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Guy to dump permit expense on councils  

Credit:  Josh Gordon, State political editor for The Age | March 30, 2013 | www.theage.com.au ~~

Local councils would be forced to pay for and police decisions imposed by Planning Minister Matthew Guy under an overhaul to be introduced to State Parliament.

The move has infuriated municipal governments that say ratepayers will bear the brunt of potentially contentious decisions by Mr Guy.

Under the changes – to be introduced to Parliament next month – Mr Guy would no longer be responsible for ”administering and enforcing” planning permits he ”calls in” using special powers allowing him to overrule local decisions.

It follows a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal battle over a wind farm in the Moyne Shire last year. The council had demanded that Mr Guy enforce the permit, including requiring the developer to fix damage it said had been caused to roads.

The government’s lawyers had argued that the council was responsible for compliance with planning permits. But in a win for the council, the tribunal ruled the minister was responsible for enforcing permits he issues, creating a precedent.

The legislation would reverse the onus, leaving councils to enforce decisions imposed by Mr Guy, including for high-rise buildings.

Municipal Association of Victoria chief executive Rob Spence warned that a lack of technical expertise in councils, particularly on wind farms, could force local governments to spend time and money implementing decisions that they did not want.

”There has been no consultation with the sector at all, which breaches the state and local government agreement,” Mr Spence said. ”Councils have serious concerns about it.”

In a letter to Mr Guy and Premier Denis Napthine, Moyne Shire chief executive David Madden warned that if the changes were passed, the council would be required to ”enforce what it believes are unacceptable conditions”.

”Council has already experienced the substantial cost and resourcing problems required to deal with these matters.”

A spokesman for Mr Guy declined to say whether the amendment would be reconsidered, saying only that the concerns ”relate to wind farm permits issued by the previous government”.

Opposition planning spokesman Brian Tee accused Mr Guy of ”acting like a bully” by attempting to force councils to implement decisions ”rammed down their throats”.

”The minister makes the decision and then councils have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and potentially become bogged down in VCAT for months to enforce a permit the council might have opposed,” Mr Tee said. ”These decisions are going to be the contentious ones, and developers tend to have the deepest pockets.”

Source:  Josh Gordon, State political editor for The Age | March 30, 2013 | www.theage.com.au

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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