SPEECH: The role of planning in addressing climate change

Today Mark spoke about the important role that planning and planning professionals can play in addressing the problem of climate change.

I rise today to speak about the important role that planning and planning professionals can play in addressing the problem of climate change.  Members might recall that a couple of years ago we were debating the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act, and one of the amendments that passed was a requirement for South Australia to prepare a state planning policy on climate change. I was pleased that the council supported that amendment; it is now part of the act. I am also pleased that the State Planning Commission has commenced consultation on not just this but a range of other state planning policies.

I have to say that I was disappointed in the draft that the State Planning Commission came out with; it was fairly insipid, I think is probably the politest way that I could describe it, but I did take the trouble to put in a submission, and I covered three areas where I think the planning profession can improve in its response to climate change.

The first issue I raised was in relation to the perceived inability of the State Planning Commission to have regard to anything other than very narrow town planning grounds when it comes to assessing developments. The case in point was not one but two applications being considered by the State Planning Commission for new fossil fuel power plants. They were two—one was gas and diesel—mostly gas power plants that were proposed. They were to be assessed under the Crown development and public infrastructure stream, which meant that the decision-maker was the minister.

Importantly, the act states that the minister is not constrained by traditional planning considerations. The minister can inform himself or herself, as they see fit. So my submission to the State Planning Commission was: well, you should do the same, you should take into account more than just the narrow confines of a planning scheme, you should, for example, look at some of the government's climate change policies. There were policies on carbon neutrality, there were a whole range of policies that address the issue of climate change, but when I put those to the State Planning Commission its response was deafening in its silence. They did not want to know about it.

Finally, when I managed to get copies of their correspondence with the minister, the best they could do was to say that people like me had raised issues that they were unable to deal with, unable to respond to; they were not interested in climate change. Unless the narrow planning scheme talked about climate change, the State Planning Commission was not going to either. That is a huge disappointment and it is a huge gap that needs to be filled.

The second issue that I raised with the State Planning Commission over its new planning policy on climate change was the issue of mandatory connections. I have raised that in parliament; I have a bill before parliament. I am not proposing to cover all of that ground again, but I will say that, since I raised that issue a week or so ago in parliament, I have reported six property developers at Mount Barker to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, and I have not had anyone on any side of parliament tell me that I am wrong. People are saying, 'I can't believe that a property developer can mandate connection to gas and mandate the use of gas and put that requirement on the certificate of title.' Most people are gobsmacked when I tell them that, yet that is exactly what is happening in Mount Barker. I have reported that to the ACCC.

The third issue that relates to planning and climate change is one that is, I think, a throwback to the past; that is, that a number of the planning schemes that exist in South Australia effectively require all new subdivisions to have gas connected. For example, I looked at the Lightsview rules; that is, the planning scheme that covered the new Lightsview development. You look at their principles of development control and it says that 'development should not occur without the provision of adequate utilities and services, including—' and then it lists a great long list of things.

Most of them are things that would make sense: you have to have the electricity on, you have to have the water on, you need drainage and stormwater, you need proper effluent disposal, you need all-weather public roads, telecommunications services, social infrastructure, and then you go on—gas! You have to have gas. Well, no, you do not. There is not anything that gas can do in a domestic setting that electricity cannot do and cannot do as well or better, and certainly can do cheaper.

Some people are saying, 'Well, hang on, you can cook with gas nicely'; well, you can with induction cooking as well. My plea to the planning profession is to get with the program, have a good look at the climate change debate and be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

For more information see Mark's speech on introducing his Bill to ban mandatory gas connections