Speech for President Joy Baluch South Australian Infrastructure Conference The Investment Future for the Next Boom State 1.40pm - 28 August 2008 Rendezvous Allegra Hotel Adelaide “Urban Planning and Social Infrastructure Requirements Moving Forward”
Good afternoon and thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today at the South Australian Infrastructure Conference. I have been asked to address you under the generic title of ‘Urban Planning and Social Infrastructure Requirements Moving Forward”. It is proper that this topic has been allocated to Local Government – the sphere of government that is closest to our communities and which has an intimate knowledge of what our communities need in terms of social infrastructure and service requirements, particularly as our community boundaries are being reconfigured by state government planning changes and population growth. Planning
South Australia is currently in the midst of the biggest proposed reform to the planning system in recent history. Whether or not we are going to be the next “boom state” we must bring our urban planning system into line with the expectations of the 21st century. In June this year the state government released a raft of proposed planning reforms as its response to the planning review which was begun in 2007. I am pleased that in announcing these reforms the Government has been willing to scrutinise its own role and performance and not simply to hide behind councils which face up daily as the 'front counter' of the state's system. If these changes can speed approval for re-zoning changes to development plans by State Government then Councils will rejoice, along with developers and communities. Councils will need to assess the proposed reforms in detail. We will also listen to community and business responses to the 'content' changes which could impact on property values and local amenity. Whether you call them working families or middle Australia, their homes - and business premises - are usually their biggest investment.
These changes may be welcomed across the board but community views need to be heard by Government first. The LGA has received submissions from Councils regarding the Government’s planning reforms package and a detailed submission will be delivered to the Urban Development and Planning Minister, in due course. It is no secret that the planning system in South Australia has been woefully under-resourced at both State and Local Government levels and the system has been slowed down by current State requirements that Councils must refer matters to State Government agencies in certain cases, with the majority of applications requiring Councils to issue planning consent before development approval can be granted. In addition, current development plan amendment processes are long winded and the time taken to process changes within State Government agencies is unacceptable – what is probably most unacceptable is the backlash to Councils resulting from these inter-agency requirements – called by some “systemic flaws that cost time and money”. Local Government’s early assessment of the proposed reforms suggests that not only will they be many-pronged they will also in some instances take several years to implement – the end result, we hope, will be a vastly improved planning system for South Australia. Much of the emphasis of the planning reforms on a strategic policy level is centred on the Adelaide Metropolitan area and includes the 30 year plan for Adelaide but there are also five regional plans for the remainder of South Australia. A growing population is placing pressures on urban character, storm water management, aquifer recharge, transport systems and arable horticultural land. Continued population expansion based on historical housing and land use is not sustainable. Urban design patterns need to change to encourage better integration of housing, services, transport and employment, higher density and greater focus on design. There are many changes happening throughout the state which need to be looked at from each development’s unique perspective – whether it be the projected mining boom in the Upper Spencer Gulf or the Defence Department’s expanding installation at Outer Harbour, the likely increase in some regional populations through immigration as a result of increased job opportunities, or sadly the shrinking of our River communities as a result of this dreadful drought. We also must carefully consider the effects of an aging population and where our retirees are likely to want to spend their twilight years – with the proliferation of aged care homes and retirement villages in certain areas, the only hair colours required at local salons will be blue or purple. We must also look at land issues and the length of time it takes to release fresh land for development, whether for commercial or residential purposes. Where new land is released for housing, we must also look at supporting infrastructure such as schools,
medical centres, shopping precincts, roads, storm water, transport, street lighting, public toilets and all the other support systems that make up our communities. Population growth and demographic change, land supply, water consumption, climate change and energy and car use, oil prices, heritage and housing affordability are the big picture issues which should be driving our direction into the future. It is imperative for the future development of our communities that Local Government is involved with State and Federal governments in the development of an urban growth strategy. We must be involved in the establishment of regional growth plans that consider the entire gamut of community needs. Ownership of the State’s planning strategy needs to be broad, including a ‘whole of Government’ approach and we need to ensure coordinated Government spending on physical and social infrastructure to support the planning strategy. It is proposed that the planning strategy be made up of two elements, namely a 25 to 30 year regional plan for Adelaide; and five country regional plans. The metropolitan and outer metropolitan volumes of the planning strategy are to be merged into one plan covering greater metropolitan Adelaide that encompasses an area from Victor Harbor to the Barossa and across to Murray Bridge, and will need to explicitly recognise the impact that South Australia’s population growth will have beyond Adelaide’s urban boundary.
In order to deliver on the targets in South Australia’s strategic plan, both the regional plan for Adelaide and country regional plans must be specific and action-oriented they must have the following characteristics:
• Actions and targets to achieve housing affordability and competitive housing
• Population growth targets that meet South Australia’s strategic plan population
targets, in particular, the target of two million people by 2050;
• Clear targets for housing supply and land supply to support housing and
• Targets and strategies for energy and water efficiency;
• Spatial plans for Adelaide and the regions which identify growth precincts for
housing and employment, conservation areas and land subject to further investigation should demand increase for housing, commercial, retail or industrial land;
• Land use frameworks that integrate transport planning and major transport
• Identify the major infrastructure implications of land use decisions to inform
In regard to the development assessment process, we should not have a planning system that is bogged down by minor matters, full of costly and time consuming outdated rules and regulations. We should not have a planning system with lengthy approval times, particularly for minor developments and house renovations.
However, at the same time we must not evolve a development process that does not have appropriate checks and balances. It’s all very well to proclaim that “cranes on the skyline” are a sign of economic and development growth and well they might be, but they are also an indicator of further strains on resources particularly in the context of a national skills shortage, which is impinging on Local and State Government employment sectors. We know from our research and from studies undertaken by others that the current strains on the planning sector are beginning to show cracks. According to a recent survey of Local Government by the South Australian branch of the Planning Institute of Australia – the turn over of staff in Council planning departments is high with the entire population of development assessment planners turning over every three years or so. We are told that there are around 100 fewer planning assessment officers than required to cope with existing workloads in Local Government. The types of applications placing the greatest stress on the system are land divisions, new residential applications and heritage matters. With the proposed planning reforms ‘rats and mice’ issues such as assessment applications for minor issues such as sheds and pergolas, shade sails and fences are to be taken out of the system. I think we would all welcome the freedom that this change would bring and which would allow planning officers to concentrate on the more complex development applications. However, there must still be checks and balances to deal with those in our society who flout the rules no matter how minor the issue. We must not just brush our hands of these issues, which can spark neighbourhood ill-will - fence and garage disputes have ended up before the Supreme Court. For example, as part of the consultation process on the proposed reforms to streamline the development assessment system, the Local Government Association is seeking that the State Government supplement current processes with clear, easily enforceable and effective remedies/penalties for those persons that do not comply with regulated standards and conditions, particularly in light of the increase in the volume of activity that will no longer require assessment. There is also a need for State and Local governments to develop and implement a customer awareness strategy so that both applicants and neighbours understand the new system and their respective rights and responsibilities. Transport The State Government has announced its vision for transport oriented developments (TODs) for the Adelaide metropolitan area – developments designed to concentrate residential and commercial development around transport hubs.
This proposal will radically alter the face of Adelaide and is coupled with proposals for tram, light rail and bus reforms to cater for the increased housing and shopping developments around these proposed transport hubs. It is proposed that joint teams from Planning SA; the Department of Transport, Energy and Infrastructure; the Land Management Corporation; and Local Government will commence work on priority corridors to identify:
• Priority sites such as potential transit oriented developments;
• Development controls to unlock development capability; and
• Transport and infrastructure implications and priorities.
Local Government in South Australia is responsible for 74,093 kilometres of road networks – equivalent to almost four times around the Australian continent traveling via Highway One. The Local Government network of roads is comprised of 83% regional roads and 17% metropolitan roads and this represents a Local Government investment in road assets of $4.8 billion and we spend more than $250 million each year in maintaining this asset – so you can bet your billy that Local Government is interested in the State’s transport system and any major changes to that system. In the Upper Spencer Gulf there is projected strong economic growth and demand for workers as a result of the projected mining boom – developers are scurrying to be the first to get houses on the ground in preparation for the much touted influx of workers, skilled and unskilled to support the anticipated mining explosion. But what of the transport requirements to move people and goods in and out of this region? This in itself is posing a serious issue for my Council of Port Augusta –the Capital of the Centre of the Universe – should the predicted mining boom occur and should a deep sea port be established at Port Bonython. Freight volumes on road and rail, as a result of cargo into and out of the mines, are predicted to increase significantly through Port Augusta, to and from Port Bonython, and as needs must they will be routed through Spencer Junction which is already the busiest inland rail junction in Australia. The junction currently supports the movement of 86 rail services a week, including freight, passenger and track maintenance trains. Should the deep sea port be established at Port Bonython, Spencer Junction will have to be re-located north of its present position. This would free up prime central land for residential and commercial development, it would revitalize the heart of Port Augusta and the costs associated with the re-location of the Junction could be realized from the sale of the land.
Ah, I hear you thinking, this is all about making things better for Port Augusta, getting rid of a rail line that currently divides the town, reducing the noise and pollution associated with a rail line running through the middle of a residential and commercial precinct – and you would be correct. But that is what urban planning is all about. It is about taking a look at what we’ve got, looking ahead to what we need and realizing the best outcomes possible for our communities, our businesses and the economic future of the region. Climate change
We have to recognise the future impact of climate change which has the potential to cause severe disruption to our society as we know it, including our economy and our environment and we need to take steps now to mitigate this disruption – we need to reduce emissions and reduce our carbon footprint. To do this we have to look at several factors:
We need to be actively supporting pro-active work on climate change at Federal, State and Local Government levels, whether it be reducing corporate emissions through careful consideration of low emission fleet vehicles, the integration of transport and land-use and the identification of the processes and implications of emissions trading. Climate change is not just an environmental issue – it will impact on all levels of social and economic systems, in South Australia, Australia and internationally. Climate change or global warming is possibly one of the greatest modern day challenges facing communities. The overwhelming body of science tells us that climate change is real, is happening now and confirms that we are locked into some degree of climate change regardless of what we do on the mitigation side. The LGA, assisted by the LGA Mutual Liability Scheme, last year conducted a South Australian Local Government Climate Change survey and as a result we are now embarking on an important initiative to support Councils in their climate change preparedness. The Mutual Liability Scheme has been charged with the responsibility to fund and deliver a Climate Change Risk Management and Adaptation Program and through the Scheme Local Government will invest six hundred thousand dollars over two years to ensure South Australian Councils are leading the nation on climate change initiatives and preparations.
I believe this is the greatest central allocation of funding by local government to a single issue. Local government will now begin to develop model plans and, through the mls, will assess risks for our communities from rising sea levels, flood risk and other predicted impacts of climate change. The shift towards a carbon constrained future and the carbon economy (supported by the Australian government’s recent ratification of the Kyoto Protocol) is underway and will mean changes to the way we do business, the way we deliver services and the way we manage risk and uncertainty. The business as usual approach can no longer be supported if we and our communities are to progress and prosper in a climate constrained future. It is not all doom and gloom – Local Government is undertaking some significant initiatives and there are some great opportunities ahead for councils to successfully respond to climate change. Energy and water With an increasing population – needed to fill current skills shortages and projected employment growth due to mining and defence industry requirements – there will also be a greater need for increased energy generation. This will pose problems, particularly in rural and remote areas, where connection to the national grid is cost prohibitive to industry and where Commonwealth Government assistance will be required to sustain the energy requirements of these new and expanding industry developments. Investors in wind, geothermal and solar power generation will have to be assured of the success of proposed ventures if they are to commit to these investments. Again there is a role for each of the three spheres of government to assist, either with seed funding or support in kind for power generation projects which are vital to the growth of the communities needed to support industry development. We all know the mantra that South Australia is the driest state in the driest continent in the world – but successive generations and successive State and Federal Governments have ignored the need to preserve our water resources. They have allowed and encouraged the proliferation of water intensive cropping, such as rice and cotton upstream and we are now reaping the problem. It was always on the cards that we were going to have another drought – perhaps not of the current magnitude – but where are the holding dams, where are the storm water run off collection ponds, where is the infrastructure to support our communities in the face of this dreadful situation? We are talking up increased populations to offset the employee deficit, we are spruiking increased density of houses and industry – but how are we going to provide water to service these increases?
Mining is a very water intensive industry – do we want to put the Great Artesian Basin under the same pressure as the Murray River system? Should we require industry to develop salination plants to service their own water needs? I don’t have the answers - but we sure are going to have to find them before the projected population growth is realized. As a community we all have the responsibility to protect and preserve our environment. Affordable housing
If we are looking at investment for the future and significant population growth, we have to look closely at how we are going to house these new South Australians and create situations where housing is affordable. Since the August 2007 Summit, both State and Local Governments have worked towards the goal of improving housing affordability. In particular the Local Government Association’s Affordable Housing Working Group has been established, and has met on several occasions. The Working Group has identified the need to work on a number of issues to provide pathways that will streamline the development of more affordable housing. The new Federal Government has made a commitment to improve housing affordability through the establishment of a Housing Affordability Fund. The Federal Budget committed to the provision of these funds over a five year period with the terms and conditions for funding proposals to be made available shortly. The State Government and LGA, through the Working Group, have been considering how better working relationships can be implemented to allow more efficient ways of developing affordable housing. Indeed, many Councils have received presentations and assistance from the State’s Affordable Housing Innovations Unit to assess where there may be suitable parcels of land which would lend themselves to affordable housing development. Through working together, the State Government and the LGA is exploring the potential and support for cooperative proposals from South Australia to the Federal Housing Affordability Fund. By working collaboratively, the two spheres of government can progress the development of practical measures to expedite affordable housing demonstration projects. Land release The State Government has proposed significant reforms in regard to the addressing the issue of land release, as part of the review of SA’s planning system. The proposals include: • Undertaking a capability audit of land within the urban boundary to make a
realistic assessment of the land supply situation and residential dwelling potential
and, as a starting point, identify appropriate large, consolidated sites for urban renewal and transit oriented developments;
• Identifying key broadacre sites that can be brought forward now for structure
• Identifying the next areas to be brought within the urban boundary, acknowledging
that future land release planning is necessary and appropriate given the long lead times and the need to maintain a sufficient buffer of land supply.
Clear targets and actions on land supply should be set, including:
• Targets on land supply expressed in terms of the zoned capacity and total lots
and dwellings needed to achieve the 25-year total and 15-year zoned land supply which are based on population projections and the rate of household formation;
• Targets for employment (including industrial) lands based on projected
population and labour market growth and specific industry strategies;
• Regional targets so there is a clear understanding of where the growth will be
• Opportunities to target growth around centres and within transit oriented
• An agreed ratio of the housing (lots and dwellings) and employment (including
industrial) lands to be accommodated in greenfield areas and established areas through infill development.
I trust that the matters that I have raised here this afternoon will lend a better perspective to the issues facing Local Government, your Councils, in relation to urban planning and social infrastructure requirements and the requirements of the future. To re-cap: We are still assessing the implications for Local Government from the State Government’s proposed planning reforms. We will welcome any moves to free up the system but we will not endorse change, purely for the sake of change. Hand in hand with planning for our urban environments are the infrastructure requirements needed in any population shift and increase in population density is transport and we, in Local Government, will be watching very closely to see where the Government is taking this. Local Government, as I previously mentioned, has a healthy financial stake in the road and transport infrastructure of South Australia, not just in metropolitan Adelaide but in our rural and regional centres where transport is the lifeblood of our communities. There are no quick answers. There is however a need for industry groups to work with all levels of government, to draw on each other groups expertise, to not be precious about sharing
information and to form alliances which best utilise this expertise and information so that we can take advantage of future investments, whether that be investment at a government level or from private investors. If we want economic and community prosperity in South Australia, if we want to capitalise on the projected growth of mining and defence industries in this state, then we have to begin the ground work now. Again thank you very much for inviting me here today to address this important conference and I hope that we all go away from this Forum better informed and determined to work together towards our common goal which is to maximise our investment future for South Australia – the next boom state. Thank you.
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