8 December 2015
Undemocratic Planning Bill to rush through Parliament
Community groups have expressed alarm at the plan by the State Government to rush a deeply contentious Planning Bill through the Upper House of Parliament this week.
The National Trust, the Environmental Defenders Office and Conservation SA have written to members of the Legislative Council calling on them to halt debate on the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Bill 2015 to allow greater community input into such a comprehensive reform of the state’s planning laws.
“Community input into planning decisions is being directly undermined,” said Melissa Ballantyne from the Environmental Defenders Office.
“The Bill makes fundamental changes that will give sweeping powers to the Minister with few checks and balances. Priority is being given to community engagement at the strategic planning level rather than the development level. However this approach has not worked in the past. Public notification of proposals and input into decision making will be reduced in many instances and elected members of local councils will no longer be included on local development assessment panels,” she said.
When similar sweeping planning reforms have been proposed in the past and in other states, much greater community input has been sought. For example, in Queensland their equivalent reform Bill was put out for 6 weeks public consultation before Parliamentary debate began.
Conservation SA CE Craig Wilkins said: "This Bill flies in the face of the Government's stated commitment to increase public participation in democratic processes.
“Only in April, the Premier stated that ‘when people have access to facts they can trust, and the time to consider the issues carefully, they can help us deliver sensible policies on what seem to be intractable issues’. Yet the Government's Bill is denying South Australians exactly those things, on issues that concern them very directly.
“To make matters worse, future planning scandals will be hidden from the scrutiny of the Freedom of Information Act,” he said.
“Much of the detail required to assess the Bill is missing, such as the proposed Planning and Design code, which will determine whether existing protections for heritage places and significant trees are maintained or lost,” said National Trust of SA CEO, Darren Peacock.
“We need to put people back into planning. The Government should slow things down and think about how it can re-engage the community.
“A great first step would be to halt debate on the Planning & Development Bill to enable much greater community input,” he said.
Melissa Ballantyne (EDO) 0431 398 452
Darren Peacock (NTSA) 0409 494 014
Craig Wilkins (CCSA) 0417 879 439