Tasmania faces a changing future

The current community concern about the State Government’s introduction of a new, deregulated, state-wide Planning Scheme can be seen within a broader framework of pressures for changes in the Tasmanian economy.
 
For the past century, the Tasmanian economy has relied on exploitation of its natural resources (mainly minerals and forestry products) and agricultural outputs.  These industries were supported by ample, cheap hydro-electricity.
 
In more recent times this economic base has begun to change.  A number of big industries have quit the state leading to a surplus of electricity, which now finds a ready market on the mainland as climate change bites and the air-conditioning demand soars.
 
The success of the environmental movement, starting with the Lake Pedder and Franklin River campaigns, has lead to World Heritage Reserves and the shift in forestry from native forests to plantations.
 
A new economy is now emerging.  High technological agriculture and horticulture, viticulture and expanded irrigation are some of the changes.  The most recent development is the growth in tourism, and service industries.  International tourism has finally discovered what a gem Tasmania is.  With increasing urbanisation and environmental degradation of the more populous areas of the world, Tasmania will attract increasing numbers of tourists.  It is already happening.
 
Tasmania is now setting itself up to exploit this new found source of wealth and economic activity.  The risks are huge, for unless wisely managed, the opening up of Tasmania for investment and development may destroy its greatest advantages – Tasmania’s unique natural and cultural heritages.
 
Tasmania’s economy relies on financial support from the economic powerhouses of Australia.  Increased flows of wealth should be welcomed so Tasmania can become more financially independent.  The Liberal government is pursuing almost every opportunity to increase investment into Tasmania.
 
It is no surprise the mantra for planning reform is “to make Tasmania attractive for investment, to create jobs”.
 
The Minister claims the new Planning Scheme will be “a fairer, faster, cheaper, simpler planning system”.
 
Time will tell.  The planning system in Tasmania may need some reform.  But many Tasmanians are increasingly wary of government deregulation which potentially destroys what they hold most dear.  They fear the cost of deregulation will be less social cohesion, less protection of heritage, less certainty and less control of their lives.
 
Friends of the East Coast, and many others, believe there is a better way to reform the planning system.

Friends of the East Coast Inc.: planning policy

In a nutshell, the Friends of the East Coast seeks a planning system for Tasmania where:

  • sustainability and social well-being are paramount
  • the built heritage, cultural heritage and natural environment are respected, valued and protected
  • communities have greater input and control over planning decisions and development that affect their quality of life

WHAT’s WRONG WITH THE GOVERNMENT’S NEW PLANNING SCHEME?

  • the planning scheme is not based on a community endorsed planning strategy
  • the scheme does not sufficiently protect and enhance our heritage and natural assets
  • the scheme puts developers first rather than the community and residents
  • the scheme does not adequately address sustainability principles
  • the community and residents are locked out of decision making on developments which impact on their lives and properties
  • the role of local councils will be severely diminished
  • there is excessive emphasis on developers’ interests
  • sweeping changes statewide will enforce bland conformity rather than diversity
  • the scheme is directed and controlled by an emperor minister, by-passing essential scrutiny of Parliament

WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE?

The proposed new statewide planning scheme currently being introduced by the State Government consists essentially of three components:

All these three components are intertwined.  The improvements to the planning scheme proposed by the Friends of the East Coast require changes to all three.

But first a Planning Strategy needs to be developed which is supported by the community and not just a reflection of developers’ interests as at present.
 
At the very least, to achieve a balanced and sustainable Planning Strategy the following changes need to be made:

  1. the enabling legislation, the Land Use Planning and Approvals Act (LUPAA), which was amended late in 2015 and which gives extraordinary new powers to the Minister for planning
  2. the State Planning Provisions (SPPs) which set out all the conditions of 23 planning Zones and 15 Codes which are to apply statewide without variation
  3. the Local Provisions Schedules (LPSs)which are essentially maps prepared by local councils showing the zoning of their municipality and where specific Codes will apply
  • amendment to the LUPAA Act to change the roles of the Minister and the Planning Commission
  • strengthening the capability and role of the Planning Commission by amendment of the Tasmanian Planning Commission Act
  • amendment of the SPPs to change the contentious components of some Zones and strengthen some Codes

Policy Principles

The following set of principles is proposed by the Friends of the East Coast:

1.   The Tasmanian Planning Scheme must be the outcome of a community endorsed Tasmanian Planning and Development Strategy
 
state, regional, local strategies

 
ESD principles

 
livability principles

 
biodiversity principles

 
regional development

 
 
all land uses

  • planning strategies at state, regional and local levels must be based on sound planning principles which are transparent and consistent with community endorsed policies
  • there must be clear links between planning strategies at all levels and environmental, social and economic goals
  • planning and development in Tasmania must be based on sound Ecologically Sustainable Development principles and not on short-term economic development opportunities
  • livability principles must be included in the Planning Scheme
  • biodiversity/nature conservation planning principles must be incorporated into the Planning Scheme
  • strategies must address historic inconsistencies in quality of life between various Tasmanian regions
  • all land uses must be included in the Planning Scheme
  • the current Liberal Government strategy is simply “to make Tasmania attractive for investment, to create jobs”
  • the Liberal Government intends to review regional planning strategies after the new Planning Scheme is introduced, not before
  • strategies developed from local communities and regions will have greater strength and acceptance than if imposed from above
  • planning strategies provide the framework for government and private investment
  • quality of design, sharing of views, streetscapes and other similar qualities are important social aspects of planning
  • such principles must be based on best information and science
  • the current ad-hoc approach to regional issues, (such as “jobs in the north”), cannot be adequately addressed within a uniform state-wide planning system
  • currently forestry, mineral exploration, aquaculture, dams are excluded from the Planning Scheme

2.   The Tasmanian Planning Scheme must maximise opportunities for the community to participate in all aspects of planning
 
notifications of applications, Permitted Uses/Discretionary Uses

 
 
 
mediation

 
 
 
 
role of local councils

 
 
compensation

 
 
appeals

 
transparent decision making

  • neighbouring owners and residents must be directly notified of development proposals, (particularly those which alter the building envelope), at an early stage
  • mediation process must be available before any formal decisions or appeals process
  • local councils must have a meaningful role in local planning which takes account of community values and aspirations for the desired future character of local areas and living amenity
  • commercial developers must compensate affected landowners if developments lead to excessive loss of value or amenity
  • third-party appeals must continue to be allowed as a legitimate component of the planning process
  • planning authorities must not delegate their role to external approval authorities or consultants
  • the new Planning Scheme effectively locks out local communities and residents by expanding Permitted Uses in many zones which will radically change the character of cities, towns and landscapes
  • one of the most controversial changes is the permitted height and on or near boundary wall construction in residential zones, affecting privacy, sunlight, without notification nor appeal process
  • mediation processes between affected and interested parties with development proponents allows issues to be raised and possible modifications made before resorting to costly and lengthy appeals processes
  • the new Planning Scheme effectively reduces the role of Local Councils to an administrative role
  • Local Councils must be effectively resourced with professional planning staff
  • changes to density, building height, traffic, etc will lead to loss of character and amenity leading to loss of value to neighbouring properties
  • the government has indicated its intention to restrict the appeals process
  • the new Planning Scheme continues to allow planning decisions to be delegated to agencies such as Tasmanian Fire Service and Forest Practices Authority, and proposes delegation to consultants

3.   The Tasmanian Planning Scheme must protect and enhance Tasmania’s cultural and natural heritages
 
heritage

historic built environment

rural landscapes

 
indigenous heritage

 
control of tourist developments

 
 
residential development

 
 
coastal development

  • planning at all levels must recognize the values inherent in cultural and natural heritage, as these are key to our future well-being and quality of life
  • wildlife corridors must be provided and high risk habitat and endangered species must be protected
  • the Planning Scheme must provide stronger, not weaker, heritage protections
  • rural landscapes must be protected against piecemeal erosion by commercial and industrial uses
  • prime agricultural land, waterways and estuaries must be protected
  • Indigenous heritage must be recognised and protected
  • Tasmania’s natural assets, parks and reserves must be protected against tourist developments that degrade natural and wilderness character
  • integrated tourist developments must be associated with existing settlements to provide economic benefit to local communities
  • all future urban and residential development must be located only where studies show environmental, social and economic benefits are sustainable
  • future development in coastal regions must be based on existing towns and townships
  • Tasmania’s cultural and natural heritage must be recognised and better protected
  • the recent de-listing of heritage buildings is a retrograde step
  • the continued erosion of rural landscapes by inappropriate Permitted Uses and low density sub-divisions is a blight on sensible planning
  • there is no specific reference to indigenous heritage in the SPPs
  • the Planning Scheme allows Ministerial control of all developments of a commercial nature within parks and reserves
  • isolated resorts where developers wish to capture maximum benefits will be of little benefit to nearby townships
  • expansions of settlements must consider full social costs, including well-being, and transport infrastructure
  • this will avoid ribbon development, costly infrastructure and coastal degradation
  • sub-division outside settlements in coastal regions should be prohibited

4.   The amenity of communities and local residents must be the prime focus of the Tasmanian Planning Scheme
 
residential amenity

 
water resources

wastewater

 
affordable housing

 
climate change

 
solar access, energy efficiency


innovation

 
recreation, well-being

  • residential amenity of existing cities, towns and settlements must be protected from inappropriate development such as radical change of scale
  • high quality water supply resources must be protected
  • ecologically sound wastewater treatment must be provided
  • housing to meet low income community needs must be provided in all multi-dwelling developments
  • planning must address climate change, both causes and effects
  • provision and protection of solar access to complement high quality energy performance building construction must be required for new buildings
  • the Planning Scheme must encourage innovation and allow incorporation of local community aspirations
  • all new residential areas must provide public open spaces, parks and recreational opportunities
  • the stated Objectives of the Land Use Planning and Approvals Act are indeed noble, but it not apparent they are fully embodied in the SPPs
  • the higher allowed densities of multi-dwelling developments within 400 m of bus stops is an example of threats to residential amenity
  • other States and countries require increasing percentages of affordable housing units in new developments
  • climate change must be specifically addressed in LUPAA and in the Planning Scheme
  • energy efficient buildings can only be achieved if solar access is provided and maintained
  • Performance Criteria must not compromise energy efficiency
  • a single state-wide scheme which prohibits local variations ultimately leads to undesirable uniformity
  • active transport links (such as walking and cycling), are necessary especially within and between urban communities

5.   The role of State Government must be limited to setting State Policies affecting planning and development and the approval and amendment of planning legislation
 

enhanced role of Tasmanian Planning Commission

roles of Parliament and Ministers

 
 
call-in powers

 
donations from developers

  • an independent Tasmanian Planning Commission, as a statutory authority, must be responsible for preparing, reviewing and amending:
  1. state and regional strategies
  2. the Tasmanian Planning Scheme
  3. local planning schemes and other land use inquiries
  • political involvement in planning must be limited to Parliament and not individual Ministers
  • Ministerial call-in powers must be prohibited
  • projects of state or regional significance must be overseen by the Tasmanian Planning Commission
  • the Planning Scheme has reduced the role of the TPC while at the same time increased the powers of the Minister for Planning
  • the only current role of Parliament in planning is to amend the planning Act; it has no role in oversight of the Planning Scheme itself
  • Ministerial call-in powers are designed to fast track and circumvent the Planning Scheme, by “picking winners”
  • donations to political parties and candidates at all levels of government from developers or their representatives must be made illegal
  • there is increasing public debate over the need for increased integrity of the political system at all levels, including transparency in planning & development