Planning and Environment Amendment (Infrastructure Contributions) Bill 2015

Ms HUTCHINS  (Minister for Local Government) — I rise to speak on the Planning and Environment Amendment (Infrastructure Contributions) Bill 2015. I am very excited to be able to speak on this bill because it has been a long time in the making in terms of genuine support and cooperation for the growing outer suburbs of Melbourne. I had the pleasure of being on the Outer Suburban/Interface Services and Development Committee for a couple of years during my first few years in this Parliament and had the privilege to work with colleagues on both sides of the house on the inquiry into liveability options in outer suburban Melbourne.

Keeping up with the infrastructure needed to match the population growth in Melbourne’s outer ring was a huge issue. I would like to read a quote from the Age economic editor Tim Colebatch, who is quoted on page 87 of this report. In 2011 he said:

Melbourne’s outer suburbs are growing faster than any other area in Australia, part of a record-breaking trend that has seen Melbourne’s population closing the gap on Sydney.

The city’s outer suburbs are leaving coastal Queensland and Western Australia’s mining towns in their dust, as more than 1000 people a week pour into Melbourne’s fringe.

That number has only grown since then and continues to grow. In my electorate precinct plans combined in the next five to six years will see around 30 000 new homes either completed or well underway. As you would know, Acting Speaker, 30 000 homes bring not only many people but also many needs to the area — needs for improved road services, improved public transport and improved connections within the community. As we saw in this inquiry into livability in the outer suburbs a few years back, isolation becomes a real problem in these areas. The way to break down those barriers is by supporting community growth and making sure that infrastructure is provided in line with population growth at the time. Over the last two years we have seen a real lag across our outer suburbs. We need to look at all the mechanisms we can as a government to ensure that local councils in those areas are supported in having infrastructure in place in time for these new suburbs as they open up, not after years have passed.

This bill looks at the development contribution system that has been in place since 1995 and how we can improve it so we can support the timely provision of the infrastructure that is needed by communities. The new infrastructure contribution system will provide a simple, standardised and transparent system for levying development contributions in growth and strategic development areas. Of course a similar bill was introduced by the previous government, but unfortunately it lapsed.

There are some general changes from that bill, but in essence this legislation still provides — I must say, after much consultation — a system that will give clarity and certainty to people in those development areas and to the councils which are trying to work with the new infrastructure that is required. It will allow the system to become cheaper as the cost of preparing and approving an infrastructure contribution plan will be significantly lessened. Preparation and approval of infrastructure contribution plans will be quicker, simpler and more streamlined. Finally, they will be more transparent, allowing new reporting requirements to ensure that funds collected and expanded through the infrastructure contribution plan are subject to greater accountability. That is what we want to see.

The Andrews Labor government has not stopped with the legislative change; it has also made the budgetary commitments required. I was very pleased to see in the most recent budget a commitment to the Community Infrastructure Fund for the outer suburbs and specifically for the growth areas. That is in the budget to support the growth in community infrastructure that is desperately needed in many areas where estates have opened over the last few years without the infrastructure to support them. With those few brief comments, I commend the bill to the house.