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Rau backs down on planning bill

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UPDATED: The biggest shake-up of the state’s planning system in a generation has been finalised, with John Rau backing down from his stated intention to recommit major elements of his contentious legislation in a bid to steamroll key changes through parliament.

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The Planning Minister has given up on his determination to ban local councilors from development assessment panels, instead accepting the Legislative Council’s compromise of imposing a limit of one elected member per panel.

Only last month, Rau told InDaily he was “inclined to push this back again” by recommitting the bill through the Lower House, arguing “it’s something I absolutely believe from the policy perspective is correct”.

But Rau told parliament this morning: “I have been persuaded to soften my position.”

While he still lamented a number of “unsatisfactory amendments” to his original vision, he conceded that “perfection should never be the enemy of the good”, acquiescing to pass the bill in its amended form.

“The potential risk of further delays and amendments to the bill… do not outweigh the significant benefits we will see from the passage of the bill,” he said.

“On balance, the Government should accept the bill in its entirety, as amended in the other place.”

His backdown was welcomed by Liberal planning spokesman Steven Griffiths, who had engineered his own party’s opposition to the move to ban councillors from planning committees.

“I do respect it has been a particular commitment and passion of yours,” Griffiths told Rau in parliament.

“I don’t know who will breathe easier, you or me [but] the framework that’s been put in place is one that will benefit SA, no doubt about that.

“It’s involved significant levels of compromise [from] positions you held very strongly.”

LGA CEO Matt Pinnegar said he welcomed “this sensible decision from the minister, which recognises that community members wished to retain local representation”.

But Master Builders Association CEO Ian Markos said the failure to remove elected councilors from assessment panels was “truly disappointing and would cement delays and confusion”.

“Right from the start, experts and those engaged in the assessment process agreed that the removal of elected councilors would deliver a stronger system that focused on applying the community’s views, not building a platform to revisit those views for every available project,” he said.

“Instead we have no change – and a key plank of this economic reform risks being left to languish for another 30 years.

“The policy was right. The politics wasn’t.”

Rau described the passage of the bill, which will formalise an urban growth boundary and set out a new infrastructure levy structure, as “a long, complex journey”.

He also committed to introduce a new e-Planning regime, which InDaily revealed in recent days has been demanded in budget submissions from both the Property Council and the Local Government Association.

“The new planning system will be further unlocked by the introduction of an online planning system, which will greatly reduce delays,” Rau said.

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