18/01/2005 - 21:00

Economic and social impact review for wetlands policy

18/01/2005 - 21:00

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AN independent panel has been formed to assess the economic and social impacts of the State Government’s wetlands policy before it goes to parliament.

Economic and social impact review for wetlands policy

AN independent panel has been formed to assess the economic and social impacts of the State Government’s wetlands policy before it goes to parliament.

The regulatory assessment is understood to be a first for proposed environmental legislation.

The panel, made up of former WA Planning Commission chairman Simon Holthouse, Real Estate Institute of WA CEO Anne Arnold and Conservation Commission member Jennifer Davis, will consider:

• the unintended impacts of the revised draft policy;

• social, economic and environmental benefits and costs;

• whether the community has had adequate input into the policy; and

• how the policy’s effectiveness should be measured.

The wetlands policy affects 23,000 hectares of privately-owned land from Lancelin to Dunsborough.

Landowners are concerned the policy will jeopardise their property titles and have an adverse effect on farms and other businesses.

While groups representing landowners affected by the policy have welcomed the review, Mr Holthouse and Ms Arnold’s role on the panel has been questioned due to their earlier involvement with the creation of the State Planning Strategy.

There are also concerns about the lack of landowner group represen-tation on the panel.

Property Rights Coalition spokesman Leo Killigrew said people were angry because, under the policy, they could be ordered to fence off – at their cost – and stay out of, parts of their land.

Pastoralist and Graziers Association policy director Henry Esbenshade said the State Planning Strategy encour-aged other government agencies to progress plans such as the wetlands policy and supported the claiming of private land for environmental protection uses.

Ms Arnold denied any conflict of interest on her behalf, while Mr Holthouse said the question of his independence was best answered by the minister.

Environment Minister Judy Edwards told WA Business News she did not believe there was any reason to question the independence of the panel members, given that the wetlands policy had grown from the Lakes Policy that predated the State Planning Strategy.

Dr Edwards said she had called for the review because of landowner con-cerns that the policy could seriously damage their property values.

“I need to make absolutely sure that that isn’t true,” she said. 

“If that turns out to be the case, I will look at the options that are available to me.”

Dr Edwards said Mr Holthouse and Ms Arnold had been chosen because of their experience in the planning and real estate fields respectively.

“Mr Holthouse is there because he has knowledge of planning and lives in the South West,” she said.

“I believe he has an awareness of the complexities of these types of issues.”

“Anne was approached on the basis that she’s the CEO of REIWA and, in addition, she’s known to me through her previous work as chief executive of the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies.”

Dr Edwards said she had decided not to include landowner represen-tatives because she was already aware, through the two rounds of submissions already received on the policy, what their concerns were.

“I need people giving me answers to those concerns,” she said.

The panel is due to report back to Dr Edwards by May 31 and she hopes to make a final decision on the policy by July.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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