Reform Council report rings alarm bells on development assessment reform

11 February 2011

A report released by the COAG Reform Council today rings alarm bells about the progress of national development assessment reforms, according to the Urban Taskforce.


In releasing its second annual progress report on reforms to deliver a seamless national economy, the Reform Council has urged COAG to address 10 reforms at risk, including planned reforms to development assessment processes.


The Urban Taskforces chief executive, Aaron Gadiel, said the lack of national action on planning reform was cause for serious concern.


Governments cannot remain idle while serious issues remain unaddressed, but the Reform Councils report suggests thats exactly whats happening, Mr Gadiel said.


The COAG Reform Council found that Australias governments had not reported back on the merits of extending code-based assessment to residential multi-unit and commercial and industrial buildings. This was supposed to take place in early 2010.


Australias housing shortfall is at 200,000 homes, with a projection for it to grow to 308,000 within three years, Mr Gadiel said.


The National Housing Supply Council, who identified this shortfall, has called for more as-of-right development and code-based assessment.


Yet the governments, collectively, have not responded to this urgent issue in the way they said they would.


As-of-right development is where developers have a legally enforceable right to an approval if they choose to comply with a code. At present, for most of Australia, the decision to issue a planning approval is a discretionary one (even when land is already zoned for development).


More as-of-right development (via code-based assessment) would reduce the risks faced by developers when buying land and help depoliticise some development assessment decisions.


Mr Gadiel said the COAG Reform Council was right to criticise the development assessment reform agenda in as process-orientated.


The approach thats been taken is familiar to anyone whos had to deal with the planning system, he said. Ticking boxes and waffly implementation plans will not deliver reform on the ground.


The reports flags that the electronic development assessment initiative faces major resourcing issues. The lack of willingness of state and Commonwealth governments to fund this announced reform is spelt out with crystal clarity, Mr Gadiel said.


Its frustrating.


Were constantly hearing announcements about how the planning system is being improved, and this initiative, like so many others, seems to be disappearing in a puff of smoke.


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