. We were the only party that went to the March state election with a comprehensive plan dealing with population growth in Tasmania. Apparently now it sits at about 520 000 people. This is leading to increased congestion, a tight rental market, the lack of efficient, cost-affordable, cost-effective, public and active transport. We are experiencing ad hoc development. We are at risk of cultivating urban sprawl, which impacts on natural values, bushland and water supplies.

There is regional inequity. That was another interesting part of our inquiry - learnings. We heard, for example, from St Helens Neighbourhood House about the pressures even in a regional town like St Helens.

Mrs Rylah - Especially in regional towns.

Ms O'CONNOR - It is hard to say especially because this is happening all over Tasmania. A lot of the focus has been on the pressures in the south but it was illuminating to listen to the manager of the St Helens Neighbourhood House talk about the pressures within that small community to find affordable housing. One of the issues was the increase in short-stay accommodation.

Then there are sea changers who are coming to Tasmania because it is the best place in the world to live. We are seeing the impacts of unmanaged population growth happening right across Tasmania. It is our responsibility to work together on population settlement planning, so we have good urban boundaries, so we are protecting our natural values and we are protecting amenity, we are making sure that there is a sustainable use of resources as is required under the Land Use Planning and Approvals Act. We need to develop a population and settlement plan that is aligned with state policies on climate change and settlement, transport and infrastructure.

There needs to be a stand-alone department of planning established, planning for Tasmania's future. We also strongly feel that you need to have the expertise providing advice to government as our population grows.

In this state we should have a state engineer. I often say to my nephew in Queensland, who is studying civil engineering and finding it a bit boring in the third year because they have to dig a lot of holes, that engineers will save the world. They will be a critical part of coping with some of the future shocks that come with a climate emergency.

We also need to reinstate the office of the state architect. When I was the housing minister, I asked Peter Poulet, who was the then state architect, in for a chat. We worked together - my office, Housing Tasmania, the state architect - to develop a set of liveability principles for new housing development in Tasmania that recognised that you need to have spaces for people and you need to create communities. In the fabric of that design you need to make sure that you have green spaces, that you have safety so the people who live in these communities feel safe walking their streets at night and that you are building houses which are thermally efficient, have universal design principles and in an ideal world are attractive houses.

I am certain that since the Liberals came to office, the former state architect's outstanding work on a set of liveability principles for Tasmania has been ditched. The minister would do well to dust off that body of work by Peter Poulet and make sure it is applied to the Huntingfield development. We have an opportunity to create something quite remarkable. Minister, I believe that is what you would like to see too. Even though it has been handled in a ham-fisted way by your Government there is an opportunity to turn the Huntingfield Stage 2 into a highly liveable, attractive, climate-resilient, connected to services, beautifully designed, slightly higher density development that is a model for 21st century suburban development.

We also need a state demographer who can provide advice to Government on what is happening in population shifts. I saw some work by outstanding demographer Lisa Denny, who works in the UTAS Institute for the Study of Social Change, that pointed to decline in some municipal areas. In about 26 municipal areas around Tasmania you are likely to see population decline. That throws down a challenge to Government to make sure that we are investing in regions, we are asking regional communities what their infrastructure needs are and what their hopes and dreams for the future are. We do not want to lose the community spirit that is in rural and regional Tasmania.

We cannot support the motion put forward by the Minister for Housing. It is not because we do not support increasing the supply of social and affordable housing. It is far too inane and self-congratulatory for us to support. That is why we have moved the amendment. It is also impossible for the Greens in this place to support the Tasmanian Government's $1.6 billion investment in infrastructure of roads and bridges, which has nothing to do with increasing the supply of social and affordable housing. It is simply self-congratulatory pap. It is about time the Government started recognising social and affordable housing construction for what it is. It is an investment in social infrastructure. We need to think about housing as social infrastructure not another part of the infrastructure objective of Government. This is social infrastructure and it should be regarded as such.

The stigma that is attached to social housing must be dealt with. One of the ways to do that is to invest in those communities as we have done through reforms that were brought in by the Labor-Green government - sorry, Standing Order 144 - for working with the community sector to revive communities through better housing futures. When you go out to Clarendon Vale and to Brighton-Gagebrook, where we have seen better housing futures roll out, you are seeing rejuvenation of communities and of the social fabric of those communities. That is very positive.

We will not be supporting the motion that the Government has put forward. It is a waste of the parliament's time, but it is an important opportunity to address some of the housing issues in debate that Tasmania has. I am taking the opportunity anyway, even though it is pretty clear what this is about.