Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, the Future of Local Government Review has produced its stage 2 interim report appendix, Let's All Shape the Future of Local Government. It had a number of reform outcomes. They included consideration of regulatory framework systems and processes and the role of councils as planning authorities.
The board's view at the time was to propose three different potential reform directions, which they outlined. The breaking headline in their report was that after they had submitted their report to the minister on 31 March, the Minister for Local Government had amended the terms of reference and advised that the issue of the role of councils, the planning authorities would instead be referred to you as Minister for Planning for further consideration and consultation as part of the Government's planning reform agenda.
Can you please tell me what you are doing with that referral? What the time line for action is? What the process will be?
Mr FERGUSON - Thank you Dr Woodruff. It is a nicer question to get where you are not running somebody down. The second interim report, the Local Government Board into the Future of Local Government has effectively asked me to take on any consideration of changes to councils' role as planning authorities in my role as Minister for Planning.
I have no strong opinion on this today. I want to see good reform happening at the local government level. I do not intend to rush into and either take over or provide further responsibilities to council. I am happy to take the referral and consider the issues and options that sit around this issue.
It is really appropriate to consider this as part of the planning system and how each player in our system play their respective roles so that it works for the Tasmanian community. There will need to be a very careful review of the evidence and suggestions of the review within the context of the current planning reforms. I think that is important to us. We don't intend to jump tracks at this point in time. We will maintain our direction. At the same, we will take on board the feedback that was in that paper.
The evidence is emerging that political decisions overriding planning judgments that a planning authority needs to be able to make are diminishing. I believe the evidence supports that. I've seen councils, I've sat on a council. We've all seen it at different times, where members sitting as part of a planning authority find it very challenging to manage the conflict about their personal feelings about a project or even a proponent and what their own planning scheme says they should allow or not allow. At times that has been problematic. Members may even recall that a small number of councils have asked for planning to be taken off them.
I think that that's changed in recent years. In my opinion many of those perceived problems are diminishing through the introduction of the Tasmanian Planning Scheme. It has a more structured decision-making framework and a level of understanding that's higher. I'll also add to that, Dr Woodruff, the recent introduction of the major projects process has also taken some pressure away from councils because it elevates very large or significant and often controversial projects to the Tasmanian Planning Commission to make an independent assessment.
I welcome that. I think that that's been a good thing. Even councils have the opportunity to ask for large projects to be referred into that process if they feel that it's too close to home for their particular council.
Dr WOODRUFF - Excuse me, minister, I just draw your attention to the time and the question that I asked. That's a long answer. You haven't got near the question, which is what is the time line for action and what is the process that you'll be undergoing?
Mr FERGUSON - I was just about to say that the outcomes of the review's recommendations around council boundaries may also impact on the efficiency of some local councils managing development applications. The Government's view is to allow the roll out of these other reforms to finish and to then see if any significant structural reform is still required to the planning authority model. That's my answer.
Ms DOW - Just to be clear, that's the planning reforms?
Mr FERGUSON - No. The local council reforms. I'm sorry if I misspoke. In the interim we'll examine if there are any immediate, discrete problems that may need a fresh approach, such as where the council is the development applicant to its own approval process and how an education program about responsibilities of planning authorities may be improved. I quite firmly believe that's part of the answer here.
Dr WOODRUFF - That was just one question and it was a long answer. Minister, other than on those two matters which you just mentioned at the end, you're not proposing to take consultation around legislative change until the local government reform process is complete and the parliament has had a chance to look at the minister's recommendations to parliament about that?
Mr FERGUSON - That's what I've said.
Dr WOODRUFF - Okay.
Mr FERGUSON - I have no intentions to move on this in a significant way in the near future. I would like to see the roll out of local government reforms, which is the real focus I believe, while we continue with our planning reforms. These are moving in a really good direction right now, moving to the more principles-based policies and strategies that really are going to fill the void and do a good job for our state.
I have no intentions to move in a significant way on this anytime soon. I don't feel that there is a really strong argument to do so. If others have a different view, I would enjoy the conversation.