How did the ACT Government Territory Plan come to have more than a hundred suburb precinct maps, whose requirements may conflict with those of overlying district precinct maps, without a plan for dealing with those potential conflicts?
Director-General of Environment and Planning Ben Ponton recently proposed that the over-complicated Territory Plan be shortened to a single page. He could start by omitting twenty-three redundant precinct maps that specify no requirements. The Planning and Development Act allows him to make such changes by technical amendment, without consultation.
When Ponton signed into law the Technical Amendment (TA) 2012-06, development tables were amended to authorise precinct maps to change development table provisions, and the first precinct maps appeared in the Territory Plan. Since then, every new development application must comply with a district precinct map, and every application for a development in a suburb must also comply with a suburb precinct map. Yet, discrepancies are clearly prevalent.
The Belconnen District Precinct Map, for example, prohibits outdoor recreation facilities in some locations where development tables list them as being permitted. The Kaleen Precinct Map permits stores in some locations where development tables list stores as being prohibited.
The Planning and Development Act determines which code should apply, in the event that codes have inconsistent requirements. It does not address the issue of inconsistent precinct map requirements.
According to Ponton, “The reformatting of the Territory Plan introduced with technical amendment (TA) 2012-06 made no changes to underlying policies, but merely relocated provisions to precinct maps and/or codes and in the process, reworded provisions for clarity.”
Public Service Standards Commissioner Bronwen Overton-Clarke recently described this as “a reasonable and unremarkable summary of the main thrust of TA2012-06.”
Some people believe that the connection between precinct maps and TA 2012-06 is more than just a coincidence, and that the authority had avoided the consultation requirements of the Act – including the requirement to refer Territory Plan variations to the Minister and to the Legislative Assembly – by inappropriately determining that the introduction of precinct maps was a technical amendment. The Act says that technical amendments may relocate provisions within the Territory Plan, but it makes no mention of precinct maps.
This issue was discussed at Environment and Planning forums attended by former Director-General Dorte Ekelund. She wrote that “it was Mr. Jim Corrigan, Executive Director of Planning Delivery, who stated that TA2012-06 [simply] relocated existing provisions in the Territory Plan to precinct codes. This statement is not inconsistent with the notifiable instrument.”
I raised these issues with Planning Minister Mick Gentleman. He replied that he is “satisfied that all Environment and Planning Directorate officials have acted in accordance with the ACT Code of Conduct in relation to the issues you have raised.”
So how were the initial precinct maps created, and how was the Territory Plan’s development tables amended to authorise precinct maps to permit or prohibit various types of developments?
The first two pages of notifiable instrument 2012-622 reproduced below might answer some of these questions, but a permanent solution to this riddle is yet to be found.
Do you think the Territory Plan should be shortened? Do you think consultations with the relevant authorities should have been conducted prior to introducing precinct maps?