Economic stimulus approvals regime

26 May 2010

The Urban Taskforce has given the NSW Government a submission in response to the government’s review of the Nation Building and Jobs Plan (State Infrastructure Delivery) Act 2009. The government is ‘considering broader application of the Coordinator-General’s powers to fast-track approvals.

Our submission says that the group of public servants who have been assembled to administer this special legislation – known as “the NSW Nation Building and Jobs Plan Taskforce” – are a team of well-resourced, highly competent, skilled planning staff. Creating this team and empowering them to sit in the place of consent authorities to determine development proposals, was a recognition of the problems inherent in existing local planning processes. It was also an admission that Part 3A is no longer delivering the legal certainty and bankability that was originally anticipated.

The work conducted by the NSW Nation Building and Jobs Plan Taskforce is refreshing because it has broken away from the traditional rigid thinking of local consent authorities. This team of people have provided an impartial assessment of council controls. Their decisions prove that, when used as intended, appropriate controls are able to produce quality outcomes.

Broadly speaking, our submission has two broad themes.

Firstly, the government should amend the Nation Building and Jobs Plan (State Infrastructure Delivery) Act to extend it to a wider range of private sector projects when the proponent seeks coverage and:

  • the project is within 400 metres of a transport corridor serviced by high quality public transport (e.g. buses, light rail); or
  • the project is within 800 metres of a train station; or
  • the project includes 1,000 or more residential dwellings; or
  • the project would create 200 or more jobs; or
  • the project is otherwise state or regionally significant.

If need be, this could be a temporary measure until the shortfall in NSW’s supply of housing and retail premises is eliminated.

Secondly, the government should modify the arrangements applying under Part 4 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act so that decision-makers are required to adopt an approach that is more akin to that adopted by the NSW Nation Building and Jobs Plan Taskforce. Our submission includes a series of recommendations that would require decision makers to:

carry out their assessment of significant development proposals within 2-3 months;

approve development that is consistent with state or regional strategies, even when the zoning plan is not up-to-date;

  • ensure that development standards are applied flexibly;
  • remove the possibility of “bottom draw” policies being used to influence decision-making;
  • approve developments that meet clearly articulated rules;
  • permit residential development in town centres;
  • better apply rules on residential flat design;
  • work as part of an expert team focusing on state or regionally significant projects.

Each of these recommendations is supported by an analysis of decisions taken by the Coordinator-General.

Our full submission is available here.