Extension of economic stimulus approvals

06 April 2010

Last year the NSW Parliament passed the Nation Building and Jobs Plan (State Infrastructure Delivery) Act.  This law sets up a parallel approval system that operates entirely outside of the planning system overseen by the NSW Department of Planning.

There is a separate bureaucracy, overseen by the Infrastructure Co-ordinator General, Bob Leece, located in the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet. This parallel planning department is known as the “Nation Building and Jobs Plan Taskforce”.

Through the Infrastructure Coordinator General’s special powers to deliver the stimulus package, more than 680 projects have been approved across the State – with an average assessment period of just 29 days. Many public housing and schools projects have been approved under this regime.

We have consistently criticised the government for only setting up the parallel fast-track planning system for publicly funded projects. If a medium or high density residential development project is being approved because it will create jobs, it seems logical to us that a private sector project can create as many (if not more) jobs as a public sector project.

That’s why we’re pleased that the NSW Premier, Kristina Keneally, has directed that a review be conducted of the implementation of the Nation Building and Jobs Plan in NSW and its potential applications toother projects outside the Nation Building funded program. The Review Panel is required to report its findings and any recommendations to the Premier by 31 July 2010.

The review will be conducted by two people:

  • Dr Neil Shepherd is a member of the Planning Assessment Commission and a former Director-General of the Environment Protection Authority and former Deputy Director-General, The Cabinet Office.
  • Dr Peter Abelsen is an economist who consults for NSW Treasury and is associated with the University of Sydney and the Australian and New Zealand School of Government. He is also a former Mayor of Mosman Council.

Local government has expressed its opposition to the review: “I think the government is travelling a very dangerous path here, because there will be enormous community anger if they start giving this sort of unprecedented power to developers,” said NSW Local Government Association chief Genia McCaffery.

A spokesman for acting Special Minister of State, John Hatzistergos, said the stimulus measures were “proving an overwhelming success” and “we want to build on that”.

Submissions are due by the 14 May 2010.

In our submission we will be making the case for: (1) changes to the broader planning system to reflect some of the most successful aspects of the Nation Building approvals regime; and (2) access for significant private sector residential, retail, commercial and industrial development to this new super fast and efficient approvals regime. Please contact us if there are any matters you think we should raise.

More information about the review of the special planning powers given to the Infrastructure Co-ordinator General is available here.  An overview of progress on the Federal Government’s economic stimulus package is here. More information about the “Nation Building and Jobs Plan Taskforce” is available here .