The following Question without Notice was asked by Member for Moore Shane Love and answered today in Parliament by Planning Minister Hon Rita Saffioti.
Mr S. LOVE to the Minister for Planning:
I refer to the minister’s decision to reject the advice of the Western Australian Planning Commission and to issue zoning approval for an area deemed an extreme fire risk in Mt Helena.
(1) Why did the minister disagree with the advice the Western Australian Planning Commission provided?
(2) Does the minister continue to have confidence in the Western Australian Planning Commission to provide prudent advice?
(3) Given that the minister rejected the advice of both the Department of Fire and Emergency Services and the WAPC, whose advice did she base the decision on?
Ms R. SAFFIOTI replied:
I thank the member for the question.
(1)–(3) I will give the member some history on this project. It was submitted by the Shire of Mundaring in 2014 for a number of reasons. It supported its local planning strategy. It also looked at the sustainability of the town site, making sure that there would be sustainable communities in the hills. It also required, as a result of the changes, a fire management plan to be developed at the subdivision and structure planning stages. As a result, I felt it was the right decision to support this proposal. What has been missed from this debate is that 20 houses are
there at the moment. It is adjacent to a significant subdivision. The idea that the people who are living there now cannot be kept safe, if that is the proposition of the member’s question, is completely false. We have to analyse the information in front of us. There is a fire management plan, new building regulations to make sure the building structures are safe, access and egress to major roads, there are existing homes and it is adjacent to that property.
I find this a strange track from the National Party. I think it shows that its members do not understand the hills community of the metropolitan area. They might fly over them but they do not understand the challenges of the hills communities.
As members know, I was brought up in Roleystone. I personally helped fight a fire that endangered my parents’ house. I understand the balance that is required. I also understand that if we turn our back —
Mr V. Catania interjected.
Ms R. SAFFIOTI: Member for North West Central, what were you doing? Walking the streets of Highgate, branch stacking at the time?
And branch stacking for the Labor Party, mind you.
I understand the need to balance all the challenges in the hills. I understand that from working with the member for Kalamunda on the Pickering Brook town site. Should we let that town completely become extinct?
Should we do that?
Mr S. Love: What happened in Yarloop?
Ms R. SAFFIOTI: You do? Members of the National Party would happily close down the hills communities of the suburbs, such as Mundaring? Is that what they would like to do? There has to be the right balance.
There are changing demographics. We need a sustainable town site to allow the small businesses to exist and to allow the schools to stay open. That is what the member for Moore does not understand.
This was a tough decision, but I put a lot of faith in the Shire of Mundaring, the local member, and also the views — Several members interjected.
The other key point is the fire management plan that is required at the subdivision stage. That is being worked through at the moment. That includes that the new homes that will be built will have tougher conditions than existing ones. The building regulations in particular—there has been some discussion about this—are suited to how fire-prone that house is. Basically, I took all those things into consideration. I will not let the hills communities of Perth die. People who want to have that lifestyle—I am not going to let their schools close and I am not going to let the communities completely diminish. That is not what I am going to do. I understand those hills communities. I understand about balancing all the challenges. I support the work that DFES does. It is excellent work, but as Minister for Planning I have a number of considerations to make and I do it for the benefit of all Western Australians. Several members interjected.
Mr S. LOVE to the Minister for Planning:
I have a supplementary question. Given this rather unilateral decision that she has made against the good advice of these departments, is the minister confident that she is not potentially placing the lives of future residents at risk?
Ms R. SAFFIOTI replied:
How about the existing residents?
Mr S. Love: Ridiculous.
Ms R. SAFFIOTI: The existing residents.
What about the existing residents in the subdivision adjacent to it? What about them?
Mr T. Redman: You’re ignorant of the planning process.
The SPEAKER: Did someone call someone ignorant then?
Ms R. SAFFIOTI: Yes, I was being interjected on by the questioner.
The SPEAKER: Did you withdraw it?
Mr D.T. Redman: Pardon.
The SPEAKER: I am looking at the member for Warren–Blackwood.
The SPEAKER: Member for North West Central, someone called the minister ignorant. Does anyone have the courage after saying that to admit to it?
Mr T. Redman: Mr Speaker, I mentioned “ignorant of the process”.
The SPEAKER: Member for Warren–Blackwood, I call you to order for the first time.
Ms R. SAFFIOTI: The National Party has no understanding of the suburbs of the hills of Perth—no understanding whatsoever. If we go through and maybe look at where they live and where they are next to — The western suburbs and the CAT route does not have a lot of bushfire-prone areas, member. It really is about balancing — The reality is that we have to balance all the needs. As I said, there are homes there now. This was driven by the community and by the landowners in the area and it is adjacent to an existing subdivision. If the member wants to go and tell all those people to move today because it is unsafe, he should do that. He should go and tell them that he is going to shut their houses and shut the community. The member should do that.
Mr S. Love: You know very well that’s nothing to do with the subdivision approval on this land.
Ms R. SAFFIOTI: That is why we have the new regulations to make sure the building structures and all the other access issues are addressed through the structure plan phase.