6 June 2023

'Main bones' for Territory Plan and district strategy visions passes into law

| Claire Fenwicke
Join the conversation
Aerial view of Canberra city and Parliament House

The Planning Bill 2022 sets the stage for the Territory Masterplan and District Strategies. Photo: James Coleman.

The foundation has been set to revamp Canberra’s planning system with the passing of major legislation through the Legislative Assembly.

More than 120 Labor and Greens amendments were debated on Tuesday (6 June) across more than 600 clauses in the controversial bill, which has attracted much criticism from community councils for lack of consultation and fears it is too far-reaching.

However, Planning Minister Mick Gentleman said while most of his party’s amendments were “minor and technical” in nature, they recognised and strengthened feedback from a committee inquiry and the community, and some concerns could be revisited as work started on the Territory Plan and district strategies.

“But this bill will put the main bones in place for us to do that Territory Plan and the district strategies, ensuring we can deliver better outcomes for the future, more housing for Canberrans in better circumstances,” he said.

“Planning is, of course, a dynamic situation, everybody wants to have their opportunity to have their say, and we’ve encouraged that, and of course, we’ve recognised the comments that have been made, and we [have] made amendments to the bill from those comments.”

Some amendments covered tweaking the definition of ‘ecological sustainable development’, ensuring housing affordability principles are considered, and for the “cumulative and incremental environmental impacts” of a project to also be included as part of a development.

Others included adding the requirement that consultation had to engage with directly impacted stakeholders “as early as possible” and new subclauses to give the Planning Minister authority to make design guidance for development proposals, as well as giving the Chief Planner the ability to make technical specifications to support design guides and the Territory Plan.

A two-stage pre-development application process was also added to the legislation, and public interest tests when it comes to the declaration of a Territory Priority Project (which cannot be appealed in the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal).

Mr Gentleman said this would create an outcomes-focused planning system for Canberra’s future.

“We want to see a ‘floor’ so people can build up from there. We don’t want to see the rules-based planning system which stops really good development into the future,” he said.

“It will mean quicker development application processing and … better outcomes for the lived environment that you live in. So we’re looking at not just the building that you live in, but the way that you live around that building, the way the community interacts, our environmental concerns for the future.”

READ ALSO ‘It’d be a recipe for disaster’: health chief outlines reasons for quick Calvary Public transition as acquisition court date approaches

The Greens were pleased Labor had also agreed to support all of its amendments.

ACT Greens Spokesperson for Planning Jo Clay explained an ‘outcomes-focused’ system would ensure bad planning mistakes of the past wouldn’t happen again, using Belconnen as an example.

“We’ve got a strip next to Lake Ginninderra, which should be our beautiful, premium strip of restaurants and cafes – instead, we’ve got fast food and drive-throughs, this is a really bad planning outcome,” she said.

“This new system is aiming for a good planning outcome and we’ve done a lot of work on the bill itself to improve that, and we’ve got new protections, we’ve design guides and technical specifications that actually bring in a lot more requirements to make sure our development is the right kind of development for Canberra.”

She said while a lot of the detail from the Planning Bill will come into effect once the Territory Plan is finalised, it will still impact Canberrans through how it will guide what decisions are made for the growth of the city.

“When it comes to making small changes around the house, our planning system probably isn’t going to affect you, ” Ms Clay said.

“When it comes to deciding where we put housing, how we build housing, where we put our schools and shops, that is what our planning system is there for. So it’s really going to affect people’s lives and it’ll affect the way that Canberra changes over time.

“I am confident that this package of amendments will give us the right architecture for the planning system, and then we’re going to have to get on with the rest of the job and look at the Territory Plan.”

READ ALSO Developer buys historic Well Station but it won’t be joining suburbia

While the Canberra Liberals did not oppose any amendments brought forward during the debate, the party did not support the overall bill.

Shadow Planning and Land Management Minister Peter Cain said they couldn’t support it as they didn’t know what the entire package was going to look like.

“We don’t really know what the Territory Plan is yet … we don’t know what the design guides are yet, we haven’t seen the final district strategies,” he said.

“So my whole point is it’s too early to predict what this Planning Bill is going to produce because we have not yet seen all of the key elements of the planning reform.

“What is outcome-focused? What is a good outcome? Who decides that? What does it look like? We’re not really in the position to answer those questions.”

He welcomed the announcement there would be a standing committee inquiry into the Territory Plan to give another chance for questions to be answered.

“There’s so much technical stuff still to come, and this won’t be the only legally binding instrument in this package,” Mr Cain said.

READ ALSO Submission urges shops for the Parliamentary Triangle but less parking

The legislation will be reviewed after three years, another new clause added during the debate.

Mr Gentleman said the district strategies and Territory Plan were now being finalised, with the design guides to be released “soon”.

“The new Territory Plan will be presented to the Legislative Assembly so the new Planning Act can commence later this year,” he said.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

Looks like another top down impost on the citizens of Canberra. From many past observations, this Labor-Greens (they are the same party) government treats `consultation’ only as a box ticking exercise, and the actual views of the citizens are always ignored in the party preferred, pre-determined, planning outcomes.

Another plan that we the people have no say in !

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.