by Elizabeth Handley
Politicians talk about transparent processes all the time. This means government should be open and honest and, unless national security is involved, should not be done in secret. However, this is a transparency that our tax-funded representatives on the Brisbane City Council and State and Federal government seem keen to avoid. Increasingly access to information that allows us to preserve our civil and legal rights and understand a government decision is being denied to us.
Recently a community group was denied the accepted legal process of discovery in the Planning and Environment Court. Discovery is the legal practice of allowing both sides in a court case to ask the other side for access to all the documents and information that specifically relate to the case.
The Judge in this case accepted the Brisbane City Council (BCC) and developer’s submission that all the information required could be found on the BCC website on PD online, the Council’s development application documentation website.
If the group wished to pursue the process of full discovery, they could argue it in court and be liable for the legal costs of the Council and developer in addition to their own if they lost.
This highlights several issues. The information now provided by developers on PD online is becoming less detailed. A lot of the important documentation of a development application is never put on PD online. Now the BCC and a developer has successfully argued that the community should be restricted to only the information the Council had itself decided to put on a website. The developers and the Council are working together in the court to restrict the public’s access to information. Note the website information does not include the building plans, the buildings’ dimensions, proximity to the boundary or how many units they will contain. This is not remotely transparent government.
Dirty deeds occur more easily in the dark and they take longer to discover. Increasingly the State planning legislation and the BCC town plan work to ensure that the planning process has become less clear, more outsourced and even less open to public scrutiny. Even planning professionals are finding the Brisbane City plan a nightmare to deal with.
Added to this increasing opaqueness, the BCC seems increasingly uninterested in fully monitoring or enforcing conditions placed on development approvals. We all hear of demolitions and building code violations that occur with seemingly little repercussion. Now the Council is arguing in court to reduce public access to information. This is not the clear and transparent government the public expects.
Last month we spoke about the draft regional plan released this month. This ShapingSEQ link will give you a copy of the draft South East Queensland Regional plan, the document library, information on the talk to a planner sessions and the information required to make a submission http://www.shapingseq.com.au/ShapingSEQ
Please make submissions and get your children involved in planning their future state.
Get involved for a better Brisbane. Like us at www. facebook.com/ParkItToowong. Visit www.parkit.org.au.
Email: parkittoowong@gmail. com. Follow us on twitter @ parkittoowong. Information on Brisbane Residents United visit www.brisbaneresidentsunited. org or facebook www.facebook. com/ brisbaneresidents