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ACTPLA is no more

By Paul Costigan - 20 July 2016 14

BUNYIP-2

I do not have a positive view of the planning regimes here in Canberra. Surprised?

Whenever I write a post about planning there are often responses that defend the planning bureaucracy. The real problem here is the subject of the debate – planning and development as it is administered by the ACT Government. Once upon a time, there was the ACT Planning and Land Authority – ACTPLA. It really existed!

Anyone who had the slightest interest in a planning or development would have been aware of the acronym ACTPLA. It used to be everywhere. How things change. Sometime over the last few years someone somewhere decided that we did not need a planning authority. OMG!

Yep – there is now no ACTPLA website, no such pages, no obvious use of the acronym on the ACT Government web site. It seems that it has been scrubbed out. Gone!

If this was a local council area somewhere else in Australia, locals could talk to their local planning committee and then their local councillors about planning issues. They could even attend the council meetings and watch the elected representatives discuss planning decisions. There are stories about people attending these meetings and fights breaking out. Nothing like that happens here in Canberra. Shame really.

I am not saying the local government planning system is the best system, but at least the rest of Australia knows how their system of planning is supposed to operate. Most of the time – except those times when other things happen. Remember ICAC in NSW?

Here in the ACT we used to have an authority independent of government – and therefore independent of the mischievous ways that politician have been known to intervene in planning decisions. Again not necessarily the best system – but at least we knew what it was and how it was supposed to work. Some of the time!

About ten years ago things started to fall apart when the authority and all its powers became vested in one person, the chief planner. Then things really warmed up. Some of the decisions by the chief planner – being ACTPLA – disagreed with the policies of the then elected government. The biggest issue was when the government wanted to break up the duopoly of the supermarkets and introduced a policy to open up the ACT and encourage new players. ACTPLA was seen by the government not to be following the policy.

War broke out. It went public. It was nasty and bitter stuff.

The government set out to solve the matter by taking the almighty step of restructuring  the whole of the government bureaucracy. This was when they invented bigger titles for the departments – now Directorates – and their chief with even bigger titles – Director-General (Generalissimo to many of their underlings). One outcome was that the planning authority was consumed back into the planning bureaucracy. (That’s a very brief version of complicated events.)

Over the last five years or so – the use of the title of the Chief Planner seemed to have been slipped from view. Gone!

The authority is probably still in existence in theory through the legislation, but it seems that the Generalissimo of the Planning Directorate and the planning bureaucrats are completely subservient to the Minister of Planning. No more public fights.

That may sound like a better model in a democracy where the minister takes all the responsibility for planning and development – and there is no longer in separation of the authority – but…

If anyone manages to catch sight of a planning minister and ask about planning matters, they will be referred to the professionals of the independent planning authority – which not longer exists. This is the excuse used by the Minister in his letter to residents last year.

Meanwhile, as anyone who contacts the planning officials will quickly discover, the planning bureaucracy has maintained a distance as if they were still required to have some special independence. That is, the current planning bureau under the guidance of the anointed generalissimos maintains a vast murky billabong between themselves and any pesky residents.

But wait there’s more. Meanwhile we have moved to another parallel universe whereby another opaque planning and development system, the LDA/Directorate, also does planning & masterplanning with this linked into their main priority which is to sell land – being any land it can gets its hands on – especially any green spaces and lake foreshores.

And every now and then the National Capital Authority (NCA) intervenes because parts of Canberra are still under its jurisdiction.

LDA_door

What a mess.

While the ACT Government does everything it can to pretend that we have an open and transparent planning and development regime – we certainly do not.

People have no clear and transparent way of accessing how the decisions are made and no way of getting to lobby directly whoever it is that makes those decisions. I suggest others do know the secret codes for access – but most residents definitely do not.

Supporters of the government will always say that you can appeal planning decisions. Having been through that process of taking stuff to ACAT (and won) – all I can say is best of luck with that. The ACAT process is dominated by those with power and money.

No wonder residents have difficulty trying to work out who and how and when decisions about their suburbs are being made.

The ACT’s planning authority has become a non-existent entity. Has it become like a Bunyip?  We are told it is out there in the billabong – but no one has seen it.

The management planning and development in Canberra remains a serious accountability issue. Who decides and who is influencing how things are done? Who knows?

It would be really really nice to have one transparent and people friendly planning system re-established before too much more damage is done to our urban environments – including to our green spaces, lake foreshores and urban forests.

ACTPLA-Parking-P1190428

Footnote: Once upon a time the planning building in Dickson was all about ACTPLA – its logo was on all the signs outside. All these ACTPLA signs have disappeared. But there is one left – it is on the entrance to their car park building. Maybe that is where ACTPLA now hides.

Editor’s note: The first two images above have been digitally altered.

 

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14 Responses to
ACTPLA is no more
Mordd / Chris Richar 7:41 pm 03 Sep 16

Digga, do you have stats you can link to for a facility of that size using modern processing equipment (its new so I am presuming they will have the most modern equipment available) in terms of the standard CO2 generation over a year? Not saying you are wrong, but I would very much like to see something scientific-ey with stats about average generation for similar facilities before forming a proper view.

Digga 10:26 am 03 Sep 16

Oh yes, sorry my bad – you probably haven’t heard about it as they didn’t really publicise it and everyone’s looking North instead at the tram.
Here’s the details and the EIS document there has the model of the burners and fuel storage tanks.
http://www.planning.act.gov.au/topics/design_build/da_assessment/environmental_assessment/current_and_completed_eiss/current/hume-waste-plastic-to-fuel-facility

dungfungus 9:21 am 03 Sep 16

Digga said :

I think Paul’s hit the nail on the head. There are some awful things going on behind the scenes like the quiet push of a fuel manufacturing factory at Hume, which will be responsible for adding hundreds of thousands of tonnes of CO2 emissions annually, in conflict with the solar farm across the road in horse paddocks where we’re led to believe we’ll be carbon neutral by 2020!

There is already a fuel manufacturing “factory” at the Mugga Lane landfill ( token methane- powered electricity generators).

Is this what you are referring to?

rommeldog56 9:17 am 03 Sep 16

Digga said :

I think Paul’s hit the nail on the head. There are some awful things going on behind the scenes like the quiet push of a fuel manufacturing factory at Hume, which will be responsible for adding hundreds of thousands of tonnes of CO2 emissions annually, in conflict with the solar farm across the road in horse paddocks where we’re led to believe we’ll be carbon neutral by 2020!

Ummmm……what “fuel manufacturing factory at Hume” ?? Whats that about. Heard nothing about it. Please explain ?

Digga 8:38 am 03 Sep 16

I think Paul’s hit the nail on the head. There are some awful things going on behind the scenes like the quiet push of a fuel manufacturing factory at Hume, which will be responsible for adding hundreds of thousands of tonnes of CO2 emissions annually, in conflict with the solar farm across the road in horse paddocks where we’re led to believe we’ll be carbon neutral by 2020!

ungruntled 3:26 pm 24 Jul 16

wildturkeycanoe said :

This is ridiculous. The functions of ACTPLA were absorbed by Environment and Planning Directorate. You can still find information in much the same way on that Directorate’s website. The shopfronts are the same.

Importantly, the legislation is the same. At present the legislation still defines the role of a PLA, it’s chief executive, and that the territory is bound by the decisions of a PLA.

So essentially this article is entirely about some signage on a building disappearing, and some folks having trouble seeing very clear links on the website. Run for the hills!

But now you are being practical.

Confected hysteria and pre-election positioning makes for more interesting reading apparently.

I think you are both wrong.
All I am seeing is the manifestation of people who really are shut out of the decision making, reacting to what is a real situation.
Maybe sometimes we don’t look in the best place. Maybe we sometimes get emotional. But that doesn’t mean the problem we percieve isn’t there, of isn’t real. Or that we can’t find a solution.

ungruntled 3:18 pm 24 Jul 16

Raging Tempest said :

Agreed.
But after the Barr buyout of Smyth as the new “Commissioner for International Engagement” at $300,000pa for five years costing us ratepayers at least $1.5m, not including the new Office of International Engagement, I am disillusioned with both sides of this micky-mouse council. A pox on them all.
What we need are community representatives with integrity, intelligence and industry. So Mr Costigan if you stand you will have at least my vote.

I am in agreeement with you.’But which Mr Costigan are you talking about? The one of “Follow the money” fame, or the local family who have stood together in circumstances of unbelievable tragedy?
Actually, come to think of it, it wouldn’ really matter; I’d take either of them in a heartbeat.

chewy14 1:13 pm 21 Jul 16

This is ridiculous. The functions of ACTPLA were absorbed by Environment and Planning Directorate. You can still find information in much the same way on that Directorate’s website. The shopfronts are the same.

Importantly, the legislation is the same. At present the legislation still defines the role of a PLA, it’s chief executive, and that the territory is bound by the decisions of a PLA.

So essentially this article is entirely about some signage on a building disappearing, and some folks having trouble seeing very clear links on the website. Run for the hills!

But they make decisions that I don’t agree with so something must have happened.

How else can I explain them always being wrong and not doing what I want them too?

rosscoact 9:11 am 21 Jul 16

This is ridiculous. The functions of ACTPLA were absorbed by Environment and Planning Directorate. You can still find information in much the same way on that Directorate’s website. The shopfronts are the same.

Importantly, the legislation is the same. At present the legislation still defines the role of a PLA, it’s chief executive, and that the territory is bound by the decisions of a PLA.

So essentially this article is entirely about some signage on a building disappearing, and some folks having trouble seeing very clear links on the website. Run for the hills!

But now you are being practical.

Confected hysteria and pre-election positioning makes for more interesting reading apparently.

creative_canberran 1:35 am 21 Jul 16

This is ridiculous. The functions of ACTPLA were absorbed by Environment and Planning Directorate. You can still find information in much the same way on that Directorate’s website. The shopfronts are the same.

Importantly, the legislation is the same. At present the legislation still defines the role of a PLA, it’s chief executive, and that the territory is bound by the decisions of a PLA.

So essentially this article is entirely about some signage on a building disappearing, and some folks having trouble seeing very clear links on the website. Run for the hills!

rommeldog56 2:21 pm 20 Jul 16

Raging Tempest said :

Agreed.
But after the Barr buyout of Smyth as the new “Commissioner for International Engagement” at $300,000pa for five years costing us ratepayers at least $1.5m, not including the new Office of International Engagement, I am disillusioned with both sides of this micky-mouse council. A pox on them all.
What we need are community representatives with integrity, intelligence and industry. So Mr Costigan if you stand you will have at least my vote.

The new “Canberra Community Voters party party” contesting the ACT LA election will look at potential corruption, back door deals (including developments), visibility of Govt decision making, etc :

http://citynews.com.au/2016/opinion-barrs-liar-slur-spawns-new-party/

If they live up to their word, perhaps there is some hope for accountability and visibility of decision making by this ACT labor/Greens Govt anyway. But to force that, they would probably need to hold the balance of power ion the Legislative Assembly or risk being a well intentioned “noise” from the cross benches. Can/will ACT voters vote other than for ACT Labor/Greens or Liberal ?

Im pretty sure that Costigan isnt standing here ??

wildturkeycanoe 1:07 pm 20 Jul 16

It has become very difficult to find information, now that ACTPLA has dissolved, licensing fees for instance. Firstly you are directed to the Access Canberra website, which has nothing. Then searching again you go to the Environment and Planning Directorate, to download a form titled Planning Lease Administration Building Services. I thought everything was supposed to be a one stop shop, but now everything is scattered among the remnants of different departments. All this came with a ridiculous increase in fees and charges too, just to put the icing on the cake. I guess the revenue is easier launder when it goes through a myriad of departments.

Acton 10:18 am 20 Jul 16

Agreed.
But after the Barr buyout of Smyth as the new “Commissioner for International Engagement” at $300,000pa for five years costing us ratepayers at least $1.5m, not including the new Office of International Engagement, I am disillusioned with both sides of this micky-mouse council. A pox on them all.
What we need are community representatives with integrity, intelligence and industry. So Mr Costigan if you stand you will have at least my vote.

rommeldog56 8:12 am 20 Jul 16

I’m afraid that the only way that you will fix the planning problems that u see that you post about on here, will be to mobilise people/residents/ratepayers/voters to vote this ACT Labor/Greens Gov’t out at the October ACT Legislative Assembly election. Other than that, the ACT Labor/Greens Govt ain’t going to change their planning/development practices & consultations I’m afraid.

And good luck with trying to change the rusted on Labor/Greens voting in this place !

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