19 July 2011

ACTPLA kicking up on claimed planning interference

| johnboy
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The Liberals’ Zed Seselja has announced the results of his FOI digging which show some worrying friction between outgoing planning chief Neil Savery and planning Minister Andrew Barr:

The Chief Planners extraordinary brief to Andrew Barr raises concerns about ongoing and widespread interference in the planning process which went well beyond his concerns about a letter from Jon Stanhope,” Opposition Leader, Zed Seselja, said today.

Mr Savery said in the brief:

You will understand that I find this level of interference, which in the case of DLAPS is occurring on an ever more frequent basis, although not always as obviously as in this case, has the potential to make the role of ACTPLA as a statutory authority for a range of tasks increasingly difficult and puts the Government at risk. It also means that one part of your 2010 Statement of Planning Intent is difficult to deliver, namely, keeping the politics out of planning.

When Mr Savery detailed his frustration with what he saw as political interference within the Giralang development and more broadly, Mr Barr should have stood up to ensure the integrity of the planning process, but chose not to.

What is known from the documents released under Freedom of Information to the Canberra Liberals is that a letter to Jon Stanhope was drafted for Mr Barr, but it was neither signed nor dated and unlikely sent. The Chief Planner was calling for political support to preserve the integrity of the process and Mr Barr refused to give it.

So what actions did Andrew Barr take to ensure himself that ACTPLA was not being compromised by other government departments or from Ministers?

The FOI documents also reveal that what appears to be the only action taken by Andrew Barr, was for his office to organise a meeting with Mr Savery, then Chief Minister Jon Stanhope and the head of the public service. Instead of investigating the complaints he organised a meeting with the Minister responsible for the departments that were suggested to have tried to interfere. He hung Mr Savery out to dry.

In today’s Canberra Times Zed is going so far as to speculate that the entire Hawke review and reorganisation of the whole ACT Public Service has been aimed solely at removing Neil Savery.

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So now we see the behind the scenes shenanigans of the very long running Giralang Shops development fiasco.

I’m gobsmacked. How stupid of Stanhope to undermine a decent outcome for Giralang just because a single Woolworths supermarket was to be built. This was hardly a dramatic undermining of supermarket competition policy. It also confirms the widely held belief at the time that an Aldi for Kaleen was announced by Jon Stanhope was a ploy to undermine the Woolworths proposal for Giralang.

Didn’t he have better things to do, like running the bloody territory?

That media release is really quite hard to understand.

That aside, i’m sure political interference in the planning process is rife and most of the time it is probably hard to pin down and expose. Plausible deniability and all that.

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