Planning for People

Background

In 100 years, we want our environment to be as beautiful and diverse as it is today. Communities know the value of their characterful cities, towns, rural areas and wild places. In a shrinking world, difference is rare and valuable.

In 2015, the Liberal Government brought in legislation for a new Tasmanian Planning Scheme.[1] While many groups supported the concept of a consistent, statewide scheme, there was general consensus the Liberals’ model was too prescriptive in its one-size-fits-all approach.[2],[3]

The legislation has been criticised for placing too much power in the hands of the Minister, opening up an avenue for developer influence, and limiting meaningful public consultation.[4]

Communities should have the ability to decide the character of their own place, and protect public open space and heritage. The Greens will reorient our planning system to prioritise the interests of locals and return the right in law to have real input into, and to appeal, decisions.

Not only is our current planning system not working for communities, but government piecemeal policy decisions have left us with a population settlement boom that hasn’t been supported by infrastructure planning. Tasmania is now in the grips of a housing crisis, there’s serious congestion problems in fast growing areas, and developments are eating into habitat for rare and threatened species.

We need to properly establish the policy and legislative settings so that governments can undertake holistic forward planning and engage with their communities about changes to the places they love.

A Better Planning Scheme

The Liberal Government’s Land Use Planning and Approvals (Tasmanian Planning Scheme) Amendment Bill 2015 was consistently criticised for increasing the power of planning ministers.[5],[6]

The Planning Minister now has significant control over the contents of the statewide planning rules, the State Planning Provisions.[7] This power is effectively only fettered by high-order planning instruments, such as the objectives of the Resource Management and Planning System.[8]

The Minister also has the power to intervene in the drafting of Local Provision Schedules[9] (which are local applications of the State Planning Provisions).[10]

Another critical failure of these planning reforms is they will be too prescriptive in their approach to standardisation.[11],[12] The State Planning Provisions lay out 23 ‘generic zones’ that detail the land use and development allowed for each zone.[13] This is problematic. An Urban Mixed Use Zone, for example, could be very different in Hobart compared to Burnie or King Island. The Local Government Association of Tasmania has cautioned –

“This will result in applications that are discretionary, despite matching the prevailing or desired characteristics of the local context; other applications that are permitted despite being at odds with the prevailing or desired characteristics of the local context.”[14]

The Liberals’ planning laws have been also criticised for the lack of sensible strategic planning.[15] Tasmanian Planning Policies were intended to be strategic documents that inform planning instruments.[16] These policies were intended to be developed after the State Planning Provisions and Local Provision Schedules, which they are meant to govern.[17] Although the legislation enabling these policies passed in 2018, the Liberal Government has not developed any planning policies at all yet.[18]

This disordered approach to developing the elements of a statewide planning scheme has resulted in a system without a clear purpose that is incapable of ordered planning that is environmentally sustainable, protects cultural heritage, and engages the community.

A Better Statewide Planning Scheme

 

We will introduce amendments to the law, and alterations to the statewide planning scheme implementation process, so that planning decisions remain independent of the minister, protect local character, are informed by a strategic vision, and empower communities to meaningfully have input into decision-making.

Appeals Tribunal

Costs for appealing planning decisions can be prohibitive to ordinary members of the community. In fact, the costs of an appeal can be so prohibitive that councils have cited avoiding appeal costs as a reason for approving development applications.[19]

Planning law, and planning decisions, can be so complex that even well-informed people have little hope of navigating an appeal process without funding legal representation.

In Queensland tribunal hearings are informal, legal representation is not allowed, and decisions are delivered in plain English.[20] This model reduces barriers for meaningful public involvement in planning decisions.

Planning Appeals

 

We will establish a Queensland-style tribunal for appeals to planning decisions. This will adopt an informal process, deliver decisions in plain English, and prohibit legal representation (unless exceptional circumstances exist, or both parties agree to waive this right).

Tasmanian Planning Commission

The Tasmanian Planning Commission (the Commission) is a fundamental pillar of the planning system. The independence of the Commission from government policy and ministerial influence is essential for its effective operation.

The central role of the Commission as an independent and expert authority in the development of planning policy has been increasingly sidelined since the passage of the Land Use Planning and Approvals (Tasmanian Planning Scheme) Amendment Bill 2015.

There has been a shift away from the Planning Commission as the state’s body that develops planning policy. Much of this work has now been taken over by the Department of Justice, which under the direction of the Planning Minister.

Tasmanian Planning Commission

 

We will return decision-making, policy-making, and advisory powers to the Tasmanian Planning Commission. We will ensure they are resourced to perform their vital functions.

Biodiversity Mapping

‘Biodiversity overlays’, which show the location of native flora and fauna that need to be protected, are essential for making planning development decisions within local councils. The biodiversity overlays that are used by each council in Tasmania rely on statewide datasets.[21]

Currently, only native vegetation communities and threatened native vegetation communities are covered with reasonable quality data. Other incredibly necessary information, such as the location of significant habitat for threatened or locally-important species, is totally deficient.[22]

The tools used to map biodiversity are effectively point-in-time assessments. This means assessments can become outdated as species’ distributions shift.[23]

Having an extensive suite of up-to-date tools, and high-quality species assessment data underlying them, are critically important for ensuring that natural values can be protected in our planning system.

Biodiversity Mapping

 

We will develop an ongoing program of comprehensive biodiversity monitoring, as well as maintain critical biodiversity overlays. We will train a Job Guarantee workforce to undertake data collection, and develop a suite of tools to assist citizen scientists to share their data.

State Policies

State Policies are created under the State Policies and Projects Act 1993 that planning decisions are required to be consistent with.[24] Despite the Act being in operation for almost 30 years, only three State Policies have been declared – the State Policy on the Protection of Agricultural land 2009, State Coastal Policy 1996, and State Policy on Water Quality Management 1997.[25] It has been 12 years since the most recent state policy was declared (the Protection of Agricultural land 2009).

In practical terms, the planning appeal body (the Resource Management and Appeal Tribunal) has considered the State Policy on the Protection of Agricultural Land 2009 in 22 decisions,[26] the State Policy on Water Quality Management 1997 in 45 decisions,[27] and the State Coastal Policy 1996 in 74 decisions.[28]

These Policies are important tools that keep our planning system, and development decisions, consistent with our state’s strategic objectives. These help us avoid piecemeal decision-making or intervening on a case by case basis on planning issues by the State Government.

State Policies (Under the State Policies and Projects Act 1993)

 

We will review and update the three existing State Policies, and develop six new State Policies, around the big issues that determine our state’s security, the quality of every person’s life, and our democracy:

·        Climate change

·        Settlement, transport and infrastructure

·        Biodiversity management

·        Public consultation

·        Health and well-being

·        Cultural preservation

State Planning

The Liberals’ Population Growth Strategy has set a target for growth to 650,000 Tasmanians by 2050.[29] This target is on track to be met. Figure 3.3.1 projects Tasmania’s population growth based on the long run average, the average growth over the last six years, and the average growth over the last three years. Under both the three-year and six-year average growth scenarios the target of 650,000 is met well before 2050.

Figure 3.3.1: Population Growth under three scenarios[30]

Figure 3.3.1 highlights the significant departure from ‘business as usual’ this level of population growth represents. Yet, despite some vague references in the plan to increased need for infrastructure and services,[31] challenges associated with this level of growth have not been met.

The historic under-investment in social and affordable housing has led to an 11,000 deficit of social and affordable housing,[32] There are 12,086 Tasmanians on the elective surgery waiting list,[33] and travel time between Sorell and the Hobart CBD has been increasing at a rate similar to major highways in Sydney and Melbourne.[34]

It is clear that population pressures have not been addressed. Planning for changing community needs will require demographic information, as well as engineering and design solutions.

Department of State Planning

 

The Department of State Growth will become the Department of State Planning. As part of this restructure, the offices of Chief Engineer, State Architect, and State Demographer will be established.

 



[1] Parliament of Tasmania, Land Use Planning and Approvals Amendment (Tasmanian Planning Scheme) Bill 2015.

[2] Local Government Association Tasmania, Tasmanian Planning Scheme Submission, 2016.

[3] Environmental Defenders Office Tasmania, Land Use Planning and Approvals (Tasmanian Planning Scheme)

Amendment Bill 2015 Submission, 2015.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Planning Institute of Australia, PIA Tasmania Response to the Land Use Planning & Approvals Amendment (Tasmanian

Planning Scheme) Bill 2015, 2015.

[6] Environmental Defenders Office Tasmania, Land Use Planning and Approvals (Tasmanian Planning Scheme)

Amendment Bill 2015 Submission, 2015.

[7] Tasmanian Government, State Planning Provisions, n.d.

[8] Environmental Defenders Office Tasmania, Land Use Planning and Approvals (Tasmanian Planning Scheme)

Amendment Bill 2015 Submission, 2015, pp. 2-5.

[9] Ibid, pp. 5-7.

[10] Tasmanian Government, Local Provisions Schedules, n.d.

[11] Local Government Association Tasmania, Tasmanian Planning Scheme Submission, 2016.

[12] Environmental Defenders Office Tasmania, Land Use Planning and Approvals (Tasmanian Planning Scheme)

Amendment Bill 2015 Submission, 2015.

[13] Tasmanian Government, State Planning Provisions, n.d.

[14] Local Government Association Tasmania, Tasmanian Planning Scheme Submission, 2016, p. 2.

[15] Ibid, p. 3.

[16] Department of Justice, Planning Reforms Fact Sheet 1 – Overview, 2015. Accessed via: web.archive.org.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Tasmanian Government, The Policies, n.d.

[19] Whitely, C, Flinders Council backflips on planning decision over multimillion-dollar development, The Mercury, September 2020.

[20] Queensland Government, Development Tribunals, 2019.

[21] den Exter, N, Biodiversity on the Fringe: the (dis)integration of biodiversity in land use planning, Thesis submitted to fulfil the requirements of Doctor of Philosophy, University of Tasmania, 2018, pp. 100-101.

[22] Ibid, pp. 100-101.

[23] Ibid, p. 85.

[24] Department of Premier and Cabinet, State Policies, n.d.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Australasian Legal Information Institute, search results for ‘State Policy on the Protection of Agricultural Land 2009’, 2021.

[27] Australasian Legal Information Institute, search results for ‘State Policy on Water Quality Management 1997’, 2021.

[28] Australasian Legal Information Institute, search results for ‘State Coastal Policy 1996’, 2021.

[29] Department of State Growth, Population Growth Strategy, 2015.

[30] Australian Bureau of Statistics, National, state and territory population, cat. 3101.0, 2020.

[31] Department of State Growth, Population Growth Strategy, 2015.

[32] House of Assembly Select Committee on Housing Affordability, transcript of evidence - 4 September 2019, 2019, p. 2.

[33] Tasmanian Government, Health system dashboard, 2021.

[34] RACT, Submission to the Legilsative Council Inquiry on Greater Hobart Traffic Congestion, 2019, p. 4.