In brief

29 November 2010

The NSW Department of Planning has released a Position Statement on Planning for Active Living. The document “affirms the commitment of the Department to pursue initiatives to support the continuing creation and maintenance of environments supportive of active living in … [the] direction it gives to … participants in the operation of the planning system”.

The statement says that “research in Australia and overseas has shown that higher density/mixed use neighbourhoods have higher levels of physical activity by residents than lower density areas”. The new document is here.

The Department of Planning have announced that they are working on even more documents to “guide” development. These are: Centres Design Guidelines and Good designs for medium density living. We are, of course, concerned at the ever increasing regulation, and are communicating this view at the present time.

The Federal Minister for Broadband, Stephen Conroy, has announced that the government will be introducing a bill iinto parliament in the new year that will “support” the provision of telecommunications services to businesses and households in new developments.  The detail of the Bill is not yet known, but we are advised that more information on this will be announced in the coming weeks.  The government’s media statement can be accessed here.

The NSW Parliament has passed the National Broadband Network Co-ordinator Bill 2010. The law empowers government agencies and state owned corporations (such as Sydney Water, Integral Energy and Energy Australia) to facilitate and assist the rollout of the National Broadband Network. More detail is here.

The Urban Taskforce has raised its concerns about the way the land tax system is working with the NSW Government and Opposition. Our submission is here. The Urban Taskforce has convened a meeting of members hosted by PwC to discuss these issues this Friday (3 December 2010). All members with interest in land tax issues are encouraged to attend. Please contact Catherine Ross to register your interest.

The Commercial Building Disclosure program has commenced. This means that from the 1 November, owners of commercial buildings will be required to disclose the energy efficiency rating when selling, leasing or sub-leasing office space with a net lettable area of 2,000 square metres or more. More information is available here.

The NSW Government has extended the Boarding House Financial Assistance Program intended to encourage construction of more affordable housing. We are told that the program aims to support the delivery of 230 new self contained boarding house rooms in areas close to employment centres and public transport over the next 5 years. More information here.

The Local Government Amendment (Environmental Upgrade Agreements) Bill 2010 has passed through parliament. The bill would allow councils to enter into “environmental upgrade agreements” with building owners and finance providers. These would be agreements under which a building owner agrees to carry out works to improve the energy, water or environmental efficiency of their building and a finance provider agrees to advance funds to finance such environmental upgrade works. The council would impose an environmental upgrade charge, which would be collected in the same manner as rates, and paid to the financer. More information is available here.

The NSW Governments independent Ombudsman has made some serious adverse findings against Manly Council. In its annual report, the Ombudsman criticised the councils administrative practices, supervision of staff, decision-making, and the way they handle complaints. Unsurprisingly the Ombudsman found the work of development assessment staff was patchy – some council officers can be efficient and helpful while others can be inflexible and obstructive. More generally, the Ombudsmans report said the in the last year there was a three-fold increase in people objecting to the decisions made by councils. The Ombudsman undertook 302 preliminary investigations into local government and finished three formal investigations. Five formal investigations are still underway. The Ombudsman report is available here. The material on local councils starts at PDF page 103 of 178.