State election

The state election campaign has kicked off with a focus on urban development.

Joint regional planning panels to be abolished

Shadow Planning Minister, Brad Hazzard, has reportedly told a local newspaper that a Coalition government would abolish the current joint regional planning panels (which have the power to make decisions for developments valued at more than $10 million).

Mr Hazzard apparently said the changes would require “tougher” codes for assessment for local councils.

“Councils aren’t perfect either and we need to work with them to ensure we have transparent planning procedures,” Mr Hazzard said.

The media report is here.

Planning Assessment Commission to lose residential powers

A separate media report quotes Shadow Planning Minister, Brad Hazzard, as saying that the Planning Assessment Commission’s authority over residential developments will be returned to local councils if the Coalition wins the State Election. The report is here.

Coupled with the Coalition’s emphatic position that ministers should not be determining individual development applications this would appear to leave no role for the state in relation to large residential development applications. We have discussed this media report with Mr Hazzard and are seeking formal clarification of the Opposition’s position.

Dropping Sydney’s 70-30 split

The NSW Opposition Leader, Barry O’Farrell, says the Coalition will seek to provide “greater choice and affordable housing”.

In a leader’s debate last week, Mr O’Farrell, for the first time, publicly disowned the new metropolitan plan’s aspiration to split infill and greenfield development 70-30.

“We don’t believe that requiring 70 per cent of all of Sydney’s future dwellings to be high rise is sustainable or supportable,” Mr O’Farrell said.

“That’s why we have repeatedly committed ourselves to more balanced housing development across Sydney – and the whole state,” he said.

“We believe NSW’s population task requires careful balance between regional growth, and appropriate, well-planned infill and greenfields growth in Sydney.

“The NSW Liberals and Nationals understand that wherever growth occurs there is a cost – and we’re prepared to face up to the cost of providing the services people deserve.

“In stark contrast, the Keneally Labor Government ignores the need to upgrade infrastructure in communities subjected to Labor’s unbalanced, one-size-fits-all, high density planning policies.”

The Opposition’s Shadow Planning Minister, Brad Hazzard said that “Sydneysiders are being jammed in like sardines because of the impact of Labor’s medium and high density developments on existing suburbs”.

The Opposition’s initial full statement on this subject is here.

Later, Mr O’Farrell observed that his preferred infill-greenfield split was in-line with other capital cities.

“We’ve listened to communities across Sydney and regional NSW and tailored our plans to meet their needs – not those of Labor’s developer mates,” Mr O’Farrell said.

“Under Kristina Keneally and Labor’s flawed policies, Sydney share of the state’s population will jump from 63 per cent to 74 per cent over the next twenty five years.

“It’s unsustainable and unreasonable.”

The full, later, statement is here.

Mr O’Farrell has also told the Sydney Morning Herald that: ”Kristina Keneally favours more high-rise into already over-developed areas with clogged roads, while I want to give people the chance of the Aussie dream by owning the quarter-acre block either in Sydney or regional NSW.”

The Herald article is here.

The Opposition have not yet announced any express intention to wind back the raw numbers of dwellings supplied via infill development. Some media reports have inaccurately assumed that a changed proportion automatically means reduced infill production. This of course is not necessarily this case if, for example, overall dwelling numbers are greatly boosted with a greater proportion of extra dwellings coming from greenfield.

Of course, what actually happens will depend on the Opposition’s approach to planning reform, development levies and infrastructure investment. We will continue our ongoing dialogue with the Opposition on their policies and approach.

Our public comment on the debate is available here.

Expansion for Landcom

The Opposition have announced plans to target the release of 10,000 blocks by Landcom over four years. Once you factor in Landcom’s existing rate of lot production it amounts to an extra 2,300 housing blocks over four years, or an extra 570 lots a year.

The Opposition’s media release is here and our response is here.

The Government’s response was negative. The Minister for Western Sydney, David Borger, said the Opposition’s policy “will dump 10,000 extra homes on the fringes of Sydney without any explanation as to how they will fund the $600 million needed to provide community infrastructure for new residents”.  This seems to overlook the fact that nearly 80 per cent of these homes would have been built under the Labor Government anyhow.

The government’s media release is here.

Labor Government adopts anti-development rhetoric

As in the recent federal election, use the word “sprawl” has become the word of choice for Labor politicians. The Labor Party has launched a “Stop the Sprawl” website (here).  “Stop the sprawl” election flyers are being distributed in Western Sydney seats. (Odd, given that in December the Keneally Government released a metropolitan plan that required more than a doubling of the current level of Western Sydney greenfield lot production.)

The Premier, Kristina Keneally, has declared that Barry O’Farrell’s plan “will change the shape of western and southwest Sydney forever,” Ms Keneally said.

“Roads will be clogged; parts of our pristine natural environment will be trampled; and our unique quality of life will be severely compromised by this plan to pack thousands of houses into Western Sydney.”

Ms Keneally’s statement is here.

The government has also released a report prepared by the Centre for International Economics (CIE) saying that having 50 per cent of new homes in greenfield areas and 50 per cent in existing areas will cost $5 billion more by 2036 compared to the government’s preferred split. The government’s media release is here and the full report is here.

The report’s release was followed up with an attack by Primary Industries Minister, Steve Whan, who queried how the Opposition “plans to feed the people of NSW” with a “plan to squeeze 150,000 homes onto precious farmland in the Sydney food bowl, which will decimate farmers and condemn residents of metropolitan Sydney to eating imported produce”. (This analysis seems to overlook the fact that 85 per cent of Sydney’s vegetable consumption, and 93-95 per cent of the city’s fruit consumption, is already supplied from outside the Sydney region.)

“Mr O’Farrell and his well-fed Opposition cronies would have us importing everything we eat and living in the slipshod housing developments he wants created,” Mr Whan said.

Mr Whan’s release is here.

Minister for Western Sydney, David Borger weighed in also. Mr Borger, who prior to entering politics was a town planner, said that Mr O’Farrell’s  plans mean “an extra 603,000 cars on our road each day”. ‘

“More houses in Western Sydney and South Western Sydney means more cars on the roads and more air pollution pumped into our local environment.

“That’s … bad news for the respiratory health of local residents and their families – especially young children.”

Mr Borger’s statement is here.