By Angela Dorizas
Councils and developers have welcomed the appointment of Simon Crean and Tony Burke to the two portfolios critical to future planning.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced over the weekend that Simon Crean would become Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government, while the Minister for Sustainable Population Growth, Tony Burke, would add Communities, Environment and Water to his existing responsibilities.
The decision was lauded by the development industry as a rational approach to urban development.
The Urban Taskforce’s chief executive, Aaron Gadiel, particularly welcomed the Prime Minster’s decision to “collapse three ministerial jobs into one” and appoint Mr Burke as a “super minister”.
“Effectively, we now have a federal planning minister,” he told Government News.
“I appreciate that it’s not the title, but that’s the substance of it.
“We have a federal minister who’s now responsible for the strategic planning of our urban future and the environmental impacts of both strategic decisions and also individual planning approvals.”
Mr Gadiel said industry had become increasing concerned about the “fragmentation” of federal decision making on housing supply.
“We had on the one hand the Minister for Housing talking up the problems of a national housing under-supply and saying more needed to be done to get housing supply kick-started,” he said.
“But then we had the Environment Minister who was talking down in some instances – and in other instances even refuting outright – proposals for new housing developments.”
Mr Gadiel said changes to federal cabinet meant the Government would now be “speaking with one voice” on planning issues.
The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) welcomed the new Gillard ministry, but dismissed the idea that Burke would effectively serve as a federal planning minister.
ALGA president Geoff Lake said Burke had a “very critical role” in planning for population growth, but was not the equivalent of a planning minister.
“I don’t think any federal member of parliament, let alone any minister, would claim that the federal government has much of a role at all when it comes to what we conventionally understand as planning,” Cr Lake told Government News.
“However, there’s no doubt that his portfolio areas, particularly when it comes to developing a population policy, are critical and of unavoidable influence in just about every state government or local government approach to planning.”
Cr Lake said he looked forward to working with the new ministers, particularly in preparation for a referendum on constitutional recognition of local government.
Labor and the Greens recently signed a formal agreement to hold referenda during the 43rd parliament or at the next election on indigenous constitutional recognition and recognition of local government in the Constitution.
“What the Government and the Greens have agreed to is essentially the timeline that we’ve been advocating for since I became president two years ago,” Cr Lake said.
“It’s the most advanced local government has been on this issue since the 1980s.
“It’s a great opportunity and it’s now time for much preparation.”
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