On Tuesday 27 October, Parliament sat quite late as the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Bill was debated. My speech is attached.
Planning, Development and Infrastructure Bill
Mr PISONI(Unley) (23:08:29): I, too, rise to speak on the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Bill and, in doing so, I want to refer to an example that happened in my own electorate earlier this year where the local council was locked out of a major decision at the pointy end of the decision-making process. It refers to the Deputy Premier's repeated statements about community involvement in regard to this process. He says that community involvement should be weighted to the front end of the planning involvement in the development planning creation. Of course, there are no real details on how to achieve this, but if we look at the history of what happened in Unley with regard to planning development we know that the government has had an agenda for quite some time to increase density within the inner ring in Adelaide. We know that for quite some time, certainly within the City of Unley, there has been a lot of concern about destruction of heritage and the replacement of those beautiful stone buildings with what many people describe, sell and market as Tuscan villas. Those who have been to Tuscany would know that in Tuscany you will not see a single building that looks like those Tuscan villas.
It is extraordinary, when I go back to 2005, when I was a mere candidate for the seat of Unley, the biggest issue, regardless of somebody's intention, what their historical voting intentions were or what their new voting intentions were, was that they were very concerned about the destruction of heritage in the City of Unley. They were not concerned about development, but they were concerned about the character, streetscape and the heritage of the city.
It is fair to say that the city took a very responsible attitude in its development plan. It worked with the government at that front end, as described by the Deputy Premier, of the process and established areas that could have urban consolidation within the City of Unley. Those areas were areas that were not seen as having significant heritage value, areas that had already perhaps been changed significantly through the ugly 1960s and 1970s period, where there were a lot of flats, for example, put up across the city. There were the cream brick flats, the two and three storey flats, some with beautiful faux columns as well—there is a set like that just off King William Road.
So the council used the fact that there was also some commercial land that was no longer being used for that purpose and would make a perfect opportunity for higher density housing, and that was just off Charles Street. There were some factories in through there. When I had my business on Unley Road I think that at one stage we looked at moving our factory into that area—a massive area of buildings that historically had been factories for about 100 years. They are all gone now of course, and in there we have two, three and in some cases four-storey apartment living. Other areas have been designated where there can be development.
Part of the trade-off for that was that the government or the council agreed to allow up to five storeys in some areas on main streets, Unley Road in particular. In so doing they were able to secure some heritage and character areas in other parts of the city. If you look at a map of the City of Unley, it is quite detailed as to where block sizes can be reduced, where they cannot be, and what minimum block sizes are (some are larger in some areas and smaller in other areas). It was a well thought-out plan, and it goes back to the point the Deputy Premier made in his motivation for removing community consultation and reducing the availability of the community to even know that something was happening at the end point of a development, where the development was going to the DAC, for example. All the work was done up-front in Unley. The council consulted very well with the community. It brought many of the community members with them—of course we all know in politics that you cannot bring everybody with you—and the five-storey limit was agreed to, and became part of the Unley Development Plan.
I want to come forward to about January/February this year when a proposal was put to the DAC for a 7½-storey building, which of course was 50 per cent higher than the community-consulted 5-storey development. I have to say that nobody who raised concerns about this with me was concerned about the fact that there was going to be a large development at 244 Unley Road, but they were very concerned about the fact that, at the very first opportunity the government had to use the new planning rules it had brought in within the City of Unley, the development plan that was negotiated and signed off by the planning minister was breached by 50 per cent. The report that was published by the DAC states:
It is considered that whilst there are a number of departures from the provisions of the development plan, particularly in respect to building height, setback and car parking…
In other words, every major consideration and every major contentious issue that was dealt with through the broad development plan within the City of Unley—every single one of those—was breached. That did not matter really because the proposal goes on to say that:
The proposal recognises the ambitions of the desired future character—
not existing character, future character—
and broad strategic objectives of the urban corridor zone.
So all of those people who were involved in the Unley Development Plan, all the residents who came to those meetings, everybody who thought that the government was acting in good faith by putting the work in at the beginning, as the Deputy Premier would say, 'waiting to front-end the consultation process', of course were shocked to see that the very first proposal that was going to be decided by the DAC was, in fact, 50 per cent higher.
But, the consolation for those residents was in fact that the original proposal was nine storeys and so the developer had made a compromise down to just 7½ storeys. It is an old trade union ploy, isn't it? It is called an ambit claim, I think. That was seen as being a good attitude of the developer, and of course people are concerned that this would set a precedent for the next block—which fortunately I suppose at the moment has about six different owners. But if that was sold to a single developer, that may very well become a situation where that developer points to the building that was approved at 50 per cent higher than the Unley Development Plan and says, 'Well, look, this is 7½ storeys and we only want nine or 8½ storeys, we are only going a little bit bigger.'
The issue is that there is already a significant problem with local traffic management in Unley. Unley is a major thoroughfare. It was identified back in 2000 that Unley Road needed a major upgrade and extensive consultation and design work was done to upgrade Unley Road. I was on the Unley Road traders committee at that time, and it was one of those rare occasions where everybody—all the stakeholders, the businesses, the residents, the bike users group, the council, the department—agreed with the proposal. It just happened to be one of the cheapest solutions to ease peak hour traffic but still retain shopping time parking and still retain a village atmosphere that people enjoy so much on Unley Road, King William Road, Goodwood Road and other major arterial roads within my electorate.
The point there was that because the work was not done on Unley Road—the government changed—despite the fact that a costing document had been prepared and was making its way to cabinet before the change of government. That was then thrown out by the then transport minister, Trish White, who refused to take that to cabinet. The funding was used for some other purpose and that work was never done.
A lot of people tend to avoid Unley Road, because it can become a bit of a car park at peak hour, and they use the side streets to go through. They might start at Cross Road, go down Goodwood Road, head down Park Street, or one of the other streets running parallel to Park Street, turn down Weller Street over into Arthur Street or Mary Street and out onto Unley Road, and they have avoided probably two kilometres of car park on Unley Road. This happens every morning.
The problem that we have with the situation with this development is that because the council was locked out of this process altogether there was no opportunity to look at a local management plan for the extra traffic, the extra parking, the visitor parking, that this development would generate, either during the process of building or, alternatively, afterwards when the development was finished. This was 140 apartments.
The plan was approved with more than 100 carparks short of the council's requirement. We do need to remember that parking is a very big issue in all of the inner suburbs and in Unley in particular, because we do have traditional strip shopping, and not a lot of that strip shopping has customer car parking, so street parking is required for those businesses to survive. We also have, in many instances, smaller blocks that might only have room for the one car. Some of them do not have driveways at all, and some of them have shared driveways between two homes, and, of course, modern homes, particularly if you have young adults still with you at home, could have two or three cars. Those cars end up in the streets.
We also have the situation where people will park in the streets in Unley; they might come in from the outer suburbs and then they will either walk in to the city—get some exercise, enjoy the scenery—or decide to jump onto public transport. Those cars are parked there all day. Those carparks are competing with those living in the streets who might have visitors or services coming to their homes. Those carparks are competing with those who are working in the businesses in Unley and those who are shopping in businesses in Unley. You can see that it is a compounding problem.
For the situation with the development of 244 Unley Road, there was no opportunity for that to even be partially addressed in the immediate area through maybe looking at what changes could be made to the width of Park Street, for example, immediately north of the development, which is a very narrow street.
As a matter of fact, there is commentary in the submission that points out the difficulty in doing right-hand turns and the fact that the road is not wide enough for a right-hand turn and a left-hand turn to be conducted at the same time by two different vehicles and that the right-hand turn would in fact hold up a lot of people who want to turn left, because Unley Road is a very busy road and getting a clear spot between cars coming in two different directions can take quite some time. The suggestion was that that problem will fix itself because people will simply use the side streets and go somewhere else to enter Unley Road if they are heading south.
That is a very simplistic view of how to deal with that rather than looking at, perhaps, compelling the developer and saying, 'This is a big development. We are giving you 50 per cent more building than you expected when you bought the property or speculated on this property. We want to pinch a couple of metres and widen that road.' That would have been a good outcome and eased some of the distress for people living in Hart Avenue, but that was not the case: it did not happen.
There also happens to be a small, one-third length slip lane in front of that site. I would have thought it would have made a lot of sense for that slip lane to have been lengthened so it went from Opey Avenue all the way to Hart Avenue, and that would have given the bus which stops in that slip lane at the moment the opportunity to pull in, away from peak hour traffic, or traffic at any time. One of the reasons this was given the go-ahead was that it is in a transport hub and that meant there was a bus stop out the front. For that bus stop to have been more efficient and have less impact on traffic flow when it pulled over to pick up customers and pull out again, it would have made a lot of sense for that slip lane to have been lengthened. But that was not the case.
I think I have given some idea of the difficulties we have when decisions like this are made under this formula of the Deputy Premier's, where 'Everything is going to be fine. Don't worry about the regulations. We will deal with those afterwards.' I like the chicken and egg scenario here, that is, that the draft of the charter for community participation is not available. It is not available because the minister says that the creation of this particular charter is an action of the commission that needs to be established by this bill. It is an extraordinary situation. We cannot have this information because the body that is to develop this information needs this bill in order to establish itself to develop this information. It certainly does sound like the member for Enfield in its logic.
The other thing that is very concerning for my constituents is the fact that 46 regulations are to be created yet we have not seen them and do not know what they are. We know the difficulties that non-government members have in making changes to regulations. It is either all in or all out. It is a very difficult situation. We would rather see those regulations prior to the passing of this bill. It would certainly give us more confidence to talk to people in our electorates about what the government is proposing.
In this age of so-called bipartisanship that we keep hearing about from the Premier, he says he wants to work together to build South Australia and grow jobs. It is not exactly working, I have to say, with South Australia having the highest unemployment in the nation, by a long shot. I would have thought giving every member of parliament access to these regulations would be a constructive and positive way of dealing with this bill; but, for some reason, the minister has decided not to do that, and I think it makes this process far more complicated.