How Can We Address Development When We Have 29 Councils?

How Can We Address Development When We Have 29 Councils?

The failure of our local government authorities to address the issue of amalgamation leaves the Government with little option but to establish three regional planning authorities under the umbrella of the Tasmanian Planning Commission.

How real is it to expect a co-ordinated approach to development when we have 29 councils? It appears that discussions by a number of councils to amalgamate and/or create a more regional approach have evaporated. A greater Hobart council, bringing together larger southern councils would have gone some way towards co-ordinating the multitude of planning issues that need to be addressed.

When the framework for the current planning legislation was established in 1993, it was decided to leave planning with individual councils and give oversight and final approval of the schemes to the State Planning Commission. The role of the commission is to manage and report on changes to planning schemes, review draft management plans, advise and support the planning and local government minister and councils, support strategic planning projects.

The State Planning Commission now oversees the planning schemes of 29 councils. It has divided the state into three regions with Regional Land Use Strategies setting out long term planning goals for these three regions:North-West (Cradle Coast) includes Burnie City, Central Coast, Circular Head, Devonport City, Kentish, King Island, Latrobe, Waratah-Wynyard, and West Coast.

North: Break O’Day, Dorset, Flinders, George Town, Launceston City, Meander Valley, Northern
Midlands, and West Tamar.

South: Brighton, Central Highlands, Clarence City, Derwent Valley, Glamorgan Spring Bay, Glenorchy City, Hobart City, Huon Valley, Kingborough, Sorell, Southern Midlands and Tasman.

For example, a regional plan may indicate how much land needs to be made available for housing, transport and industrial purposes. Each local government planning scheme must be consistent with that Regional Land Use Strategy. Strategies can be amended but it is the minister’s responsibility to keep the three strategies under regular review.

The difficulties with the present system are the lack of a collaborative approach to regional issues across the three tiers of government and lack of co-ordination across each government’s agencies. The legislation is clear that local government planning schemes must be consistent with the regional land use strategies. However, since the gazettal of the southern strategy by minister Bryan Green in 2013, the only action has been some motherhood statements and little action to implement any strategies.

There is little disagreement that regional planning is critical for proper development. Prior to the state election, the Southern Regional Council even released a report on its regional priorities. These included asking for a formalised framework and systematic approach for the maintenance and review of the Southern Tasmanian Regional Land Use Strategy. On southern transport issues the report said an integrated approach looking at car transit, freight movement and public transport including buses, light rail and ferries is needed to fix this problem. It appears little or no planning work has been done on how to actually address this across its 12 councils. As settlements around greater Hobart expand, this problem is only going to increase. It is imperative there is a collaborative approach encompassing all three tiers of government and multiple agencies. This means a Greater Hobart Transport Plan to identify a long-term plan and solutions to fix these bottlenecks.

Despite admissions by the Southern Regional Council Authority changes are needed. There is no easy means of implementing any of these recommendations when 12 councils have to agree.

The failure by councils to co-ordinate and address these issues over the years brings me to the conclusion that the only solution is to transfer all planning authority from 29 local councils to three regional authorities, as we have already done to provide better water and sewerage management.

Source:  John Cleary was a state Liberal minister and MP for Franklin. He introduced the Land Use Planning and Approvals Act 1993.

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