Ask Tasmanian Deputy Premier Bryan Green and he will tell you that the government is undertaking ‘the biggest planning reforms ever seen’ in the state, and that $1.6 million committed in the 2012/13 budget will go toward further streamlining and simplifying rules for new building and construction.
Ask the Property Council of Australia, however, and you hear a different story. With no new funding for the Tasmanian Planning Commission, no mention of the mooted position of State Architect and no new planning changes beyond the current regional land use strategies and interim schemes, the government has ‘walked away’ from planning reform.
Rather, the Council says, the budget represents a ‘missed opportunity’ where the government has raised stamp duty and is reducing infrastructure spending at a time when the industry is facing bleak prospects.
‘Biggest Planning Reforms Ever’
First, the government’s side of the story.
According to Deputy Premier Bryan Green, funding of $1.6 million in 2012/13 – the second instalment of a $6 million commitment by the government – will continue to underwrite ‘major planning reform’ in Tasmania.
Coming on top of a new building code for single dwellings introduced last year, Green says, work now underway on streamlining approvals for villa units and town houses will be followed by further reforms to simplify planning rules for apartments and multi storey residential buildings.
He says planning reform, a ‘key priority’ of the government, would make the state a more attractive place to live and invest.
“The Government is undertaking the biggest planning reforms ever seen in Tasmania and we are determined to finish the job”, Green says.
“We are implementing reforms for all types of development together with new planning schemes for every Tasmanian council under a single state-wide template”.
The Property Council of Australia, however, could not disagree more.
The Government ‘appears to have walked away from its number one priority – planning reform’ it says. The budget contains no new funding for the Tasmanian Planning Commission nor any planning reforms flagged beyond the current regional land use strategies and interim schemes, the Council grumbles.
That’s not to mention the absence of funding for the position of State Architect in the Forward Estimates – an omission which appears to indicate that the idea for that position has been dumped.
Nor is this is to mention increases of up to 12.5% in the stamp duty rate at a time when the housing market is on its knees. After the increases, the Property Council says, the top marginal rate for property worth $750,000 and above will reach 4.5%.
Finally, there is the decline in government infrastructure spending, which is expected to fall from an estimated $490.2 million in 2011/12 to $437.7 million in the coming year and further to $379.9 million and $326.3 million in the following two years.
Like the rise in stamp duty, the fall in infrastructure spending comes at a time of weak building and construction conditions.
But it is the lack of planning reform which irks the Council most.
“As the largest private sector industry in the State, the property industry has strongly advocated for planning reform as a way of addressing the blockages in the system that make it hard for people to build a garage and complete their home renovations, let alone build a new and exciting retail outlet or hotel” says Tasmanian Executive of the Property Council Australia, Mary Massina.
“Yet, this government appears to have moved away from planning being their number one priority as there is no new funding or flagging of new reforms in the planning space”.
Poor Budget on Top of Poor Record
The apparent lack of planning progress comes amid continued industry frustration about the pace of reform. In a recent survey conducted by the Council, just 3.9% of Tasmanian respondents agreed that their state was doing a good job in planning and managing growth.
The government may be talking about the biggest planning reform ever.
For now, the industry is less than impressed.