Planning Green Paper - Private Members Statement

Parliament House Sydney, 13 September 2012

My constituents want a planning system that assists them to make long-term choices for their local area that are economically, environmentally and socially sustainable.

The Government's planning green paper aims to improve planning and development through early community participation, strategic planning, faster and less complicated development assessments, and infrastructure links with growth. The strong reform agenda has the potential to improve planning and create significant benefits for the economy and for local communities.

Over 30 years ago the landmark Environmental Planning and Assessment Act introduced community participation and environment and heritage protections in planning. The role of communities and councils in shaping their neighbourhoods was fundamental after years of widespread heritage destruction under the Askin Government. But 30 years of incremental and ad hoc amendments by successive governments eroded transparency, accountability and democracy in what was once a progressive planning system. I led opposition against changes like part 3A that fast-tracked development at the expense of environment and heritage and people's say in their neighbourhood.

Sydney needs to build an average of 25,000 dwellings each year to house its growing population, but is falling short. The serious challenge of dangerous climate change means sustainable development is now more important than ever. We need a planning system that is easy to understand and work with, involves communities in decision-making and protects future generations' needs. Planning legislation should enshrine a long-term strategic vision for the State established through community participation. A planning system needs to integrate and improve public transport with urban renewal. While the fundamental reforms and specific proposals within the green paper are positive, benefits will be compromised by proposals to exclude the community and stakeholder participation and loopholes that allow development to avoid proper assessment.

The green paper proposes regional planning boards of local and State government bureaucrats and experts to make long-term strategic planning decisions like rezoning without any input from democratically elected councillors. I believe we should follow the lead of Metro Vancouver, where elected councillors are board members who make regional decisions. The city of Vancouver has involved people in planning since the 1970s and received widespread community support for high-density infill development plans in the 1990s. Vancouver was recognised as best practice in Leslie Stein's, A Review of International Best Practice in Planning Law. The green paper's public participation charter must be the first reform implemented. Communities must be given the chance to contribute actively.

Adequate public participation at the strategic stage is a challenge because people tend to engage in planning only when their neighbourhood is immediately affected. I fear that even with education aimed at cultural change, communities could be seriously sidelined and justified in believing that they have been excluded from having a say in their neighbourhood. The green paper would give the State Government control of major residential, retail and commercial development, effectively reinstating part 3A. Part 3A disenfranchised communities across New South Wales and the Government committed to abolish it before the last election.

I oppose the green paper's strategic compatibility certificates that allow a proposal to proceed straight to a development application if it complies with high-level regional planning objectives. This loophole allows development to bypass strategic planning and to exclude communities from the entire process. The City of Sydney council has shown that good planning outcomes can be achieved through thorough community participation. The council's new city-wide planning controls involved residents, businesses, community groups, government agencies and the development industry in more than 100 meetings and workshops. Major studies were exhibited for community feedback and thousands of submissions were assessed. As a result, the council will meet approximately 85 per cent of its housing and jobs targets by focusing development in urban renewal areas such as Green Square, Harold Park and the Ashmore Estate, while protecting heritage in suburbs like Chippendale, Surry Hills, Redfern and Glebe.

The rezoning of Harold Park in Glebe involved public meetings and workshops attended by more than 500 people, online consultation and consideration of almost 300 submissions. The City of Sydney secured over a third of the site as public open space, land dedicated for affordable housing and community facilities, heritage conservation and higher sustainability targets. The council of the City of Sydney is working with the emerging Green Square community, Australia's largest urban renewal project, which will house 40,000 new residents and create 20,000 new jobs four kilometres from the central business district. The community is shaping its urban and cultural environment through meetings, workshops, event days, online forums, and access to a full-time community development coordinator.

A planning system that effectively involves communities works for the economy and for industry. The City of Sydney council has involved the community in planning and good development and urban renewal is taking place. Excluding people from planning and creating loopholes for developers will again disenfranchise communities, set residents against developers, and risk stymieing development and holding back the economy. I call on the Government to implement a modern planning system that delivers certainty for industry and applicants while enabling community input and protecting residential amenity as well as ensuring heritage and environment protection.

Mr ROB STOKES (Pittwater—Parliamentary Secretary): I take this opportunity, on what I understand will be one of the last opportunities—

Ms Clover Moore: The last.

Mr ROB STOKES: On this the last occasion on which the Member for Sydney will contribute to debate in this House, I take the opportunity to thank her for her wonderful advocacy for her community during more than 24 years of service in this Parliament. She has served as a terrific example of what a local member can achieve—a local member who is acting in the best interests of her community. I recognise her passion for urban planning, her recognition that people are at the heart of planning, and her recognition that genuine participation is the only way to achieve the best planning outcomes. The point of the planning green paper to which the member for Sydney referred and the challenge of a good planning system is not to continue with current duplicative participation that is ignored, but instead to facilitate early participation that is genuinely heard and later reflected in plans that guide development. On that note, I thank the member for Sydney for her sterling contribution to this House.