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Approvals and Related Reforms (No. 4) (Planning) Bill 2009

Extract from Hansard 4th May 2010:

MS A.S. CARLES (Fremantle) [5.45 pm]: I rise to put on the record that I cannot support the Approvals andRelated Reforms (No. 4) (Planning) Bill 2009 based on the consultation that the Greens (WA) have undertaken. It is very clear that local governments do not support this legislation. I will go into the detail of that in a moment.

The development assessment panels system will undermine our democratic process of locally elected governments. Even with the increase in limits to apply, my electorate of Fremantle will be dramatically affected. I put on record that the City of Fremantle certainly does not support the changes—nor do many other local councils—and I am here to put its position.

Ostensibly, the DAPs are being introduced to enable more effective and efficient decision making and development applications at local, regional and state levels. However, many local councils and environmental groups have pointed out that the delays occurring in the process are due to developers and proponents submitting inadequate or insufficient information at the time of seeking approval.

We already have a developer-driven process in this state whereby community members struggle to be heard when they are dealing with large-scale developments. We are the only state in Australia without a third party right of appeal. I am bit concerned that when I raised this issue with the minister on 17 September 2009 by way of question without notice, he answered by saying “Anybody who is dissatisfied with the decision of a local government authority has the ability to appeal to the State Administrative Tribunal.”

That is incorrect. Local community groups do not have the right to appeal to the State Administrative Tribunal— nor do local councils. We have a developer-only appeals process in this state. I am very concerned that what the government is doing now will increase that developer power in our planning decision making. I know first-hand about the issue of third party appeal rights because I took legal proceedings on behalf of my communities in South Fremantle and Hamilton Hill to establish a third party right of appeal. My husband and I took the matter to the Supreme Court. We won our case, which was unprecedented in this state. Our case established the fact community groups do not have a right of appeal unless they have the money to go to the Supreme Court, which many do not have.

I want to make the distinction that I am not talking about trying to retain a quarter acre block. I am way beyond that. I understand the need for high-density developments. We have to reduce urban sprawl. I am very concerned about development that has environmental impacts and that compromises our environment and that comprises amenities for local people.

I refer to some recent cases in point from my electorate. The first is the South Beach village development. The community wanted a 100-metre setback from the ocean, but they did not get it. The member for Gosnells talked about the state planning policies protecting us. However, if the WA Planning Commission chooses to not apply them, there is no right of appeal.

Mr C.J. Tallentire: That’s my point. The minister will be able to direct them to respect that planning policy.

Ms A.S. CARLES: Only if that is what the minister wants. If he chooses not to, there is no right of appeal for community groups.

I refer to the Port Coogee Marina, which was approved by the Labor Party when it was in government. It is an absolutely disgraceful development. We lost a beautiful beach; it is gone forever. We lost our coastal cycle path. The developer got the seabed for free and the community had absolutely no say about that. More than 6000 people signed a petition. There was a massive protest. The WA Planning Commission simply ignored them.

Mr F.M. Logan: It was a small protest.

Ms A.S. CARLES: No, it was not. It was a corrupt process, if the member recalls. The member should be ashamed, because it happened in his electorate. I did not see him standing up for that community.

Mr F.M. Logan interjected.

Ms A.S. CARLES: It was a corrupt process; it is on the record. I will not go into that now.

The ING development is another controversial development in Fremantle. It involves a harbour town–style development for Victoria Quay. The Fremantle Society wants acknowledgment—I notice that the federal member for Fremantle was photographed supporting this, too—of the heritage and migration history in that space. The ING developer appealed to SAT to increase its parking. The Fremantle Society was denied a right to make a submission in that process. My recollection is that the City of Fremantle was denied the right to intervene in the State Administrative Tribunal hearing.

Another example from my electorate is the Fremantle east end development. A green council has been elected and it wants to create a truly sustainable development. This desired outcome may well be watered down if its input into this decision is removed and it goes to a DAP. We know what happens if an unelected body is involved; it is the same old story: sustainability promises are put to the community to get community support, but they suddenly evaporate in the last hour because it is all too expensive. Another example in my area is the Cockburn coast district structure plan, which is on its way. Once again, we have the issues of coastal setback and public transport, which the member for Alfred Cove raised, and congestion is a big issue in Fremantle. I was briefed by Ross Holt of LandCorp about this development and he conceded that a light rail line has been pencilled in. I asked whether the light rail would be included and he said it probably would not be for 20 years. I think he plucked that out of the air because how does he know what the budget will look like in 20 years? My point is that at the planning stage it is not a priority for the government to put light rail in to protect communities from that congestion and all the environmental impacts that will come. Meanwhile, about 10,000 more vehicles will be dumped onto Hampton Road and Douro Road, clogging up Fremantle streets again. I am very concerned that with a new panel in place, local councils and local communities will have absolutely no say over this development that will impact on our living standards. The Cockburn coast district structure plan also includes development of the South Fremantle tip site, which is highly controversial. I suggest that if the government proceeds with that development, it will create huge problems in our community. Members might recall the North Port Quay development touted a year ago—the Dubai-style development off Rous Head where 20,000 houses were going to be built over the ocean. I suggest that consortium of developers would be rubbing their hands with glee at this bill before the house today because, without any local council involvement, it need only lobby the DAP. How can we stop lobbying and corruption in this process? How can we stop the panels being politicised? I do not think we will be able to do it.

I will briefly refer to the consultation that we have undertaken and put on the record what some of the local councils have said because they are not in this place to do it themselves. The reaction from local governments has been unanimously against the introduction of the development assessment panels. City of Perth Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi says that her council is united in its opposition. She claims that the state government lacks understanding of the local government process and that the one-size-fits-all approach is not appropriate for a capital city. Ms Scaffidi says the move will add increased complexity, confusion, costs and time to the development assessment process while reducing transparency and accountability. The City of Fremantle says that the government has failed to show how the new system would be faster or more efficient. It claims that the DAPs would create a considerable cost burden for councils, which would have to pay three unelected experts between $400 and $600 a month extra in fees. The City of Fremantle said in its submission that it is a disproportionate response to actual or perceived shortcomings in planning decision making. It claims that the worst feature is that the DAPs will strip local councils of their influence in planning matters. It concluded in its submission that the DAP would actually significantly undermine the role of local government. The City of Melville does not support the universal and mandatory imposition of DAPs because the move proposes to devolve local government authority to determine development applications. Town of Victoria Park Mayor Trevor Vaughan said that it was a slap in the face for local councils and that the proposal does not take community needs into account. He believes that the state government is favouring big business over the community and that the proposal appears to be in response to a push from the development industry for shorter decision time frames on applications for planning approval. I am putting these local government positions out there because the Labor Party is not doing it. Wanneroo Mayor Jon Kelly says that the existing system is robust because it has a strong focus on community-based outcomes, with elected members directly accountable through the election process.

Ms J.M. Freeman: I bet he said that when he went through his rezoning process in Wanneroo and the whole community was up in arms about it. The whole community in Wanneroo was going back there and saying, “This rezoning lets some people have rezoning and not others.” Don’t read out comments from someone who also has those problems.

Ms A.S. CARLES: I am only reading their comments on the development assessment panels. That is the —

Ms J.M. Freeman interjected.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Member for Nollamara!

Ms A.S. CARLES: I am talking specifically about the development assessment panels. Jon Kelly said that the proposed system, no matter what the government says, is more expensive, less efficient and will take power away from communities; it is about vested interests. Armadale Mayor Linton Reynolds said that it is disappointing that the state government feels the need to withdraw decision making from all councils rather than solving problems with those who have erred. He said he was disappointed that the emphasis of the discussion paper was entirely on the point of decision rather than the assessment panels where the delays exist in large part due to hold-ups from state government departments. The City of Canning and the Geraldton council do not want it. City of Wanneroo planner Len Kosova said that the DAPs are quite preposterous and contrary to the planning laws of Western Australia. Mosman Park Mayor Ron Norris does not want it. Bunbury Mayor David Smith does not want it. Because of the time I will move on and not read out their comments.

Mr J.R. Quigley: There wouldn’t be any council who’d want it.

Ms A.S. CARLES: Yes, but who are we? Are we in this place to put their point of view to the Parliament and to represent our —

Mr J.R. Quigley: We’re not here to put the local government point of view.

Ms J.M. Freeman: Local government is not a constitutional body.

Ms A.S. CARLES: I realise that.

Kwinana Mayor Carol Adams does not want it. South Perth Mayor James Best is very disappointed about it. Lawyer Denis McLeod, whose firm represents almost every local government in Western Australia, said the development assessment panels are far more radical and extreme than those implemented in New South Wales and South Australia. Planning control is never introduced to provide a service for developers; it is to ensure the preservation of the amenity of locality. Mr McLeod also talked about the issue of third party appeal rights that I have raised.

There were people who did want it, of course, such as the Urban Development Institute of Australia, which said that it will save developers time and money, which can be passed on. The Property Council of Australia wants it and says that the plan for development assessment panels outlined by the government will streamline the approvals process and remove the politics from the local government development assessment process. Yes, that is the whole point: it will remove the politics because it will remove the voice of local council—locally elected people. That is how it will remove the politics; it gets replaced with a very, very powerful unelected group of people, who I am very concerned will be subject to undue lobbying and influence.

Extract from Hansard 6th May 2010:

Ms A.S. CARLES: I rise to talk about the amendment moved by the member for Alfred Cove. There is huge development pressure in my electorate of Fremantle, and there has been for the past 20 years. Height restrictions are a sensitive issue in my community. There has been a lot of public debate about how high the community will tolerate the height of buildings along the coastal strip. We got to a point at which the limit that the community in Fremantle will accept is eight storeys. There is a strong sense that we do not want a Gold Coast in Fremantle.

We have very significant heritage issues to take into account in Fremantle, and this makes my electorate particularly unique in Perth. People who live in heritage-listed homes do not want high-rise buildings in their street. We have heritage buildings in the city. People do not want to see 12-storey buildings in front of our old Town Hall or our other precious heritage-listed buildings. People in Fremantle place great value on the significance of those buildings. I also believe that tourists flock to Fremantle because of the heritage significance of our port town.

I support the member for Alfred Cove and what she is trying to do. As I said during the debate yesterday, I appreciate the need to address urban sprawl in Perth. It is a huge problem. I know that we need to develop sustainable transit-oriented developments in our city. However, in this case, I need to speak out on behalf of my constituents and underline the fact that I represent a unique area of Perth because of its heritage value. I would want anything built over 12 storeys to be approved by both houses of Parliament.

18th May 2010

The bill was passed by the Legislative Assembly. Adele Carles and Janet Woollard were the only Members to vote against it.

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