Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria) — My question is to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Could the minister please inform the house of the resolution of the Convincing Ground issue near Portland?
Mr JENNINGS (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs) — I thank Ms Tierney for her question and her concern about a very important planning matter that has had a longstanding and very sorry history in recent times in the Portland area.
Mr Vogels interjected.
Mr JENNINGS — It is very shameful, Mr Vogels. You are quite right, and I am certain that you agree with my view about the sorry circumstances that led to this situation.
Yesterday I was asked a question by Mr Scheffer about the proclamation date of the Aboriginal Heritage Bill in Victoria, a bill which is designed to prevent exactly the circumstance that occurred in Portland from ever occurring again.
The reason I say that with a great degree of confidence is that the current commonwealth legislation dealing with Aboriginal heritage has no integrated timetable and process with the planning regime in Victoria, and despite the fact that the Auditor-General in 2005 tabled in this Parliament a damning report of the planning processes within the Glenelg shire, his report sat in this Parliament for about 15 months. It condemned the planning regime within Shire of Glenelg, and one of the cases cited was the case of the Convincing Ground.
The reason it was cited was that, despite the Glenelg shire having a heritage overlay within its municipality for at least two years prior to issuing a planning permit over an area known as the Convincing Ground, it proceeded to issue a permit. The Convincing Ground is an area covered by the heritage register in Victoria and by the relevant acts in relation to the commonwealth registration of the site.
What subsequently happened involved a protracted set of negotiations, which ran concurrently with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal consideration of this matter, which led ultimately — —
Mr Vogels interjected.
Mr JENNINGS — Mr Vogels, you are quite right that this is an appalling situation.
Mr Vogels, you know that this is a damning indictment of the planning regime that operated within the Glenelg shire.
The PRESIDENT — Order! Through the Chair!
Mr Vogels interjected.
The PRESIDENT — Order! Mr Vogels!
Mr JENNINGS — You know from your interaction — —
The PRESIDENT — Order! Through the Chair.
Mr JENNINGS — Mr Vogels does know because of his close association with the local community that it was embarrassed and ashamed about the calibre of the planning process with the Glenelg shire, and there needed to be a resolution of this matter.
I am very pleased to report to the house that in January of this year that matter was concluded. Now, for the first time, the appropriate planning controls have been implemented in this area to provide for the ongoing protection of the site known as the Convincing Ground. That ground will be subjected to public management, to incorporate an understanding of the cultural heritage and significance of that site and to ensure that that land is maintained for public purposes in the years to come.
The agreement which has been struck and which is now subject to planning controls allows for appropriate development on part of the site outside the areas that are sensitive areas and of most significance. It will enable some development and subdivision to take place. At the heart of the Victorian legislation is our intention to allow for appropriate development to take place within Victoria so that developers and local councils can actually proceed with planning decisions with confidence into the future and so that we will not be bedevilled by planning blights and planning oversights — in the correct sense of the word ‘oversight’, in that someone took their eye off the ball at the most critical moment when planning decisions were made. It will not happen again because it will be subject to Victorian law, and Victorian law will demand that that cultural heritage assessment is undertaken and a management plan is put in place before a planning permit is granted.
I am very confident that with the new act we will not again see the sorry planning situation of the Convincing Ground. I am very pleased to report to the house there has been a satisfactory resolution of that matter which will allow some development to take place but which, most importantly, will preserve for all time in public hands the Convincing Ground.