Strategic Regional Land Use Policy

(24 August 2011, Parliament House Sydney)

Ms CLOVER MOORE: My question is directed to the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure. Given the Government's commitment to establish a strategic regional land use policy, will the Minister commit to ensuring important agricultural land, aquifers, national parks and Sydney and town catchment areas are not mined and the new environmental plans will mandate protection rather than just be considerations in development decisions?

Mr BRAD HAZZARD: I thank the member for Sydney for raising the issue of getting appropriate protection in place for our important agricultural land and aquifers, which is a high priority for this Government. The reason it is such a high priority is that for 16 years under the previous Labor Government there was absolutely no focus at all on strategic land management. This Government has done more in four months in providing a strategic framework for managing agricultural and mining pressures than Labor did in 16 years. Already this Government has moved swiftly to introduce new measures to manage the pressures placed on our farming land from mining interests. We are developing the most stringent environmental standards for coal seam gas in Australia. The Government is committed to restoring balance and creating certainty for communities, farmers and industry. We will provide the strategic growth management required to make New South Wales number one again.

The only strategic management done under Labor was to work out where the next donation was coming from, and Labor members did that well; where the next deal was coming from, and they did that well too; and how their mates would be looked after, in particular, Eddie Obeid, who was very special. He was one of the puppeteers. The last two Ministers for Planning, in particular, failed to address the big issues facing the State but spent an enormous amount of time ticking off developments behind closed doors with no thought as to how to make the planning system one in which community members would have confidence.

[Interruption]

Mr BRAD HAZZARD: The puppet Premier, right on cue. I am glad the member is still alive. The former puppet Premier—

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Kiama will come to order.

Mr BRAD HAZZARD: The former puppet Premier shows there is still some life in the old puppet yet. As planning Minister she spent more time working out how to get to be Premier than addressing the failings of the planning decisions. Decisions were made on a whim. There was no proper process. There were very few safeguards. The planning process was highly politicised. Because the member for Heffron is seeking to make herself the centre of attention again I will give her some more attention. Of course, history now records that when Kristina Keneally got to be Premier she then did to the State Labor Government what she had already done to the planning system: she completely trashed it; she trashed the Government. That is why there are just 20 Labor members on the Opposition benches.

The new Government is ensuring different values. Transparency, integrity and decency are hallmarks of the planning system that the Liberals and Nationals are delivering to New South Wales. Those are concepts that the Leader of the Opposition would have problems with. We are ensuring that competitive land use tensions are recognised and resolved in the planning system. It is a planning system, I stress specifically for the benefit of the member for Sydney, that recognises the important need to preserve our agricultural lands, our aquifers, our national parks and the sustainability of our towns and cities. That is why this Government has committed to a complete review of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act for the first time in 30 years. That is why the Government has initiated a review of strategic land use across the State. That is why the Government is developing a stringent regulatory framework to protect against aquifer interference. That is why we have made it clear that national parks will never be mined under this Government. And that is why we are working to develop guidelines around myriad other planning challenges that were ignored by State Labor.

Whether it is wind farms or coal seam gas mining, it is necessary that there be in place appropriate planning regulatory frameworks that recognise community concerns and that respond to community concerns. At the same time as we are developing these guidelines we are also working closely with local government to ensure local environmental plans have more flexibility than was allowed in the 16 years of Labor. Not one of the numerous planning Ministers under 16 years of Labor—note one—had the vision to recognise the need to overhaul and review the planning legislation. Nor did they have the vision to recognise that there needed to be a serious effort to manage and balance strategic land usage. The best they could do was to rush forward with their mates and sign off on development applications, despite community concerns. Integrity, transparency and balance were not words well understood by Labor. This Liberals and Nationals Government will ensure the community voice is heard, but there will also be certainty in land use. That is our goal, and that is what we will deliver.

It would be unfair to say that Labor delivered absolutely nothing. It did deliver something: the lowest housing starts in 50 years. What a great success! If you were not one of the favoured few developers you knew you were better off doing business in Victoria or Queensland. This Government will ensure that those who provide housing, those who provide employment and those who provide industry will have certainty, but it will be after the community has had its say on the strategic land use issues. We do not want to perpetuate the site-specific development application wars that were the hallmark of the Labor era. The member for Sydney and the community can be assured that this Government's approach to planning will be transport, will operate with integrity and will deliver the balance that New South Wales needs.