Planning under the NSW Coalition

01 November 2010

Last week, the NSW Opposition Leader, Barry O’Farrell gave an address to the Local Government and Shires Association.

“The NSW Liberals and Nationals want a planning system that delivers: certainty about planning rules, certainty about decision making processes, certainty that decisions will be made transparently, on the basis of merit and in the public interest and certainty that decisions will be made in a timely way,” Mr O’Farrell said.

“We recognise that constraining, or limiting politics, will be important in providing this certainty.

“We are also committed to scrap Part 3A. Part 3A’s a symptom of our dysfunctional planning system, it’s the main weapon of Labor’s ‘we know best’ assault upon the planning powers of local communities.

“Local residents, through councils, are best placed to make local planning decisions that shape their neighbourhoods.

“And we will return local planning powers to local communities.”

Mr O’Farrell also expressed the view that it might be possible to divert some growth from Sydney through regional development policies.

“Developing the whole of the State removes some of the population pressure and growth pains from Sydney,” he said.

“Continuing to concentrate NSW’s predicted growth along our coast and in Sydney ignores the great opportunities on offer in our inland cities and towns.”

Mr O’Farrell re-committed the Coalition to:

  • providing clearer information on Sydney, the Hunter and Illawarra’s future housing needs – and ensure communities are involved in local planning;
  • publishing new housing targets in “real time”, including the requirements in regional areas; and
  • applying transparency to state levies and introducing the option of contestability in the provision of infrastructure.

Mr O’Farrell ruled out forced council amalgamations under the Coalition.

“[We] believe the amalgamation of councils should only be as a result of mutual agreement – and not forced by state government intervention,” he said.

Mr O’Farrell’s full speech can be accessed here.

Recently Mr O’Farrell commented on his approach to the government’s plan for increased urban density in his own electorate of Ku-ring-gai.

Addressing a community group in Turramurra, Mr O’Farrell said growth was necessary to provide for an ageing population, could not be stopped and residents would have to live with ugly buildings that were not good for the environment.

“I have always been taught growth is good and without growth there’s stagnation and death,” Mr O’Farrell said.

“That’s a tough message, but we need to progress.”

Mr O’Farrell said he had no power to cut back the 10,000 dwellings Ku-ring-gai has to accommodate under the State Labor Government’s Metropolitan Strategy.

“There are decisions that are not capable of unpicking any more than you can unscramble an omelette,” he said.

“We will respect Ku-ring-gai’s agreement of 10,000 dwellings, but the concern is those numbers have been exceeded because of the SAN [Sydney Adventist Hospital development] and Town Centres LEP.”

Mr O’Farrell has previously told a local newspaper in his electorate that he would allow the local council to rescind the Town Centres LEP.

He promised an audit of new dwellings in light of community groups claims that the number of development applications approved in Ku-ring-gai since the strategy was introduced has exceeded 5,000.

Mr O’Farrell said population growth was inevitable and “we need to make the best of it”.

“We cannot control immigration, we cannot control birth rates but we can deliver infrastructure and planning and decentralisation,” he said.

“Decentralisation is an old fashioned word, but we have not been practising it.”

Meanwhile, on the ABC’s Stateline on 22 October, Shadow Planning Minister, Brad Hazzard, spoke more informally about the Coalition’s attitude on planning policy.

“[Part 3A] has created a ‘dollars for deals’ culture which has caused community groups right across this State to be very concerned,” Mr Hazzard said.

“The Opposition shares that concern and that’s why Part 3A has to go.”

“When Part 3A was actually introduced in 2005, we were told that it would be used in a very limited number of circumstances of what was truly State significant development.

“In fact, it has turned into being used for hundreds of developments, many of which no-one in their right mind could possibly classify as of State significance.

“Not the sort of thing that a minister should have his hands, or her hands, on.”

Mr Hazzard said there will be a complete review of the Act.

“The community will have their say and for the first time ever we will have an Act that actually reflects the need to strategically plan,” he said.

Mr Hazzard commented on a private members bill to be introduced by the Green party this year, aimed at repealing Part 3A.

“We’d like to obviously see the bill,” he said.

“But if it achieves getting rid of Part 3A and if it achieves not doing any damage to New South Wales, of course we’d support it.”

The full transcript of the ABC Stateline story is here.

The Urban Taskforce has made representations to Mr Hazzard highlighting two key points.

Firstly, the immediate repeal of Part 3A without an adequate replacement would be very bad for business confidence and investment in NSW.

Secondly, that Part 3A and its processor provisions have always been about state or regionally significant development, and that any replacement provisions must be similarly directed.

The detail of our position is available here.