Bring in open and fair planning appeal rights

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

 

Sir – Here is an outline of what we’re proposing to Planning Minister, Peter Chandler, in a bid to to have planning regulations changed in favour of open and fair planning appeal rights. He answered quickly and reassuringly that he was looking into the matter.

 

• Phases 1 and 2 of the proposal to have a medium density Fly-In, Fly-Out (FIFO) Workers’ Village at Darwin River went through two Development Consent Authority (DCA) meetings (late 2013 and early 2014) – with well over a hundred people objecting to these proposals.
The DCA consented to phase 2 (a 600 bed modular village called a caravan park – with no van sites) and placed 33 conditions to be met on the development. DCA conditions have regularly been placed on rural planning developments and they have irregularly been imposed.

 

• While the Planning Regulations state that Rural (R) and Rural Living (RL) residents have no right of third party appeal against development consents, the Planning Act states that community amenity and consultation should be respected and that appeals processes should be open to all Territorians – so we put in an appeal to the Planning Tribunal.
We have made three appeals to the Tribunal on the grounds that the DCA process was unfair and didn’t properly consult; that as Territory residents we have a right of appeal; and –  that to appeal to a higher court, our appeal must be heard (in a Tribunal hearing) and rejected in that hearing by the Tribunal.
Two of our appeals have been rejected by the Tribunal Chairperson, Greg Cavanagh, without a hearing and the third is still being considered by him.

 

• In between placing our third appeal to the Tribunal, five rural delegates met Mr Chandler, in Kezia Purick’s Coolalinga office – supported by Kezia, Margaret Clinch of the Planning Action Network (PLan) and Gerry Wood.
Gary Higgins had a prior meeting so gave his apologies – and his support for our appeal. Each of us spoke about the different reasons we objected to inappropriate development in the rural area, why we need to continue to enjoy peaceful and respectful rural amenity and why it was reasonable for all Territorians to be able to appeal against inappropriate developments that destroy peaceful and sustainable rural amenity.
The Minister cautioned us that “this is not a perfect world” and “in a perfect world” we would be able to enjoy our amenity. He spoke (several times) about “sustainable development” and that we have to change to fit the changing world.
Once again, your delegates spoke within our areas of (extensive) expertise to correct the Minister’s opinion that suggested we were against change and sustainable development.
We each pointed out that the principle of sustainability realised a balance between environmental, social and economic processes of development. Such a principle encompasses present day rights as well as future generational rights to a healthy and well-balanced environment.
The Minister finally agreed that the regulation against rural people was unfair and discriminatory and that he would do what he could to have it changed.

 

• After discussions with the other delegates to the Ministerial meeting, we placed our third appeal before the Planning Tribunal Chair. Because of his lengthy deliberations and the uncertain behaviour of the Planning Minister, we also decided to go further afield than the Litchfield Council area and approach contacts in other areas with large R and RL populations to gauge the support for public meetings.

 

We also raised the issue of our Fighting Fund with the Bendigo Bank and its growing deposits.
• We have enough funds to conduct several public meetings throughout NT regional centres  on unsustainable rural development and third party rights of appeal.

 

• We also have extensive expertise and marvelously creative ideas amongst our growing RRR membership to advertise our cause widely (in a changing, internetting world) and to lobby our political leaders accordingly.
Already, a member has written to the Planning Tribunal Chair – who is also the Coroner – to appeal to him to recommend to the government that R and RL residents be given the same rights as urban residents in the Planning process. Another member has spoken with senior departmental planners and administrators to put our case forward.

 

• So far, we are a disparate (but not desperate) group of RRs and not an incorporated entity. Donations to the Fighting Fund (details below) are not tax-deductible but names of donor and amounts donated are recorded.
Account Type: Fighting Fund
Account Name: Diana Rickard
BSB: 633-000
Account No. 152106175

 

Diana Rickard and Greg Chapman

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