Opinion: Arguments against growth boundary are fear-mongering

Enough is enough, I’m calling bulls**t.

Two weeks ago, we saw an article quoting the head and former head of the Housing Industry Association both stating that the Government’s proposed urban growth boundary would make housing more unaffordable in Adelaide.

Yesterday, we saw a column screaming that restrictive planning laws and limited land supply are primary contributors to this threat to our way of life.

The reality is that these unsubstantiated claims will do little more than scare voters and benefit the hip pocket of a sector. The people making these claims should consider their wider responsibility.

If they were talking reality, they would point out the fact that there is currently around 25 to 30 years’ worth of rezoned land in Adelaide – more than enough. They would talk about the fact that we have an effective urban growth boundary in the 30-Year Plan – which has been in place since 2010.

I would hope they would also talk of the fact that they wouldn’t mind their kids or grandkids being be able to afford a house somewhere near where they grew up and lived.

Instead they suggest to mums and dads and young professionals that proper planning will take away their opportunity to participate in the great Australian dream.

It’s just bulls**t.

The first week of Parliamentary debate didn’t exactly raised the tone – with a base of fear topped with some conspiracy and a dash of absurd compromise.

While much of the important debate now seems largely resolved (kudos to those involved), we are now left in a ridiculous position where the final argument holding back nation-leading planning reform centres around whether Parliament can trust Parliament itself.

The simple reality is that we must be smarter about how we strategically plan for the future.

We have plenty of planned, zoned and serviced land within the area defined by the 30-Year Plan.

In fact, most people on all sides of the argument would agree that an urban growth plan based on an evidence-based 20-year requirement, with a boundary line to be amended from time to time, would be acceptable.

The battleline, bizarrely, is that the Deputy Premier and Planning Minister John Rau wants Parliament to lock in that boundary and be responsible for any future change so a person in his position as Planning Minister in the future doesn’t have sole authority. To listen to him, he sees it as an integrity measure.

The Liberal Party and most parts of the sector want the guy whose job John Rau currently has to keep the power to make these changes in the future – so the State can be agile, can be nimble, can be economically competitive. They also, quite rightly, take the view it’s not their job to save the Government from itself.

The argument against a legislative fix goes that Parliament is slow and cumbersome and economic growth could be lost forever whilst we waited for Parliament to make a decision in the State’s interest.

I call bulls**t.

We may not like all or any of our Parliamentarians but we should let them do their jobs.

Here’s a free proposal. Why doesn’t Parliament adopt an Urban Growth Boundary that it currently pretty much already agrees on and legislate that it needs to replaced by 2026 or 2030 – both timeframes between future election cycles.

If Parliament acts as it should, these boundaries will be amended based on data and fact – led by a future Planning Commission – and we will have a path of continual improvement for the betterment of the State.

If Parliament behaves badly, then it lapses and we go back to what we have now.

All those in favour say aye?

Matt Clemow is the General Manager of the Committee for Adelaide and an owner and Director of Property and Consulting Australia.

He worked as a Chief of Staff in the Rann and Weatherill Governments.

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