NSW councils wasting money with ˜irresponsible litigation

26 July 2010

Councils are wasting many millions of dollars defending bad planning decisions in court, according to the Urban Taskforce.

Todays Daily Telegraph has reported that councils are spending ratepayers’ funds on lawyers in the Land and Environment Court, with most of the legal bills spent fighting development appeals.


The Urban Taskforces chief executive, Aaron Gadiel, said that local councils were losing most Land and Environment Court cases initiated by development applicants.


Woollahra tops the list for the most litigated planning decisions, losing 27 of 57 appeals, followed by Waverley, which lost 21 of 28, and Pittwater and Parramatta which lost 13 and 17 cases respectively.


They were also among the biggest spenders. In the 2008-09 financial year, Woollahra’s legal fees cost ratepayers $2 million, Waverley’s cost $950,000, Parramatta spent $1.9 million and Pittwater spent $1 million.


This high rate of litigation, and their high rate of failure, suggests a pattern of irresponsible decision-making, backed up by irresponsible court action to defend their actions, Mr Gadiel said.


Councils frequently come under pressure to oppose development from not-in-my-backyard pressure groups.


Many find it easier to refuse a development application, even when they know it’s the wrong decision.


As a result, tens of thousands of dollars are wasted by both councils and development applicants in resolving the matter in court.


Ratepayers should be alarmed that so much of their money is being wasted, instead of being invested in local roads, pavements and parks.


Mr Gadiel said that the new system of joint regional planning panels, introduced by the NSW Government, may in the long-term, partially address this problem.

[Top 10 NSW councils most often reversed in court are listed in the PDF below]


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


For every $1 million in construction expenditure, 27 jobs are created throughout the broader economy.


The construction activity made possible by property developers contributes $78 billion to the national economy each year and creates 849,000 direct jobs.



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