Mark Parnell in Parliament

QUESTION WITHOUT NOTICE: Buckland Park Development

Legislative Council

May 14th, 2009

On the 14th of May Mark asked the Minister for Urban Development and Planning a question about the proposed Buckland Park development.

The Hon. M. PARNELL: Yesterday the minister answered a dorothy dixer question in this chamber to describe the Buckland Park development in terms glowing enough to convince other members that the minister had already made up his mind to support it. According to the recently released EIS, the Walker Corporation development proposes housing for 33,000 people in 12,000 dwellings on a flood plain that shares a common border with the Jeffries composting facility and demonstration farm. The nearest services (such as hospitals) and employment opportunities are 20 kilometres away, with most residents predicted by the EIS to commute long distances to work, particularly as a new public transport service to the site is not scheduled to commence until 2022.

When the proposal was first put forward, and even before the project was doubled in size, Stuart Hart, Life Fellow of the Planning Institute of Australia and ex-director of Planning SA, wrote a damning assessment of it in the Adelaide Review. In his assessment, one line jumps out, where he says:

The proposal is contrary to well-established planning policies, all based on sound evaluation. Investors cannot operate unless they can trust that the planning laws are consistently applied. Its approval would cause public loss of confidence in the whole planning system.

My understanding is that variations of this project have been around for many years and have always been given an early no by the planning department because of their total disregard for the state's planning objectives of orderly and economic development.

Members should also note that the developer, the Walker Corporation, gave a donation to the South Australian Labor Party of $25,000 in 2005-06, the year the project was first announced; and Treasurer Kevin Foley was quoted in the Sunday Mail in June last year as saying, 'We make ourselves available for the likes of Lang Walker.' I might also add that this same developer has given over $500,000 to New South Wales Labor since 1998. Members should also note that a representative of Connor Holmes, who wrote the EIS on behalf of the Walker Corporation, will be travelling with the minister on a soon to commence 15-day, nine city, overseas trip.

My questions are:

1. Given that the minister, as planning minister, will effectively decide whether or not this major development proceeds and, given that the minister has chosen to publicly support this project in parliament at the beginning of the public comment period for the project's EIS, how can the public have confidence that the minister will carry out his role as decision-maker with impartiality?

2. Is there any point in members of the public participating in the public comment for the project if, as it seems from the minister's answers to questions yesterday, his mind is already made up?

3. Can the minister assure the council that the trip he is about to embark upon will not be used by Connor Holmes to lobby on behalf of the project?

The PRESIDENT: The minister will note that there is a matter of opinion in that question.

ANSWER: The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY (Minister for Urban Development and Planning): It is totally incorrect for the honourable member to suggest that I have made up my mind, particularly when I specifically said so in my answer yesterday. The point I was making in my answer to the question yesterday was that I was making an appeal to have this matter considered properly and not with the sort of scurrilous attacks the Hon. Mr Parnell is making.

We know that the Hon. Mr Parnell does not want this. He is entitled to express his opinion, but he should do so in the appropriate way, as I will be doing. It is totally false for the honourable member to suggest that I had made those statements, when I specifically said that that issue still needs to be assessed. It is important that it be considered in a proper way, rather than the honourable member making ill-considered and quite emotional comments, as he has again done today

SUPPLEMENTARY QUESTION

The Hon. M. PARNELL : I have a supplementary question. How can the public have confidence in a fair decision being made on this major development when the Treasurer has bragged publicly about the access given to the developer by the Rann government?

ANSWER:The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY (Minister for Urban Development and Planning): The Treasurer obviously has a job to do in relation to attracting investment to the state. If Mr Walker chooses to invest in this state, as he has done in other states, I believe that is a good thing for this state. However, the Buckland Park proposal, like all others, will be assessed on its merits.

Authorised by M. Parnell, Parliament House Adelaide.