Ms SANDELL (Melbourne) — I rise to affirm that the Greens will support the Planning and Environment Amendment (Infrastructure Contributions) Bill 2015, which creates a new scheme for levying contributions from developers towards infrastructure costs. 

Of course the Greens support efforts to make developer contributions more effective and efficient. When we entrust the development of land, and indeed the crafting of our cityscape, to developers we give them a chance to mould a part of the built environment that we share as a community. We also allow them to make money out of this opportunity to change our city, and in certain circumstances we give them windfall profits. As well as making sure our cities are planned properly for people and not just for developers, it is crucial that developers in turn give back to the community.

One of the simplest ways they can do that is through contributions towards infrastructure. This system has been in place for some time, but its administration has left a lot to be desired. The Greens hope this bill will help to make the system work better, be fairer and hopefully deliver better results for Victorian communities. More certainty should make it easier for local councils to deliver the scheme. Both developers and communities will be better able to understand the requirements, which the Greens welcome.

I would like to raise one point of concern regarding the bill. It is always worrying to see a broad discretion being handed to the Minister for Planning, especially when the government could very easily enact regulations instead, which are more open to scrutiny by the Parliament and also by the public. In the case of this bill, section 46GF allows the minister to issue ministerial directions. We should be very cautious about giving sweeping discretion to the minister, especially when both major parties continue to accept donations from property developers.

In light of this broad power being given to the minister in section 46GF, I would ask the minister to clarify his approach to using this discretion. I would ask the minister to make some key commitments to Victorians.

I ask that he commit firstly to making sure that developer contributions deliver the positive social and environmental outcomes our communities need. This means prioritising social housing infrastructure, sustainable transport, public open space, sustainable waste management and renewable energy infrastructure, among other things.

Secondly, I ask that he commit that he will not use his discretionary power to reduce the contribution a developer must make to the community. This discretion must be used solely to maximise the potential of developer contributions to deliver benefits to the community and not to provide a way of helping developers to escape from their responsibilities.

I also ask that he promise to be consistent with his directions so local governments can apply the scheme easily and efficiently rather than having complicated variations or giving particular councils preferential treatment as it suits the government’s political agenda.

There is a lot more to be done in the planning space, as we know. I have made many contributions on this issue. Primarily we need to ban political donations from property developers. We also need to fix the Melbourne City Council gerrymander, reintroduce notice and appeal rights for people in the capital city zone and the Docklands zone, together with many other things, including minimum standards for apartments. The Greens will continue to fight to fix the planning scheme, because we need to make sure that we keep Melbourne livable.

This bill is a constructive step in improving the system of developer contributions for infrastructure. I hope we hear a definite commitment from the planning minister as to the principles which will guide his discretionary powers. I assure the minister that the Greens will be vigilant in ensuring that the new system delivers benefits for the community, and not just to developers at the community’s expense.

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