The new Victorian Transport Integration Act 2010, which came into force on 1 July, represents a significant remodelling of transport planning and decision making in that State. The Act imposes some significant new obligations on transport agencies and potentially provides opportunities for businesses and other organisations who use, provide or are affected by the transport system to monitor and challenge activities and decisions of transport agencies. The new Act may also provide a model for other jurisdictions wishing to improve the linkage between transport planning and service delivery and broader economic, environmental and social objectives.
The Act sets out a vision, objectives and principles for the transport system which are designed to guide all transport related decision making, and to tie bodies involved in planning, regulating and delivering transport infrastructure and services to the objective of providing a transport system that is integrated and sustainable and which meets a range of other important policy objectives.
The Act requires transport agencies and other areas of government to have regard to broader social, economic and environmental considerations – a clear triple bottom line framework - when making decisions about the transport system. It requires all Victorian transport agencies - including the Director of Public Transport, VicRoads, VicTrack, V/Line and the Linking Melbourne Authority – to work together towards the common goal of an integrated and sustainable transport system. It also requires agencies responsible for land development and management, including State government departments, agencies and municipal councils, to take account of the principles and objectives under the new Act when making decisions that impact on the transport system.
The key elements of the framework established by the new Act are:
- Strengthening of the role of the Department of Transport in providing strategic leadership for, and co-ordination of, the provision and regulation of transport.
- Reconstitution of existing transport agencies, and closer alignment of their objects, functions and power with the new framework.
- A new vision statement and a set of objectives and principles to which transport agencies are required to have regard when performing functions and making decisions.
- Closer integration of land use and transport planning and decision-making by extending the framework to land use agencies whose decisions can significantly impact on transport ('interface bodies').
One of the main instruments used to deliver the purposes sought to be achieved by the Act is a requirement that transport bodies and interface bodies have regard to transport system objectives and decision making principles when performing functions, exercising powers and making decisions relating to the transport system.
Transport system' is defined extremely broadly, so as to include all components which make up the system, including physical components (such as roads, railways, shipping lanes, terminals, ports, vehicles, vessels and communications systems), the management component (including strategic and operational planning, administration, marketing and regulatory schemes) the labour component (including all persons involved in planning, operating and regulating the system) and the services components (including passenger, freight and transport services).
The transport system objectives set out in the Act are:
- Social and economic inclusion. The transport system should provide a means of access to social and economic opportunities to support individual and community wellbeing, including by minimising barriers to access and providing tailored infrastructure, services and support for persons who have difficulty using the transport system.
- Economic prosperity. The transport system should facilitate economic prosperity, for example by facilitating access to places of employment, markets and services, reducing costs and improving timeliness, fostering competition, facilitating investment in Victoria and supporting financial sustainability.
- Environmental sustainability. The transport system should promote environmental sustainability by, for example, protecting and improving the natural environment, avoiding, minimising and offsetting environmental harm and promoting energy efficient forms of transport.
- Integration of transport and land use. The transport system should provide for the effective integration of transport and land use and facilitate access to social and economic opportunities.
- Efficiency, coordination and reliability. The transport system should facilitate network-wide efficient, coordinated and reliable movements of persons and goods, including by optimising network capacity of all modes, maximising efficient use of resources, facilitating integrated and seamless travel within and between different modes, providing predictable and reliable services and journey times and minimising inconvenience caused by disruptions.
- Safety and health and wellbeing. The transport system should be safe, and support health and wellbeing, including by seeking to continually improve safety performance and promoting forms of transport and the use of forms of energy which have the least negative impact on health and wellbeing.
In addition, transport bodies are required to have regard to the following principles when making decisions under transport legislation:
- The principle of integrated decision making, which means seeking to achieve Government policy objectives through coordination between all levels of government and government agencies and with the private sector.
- The principle of triple bottom-line assessment, which means an assessment of all the economic, social and environmental costs and benefits taking into account externalities and value for money.
- The principle of equity, which means equity between persons irrespective of their personal attributes or location, and equity between generations.
- The transport system user perspective, which means understanding the requirements of transport system users and enhancing the useability of the transport system and the quality of experiences of the transport system.
- The precautionary principle, which means that if there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation.
- The principle of stakeholder engagement and community participation, which means taking into account the interests of stakeholders, including transport system users and members of the local community and adopting appropriate processes for stakeholder engagement. The principle of transparency, which means members of the public should have access to reliable and relevant information to facilitate a good understanding of transport issues and the process by which transport related decisions are made.
These provisions impose significant new obligations on many transport bodies and interface bodies, because the requirement to 'have regard to' the objectives and principles when performing functions and exercising powers imposes a legal obligation to take into account a very wide range of factors. The scope of the phrase 'have regard to' is likely to require the relevant body to be able to demonstrate that it has given genuine consideration to each of the objectives whenever it exercises its powers or performs its functions under any transport legislation, and where a decision is being made, the decision making principles. The weight to be given to the each of the considerations remains a matter for the body considering them.
The initial challenge for transport bodies will be to align internal processes and procedures to ensure that regard is had to the objectives when exercising powers and performing functions and principles when making decisions. New obligations on planning authorities will require planners to have regard to a wider range of considerations when reviewing and preparing reports on planning scheme amendments and other decisions taken by planning authorities.
For individuals and businesses that are part of, use or are affected by the transport system, the new objectives and principles potentially provide opportunities to monitor, influence and challenge transport related activities and decision making. It is important to note that the requirement for transport bodies to have regard to transport system objectives and decision making principles is not limited to planning and infrastructure provision, but applies to the full range of functions and decisions such bodies perform and make. This could potentially extend to decisions about provision or procurement of transport services, management of transport networks and decision making relating to accreditation, registration and licensing.
Given the breadth of the new obligations, we would expect to see issues relating to the objectives and principles start to emerge in challenges to, and appeals against, transport related decisions in a wide range of areas, which will give courts and tribunals the opportunity to start clarifying their scope and effect.
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This publication is intended as a first point of reference and should not be relied on as a substitute for professional advice. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in relation to any particular circumstances.