Category Archives: News

Kevin O’Leary cans Rau’s planning review plan


New government panel on planning reform

Kevin O’Leary, February 2013

Considering the very limited terms of reference for this panel and its narrowly based membership, community groups should seriously consider boycotting it and jointly produce their own report on the reforms needed to the planning system and submit this to the media. The government’s latest initiative has all the makings of the fake consultation processes that were carried out for the 30 Year Plan, the Mount Barker DPA, the Capital City DPA and so on. At this stage the community shouldn’t be restricted to the matters which the government wants it to look at. Given the depth of inadequacies with the planning system it should be able to comment on all of the major problem areas – many brought about by the dominant influence of the development industry on government policy making. These are just some of the areas where there is a high priority for planning reform – most cannot be covered in review panel’s terms of reference:

  1. Population growth. For some time now the development industry has been advocating that our major cities adopt very rapid population growth rates.[1] However, in a major study undertaken of over 100 US cities in 2010, Eben Fodor[2], a US population growth expert, concluded that high levels of population growth do not create wealth and better outcomes for a city. In fact his analysis found that the cities with high growth rates have benefits for some …..‘foremost amongst these are the real estate, financial and land development businesses’, but that …..‘the balance of the community suffers’. The government needs to re-evaluate its population targets in light of this information
  2. Urban sprawl.  The Housing Industry Association is strongly opposed to the use of restrictive urban growth boundaries to contain urban sprawl[3]. The 30 year plan puts in place a nonrestrictive city boundary with the expectation that within 30 years 70% of new residential development will occur within the existing urbanized area and only 30% on the urban fringe. But without a restrictive urban growth boundary in place this target is unlikely to be reached given the major difficulties likely to be experienced with implementing one of the plan’s main  proposals:  the intensification of residential development along many low amenity arterial roads. It’s no wonder that COAG has concluded with respect to the 30 Year plan for Adelaide that … ‘the system remains to be tested and contains some ambitious targets for which the viability has not been clearly established.’ [4] The government needs to consider the establishment of a more restrictive urban growth boundary and the re-targeting of densification proposals away from low amenity areas.
  3. The quality of new development. Although the development industry has generated a considerable amount of hype about the need to fast track development, which the government has blindly accepted, unfortunately the quality of new development being produced is not being adequately monitored.  Professor Buxton (RMIT) has expressed major concerns about the overall standard of development occurring in our cities. Buxton maintains that:  ‘We are designing the world’s worst suburbs, the housing stock is terrible and they have very poor liveability.’ [5]  Similarly, Gary Petheridge[6], president of the Unit Association Owners ACT, has expressed his major concerns about the poor quality of apartment buildings being constructed across Australia, which currently account for 30% of the nation’s housing stock.
  4. Urban densification. There’s now overwhelming evidence to show that there are major health hazards in locating people close to high trafficked roads as per the new Metropolitan Inner Growth plan and in the most recent study, the University of Southern California, has found a high correlation between autism and families who live near main roads[7]. The 30 Year Plan for Adelaide touts a policy which recommends that residential development should be kept away from major road intersections but even this objective has been blatantly disregarded in the inner area growth plan. The whole of Adelaide arterial road network needs to be redesignated either as high volume ‘transit corridors’ or low volume ‘activity corridors’ where residential densification is more appropriate.  Also, there’s no reason why public transport in some circumstances couldn’t be rerouted to areas where higher amenity values exist for denser residential development. Studies of the popularity of apartments in London for example have shown that those which are located close to attractive parks and open spaces are in high demand. [8] However, until these approaches are properly researched and implemented in a comprehensive transport plan for Adelaide it would be inappropriate to proceed with any specific proposals.
  5. Traffic congestion. The Ken Henry Tax Review Committee proposed location – specific congestion charges in our major cities which would vary according to the time of day. In exchange for these charges other charges e.g. fuel and stamp duty tax would be reduced.[9] However, the development industry has indicated its ‘vehement opposition’  to the proposal  following  what appears to be a very narrow analysis focusing on the results from one city (London) and one specific version of the tax. [10] Congestion charging is seen by many  transport experts as the only effective way of reducing traffic congestion in cities – a view reflected in this statement in a Federal Government report on the tax :The declining effectiveness of conventional methods for dealing with congestion has fostered interest in congestion charging.’ [11] The RAA supports the application of the tax here.[12] Given that traffic congestion is projected to cost Adelaide $ 1.5 billion by 2015 and that other mechanisms for reducing it are not working, the most appropriate form of the tax to apply and where it should be applied needs to be worked out in a transport plan prepared for Adelaide. [13]
  6. Job sprawl.  In terms of future jobs and employment the 30 Year Plan for Adelaide follows the Portland, Oregon model where jobs are widely dispersed. Even though billions of dollars have been spent over the past 30 years on upgrading public transport in Portland its use is quite low (12% of total commutes).[14] In stark contrast in Seattle, where jobs are concentrated in major nodes which are well connected with public transport, its use is much higher (21 % of total commutes). This is the model which Adelaide should be following and pursued through an appropriate transport plan.
  7. Council planning powers. The development industry is forever looking at ways and means of fast tracking development and stripping councils of their planning powers. Recently, it recommended that inner city councils no longer have responsibility for projects worth more than $5m or buildings taller than two storeys.[15] It has also sought the replacement of councils with private certifiers to make decisions on planning applications currently dealt with under a residential code. Both proposals are a major concern. The industry’s recommendation  for more major development proposals represents  a major winding down of our third tier of government and the proposed establishment of private certifiers for a range of planning approvals is fraught with conflict of interest and poor quality decision making issues. In NSW one in six private certifiers has been subject of an adverse disciplinary finding and local councils are demanding that the private certification system be dumped. In addition, as pointed out in a submission by the LGSA of NSW[16], the use of residential codes in development assessments severely limits the identification of opportunities for urban renewal in the suburbs – surely not even a desirable outcome for the development industry.


Other high priority areas for reform are current planning public consultation processes include disconnected land use and transport policies (because we don’t have a transport plan), major project and  interim development control legislation and the current makeup of  state government planning advisory and decision making authorities.

If the government was to adopt this wider planning reform agenda it would  be able to regain some level of public respectability by distancing  itself from  ‘development-at-any-cost’ mantra of the development industry and supporting  population growth and planning policies which will be of social and economic benefit to the whole community.


[1] Developers push for bigger cities . The Australian Financial Review. Mar. 2011.

[2] Relationship between growth and Prosperity in 100 Largest US Metropolitan Areas, Eben Foder, Dec 2010

[3] HIA Policy.  Managing Urban Land Supplies.  P2

[4] Review of Capital City Strategic Planning Systems. COAG Reform Council 23rd  Dec 2011. Overview. P7

[5] A worrying glut of properties in Melbourne’s outer suburbs › … › Featured Commentary

[6] Unit owners want better standards. Domain 29th March 2012

[7] Study links traffic pollution and autism.The Conversation

[8] A CIty of Villages: Promoting a Sustainable Future for London’s suburbs. Greater London Authority.

[9] Australia’s Future Tax System :Final Report, Part 2, Detailed Analysis, Enhancing social and market outcomes, Road transport taxes

[10] Congestion tax- no thanks . Property Council of Australia26th Feb 2008.…96

[11] Moving Urban Australia: Can congestion charging unclog our roads? Australian Government. Department of Infrastructure, Transport Regional Development and Local Government . Working Paper 74

[12] The Advertiser 18th Feb. 2013

[13] State Strategic Plan P.46

[14] Commuting in Portland and Seattle.  Sightline Daily. 28th Feb 2012.

[15]Adelaide’s development lobby plan to strip councils of power’. Sunday Mail 16th March 2013.

[16] Submission on the Draft NSW Housing Code. Local Government and Shires Association of NSW. July 2008.

Development at any cost is nearly always bad developent

The Outsider gets a slap

InDaily, Monday, 25 March 2013

Letter to the editor

Robert Crocker

Secretary, Community Alliance SA

Your comments (The Outsider, March 22, 2013) on opposition to high rise development in the suburbs and opposition to the bill to amend the interim development powers of the Minister do not do justice to the ‘plain sense’ view of ordinary people subjected to such fiascos as Mount Barker, St Clair at Woodville, Buckland Park, etc.

The issue in all these cases is primarily one of ‘due process’ which the government cannot seem to grasp. Most people want development, but not dubious ‘conflicted’ reports, secret deals, land-swaps between valuable open space land and tainted factory land, etc. What they want is ‘common sense’ development and good planning. Instead, they are getting spin, clever lawyers’ solutions, and in almost every deal, no genuine consultation (Bowden excepted).

Using emergency powers to circumvent due process to ‘save time and money’ may sound like a good idea to you until you look more closely at whose time and money is being saved. In my view, most of the complaints about lost time and money are questionable and largely self-inflicted, and created in part by the government’s messy attempts to close off local governments’ powers to have any say at all in approving large developments. This has resulted, over the last five years or so, in many large developments getting rejected by local councils (often for knowingly breaching their guidelines on height, bulk, environmental issues, heritage, etc.), and then the developers having to wait for the State Government committee or Minister to intervene and rapidly approve what may in fact be a not so smart but still ‘non-complying’ project.

If the government wants to take away council’s rights to shape development in their areas, it needs to develop better alternative means for the people most affected to put their views on the table. To ignore this as an issue is to say we need development at ‘any’ cost. Development at any cost is, I would like to suggest, is nearly always bad development. At the moment we appear to have the worst of both worlds, with the council not being able to do its job, and the State Government using loopholes in the present system to ram through developments that nobody in their right mind should have ever approved.

Outsourcing this critical policy development stuff to Connor Holmes (whatever their merits as planners and experts are), in the certain knowledge that they are also working as lobbyists for those that are to benefit directly from what is to be decided, is a symptom of a conflicted and failing approach to development and planning. We all need development, but we need development we will value in 10 years’ time, not that we will regret tomorrow.


The link to the article as published in InDaily


A Bridge Too Far…

Dr Rob Crcker, Community Aliance
Dr Rob Crocker, Community Aliance

At a rally held on 19th March, Community Alliance SA representatives and members protested the process for the Adelaide Oval Footbridge development. The rally was organised by the Liberal MP Rachel Sanderson, State Member for Adelaide, and held on the steps of Parliament House on North Terrace.

Although the Community Alliance is not aligned to any political party, it opposes the process by which the $40 million dollar ‘bridge’ development over the Torrens is being pushed through. After being rejected by the Upper House, this is being ‘approved’ by the Planning Minister’s use of his ‘interim powers’, excluding the public from any meaningful consultation over this development.

Speakers at the rally included Rachel Sanderson, Dr Rob Crocker of the Community Alliance SA, Michelle Lensink MLC, and Kelly Henderson from the Adelaide Park Lands Preservation Association.

Dr Crocker spoke about the ‘fake consultation’ that has led to the footbridge development being pushed through against the wishes of the public and without them having any real say. He defined the issue as being all about “Process, process, process……..the community wants a genuine process that includes transparency, accountability and genuine consultation”.

Dr Crocker spoke about other planning decisions where the community has been effectively locked out of the decision-making process and asked “Why should almost every major decision over the last 5 years in planning and development be made behind closed doors?”

Jay walking on water?
Jay-walking on water?


Community Alliance SA taking steps to put people into planning for a changeCommunity Alliance SA taking steps to put people into planning for a change


Dr Crocker spoke about developments at Woodville at St Clair, Mount Barker, Mayfield in the City and Buckland Park. “The process needs to be reformed to include genuine independence, following clear principles and rules we all understand. At present it appears that decisions are being made behind closed doors by the Minister and his minions, often at the behest of lobbyists and selected developers”, he said.

He also drew attention to the more important and larger developments being approved and pushed through without any genuine consultation, and often before consultation was even considered or organised. Dr Crocker said “Even when the consultation system is working ‘properly’ this is a system that does not work well and has cemented in a very poor process, which belongs in the 1920s, not in a society with access to Facebook and Twitter”.

Rachel Sanderson and others spoke out against the cost of the footbridge and the Labor Government’s push for this development, including a failed attempt to fast-track the process by giving the footbridge the same classification as low-cost home improvements like solar panels and carports.

The footbridge is currently the subject of a Ministerial Development Plan Amendment (DPA) that was even put into interim (or immediate) effect at the same time that the public consultation process began. Worse still, a small change to the wording of the DPA has been made. This results in the DPA now allowing for commercial development, including new office buildings to be built on the site, again without full public consultation. The ‘public consultation process’ for the DPA ends on 20th March, the day after the rally. However, any development applications submitted during the public consultation period will be assessed against this draft DPA, regardless of any changes that are subsequently made.

The Alliance wants these Ministerial powers changed to stop them being mis-used in this way.

Ombudsman finds conflict of interest in Mt Barker zoning

The SA Ombudsman, Richard Bingham has handed down his report on the Investigation into the Growth Investigation Areas procurement. He has found that a conflict of interest existed in the role of planning consultants Connor Holmes in advising the SA Planning Department on the Mt Barker re-zoning while simultaneously working for developers who stood to gain by those same zoning decisions. He has called for the SA ICAC to investigate.  In introducing his Report, the Ombudsman has commented:

Where the government chooses to engage consultants to assist in achieving its planning objectives, the community is entitled to expect that rigorous and accountable procurement processes will be followed- including ensuring consultant probity and identifying and dealing with conflicts of interest. Where government fails to do this, community confidence is lost.Mt B1

He noted that the failure to identify and address the conflict of interest tainted the  procurement process and left some in the local community feeling understandably suspicious of the process. He went on to declare that in his opinion,

It would be in the public interest for the government to revisit its views and consider releasing the Growth Investigation Areas project report .

On ABC Breakfast  Radio 891, Matt and Dave interview Minister Rau and Greens MLC Mark Parnell, who argues that because Connor Holmes are also acting for devlopers on a number of other Growth Inverstigation Report sites including Buckland Park, that the probity of the entire SA Government 30 year plan for Adelaide is now under a cloud. Listen at

The Ombudsman’s report can be found at

ABC footage can be found at

Adelaide Now has also featured the Report at


Greens MLC Mark Parnell has commented that the residents of Mt Barker who have been raising this issue for several years must feel both “vindicated and devastated”.

The Community Alliance position on the Ombudsman’s Report is here:

Ombudsman report CA opinion

Mt B2

Parliament House rally gets to make the news

P1040235 (600x450) P1040236 (600x450) P1040285 (600x450) P1040187 (600x450) P1040240 (600x450) P1040310 (600x450)

On the 18th February, the Burnside Residents’ Group held a rally on the steps of Parliament House, to protest the community’s exclusion from decisions to open up planning for urban infill and high rise developments.  There was a great turnout and the event was attended by many Alliance representatives and member groups.  The Community Alliance SA Secretary and Spokesperson Robert Crocker spoke about the current flawed process, the aims of the Community Alliance and the changes we want to the planning and development system.

The speakers were: Vickie Chapman, Liberal Shadow Planning Minister & Deputy Leader; Mark Parnell, Greens MLC; Evonne Moore, Vice President of Save Our Suburbs; Anna Sullivan, Burnside Residents Group; Dr Robert Crocker, Spokesperson for Community Alliance SA Inc.; Darian Hiles, Australian Civic Trust; and Kirsten Alexander, Mayor of City of Charles Sturt.

Also in attendance were: Steven Marshall, Leader SA Liberal Party; David Pisoni, MP, State Member for Unley; and Rachel Sanderson, MP, State Member for Adelaide.

All photos by Fernando M. Gonçalves,

TV and press coverage:

ABC News coverage of the rally –

Channel 7 news story –

Article in the Messenger –

Gawler’s residential BIG BANG

On 16th December 2012, the Community Alliance SA’s celebration of the 175th anniversary of Colonel William Light’s Plan for the City of Adelaide was attended by members of the executive committee, including the President Mr Tom Matthews and Dr Helen Wilmore. Following on from this celebration, Mr Matthews visited the town of Gawler on 21st December. Gawler was the first country town in the state of SA and its town plan was also devised by the surveyor Colonel William Light. Mr Matthews met with Dr Wilmore and Mrs Shirley Humphrey, both of the Gawler Region Community Forum, and was taken on a tour of the town and areas earmarked for future urban growth.

Tom Matthews, centre, (President of the Community Alliance SA) with Helen Wilmore, left, and Shirley Humphrey, right, of the Gawler Region Community Forum, on Cheek Avenue in Gawler East, with Concordia land in the background earmarked for future residential development. Photo by Stephen Williams, 21st Dec 2012
Tom Matthews, centre, (President of the Community Alliance SA) with Helen Wilmore, left, and Shirley Humphrey, right, of the Gawler Region Community Forum, on Cheek Avenue in Gawler East, with Concordia land in the background earmarked for future residential development.
Photo by Stephen Williams, 21st Dec 2012

Since 2007, the Gawler Region Community Forum has expressed its concerns with the State Government’s proposed large-scale urban expansion of the town and surrounding areas. The concerns include issues such as traffic, provision of infrastructure such as schools and hospitals, lifestyle, environment, and food and water security. The State Government’s planned expansion of Gawler and surrounding areas will see the population increase threefold.

“The nearby expansion of Roseworthy for 95,000 people will also bring extra pressures for the rail and road systems” said Mrs Humphrey.
“The scale is staggering. This is just as awful as what’s happening in Mt Barker, but on a greater scale” said Mr Matthews. “I can’t believe the Government wants to add 40,000 more people to this beautiful country town. I can see that Gawler already has a problem with too much traffic.”
“Where are all these people going to work?” asked Mr Matthews.
“What about the agricultural land that will be lost from Concordia and Roseworthy? That’s our food bowl” said Mr Matthews.

“The State Government is not listening to the people of Gawler when it comes to planning and development” said Dr Wilmore. “A lot of problems could be avoided if only the Government would properly consult with local communities and involve them from the initial planning stages”.

For further information please contact:
Shirley Humphrey, 8522 3694
Convenor & Spokesperson, Gawler Region Community Forum Inc.
Dr Helen Wilmore, 8522 3019,
Committee Member & Spokesperson, Gawler Region Community Forum Inc.
(Also a Community Alliance SA Committee Member)
Tom Matthews: 0429 337 453
President, Community Alliance SA Inc., PO Box 520, Goodwood SA 5034

Time for ACTION – Lobby a polly NOW!

Stop this farce of community consultation after big development decisions are made.

Historically, interim operation powers were used to provide a protective measure to stop inappropriate development, such as the demolition of heritage buildings, while public consultation on a new Development Plan regime takes place. However, recently these powers have been used to push through development even before public consultation has occurred. This is what happened with the interim DPAs for the Capital City, Regulated Trees and Statewide Windfarms.

Although the Community Alliance SA is not aligned with any political party, Mark Parnell MLC of the Greens, has plans that address some of the concerns the Alliance has with the current planning system, beginning with the interim operation powers. Mark has used information from the Alliance to identify our planning and development issues and the key areas needed for reform. He has already introduced the Interim Development Control amendment bill, to change the appropriate section of the Development Act. There will soon be a vote on this bill in the Legislative Council (Upper House).

This proposed new legislation is very important to the Alliance as it is something WE have asked for. It’s time to support Mark’s Bill by lobbying local MPs in the Lower House and the members of the SA Legislative Council (Upper House). Keep checking our website and facebook for updates and information on when the vote in the Upper House will happen. It will be great to fill the public gallery! The vote in the Lower House will be at a later date, but please start lobbying local MPs as soon as you can.

To help Alliance member groups and other concerned members of the community, we have prepared a Lobbying Kit. The kit includes information about this Bill and possible future Bills, why we want an end to the current Interim Ministerial DPA legislation, and how to lobby politicians for their support. In the Lobbying Kit, you will find everything you and your Group needs to successfully lobby politicians.

If you would like a copy of the kit, or if you need help or advice on your lobbying, please give Alliance President Tom Matthews a call (0429 337 453) or email ( To see the Parnell proposal, use this link:

Access to private certifier reports to improve…

According to Greens MLC Mark Parnell, a modification to Development Regulations is about to make citizens’ access to prevate certifiers reports easier  – and partly because of advovcacy by the Alliance and its members. In a recent issue of news letter Parnell states (in blue) :

No more fob-offs at the Council planning counter


Here’s a good news story.  Actually, it starts badly, but has a happy ending.  Recently, the Government introduced legislation to hand over decision-making over minor development matters to “Private Certifiers”.  These are the same people who currently handle most “Building Rules Consent” applications (eg. depth of footings, strength of roof trusses etc etc.).  In many ways this is a privatisation of the development assessment process and we have to be vigilant that they don’t extend this power to more contentious forms of development.  That’s the bad bit.


Now for the good news.  As part of the debate in Parliament, I took the opportunity to move amendments to strengthen the right of members of the public to be able to inspect and get copies of planning documents held by private certifiers, so that they were treated exactly the same as local Councils.  Accessing documents held by Private Certifiers was a problem first brought to my attention by Community Alliance member, the Western Adelaide Coastal Residents Association.


To cut a long story short, my amendment looked certain to pass the Legislative Council, which meant that the Government had to negotiate or potentially delay the Bill until next year.  In my discussions with Departmental and Ministerial staff, I managed to convince them that the real problem was much broader than documents held by Private Certifiers.  In many cases, it was Local Council or DAC staff who refused to allow members of the public to inspect development applications, even for Category 2 & 3 developments!  The root of the problem was that the Development Regulations (Reg 101) gives Councils a “discretion” whether or not to allow access to documents.  Often the Councils would defer to the wishes of the developer in deciding whether or not to make plans and other documents available for public inspection.  It was a real lottery whether or not you got to see the documents.  Councils can also impose an “inspection fee”.


The compromise that was reached was that I would withdraw my amendment if the Minister made a commitment in Parliament to close this loophole and reform the “access to information” provisions of the Development Regulations.  Shortly, the Regulations will be changed to give citizens a right to inspect documents free of charge and a right to obtain copies at a reasonable cost.  Exemptions will be limited to the bare minimum, such as to protect building security.


This outcome is a good one for the community.  Whilst it doesn’t mean that better decisions will be made, it does mean that the fob-off that many of us have received from DAC or Local Councils when asking to inspect documents, should be a thing of the past.  Reforms of this nature were a key part of the Community Alliance’s list of reforms.  I’m delighted to have helped bring it about.


Kevin O’Leary warns against ‘development-at-any-cost’ approach

Adelaide based urban planning expert, Kevin O’Leary has warned that the SA Government’s approach of fast-tracking development without the collaboration of local government and communities could lead to a planning backlash that will actually hurt development in SA. In a ‘comment’ piece in The Advertiser of November 27,  O’Leary warns of the ‘total lack of accountability’ for private certifiers approving crucial planning decisions affecting the public. He calls on The Property Council and other industry bodies to lobby Government change course now before it is too late. See full article below:

Comment_ Advertiser Nov 27_12