Housing Land Supply Amendment Bill 2021 (No. 51)
Tuesday 16 November 2021
Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - Mr President, I thank the member for Hobart for his words which I hope the Government have carefully listened to.
The bill targets under-utilised or vacant land suitable for residential purposes and the provision of social and affordable housing for the making of housing land supply orders. There is, evidently, a significant need for a greater amount of affordable housing and a clear demand from the community for its supply.
I want to ensure, however, the powers granted by this bill will achieve these objectives are reasonable in the circumstances and proportionate to the needs the legislation seeks to address. The demand for housing of all kinds in Tasmania has risen and risen, not just for buyers, but for renters and those renters who are in extenuating circumstances. There are obviously high barriers to overcome and I am sure we have all had constituents in our offices that have had great difficulty in accessing homes and particularly affordable homes.
The delivery of social and affordable housing in Tasmania is therefore an important need which should be addressed and I agree with that. The Housing Land Supply Bill is one of many levers which can be adjusted to better ensure people looking for somewhere to live have reasonable options available to them.
The Leader spoke about how this bill will achieve these objectives in four ways and I want to touch on some of those briefly. The first is the amendments expand the scope of eligible government land to include land owned by Tasmania Development and Resources, as well as land obtained after the Housing Land Supply Act came into effect. I agree with the member for Hobart in this case. There are many areas of land, and I can remember from my time on council that we had kindergartens no longer used as kindergartens. Land was transferred across to Housing Tasmania. There were areas of land, but at least they went with a council planning process. That is a real concern I have.
Having listened to the member for Hobart and having been on council, we probably have an understanding of planning, having dealt with planning over a number of years and listened to planners and people in the community that come to you with their concerns. Sometimes, their concerns are listened to and sometimes the concerns are not. At least due process is covered. In this bill due process and councils are bypassed. I can recall another time that happened.
Mr Valentine - Their influence is reduced.
Ms ARMITAGE - Absolutely. There was another time it happened and I am trying to remember the right words. It was when the federal government had a certain amount of money they were providing. It was an incentive at one stage and councils were bypassed then too.
Ms Forrest - That was a GFC response?
Ms ARMITAGE - It possibly was, but I can recall having been on council and council did not have a say in the development. We have councils for a very good reason. They are in touch with the community, probably one removed or one closer than parliament is.
I will support the member for Hobart's amendment should this bill get through the second reading. I, like him, will hope the Government does go back and do a little more work on it. I will say a bit further on at least one of the changes that needs to be made.
I would emphasise in obtaining suitable land for the purpose of developing social and affordable housing, appropriate measures for those in the vicinity should have the opportunity to have their input considered. This brings me to the consultation process contained in the bill. The Leader has mentioned these amendments provide a more inclusive consultation process and improved transparency in the decision-making process for proposed housing land supply orders. It does this by mandating a 28-day public consultation period for all proposed orders and broadening the scope of consultation processes by moving beyond just those which could be considered interested persons. In my personal opinion, you could make that a year consultation, but if those giving their evidence or providing that consultation are not listened too, it does not matter whether it is 14 days or 28 days. From my experience on council it is often not listened to.
I do not know that people giving their opinions when this does not have to go to elected members, whether it be nine members or 12 members or 10 members of a local council to make the decision, when they were already bypassed - it does not matter how long they have to consult because I do not believe anyone is going to take any notice of their opinion. They might list it down. It is the experience I have had.
Mr Valentine - Becomes the voice of an individual, not of the council.
Ms ARMITAGE - Yes. There are positive developments, and it is necessary in the circumstances, given the expanded powers this bill provides to obtain and develop land for housing. I further note the amendments make the rezoning assessment criteria of the Housing Land Supply Act consistent with those of the Land Use Planning and Approvals Act 1993, or LUPAA for short. The current Housing Land Supply Act requires that the rezoning of land for a housing supply order be consistent with the regional land use strategy, whereas LUPAA only requires the rezoning of land to be, as far as practicable, consistent with the regional land use strategy.
This is obviously a lower threshold to be met and I want to make sure that the enhanced consultation and transparency measures in the bill actually provide meaningful avenues of review for the community when there might be resistance to proposed developments. One that was mentioned was Technopark and I know there has been concern with residents in the past that there could almost be broadacre. I think when I asked the question it was - I am sure the Leader can tell me, I might just get you to tell me, Leader - how many houses were proposed for Technopark? I am quite sure it was a significant number when I asked previously in the briefing.
Another area that I am quite sure would get a lot of resistance from the community, if it was to be taken over by Housing Tasmania, is the land behind the South Launceston Football Club. I believe that is government land, not necessarily Housing Tasmania land, but I am sure that is as simple as a transfer, because they would like to see more green space and more fields and I think that is equally as important. We need areas of green space and we need fields, football fields, soccer fields, hockey fields for people to be able to get fit and to play.
We cannot have housing everywhere. We do need green areas and I recall having been on the council at the time, that council would sell off sometimes a park that they felt was under-utilised. The community might not have felt it was under-utilised, but it would be disappointing if parks all of a sudden were disappearing too and housing going up. As much as we need housing, we also need parks for those children to play and it needs to be very carefully considered. Hence, my concern that planning is very important to an area, and that is where local councils come in. As has been mentioned by the previous speaker, local councils have an idea of what they want in their area.
Further to the issue of rezoning, correspondence from Planning Matters Alliance Tasmania, or PMAT, has made some suggestions and one of these is that the legislation governing housing land supply orders set up a size limit of the land which can be rezoned under the act. Any rezoning of land above this limit should go through the standard planning scheme amendment process.
I have not moved an amendment because I have no idea of what size it should be. It would be great for the Government to take the bill back and look at it more carefully. I am not a planner. I have dealt with planning, as have other members in this House, who have been through local council. It is something that we did as a matter of course and when we first got onto council we had absolutely no idea about planning, but after eight or nine years you generally got the understanding and you were working with planners all the time. I do not know what that should or should not be, so I am certainly not going to move an amendment, but I would love to see the Government decide to take the bill back. I think it is highly unlikely that they will and hence for that reason I may not support the bill.
Further, PMAT has said:
As the parliament has the final say as to whether a land supply order can be approved or not, the community has to spend a huge amount of time and energy advocating for strategic planning. Once the order is passed by parliament there is no further consultation on the zoning, which is the most important stage. At the development application, DA stage, the zoning cannot be changed. At the DA stage, public input may be very limited.
This to me undermines the notion that this bill provides more inclusive consultation processes and improved transparency. How can a mandatory 28-day consultation period be of much benefit when the DA stage follows the zoning consultation stage? There is the additional argument to be made here that local councils themselves have little power to challenge land supply orders when they are issued.
I do not believe that parliament should take the place of councils and planning and I do have concerns about the bill as it stands and I certainly will be supporting the member for Hobart's amendment should the bill go into Committee stage.
The Council divided -
AYES 11 NOES 3
Mr Duigan Ms Armitage (Teller)
Ms Forrest Mr Valentine
Mr Gaffney Ms Webb
Ms Palmer (Teller)