Concerns have been raised over the government’s proposed Major Projects legislation.
Residents Opposed to the Cable Car (ROCC) say the laws, if enacted, could bypass existing checks and balances.
““This is a fast-track, shortcut approval process tailor-made for complex, controversial projects that would struggle to make it through a proper assessment and approval process,” said Vica Bayley, spokesperson for ROCC.
The Tasmanian Greens agreed, saying the legislation has “sent ripples of worry through the community.”
Labor has said that they are reviewing the draft legislation and consulting widely. ” Our guiding principle is that all projects have the opportunity to be assessed on their merits and that the community is allowed to have their say,” commented Shadow Minister for Planning Anita Dow.
The government describes the proposed process as ‘ independent, comprehensive and rigorous’. They say it will provide for the assessment of development proposals of significant scale, impact or complexity, those that cross municipal boundaries and those that require assessment under multiple Acts.
ROCC called on Premier Gutwein to reiterate his government’s previous commitment that the kunanyi/Mt Wellington cable car would not be approved via a Major Projects pathway.
They said that ‘most concerning aspects’ of the legislation include:
- no public consultation on the guidelines by which a project will be assessed;
- assessment and approval by a hand-picked panel that is not subject to normal Code of Conduct requirements;
- no opportunity for public comment until AFTER the panel issues a draft assessment report and no role for local councils;
- no opportunity for merit-based appeal by third parties, including neighbours and other affected parties.
“Tasmanians should be under no illusion – this legislation is written to ram through complex, controversial projects like the cable car, Westbury Prison, high-rise hotels and Cambria Green, and minimise the opportunity for public involvement,” Bayley added.
“The cable car proponent hasn’t produced a proposal with enough detail to meet the threshold required for it to be assessed under current rules. This legislation allows Government to pull it from the local council assessment and have new rules and a draft assessment written by a special panel, all without the public having a say.”
The Greens pointed out that Mount Wellington Cableway Company has been encouraged and enabled by the Liberals since before they took office when, in opposition, they moved in Parliament to neuter the Wellington Park Trust’s powers and succeeded with Labor’s support.
“The cable car is a divisive project and the Liberals must rule out using their proposed fast track legislation for its benefit,” said Greens Leader and Member for Clark Cassy O’Connor. She called for the 6,000 or more Tasmanians who gathered in protest in the foothills of kunanyi to be heard.
“Kunanyi is a public protected area,” O’Connor said. “The cable car doesn’t have wide community support. The Liberals can’t justify it going through a fast track approval process.”
Proposed Westbury Prison
Westubury Residents Against the Prison (WRAP) say that people in the Meander Valley have raised concerns with them about whether the government is attempting to introduce the Major Projects Bill 2020 in order to have the assessment of the project fast tracked.
“If the government took this course, the community’s rights to participate in the planning process, which they have been promised by the Minister (for Corrections, Elise Archer), would essentially evaporate,” said Linda Poulton, WRAP President. “Not only would we not have been consulted prior to the announcement of Westbury as the preferred site, we would now be robbed of the opportunity promised to us by the Minister in October last year to fully participate in the planning process.”
ROCC believe that the law will lead to bad development decisions and increased community conflict. “This bill takes the kind of secrecy and lack of accountability exposed in the discredited Expressions of Interest process for developments in parks and reserves, and enshrines it in legislation.”
Comment on the bill closes April 9. ROCC are planning ‘community-driven public meetings’ regarding the legislation in early April.
The government said the draft Major Projects Bill has been through two periods of public consultation in 2017 and 2018, and significant work has been undertaken to consider the issues raised and to refine the assessment process accordingly.
“We have taken our time to revise the draft Bill to ensure that the new major projects assessment process is independent, comprehensive and rigorous, and one which provides certainty to proponents and transparency for the community,” said Premier Peter Gutwein and Minister for Planning Roger Jaensch said in a joint statement issued Wednesday.