Planning, Development and Infrastructure (Commencement of Code) Amendment Bill

Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (12:50): I rise to speak to the Planning, Development and Infrastructure (Commencement of Code) Amendment Bill. I was very interested by some of the member for Badcoe's contribution about people from her electorate actually complaining about the so-called sins of the current planning system. My understanding is that, as far as the Planning and Design Code goes, we are trying to reach some uniformity, and it is difficult. It is great to get that community feedback from constituents, but I note that they are actually talking about things that have happened in the past.

As I said, the whole idea of the code is to get some lines in the sand, so to speak, so there can be some uniformity. I remember when we debated the planning bill and what I call the birthday, when the planning bill was rebirthed in 2016. It was a very interesting debate. The former member for Enfield of blessed memory, the Hon. John Rau, was in charge. What intrigued me about that debate was that there were at least 300 amendments by the previous Labor government, who were in charge at the time.

I will acknowledge the former member for Goyder, as did the Deputy Premier, for the work he did. He basically lived this legislation. I remember the number of briefing papers he brought to the party room as things were moving. It was a movable feast, as the government of the day, the former Labor government, kept changing the rules as things went along. There were a whole range of other difficulties with that debate, and I will get to some of that a little bit later on.

I have had a little bit to do with this code, having formerly been on the Environment, Resources and Development Committee as the Chair, though I am not there at the moment. Phase 1 of the code (outback areas) has been in operation since 1 July 2019. Obviously, this took up most of the state. Phase 2 (regional South Australia), which obviously encompasses a lot of our country members' electorates, including mine of Hammond, was to be in operation in April 2020. However, this bill removes the commencement dates from the act at the government's discretion. We as the Marshall Liberal government have delayed the commencement of phase 2 to make sure that the public is ready to use the code when it does commence.

A few years ago, I took some constituents in to see some planners at one of my local councils. I said, 'Where are we going with this development? What's going on?' and within earshot of my constituents one of the planners said, 'Planning is a grey area.' I looked at them and thought to myself, 'That's not very helpful.' If you want to talk about grey areas, look at the debacle that happened at Mount Barker—I think it has been straightened out a bit as time goes on—where developers blatantly got in front of infrastructure. That was probably some of the impetus for the new planning legislation back in 2016.

In regard to metropolitan Adelaide, which will be phase 3 of the rollout of the Planning and Design Code, the Hon. Mark Parnell introduced the bill into the other place in late 2019, and it was then introduced into this house. The Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act currently requires the full introduction of the Planning and Design Code across the state by 1 July 2020. The effect of the bill is to give the Minister for Planning the ability to postpone the effect of this bill, to postpone the introduction of the code for South Australia at the minister's direction. It is proposed that we will progress with this bill, looking for it to pass through all stages.

The Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act is the most significant reform of planning and development legislation since the introduction of the Development Act 1993, which that act replaces. The Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act includes the establishment of the code, which is intended to progressively replace council development plans by 1 July 2020, establishing a single set of planning policies for development assessment across South Australia. This is a good thing because we need to have the right guidelines, the right code in place, so that people can make decisions knowing that a development is either likely to get up or is not likely to get approved.

The code has had an extensive consultation program since early October 2019. That has been undertaken by the State Planning Commission, and I want to acknowledge the work of Michael Lennon in regard to that. He has presented it multiple times to the Environment, Resources and Development Committee. Submissions from both local government and the broader community have indicated the scale of change brought about by the code and associated reform, which requires some further time for consideration and preparation.

In response to industry and community feedback, the state government is reintroducing this legislation to give stakeholders some time to implement the new Planning and Design Code. There has been some concern raised in both rural and metropolitan councils around the consultation versions of the code released in October last year. A lot of that feedback said it needed some further refinement and that councils had not had enough time to re-engineer the required business practices that introduction of the code and its associated reforms require.

However, the Marshall Liberal government, under the guidance of the Minister for Planning, is on track to deliver the new Planning and Design Code on time. We are also acting on advice from the State Planning Commission based on stakeholder and community feedback, and I think it is sensible that we do that. Councils, industry and the community have all asked for more time to understand, prepare and become business ready before the new planning system comes into place.

The commission has closely monitored these submissions, in particular stakeholder readiness, and considers that further time is warranted to ensure the code is of sufficient quality and that stakeholders are adequately prepared for the change. It would be counterproductive to the planning system and developments across South Australia if we were to ignore the feedback from councils and the community and push ahead with the initial time lines. With that, I seek leave to continue my remarks.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

Sitting suspended from 12:59 to 14:00.

 

Adjourned debate on second reading (resumed on motion).

Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (16:36): I want to continue my remarks in regard to the Planning, Development and Infrastructure (Commencement of Code) Amendment Bill 2019. I was going through some of the things that the bill will facilitate. The bill will also facilitate more time for testing and potentially more enhancements to be made to the ePlanning system should they be required. It is also likely that the implementation of the phase 2 code, which is the rural or regional code, will be delayed by three months to July 2020, while the phase 3 code, which is the urban code, will be delayed three months until September 2020.

This is truly a generational reform of the planning system. The Marshall Liberal government is listening to stakeholders to ensure we get it right and deliver for all South Australians. Phase 3 has remained on consultation until the end of February. The planning reform program, including development of the code, is governed by a comprehensive project schedule. The passing of the bill will allow additional time to test the quality of the code and provide additional time for training and preparation of activities for use of the ePlanning platform that supports the delivery of the code.

The bill therefore assists in mitigating the risk that the code will not be of sufficient quality and/or that end users will not be ready to engage with the code once it is operational. The State Planning Commission is responsible for the code development process and is supported by the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure. The department is responsible for delivery of other aspects of the reform, including the ePlanning platform.

As I indicated, I had a bit of experience of this in my time on the Environment, Resources and Development Committee. I commend Michael Lennon, the commissioner, for the work he has done in getting this code on track. I commend his work in getting out to communities across the state. This generational change is a huge thing. It all started back in 2016 when we passed a whole new planning bill in this house.

What was interesting about that was that once this bill was introduced, the government of the day, which was the former Labor government under the auspices of the former member for Enfield, had 300 of their own amendments to their own legislation, which made it very confusing. I have already commended the former member for Goyder Steven Griffiths. He is a very good man who worked tirelessly to keep his fellow Liberal colleagues informed and updated about what was happening to keep ahead of all the changes that we happening over time.

One of the things that really irked me in the conversation, the discussion and the debate around the bill was that we were 50 clauses into the committee stage when the minister of the day, the former member for Enfield, came up with this idea of environment and food protection areas. I mentioned it and took the debate up to him during the question and answer time in the committee process. We were a bit limited because you obviously get three questions for every clause. It did seem unhelpful, to say the least, that this happened while we were in the committee stage and that it had not been augmented as part of the original bill. Mind you, when you see 300 of the former Labor government's amendments coming through, you do not wonder that much.

Some people may think that as a farmer I would be concerned about or in support of these environment and food protection areas. The issue for me, and I have said it in this place before, is that it creates real inequality across the board. Apart from also encompassing the Barossa protection zone and the McLaren Vale protection zone, this environment and food protection area has essentially incorporated land from Kapunda, in the Minister for Energy and Mining's electorate, through to Goolwa, in the member for Finniss' electorate, right through the Barossa, in the electorate of the Minister for Planning (member for Schubert) and right through to the coast. That is a vast swathe of country where different development rules were endorsed for open country.

Where you see this really play out is in my electorate of Hammond, where the Rural City of Murray Bridge council is covered by this environment and food protection area but the Coorong District Council is not. I am not saying Coorong should be involved (it is my home council), but it does impose other restrictions on development. Yes, we absolutely do have to have balanced development, and that is why we are working hard to make sure that we get this codification process right and giving it more time, and I think the minister is doing exactly the right thing in giving this more time.

It is pretty interesting when one side of the river in my electorate is impacted by this environment and food protection area, and there are very strict controls on whether people can put a second house on a farm, for example—it is not even straightforward under the other legislative processes anyway—and there are different rules for the other side of the river in Coorong District Council. So there are two different sets of rules in Wellington East and Wellington because they are on opposite sides of the River Murray. I am really concerned about what has happened here because we already have development controls in place for people putting in developments.

There are already controls in place in local government. Generally, the rule is that if you want to subdivide a farmhouse—this is pretty well across the state and rural areas—you have to subdivide 40 hectares, or 100 acres in the old language, unless you go through a negotiation process. You can go through that negotiation process in quite a few council areas and have less land to be subdivided off the farmhouse. The simple fact is that the way agriculture is in this state and in this nation, as I said before, if you do not get big you have to get out.

People end up with farmhouses they do not need, and there is an opportunity to subdivide them off and bring other people, other families, into the district. What has happened over time is that districts have been gutted because of the way it is with economies of scale, with people having to expand just to make operations work. It takes people out of communities, and it is very tough to try to turn it around. If I had the full answer on how to turn it around, I probably would not even be here. We need to be far more sensible about these things.

I remember I asked the former member for Enfield, the former minister, at the time, what he was doing with this environment and food protection area. It took a few goes—and I am more than happy for someone to check the Hansard—but I finally got him to admit that this was equivalent to the protections involved in the Barossa protection area and the McLaren Vale protection area that are enhanced under other legislation. You would think it almost nullified that legislation.

It is a real concern for me when we go over the top. During my time on the Environment, Resources and Development Committee we had an issue where we wanted a second home on horticulture blocks in, I think, the Adelaide Plains Council area. We managed to get a win for the reality of these small blocks that need the option of more people. Horticulture is more intense and you need more people on the property to assist with sowing, tending and harvesting of the crops. Yes, I absolutely agree that you do not want to have a blatant excuse for a semi-subdivision, but you do need to deal with reality, and I think we could have done it without this Environment and Food Protection Area.

Another issue I had with the former member for Enfield was his hatred—and I will say it: his genuine hatred—of lifestyle blocks. They are useful for a range of reasons. In regard to lifestyle blocks, I had an issue in Hammond where the owner of Swanport Harvest did his own development plan amendment, spent thousands and thousands of dollars and was just blocked out. Thankfully, when we got in we fixed it, and I thank the Minister for Planning (member for Schubert) for that. When we got in, we could see what had to be done because the simple fact was that you could not have houses abutting the South Eastern Freeway. I begged and pleaded with the former member for Enfield. He was never going to go there, but we have had success and those first blocks are up for sale.

The Hon. A. Piccolo interjecting:

Mr PEDERICK: Absolutely. It is a great outcome, and it is a great outcome for reality. That is what we need to see in any planning system as we move forward. Yes, it will have its challenges, but we will get there in the end.