The Tasmanian Planning Policies Shambles
BILL 48 – The Land Use Planning and Approvals Amendment (Tasmanian Planning Policies and Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2018
The Tasmanian Planning Policies proposition is now being resurrected with the introduction of Bill 48, the Land Use Planning and Approvals Amendment (Tasmanian Planning Policies and Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2018, which was on the 18th October 2018, introduced to the Lower House.
The Government, with Bill 48, is failing to deliver on its promises, such its 2014 one over State Policies but they are getting away with this aspect, by creating legislation which allows a second set of planning policies, the Tasmanian Planning Policies, (which have already been designed and would be introduced under Bill 48), which is currently in the lower house.
The currently discarded draft set of (so called “demonstration”) Tasmanian Planning Policies were the Liberals’ first miserable attempt to write land use policy. That in itself was a promissory breach of the Liberals where in 2014 they promised: “All state policies will be drafted pursuant to relevant laws and regulations.” There were no laws and no regulation for Tasmanian Planning Policies which is why the Tasmanian Parliament has yet another amendment Bill (Bill 48) over land use planning.
Bill 48 (amending LUPAA) has seemingly been drafted by a small number of people, within the ad-hoc Planning Policy Unit, who apparently labour under their own philosophical beliefs, or perhaps those of their Minister, rather than attempting to further the Objectives of the existing laws, the state planning legislation, the RMPS. Tasmania urgently needs a proper and professionally staffed land use planning Department. This may be a side issue but it cannot go without mention at this point. That is the trouble with Bills such as Bill No 48, it simply provides power to the incumbent Minister.
The central plank of the Tasmanian Planning Scheme, The State Planning Provisions are little more than an ambit claim, designed primarily by the Property Council (Tasmanian Division), was given a veneer of legitimacy via an ad hoc, unrepresentative group, the Planning Reform Task Force (PRTF), set up by the Hodgeman Government who engaged the Property Council’s operator to run it. Their administrative/ liaison officer of the PRTF who had a part time job with the Tasmanian Planning Commission at the time, became the head of the Liberal Government’s Planning Policy Unit (PPU).
The current SPP, arising from the PRTF, was created absent a comprehensive suite of State Policies under the Resource Management Planning System (RMPS) despite a contrary February 2014 promise by the Liberals. But now the PPU is championing Bill No 48, the legislation 7underpinning the proposed Tasmanian Planning Policies. Not only are they handling the Policy they are actually massaging the underpinning legislation. Only in Tasmania would such conflicts be acceptable.
The Tasmanian Liberal Government has been prepared to write controlling rules and schedules that mandate compliance with provisions, whilst giving local governments, who currently manage the planning authority’s provisions, little policy rationale or adequate guidance upon which they can rely in constructing the remainder of the Tasmanian Planning Scheme – the Local Provisions Schedule. This is not fair and orderly planning in my view. The late introduction of Bill 48 does not rectify this injustice.
Successive Tasmanian Governments have created only three State Policies under the existing State Policies and Projects Act, even though the legislation supporting State Policies has long been a part of the RMPS and the absence of a comprehensive suite of State Policies has been criticised over and over for more than 20 years.
Indeed with the current Bill 48, the Hodgeman Liberal Government remains transfixed by the opportunity to create a new, separate and mostly non-binding set of Ministerial polices, the Tasmanian Planning Policies. This proposed second set of policies, were Bill 48 passed into legislation, would be a complex, convoluted abomination within the RMPS, simply because of the circumstance where it creates a second set of land use policies.
Bill 48 is designed to transfer power from the Parliament of Tasmania, who currently approve the State Policies under the State Policies and Projects Act to the Liberal Government’s Minister for Planning. Not only will this inevitably lead to less certainty and less consistency in land use planning policy it will increase the concentration of power in the current government of the day. The current State Policies and Projects Act is a valid and tested part of the RMPS and is far superior to Bill 48. We consider the Liberal promise to use relevant legislation is being ignored.
The fact that local government is apparently continuing to tolerate being pushed into both new legislation, new policies and new schemes, on the dishonest pretext that there was insufficient consistency in the Interim Planning Schemes is very disappointing. The purpose of a full suite of State Policies under the current State Policies and Projects Act is primarily designed to provide consistency.
This proposed replacement of a single set of State Policies with the proposition to have two sets of policies operating side-by-side but ostensibly not in conflict, is an anathema to any sound, sane, planning policy construct. The complex concept of two planning policy systems was never a part of a Liberals’ Promise. If two sets of Policies are not in conflict and cannot be in conflict under Bill 48, why have them both?
For the record the Liberals made promises over land use planning to get elected in 2014. What did the Liberals promise before the 2014 election regarding Policies?
“A fairer, faster, cheaper, simpler planning system”
“A Majority Liberal Government has a plan to fix the Labor-Green planning mess:”
“State policies for consistency”
“Immediately after the election, a majority Liberal Government will provide the leadership and consistency that has been lacking under Labor and the Greens. We will commence drafting state policies to provide the necessary guidance to councils on how to implement the single state-wide planning scheme and plan for Tasmania’s future land use needs.”
“These policies will make clear the government’s intention to once again make Tasmania ‘Open for Business’ and provide certainty to both investors and the community about how the planning scheme will work.”
“State policies will include, for example, objectives such as:
– Planning and land use is to be geared toward facilitating economic growth and investment;
– Planning and land use is to take into account future needs of the community and potential growth; and
– Sustainable and sensible development is to be encouraged to assist in conserving and allowing access to Tasmania’s parks and reserves.
“All state policies will be drafted pursuant to relevant laws and regulations.”
How is having two policy systems “simpler”? How is having two policy systems “cheaper”?
Was there a “mess”? Are any of the Interim Planning Schemes a “mess”? Are any of the Regional Land Use Strategies a “mess”? Is the current State Policies and Projects Act a “mess”?
What does the word “Immediately” actually mean?
Have the Liberals honoured their 2014 promise: “We will commence drafting state policies to provide the necessary guidance to councils”?
Has the “necessary guidance” to Councils been provided in advance of the Statewide Planning Scheme? Or are Councils all over Tasmania creating their Local Provisions Schedules under the TPS without formal policy guidance, now in late 2018?
NB. Especially the use of the term “State Policies” in the above extract from the Liberal’s 2014 planning promise. What relevant laws for State Policies would apply other than the existing legislation, the State Policies and Projects Act? Is the State Policies and Projects Act not relevant law?
Why does the Tasmanian Parliament now have to suffer Bill 48 and its proposition for Tasmanian Planning Policies when the Liberals’ promise was for something else?
We are left wondering when someone is going to call this Liberal state government to account over this deception.
We are left wondering how the PIA can be so weak over one of their core positions, being that of the creation of a suite of State Policies for Tasmania. The answer here may lie with the former President of the Tasmanian chapter of the PIA, being the former administrative officer of the Planning Reform Taskforce and now current head of the Planning Policy Unit, Mr Risby.
We hope that the LGAT would realise how important a suite of State Policies could be in achieving a state-wide consistency, were they competently drafted under The State Polices and Projects Act.
Instead of serving local government by providing consistency through a suite of State Policies, the Hodgeman Liberal Government, at the behest of the Property Council, started designing the Tasmanian Planning Scheme, deciding to make the Policies after writing the scheme itself, whilst at the same time embedding the unwritten policy during the drafting of heart of the Tasmanian Planning Scheme, the State Planning Provisions.
This has allowed the Government to embed into the State Planning Provisions the policy of their choosing in an untransparent manner. The Tasmanian Planning Policies were Bill 48 to become law, would be constructed merely to give an appearance of legitimacy to what is already evident in the SPPs.
A full suite of State Policies should be created and have a public draft comment opportunity before state-wide style planning schemes are introduced, were it to be done fairly and with probity under the RMPS legislation. That would be Fairer because it would be far more transparent in regards to the particular Policy shifts and introductions that are otherwise embedded in the voluminous State Planning Provisions of the TPS.
The State Policies and Projects Act, though its incomplete collection of State Polices is the existing current legal instrument by which state-wide consistency is intended to be achieved. Simple as that. The Liberal Government is still trying to understand the fundamental concept of how the planning system should work under the various RMPS suite of laws.
In December 2015 Minister Gutwein started prattling on about State Policies and “second level” ones in the PIA Newsletter but the Minister who currently is responsible for Polices is meant to be Premier William Hodgman not Minister Gutwein. In December 2015, Minister Gutwein, was acting well and truly beyond his remit. The whole idea of the RMPS is that State Polices are there to provide consistency. The shift in Policy formulation from the Premier to the Minister for Planning is significant and questionable. It signals a decline in Policy formulation under the Liberals.
Of course the Liberals never wanted any genuine land use planning policies, they would just get in the way of the open slather solutions.
There is, of course, no legislative mandate for second level policies and hence no mandate for the introduction of Bill 48 recently to create Tasmanian Planning Policies. We argue Bill 48 is a second rate idea. It is not consistent with the Liberal’s promise of State Policies.
It is not so much the state-wide consistency aspect, but the watering down of the Community’s planning controls, which is being done to enable the Liberals’ open slather development at all cost approach.
Labor’s regionalised Interim Planning Scheme process brought the community with it. Now, prior to the finalisation of the Tasmanian Planning Scheme there is, under Labor’s reforms, already a vast reduction in the number of local planning schemes and there is a vast improvement, not only in overall cooperation between Local Government Councils regionally but significant gains in consistency between schemes. Is it a “mess” as claimed by the Liberals? We do not think so. It must be concluded that the current push for a Tasmanian Planning Scheme is based on the Liberal’s fabricated rhetoric.
An overview of the performance of the Labor interim schemes was done by the PPU’s Mr Risby in 2012 and is attached. It is titled: ‘Making a good system better’ Tasmania’s planning system ‐ a comparative performance assessment and reform update. This shows just how well the current interim schemes perform.
Bill 48 make a number of other changes to the current laws of land use planning, to LUPAA, too detailed to go over here. In broad terms they reduce your rights and increase Ministerial powers. The Liberals state:
“The Amendment Bill also makes a number of administrative changes to LUPAA and the Tasmanian Planning Commission Act 1997 (TPC Act) aimed at streamlining the Local Provisions Schedules (LPSs) assessment process; improving the functionality of LUPAA and the TPC Act; and further aligning these Acts with the Government’s planning reform agenda.”
We call upon Labor and The Greens and of course the Upper House to not pass any of Bill 48 (The Land Use Planning and Approvals Amendment (Tasmanian Planning Policies and Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2018) into law.
Andrew Ricketts is Convenor, The Environment Association (TEA) Inc. PO Box 261, Deloraine 7304, Tasmania