New national report: Half of bigger development decisions made late

14 February 2011

A new report publicly released last night, following the COAG meeting, has revealed that town planning systems are performing poorly across the country with late decisions on half of the bigger projects, according to the Urban Taskforce.


The First National Report on Development Assessment Performance 2008/09 looks at how development applications are assessed, although the data is incomplete and it doesnt measure the multi-year delays in the rezoning process.


The Urban Taskforces chief executive, Aaron Gadiel, said the figures paint a grim picture of Australian town planning.


Only two states produced figures on the lateness of higher density residential decisions – Victoria and NSW.


Both states concede that, most of the time, these development applications are decided after the statutory decision-making period has expired.


In NSW, only 44 per cent of these applications were determined in the statutory timeframe, while in Victoria it was 47 per cent.


NSW took an average of 137 days to assess medium and high density residential developments, while Victoria took 178 days.


Mr Gadiel said the time taken to deal with subdivisions was also disappointing, although only three states produced figures.


In NSW just 52 per cent of subdivisions are decided on time, with performance also poor in Victoria, at 53 per cent, and in Western Australia, 56 per cent, he said.


For greenfield land development, subdivision applications are just the final administrative step in a lengthy multi-year process.


Yet, in NSW, subdivision applications take an average of 120 days to deal with, in Victoria its 132 days and Western Australian its 100 days.


Mr Gadiel said, even when all the small matters are included, nearly half of Queenslands, a third of NSWs and close to 40 per cent of Victorias and Western Australias applications are decided late.


Mr Gadiel said that in typical town planning fashion, the national report is only now available, 20 months after the end of the 2008/2009 financial year.


This report only measures a tiny percentage of the activity and the problems inherent in Australias town planning system, he said.


We hope that future reports have better quality data that is more capable of interstate comparison, with delays in rezonings and strategy implementation also measured.


Mr Gadiel said that a recent report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) highlighted the need for reform.


The OECD has found that low supply responsiveness of new housing tends to intensify the price increases when there are sudden boosts in housing demand, he said.


They say that efficient design and enforcement of land-use regulation can make housing supply more responsive to prices.


The OECD favour the reform of planning laws to better match housing construction to changes in housing demand patterns.


Mr Gadiel said that the absence of a flexible town planning system and strong urban infrastructure investment was a risk to Australias economy.


If we get demand shocks, such as a boost in immigration, regional booms, or surges in income, our rigid planning laws allow only one result – rapid price escalation.


This can be bad for home buyers and renters, but also bad for the economy as a whole.


A flexible planning system allows for more moderate adjustment in prices, in line with an expansion of housing supply to meet extra demand.


This must be a major economic reform goal of the national and state governments.


The Urban Taskforce is a property development industry group, representing Australias most prominent property developers and equity financiers.


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