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Macquarie Point Development Corporation Amendment Bill 2018


Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 18 October 2018

Tags: Macquarie Point, Hobart City Council, Eden Project, Hobart City Deal

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, I thank Ms Dow for her contribution and make the point that of those significant questions you asked of the minister, Ms Dow, he did not make a record of them as I can see.

Mr Gutwein - I understand that we are and I will do my best to address all of them.

Ms O'CONNOR - Alright, I hope you were listening because the questions were thoroughly valid.

Mr Gutwein - I was certainly listening and you would understand that I would listen to a debate like this.

Ms O'CONNOR - You would hope so.

Mr Gutwein - You know me well enough.

Ms O'CONNOR - Madam Speaker, I rise to make a contribution on the Macquarie Point Development Corporation Amendment Bill 2018, significant legislation that landed on the table a bit over 48 hours ago. It is a very substantial reset of the original master plan and the MONA vision, significant legislation that hands the Minister for State Growth, not the Minister for Planning, extraordinary powers to determine what happens on that site in the future.

It is disappointing for people in Hobart, Greater Hobart and Tasmania to have been so thoroughly shut out of this process at this point. The first time any of the key stakeholders in the future of Macquarie Point, that is the people of Tasmania, saw the revised master plan was in the Mercury newspaper, which it was given to and splashed across on Tuesday, the same day that we received this legislation. That is extremely poor process. It is dismissive of the owners of that site, the people of Tasmania. It is dismissive of good parliamentary practise. It provides what I regard as unjustified and unprecedented powers to the Minister for State Growth to develop planning principles for the site, decide for himself that they are consistent with LUPA and then consult the Planning Commission.

The provisions in this legislation are all over the place. Clause 39H is the clause that allows the minister to prepare proposed amendments. Clause 39H states that -

The Minister, after receiving a request under section 39G(1) …

and that is a request from the corporation -

… containing a draft of proposed amendments to the relevant planning scheme, must -

prepare the proposed amendments …

after consultation with the Board, prepare proposed amendments …

require the Board to amend …

The Minister must consult with the Planning Minister …

We have an in-house consultation on significant planning decisions that are being made over the Macquarie Point site. The Minister for State Growth and the Minister for Planning will consult on this public site. They will decide everything is fine and the planning changes the Minister for State Growth wants to make are absolutely fine. Then, after consulting with Mr Jaensch, the minister needs to provide a notice of the proposed amendments to -

the Board; and

the relevant planning scheme planning authority; and

each relevant statutory authority; and

any Agency that the Minister considers has an interest in the proposed amendments to the relevant planning scheme.

Where are the people of Tasmania? Nowhere; they have been dismissed in the development of the new master plan and dismissed in the development of this legislation. You can sit there and roll your eyes at me but when we have to deal with legislation that goes to some of the significant social issues that impact on people's lives, like sorting out the Births, Deaths and Marriages Act, we are told that needs to be consulted for six months. When it comes to making money out of a public site there is no consultation, we are given legislation for 48 hours, and a master plan is developed without reference to the people. Do you think that is good process? It is arrogant and dismissive process.

There is no requirement for consultation in clause 39H. It can go to the Planning Authority. The Hobart City Council, which has been shut out of this process to date, can look at it for 21 days. There is no requirement for council to consult on it. Council may choose to consult on the proposed amendment to the planning scheme but nothing in there gives reference to the people and nothing considers the importance of having a shared sense of ownership of the future of Macquarie Point.

We go to the staggering drunkonpower clause 39I, Approval of proposed amendments to relevant planning scheme -

(1) The Minister, after considering all representations made under section 39H(5), may -

approve proposed amendments ...approve proposed amendments to the relevant planning scheme …refuse to approve the proposed amendments …

I recall the debate we had in this place about the changes to the statewide planning scheme and the extraordinary powers that were given to the minister in that process. When we look at the proposed major projects legislation, again, extraordinary powers are given to the minister. When the statewide planning scheme provisions went through I pointed out that Mr Gutwein sees himself as the 'planning overlord', giving himself such extraordinary powers. He cannot help himself. He cannot let it go because again we have Mr Gutwein giving himself the most extraordinary powers in a different portfolio.

This is how backward the whole process is: the minister can consider and dismiss the concerns of council or another statutory authority and he approves his own proposed amendment but as soon as practicable after approving the proposed amendment, then the minister goes to the Planning Commission. What the minister provides to the commission is a copy of the approval. He needs to explain to the commission in this provision how the proposed amendments to the relevant planning scheme, and in this case at this point in time it is the Sullivan's Cove Planning Scheme -

[OK]further the requirements of the objectives set out in Schedule 1 to the Land Use Planning and Approvals Act 1993; and

is consistent with any applicable State Policy within the meaning of the State Policies and Projects Act 1993; and

are, as far as practicable, consistent with the Southern Regional Land Use Strategy made under the Land Use Planning and Approvals Act 1993; …

It gives a direction to the commission to make the proposed amendments to the relevant planning scheme and publish in the manner that the commission thinks fit a statement referred to in paragraph (c).

So the one power we give the Tasmanian Planning Commission in this process is to make a decision about how it publishes the determination to amend the Sullivan's Cove Planning Scheme. That is appalling planning process. It has clearly come from a desire to take control of this site, to drive it harder, but in the process the people with the most at stake in the future of Macquarie Point, Aboriginal Tasmanians and non-Aboriginal Tasmanians, are being utterly shut out and the independent planning processes that test whether a proposed amendment is compliant with LUPAA or the State Policies and Projects Act are turned on their head, because the minister has already decided that the proposed amendment complies on those three subclauses and he is just going to tell the Planning Commission that it does. The Planning Commission has no power, none at all, to reject the proposed amendment.

The Tasmanian Planning Commission is the independent expert and excellent primary planning authority in Tasmania. Proposed amendments of this nature should not be left in the hands of one minister who has a chat with his mate across the Cabinet table and then bypasses any public consultation to get the Planning Commission to rubber stamp it. That is what we are talking about here. Mr O'Byrne might have a better recall of this than I, but did the parliament create the Macquarie Point Development Corporation in about 2012-13?

Mr O'Byrne - Yes.

Ms O'CONNOR - So Mac Point was created as a discrete entity in order to guide the development of this site five or six years ago. There has been ongoing public consultation and conversation about the future of Macquarie Point, so why the unholy rush? Why shut out people at this point?

Dr Woodruff - They're waiting to hear from investors about what they want to do there. They can't lead, they can't direct, they have no vision, they have no plan. They haven't created anything.

Ms O'CONNOR - I totally take on board your point, Dr Woodruff, because as the minister said, he may approve an amendment that allows for a building which does not fit within the height constraints of the Hobart City Council should they determine that there needs to be a ceiling on heights. Mr Gutwein, the Minister for State Growth, can make a planning amendment, for example, if Fragrance Group came along and said, 'We have this great idea. Now that you've changed the masterplan from cultural precinct to mixed commercial, we've got a really good off-the-books skyscraper that we think would look fantastic just down there near the rail yards, and you've got the power, minister, to help us, Fragrance, bring the modern world to the city of Hobart. Could you please do that for us?', and there is nothing in the amendments we are debating today that we can see would prevent that from happening.

Because there is no public consultation on any aspect of the realisation of the masterplan or whatever iteration of the masterplan there might end up being, it is a flawed process because it is all a political stitch-up. It is very frustrating to be in this place and to see legislation like this come forward which is so dismissive of the fact that Mr Gutwein is just passing through this place as the Minister for State Growth and Mr Jaensch is just passing through as the Minister for Planning. You do not own the Macquarie Point site. It is not yours to shape. It belongs to the people of Tasmania. It belongs to Tasmanian Aboriginal people, who will have a reconciliation park on the site but they have not been consulted about this legislation either. There has been no consultation with council, no consultation with the Tasmanian people, no consultation with the Tasmanian Aboriginal people and this is a suite of extraordinary powers that the minister is handing himself.

Then we see that this new master plan reverts to an element of the original 2014 master plan which included housing. If we could be reassured that the kind of housing being contemplated for the mixed-use areas is affordable, maybe we would take a different view of this. Personally I am inclined to agree with Leigh Carmichael from MONA that given the extraordinary, unique and never-to-be-found-again opportunities presented by this site, it should be public open space to the greatest extent possible - mixed use, but a cultural space. How you can reconcile having accommodation or housing there and then realising the full potential of the site, I do not know, but the issue here is that it is not going to be affordable housing. As if it is going to be affordable housing! If the minister wants to get up and say he will mandate that any housing on the site is a mix of prices so that we have some genuine affordability there, maybe that would provide some reassurance to some stakeholders, but it will not be.

I believe it was in the Mercury newspaper where they said something about it being one of the richest addresses in Hobart. I have so many clippings here that are pretty damning. Here we go. From the Mercury of 16 October- 'Macquarie Point could become the best address in town':

The bold 'reset vision' for the prime 9 hectare site to be unveiled on Tuesday will allow for residential housing as part of the first stage of the redevelopment.

Of course we need more people living in the city; that is what is happening in Hobart now. We are seeing our city come to life more because we have more residential premises and properties in the city. You only have to look at a fantastic development like the Common Ground facilities to know how important it is that cities have life and human beings in them 24/7. But this is not about affordable housing. It seems to us clearly that it is about creating high-end housing in some of the best real estate in Tasmania. If it was about affordable housing the minister might have said something about it, or there might have been a reference to the possibility of inclusionary zoning so we can prescribe that a part of any residential development on the site be given over to affordable housing. If it becomes a real estate precinct, what is to stop it becoming a short-stay accommodation precinct?

We have real problems with this legislation on a number of levels. The first is the total contempt for public process in dumping this master plan and the legislation on the Tuesday, and the second is the unjustifiable powers it gives to the Minister for State Growth. It is important that I put on the record on behalf of the Greens that we have no gripe with the Macquarie Point Development Corporation. We had a briefing yesterday with the Corporation, with Mary Massina and Emma Hope, and really appreciated that briefing. We know they are doing their best on that site to make it work and to progress the realisation of that site's potential.

This is not about the corporation. This is about what has become political. It has come to this point because you have a Government in utter disarray, you have a disgraced minister, you have a Health minister under enormous pressure, and a Government that wants to look like it is getting on with the job. In doing so it is rushing one of the most important opportunities that our beautiful city has been presented with.

It is not good enough for the minister to say the state has been working closely with the Commonwealth Government and is on the cusp of signing the Hobart City Deal, which has the potential to create a blue print for the future of the central Hobart area harnessing the resources of all three levels of government. A government that is so contemptuous of the public conversation about Macquarie Point or the City of Hobart, the Hobart City Deal brings no reassurance whatsoever. We have two levels of government, because Hobart City Council is still being shut out, conservative governments that are full of climate deniers -

Mr Bacon - Federal government?

Ms O'CONNOR - I am talking about both of them. Climate deniers, antagonistic towards public transport, all about the money and much less about people and amenity and liveability. The notion that you have two conservative governments deciding what is going to be in the city deal is alarming.

It is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform this beautiful city, to make sure we are dealing with the congestion that is blighting people's lives, to make sure that our children and grandchildren can look forward to living in the most beautiful city in the world in the most beautiful, sustainable island in the world. That is, a modern city that has fantastic public spaces and public transport, and in an era of accelerating climate disruption has resilience built into it. That is what the Hobart City Deal needs to deliver for our city. To tie the potential signing of the Hobart City Deal in with this abuse of the minister's powers is unjustifiable.

We strongly support the Macquarie Point site being a cultural precinct, a precinct for science. We want to see, for example, the Eden project come to Macquarie Point. Madam Speaker, before your time here we had a minister for state growth, Mr Groom, who had been presented with the Eden project proposal. Much to the frustrations of the bureaucrats he was working with, it sat on his desk for seven or eight months because it was a bit too green for him to tick off. That is why it sat in his in tray, which is why we were getting calls.

We cannot support this bill in its current form because of the abuse of good planning process. We cannot support it because there has been no argument made or justification for the minister to give himself such extraordinary powers. We are concerned that what should be one of the most exciting things that has happened to our city in decades is becoming a political stitch-up and is not involving the people of Tasmania in a conversation. Why are we having to cop a master plan being dropped in the local media as a fixed plan when this is a place that belongs to the people? Why are the people not part of this conversation? What problems do you have with engaging with Tasmanians about what they want to happen to their place? Is it too inconvenient for you? It is annoying? Does it annoy you to have to listen to your constituents -

Dr Woodruff - Is it too hard?

Ms O'CONNOR - Is it too hard, Dr Woodruff? I think it might be too hard.

I can indicate we will want to go into Committee. We have a number of questions about provisions in the legislation as they relate to the minister's powers and the lack of consultation. Dr Woodruff would like to make a contribution.

Even in his second reading speech the minister has not bothered to explain why he needs these powers and why the Tasmanian people and the Planning Commission have been so thoroughly sidelined. It is disappointing because we could have been in here debating a process for Macquarie Point that is genuinely inclusive, that draws on all the best ideas. Let's face it, Tasmania is a highly creative and connected community. The ideas that could come forward in this reset process will not be realised because there is no space for that to happen. The space has been closed.

We could have had a tripartisan debate on an excellent amendment bill and a process that is inclusive and refers back to the people of Tasmania. Mr Gutwein, when you sigh heavily like that, I think am a boring you or frustrating you. A bit of both?

Mr Gutwein - It would not be fair for me to say.

Ms O'CONNOR - I do not care what you think of me. But when you sigh so heavily I do wonder what that is about. Is it because you do not have all the powers yet because we are giving you hard time about your mad power grab on Macquarie Point?

We will deal with some of these issues in the Committee stage of the bill. I would like some guidance from the minister about whether we are looking at a specific area plan in the provisions that relate to the request the board makes for a planning scheme amendment? Is the proposal that we create a new planning scheme within the planning scheme like Cambria Green would be?

Mr Gutwein - I am happy to explain that because I honestly think you have misunderstood part of what we are attempting to do here. I am happy to explain it when I sum up.

Ms O'CONNOR - I am glad you did not say that in too patronising a manner, Mr Gutwein.

We have been briefed on it by the corporation and officers. We have spoken to local government representatives, been through the legislation in detail, and the points we are making about shutting people out are unarguable. That represents a lost opportunity to make sure the future of this site is not decided on political lines but is decided by the people who have the most stake in this. That is, the people of Tasmania, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal. It is young people who will be walking that site long after we are in the ground.

This is a missed opportunity to make this an inclusive process that gets the best out that site and makes sure the owners of the site feel they are being heard and the best ideas are being drawn on. Instead we have a master plan cooked up and dropped in the newspaper that says to the people of Tasmania, 'Here you go, this is number 3 version, this is the way it is'. We can do better than that by this site.

We cannot support the bill in its current form. We will be taking it into Committee so we can ask some questions on those specific provisions that provide the Minister for State Growth with more power than he is capable of wielding responsibly.