New Tasmanian Planning Scheme
The new statewide Tasmanian planning scheme will regulate development and protection of every land title in Tasmania
Hodgman’s new statewide scheme seeks to shift the balance to favour property developers at the expense of existing values and uses.
The planning scheme is designed to de-regulate and expand the range of uses permitted without public comment, reducing heritage protections, opening up parks and reserves to commercial developments and reducing opportunities for community involvement in planning decisions.
The process to date has been opaque and difficult to interpret.
What happens now?
Local councils are in the process of drafting Local Provisions Schedules. They will release the drafts for public comment for at least 60 days (this is expected to occur within the next 6-9 months). Any person can make a representation about the proposed LPS during the public comment period.
The Tasmanian Planning Commission will then consider the draft LPS, any comments made by the public, and any response from the Council before deciding whether to make the final LPS (with or without modifications) or to re-advertise.
Why we are concerned
The TCT does not object to the idea of a statewide scheme. We are concerned about the proposed content and structure of the scheme.
Tasmania still lacks a coherent suite of State Policies to guide key strategic planning decisions on issues such as integrated transport, population and settlements, biodiversity management, and climate change.
While the laws about appeal rights for discretionary developments are not being changed at this stage, in practice the SPPs reduce the number of developments that will be treated as discretionary. Instead, a range of developments (including commercial developments in national parks) will be “permitted” and not subject to public comment or appeal.
Key National Parks & Reserves Issues
• Under the SPPs, there is no guarantee of public comment or rights of appeal on developments in all our National Parks and Reserves.
• Instead, assessment of development in National Parks and Reserves will be assessed under a non-statutory process (the Reserve Activity Assessment) that lacks transparency and rigour.
Key Rural Issues
• The rural landscape of Tasmania is unique. We have pasture and agriculture interconnected with coastal heath, alpine grasslands, wetlands and forested ridges. This landscape sustains our plants and animals and is the image that unifies our island as a major tourist attraction.
• Under the Land Use Planning and Approvals Act 1993, mining, dam building, aquaculture and forestry are given special treatment that limits the potential for councils to stop or restrict them. The changes contained in the SPPs provide similar special treatment for farmers, removing options to refuse or regulate irrigation infrastructure and vegetation clearing for plantations or pasture, and exempting development in the Agriculture Zone from the protections offered by the Natural Assets Code (see below).
• The SPPs allow an unprecedented range of commercial and extractive uses in Rural Zones, which will further degrade the countryside.
• The SPPs divide the rural landscape into four zones (Agriculture, Landscape Conservation, Rural and Rural Living), all designed to facilitate development and imposing very few restrictions on buildings.
Key Biodiversity issues
• In planning schemes, codes apply across all zones and are intended to provide a level of protection for special values, a safety net, in particular where zoning is inadequate. The Natural Assets Code fails to provide this safety net for natural values. In particular, the Code will not apply to:
• development in half of all the zones (including in the Agriculture zone)
• works undertaken by councils and state government agencies
• threats other than vegetation clearing e.g. disturbance of eagles during nesting or collisions
of swift parrots with windows
• vegetation clearance in reserves, pasture and cropping land and orchards
• The Commission recommended that the Natural Assets Code be excluded from the SPPs and further detailed consideration, mapping and consultation be undertaken to ensure that the Code protected natural values. The Minister did not adopt that recommendation.
• The draft SPPs restricted ‘priority vegetation’ to listed threatened vegetation and ‘priority habitat’ for listed threatened species. The final SPPs allow local councils to extend this to include locally significant vegetation.
• Even where impacts on threatened species are considered under the code, the requirement is only to "minimise clearance of significant habitat" and to "avoid unacceptable impacts", rather than absolute restrictions on clearing. This lack of clarity will lead to continued loss of important vegetation and leave remaining vegetation fragmented and degraded; a ‘death by a thousand cuts’ approach resulting in more species becoming threatened and some pushed to extinction.
Key Coastal Issues
• The SPPs pose a threat to our undeveloped beautiful coastlines.
• Coastal communities that currently enjoy a prohibition on subdivision within 1km of the coast are likely to lose this protection.
• Most farming and mining activities in coastal areas will be exempt from the Coastal Hazards Codes.
• The Major Tourism Zone could facilitate large scale resorts in sensitive coastal locations.
Key Heritage Buildings & Heritage Landscape Issues
• The built cultural heritage landscape of Tasmania is of unique national and international character and needs strong protection under planning laws.
• The result of compromising protections for the built heritage that makes Tasmanian suburbs and towns unique are predictable: bit by bit the old houses and buildings that are an important window to our past will be replaced and the charm that is loved by locals and visitors alike will be lost forever.
• In November 2016, the Tasmanian Heritage Council advertised the removal of 514 properties from the Tasmanian Heritage Register. Many of the places that will be removed from the Tasmanian Heritage Register will remain subject to local heritage codes. However, the Local Heritage Code under the SPPs do not provide equivalent protection for heritage values, and many local councils lack the resources to properly assess heritage impacts.
• The Hobart City Council’s submission on the draft SPPs concludes: “[T]he heritage code of the SPPs is deficient in many areas. Heritage values will be eroded, the detail of buildings and fine grain qualities will be lost and Hobart will become a city of facades. The code is lengthy, not consistent and poorly drafted. It requires considerable redrafting to ensure it is consistent with current and good heritage practice...”. The same outcome will be repeated across Tasmania, and has not been remedied by the final SPPs.
• The National Trust has also pointed out that the SPPs allow scope for development between historic towns, with no clear buffer zones. For example, there is the opportunity of having one big suburb going all the way from Burnie to Launceston, from Launceston to Perth and Evandale and from Kempton to Hobart.
Key Urban Issues
• The SPPs provide for smaller block sizes, higher buildings, reduced setbacks and higher density developments in residential areas. The SPPs lock in changes introduced in 2014 which have the potential to alter the face of our cities, towns, and residential areas, including in your own backyard. In many places, buildings up to 8.5m on lots as small as 450 square metres will be permitted without the opportunity for neighbours to have a say.
• In the General Residential Zone (which covers most residential areas in Tasmania’s towns and suburbs), many unit developments will be permitted without the opportunity for neighbours to comment. Provided buildings comply with the maximum permitted heights, density and setback provisions, councils will not be able to refuse a proposal and neighbours will often not be advised of the development until building commences. For example, the average unit area can be as small as 325m2 without being advertised.
• Where units are located within 400m of public transport, even higher densities can be permitted.
• Even if a building is higher, larger or closer than the minimum standards allow for, it can still be approved if “Performance Criteria” can be met. These developments will be advertised and open to public comment and appeal rights, however the Performance Criteria will often be vague and difficult to enforce.
• Under the SPPs, neighbourhood amenity and character, privacy and sunlight into your backyard and home will not be adequately protected.
Key Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Issues
• The SPPs continue to alienate Aboriginal communities from decisions about how land of cultural significance is managed. In particular, the SPPs do not include any Code or other provisions to specifically deal with impacts on Aboriginal cultural heritage, on the basis that such impacts are already managed under the Aboriginal Relics Act 1975. However, the government itself has recognised that the Relics Act is grossly inadequate to protect Aboriginal heritage places and cultural landscapes.
• The SPPs do not currently require culturally appropriate assessments of developments likely to impact on Aboriginal heritage, or provide opportunities for members of the Aboriginal community to challenge decisions to approve developments that will impact on cultural heritage.
The Planning System will not be faster, fairer, simpler or cheaper
• The Government continues to promote the reforms as delivering a “fairer, simpler, faster and cheaper” planning system. However:
• a system that marginalises councils and the public from decisions about development in their area is not fairer.
• a system that requires councils to introduce a patchwork of Particular Purpose Zones or Specific Area Plans in order to protect the special character of local areas is not simpler.
• a system that is poorly drafted, unclear and contradictory, and therefore likely to be subject to legal challenges will ultimately not be faster or cheaper.
Major Projects Legislation
• While it is not part of the Statewide Scheme, the Tasmanian Government remains committed to the introduction of "major projects" legislation that would give the Minister power to "call-in" significant projects for assessment against project-specific criteria, rather than the SPPs. Draft legislation is expected to be released in early 2017 dealing with major projects.
• Fragrance Group has proposed several new hotel towers in central Hobart. here has been talk that the Fragrance towers could be assessed outside the planning system and by future Major Projects legislation – thus bypassing the height restriction rules.
We need your help to undo these new planning laws. Contact us today if you would like to be involved in our campaign to roll back the State Planning Provisions.
Prepared by the TCT and Planning Matters Alliance.