Planning and Environment Amendment (General) Bill 2012 (07.02.2013)

Written on the 20 February 2013

I am pleased to rise to speak in the debate on the Planning and Environment Amendment (General) Bill 2012. I am pleased that those opposite are not opposing this bill. It is an important bill that introduces much-needed changes to Victoria's planning system.

 

It will certainly restore a lot of confidence and certainty in the planning system and make it more accountable and easier to understand. It will take us back to the days when council municipalities had more say over planning processes and they afforded people more choice and far more certainty. As we know, the Labor government introduced measures such as the development assessment committees (DACs), which took away a local council's autonomy over planning, and sought to force planning decisions into a centralised one-size-fits-all model which took away choice.

 

We are reminded of the decisions made by the former Minister for Planning, Justin Madden, who is now the member for Essendon in the Assembly. Victorians are only too aware of his sham consultation processes, which seemed to be his modus operandi in a number of areas.

 

Mr Finn interjected.

 

Ms CROZIER -- That may be, Mr Finn, but I think Victorians know what he did and I do not think they have forgotten.

 

I am going to speak about Mr Tee's contribution. He said that under the administration of the Minister for Planning, Mr Guy, the sector is in turmoil. I spoke yesterday on the Ombudsman's report on his own-motion investigation into the governance and administration of the Victorian Building Commission. The report revealed the turmoil that existed in that entity under the previous government's administration. It highlighted how standards in the management and governance of the Building Commission had declined under the Labor government's administration. What occurred under the Labor government's watch was abysmal, and all Victorians would be appalled if they read that report in its entirety.

 

As I said, the bill we are debating today is another move to restore confidence to the sector and to do away with the turmoil presided over by the previous planning minister, Justin Madden. The record of turmoil and shambles that existed within the planning portfolio speaks for itself, and Victorians rightly condemned the minister's actions and those of the Labor government. The Baillieu government has inherited that legacy; it is part of the mess we are fixing up. I am pleased that this bill will return certainty to the planning process.

 

The bill reforms multiple sections of the planning system, including abolishing the DACs and allowing for the extension of expired permits. Other members have spoken about the technicalities of the bill, so I do not propose to go into detail here, but I want to mention the processes and responsibilities of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

 

The bill allows for an extension of expired permits and gives the responsible planning authority, such as a local council, the ability to extend the time that a planning permit remains valid without the applicant having to go through the costly, unnecessary and onerous process of applying to VCAT for an extension. We know that freeing up VCAT's resources will be a good thing. It already has enough to do in terms of administration without having to be responsible for the more onerous tasks it had to administer in the past. The Attorney-General noted that in his second-reading speech, and he asked why it was necessary to have such a burdensome administrative process when development application extensions made within 12 months are very rarely contentious.

 

The bill will do a number of other things. It will seek to improve and streamline the process for planning scheme amendments. There will now be a common-sense and efficient process, cutting out unnecessary bureaucratic red tape and providing further certainty in planning decisions.

 

Part 2 of the bill abolishes Labor's development assessment committees, which is an important aspect of the bill. These committees stripped councils of their role as decision-makers when it came to local planning matters. It was extraordinary listening to Mr Tee's contribution earlier.

 

Mr Lenders -- It was good.

 

Ms CROZIER -- As I said, Mr Lenders, it was quite extraordinary because I thought he was arguing the complete opposite of what he claimed to be arguing, but then again one cannot be too surprised with what comes from the shadow Minister for Planning at times.

 

As I said, the bill will abolish the development assessment committees and give councils more of a say. Under the previous regime the local community did not have much say on how its streets should look or feel. This will return that certainty. I know there are many planning issues in Southern Metropolitan Region, including in the city of Port Phillip and the suburbs of Camberwell, Prahran and Malvern, which were widely affected by some decisions under Mr Madden's watch. Those communities still have concerns about those decisions. The DACs were inherently antidemocratic, and I am glad to see that this bill is undoing Labor's attempts to undermine local representation and communities' choices.

 

I am glad to see that this government is serious about cutting red tape and implementing sensible reforms such as this. I would like to commend the minister for the thorough and detailed work he has undertaken in listening to communities and stakeholders who will be affected by the planning process and who will be directly impacted by the reforms in this bill. As I said, I am pleased that the opposition is not opposing the bill. I reiterate my support for the bill and commend it to the house.


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