Party Planning Policies for the
Tasmanian State Election 2018

 
For the forthcoming State Election, the Liberal Party has not published any planning policies.  Detailed Liberal Party policies are available for a wide range of subjects but there is no mention of planning.
 
Both the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and The Greens have announced their planning policies.
 
Compariing policies, the ALP platform is lighter on detail and makes very few firm promises.  The Greens provide more detail and make a range of firm promises.
 
Overall, whichever party wins government, or any combination of parties form government, a new Tasmanian state-wide Planning Scheme will be adopted in one form or another.
 
The ALP announces spending on planning services of $220,000 per year for the next four years, amounting to $880,000.  The Greens announce spending on planning services of ten times the ALP’s, amounting to $8,240,000 over the next four years.
 
Support for the state-wide planning system
Both the ALP and The Greens accept the new Tasmanian state-wide Planning Scheme, due to be fully implemented during 2018 if the Liberals form a majority government after the election.
 
ALP:  Labor will ensure that Councils, operating as planning authorities, have access to the best possible Statewide Planning Scheme that provides consistency for decision making and ensures conditions of approval take into account the strategic direction and requirements of the State.
 
Greens:  The Greens support the move to a single statewide planning scheme, with a uniform approach to planning rules.
 
Review of the state-wide planning scheme
However, both the ALP and The Greens announce reviews of the new Planning Scheme.
 
The ALP promises to commence a review early in government, when the new scheme may not even be in place.  The ALP gives few details of what the “important” issues of concern are except two popular electoral concerns, viz:  residential development standards and appeals on commercial developments in national parks. (The Local Government Association has also raised concern about residential development standards and proposes their review as recommended by the Planning Commission.)
 
ALP:  Labor recognises that it is consistent with best-practice to ensure time and resources are allocated to review, commencing within 6 months of forming government, the performance of the planning system.
 
ALP:  Labor will ensure that a review is conducted into the new planning system to give everyone in the community the chance to provide input about ways to improve outcomes and ensure our planning framework reflects contemporary community expectations and values.  The review scope will include consideration of important planning matters including, but not limited to, residential development standards (as recommended by the Tasmanian Planning Commission), and the community’s right to comment upon, and rights of appeal in relation to, commercial developments in national parks.

The Greens announce both generalised review topics, some highly specific review topics as well as a “full” review of the State Planning Provisions.
 
Greens:  We will amend the Tasmanian Planning Scheme to protect the liveability of towns and rural areas, improve environmental protection, and ensure people have a real say about where they live and the place they love.
 
Greens:  We will direct the Planning Commission to review the maximum permitted block size, building height and setback in all zones and review whether accommodation in residential zones should be discretionary, moving to a full review of the State-wide Planning Provisions.

 
Comment:  Part of the immediately above statement is unclear: “accommodation” should perhaps mean “commercial visitor accommodation” to make sense.
 
Review of the Tasmanian planning system, planning for the future
Planning for the future, expanding the vision for planning in Tasmania, is an area where there is significant difference between the ALP and The Greens.
 
The Greens, in particular, are very critical of the limited view of the Liberals’ approach to planning reform and the consequent narrow approach to land planning demonstrated by the proposed new Tasmanian Planning Scheme.
 
Greens:  Communities should decide the character of their own place.  The Greens will reorient our planning system to prioritise the interests of locals, and return the right to have a real say and to appeal.
 
Greens:  The Greens will develop six new State Policies, around the big issues that determine our state’s security and the quality of every person’s life:

We will also fund an overdue review of the State Coastal Policy, as recommended by the Tasmanian Planning Commission.
 
The Greens detail each of the above policy areas and commit to increase resources to the Tasmanian Planning Commission to develop these policies:
 
Greens:  The Greens will also increase resourcing of the Tasmanian Planning Commission, with an additional 10 staff to prepare the seven policies across the next term of government.

The ALP, by contrast, are quite vague about their commitment to State policies:
 
ALP:  A Labor Government will ensure State Planning Policies (such as liveability, heritage, natural and environmental values, biodiversity, coastal, climate change, settlement, sustainable transport and infrastructure strategies) are developed in consultation with the community.  This important work is currently missing from the process.
 
Local Provision Schedules
 
Local Provision Schedules (LPSs) are the components of the new Planning Scheme relevant to each municipal area.  They are essentially the replacements of the current local planning schemes.  LPSs will consist essentially of zones maps and special provisions for local character, etc.  The LPSs are in effect the local application of the uniform State Provisions Schedules.  From a community perspective, the LPSs will determine the future local character of planning in Tasmania.  The lack of resources of local councils to develop their LPSs has been an issue during 2017.
 
The ALP policy on LPSs is hopeful but quite vague:
 
ALP:  A Labor Government will ensure Local Councils are appropriately resourced to develop Local Provisions Schedules (LPS’s) for unique areas which may not fit within the generic State Planning Provisions.  This includes the protection of local character, amenity and special values.  This will ensure community expectations for the protection and enhancement of important areas are met and these areas are not automatically available for development.
 
ALP:  Labor will not set unachievable and unrealistic deadlines for the creation of Local Provisions Schedules.  These Schedules are crucial to get right and require extensive public consultation and community engagement.

 
However, the ALP makes it clear they will not constrain the application of the new Planning Scheme with its expanded Permitted Use categories; for which there are usually no appeal processes.
 
ALP:  Labor recognises that one of the important principles underpinning the decision to have a single Statewide Planning Scheme was to simplify and provide certainty of approval and conditions for permitted use developments.
 
ALP:  Labor will continue to provide planning certainty for permitted use applications.

 
The Greens foreshadow a review of the LPS process:
 
Greens:  The Greens will review planning laws that restrict the application of Local Provision Schedules (LPS).  The schedules must meet community expectations, and protect local character, amenity and the values that make towns and rural areas so special.  We will ensure the LPS development is not rushed, and is subject to proper community consultation.

Role of Local Government
 
The ALP has a significant focus on the role of local government in planning matters.  In contrast The Greens hardly mention local government but focus more on the role of the Tasmanian Planning Commission.
 
ALP:  Labor recognises that Local Councils, comprising of community elected Councillors and Aldermen are appropriately placed to make planning decisions that meet the expectations of locals and reflect the best outcomes for the local environment.
 
ALP:  A majority Labor Government will continue to only support the voluntary amalgamations of Councils.  Labor plans to continue to work with the Local Government sector to reform and improve outcomes for ratepayers.
 
ALP:  In partnership with the Local Government Association of Tasmania, Labor will conduct a Fees and Charges Review, after the completion of the implementation of the Statewide Planning Scheme, to ensure a greater degree of consistency for developers across different municipal areas.
 
ALP:  Following the review of fees and charges a Labor Government will work with Councils to better understand the roles and functions between State and Local Government to ensure less duplication and better coordination of essential services for all Tasmanians.
 
ALP:  Labor has a proud history of working together with Local Government to deliver positive outcomes for communities.  The people of Tasmania have every right to expect to be consulted and engaged on local issues.
 
ALP:  Partnership Agreements between the State Government and Local Councils will be developed to build shared vision and outcomes across community development, infrastructure, education, health, wellbeing and employment.

 
Rights of appeal
 
In the area of appeals, The Greens have a more developed policy than the very general ALP policy.
 
Greens:  The Greens will stop developers threatening communities with exorbitant appeal costs.  We will improve the processes of the Resource Management and Planning Appeals Tribunal and empower it to:

 
Greens:  We will also fund the Planning Commission, the Appeals Tribunal, and the Environmental Defenders Office to create and maintain practical, user-friendly information on how our planning system works.

 
ALP:  A Labor Government will always protect third party rights of appeal for discretionary development applications.

Funding and assistance for appeals
 
Both the ALP and The Greens focus on improving access to information and appeals.  The ALP proposes $220,000 per year to fund professional advice and support for “people”.  The Greens propose $200,000 to $210,000 per year for legal and planning advice for “communities”.
 
ALP:  Labor recognises that navigating the planning process is not always easy and clear cut.
 
ALP:  Labor will ensure a free Planning Advice and Information Service is made available to people to provide professional advice and support for planning scheme and development application issues of $220,000 per year.  Funding has been set aside for this service.
 
ALP:  Labor is committed to putting people first, and we recognise that technology can help to achieve this.  Labor understands the value of information that government generates and collects.  This is why Labor will make real time information and data sets freely available, including planning applications, status and decisions.

 
Greens:  We’ll take the power from developers and give it back to Tasmanians.
 
Greens:  We will level the playing field between developers and the community, and reduce financial barriers for individuals to appeal planning decisions by introducing a tiered-approach to fees.
 
Greens:  We will fund free expert legal and planning advice for communities and an online register for planning application materials.

 
Ministerial powers and the role of state government
 
The Greens are much more concerned about Ministerial powers than the ALP.  The Greens express concern about the current Major Projects legislation.
 
Greens:  Under the Liberals, approval power has shifted from the independent Tasmanian Planning Commission, councils and the public into the hands of the Planning Minister.  The Greens will wind back these powers.  We will compel the Minister to take the advice of the Commission, and formally consult before changing the Planning Scheme.
 
Greens:  Currently, proposed major projects laws would be a disaster for Tasmania.  The Greens will prohibit all Ministerial call-in powers, and retain Projects of State Significance as the principle means of dealing with major projects.

 
ALP:  Where a major development crosses over more than one municipal area, or where a Council requests to transfer their planning authority to the State (due to a lack of expertise or resources) the Government will agree to process the development application through the Planning Commission.
 
ALP:  Labor has no plans to change the current legislation for projects of State and Regional Significance.  Labor does not support giving call-in powers to a single Minister for projects such as high-rise towers, without giving the Parliament the final say.


Developments in National Parks
 
There are differences between ALP and The Greens policies on developments in National Parks.
 
ALP:  A majority Labor Government will support the review of the Reserve Activity Assessment (RAA) process for developments within National Parks, as recommended by the Tasmanian Planning Commission.
 
As stated above (Review of the state-wide planning scheme), the ALP intend to review the Permitted Use of commercial developments in National Parks, with rather obscure text “The review scope will include consideration of……. the community’s right to comment upon, and rights of appeal in relation to commercial developments in national parks.”
 
In other words, the ALP proposes to consider making commercial developments in National Parks a Discretionary Use rather than a Permitted Use.  That is, the ALP currently supports Permitted Use of commercial developments.
 
The Greens, however, would prohibit commercial developments in National Parks and require all developments to be Discretionary.

Greens:  The Greens will require all reserve and Crown Land development to be discretionary and will prohibit commercial development in National Parks.
 
Additional policy areas
 
The Greens specify several additional specific policies focused on a range of topical planning areas.  The ALP offers no comparable policies.
 
Height limits:

 
Biodiversity:

 
Heritage:

 
Environmental Living Zone:

 
Integrated resource management:

  • Climate change
  • Settlement, transport and infrastructure
  • Biodiversity management
  • Public consultation
  • Health and well-being
  • Cultural preservation
  • Prohibit legal representation for all parties, unless the Tribunal determines “the interests of justice require otherwise”, or both parties agree to representation – as is the case in Queensland’s Tribunal
  • Assign an expert to objectively assess issues and answer questions for both parties
  • Once again hold hearings in municipalities where relevant, not just Hobart
  • Restart annual stakeholder feedback sessions, mandated by legislation, and produce a publicly-available report.
  • We would remove ‘performance-based’ exemptions to height limits.  These allow councils to approve individual developments that exceed height limits on an ad hoc basis, increasing the risk of corruption.
  • If the ‘public benefit’ is argued for permitting higher, denser buildings in an area, councils should undertake a wide community consultation process and amend a maximum height limit in the zone accordingly.
  • The Greens will instruct the Planning Commission to review the Natural Assets Code, as a matter of priority.
  • We will also provide resources for biodiversity mapping, to ensure biodiversity values are protected through appropriate zoning, up to date information, and informed application of the Natural Assets Code.
  • The Greens will instruct the Planning Commission to urgently review the Heritage Code within the State Planning Provisions.
  • We will reintroduce protections for built heritage, and work with the Heritage Council to improve the heritage assessment process.
  • The Greens will consult with the Aboriginal community on robust heritage protection laws.  We will amend the Planning Scheme to require impacts on Aboriginal Heritage to be considered in development applications.
  • The Greens will reintroduce an Environmental Living Zone into the Tasmanian Planning Scheme with the existing lot size and biodiversity protections.
  • The Greens will remove exemptions for forestry, marine farming and other activities from the planning system, ensuring all development activities on land or in State waters are subject to consistent planning rules, including public consultation and rights of appeal.

 
Overall assessment
 
Comparing the ALP and The Greens polices with Friends of the East Coast’s planning policy (read at   Tasmania Faces New Planning Future), neither party addresses the issue of donations from property developers to political parties.  Though The Greens do say they will “take the power from developers and give it back to Tasmanians.”
 
In terms of planning principles, strategic development, community involvement, improving amenity and curtailing Ministerial control, Friends of the East Coast believe The Greens offer a policy package closest to Friends of the Easts Coast's planning policy.

Feb 2018
 

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