Planning will continue to be a flashpoint for the ACT’s governing coalition, with the Greens flagging a long list of changes to the Planning Bill that many community groups have decried and which the Canberra Liberals have already rejected.
The Greens, who are operating out of Cabinet on this issue, have welcomed concessions from Planning Minister Mick Gentleman following consultation and the Legislative Assembly committee inquiry into the Bill but will move more amendments when it lands in the Assembly in June.
Greens planning spokesperson Jo Clay, who will move the amendments, said the issues of Territory Priority Projects (TPPs), proper consultation, transparency, governance and definitions needed to be clarified.
“We are hoping we can work to make this system a lot more rigorous than what we expected we would need to,” she said.
The government has agreed to a review of governance as recommended by the inquiry committee but the Greens will push for that to be conducted independently and completed within 12 months of the Bill passing.
“We have heard from so many areas, so many concerns, it clearly needs to be looked at,” Ms Clay said.
She said it was important that the principles of consultation and the way the consultation was conducted were included in the legislation.
It was vital that TPPs underwent ‘sufficient community consultation’ as stated in the original draft of the Bill and that a decision maker took this into account.
Ms Clay said the grounds for declaring a TPP should meet all three criteria listed in the Bill, not just one.
“We’re looking at that quite critically,” she said. “What could possibly be important enough to Canberra to be a Territory Priority Project that wouldn’t need to meet all three criteria?”
One of those criteria is significant public benefit, something that community groups say is not sufficiently defined, and Ms Clay said needed to be clarified.
Ms Clay said definitions in the Bill, criticised as being too vague, was another area the party was looking at.
On transparency, Ms Clay said the planning authority should have to explain why it approved a proposal with published reasons, especially where it was opposed by an entity.
The Greens also wanted better linkage between the good planning outcomes as defined in the Territory Plan and the Bill to make sure this actually occurred.
She said the Greens had secured concessions from the Minister to improve public consultation, and an agreed boost to training and resourcing would deal with many community concerns.
“We’re also pleased that they have agreed to strengthen wording within the Planning Bill on housing affordability and climate resilience,” Ms Clay said.
Ms Clay could not say whether the Greens were prepared to join the Liberals to vote against the Bill if its demands were not met but they would be working with all MLAs across the Assembly to achieve a better outcome.
“What we are focused on here is to get a really good planning system, whether or not we get a Bill passing in June we’ll have to wait and see,” she said.