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John and Robyn Hawkins
Bentley
Chudleigh
Tasmania 7304

22nd October 2016

Mr Greg Alomes
Executive Commissioner and Co Chair,
Mr John Ramsay Co Chair and
The Hearing Panel
Tasmanian Planning Commission
GPO Box 1691
Hobart 7001
Delivered by email to: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Additional Representation Regarding the Revelations at the TPC Hearing of the 11th October 2016 and including the Agricultural Zone Draft State Planning Provisions of the Tasmanian Planning Scheme

Dear Messrs Alomes and Ramsay and Hearing Panel members,

I write to provide more representation over the Draft State Planning Provisions (DSPP) to expand our 17th May 2016 representation over the provisions that may become the foundation for the Tasmanian Planning Scheme (TPS) as well as our 9th October representation primarily over Codes.

At the 11th October 2016 Tasmanian Planning Commission hearing held in Burnie, the Manager of the Planning Policy Unit, Mr Brian Risby addressed the Hearing. That address raised significant issues, which we seek to at least in some way address.

The Planning Policy Unit is a part of the Department of Justice, which incidentally has a stated Aim for “A safe, fair and just Tasmania.” But there is nothing “just” about the DSPP, which is in the process of diminishing my rights.

One may be forgiven for thinking that the Planning Policy Unit was there to create Planning Policies.

The job description for the Manager - now Risby - states:

“The position is responsible for the operations of the Planning Policy Unit. Manage the outputs of the Planning Policy Unit and provide expert advice on planning issues including the development, maintenance and review of State-wide content and guidance for Tasmania’s planning system and the development and review of legislation and strategic policy for the Minister for Planning and Local Government and the Secretary of the Department. Provide high level advice in relation to policy and legislative planning issues for the Department.”

We have formed the view that the Planning Policy Unit has become a covert part of the TPC assessment into the Draft State Planning Provisions.

With that in mind the Liberals have a stated objective on the Planning Policy Unit website:

“The Government is undertaking planning reform to provide a fairer, faster, cheaper and simpler planning system for Tasmania.”

Again the word “fairer” is massively offensive principally for its fundamental dishonesty. There is no attempt to increase fairness in the process or legislative reform.

No thinking person could be so deluded.

Up until the 11th October, within the DSPP process in our representation to the TPC on the 9th October:

“I understand the landscape may be divided into a Rural Zone and an Agricultural Zone in the draft SPPs. Our land may fall into either category with no guide as to how such a carve up would occur.”

Now, at the 11th hour we know the answer this I suggest is hardly a simpler or fairer process.

It should be noted that

“The minimum standard of behaviour expected of all Department of Justice employees is to:

· Consider people equally without prejudice or favour.

· Act professionally with honesty, consistency and impartiality.

· Take responsibility for situations, showing leadership and courage.

· Place the public interest over personal interest.

· Appreciate difference and welcome learning from others.

· Uphold the law, institutions of government and democratic principles.

· Communicate intentions clearly and invite teamwork and collaboration.

· Provide transparency to enable public scrutiny.

·    Be fiscally responsible and focus on efficient, effective and prudent use of resources.”

With this in mind at the 11th October 2016 TPC hearings, the Manager of the Planning Policy Unit made a number of statements, some of which I claim do not meet the above criteria.

Indeed my last representation calls into question the above standard of “Consider people equally without prejudice or favour.” In evidence from my 9th October representation, The now Manager of the Planning Policy Unit, Mr Risby, had already targeted, in a biased fashion, people such as myself who value a “sense of place” by casting unreasoned doubt on the validity of holding such a concept.

As I raised in our 9th October representation. I cannot see him changing that long-held pejorative position. I was outraged over his attack on “sense of place” and I consider I made it very clear how important such a concept is to the community generally as well as to Tasmania and its wellbeing.

The Burra Charter considers Place and “Sense of Place” to be an important concepts and I have placed that document into evidence before you. It is amazing that we have such a massive discrepancy in the approach to land use planning where a Departmental Manager of the Planning Policy Unit in Tasmania displays bias over an internationally recognised concept.

In 2003 the SOE stated:

“The condition of scenic landscape values is important for Tasmania for a variety of reasons. There are strong cultural ties to landscape and feelings for the visual beauty of the mountains, lakes, coasts and forests of Tasmania, which are a common bond among people. The landscape values of the State remain a major drawcard for the State’s tourism industry and these landscapes should be managed as a key component of tourism infrastructure. Landscape values often have an association with environmental and natural resource values-the values that people appreciate in a landscape may often also be important ecologically.”

And the link in the SOE between landscape and sense of place. 

“Landscape is fundamental to Tasmanians’ self image and sense of place. While it is difficult to quantify its monetary contribution, landscape character is important to the State and to local communities for economic and social benefits. Landscape character has a critical role in attracting the visitor to Tasmania and contributes to the sense of place experienced by visitors and locals alike.”

At the 11th October TPC hearings Risby, the Manager of the Planning Policy Unit, briefed the TPC and public with a surprising description of the Agriculture Zone mapping process: He considers that in broad terms the process’s goal over the Agriculture Zone mapping is to either maintain land clearing or expand it against the RFA commitment, failing to recognise land clearing as a Threatening Process under the EPBC Act. This is achieved by avoiding parts of the Natural Assets Code and by having other exemptions, which allow native vegetation to be diminished, degraded and removed. These unsustainable development exemptions are all opposed and should be removed from the DSPP.

On the Tuesday 11th October TPC Hearing, we received a briefing from Mr Risby of the Planning Policy Unit, who indicated that properties such as Bentley would become zoned Agriculture. That new information has significant ramifications, which we need to consider and discuss. We are now drawing to the end of the process of public comment into the Draft State Planning Provisions of the Tasmanian Planning Scheme.

Hardly at this 11th hour is this fairer? We went to the Planning Policy Unit DOJ website seeking some sort of explanation about the spatial zoning process and methodology for the Agricultural Zone mapping but found nothing of relevance. Risby appears to know this ... the amount of information being shared is miniscule.

Why?

As landowners who only now after the 11th October, know we will almost certainly be in the Agriculture Zone, I am aggrieved over the DSPP process and the poor and unjust way it has supplanted the IPS. This has not met Schedule 1 of LUPAA:

“1. The objectives of the resource management and planning system of Tasmania are – (c) to encourage public involvement in resource management and planning;”

I have concluded that it is not intended to.

Further the current DSPP and its supporting amendments to the Act are designed to fail the above objective.

Nor is it meeting Schedule 1 of LUPAA Objective:

“(e) to promote the sharing of responsibility for resource management and planning between the different spheres of Government, the community and industry in the State.”

The lack of a proper stated methodology for the mapping of the Agricultural Zone as reported by DOJ’s Risby to the TPC Hearing fails the DOJ standard for Mr Risby of the Planning Policy Unit does not provide: “ transparency to enable public scrutiny.”

We are farming our land but we also have expectations of a broader responsibility to existing commitments including landscape, heritage, water and the environment, rather than Risby’s undermining and ignorant pretence at non-relevance.

It is our strong view that the Agriculture Zone fails to meet the LUPAA Schedule 1 Objectives over sustainable development.

This is because, at the very minimum, on the 11th October, the TPC panel heard the Manager of the Planning Policy Unit state they (the three person Unit) were ignoring Land Capability classification in determining mapping constraints for the Agriculture Zone, to include potential agricultural land. LUPAA Schedule 1 specifically commits to taking account of Land Capability, see the clause:

“PART 2 - Objectives of the Planning Process Established by this Act. The objectives of the planning process established by this Act are, in support of the objectives set out in Part 1 of this Schedule – (i) to provide a planning framework which fully considers land capability.”

Bear in mind the now Manager of the Planning Policy Unit - Risby - is fresh from a dalliance with the Planning Reform Taskforce, where he was involved in drafting the DSPP provisions with Ms Mary Massina. Thus, we argue, the overall approach of the drafting of the Agricultural Zone is predicated on an anticipated disregard of the Land Capability system of Tasmania, importantly against the intentions of the Act.

The DSPP’s Agriculture Zone also fails to meet the LUPAA Schedule 1 Objectives because of the various clauses and exemptions, especially the lack or diminished Natural Assets Code application and the obvious Land Clearing agenda, which was perceived at the 11th October TPC Hearing and is contained in the DSPP.

The DSPP’s Agriculture Zone fails to meet the LUPAA Schedule 1 Objectives over sustainable development. It is not consistent with the Protection of Agricultural Land Policy, something that it must do under LUPAA and it in part fails to meet the State Policy On Water Quality Management 1997. See clauses around its S32 for example.

The agenda as far as I can see regarding the state-wide planning scheme is that the Liberals are looking to open up as much Agricultural land as they can get on behalf of their cronies to sell it on without regard to the environment probably to overseas markets. Think MIS scam land part of 200,000 hectares for nothing in terms of the original investment and losses to Singapore based Forico.

An open slather approach – as always.

The TPC is I suggest party to this approach.

Of course it may seem like The Agriculture Zone is all about farming but it is more than that for it covers other Resource Use activities such as forestry.

You all know this but seek to hide the details.

The lack of Policies has been a feature of the mindless ‘market driven at all costs approach’ to land use planning in Tasmania.

Currently the Planning Policy Unit website states:

“The Government will develop a suite of new state planning policies to be called Tasmanian Planning Policies to provide strategic direction for Tasmania’s planning system, in consultation with local government, stakeholders and the community.

The new policies will inform a review of Tasmania’s three regional land use strategies and the first review of the Tasmanian Planning Scheme. They will include principles to support economic development and the future needs of the community.

The Minister has established a State Policies Interdepartmental Committee to oversee this work.

The Government intends to commence consultation on the Tasmanian Planning Policies in the second half of 2016.

It is anticipated that these new policies will cover a broad range of planning matters such as economic development, settlement and community infrastructure, transport and infrastructure, natural and cultural heritage, and hazards and risks.”

However as at the 22nd October it can be said the second half of 2016 has nearly gone and one cannot find any information about this work, the proposed consultation, the interdepartmental committee and there is not even any underpinning legislation for Tasmanian Planning Policies

There is not even a draft.

There is no discussion paper as to how they may work along side the existing State Polices or under the RMPS. The Planning Policy Unit website.

Why cannot one find any information on the Tasmanian Planning Policies? Well the Manager of the Planning Policy Unit stated in the 11th October TPC hearing at Burnie that Policies were embedded into the Draft State Planning Provisions. That admission is in breach of any notion of transparency.  It is ridiculous for Policy to be embedded into the DSPPs. We call for it to be removed as a part of this DSPP process.

Indeed that feature is faulty and is not a planning scheme structure, which leads to sustainable development. It is an open slather arrangement that will likely lead to an expeditious, pragmatic, low quality of land use planning. People in the future will be confused and angry about how the Policies were introduced because there is not open and clear statement of policy against the intent of the RMPS.

How can I deduce what is policy position, what is ministerial whimsy and what is carried over from the previous unfinished regional planning scheme process, what is derived from the regional strategies and what is genuine state template. Am I really meant to consider such an atrocious piece of claptrap by way of some legal framework for land use planning reform? This is not a reform process at all because the reforms are not clear, discernable and available to the general public.

It is a complete denial of procedural fairness.

The ongoing absence of a suite of Policies on a broad range of subjects appears to be entirely intentional and malfeasant. It fundamentally undermines any notion of sustainable development.

Over and over it seems there is confusion between Policies and Strategies. It seems as if some policies may in the future even be created out of the regional land use strategies or is it the other way round? We do not really know. The fact is the people doing this so called planning reform do not know the fundamental principles of their professional technique.

Why is all this relevant? Well Tasmania urgently needs both improved strategic direction and a suite of properly designed land use Policies under the existing legislation, (The State Policies and Projects Act) which supposedly mandates compliance. Currently there are only three State Policies).

There is no Heritage Policy yet the Heritage Council is delisting some 1700 heritage properties from the State Register, yet without a Heritage Policy the 29 Local Governments will almost certainly have no compunction to list local heritage, especially a problem within very conservative council areas. Amazingly Tasmania is Australia’s most heritage dense State.

There is no Scenic Management Policy for Tasmania’s wonderful landscapes. I have witnessed satisfying and worthwhile landscapes around me trashed and when I travel across the island I see over and over the decline in the once excellent scenic quality. One would have to be blind to not observe it. This is a requirement of the bankrupt and failed logging industry of this State.

There is no Policy to recognise Tasmania’s Cultural Heritage Landscapes indeed there has been a long standing pathological avoidance of their recognition. On this subject I have been seeking the recognition of my own cultural heritage landscape since about 2005.

There is no Policy on Tourism, yet tourism will be the greatest windfall for Tasmania in terms of the economy. Indeed the Agriculture Zone stupidly makes setting up and running tourism harder.

It is with all this in mind that I wish to oppose the clauses in Section 21 (the Agricultural Zone) especially Section 21.1.2 (a) and (b). I oppose these subclauses specifically because they seek to deny fairness and participation in a way, which is stupid and unhelpful in resolving competing claims.

There are many other policy gaps of course and we note the Liberals have reneged on their election promise regarding State Policies.

We reiterate: It is noted that the State of Tasmania remains bereft of a suite of State Polices. This means issues such as Cultural Heritage Landscape recognition are avoided in a Policy sense. Yet we argue, it is obviously critical for our common and economic future. If you wish to confirm the enormous contribution Tasmania’s beautiful heritage and scenery can deliver just look at places where it has been prized and conserved and indeed enhanced, such as the United Kingdom or even the Italians in Tuscany.

The United Kingdom has sophisticated land use planning mechanisms for conserving its wonderful landscapes and its heritage even though it has some 60 million people.  Its land area is approximately 241,930 square kilometres, while Tasmania’s is 68,401. This comparison is relevant because of the scenic nature of both islands. The island state of Tasmania has a population of over 517,000 (as of September 2015). So the UK is almost 3 times the size and has some 120 times the population, yet because the UK is far more interested in seeking sustainable development outcomes, it manages, to a far better degree, to avoid scarring and degrading its landscape and heritage.  I use this simple comparison because I know the UK well and can speak with some authority over this a most unfortunate comparison.

It is not sufficient that Tasmania has a substantial WHA, if in retaining that treasure it surrounds the WHA with swathes of stumps and other scarred and degraded landscapes. The United Kingdom is a civilised, developed country and has the world’s fifth-largest economy by nominal GDP and ninth-largest economy by purchasing power parity. Tasmania by comparison is a veritable minnow economically resulting from its back woods, colonial, chop it down - ship it out mentality.

To put it simply, you are presiding over a massive strategic liability, which will come back to bite Tasmanians in the longer term.

Look at the on going forestry subsidies and exemptions. The thinking behind this approach has the inevitable consequence of making Tasmania the poorest State in Australia.

Tasmania would be well advised to look closely at the range of protective mechanisms for Britain’s heritage and landcape and adopt some without further delay or procrastination.

Tasmania needs to learn what it can do to ensure that international tourism delivers the largest economic benefit possible. Its land use planning system is not designed to assist such an objective in any meaningful manner. By locating tourism within National Parks and with the restrictive Agricultural Zone the community remains locked out of the opportunities for diversification. This is not clever.

Tourism is completely connected to the reality of Tasmania being a beautiful place.

Even the Department of Treasury and Finance have woken up to the reality of the bankrupt logging industry. Yet Tourism comes in behind Forestry in the Agricultural Zone.

The changes in the forestry industry to date have been profound and predominantly structural in nature. Few, if any, of these changes appear cyclical; that is, they are not likely to be reversed if economic conditions improve.  They are therefore expected to have long term effect s on Tasmania’s forestry and forest products sector.

AND

While there will always be demand for locally produced sawn timber, there is little evidence to date that suggests that the forestry and forest products industry could grow significantly and become a major employer as in past decades. For some forest products, it is no longer evident that Tasmania has a global competitive advantage. 

Sadly and why do we have no State Policy over Forestry?

We also reiterate our 9th October statement: We remain of the strong opinion that all Codes should have universal application across all zones. Whether the Code applies or not would depend on the circumstances of the matter and the development in question. To pretend that it is acceptable to dispense with critical elements of sustainable development simply because of the zoning adopted by a Council is ludicrous.

Concluding Statements

What is the problem with Tasmania? Why is every element of the life and society here part of a corrupt political agenda?

We consider that the draft SPPs do not meet the Regional Land Use Strategies or the Schedule 1 objectives of The Act.

It is very hard to conceive that the current deficient draft represents a satisfactory step in a process, without further and more final drafts by which Tasmania may move more circumspectly to a new statewide planning scheme.

Please consider this representation as seeking to preserve our rights and the rights and amenity of all those who live in this, special and beautiful Tasmanian landscape.

Think long and hard if you as the Tasmanian Planning Commission can continue to preside over a debacle created by our political masters, all in the interests of their mates.

Yours sincerely,

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John Hawkins

*John Hawkins is a Sandhurst-trained former British army officer, now an Australian resident of almost fifty years. For the past fourteen years he has been enhancing the Bentley landscape in the Chudleigh Valley, Tasmania. He is well known for his two-volume standard reference on Australian Silver, and for his knowledge of the Life and Times of Erich Abetz.

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