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

Second Reading

I rise to speak on the Planning, Development and Infrastructure (Commencement of Code) Amendment Bill 2019 and acknowledge and thank the minister for introducing it for our consideration so that we might, essentially, allow sufficient time for consultation to continue and consideration to be given to the development of the Planning and Design Code.

The member for Florey has already acknowledged the Hon. Mark Parnell as being the author of a similar bill in another place which has, although passed in late 2019, lapsed with the proroguing of parliament, and outlined the history of the demise of that as a result. I, too, wish to acknowledge the Hon. Mark Parnell and his consideration of this option in presenting it to the other place, because I also agree that the Hon. Mark Parnell has a significant area of expertise and skill in relation to planning law. It was obviously a significant aspect of his life prior to coming to parliament and, on a number of occasions, I have consulted with and, indeed, agreed with the Hon. Mark Parnell in his consideration of planning matters, not the least of which, I recall, was the debacle surrounding the Mount Barker development and the outrageous conduct of the previous government in relation to that.

Be that as it may, we are now dealing with a bill to remedy a time limit that was imposed under the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016, which requires the full introduction of the Planning and Design Code across the state by 1 July 2020. I must say, when I recall the former planning minister, the Hon. John Rau, indicating I think to this house as well as generally—but certainly to me—that it might take five years before all of the processes would be in place for that legislation to come into effect. I thought that was laughable and I could not believe that it would actually take that long, but there were issues relating to rules, regulations, design code, and another important document—some charter, I think, as I recall—but there were a number of processes that needed to be undertaken.

Four years later, we now find that we are coming to the end of that time and we need to hurry this up, and I can see why the former minister was quite realistic in setting out that time limit. Certainly, since the change of government, we have tried to ensure that this process continues. Obviously, while the original legislation took a very long time to go through this parliament, there was much scrutiny of it. There were literally hundreds of amendments to that legislation, and they were introduced by the former government, let alone all of the others. It just went on. It was really quite an arduous piece of legislative reform, which was excruciating.

I recall that this was the former member for Goyder Mr Steven Griffiths' life for some months, just negotiating the management of all the amendments. It was a very difficult legislative reform. There were arguments from all sides as to how it should progress. It did pass, but not necessarily in the form that some of us who were then in opposition would have wanted. Nevertheless, it passed. It was the will of the parliament. We have an obligation to get on with the implementation of what the law is in that regard.

However, what has become evident is that, apart from being the most significant reform of planning and development legislation since the original act came into being in 1993, it has elicited an extraordinary amount of response from the broader community. In particular, I think the most acute that I have seen, or had my attention drawn to, is the development of this Planning and Design Code. As a result of that, further time for the consideration and preparation of the code clearly needs to be given.

In a moment, I will come to the stakeholders and interested parties in my own electorate, but I say at the outset that I share the member for Florey's concern about the sheer volume of matters that have been brought to my attention and probably that of many in the parliament, whether they represent rural, peri-urban or metropolitan seats. Different aspects of concern are being raised predominantly relating to the region they are in, and mine is no exception. The expression of concern during the consultation versions of the code, which was released in October 2019, was that some further refinement was required and that councils had not had enough time to re-engineer the required business practices that the introduction of the code and its associated reforms require.

I do not know whether other members made any attempt to read the new draft code. To be frank, I found it difficult to navigate online how it was going to operate. I am not suggesting that this aspect is peculiar to planning codes, planning rules or other planning amendments we have had to look at over the years. They are all confusing to me. But, with perseverance and advice, particularly from Annabel Wilkins in my electorate office, who has worked diligently on this, I have a clear picture of exactly how these would apply within my own region of representation, and I am indebted to her for her hard work in that regard.

Trying to actually place it in some kind of understandable form for our representatives is important for them having a say. They need to have some understanding about what has happened. I see, like a sort of resurrection from the dead, the former member for Enfield has arrived, just after I have been complimenting the passing of his legislation, as wearying as that was at the time back in 2016.

The position is this: we do need extra time. Councils, industry and the community have asked for more time to understand, prepare and become business ready for the new planning system. I am advised that the commission has closely monitored those submissions to date, and 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.

In addition to the personal challenge I have had as a local member, and I am sure others have had also, in understanding what this all means, preparing it in some form so that it is translatable and understandable for our constituency is important. Then, having been informed, they require sufficient time to respond. In addition to that, the planning commission has made the assessment that it is also necessary for us to accommodate a time frame for stakeholder readiness for this. So there is a twofold exercise that needs to be accommodated.

For the benefit of our members in attendance today and listening to this debate, the idea that it would be ready in five years after the bill passed is proving to be very true. The words of the former planning minister were quite accurate, probably just about to the day, that we needed the five years and, with the passage of this bill, that is what we will have to ensure those two imperatives are reasonably accommodated.

I think it is also important, from our government's point of view, that we recognise the significance of genuine consultation and providing time for the opportunity to listen, consider and act in those circumstances. Frankly, it would be completely counterproductive to the planning system and development across South Australia if we were to ignore that feedback from the community. Some of it has been directly from councils and councillors in our local government structure and those who work in the planning area and have experience in that regard. If we were to push ahead with those initial time lines, as we would be required to do in the absence of the passage of this bill, that would clearly be counterproductive, and we are not interested, as a new government, in allowing a situation like that to prevail.

Another aspect, I am advised, is that the bill will also facilitate some extra time for testing and potentially more enhancements to be made to the ePlanning system should they be required. Having had some experience in the implementation of e-projects in the nearly two years that we have been in government, they usually are a challenge, not just because of the new technology coming into place to provide, usually, more efficient and cost-effective means by which business is done by a government, a court or a department, but also because we have to prepare those who use those services to become familiar with the new system and, most importantly, make sure that it is tested properly so that it works.

If I were to give an example, the ECMS proposal was to be implemented in our courts under the previous government. It piloted by late 2018 in the probate division of the Supreme Court. There were difficulties, I think it is fair to say, in the implementation of that part. I thought the Courts Administration Authority were wise in their staggered introduction. The introduction of probate for wills processes being through an ECMS was a good test area to start with, and it threw up some difficulties that came with it.

The Hon. A. PICCOLO: Point of order: is the minister actually speaking on this bill or some other related matter?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: If it is a related matter, then that is probably appropriate.

The Hon. V.A. CHAPMAN: For the benefit of the member, might I just say that the member might have missed the fact that the importance of giving some extra time here is to also test and potentially deal with enhancements on the new ePlanning system, and that, as a result—

The Hon. A. Piccolo: It doesn't take 10 minutes to say that.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Member for Light—

The Hon. A. Piccolo: You just said it in 30 seconds then.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Member for Light, that is enough. You have raised your point of order. We are bringing the Attorney back to her speech. Other members will have the opportunity to contribute as well. Attorney.

The Hon. V.A. CHAPMAN: I am just giving an example, sir, of the challenges that are met in introducing e-systems, and I was giving the example of the court. I just make the point that they come with some uncomfortable change, sometimes to the people who are using them. The example I have given was for some of the lawyers. Nevertheless, it also threw up, as the parliament is aware, circumstances where we were asked—which we have done at the request of the Chief Justice—to make some changes of law to accommodate things that were not clearly evident prior to starting. We need to get that side of it right.

I am advised that the phase 2 (rural areas) code will be delayed by three months to July 2020. The phase 3 (urban areas) code will be delayed three months until September 2020. Phase 3 remains in consultation—or I think consultation might just recently have closed, but in any event we want to be able to consider this further. This bill assists in mitigating the risks 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 processes and is supported by the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure.

I will conclude by saying that the department is responsible for the delivery of other aspects of reform, including the ePlanning platform. We have taken their advice, and we have seen the volume of submissions from the people of South Australia. We are a government who does want to constructively listen and we will consider those matters. We will have time then to action appropriate reforms with the passage of this bill.

Finally, can I say that I have not yet digested the foreshadowed amendment by the member for Florey, but obviously we will have a look at that. At first blush, it seems to be unnecessary to actually reopen the act to have a look at the other matters, which we took a painfully long time to debate back in 2016, but obviously we will have a look at that as this bill progresses.